In a former life I was led to understand that when I was baptized God would give me the Holy Spirit, which was his power, and with that power I would be able to overcome my carnal nature and fulfil the law in its full spiritual intent. After my baptism I was often troubled by the fact that I felt no different from before — but don’t be misled by looking for “feelings”, they said — and I certainly did not recognize any extra power within my person to “overcome” my sinful nature. Years later I finally was able to admit I was lied to. But where did this idea of the Holy Spirit having such a central role in the lives of Christians come from?
Here is an interesting thought from Paul Tarazi in first volume of his introduction to the New Testament, Paul and Mark.
Paul concludes this section (i.e. 1 Thess. 4:1-12) dedicated to the relationship between the Thessalonians and God with a sudden reference to God as the grantor of the Holy Spirit: “Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you.” (v.8) The previous mention of the Holy Spirit occurs in 1:56:
For we know, brethren beloved by God, that he has chosen you; for our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction. You know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake. And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with joy inspired by the Holy Spirit.
The Thessalonian Gentiles were chosen and became God’s people just as the “chosen” biblical Israel was, through the gospel that was both preached and accepted in the Holy Spirit. The next reference to the Spirit is found in 5:19-20 in conjunction with pro phrophecy: “Do not quench the Spirit, do not despise prophesying.” What can be made of all this?
My conviction is that Paul himself raised to prominence the biblical element “Holy Spirit” among his Gentile churches in order to minimize any chance that the Jerusalemite church would be able to gain and keep hegemony over them. He took the lead mainly from his predecessor Ezekiel, the Jerusalemite priest who made out of the Babylonian, and thus Gentile, locality Chebar not only a place where the God of Jerusalem could also speak, but actually the location from which he would authoritatively address Jerusalem itself. To do so, God and his prophet Ezekiel, or their spoken word, had to be eminently mobile and it was God’s spirit that supplied the agency for that mobility of the divine/prophetic word and allowed it to travel from the Gentile Babylonia to Jerusalem. Paul followed Ezekiel’s pattern and made it clear to his churches that they were, through the Pauline gospel, in direct contact with God’s word through his spirit, and not via Jerusalem and its leaders. Those Jerusalem leaders were actually bound by God’s word in the gospel, and not vice-versa. Thus, Paul was actually laying the foundation for his churches’ dependence on the gospel and, at the same time, their independence from Jerusalem.
(Tarazi, Paul Nadim. The New Testament: An Introduction. Volume 1, Paul and Mark. Crestwood, N.Y: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1999. pp. 21f)
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