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Summary: Chapter 03

How does Gorman see cruciformity at work in Paul’s description of the Spirit in his life? He sees it in the uniqueness of Paul’s experience of the Spirit, Paul is the uncharismatic Charismatic. Playing off the varying meanings of the word charismatic Gorman notices that in the first place Paul isn’t a very charistmatic speaker (1 Cor. 2.1-5), but Paul is very much a Charismatic in the sense of someone who’s life is marked by the gifts of the Spirit (Ga. 1.12 & 16; 2 Cor. 12.1-8; etc.). In Gormans own words;

The distinctive feature of Paul’s experience of the Spirit, and his resulting understanding of the essence of the Spirit, is the paradoxical symbiosis (union) of power and weakness, of power and cruciformity. The charismatic Spirit is also the cruciform Spirit. (pg. 52)

Building off of Gordon Fee’s magnum opus “God’s Empowering Presence,” Gorman notes that the Spirit’s presence and power is the fundamental reality of the church. The Spirit works in a present and powerful way in the hearts of the community of God’s people, fulfilling the Deuteronomic injunction to Israel that they should “circumcise their hearts.” (Deut. 10.16) In this way the Spirit does what the Law could not do in that it empowers believers “to live” and “to walk” according to the Spirit. As Gorman notes; “Thus, to live “according to” the Spirit is not merely to have an external norm, but a power within, a power that acts to override, indeed to replace, the power of “the flesh,” the power of sin (Rom. 7.17, 20)…In other words, the Spirit is life because the Spirit transforms death into life” (pg. 54)

How does the Spirit do this, and from what historic event does its work take on form? The crucifixion of course (Rom. 8.13; Gal 5.24). But where does the resurrection fit in and how does the crown connect to the cross in Paul’s pneumatology? Gorman suggests that there are two chief works of the Spirit in the life of the community currently;

First, in the present the Spirit works within the believing community to effect a kind of death experience…secondly…In Paul’s experience and understanding, the Spirit creates hope for the future (see also Gal. 5.5), but the Spirit does so on the two conditions indicated above, as the presence of the word “if” in each text quoted indicates: if we put to death the deeds of the body, and if we suffer with Christ. The Spirit propels people to put to death the flesh – and thereby to serve and love others – and to suffer with Christ in the present. (pgs. 56-57)

In other words, the past “work” of God’s Son, embodied on the cross, has become the present work of the Spirit of God’s Son, embodied in the believer and in the community. The fact that immediately following Paul’s discussion of Christ’s love, death, and indwelling (Gal. 2.19-20) he reminds the Galatians that they have recieved the Spirit (Ga. 3.1-5) reinforces this connection…Thus to experience the Spirit is to experience power. Paradoxically, however, even here the Spirit is linked to the cross. (pg. 58)

What a corrective Gorman offers to the church today! A church that struggles with on the one hand tangibly acknowledging and identifying the presence and power of the Spirit among the more conservative Evangelical crowd, and while on the other hand tacitly disconnecting the work of the Spirit from the work of the cross in the Charismatic community. As Dunn has so well put the matter, ” As soon as a charismatic experience becomes an experience only of the exalted Christ and not also of the crucified Jesus, it loses its distinctive Christian character.” (pg. 60)

Its easier for you and I to wrap our heads around this for personal growth, but what about communal life, what about the way we as a community should relate to oneanother? What does a cruciform pneumatology mean for the church? 

Just as life in Christ is personal but not private, so also is life in the Spirit. The Spirit forms the Christ-centered community and is found in that community. The Spirit “in our hearts,” as Paul is fond of saying, is also the Spirit in our assembly, our koinonia (see, eg, 1 Cor. 12, 14; Phil. 2.1). (pg. 61)

Afterthoughts:

What Gormans chapter has really done for me more than anything else is that it has caused me to come to terms with the double denial of the Spirit’s role in the life of the church today. While he didn’t shape the matter in these terms I think its helpful to say as I just did above in my attempt to distill his chapter, that the church today struggles with on the one hand tangibly acknowledging and identifying the presence and power of the Spirit among the more conservative Evangelical community, and on the other hand tacitly disconnecting the work of the Spirit from the work of the cross in the Charismatic community. Gorman has given me a “social consciousness” handrail to use as I live and do life with either of these communities.

Some questions this chapter has left me with as I grow in cruciformity;

  • How is my life denying the power and presence of the Spirit, how is it disconnecting that power and presence from the cross?
  • Do I identify the chief expression of a cruciform Spirit in my life as one of service or as one of personal advancement?
  • Where is the Spirit working death in the fleshly caverns of my own heart right now? Where is he doing the work I can’t do in transforming my inner character and dispositions, and am I giving God the glory for that work and finding joy in it?