Christ is risen – to Spirit baptise, all creation in the Father’s love!
Recently I received a copy of Frank Macchia’s 2018 book, Jesus the Spirit Baptizer: Christology in Light of Pentecost (Eerdmans, 2018). So far, I have read the first two and concluding chapters. Therefore, though I have not yet got to the heart of the book, I find it already, deeply edifying, eloquently readable, and consistently inspiring in the key of Pentecost.
This work functions as a third volume in an emerging series Macchia has constructed since publishing his 2006 work Baptized in the Spirit: A Global Pentecostal Theology (Zondervan, 2006), followed by his 2010 book, Justified tine Spirit: Creation, Redemption, and the Triune God (Eerdmans). The first work, Baptized in the Spirit suggested ways that the Pentecostal Spirit-baptism can be an apt prism for constructing varied theological themes (particularly soteriology and ecclesiology). Then Justified in the Spirit built on that to addresses weaknesses to both Protestant and Roman Catholic theologies of justification, while showing how Pentecostal spirituality an ecumenical bridge rightly wedding the Roman Catholic stress on “impartation” and the Protestant stress on “imputation” into a more robust doctrine of justification than either comprises on their own.
Hence, this third volume further builds on those earlier works to explicate a Christology that also emerges when the Spirit-baptism metaphor, which historic theology has too often marginalised. Macchia thus foregrounds the metaphor and its implications, within our understanding of Christ’s incarnational mission, bodily resurrection, and now ascended ministry and cosmic reign as High Priest over the Church.
Yet Macchia is not actually suggesting a wholly new trajectory, for one of his crucial starting points is Wolfhart Pannenberg’s important though insufficient stress that the climax to Jesus’ identity and mission was his resurrection from the dead (pp. ix, 29). Hence, a major theme Macchia consistently argues is rather, that the culminating aim was his resurrection as the Baptizer in the Spirit, who is now pouring out the promised gift of the Spirit throughout creation, beginning with God’s new missionary people.
Consequently, Macchia explicates the event and meaning of Pentecost as a key “focal point of Christological method” (p. 12), and more importantly— Pentecost as the culminating aim of Christ’s identity and mission towards humanity and suffering creation.
I have not yet finished reading this ground-breaking work; I have yet to get to its centre. Yet for now want to point out two important themes that consistently emerge thus far. First, Macchia’s project also accentuates both the embodied mediation of the Spirit through the fleshly incarnation of Christ, and thereby, the sacramental quality and aims of Spirit baptism. This thus places on high premium on God’s aim toward saving and sanctifying people not just as “souls,” but rather as embodied dwellings of God’s Spirit— habitations of God’s Spirit. Hence, Spirit baptism aims towards the healing of creation (pp. 123-124f).
Second, as earlier mentioned, by noting the link between his present concurrent roles as Spirit-baptiser, High Priest who mediates before the Father in the “heavenly sanctuary”, and ascended reign as king over creation (pp. 309-338), Macchia is implicitly suggesting that we consider a strong priestly context to the phenomena we call Spirit baptism. He thus briefly brings into this discussion, the Christian prayer of epiclesis; that is, the priestly act of invoking the Spirit over the Lord’s Supper and thus the gathered congregation. I therefore believe, we have here an important theme we should more comprehensively develop. For I think it is one often lacking in Pentecostal theology, particularly with reference to Spirit baptism, yet something integral to Pentecostal spirituality. Hence, what implications does this spell between the role of prayer, both within the earthly and heavenly liturgies and/or worship (Hebrews chs. 4-10), and the renewing comings of God’s Spirit? I think that Macchia’s Christology grounded on the Spirit baptism metaphor, strongly accentuates the priestly work of the Church at prayer: before the Father invoking the Spirit who comes through the ongoing priestly ministry of Christ the Spirit Baptiser.
“As the last Adam, Christ is representatively baptized in the Holy Spirit and fire so that, as the divine Lord, he could impart the Spirit through the sacrament of his vindicated and exalted humanity. The exalted Christ of Pentecost incorporates creation into his life and the life of the triune God. . . . He mediates the Spirit as the sacrament at the core of all our sacramental practices. He also intercedes for us as the great high present. . . as he leads the missionary life of the church. . . .
The abundance of grace in the Spirit he imparts will overwhelm the forces of sin and death in the direction of life. That is consistent with the work of the Spirit baptizer. Where dehumanization and death abound, the work of the Spirit Baptizer abounds all the more!” (p. 349)
Come Holy Spirit, Lord; Giver of Life
Come Spirit of Jesus
Spirit from our Father above;
Come renew the earth
Till the glory floods it
Like the waters cover the sea.