Info

community's reading of the Bible, experience alone cannot be constitutive of evangelical theological content.1

Here conversion is analyzed as the Spirit's work of applying the paradoxical wisdom of the cross and resurrection to produce repentance and faith. The first part of this section traces the trajectory of saving grace in biblical narratives. Especially important is uncovering the plot of conversion narratives in the Old Testament. The operative hypothesis is that Israel's fiducial journey will be paradigmatic for the shackling reality of sin and the unfailing divine will to save sinful human beings.

The second part, then, highlights New Testament teaching about conversion as an eschatological call. The third part of this section will offer a brief analysis of the ordo salutis (order of salvation) to prepare for understanding divine-human dynamics in conversion. Finally, we will use these insights to delineate conversion as the Holy Spirit's work of witnessing to Jesus Christ.

Conversion in Israel's fiducial journey

The Hebraic conceptual equivalent for the Latin word "conversion'' is expressed in various forms of sûb, which connote an act of ''turning'' or ''returning.''2 Occurring over a thousand times, the root sûb does not always carry religious nuances (Gen. 18:22; Lev. 22:13). When used for conversion, however, it is set in a relational construct to signify an unambiguous turn away from sin to a conscious, wholehearted re/turn to God.3 The term refers to both individuals and nations turning to God in repentance,4 but the overall thrust of the Old Testament's conversion narratives portrays Yahweh's address toward Israel as his covenanted congregation.

First of all, repentance as an explicit act of re/turning to Yahweh is a requisite for Israel's sustenance as his people, presupposing his covenantal love for them.5 Repentance begins with a profound acknowledgment and confession of sin (Ps. 32:3-5; Prov. 28:13). As early as Genesis 3, Scripture shows that sin gives birth to a vicious cycle of blame, fear, shame, objecti-fication, paralysis, and alienation.6 God, however, graciously addresses the first couple, penetrating through their self-imposed alienation and eliciting confession of their disobedience. The theological implication of this narrative is that sin is not a thing but a broken relationship produced by voluntarily yielding to the Tempter. In this predicament, confession of sin becomes divinely instituted provision for reconciliation. Confessing sin empowers sinners to identify and reorder the fundamental chaos ushered in by the primordial attempt to live outside of the divine command.

Secondly, the ultimate goal of the divine summons to conversion is not to punish but to bless. The inchoate event of confession portrayed in Genesis 3 matures into a fully operative legal system through which Israel is to make true repentance and experience pardon. To perpetually wayward Israel, Yahweh faithfully sends his prophets. Since idolatry at heart is apostasy and perfunctory renderings of rituals reduce God to an object, God demands categorical repudiation of Israel's offensive acts and a radical change of their motives and conduct. He wants their devotion (Hos. 6:6). Yahweh insists upon voluntary, genuine, and thorough repentance (Josh. 24:33; 1 Sam. 7:3; 2 Chron. 7:14; Ezk. 33:8-11; Jer. 4:4).

The problem, however, is that Yahweh's holiness makes hyper-ethical demands upon the incorrigibly defiant Israel (Lev. 19:2). His law assiduously accuses Israel of erring, but it is powerless to lift them out of the seductive, gripping power of sin, particularly idolatry. Although Yahweh's love is loyal and his mercy endures for ever, Israel must not remain disloyal because Yahweh loves them exclusively (Deut. 4:24). Consequently, transgression incurs the wrath of the infinitely holy Yahweh. In this relationally tensive context Yahweh's sovereignty, first expressed in electing grace, continually summons Israel to turn to him in repentance.

The basis for this injunction is Deuteronomy 30.7 After establishing the Sinaitic covenant, God forewarns Israel about their unremitting propensity toward rebellion and thereby commands them to turn to him with a contrite heart. Deuteronomic testimony, furthermore, conveys that repentance is the basis for experiencing Yahweh's goodness, peace, and assurance.8 Yahweh's injunction to convert/repent as it comes in a threefold movement - Israel's violation of the covenant, Israel's crying out in misery, and Yahweh's turning to Israel for deliverance - always accompanies a robust message of blessing.9 In the disclosive power of prophetic indictment against sin, admonition and condemnation move to a grace-filled language of promise. In this way, Israel's requirement to confess their transgression for peaceful dwelling in their promised land (Lev. 26:40-42) demonstrates that the injunction to repent properly belongs to the economy of gift.

Thirdly, because Yahweh's summons comes with a message of blessing, it simultaneously presupposes and propels conscious faith. For Israel, turning away from sin and confessing Yahweh's name reinforce each other (1 Kgs. 8:33, 35). Repentance assumes having knowledge of God and placing unwavering trust in his willingness and power to grant pardon. As Hosea 6:1-6 illustrates, Israel's proclivity toward mercilessness and superficial cultic activities exposes the lamentable fact that they do not know

Yahweh. Because conversion presupposes commitment to a vital relationship with God, no ritualistic observance per se can earn pardon.

The prophetic messages also relate returning to Yahweh to trusting him, obeying his word, and turning away from all ungodliness.10 Perhaps one of the most dramatic demonstrations of faith and repentance comes when the Israelites are ordered to look upon the bronze serpent (Num. 21:4-9). The act of looking up at this provisional Christological symbol recapitulates an inner dynamic which consists of remorseful acknowledgment of apostasy and of decisive resolve to believe in Yahweh's efficacious word for deliverance.

Fourthly, the course of Israel's fiducial journey unveils that conversion must not only be propelled by Yahweh's summons, but also it can only be accomplished by his will to redeem.11 Israel's recalcitrant pursuit of sin reaches a point of no return, and Yahweh's deliverance on the basis of their conversion is no longer an option (Amos 7:8-8:2; Hos. 5:4-14; Isa. 6:10; Jer. 13:23). At this darkest moment, the exchanges between Yahweh and his prophets elucidate a strikingly strange logic. When Israel is completely bankrupt, Yahweh will first return to them. Only then will Israel seek Yahweh's face (Hos. 5:15; Isa. 44:22).

Furthermore, Yahweh's prophets make extraordinary speeches for a people facing annihilation. They cry out to Yahweh in an audacious summons for him to return and restore them (Isa. 63-64, esp. 63:17; Lam. 5:21).12 Oddly, the prophets' appeals reveal that the height of Israel's commitment to trust is rendered when Israel is politically, morally, and spiritually depleted. Even more striking, however, is Yahweh's own un/timely response. When his beloved is taken into exile, he promises that a time will come when he will cancel all their sins and regenerate their spirit through the indwelling work of his own Spirit (Jer. 31:31-34; Ezk. 36:24-27; Zech. 12:10). Here, grace is extravagantly beyond the measure of Israel's depravity. Conversion, therefore, is fundamentally "the consequence, not the presupposition, of deliverance.''13

Finally, the later prophets increasingly anticipate New Testament teachings regarding conversion.14 Yahweh promises to work redemption through a remnant who will escape the destruction of Israel and turn in trust to him (Isa. 6:11-13; 10:20-21). This remnant, of course, converges into messianic prophecies (Deut. 4:30; Hos. 3:5; Isa. 11:1-5, J0; 28:16; 53:2-12; Jer. 33:3-16; Dan. 9:25; Mal. 4:5-6). Also, although the historical narratives generally address Israel as a nation, Ezekiel implies the conversion of the individual. Through Jeremiah God had already promised a new endowment of a radically internal source of conversion (Jer. 31:31). In Ezekiel, this promise expresses more explicitly the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit in individual persons (11:19; 18:31; 36:24-26; 37:14).

Conversion as an eschatological summons

In harmony with the Old Testament's conversion theme of turning away from evil and to God, the New Testament also presents repentance and faith as the indispensable twin calls of the gospel. Conversion is also depicted as both God's gift and human responsibility, requiring radical reorientation of life.15 The initiator of the call to repentance in the new era is John the Baptist. The sole purpose of his stirring ministry is summoning the Israelites to repent because remission of sins is the inescapable preparation due for God's reign (Mark 1:4; Matt. 3:2).16 Even the atypical quality of the Baptist's conception and life already prescribes conversion's radical source and content (Luke 1:5-25, 41, 57-80). John uniquely fulfills Isaiah's messianic promise, preparing for Jesus' ministry of converting sinners to God.

The Baptist's message emphatically announces that Israel is under certain, imminent eschatological judgment and demands that all Israel offer authentic repentance transcending the Jewish religiosity of their time (Matt. 3:1-12; Mark 1:4-8; Luke 3:1-18). Moreover, his terse and graphic critique of the religious establishment exposes the hubris of Jewish presumption regarding the kingdom of God and the application of divine grace. He declares that only repentance leading to a complete abandonment of a sinful life and to generosity would satisfy the eschatological demand. In this way, the Baptist's work of preaching and administering water baptism for the remission of sins actively anticipates the Spirit baptism by Jesus Christ.

Therefore, the call to conversion is indissolubly bound up with the dawning of God's kingdom and the fulfillment of the messianic prophe-cies.17 The Baptist's message is eschatologically intensified in the ministry of Jesus Christ precisely because he decisively brings God's eschatological rule in his own person, once and for all (Matt. 4:17; 11:28-30; Mark 1:15; Luke 11:20).18 He is sent to convert people to God, and he proclaims that repentance is a fundamental requirement for the all-encompassing, present reality of God's kingdom (Luke 5:32; Rom. 2:4). Even his miracles are directed to evoke repentance (Matt. 11:20-24).

In fact, conversion talk in the New Testament inevitably occurs in the context of faith in Jesus Christ, the eschaton. This is easily noticeable in the way epistrepho, the Septuagint's designation for sûb, always includes the gift of faith, pisteuo, in Jesus Christ.19 The book of Acts is replete with reiterations of the sUb teachings from the vantage point of faith in Jesus Christ. In Paul's writings and Acts conversion is "a fundamentally new turning of the human will to God, a returning from blindness and error to the Savior of all'' by making a decisive movement of faith in and toward Jesus Christ.20 Conversion must bear concrete fruits of repentance. The emphasis, therefore, lies on the positive aspect of leading a ''new life'' in Christ, rather than just the negative movement of forsaking the ''old life.''21

Furthermore, Jesus' subversive speeches against the Pharisees not only divulge their filthy conscience and obtuse spirituality, but also declare emphatically that self-righteousness is perversely inadequate (Matt. 5:20). The kind of conversion worthy of God's eschatological rule cannot be achieved by humans, no matter how deeply steeped in religion (John 3:3-8). Conversion can only be received from trusting in God's sovereign freedom to offer it, precisely because repentance is not of the law but of the gospel (Matt. 18:3; Mark 10:27; John 3:16). The impulse to repent, therefore, is a gift that comes interwoven with the gift of faith.

Finally, whereas the Baptist's message about the kingdom is an acute call to repentance, Jesus' ministry highlights the positive aspect of conversion. He comes to lavish divine favor upon people and to give them an abundant life (Luke 4:16-21; John 10:10). In Matthew, Jesus' call to conversion is juxtaposed with ethical renewal that transcends and critiques all human efforts of self-righteousness.22 Here, the indictment against sin is accompanied by a call to follow Jesus and enter into a close relationship with him as disciples. For Matthew, this life necessitates the impossible possibility of living according to Jesus' Sermon on the Mount. Jesus does not issue this unprecedented, seemingly impossible call as an option but as a requirement for experiencing God's rule precisely because he already is an embodiment of his teachings and as such is also the means for practicing them (Matt. 5:1-7:29).

The dynamics of conversion in divine-human relationship

The above treatment of the biblical conversion narratives shows that conversion is completely the work of God and also completely human. Viewed from the other side of eternity, conversion actually begins from the triune God's sovereign will to redeem fallen humanity (Eph. 1:4-5; Rom. 8:29-30), because no one is capable of righteousness before God (Eccl. 7:20; Rom. 3:23). But Scripture also speaks tellingly about the human responsibility to respond to God's initiating grace. The fact that God is calling sinners to repentance and faith assumes that humans are endowed with genuine freedom (Matt. 9:12-13). In what manner, then, is conversion wrought by the Spirit's work of bearing the fruit of Christ in us? Evangelicals treat this question by placing conversion within a temporal scheme of the ordo salutis.

A first classification is the view of Reformed theology, firmly established on the total depravity of humans after the fall: while not absolutely bad as can be, people are affected by sin in all aspects of life and do not seek God. Thus Reformed theologians hold to a monergistic understanding of conversion and locate conversion after regeneration.23 They distinguish between a general call and a special or effectual call to faith in which the latter is bestowed only upon the predestined; without it all are spiritually dead.24

The Holy Spirit must first regenerate sinners in order for them to respond positively to the gospel (Rom. 1:6-7; 1 Cor. 1:9, 26; 1 Pet. 2:9). Repentance and faith, therefore, are the product of irresistible grace working through the Holy Spirit's regenerating work upon those who are effectually called. Accordingly, Reformed theology also holds to the perseverance of the saints - those who are converted cannot finally fail in faith but persist in saving grace. Although Reformed theologians explicitly maintain the voluntary nature of human response to the gospel, they are often criticized for a rather passive depiction of this element in conversion.

The second view involves the various kinds of synergism held by the Radical Reformers, Arminians, and Wesleyans. Like monergism, this view also begins with the priority of divine grace. But emphasis falls on human response to God's call. For the Radical Reformers, a theology of salvation involved rigorous analysis of the inner experience of conversion.25 Having rejected the external, sacramental means of salvation, they saw conversion as ''the quest for a sense of divine immediacy'' experienced here and now. Moreover, they understood conversion to be inseparably connected with a call to discipleship. Conversion entailed uncompromising surrender to Christ's Lordship in radical identification with his suffering and death. In final analysis, in the life of the Radicals, conversion was nothing short of a call to martyrdom.

Arminians generally contend that conversion is the result of human obedience to God's universal call (Matt. 23:37; John 1:9; 3:16; Luke 14:16-17).26 For Arminius, a concept of conversion must safeguard the sanctity of human free will.27 Though more clearly so by Wesleyans, conversion is attributed to the prevenient grace of God conferred upon sinners by the Holy Spirit, creating a possibility of responding affirmatively when the gospel is preached.28 Grace here is not necessarily effectual but only enabling and therefore resistible. Regeneration happens as a consequence of repentance and faith, not as a prior condition through which they are born. Arminians typically reject the perseverance of saints.

John Wesley construed conversion from the vantage point of ethical interests.29 Faced with a morally depraved nation claiming Christianity as its national religion, Wesley's main mission was to re-instill holy life among his people. He believed that true conversion would lead to visible signs of sanctification, even to the degree of perfect love for God (with no voluntary sin, appealing e.g. to 1 John 4:18). In agreement with Calvinists, Wesley denied Pelagian anthropology and subscribed to the doctrines of original sin and total depravity. He also held to a strong theology of the Holy Spirit's witnessing work upon sinners to bring about repentance. Without the "quickening'' work of the Holy Spirit, no one can know Christ.30 Wesley, however, understood conversion within the parameters of God's prevenient grace as that which creates desire for God and faith in Jesus Christ.31 Like Arminians, Wesley held that this grace is resistible and denied the perseverance of the saints. Some synergists interpret biblical texts that speak of predestination (e.g., Rom. 9) conditionally, in terms of God knowing ahead of time who will exercise faith. Others interpret them corporately, regarding God's choice of the church as his servant people.

A final view, espoused by moderate Calvinists such as Millard Erickson, maintains a partly synergistic understanding of conversion, while retaining the total depravity of humanity, effectual calling, and perseverance of the saints.32 God's effectual calling ensures conversion, which occurs before regeneration. Regeneration is God's work upon those who respond to the gospel with repentance and faith.

Conversion in the matrix of grace

The conclusion of Israel's conversion testimony discloses that its source is exclusively Yahweh, who not only gives the impulse to repent but also promises to provide a radical means of liberation from the enslaving power of sin. The New Testament makes known that Israel's conversion testimonies culminate with the definitive inauguration of the eschatological ministries of the Messiah and the Holy Spirit. The call to conversion, therefore, finally comes with force to both Jews and Gentiles (1 Cor. i2:i3).33

In this way, tracing Israel's bleak fiducial journey culminates in the task of plotting out the trajectory of God's superabundant grace and hope-filled promises lavished upon humans in the Son through the Holy Spirit. The overarching thesis is that the impulse and content of the Christian experience of conversion and all their invigorating implications are essentially summed up as the experience of the Holy Spirit.34

First, the grace of freedom performs maximally when human sin reaches its fatal apex and the sinner's conscience is completely shut in by a viciously paralyzing cycle of self-righteousness, shame and guilt, and self-condemnation (Rom. 5:20; 7:1-8:4). St. Augustine's Confessions illustrates graphically this odd work of grace.35 He confesses that unregenerate freedom is a confounding conundrum because it expresses itself as a vehemently willful desire to sin against one's own conscience. Freedom is fundamental to being human, but it is a damaged, enslaving freedom. In the event of proclamation, the Spirit opens us up to hear the gospel and "makes the Word effective in us.''36 Indeed, faith comes from hearing the gospel (Rom. 10:14-15), but this seemingly mundane business of "hearing'' becomes a grace-filled moment of encountering Jesus Christ as the living Lord in the eschatological activity of the Spirit. If sin is what breaks up relationship and creates alienation, then true freedom is what reopens that broken relationship.37 Therefore, it is not that the sinner is free to respond to the gospel but that the Spirit's work frees him when to respond. In the event of conversion, the Spirit further effects union with Christ, justification, and adoption (1 Cor. 12:13; Rom. 8:9-17). In my view, Arminian synergism is not confirmed by conversion teachings indigenous to Scripture.

Secondly, conversion and regeneration are intimately related constructs in the working of the Spirit. The blight of sin is invincible, leaving humans in total depravity, but God unilaterally bestows rebirth in Christ through the Spirit (Rom. 8:9; John 1:12-13; 3:6). The New Testament's use of "regeneration'' in the context of conversion occurs only once in Titus 3: 5. In this verse, "the washing of regeneration and the renewing of the Holy Spirit'' indicate together one experience of salvation.38 The gift of the indwelling Spirit becomes a reality to the one who accepts the gospel by faith, not as a result of water baptism (1 Cor. i:i3-2:5).39 Water baptism is a reenactment of what has already happened in and through the Spirit. On this view baptismal regeneration is to be rejected because the agent of cleansing is the Spirit, not the ceremony.

Gordon Fee's fruitful study of Pauline pneumatology suggests that "washing/rebirth/life-giving'' all together signify the same reality experienced at conversion.40 The three metaphors indicate the dramatic outcome of the two "turnings'' performed by the Spirit and his setting into motion the present experience of blessings anticipatory of the coming age. Therefore, regeneration is emphatically not metaphysical or mystical. Rather, it is the Spirit's relational presence. Regeneration is closely associated with the metaphors of rebirth and renewal promised in the Old

Testament and proleptically actualized by the coming of Christ (Ezek. 11:19-20; Rom. 8:9; John 1:12-13; 3:6).

Furthermore, Paul's use of ''sanctification'' does not always refer to the work of grace after conversion. Rather, he uses the term as one of the metaphors for conversion.41 In Romans 15:16, sanctification is used synonymously with conversion. In 1 Corinthians 6:11, washing, sanctification, and justification in Jesus by the Spirit are listed in sequence. In 2 Thessalonians 2:13, he says that ''God from the beginning chose you for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth.'' Therefore, Paul's fluid and diverse use of conversion metaphors indicates that the dynamics cannot be adequately represented by a single metaphor. It also means that the precise timing or relationships in conversion are not his central concern. Against programmatic interests regarding the operation of grace, the message is that the Spirit is the only ''constant'' feature in the Christian experience of conversion.

Thirdly, in my view the New Testament church's emphasis on the definitive work of the Spirit in the event of proclamation seems to favor a punctilious view of conversion. Influenced also by the great revival movements, evangelicals generally see conversion as a thoroughly eschatologi-cal event that imposes drastic, sometimes also dramatic, beginnings on those who are predestined for the Christian life (Acts 9; 10).42 Conversion indicates a power encounter, a change from one dominion to another (Luke 11:17-20; Rom. 5:14-21; Heb. 2:14). The event can evoke profound emotional responses from the converts (Acts 2:37). According to Paul Ricoeur, a phenomenological analysis of religious feelings unveils the theological content inhering in them. The human experiences ''absolute feelings'' over which s/he cannot declare mastery.43 Religious feelings bear fundamental ontological longings and, therefore, escape intelligibility, even for the one experiencing them. The powerful emotions that some people experience at conversion, therefore, fittingly correlate with the genuine interchange that occurs between the divine and human as free, relationally open beings.

Finally, conversion creates a life that has both centrifugal and centripetal directions. Conversion marks the inauguration of a life in the community of the saints (Acts 2:40-47). This communal reality is not a mere aggregate of autonomous individuals, nor is it an enmeshed clog of a community in which individuality is absorbed or objectified. Rather, it is a community that celebrates the diversities expressed in individuality and thereby becomes enriched as the body of Christ (Rom. 12:3-8; 1 Cor. 12:4-7). The Spirit, as the promised eschatological gift of the Father, gathers converts into the body of

Christ and, at the same time, unleashes the church's preaching ministry for the sake of the world (John 14:16-26; Acts 1:8; 2:1-12).

the grace of sanctification in the vicissitudes of life

If conversion is the starting point of the Christian life, sanctification is a process of maturing in Christian freedom to love. In this way, justification provides the basis for sanctification and sanctification works out the content of justification.44 The Spirit's work of setting us free from the fetters of sin further invites the convert to ever-thriving participation in the triune God's life of reconciliation. Specifically, sanctification has three interpenetrating or intersecting directions: Christological, ecclesial, and eschatological spheres in the Christian life effected and spurred on by the Holy Spirit. Much debate exists about the mechanisms or extent of sanctification, features of which will be demarcated here.

"Sanctification" means to ''make holy.'' The Old Testament employs various forms of Sdp to connote holiness in the sense of being set apart or separate.45 Most references occur in cultic and ceremonial contexts. Above all, God alone is holy whereas people and things are holy only by designation or derivation (Lev. 19:2; 20:26; Ps. 99:5). Also, the Old Testament occasionally reflects an ethical dimension of holiness as being inwardly set apart from evil (Ezek. 18:15-17). The New Testament use of the term is applied to all Three Persons in the Godhead. Jesus as the ''Holy one of God'' taught that God's name is to be ''hallowed'' (Mark 1:24; Matt. 6:9). Above all, the New Testament letters are replete with references to the Holy Spirit of God. The predominant occurrence of New Testament sanctification language occurs in the context of a lifelong process of ethical transformation effected by the Holy Spirit (Acts 20:32; Eph. 5:27; 1 Pet. i:i5).46

First, the Spirit's indwelling presence in the life of the Christian confers a permanent, positional reality of sainthood. The Christian grows in holiness precisely because s/he is already made holy by the work of Christ effected through the Spirit of God (Heb. 10:10, 29). Against perceptions of Roman Catholic theology, each Christian is already a saint (Rom. 8:27; Eph. 1:18). Here the Spirit's work is more closely modeled by a Lutheran emphasis upon the Christian life as becoming what we already are in Christ Jesus by faith.47

Secondly, the Holy Spirit is the agent of sanctification (1 Pet. 1:2). Sanctification entails maturing in faith in the word of God and being transformed to do good (Eph. 5:26; Titus 2:14; Heb. 13:20-21); the two are inseparably related (James 2:26). In John's terms, to be spiritual is always referenced by knowing Jesus as God's own embodiment of truth (1 John 4:2; John 17:17). To be sanctified means learning to live by the strength of God's word in the Spirit.

Thirdly, sanctification requires us continually to offer ourselves completely to God and the believing community for edification (Rom. 12:1-21). Against ever lurking idol-creating tendencies, Jesus Christ is the only lasting ground of Christian personhood and identity. Here, proper worship encompasses proper knowledge of God and practicing cruciform, reconciling love. Sanctification, therefore, is embarking on a journey of growing in worshiping God and practicing godly love (Eph. 1:5).

To this eschatological end, I favor an ''Augustinian'' or ''Reformed'' emphasis on sanctification as progressive growth through the means of grace we have in union with Christ, and believe Wesleyan/holiness perfectionism must be cautiously critiqued. Talk of ''the second blessing'' after conversion, also found in Pentecostal or charismatic views of baptism in the Holy Spirit, seems to have been derived from powerful experience of the indwelling Spirit more than biblical study.48 Grace always and necessarily retains its enigmatic quality proper to the triune God's character and work. Grace cannot be unpacked in totality, nor is it possible to schematize definitively its operation. Perfection, even spoken of in terms of love instead of moralism, goes beyond the ambitious and all-encompassing quality of sanctification by the Spirit in this life.49 Biblical teachings clearly point to quality of sanctification with tangible manifestations. Perfection, however, should be reserved for a radically new way of Christian life to be experienced in glorification.

Fourthly, sanctification requires sharing intimate fellowship with the Spirit and relying only upon the Spirit's empowerment for life. Jesus came to give life and definitively conquered death (John 3:16-17; 4:14; 10:10; 15:13; 1 Cor. 15:54-55).50 The activity of the Spirit is behind this very life-giving power of Jesus. After the ascension of Christ, the Spirit brings the force of life that had been unique to the crucified and risen Lord upon converts. He is ''the Spirit of life'' or the ''life-giving'' Spirit of God in Jesus Christ (Rom. 8:2, 6; 2 Cor. 3:6).51 To have the Spirit does not mean to have access to power that can be manipulated. Instead, the believer is to live by the Spirit over against all signs and practices of ungodliness (Rom. 8:4-5, 9-14; Gal. 5:16, 25). Sanctification is not to be considered in objectifying, moralistic terms but relationally.

Fifthly, to enjoy the fellowship of the Spirit is to surrender to an inevitably cruciform life (Phil. 2:1-18), bearing witness to the humble, obedient, and self-giving life of Jesus Christ. Ultimately, having faith in Jesus cannot bypass concrete sharing in "the fellowship of his sufferings, being conformed to his death'' (Phil. 3:8-10). This means the Christian must accept a fundamentally different conception of power. Paradoxically, self-denial is the only means of experiencing the impossible possibility of living by Jesus' resurrection power against all life's threatening fragilities. In fact, the logic of Jesus' cross demonstrates that life's weakness is to be embraced with suffering love, not shunned with contempt.

To have faith in Jesus' resurrection means to believe in the hidden operation of divine grace amidst terribly and obviously diminished human capacities for love, righteousness, and hope. In this sobering, unmistakably eschatological context, the believer is to "work out [his] salvation with fear and trembling'' (Phil. 2:12), for such is the life God wills and enables. Although God remains always as the supplier of all life's resources, the Christian must not presume upon grace by being slothful or legalistic.

Sanctification engrafts believers into a priestly community for the sake of the world still hostile to God's reconciling presence (1 Pet. 2:9; Rom. 12:1). The believers can be for the world precisely because they are set apart, sanctified against worldliness (John 17).

In conclusion, conversion and sanctification can be summed up as learning to trust in the implications of God in us and appropriating God's freedom. In conversion, the sinner is turned and surrendered to God for a radically different way of life. Through sanctification, the Christian learns that living by faith means embarking on a pilgrimage of growing trust in God's power of grace amidst ever encroaching legalism and apostasy. As long as the cross and resurrection stand as ''the already and not yet'' critique against human conceptualizations about love and righteousness, the Christian must live by prayer with a view toward the return of Christ, knowing that to pray is to unfold God's grace at work in the crevices of human trust. This paradoxical ''certainty'' that escapes ordinary human reflection involves the Christian life in surprising grace. Therefore, conversion and sanctification involve a process with a definitive beginning, to be achieved gloriously on the other side of the resurrection.

Further reading

Abraham, William J. The Logic of Evangelism. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1989. Alexander, Donald L. (ed.). Christian Spirituality: Five Views of Sanctification.

Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1988. Berkouwer, G. C. Faith and Sanctification. Studies in Dogmatics. Trans. John

Vriend. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1952.

Chan, Simon. Spiritual Theology: A Systematic Study of the Christian Life. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1998.

Collins, Kenneth J. (ed.). Exploring Christian Spirituality: An Ecumenical Reader. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2000.

Oden, Thomas C. The Transforming Power of Grace. Nashville, TN: Abingdon, 1993.

Packer, James I. Keep in Step with the Spirit. Tarrytown, NY: Revell, 1984.

Peace, Richard V. Conversion in the New Testament: Paul and the Twelve. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1999.

Peterson, David. Possessed by God: A New Testament Theology of Sanctification. New Studies in Biblical Theology. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2001.

Webster, John. Holiness. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2003.

Notes

1. For analysis of religious autobiographies that deal with conversion from the vantage point of the struggling human will, see Anne Hunsaker Hawkins, Archetypes of Conversion: The Autobiographies of Augustine, Bunyan, and Merton (Toronto: Bucknell University Press, 1985).

2. Willem A. Van Gemeren (ed.), The New International Dictionary of Old Testament Theology and Exegesis (hereafter NIDOTTE), 5 vols. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1997), vol. iv., s.v. "Sib'' by J. A. Thompson and Elmer A. Martens.

3. Gordon R. Lewis and Bruce Demarest, Integrative Theology: Historical, Biblical, Systematic, Apologetic, Practical (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1996), pp. 85-89.

5. Walter Kaiser, Jr., Toward an Old Testament Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1978), p. 137.

6. Paul Ricoeur, Symbolism of Evil, trans. Emerson Buchanan (New York: Harper and Row, 1967), pp. 70-99.

7. Kaiser, Toward an Old Testament Theology, p. 137.

8. Walter Brueggemann, "The Kerygma of the Deuteronomic Historian,'' Interpretation 22 (1968): 387-402.

9. Kaiser, Toward an Old Testament Theology, pp. 138-39. For a summarized illustration of this pattern, see Psalm 107 and Nehemiah 9.

10. See Jeremiah 26:3-4; 34:5; Isaiah 30:15. See also Gerhard Kittel (ed.), Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (hereafter TDNT), 10 vols. (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1964), vol. iv, pp. 980-89, s. v. "mstavoao, petavoia" by E. Würthwein.

12. See also Amos 9:14; Psalm 80:14. For an insightful and comprehensive analysis of Israel's covenantal privilege/responsibility to summon Yahweh in times of trouble, see Walter Brueggemann, Theology of the Old Testament: Testimony, Dispute, Advocacy (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress, 1997), Part iii, esp. pp. 413-527.

15. See Acts 8:22; 20:21; 26:20; Hebrews 6:1; Revelation 2:22, 16:9; Acts 2:38; 3:19; 5:31; 11:18; Revelation 2:21.

16. TDNT, s. v. "mstavOEffl, petavoia'' by J. Behm.

17. Ibid., vol. iv, pp. 999-1006. See also George Raymond Beasley-Murray, Jesus and the Kingdom of God (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1994), pp. 71-75.

19. Colin Brown (ed.), New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology (hereafter NIDNTT) 3 vols. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1975), vol. i, pp. 354-57, s. v. "gpiCTTpgjffl, mstame10mal,'' in ''Conversion, Penitence, Repentance, Proselyte,'' by F. Laubach.

21. On such change see esp. Anthony A. Hoekema, Saved by Grace (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1989), pp. 123-27, plus how metanoeo and epistrepho are used together in the same discourse (Acts 3:19, 26:20).

22. Adolf Schlatter, The Theology of the Apostles: The Development of New Testament Theology, trans. Andreas J. Kostenberger (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1999).

23. Hoekema, Saved by Grace, pp. 80-131.

25. Timothy George, '' The Spirituality of the Radical Reformation," Southwestern Journal of Theology 45 (Spring 2003): 23-32.

26. Roger E. Olson, Westminster Handbook to Evangelical Theology (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox, 2004), p. 162.

27. James Arminius, Works of Arminius, trans. James Nichols (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1986), pp. 189-94.

28. See Thomas C. Oden, The Transforming Power of Grace (Nashville, TN: Abingdon, 1993).

29. Timothy L. Smith, ''George Whitefield and the Wesleyan Witness,'' in Timothy L. Smith (ed.), Whitefield and Wesley on the New Birth (Grand Rapids, MI: Francis Asbury, 1986), pp. 11-38.

30. John Wesley, ''The Circumcision of the Heart,'' in Kenneth Cain Kinghorn (ed.), John Wesley on Christian Practice (Nashville, TN: Abingdon, 2002), 3:24-27. See also '' The Witness of the Spirit,'' p. 190.

31. Ibid., '' The Scripture Way of Salvation,'' p. 191.

32. Millard J. Erickson, Christian Theology, 2nd edition (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, j998) pp. 943-59.

33. Gordon Fee, God's Empowering Presence: The Holy Spirit in the Letters of Paul (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1994), pp. 846-47.

35. St. Augustine, Confessions, trans. R. K. Ryan (New York: Doubleday, 1960), Book 8. See also Miyon Chung, ''The Textuality of Grace in St. Augustine's Confessions,'' Ph.D. diss. (Southwestern Baptist Theological School, 2003), pp. 58-69.

36. Otto Weber, Foundations of Dogmatics, trans. Darrell L. Guder, 10 vols. (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1981), vol. ii, p. 254.

38. TDNT, s. v. '' naXwyyeueaM,'' in '' jevea, nali^^eveaia." by F. Buchsel. See also Fee, God's Empowering Presence, pp. 855, 857.

39. Fee, God's Empowering Presence, p. 862.

40. Ibid., pp. 855-59. See also his Gospel and Spirit: Issues in New Testament Hermeneutics (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1991), p. 117. In this work, he arranges the elements of conversion in the order of repentance and forgiveness of sins, the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit, empowerment for life and obedience to mission, and baptism in water.

41. Fee, God's Empowering Presence, p. 859.

42. Olson, Westminster Handbook, p. 161. Richard Peace's study about the patterns of conversion from Paul and Jesus' twelve disciples argues that conversion is a process. The fact of their special status with reference to the dawning of eschatological times and the textualized content of the early church's preaching, however, favors to posit conversion as a punctilious beginning for Christian life. See Richard V. Peace, Conversion in the New Testament: Paul and the Twelve (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1999).

43. Paul Ricoeur, ''Naming God,'' in Figuring the Sacred: Religion, Narrative, and Imagination, ed. Mark I. Wallace, trans. David Pellauer (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress, 1995), pp. 217-35. See also ''The Power of Speech: Science and Poetry,'' Philosophy Today 29 (Spring 1985): 68-69.

44. Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics, trans. and ed. G. W. Bromiley and T. F. Torrance (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1975), 4/2:508.

45. NIDOTTE, s. v. ''»dp" by Jackie A. Naude.

46. NIDNTT, s. v. ''Holy, Consecrate, Sanctify, Saints, Devout,'' by H. Seebass and C. Brown.

47. Gerhard O. Forde, ''The Lutheran View,'' in Donald L. Alexander (ed.), Christian Spirituality: Five Views of Sanctification (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1988), p. 14.

48. Max Turner, The Holy Spirit and Spiritual Gifts in the New Testament, 2nd edition (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1998), pp. 44-56,113. (Though the books of Acts and 1 Corinthians are often used to support the Pentecostal view.)

49. Laurence W. Wood, ''The Wesleyan View,'' in Alexander (ed.), Christian Spirituality, pp. 97-102. (The holiness teaching more influential for other Anglo-American evangelicals, the Keswick movement, may not reach for perfection but still sharply divides Christian lives into two phases or states based on being ''filled with the Spirit.'')

50. Eberhard Jiingel, God as the Mystery of the World: On the Foundation of the Theology of the Crucified One in the Dispute between Theism and Atheism, trans. Darrell L. Guder (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1983), pp. 184-225, 281.

51. Fee, God's Empowering Presence, p. 858.

Transcend the Power of Words

Transcend the Power of Words

Finally, The Secrets Of Affirmations Unrevealed... Who Else Wants The Ultimate Guide To Affirmations And Witness Its Magic To Change Your Life Forever? Discover How Ordinary People Can Live Extraordinary Lives Through Affirmations!

Get My Free Ebook


Post a comment