Saturday, November 03, 2012

Wright and McKnight (4)

As a Kingdom nut from way back, I like the way that Tom Wright brings the cross and the Kingdom together. I have never been able to see the point of pushing them into opposition. However, I was surprised out how little emphasis he gave to the Holy Spirit, although he is seems to be an equally important part of the gospel. He simply says “And that theology of the Spirit is, of course, what the New Testament supplies, on page after page”, but leaves it at that.

Wright finds the cross and the kingdom together on every page of the gospels, but mostly ignores the increased activity of the Holy Spirit that runs along side. For example, in Luke’s gospel, John was full of the Spirit from birth (1:15), the Holy Spirit came upon Mary (1:35), Elizabeth (1:41), Zechariah (1:67) Simeon(2:25), and Jesus (3.22; 4:1; 4:14). The Holy Spirit was present to heal (Luke 5:17). Luke ends the gospel with the disciples being told to wait for the promised Holy Spirit. He begins the book of Acts with a repeat of the command to wait for the Sprit. The entire book is the story of the Holy Spirit and should more correctly be called the Acts of the Holy Spirit.

John the Baptist promised that Jesus would baptise his people in the Holy Spirit. All the gospels record the Holy Spirit coming on Jesus at the beginning of his ministry. During his ministry, Jesus rejected religious and political power, but embraces the power of the Spirit to heal the sick and cast out demons. The gospel writers repeatedly say that the Kingdom is near. Matthew explains what it means. The Kingdom coming near is the Holy Spirit doing stuff among the people (Matt 12:28). John recorded that Jesus needed to go away, so he could sent the Holy Spirit to get the job done on earth.

When I read the gospels, I see the cross, the kingdom and the Holy Spirit. We need all three brought back together.

The gap raises a serious question about the nature of Jesus kingship. Jesus might be king, but he has gone back to heaven, so how can his kingdom come on earth, and be more than just a nice theological idea. When the king is not here, his kingdom can be ignored, no matter what status, he has back in heaven. The key is the Holy Spirit. He is the Kingdom Builder. When Jesus ascended out of the earth, he sent the Holy Spirit to establish his Kingdom on earth. To understand how the Kingdom comes we must understand the ministry of the Holy Spirit on earth. Wright says, “All this demands, of course, a strong theology of the Holy Spirit as the one who dwell in Jesus’s followers and enables them in turn to be kingdom-bringers…..” but does not develop this further. That is a pity.

The fullness of the Spirit is an essential part of the gospel that makes the coming of the Kingdom on earth possible. The good news is that Jesus is King and is sending the Holy Spirit to bring his Kingdom into being.

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