Firstfruits of the Spirit
Yesterday I showed a constrast between a Quaker perspective of salvation through a long, gradual walk with the Light with a more traditional Protestant perspective of instantaneous justification followed by a long march toward sanctification. (Instantaneous sanctification comes up sometimes too, but for now...)
Today I'll look at a passage that can appeal to either perspective. Paul talks in Romans about coming closer to the Spirit. This, from Romans 8, is the promise, for "them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit":
There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.
2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.
3 For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh:
4 That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.
5 For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit.
6 For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.
7 Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.
8 So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.
9 But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.
10 And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness.
11 But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you.
12 Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh.
13 For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.
14 For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.
15 For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.
16 The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God:
17 And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.
This follows on Paul's description in Chapter 7 of struggles with sin and the problems of the law. The Spirit is necessary - and separate from our 'carnal minds' - to free us from carnality and sin. Verse 9 appeals to Quakers, with its claim that "But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you," but the Spirit is still something distinct from our own selves. There is a clear break here, and it is the Spirit's impact that frees us, "whereby we cry, Abba, Father".
The next verses describe how God leads us to the Spirit. (God leads? Certainly - "we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.") Note that the "Spirit...beareth witness with our spirit," and "not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body." Hope is unseen, uncertain, "for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for?"
18 For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.
19 For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God.
20 For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope,
21 Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.
22 For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now.
23 And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body.
24 For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for?
25 But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it.
26 Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.
27 And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God.
28 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.
Some read this quotation as a description of the sanctification process, but it seems to me a more appropriate description of the journey after convincement, a process toward salvation rather than a process after it.
(And yes, I did stop short of verses 29 and 30, on predestination, a topic I'm not yet ready to discuss.)