The Pauline Necessity of the Spirit in Sanctification and Christian Ethics

Posted: November 22, 2010 by Rick Hogaboam in Biblical Studies, Discipleship/Sanctification, Galatians, Pentecostal/Charismatic Interests, Pneumatology, Theology
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The following quote is from Scot McKnight’s commentary on Galatians in The NIV Application Commentary series:

McKnight (1995:272):

I know of no Christian parents or youth leaders, or for that matter any pastors who seriously believe what Paul teaches in verses 16-26 (of Galatians 5), that the sole foundation of Christian ethics is dependency on the Spirit and a life of freedom in the Spirit….I have met only one person who ever expressed this view of Paul in a definitive and, to him, practical way. That person was F.F. Bruce…

I would add Gordon Fee to that list in my own experience as I also shared this same conviction in my study of the reality of Spirit-fullness in the New Covenant. McKnight continues:

To be sure, Paul knew that when a person was controlled by the Spirit, that person was holy. He also knew that a person who lived in the Spirit lived in a loving way. Thus, he knew that the Old Testament moral guidelines and the teachings of Jesus on holiness, righteousness, and compassion would be confirmed by anyone who lived in the Spirit (1995:273).

Needless to say that we can be accused, just like the early Galatians, of wanting to derive our ethic from the law or traditions of men. I am not opposed to the “3rd use of the Law” in relation to our sanctification, but if such is taught in a way that doesn’t necessitate the presence of the Spirit, then we may very well be acting like the early Judaizers.

It is sometimes said that the Holy Spirit is the neglected members of the Godhead. Study of Scripture, however, will make clear that the Spirit is the one who regenerates our hearts, accompanies the inward call, adopts us into our relational standing as children of God, seals the believer as an objective member of the New Covenant, empowers and guides our sanctification, as well as gifting the Church for ministry. I’m sure that there are pastors out there emphasizing this dynamic, however I resonate with McKnight when he claims F.F. Bruce as the first scholar which emphasized these points in Pauline Pneumatology. For me, it was the pages of Gordon Fee’s, “God’s Empowering Presence”, that had confirmed all that I had believed from my own study of Paul’s theology of the Spirit.

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