Tuesday, February 15, 2000
Commemoration of Thomas Bray, Priest, Founder of SPCK, 1730
The indwelling of Christ’s Spirit means not only moral discernment but moral power. Paul’s count against the Law is that it was impotent through the flesh. Against this impotence Paul sets the ethical competence of the Spirit. “I can do anything in Him who makes me strong,” (Phil. 4:13) he exclaims. For his friends in Asia he prays “that God may grant you, according to the wealth of His splendour, to be made strong with power through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through your trust in Him.” (Eph. 3:16-17) This is the antithesis of the dismal picture presented in Romans 7, and it comes, just as evidently as that, out of experience. Indeed, we may say that the thing above all which distinguished the early Christian community from its environment was the moral competence of its members. In order to maintain this we need not idealize unduly the early Christians. There were sins and scandals at Corinth and Ephesus, but it was impossible to miss the note of genuine power of renewal and recuperation—the power of the simple person progressively to approximate to his moral ideals in spite of failures. The very fact that the term “Spirit” is used points to a sense of something essentially “supernatural” in such ethical attainment. For the primitive Christians the Spirit was manifested in what they regarded as miraculous. Paul does not whittle away the miraculous sense when he transfers it to the moral sphere. He concentrates attention on the moral miracle as something more wonderful far than any “speaking with tongues.” So fully convinced is he of the new and miraculous nature of this moral power that he can regard the Christian as a “new creation.” (II Cor. 5:17) This is not the old person at all: it is a “new man,” “created in Christ Jesus for good deeds.” (Eph. 2:10) [Continued tomorrow]
... C. Harold Dodd (1884-1973), The Meaning of Paul for Today, London: Swarthmore, 1920, reprint, Fount Paperbacks, 1978, p. 134-135
(see the book; see also 1 Cor. 8:7-13; 2 Cor. 5:17; Eph. 2:10; 3:16-17; Phil. 4:13; more at Bible)
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