[K:NWTS 10/2 (Sep 1995) 3-24]

Pentecost: Before and After*

Richard B.Gaffin, Jr.

I have been asked to address the question whether the role of the Holy Spirit changed after Pentecost and in doing so to consider Jeremiah 31, John 3, Acts 2, and 2 Corinthians 3-4. In meeting this assignment, without ignoring these passages, I have shifted the focus somewhat. Given the nature of this gathering, I have tried to sketch an overall framework for discussion and so have had to forego arguing at every point as carefully as might be desirable or even necessary.

Historia Salutis and Ordo Salutis

What really happened on Pentecost? What is the significance of that event, variously described in Acts as the coming upon of (1:8), being baptized with (1:5), outpouring of (2:33), gift of (2:38), the Spirit? This is a large question, and I begin by suggesting that clarity in answering it depends, to a considerable degree, in appreciating and not blurring the distinction between the history of salvation (historia salutis) and the order of salvation (ordo salutis)—the distinction, in other terms, between the accomplishment and application of redemption, between Christ's once-for-all work and the ongoing appropriation of that work by God's people, the believer's actual experience of its benefits.1

Biblical support for this distinction will emerge along the way. Here we may observe that ongoing application derives its validity from once-for-all accomplishment, not the reverse. Nor does the latter simply exist to facilitate the former. The "main point" of Scripture and the Christian religion—if I may risk putting it that way and without intending to polarize among equally legitimate considerations—is not the Christian but Christ, not our experience but his work, not our needs but God's triune glory. Only where that is appreciated do Christian identity and experience, both individual and corporate, come to stand in a right light.2

If there is a thesis, then, in the rest of what follows here, it is this: The significance of Pentecost is primarily redemptive-historical, not experiential. It is certainly wrong to polarize these two aspects, but the point of Pentecost is not a radically new experience of the Spirit. A contrasting profile emerges so far as the before and after of Pentecost are concerned: From the angle of the accomplishment of salvation (historia salutis), there is a radical, night and day, virtually all or nothing difference. From the angle of ordo salutis, there is essential continuity. Before and after differences in experiencing the Spirit are difficult to categorize simply because Scripture is not all that interested in them; such differences as there may be lie toward the periphery of its teaching.

The Spirit and Christ

1. "The last Adam became life-giving Spirit" (1 Cor. 15:45c). This striking assertion, central to both Paul's christology and pneumatology, is a good place to begin our reflections. It offers, in effect, a one-sentence commentary on Pentecost and its significance. Though its exegesis remains disputed, several brief observations will have to suffice here. 3

1) This statement, central to the overall argument in chapter 15 for the hope of (bodily) resurrection, functions within the antithetical parallelism of the immediate context between the pre-resurrection, sin-ravaged body and the eschatological, resurrection body of the believer (vv. 42-49).

2) On the one, Christ-as-the-last-Adam side of this contrast, pneuma in verse 45 and pneumatikon in 44a, b and 46 are cognate noun and adjective; they qualify and explain each other.

3) Pneuma here refers to the person of the Holy Spirit, a conclusion resting on a couple of interlocking, mutually reinforcing considerations that appear to me to be decisive.

a) In verses 44 and 46 pneumatikon is paired with psychikon. In the only other place where Paul makes use of this contrast, 2:14-15, he does so in stressing the activity of the Spirit—his sovereign, exclusive work in giving and receiving God's revealed wisdom; pneumatikos (2:15) is the believer (cf. vv. 45) as indwelt, enlightened, motivated, directed by the Holy Spirit.4

In chapter 15, then, later in the same document and with no intervening indications compelling or even suggesting a different sense, pneumatikon similarly refers to the activity of the Spirit. This is further confirmed by Paul's consistent use of the adjective elsewhere (e.g., Rom. 1:11; Eph. 1:3; Col. 1:9).5

The resurrection body is "spiritual" not in the sense of being adapted to the human pneuma or because of its (immaterial) composition/substance, to mention persisting misconceptions, but because it embodies (!) the fullest outworking, the ultimate outcome, of the work of the Holy Spirit in the believer; it is, along with the entire creation (v. 46,6 Rom. 8:20-22), our hope of transformed (psycho-)physicality, our bodies, too, enlivened, renewed, and renovated by the Spirit.

b) This conclusion, following from the sense of pneumatikon in context, that pnuema in verse 45 refers to the person of the Holy Spirit is confirmed by the participial modifier, "life-giving" (zoopoioun). The pneuma in view is not simply an existing entity but an acting subject,7 and that distinctive action, moreover, Paul explicitly attributes to the person of the Spirit in 2 Corinthians 3:6 ("the Spirit gives life"—in the contrasting parallelism that stamps this passage too, to pneuma is "the Spirit of the living God," v. 3; cf. as well the "life-giving" activity of the Spirit in Rom. 8:11; John 6:63).

For these reasons, pneuma in 1 Corinthians 15:45 is definite and refers to the person of the Holy Spirit.8

4) "The life-giving Spirit" is not a timeless description of Christ. Rather, he "became" (egeneto) such. The time point of this "becoming" is his resurrection or, more broadly, his exaltation. The flow of the reasoning in chapter 15 makes that virtually certain. It would make no sense for Paul to argue for the resurrection of believers as he does, if Christ were "life giving" by virtue, say, of his preexistence or incarnation or any consideration other than his resurrection. As "firstfruits" of the resurrection-harvest (vv. 20, 23) he is "life-giving Spirit" (v. 45), and as "the life-giving Spirit" he is "the firstiruits." 9

As resurrected, the last Adam has ascended; as "the second man," he is now, by virtue of ascension, "from heaven" (v.47),10 "the heavenly one" (v.48), whose image believers will bear (fully, at the time of their bodily resurrection, v.49; cf. Phil. 3:20-21). All told, then, the last Adam, become "the life-giving Spirit," is specifically the exalted Christ.

5) While it is certainly true that in the immediate context "life giving" contemplates Christ's future action, when he will resurrect the mortal bodies of believers (cf. v. 22), it seems difficult to deny, in light of the overall context of Paul's teaching, that his present activity, also, is implicitly in view. The resurrection life of the believer, in union with Christ, is not only future but present (e.g., Gal. 2:20; Col. 2:12-13; Col. 3:1-4). Christ, as resurrected, is already active in the church in the resurrection power of the Spirit. This is a key consideration for our topic, and we will return to it in greater detail below.

6) It is completely gratuitous to find here a "functional" christology that denies the personal difference between Christ and the Spirit and is irreconcilable with later church formulation of trinitarian doctrine.11 The scope, the salvation-historical focus, of Paul's argument needs to be kept in view. Essential-eternal, ontological-trinitarian relationships are outside his purview here. He is concerned not with who Christ is (timelessly, eternally) but what he "became," what has happened to him in history, and that, specifically, in his identity as "the last Adam," "the second man," that is, in terms of his true humanity.

7) In view, then, is the momentous, epochal significance of the resurrection/exaltation for Christ personally—his own climactic transformation by and reception of the Spirit, resulting in a new and permanent equation or oneness between them. Prior to this time, already even under the old covenant, Christ preincarnate and the Spirit were conjointly present and at work; 1 Corinthians 10:3-4, whatever their further exegesis, point to that.12 But now, dating from his resurrection and ascension, that joint action is given its stable and consummate basis in the history of redemption; now, at last, such action is the crowning consequence of the work of the incarnate Christ actually and definitively accomplished in history.

It bears emphasizing that this oneness or unity, though certainly sweeping is at the same time circumscribed in a specific respect; it concerns their activity, the activity of giving resurrection (=eschatological) life. In this sense it may be dubbed "functional," or, to use an older theological category, "economic" (rather than "ontological"), or "eschatological," without in any way obliterating the distinction between the second and third persons of the Trinity.

2. 1 Corinthians 15:45c connects closely with Paul's subsequent statement in 2 Corinthians 3:17a: "the Lord is the Spirit." Admittedly, exegesis is even more divided here, particularly as to the reference of ho kyrios. But, in my judgment, the most decisive factors point to ho kyrios as referring specifically to Christ and to pneuma to the Holy Spirit.

Very briefly, 1) beginning at 3:6 the contrast between the old and new covenants controls the flow of the discourse. Within that contrast, initially exemplified, respectively, by Moses and the Spirit (vv. 7-11), in verse 12ff. Christ enters the picture on the one side: the veil on reading the old/Moses is removed/ taken away "in Christ" (v. 14), that is, by faith in him. The reference to Exodus 34:34 (v. 16), in turn, serves to support this christological assertion; to "turn to the Lord" is to turn to Christ.13 On the new covenant side, then, Christ interchanges with the Spirit, in contrast to Moses/the old. Why? Because "the Lord (Christ) is the Spirit." 2) In verse 18 "the glory of the Lord" is pointedly christological, not pneumatological; as they behold/reflect this glory believers are being transformed into "the same image." This glory-image is specifically that of the exalted Christ (cf. in the immediate context "the glory of Christ," as "God's image" in 4:4; see also Rom. 8:29).

Here, too, essential, trinitarian relationships are quite outside Paul's purview (the personal distinction between Christ and the Spirit is implicit in verse 17b, "the Spirit of the Lord"). His focus is on Christ as glorified; the "is" (estin) of 2 Corinthians 3:17a, we may say, is based on the "became" of 1 Corinthians 15:45c. The exaltation experienced by Christ results in a (working) relationship between him and the Holy Spirit of new and unprecedented intimacy and oneness. Here they are equated, more particularly, in giving (eschatological) "freedom" (3:17b), the close correlative of the resurrection life in view in 1 Corinthians 15 (a correlation esp. plain in Rom. 8:2: " . . . the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set me free . . . ").

3. The resurrection-based equation we have been noting underlies everything that Paul teaches about the work of the Spirit in the church. We will return to that work below, observing here only, as confirmation of the preceding, that for Paul there is no work of the Spirit within the believer that is not also the work of Christ.

That appears, for instance, in Romans 8:9-10. In short compass, "you . . . in the Spirit" (9a), "the Spirit . . . in you" (9b), "belonging to Christ" (9d, virtually equivalent to the frequent "in Christ"), and "Christ in you" (10a—all the possible combinations are used interchangeably; they hardly describe different experiences, distinct from each other, but the same reality in its full dimensions. There is no relationship with Christ that is not also fellowship with the Spirit; the presence of the Spirit is the presence of Christ; to belong to Christ is to be possessed by the Spirit.

This congruence is so, in our experience, not because of some more or less arbitrary divine arrangement, but preeminently because of what is true prior to our experience, in the experience of Christ—because of who the Spirit now is, "the Spirit of Christ" (9c), and who Christ has become, "the life-giving Spirit."14 Elsewhere, for "you to be strengthened by [the] Spirit inwardly" is for "Christ to dwell in your hearts through faith" (Eph. 3:16-17).

4. The statements of Paul so far considered pick up on and reinforce emphases in the teaching of Jesus.15 In John 14:12ff. the imminent departure-ascension of Jesus ("because I go to the Father," v. 12; cf. 20:17) will entail, at the request of the ascended Jesus, the Father's giving the Spirit to the disciples16 (v. 16; cf. v. 26: "whom the Father will send in my name"; 15:26: "whom I will send to you from the Father"). This arrangement was intimated earlier in 7:39: "For the Spirit was not yet, because Jesus was not yet glorified." The before and after of the Spirit's presence in view pivots on Jesus' glorification; the former is a function of the latter. Pentecost17 has the same epochal, once-for-all significance as Jesus' death, resurrection, and ascension.

The promised sending of the Spirit (14:16-17), however, carries with it another promise. "I," Jesus continues (v. 18), "will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you." In context, this almost surely means that the coming of the Spirit in view, as such, involves the coming of Jesus himself. Jesus' departure is not a loss but ''profitable'' (16:7), because the consequent sending of the Spirit is also his own return; in this sense, his going (bodily) is his coming (in the person of the Spirit).18

The Spirit, then, is the "vicar" of Christ. As "the Spirit of truth, " he has no agenda of his own; his role in the church is basically self-effacing and Christ-enhancing (16:13-14 esp. point to that), so much so that his presence in the church is, vicariously, the presence of the ascended Jesus.

In a virtually identical vein, the now resurrected Jesus, who, as such, has been "given"19 universal exousia, declares: "I am with you always until the end of the age" (Matt. 28:20). This is best read not, at least not primarily, as an affirmation of divine omnipresence but as a promise of Pentecost and its enduring consequences. Again, the presence of the Spirit is the presence of Christ; Jesus will be with the church to the very end in the power of the Spirit. If it means anything, Pentecost means the exalted Jesus is here to stay, permanently, with his church.

It is hardly an invalid reading of Pauline (or Johannine) theology into Luke-Acts to recognize similar emphases there. The overlap between the close of the Gospel (24:44ff.) end the beginning of Acts (1:3-11) is calculated to show that during the 40 day interim until his ascension, the resurrected Jesus taught the apostles (Acts 1:2) that the recent and impending events concerning him are epochal, decisive junctures in the coming of the kingdom of God (cf. esp. Acts 1:3). He did so by showing that these events are the fulfillment of the Old Testament, which, in all its parts, concerns him (Luke 24:44). The pervasive sense of the Old Testament is christological (v.45). Its overall focus is messianic suffering and resurrection, and—it should not be missed—as the direct entailment of these climatic events (what is also "written"; note the Greek syntax), preaching the gospel to the nations (=the church, vv. 46f.); the Messiah's death, his resurrection, and the church, according to Jesus, form an unbreakable unity in the teaching of the Old Testament.20

To that end (i.e., the worldwide, church-building spread of the gospel, anticipated throughout the entire Old Testament with its unified focus on Christ), the apostles, as witnesses, are to wait for Pentecost (vv. 48f.; Acts 1:5, 8). The Spirit's coming on Pentecost is as climactic an event, and as essential to the messianic work of salvation foreseen in the Old Testament, as are Jesus' death, resurrection, and ascension.

Peter reinforces that point, in fact it is a major emphasis, toward the close of his (essentially Christ-centered) Pentecost sermon. In Acts 2:32-33, following out of his focus on the earthly activity, death and especially the resurrection of Jesus (vv. 22-31), he closely conjoins, in sequence: resurrection—ascension—reception of the Spirit21—outpouring of the Spirit. The last, Pentecost, is coordinate with the other events, conjoined with them in an especially intimate way; it is climactic and final on the order that they are; it is no more capable of being a repeatable paradigm event then they are. Resurrection—ascension—Pentecost, though temporally distinct, constitute a unified complex of events, a once-for-all, redemptive-historical unity, such that they are inseparable; the one is given with the others.

With this we have come full circle, back, in effect, to 1 Corinthians 15:45. The sequence Peter delineates in Acts 2:32-33, Paul telescopes by saying that Christ, as resurrected and ascended, has become "life-giving Spirit."22

5. Pentecost, then, is an event, an integral event, in the historia salutis, not an aspect of the ordo salutis; Pentecost has its place in the once-for-all, completed accomplishment of redemption, not in its ongoing application. Without Pentecost the definitive, unrepeatable work of Christ for our salvation is incomplete. The task set before Christ was not only to secure the remission of sin but, more ultimately, as the grand outcome of his Atonement, life as well (e.g., John 10:10; 2 Tim. 1:10)—eternal, eschatological, resurrection life, or, in other words, life in the Spirit.23 Without that life "salvation" is obviously not only truncated but meaningless. And it is just that life, that completed salvation, and Christ as its giver24 that is openly revealed at Pentecost.25

The difference Pentecost makes is primarily a difference for Christ. Along with the resurrection and ascension, it marks him out as having received the Spirit, as the result/reward for his obedience unto death (Phil 2:8-9), in order to give the Spirit (Acts 2:33); Pentecost shows the exalted Jesus to be the messianic receiver-giver of the Spirit.

The soteriological "newness" of Pentecost is not, at least not in the first place, anthropological-individual-experiential but christological and ecclesiological-missiological: 1) The Spirit is now present, at last, on the basis of the finished work of Christ; he is the eschatological Spirit. 2) The Spirit is now "poured out on all flesh" (Acts 2:17), Gentiles as well as Jews; he is the universal Spirit.26

Moreover, as such—in its climactically Christ-centered significance— Pentecost fulfills "the promise of the Father" (Acts 1:4; cf. 2:33; Luke 24:49). This identification gives our salvation-historical outlook on Pentecost its full breadth. Pentecost is the fulfillment of that promise at the core of all old covenant expectation, the primeval promise that shaped the subsequent course and outcome of covenant history—the promise to Abraham that in him all peoples would be blessed (Gen. 12:2-3). That is how Paul, for one, sees it: through the redemption accomplished by Christ, "the promise of the Spirit" is at the very least integral, perhaps even identical,27 to "the blessing of Abraham" come to the Gentiles (Gal. 3:14).

All in all—from a full, trinitarian perspective—Pentecost involves the epochal fulfillment of the ultimate design and expectation of God's covenant purposes: God in the midst of his people in triune fullness. Pentecost brings to the church the initial, "firstfruits" realization of the Emmanuel principle on an irrevocable because eschatological scale.

But, still, what about the experience, undeniable and undeniably remarkable, of the 120 at Pentecost and of others subsequently involved in the rest of the Pentecost event-complex as recorded in Acts (8:14ff.; 10:44-48; 11:15-18; 19:1-7)? The question of experience will occupy us directly, but here I would at least suggest that the inclination to take these experiences in Acts as providing enduring, normative models of individual empowerment, distinct from or even subsequent to conversion, stems from the failure, in effect, to distinguish adequately between historia salutis and ordo salutis.28 Too often Acts is mined for experiential models, as a more or less loose anthology of vignettes from "the good old days when Christians were really Christians." In fact it documents, just as Jesus foretold (1:8) and as Luke makes clear enough, a completed history, a unique epoch in the history of redemption—the once-for-all, apostolic29 spread of the gospel "to the ends of the earth," from Israel to the nations (cf. the parallelism of "Gentiles" and "ends of the earth" in Is. 49:6 cited in 13:47).

In its postapostolic era, the one, holy, catholic, apostolic church is also the truly Pentecostal church. As such, it is not caught up in a (redemptive-historically anachronistic) "Back to Pentecost " nostalgia. Its motto, instead, is "Forward from Pentecost ... in the Christ-conforming power of the Spirit."

The Spirit and the Church/the Christian

1. My emphasis to this point has been on what, as I see it, must be kept primary in the issue before us: the once-for-all, redemptive-historical, christological significance of Pentecost. That emphasis, I now need to be emphatic, does not question, nor may it be allowed to eclipse, that the Spirit come at Pentecost is the source of Christian experience; he is in fact the author of rich and profound experiential realities in believers.

In the most summary sort of sketch, "the kingdom of God," now present, at last, through Christ's cross and resurrection, brings with its coming, "righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit" (Rom. 14:17). The "fruit" the Spirit produces includes "love, joy, peace," and more (Gal. 5:22-23).

While it would be a wrong, even dangerous, reduction simply to psychologize these blessings, especially the kingdom-shalom and -righteousness in view, neither may a dispositional-volitional-emotional component be denied or suppressed. The Spirit's presence in every believer is (to be) a "filling" presence, an ongoing and all-controlling dynamic that transforms attitudes and actions in every area of life, as Paul for example shows in Ephesians 5:18-6:930—in worship and interpersonal relations within the church, in marriage and the family, on the job. His are the diverse and well-apportioned gifts given for the edification and mission of the church (e.g., Rom. 12:3-8; 1 Cor. 12:1-11, 28-31; Eph. 4:7-13).31 Negatively, "grieving" (Eph. 4:30) and "extinguishing" (1 Thess. 5:19) this ongoing work of the Spirit in the church are real dangers. All this needs to be dwelt on in a more extensive and balanced way than I do in this paper.

2. At issue, then, is not the church's post-Pentecostal, Spirit-wrought experience (that is clear enough), but whether and, if so, how that differs from the pre-Pentecostal experience of God's people. In other words, broadly speaking, the question is in the area of the application of salvation and the ramifications of that appropriation for the individual believer; so far as the Spirit's activity is concerned, is there an (essentially) different ordo salutis before than after Pentecost?

In addressing this question it is critical not to miss or blur the distinction between it and issues of historia salutis, the sorts of redemptive-historical considerations brought to light above. The contrasting profile mentioned at the outset now needs to be spelled out.

From the viewpoint of redemptive history—covenant history in its ongoing, epochal movement toward consummation—there is the most radical contrast. In this respect I will yield to no one in stressing the absolute, "dispensational" difference before and after Pentecost.32 Before Christ—before his climactic coming in "the fullness of time" (Gal. 4:4; Eph. 1:10), "at the end of the ages" (Heb. 9:26; cf. 1:2—there is nothing, nothing of substance, only anticipatory, evanescent (Heb 8:13) shadows cast in advance (Col. 2:17; Heb. 8:5; 10:1). With and after Christ's coming there is everything; he is, without precedent, God's (finally) revealed "fullness" (Eph. 4:13; Col. 1:19; 2:9).

The eschatological kingdom-mystery, previously nothing more than an unseen, unheard object of longing, is now, finally, present (Matt. 13:10-17). (Preincarnate) Christ and the Holy Spirit are surely active throughout the old covenant (e.g., 1 Cor. 10:3-4), but only anomalously, "out of season," in advance, and, above all, on the basis of who the last Adam was to become, "the life-giving Spirit." In the redemptive-historical sense (which is its intended sense, see above), the "not yet" of John 7:39 is to be taken at face value; it is absolute, unqualified.

But doesn't all this necessarily and inevitably result in a correspondingly radical difference in experience before and after Pentecost? So it might without more seem. What we in fact discover in Scripture, however, is essential continuity, a more or less steady-state continuum between old and new covenant experience. Certainly, sharp, categorical epochal distinctions like the Spirit "on" (old covenant) and "in" (new covenant) are difficult to maintain convincingly.33 That is so, it must be appreciated before anything else, just because of the radical, Christ-centered contrast already noted. Basic experiential continuity exists because every soteric blessing whatsoever, before and after Pentecost, has a single, common source; all are based on and flow from, whether prolepticly or retrospectively, the once-for-all work of Christ.

Briefly, continuity is especially clear in the matter of justification. In Romans 4 and Galatians 3-4 the model for the justification of the individual sinner is not, as we might expect and do find elsewhere (e.g., Phil. 3:9), Paul or some other NT believer, but Abraham and David. The inclusion of the latter in Romans is instructive because it shows that the epochal introduction of the law at Sinai makes no dispensational difference; under Moses no less than before, justification is not by the works of the law.

Further, the justification that Abraham epitomizes, for every era of redemptive history since the fall until the consummation, is by faith. That carries with it an additional indication of essential continuity. Faith, as believing (whether prospectively or retrospectively) the promise fulfilled in Christ, does not at some point replace some other way of justification. Those since Pentecost who are "sons of God through faith" are in that respect "Abraham's seed" (Gal. 3:26, 29), and, as such, like Isaac, "children of promise ... begotten according to the Spirit" (4:29-30). The Spirit is the author of faith (and all that proceeds from it), before Pentecost as well as after.

Even this brief sketch shows the continuity that marks both fundamental aspects of the individual appropriation of redemption (which any sound ordo salutis must take into account)—the forensic-declarative side (justification) and the renewing-transforming side (regeneration and sanctification).

3. A complicating (and enriching!) factor in this whole area of question is Scripture's occasional use of redemptive-historical language for an ordo salutis state of affairs or, alternatively, categories from the ongoing application of salvation for its once-for-all accomplishment. An example of the former is Ephesians 2:5-6: what effects personal renewal and experiential transformation, a radical about-face in "walk"—the main theme of verses 1-10 (cf. vv. 1-3 with 8-10)—is having been "raised up with Christ and seated with him in the heavenlies."34

A striking instance of the alternative—ordo salutis language for historia salutis reality—is the use of pistis in Galatians 3:23, 25. "Before faith came" and "since faith has come" seem to say that there was no faith prior to Christ's coming. But Paul is hardly denying what he has just taught plainly, even emphatically, about Abraham as the archetypal believer (vv. 6-9). Yet, lexically, pistis here would appear to have its usual fides qua sense, referring to the act of believing.35 It is best seen, then, as a metonym for "Christ" ("before Christ came," "since Christ has come").

This usage highlights just how thoroughly key categories of the ongoing application of salvation, like faith, are qualified by and gain their meaning and validity from its once-for-all accomplishment, the unfolding of covenant history to its consummation in Christ. Here Paul uses the term for the exercise of faith to refer to the object of faith (Christ), to show how meaningless that exercise is apart from its object (in a redemptive-historical sense).

With these observations in mind, and the controlling perspective they provide, I will comment briefly on the remaining passages I was asked to address.

a) Jeremiah 31, particularly verse 33, and its use in the New Testament. The law "put within them" and "written on their hearts," associated with the dawn of the new covenant, is not an experience unknown before then. It is present in Abraham (and others) who "walked by faith and not by sight" (cf. Heb. 11 and, in the case of Abraham, Gen. 26:5). The correlative notion of "heart circumcision" is not only a future (new covenant) indicative (Deut. 30:6) but a present imperative (l0:16; Jer. 4:4), finding its response in the likes of David and other Psalmists (e.g., 1:2;36 19:7-11, 14; 119 passim). To appeal to the fact that in Israel such heart-renewal was not typical, perhaps quite infrequent, is really beside the point. It may not have been typical but it was normative, an integral aspect of old covenant religion realized over the centuries in the true Israel (Rom. 9:6-8), in "a remnant chosen by grace" (11:6).

To argue otherwise, say in terms of a categorical external-internal ("on"/"in") problematic, that Pentecost brings heart-internalization for the first time, not only undermines the unity of biblical religion generally but strikes at the center of Paul's insistence that, before as well as after Christ's coming, there is but one justification, by "faith working through love" (Gal. 5:6). Faith (with its inseparable fruits) that presumably results from something other, and less, than the inwrought, regenerating work of the Spirit is just not the faith of Abraham.

Another instructive example are the references to the cleansed and perfected suneidesis in Hebrews 9:9, 14; 10:2, 22—bound up as they are with the use of Jeremiah 31:33 in 8:10 and 10:16. The writer's point is hardly that subjectively a "good conscience" was nonexistent prior to the time of the new covenant37 (where in the whole of Scripture is there a clearer expression of such a conscience, confident in sins freely forgiven, than by David in Ps. 32:1-2, 5; cf. Rom. 4:6-8). Rather, the subjective category of conscience is in a certain sense objectified; its "perfecting" is a description of what happens, once for all, in Christ's sacrificial death (9:12, 26; 10:10). In contrast to the essentially futile repetitions of old covenant animal sacrifice, his self-sacrifice is efficacious and so provides the basis for individual peace of conscience, before as well as after.

b) John 3:3ff. I'm inclined to say (although my mind is not finally made up) that verses 3-8 do not bear the sort of weight that Reformed dogmatics, for instance, has put on them. Likely, they are not, at least primarily, a proof-text for the place of regeneration, particularly its causal priority to faith, in the ordo salutis.38 Rather, the birth from "above" is "new" in the sense of being eschatological. It is brought by the coming of the kingdom of God that has (finally) arrived in Jesus; it explicates, and is explicated by, his claim, for example, that he is "the resurrection and the life" (11:25).

Granting such a redemptive-historical, eschatological understanding of this passage, however, does not require calling into question the divine monergism involved in the initiation of individual salvation prior to (as well as after) Jesus' coming. Even if, as appears likely, the new birth in view points to the sending of the Spirit as attendant on the ascension,39 still, along the lines I have already indicated, there was "regeneration" before Pentecost—those, like Isaac, because Spirit-birthed, with the faith of Abraham.

c) 2 Corinthians 3:6ff. This passage, involving us squarely as it does in Paul's much-mooted view of the law with all its attendant complexities, deserves a more careful treatment than I can give here. I hope the following observations, though brief and sketchy, are not entirely unhelpful (recall as well the comments already made above on 3:17a).

1) The letter-Spirit antithesis40 that controls this passage has its primary sense in terms of historia salutis, not ordo salutis. A predictable enough assertion, my reader may be thinking by now, but nonetheless needing to be made.

One important source of confusion in the debate over law in Paul, it seems to me is the failure to keep clear enough that his "negative" statements, in this passage and elsewhere, address the law's temporary, old covenant function in the history of redemption, but not its permanent place in the ongoing application of redemption, at least not primarily. Here the controlling contrast is manifestly epochal, between the old and new covenants (vv. 6, 14; cf. Rom. 7:6). Ordo salutis implications are not spelled out and so must not simply be assumed but drawn with care.

2) As a generalization, I would propose that while Paul's statements that the law has been terminated and is no longer in force make an epochal, redemptive-historical point (in addition to 2 Cor. 3:3ff., see, e.g., Rom. 6:14; 7:5-6; 9:32ff.; Gal. 3-4), there are other statements expressing its present, even beneficial role in the life of the church, and these concern the individual/corporate application of redemption (e.g., Rom. 8:4; 13:8-10; 1 Cor. 7:19). An already complex state of affairs is further confused by not recognizing that the coexistence of these two strands (the redemptive-historical and the applicatory) does not create a problem. They are compatible, because they are not directly commensurable or contrastable; they are complementary, addressing issues that are certainly related but distinguishable.

3) Taking Paul's use of pistis in Galatians 3:23, 25 as a cue, we may say that, as there is faith (in an ordo salutis sense) before Christ came, as noted above, so, similarly, there is room for law afterward (the "third use" of the law), an inference confirmed by "positive" statements like those just cited in the preceding paragraph.

I am well aware how thoroughly controversial this conclusion is (particularly in a forum like this!). But the following observations will have to suffice here. I agree, as recent exegesis for the most part concludes, that a) nomos in Paul refers, with few exceptions, to the law given at Sinai and b) Israel under the Mosaic law did not think of it as having distinct subsets or experience it as anything other than a seamless whole.

My hope, though, is that exegesis may eventually also reach a consensus— by keeping the historia salutis-ordo salutis distinction clear—that, since the fall, God's law is a dynamic, redemptive-historical entity with shifting elements around an unchanging core, such that in essential continuity with the Mosaic law, there is law before Moses (e.g., Gen.26:5) and after Christ.41 Something close, if not identical, to a moral-ceremonial distinction is plainly implicit in the prophets (e.g., Isa. 1:11-17) and Jesus (e.g., Matt. 23:23), along with the further intimation, within the broader horizon of his proclamation, that the former is permanent, the latter provisional.

4) Paul's negative statements about the law primarily address its redemptive-historical function. That function is the "pedagogical" (Gal. 3:24-25) point the law makes. What, more specifically, is that point?

The usual answer is in terms of some variant of the law-gospel antithesis. Whatever may be its strengths, however, the disadvantage of this answer is its tendency to blur the historia salutis-ordo salutis distinction. A better understanding, I would propose, one more directly suggested by Paul's theology itself, is found in the indicative-imperative structure of the Christian life (e.g., 1 Cor. 5:7; Gal. 5:25; Col. 3:1-5).42 The relationship between these two factors, constitutive of life in covenant with God, is positive and synthetic. They are inseparable, yet with the indicative, not the imperative, always prior and foundational; the gospel itself stands or falls with maintaining this irreversible priority. The indicative, in a word, is Christ—from the angle of the accomplishment of salvation, Christ in his death and resurrection; in terms of its application, union with Christ, crucified and resurrected, by faith.

The periodization of covenant history present in passages like 2 Corinthians 3:6ff. and Galatians 3:15ff. is the sequence: promise (Abraham)—law (Moses)—fulfillment (Christ and the Spirit). Projecting the indicative-imperative pattern onto that periodizing, the promise may be seen as the future indicative, the law, as the present imperative, and the fulfillment, as the present indicative. The fundamental problem with the period from Moses to Christ, then, is that, in terms of the history of redemption, the imperative is present but without the indicative; the indicative is still future. The imperative functions by itself, prior to and detached from the indicative. Or, it could be said, the imperative is based on a present indicative (redemption) that is no more than typological (e.g., Exod. 20:2 & 3ff.). Hence, the sin-exacerbating, killing futility of the law.

That state of affairs, Israel's history, is calculated to reveal human sinfulness and its desperate ramifications, and so the absolute necessity of Christ and his work. Because of sin, the law, itself "holy, righteous, good" and authored by the Spirit himself for righteous living in covenant with God (Rom. 7:10, 12, 14), cannot produce righteousness and life but only condemnation and death. That situation is captured in the midst of the argument in Galatians 3, in as central and controlling as any pronouncement on the law in Paul: "For if a law had been given that could impart life, then righteousness would have come by the law" (v. 21b).

But now that Christ, God's righteousness (1 Cor. 1:30; 2 Cor. 5:21) become the life-giving43 Spirit, has come, the anomalous futility of the imperative without the indicative has been removed. Now, after that dark but revealing pedagogy of Israel under the law, the imperative has been given its proper and permanent grounding in the indicative. Now, at last and definitively, life in covenant with God is given redemptive-historical, even eschatological stability.


The stress in this paper has been on the redemptive-historical, christological difference Pentecost makes, and that we must not confuse historia salutis apples with ordo salutis oranges. But the question still nags: have I done justice to epochal, before-and-after differences in individual experience of the Spirit? Perhaps not, and I may need to be instructed and corrected in that respect.

It is clear to me, though, that there is one experiential difference—a profound, indeed eschatological one—not mentioned so far and not to be missed. The blessings of salvation that the New Testament believer enjoys—regeneration, justification and all the rest—flow from and are tied to union with the exalted Christ. That cannot be said of Abraham and the rest of the remnant according to grace during their pilgrimage on earth. Our union-privilege, I take it, is at the heart of the "something better" planned by God for old as well as new covenant believers, "so that only together with us would they be made perfect" (Heb. 11:40).

Differences there no doubt are, experientially, between our union with Christ, now exalted, and the covenant bond in terms of which they were regenerated, justified and otherwise blessed. But, so far as I can see, Scripture is not particularly concerned to spell them out. Such differences resist neat, clear categorization and can only be loosely captured by terms like "better," or "enlarged," "greater," "fuller."44 But, for all that imprecision, they are no less real, nor is our privileged New Covenant experience of the Spirit somehow diminished.

Westminster Theological Seminary
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania


* A paper, slightly revised for publication here, delivered at the annual meeting of the Dispensational Study Group in Lisle, Illinois on November 17, 1994.

1 Throughout the expression ordo salutis has a general sense, interchangeable with "application of redemption." The question of a particular "order" or sequence of logically and/or causally concatenated acts and benefits lies outside my purview here.

2 Where that priority is not maintained or gets inverted—a perennial problem in the church, both in doctrine and life—though we may hold back at some point along the way, we are headed down that convoluted path toward Schleiermacher (and beyond).

3 In particular, I will have to forego interacting with Gordon Fee's diverging exegesis of this verse and 2 Cor. 3:1-7a (most recently, in God's Empowering Presence. The Holy Spirit in the Letters of Paul [Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1994] 264-67, 311-14 and "Christology and Pneumatology in Romans 8:9-11—and Elsewhere: Some Reflections on Paul as a Trinitarian," in J.B. Green and M. Turner, eds., Jesus of Nazareth: Lord and Christ [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans,1994] 319-22). Though I share fully his opposition to the sort of functional Spirit-christology argued by James Dunn and others, his insistence that the "whole point" of v. 45 is "soteriological-eschatological" ("Christology," 320) underplays the profound christological and pneumatological dimensions also present—however my own exegesis may need modifying.

4 I take it that the long-standing effort to enlist this passage in support of an anthropological trichotomy (with pneumatikos here referring to the human pneuma come to its revived ascendancy) is not successful and ought to be abandoned; see J. Murray, Collected Writings of John Murray, 2 (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 1977) 22-33, esp. 23-9.

5 Eph. 6:12 appears to be the only exception.

6 The neuter singular substantives in v. 46 (to psychikon, to pneumatikon) are most likely generalizing expressions (referring to environments or orders of existence), after which it would be a mistake, missing the flow of the argument (note the explicitly cosmological terms of the contrast, "heaven" and "earth" in vv. 47-49), to read an implied soma.

7 That is an important difference between this description of Christ and the generalization of John 3:6a: "What is born of the Spirit is spirit."

8 Existing English translations ("spirit," lowercase) obscure this.

9 This is not to suggest that his preexistence and incarnation are unimportant or nonessential. It needs, however, to be kept in mind that Jesus' claim, "I am the resurrection and the life" (John 11:25) depends for its validity, strictly speaking, on what is still future at the time of speaking, namely his own (death and) resurrection.

10 With the immediate context in view, this prepositional phase is almost certainly an exaltation predicate, not a description of origin, say, out of preexistence at the incarnation.

11 The personal, parallel distinction between God (the Father), Christ as Lord, and the (Holy) Spirit—underlying subsequent doctrinal formulation—is clear enough in Paul (e.g., 1 Cor. 12:46; 2 Cor. 13:14; Eph. 4:4-6).

12 Cf. 1 Pet. 1:11: The Spirit comprehensively at work in the old Testament prophets is specifically "the Spirit of Christ."

13 Even though translation Greek is involved, "turning to the Lord," in the sense of the Spirit, strikes me as an unusual and even odd notion for Paul; cf. his usage of the verb elsewhere, Gal 4:9; 1 Thess. 1:9.

14 That Paul does not intend an absolute identity, denying the personal distinction between Christ and the Spirit, is clear later on in this passage: the Spirit's interceding here, within believers (vv. 26-7), is distinguished from the complementary intercession of the ascended Christ there, at God's right hand (v. 34).

15 I proceed here on the premise that, with traditioning and the reductional activity of the respective evangelists duly taken into account, they provide us with a trustworthy record of what Jesus (and others) said.

16 It is important to keep in mind that the "you" addressed throughout this passage is not all believers indiscriminately, irrespective of time and place, but those who "were with me from the beginning" (15:27), who "now," at the time of Jesus' speaking, are "not able to bear" the "many things" he "still" has to say to them (16:12). To them, proximately, Jesus fulfills the promise to send the Spirit (20:22) and so, through that sending, to the church in all ages.

17 I will have to leave to the side here the relationship of the "Johannine Pentecost" (20:22) to Acts 2; see my Perspectives on Pentecost (Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1979) 39-41.

18 The second coming or, alternatively, his brief, temporary resurrection appearances hardly qualify as this coming, which from the immediate context (vv. 17-23) is at the very least closely conjoined (if not identical) with the imminent (eti mikron, v. 19) dwelling/showing/being of the Spirit (and the Father, v. 23) in/to/with believers, in distinction from the world.

19 That is, power he did not have previously but now does, as a result of the resurrection.

20 Needless to say, the notion of the NT church as an unforeseen mystery in the Old Testament shatters on this passage (not to mention others).

21 This reception is not in conflict with what Luke has previously reported: that Jesus already received the Spirit at the Jordan (Luke 3:22) and even at conception (1:35). Involved is a staging or heightening principle that finds its climactic realization in the ascension.

22 Note the accent, in the verses that immediately follow in Acts 2 (34-36), on the climactic significance of the ascension for Jesus personally.

23 Paul's metaphors for the Spirit as "deposit" (2 Cor. 1:22; 5:5; Eph. 1:14) and "firstfruits" (Rom. 8:23) highlight the inherently eschatological nature of his presence and work in the church.

24 Christ, not the Spirit, it should not be overlooked, is the active subject on Pentecost (just as John prophesied, Luke 3:16).

25 The event of John 20:22, we might say, provides, redemptive-historically, a "sneak (apostolic) preview" of Pentecost.

26 See Perspectives on Pentecost, 13-41.

27 Depending on how exactly the two purpose clauses are to be related. Note the citation of Gen. 12:3 in v. 8.

28 In the event-complex of Acts 2:32-33, it is at the very least anomalous to view one event (Pentecost) as a repeatable model for individual Christian experience and the other three (resurrection, ascension and reception of the Spirit) as nonrepeatable, once-for-all events.

29 1:8 is not a promise to all believers or to every generation of the church indiscriminately but proximately to the apostles (the concrete antecedent of hymas in v. 8 is tois apostolois in v. 2). In Col. 1:6, 23 Paul hints at the completion of this worldwide, apostolic expansion of the church through his own ministry—a completed expansion open, of course, to the postapostolic future beyond (cf. the Pastorals, which as a whole are calculated to address this future).

30 In the flow of the discourse, the four participial clauses in vv. 19-21 expand on "be filled with the Spirit" (v. 18), and vv. 22-6:9, in turn, elaborate the fourth, "being subject to one another in the fear of Christ" (v. 21).

31 I will have to bypass the ongoing debate whether each and every one of these gifts is intended to continue on into the postapostolic period until Jesus returns. Fee, for one, is confident that even raising this question is quite wrong-headed, involving us in posing an agenda alien to Paul (e.g., Empowering Presence, 893, n. 20; Gospel and Spirit. Issues in New Testament Hermeneutics [Peabody. MA: Hendrickson, 1991] 75-77). But, within the overall structure of the New Testament canon, what are the Pastoral Epistles as a whole (written to his nonapostolic "successors"), if not his apostolic provision for the postapostolic future of the church? At least those who recognize that the apostolic-postapostolic distinction is imposed on church history by the New Testament itself are bound to wrestle with its implications, in terms of continuities and discontinuities. Cf. Perspectives on Pentecost, 89-116.

32 This is the sort of unguarded statement I may well live to regret!

33 E.g., in Ps. 51:11 (David's prayer, "Do not take your Holy Spirit from me"), while theocratic endowment may be in the background, the accent is surely on personal indwelling. In a context (vv. 7-12) that reflects intense concern about personal sin, repentance, forgiveness, and salvation, surely more is at stake in this deep, heartfelt plea than the mere loss of official prerogatives and powers.

34 The notion in interpreting a passage like this, that we become "contemporaries" with Christ is not helpful, particularly if the distinction between redemption accomplished and applied is not kept clear. Union with Christ in his death and resurrection, with all the mystery involved, does not eliminate the historical distance, soteriologically, between the circumstances and conditions of my particular "now" and the "then" of those once-for-all events.

35 Fides quae, "faith" as a body of teaching believed (e.g., 1 Tim. 6:10; Tit. 1:13; Jude 3), hardly fits this context.

36 Even if torah here (and elsewhere) should have the expanded sense of Israel's "story," law in the narrower sense, as commands and directives, is still included.

37 The NIV's "felt guilty" in 10:2 is especially misleading in this respect.

38 See, representatively, the exegesis of J. Murray, Redemption—Accomplished and Applied (Grand Rapids Eerdmans, 1955) 98, 103f.

39 Intimated, at least, in the immediate contest by anabebeken (v. 13, note the perfect tense), despite the exegetical difficulties involved (see H. N. Ridderbos, Het evangelie naar Johannes, 1 [Kampen: Kok, 1987] 160-62), and the need for the Son of Man to be "lifted up" (v. 14; the crucifixion initiates the process of Jesus’ glorification, see esp. the use of upsoo in 8:28; 12:32, 34).

40 Note that the antithesis is not absolute; doxa is the common denominator—vv. 7-11 have the highest single concentration of glory vocabulary in Paul's letters (10 occurrences of noun and verb), about evenly distributed on both sides.

41 Having to argue that "keeping God's commandments" in 1 Cor. 7:19 is limited to Pauline and perhaps dominical commands, with no direct reference to the Mosaic law, sees to me a rather uncomfortable position to be in exegetically, particularly in view of Paul's positive use elsewhere, in parenetic contexts, of elements of the Decalogue, more or less clearly identified as such (Rom. 13:9; Eph. 6:2-3). That discomfort is intensified if we recognize, as is most likely, that "the doers of the law" in Rom. 2:13 is not an empty, hypothetical set seen Tom a pre-evangelical viewpoint but, as an aspect of the gospel (v. 16), describes believers (as they are also in view in vv. 6-7, 10).

42 On this pattern more generally, see, e.g., among other helpful treatments, H. Ridderbos, Paul. An Outline of His Theology (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1975) 253-58.

43 Note the controlling verbal tie (zoosopoieo) between Gal. 3:21 and 1 Cor. 15:22, 45; 2 Cor. 3:6.

44 Comparatives used by the Westminster Confession of Faith (20:1) in describing Christian liberty.