Spiritual Freedom in the World

Spiritual freedom is not another kind of freedom parallel with freedom of conscience and intellectual freedom and political freedom. It’s rather the freedom of being in the Holy Spirit and no longer only in the fallen flesh of Adam. This kind of freedom is the freeing of captives and the giving of sight to the blind in a real sense, not just in your cynicized, spiritualized, severely curtailed sense.

God loved us first; from liturgy we start, and we proceed to all the world, every lofty opinion, to be taken captive to Christ. Paul wrote, ‘For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body – Jews or Greeks, slaves or free – and all were made to drink of one Spirit.’ This equality at the Lord’s eucharistic table starts at the eating and drinking of God’s gracious gift of his spiritual Body and Blood, but it results in the overthrow of racism and slavery and the establishment of a common cup of thanks to God.

We don’t receive the Holy Spirit to effectively leave the world by making distinctions between the spiritual and the physical. Instead, we receive it to see God’s glory fill the earth, to witness his Resurrection penetrating every darkness, to come forth to the hope of a new heavens and a new earth, on God’s watch in history.

[Related: Peter Leithart on eucharistic tea.]

Related Posts:
Priests Can Read, on Christians’ priestly duty to lead the universe’s adoration of God, as implied by Psalm 148.
A Redeemed People, on salvation being of human society as well as of individuals.

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7 responses to “Spiritual Freedom in the World

  1. Bravo. A condensed version of Luther’s “Freedom of a Christian” and also implied how and why we miss the part of Christ being Lord of our lives, not just a cheap-grace free savior.

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  2. I do not think that 1 Cor. 12:13 is referring to either water baptism or the Lord’s supper. (I mention the former because the sacramental interpretation of this verse usually includes baptism as well.) The baptism referred to is clearly “in one Spirit” (Greek: en), which is contrasted with water baptism in Mat. 3:11 using the same preposition. We “drink” of one Spirit by experiencing or perhaps drawing life from the Holy Spirit, not by receiving communion. If communion was in view, why mention drinking and not eating as well? What we drink is the Spirit, not wine representing the blood of Christ.

    I agree with your larger point, that Christians from all backgrounds are one in Christ, and that that provides the seed for the overthrow of racism and slavery. I just don’t see a reference to communion in this verse.

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    • In terms of the Holy Spirit, yes, it’s certainly the Spirit who connects us to Christ, making us his members. But what’s to say that the Holy Spirit isn’t using the sacraments especially to work in us just as he uses the hearing of Scripture? After all, even us seeing the printed form of Scripture is a physical thing. To me, then, Spirit vs. physicality is a false dichotomy. We can in the same act drink both the Spirit and wine representing the blood of Christ.

      It is more of a problem, however, that no eating’s mentioned: the most that comes to mind is that Paul’s been using images of liquids. In context, I Corinthians 12 is soon after the discussion in the previous chapter of the Eucharist (to wit, the Thanksgiving), where a particular issue is drunkenness by misuse of the wine, but no particularly bread-related issue stands out. Suggestive but not conclusive, of course.

      But as for being baptized into one Body, practically speaking the Church has restricted full visible church life to the baptized. If we aren’t Gnostics, and we also hold that redemption includes redemption of Man as a social creature and thus of society through the Church as a visible reality (and here Paul really has been speaking about social relations), a reference to water baptism does seem appropriate.

      If the author doesn’t bother to make a distinction in a certain book, I don’t see why we in our exegesis should necessarily strive to do so for the sake of maintaining our theological categories. Systematic theology, of course, is a whole different ballgame, but it too rests on our reading.

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  3. One may also see pages 38–41 of Peter J. Leithart’s The Baptized Body (currently available for viewing on Google Books) for a more extended argument that I Corinthians 12 really is referring to both baptism and the Lord’s Supper.

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  4. Pingback: Review: From the Inside Out « Cogito, Credo, Petam

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