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Jesus into Paul

Embodying the Theology and Hermeneutic of the Whole Gospel

Chapter  9

Jesus' Relational Replacement

Sections

 

The Missed-understood Person

The Spirit and Paul

Integral, Pleroma Pneumatology

Participating in God's Life

Ch 1

Ch 2

Ch 3

Ch 4

Ch 5

Ch 6

Ch 7

Ch 8

Ch 9

Ch 10

Ch 11

Ch 12

Ch 13

Ch 14

Printable pdf of entire study

Table of contents

Scripture Index

Bibliography

 

Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God.

 

Ephesians 4:30

 

 

 

John the Baptist testified that ďI saw the SpiritÖand he remained [meno, dwelled] on himĒ at Jesusí baptism (Jn 1:32, cf. 3:34). Thereafter, Lukeís Gospel records that Jesus was full of the Spirit and led by the Spirit and the Spiritís power (Lk 4:1,14). These early accounts clearly distinguish the presence and function of the Spirit in the whole of Jesusí embodied life and practice, that Jesus himself confirmed in his vulnerable disclosure of the gospel (Lk 4:18, cf. Isa 11:2; 42:1); and their function together dynamically continued in Jesusí post-resurrection interactions (Acts 1:2), into his post-ascension involvement (Acts 9:17; 13:2; 16:7, cf. 2 Cor 3:17-18; Rev 2:7,11,17; 3:6,13,22). Throughout Jesusí vulnerable presence and relational involvement, the Spirit meno with Jesus together to constitute the improbable relational context and process of the whole of God. Therefore, as noted in chapter seven, the relational work of the Spirit is irreplaceably the necessary relational means who constitutes theology beyond the referential terms of the probable in the relational epistemic process to the improbable. The Spirit provides the needed hermeneutic for the embodied Wordís whole theological trajectory and relational path (Jn 14:26; 15:26). Necessary beyond mere acknowledgement of the Spirit, for our theology to go further and deeper than self-referencing we need to honestly examine our theological assumptions of pneumatology. The gospel and its relational outcome that Jesus embodied in whole are contingent on who the Spirit is and what his function is.

The integration of Jesus into Paul was constituted by the primary relational work of the Spirit, not a construction in referential terms. Jesus into Paul is a relational dynamic that has significance only as the relational outcome of the Spiritís presence and function. As Jesus identified the Spirit as the integral key to what unfolds after his ascension (Jn 14:16-18,26; 15:26; 16:8-15; Acts 1:4-5, 7-8), Paul confirmed the Spirit as that key and affirmed his reciprocal relational work as the innermost of Godís presence and involvement (1 Cor 2:9-16; 12:3-13; 2 Cor 3:17-18; Rom 8:9-16; Eph 1:13-14; 2:22). The synthesis of Jesus into Paul and their gospel of wholeness and its relational outcome of the new creation family unfold only in our whole understanding of the Spirit.

 

The Missed-understood Person

As noted above, the Spiritís presence and function dwelled (meno) with the embodied whole of Jesus together to constitute the trinitarian relational context of family and relational process of family love in ongoing reciprocal relational involvement with the Fatheróan irreducible relational dynamic ongoingly integrated through post-resurrection and into post-ascension. While the Spirit is certainly an integral member of this triangulated context and process, his person and function in the Trinity tends to be minimalized and often functionally ignored. When given attention, what tends to be paid attention to are various functions related to the Spirit without the involvement of his person. This reduces both the Spirit as an integral person in the Trinity and consequently the Spiritís involvement as person in relationship together with the Father and the Son. The functional repercussion, if not theological conclusion, from this is a binitarian view of God focused on the Son alone with the Father. When the Spirit is reduced from personhood, the Spiritís person is lost in the whole of God, thereby relegating the Spirit at most to some dynamic between the Father and the Sonófor example, an impersonal dynamic of ďlove.Ē Yet, the Spirit grieved like the other trinitarian persons, and this makes evident his involvement as a person (Isa 63:10, Eph 4:30).

Moreover, reduced from personhood, the Spirit only functions apart from the primacy of relationships; and without this primacy what the Spirit does no longer has the qualitative significance of relational work, thus only involves the quantitative aspects such as guiding in cognitive truth, providing spiritual gifts and empowering to do things. Whatever reduction or variation takes place, the relational consequence for the Spirit is to be the missed Person, the forgotten Person, or even the lost Person in the whole of God.

When the Spirit is reduced from personhood, the Spiritís function is without relational significance; and this condition implies a condition about Jesus. This is a condition in which the Spirit serves a Jesus who has been reduced to his teachings, principles and example in an incomplete Christology for a truncated soteriology with a fragmentary ecclesiology that is not whole. Essentially, the Spirit can be no less in substance and no more in significance than what, who and how Jesus is. Pneumatology is conjoined to Christology and is contingent on it. In other words, as Jesus goes so goes the Spirit. When the whole of Jesus embodies the whole of God and vulnerably discloses the whole and holy God only for relationship together to be Godís whole, then the Spiritís person, presence and function extend the relational Whole as the ontological One with the same qualitative substance and relational significance as the Son to complete our relationship together in Godís whole. This was the what, who and how of the Spirit that the whole of Jesus definitively disclosed.

In Jesusí vulnerable interaction with the Samaritan woman at the well in which he intimately disclosed Godís strategic shift, he offered her living water (Jn 4:10,14). While he continued on to disclose the Fatherís intimate desires for communion in relationship together, we must not overlook the relational significance of the living water. Later, Johnís Gospel informs us that the living water is the Spirit (Jn 7:38-39, cf. Rev 22:17). Jesus did not reduce the Spirit from personhood with the metaphor of living water; that would have reduced his own person since the Spirit dwelled with him in relationship together. Rather, Jesus disclosed to the Samaritan woman the strategic shift of Godís thematic relational action, in which the living water pointed to the Spiritís person who together with Jesus constituted the trinitarian relational context of family and trinitarian relational process of family love. In conjoint involvement, they functionally and relationally embodied Godís strategic shift for intimate relationship together. Therefore, Jesus opened to her access to the whole of God for relationship together with all the trinitarian persons. Though the Father was highlighted in this interaction, all three trinitarian persons were extended to her. And in Jesusí definitive disclosure, we must not overlook or reduce this reality: (1) the emerging person of the Spirit integral to the whole of God for relationship together, and (2) the emerging relational significance of the Spiritís person in Jesusí salvific work, whose relational significance further increased integrally for what Jesus saves us to.

The increased relational significance of the Spiritís person emerged as Jesusí salvific work approached the critical steps to its climax. Jesus disclosed to his disciples in his so-called farewell discourse, not in referential terms but using relational language to communicate that his whole person embodied the Truth for relationship with the Fatherórelationship together as the whole of Godís family (Jn 14:6). After startling them with the intimate disclosure of the Father (14:9-11), he further disclosed in relational terms that the Spiritís person will soon replace his person as this truth (14:17, later 15:26; 16:13). Jesusí relational language is crucial to fully understand both what is replaced and who replaces.

Jesus as the Truth was always for the purpose of relationship and functioned only for relationship together to be the whole of Godís family (see Jn 8:32,35-36). His well-known relational communication on the truth is usually taken out of its relational context of Godís family by reducing the truth to the cognitive aspects of propositional truths and referential doctrine. Additionally, Jesusí own person tends to be separated functionally (not theologically) from his teachings, thereby reducing the qualitative whole of his person to such quantitative parts of him that disciples follow in a reductionist discipleship without relational significance to his whole person (contrary to what 8:31 makes definitive, and Jn 12:26 makes imperative). Jesusí whole person embodied the Truth only for relationship together in Godís family; and this is what is replaced.

This is what Jesus focused on when he disclosed ďI will ask the Father and he will give you anotherĒ (Jn 14:16). The term ďanotherĒ (allos) means another of equal quality, not another of different quality (heteros). The Spirit then is defined by the Son as of the same qualitative substance and as equal to himself, that is, as whole person in full personhood; this is who replaces. The Spiritís person as truth needs to be understood in function as the Sonís relational replacement whom the Father gave as ďanotherĒ in lieu of the Son; Paul later described them in a relational sense as interchangeable (2 Co 3:17-18).

Yet, Ďwho replacesí needs to be in conjoint function with Ďwhat is replacedí to maintain compatibility and congruence with the whole of Jesus and to have continuity of his relational work. The Spiritís whole person functioned in the trinitarian relational context and process as the Sonís relational replacement and as the relational extension of the Father only for relationship together as Godís family (Jn 14:26; 15:26; 16:13-15). Therefore, as who replaces, the Spirit of truth must not be reduced from personhood to no longer be allos of the whole of Jesus. As who replaces what is replaced, the Spiritís person as truth cannot reduce truth from the relational significance of Jesus as the Truth. Just as the Truth cannot be reduced to his teachings and referential knowledge, the Spiritís function must not be reduced to merely a guide in referential truth, a helper, counselor, or empowerer for the individual. When the Spirit is utilized only for these ends, these become reductionist functions and a misuse of the Spiritís person. Jesus defined the Spirit as who replaces what is replaced: ďthe Holy SpiritÖwill remind you of all that I have said to youĒ (14:26), ďthe Spirit of truth Öwill testify on my behalfĒ (15:26), ďhe will not speak on his own but will speak whatever he hearsÖtake from what is mineÖall that the Father has is mineÖand declare it to youĒ (16:13-15). Therefore, Jesus conclusively disclosed the whole of the Spiritís person with the same functional and relational significance as his person: the truth and self-revelation of the whole and holy God only for our relationship together to be whole as Godís new creation family in likeness of the Trinity.

The whole of the Spiritís functional and relational significance emerges and converges with Jesusí defining enactment of family love: ďI will not leave you orphanedĒ (14:18). The Spiritís person with full personhood in the relational ontology of the Trinity completes this family love to make functional our relationships together in likeness of the Trinity and on this basis to consummate Jesusí formative family prayer. The whole functional and relational significance of the Spiritís relational work integrally involves convicting of sin, redeeming and sanctifying for what Jesus saves us from; in the same process, by the nature of what is replaced, the Spiritís work is further integrated with reconciling, transforming and perfecting what Jesus saves us to for our relationships together to be the whole of Godís family, and for us together to live Godís whole and to make Godís whole in the human condition throughout Godís eschatological plan. For church function to be in likeness of the Trinity, it must (dei) by its nature ongoingly practice in relational cooperation with the Spirit. Therefore, as allos for the Son, the Spirit of truth is and functions in the following: (1) the functional truth only for this relationship together, (2) only the experiential truth for this relationship together to be whole, (3) the relational truth for this relationship together to be only Godís whole on only Godís terms, and accordingly (4) the only definitive truth for our relationships together to be Jesusí church and not relationships in a mere gathering of relational and emotional orphans signifying a virtual orphanage.

Furthermore, as Jesus disclosed, ďthe Spirit of truthÖwill guide you into all the truthÖand he will declare to you the things that are to comeĒ (Jn 16:13). ďGuideĒ (hodegeo, lead, explain, instruct) us in all the above truth for relationship together to be whole, and conjointly ďdeclareĒ (anangello, declare freely, openly, eminently) to us the big picture ďto come.Ē The verb erchomai (to go, to come) implies motion from the Spiritís person to the person of the Son who is to come (cf. v.14), the relational process in which the Spirit is directly involved (as indicated by erchomai in Gk middle voice). Yet this language is not about informing us in referential terms, because Godís truth and self-revelation are communicated in relational language only for relationship. As the Ďwho replacesí, the Spiritís person is only involved in what is replaced. The Spiritís disclosure is only about the unfolding, completing and concluding of the whole of Godís new family in Godís eschatological plan and final thematic relational action in response to the human condition to be whole. Eschatology (doctrine of last things) functionally emerges with the Spirit and involves the relational process of the Spiritís reciprocating movement (erchomai) to the Son for only this eschatological relational conclusion, not a mere eschatological event. Hence, the Spirit of truth additionally functions as (5) the eschatological truth for church function within the big picture to be in likeness of the Trinity in movement to our ultimate communion as family together with the whole of God consummated by the Sonís return. For church function to be in likeness of the Trinity both in its immediate life and practice Ďalreadyí and conjointly within Godís eschatological big picture Ďnot yetí, it must ongoingly engage the whole of the Spirit of truth.

If we reduce soteriology to only what Jesus saves us from, or we lack whole understanding of what Jesus saves us to, then we will not take seriously the relational significance of never being left as orphans. This would mean that we neither have adequately understood the truth of the Spirit nor have integrally experienced redemptive reconciliation with the embodied Truth in relational progression to the Father (as Jesus made imperative earlier, Jn 8:31-32, 35-36). Complete Christology involves Jesusí full salvific work for adoption to relationally belong to the whole of Godís family as the Fatherís very own daughters and sons in transformed relationships together. Adoption (however the term is perceived) is the trinitarian relational process of family love to be constituted together in the trinitarian relational context of family. The Father replaced the Son with the Spiritís person to consummate his family so that we would not have to live in the relational condition as orphans. Jesus also disclosed that the Spiritís definitive feedback (elencho, to expose, rebuke, refute, show fault, convince, convict, Jn 16:8-11) directly addresses the barriers to relationship togetherónamely our sin of reductionism, our difficulties in counting on God (for relational righteousness) in Jesusí embodied absence, and our unawareness and susceptibility to reductionismís counter-relational work promoted by Satan. Without the functional and relational significance of the Spiritís person in our church life and practice, we have no other basis and means to be Godís relational whole on Godís relational terms. Moreover, without embracing the Spiritís eschatological truth, a church struggles to find its place, purpose and function beyond itself locally to the whole of Godís family in the eschatological big picture.

The personhood of the Spirit signifies that the Spiritís presence engages us in interpersonal relationship, and that the Spiritís function is involvement with us in reciprocal interpersonal relationship. The relational work of the Spiritís person is not unilateral but only in cooperative reciprocal involvement with Jesusí followers as family together. Despite his embodied departure, Jesus conclusively declared the ongoing truth of his church family not having to experience the relational condition of orphans only because the Spirit would replace him to extend and complete the relationships together necessary to be the whole of Godís new creation family. Yet, the mere presence of the Spiritís person engaging us in interpersonal relationship is not sufficient for this relational outcome and conclusion; it is necessary for this outcome but not sufficient for it. This is a critical distinction to keep in focus about the Spiritís involvement, both for its necessity and the nature of its sufficiency.

That is to say, the Spiritís person is present to be involved in relationship that by nature must be reciprocal relationship togetherónot unilateral relationship, not optional or arbitrary relationship, nor relationship negotiable to our selective terms. Accordingly, Jesusí intended relational outcome of the Spiritís involvement extending his relational work is contingent on our compatible reciprocal involvement in the relationship; in this limited sense, whether the Spiritís relational work is sufficient can be in part measured by the extent of our relational reciprocity. This is not to say that we are the significant cause of the outcome of the Spiritís relational work, but only to indicate that the Spirit does not work unilaterally and impose any outcome or conclusion on us as in power relations. This cooperative-bilateral relational approach is evident in the metaphor of the Son knocking on church doors, not breaking through them to impose himself, for relationship together to be whole (just as he knocked on the church door in Laodicea, Rev 3:20)ówhich also needs to inform how church leadership is approached (cf. Mk 10:42-44). Consequently, though the Spiritís person is always present and ongoingly relationally involved intimately with us, the Spiritís person can be missed, ignored or even forgotten specifically in functional and relational significance to render the Spiritís presence and involvement without significance, and hereby causing the Spirit to grieve.

To ignore the whole of the Spiritís functional and relational significance, or even to inconsistently pay attention to the Spiritís personóincluding misusing the Spiritís person with selective reductionist functionsómust be understood clearly as consequential for church life and practice. The main consequence is unavoidable. When our focus ignores or pays attention to the Spirit in this narrowed way, we are using the very lens from which orphans are the relational consequence and orphanage-gatherings emergeóhowever unintentional and despite good intentionsówhich nevertheless is contrary to the Sonís defining enactment of family love not to leave us in that relational condition.

Christology is not complete without this integral pneumatology, nor can soteriology be full, ecclesiology be whole and eschatology be functionally clear without the Spirit of truthóthe alloswho replacesí, Ďwhat is replacedí) person never forgotten by nor apart from the Father and the Son. This is the ontology of the whole of who, what and how God is: ongoingly vulnerably present and intimately involved with us only for whole relationship together. This is the ongoing involvement with us intimately in family love, by which the Trinity holds us ongoingly accountable to be in likeness, just as the Son clearly made evident for church practice to be whole (Rev 3:19). And Jesus, in post-ascension, ongoingly makes this reciprocal response the relational imperative for the new wine table fellowship of his church (Rev 3:20) because his relational replacement remains (meno) in the reciprocal relationship necessary to complete the new creation family.

 

The Spirit and Paul

The whole of Paulís gospel and the whole in his theology integrally emerged from the embodied whole of Jesus. Furthermore, and equally significant, this distinguished wholeness of Paul unfolded only from the relational outcome of the Spiritís reciprocal relational work. This relational process is critical to account for by Paulís readers. We should not look for a unity in Paulís thought and theology within his letters until we understand where Paul is coming from, that is, what primarily defines and determines his life and practice. Without this understanding of Paul, any apparent unity and coherence will either be imposed on Paul by his readers or remain elusive to them. The congruence in Paulís life and practice to his purpose and thus his coherence were composed in cooperative relationship with the Spirit. This is the often missed-understood and forgotten trinitarian Person, whom Pauline scholarship has neglected or conveniently minimalized,[1] yet whom Paul depended on to further unfold, develop and bring to completion the whole of Godís thematic relational response to the human condition in the eschatological big pictureóincluding the relational outcome Ďalreadyí of the new creation family constituted by the Spirit, that is at the heart of Paul.

Paul was focused on and concerned for communicating theology that illuminates the good news and constitutes the relational outcome of whole relationship togetheróperhaps also articulating their doctrinal clarity but not formulating a systematic theology. While these concerns involved the historical Paul, they emerged from the relational Paul who constituted the theological Paul in the relational epistemic process with the whole of God, notably with the Spirit. This vulnerable involvement signified the relational Paul qualitatively determining the functional significance of the theological Paul; therefore, to have whole understanding of Paulís theology also implies a contingency to understand the relational Paul. In this relational epistemic process, what emerged was not his theological speculation and theory from bottom-up but Godís vulnerable self-disclosure from top-down in the whole of Godís relational context and process, distinguished clearly from human contextualization and terms. What unfolded in Paulís theological systemic framework and integrated his theological forest was the relational embodiment of the pleroma (fullness, complete, i.e. whole) of God (Col 1:19; 2:9-10). In the relational epistemic process with the whole of God, the theological Paul (unified with the relational Paul) was restored to whole knowledge and understanding in the relational context and process of Godís communicative action, specifically, as relationally embodied by the face of Christ (2 Cor 4:6) and relationally extended by the Spirit (1 Cor 2:10-13). The relational outcome was the wholeness of Paul who was taken from partial knowledge and understanding to whole knowledge and understanding to compose the whole in his theology. This included both understanding signified as the grasp of meaning (not its density but its intensity, cf. Eph 3:18-19) and wisdom signified as the understanding of the whole, Godís relational whole (cf. synesis, Eph 3:2-4; Col 1:9).

Since Paulís theology was first his experiential truth of this good news, theology for Paul was always inseparable from function and can never be reduced to conventional theological discourse. The relational discourse, jointly theological and functional, in Paulís letters put together (syniemi for synesis) the theological basis for the truth of the whole gospel (Eph 3:4-6; Col 2:2-3), by which he also engaged in the deconstruction of ontological simulations and epistemological illusions from reductionism (e.g. Gal 1:6-7, 11-12; 5:6; 6:15; Rom 2:28-29; Col 2:4,8-10; 3:10-11) and, when possible, engaged in their reconstruction/transformation to be made whole (e.g. 1 Cor 3:21-22; Gal 2:11-14; Phlm; cf. Eph 2:14-18). The relational outcome of Paulís theological engagement is the integrated dynamics of the theology of wholeness, relational belonging and ontological identityóthe relational outcome Ďalreadyí and the relational conclusion Ďnot yetí in the whole of Godís relational context and process vulnerably embodied by the Son in pleroma Christology for pleroma soteriology, and ongoingly being completed by the Spirit.

Paulís only concern, both theologically and functionally, is for the irreducible embodiment of the pleroma of God to be further relationally embodied and extended in nonnegotiable ontology and function for the inherent human need to be fulfilled and the human problem to be resolved. This further embodying vulnerably involves the whole ontology and function of those who relationally belong to Christ. In the experiential truth of Paulís theology, how does the relational progression of Godís relational dynamic of grace and agape involvement become embodied from the pleroma of God to the pleroma of Christ (his church, Eph 1:22-23) and continue in its eschatological trajectory for the relational conclusion of the gospel of wholeness? And according to the experiential truth of the whole of Paulís person and the whole in his theology, how do persons belonging to Christóby necessity both as individual persons and as persons together in Godís familyóengage in this relational progression with God and accordingly participate in the whole of Godís life to the relational completion of whole relationship together?

This qualitative process of embodying and its relational process of participation deeply involve the theological dynamics that are wholly integrated in Paulís theological forest to pleroo the communicative word of Godóthereby illuminating the embodied pleroma of God who is relationally from God, and now in relational extension for God (cf. Col 1:25; 2:9-10). And for Paul, the Spirit is the key to the wholeness of this relational process.

A prevailing presence in the systemic framework of Paulís theology which pervades his theological forest is pneuma (spirit). The presence of pneuma is in both ontology and function, both in Godís ontology and function (1 Cor 2:10-11; 3:16; 2 Cor 3:6,17; Rom 8:11; 1 Tim 3:16) and for human ontology and function (1 Cor 6:11; 12:13; 2 Cor 1:22; 3:6,18; 7:1; Rom 8:11; Eph 2:18,22). What is pneuma for God and what is pneuma for human person?

In terms of Godís ontology and function, pneuma is not what but who, though Paul does not specifically call the Spirit a person. Yet Paul implies personhood for the Spirit by identifying the Spirit as having a will to decide and using it (boulomai, 1 Cor 12:11), who also can be ďgrievedĒ (lypeo, afflicted with sorrow, distressed, mournful, Eph 4:30; cf. Heb 10:29), and, moreover, who bears witness to us of our family status (Rom 8:16). The Spiritís grief, for example, is over not being engaged in reciprocal relationship together (cf. Eph 2:22), which is not an anthropomorphism but signifies the whole of Godís being and relational nature. This identification is the who of a person, the person of the Spirit, who is also vulnerably present and relationally involved. This does not imply, however, that Paul was a trinitarian in the later sense, though his theology certainly provides definitive basis for trinitarian theology.

The doctrine of the Trinity emerged in the fourth century as a response to theological conflict and reductionism. Arius specifically taught that Jesus was subordinate to God in substance (ousia) and was created (begotten by the Father). The Council of Nicea (the Nicene Creed in 325) countered that Jesus was begotten (i.e. generated, not created) from the substance of the Father, of the same substance (homoousios) with God. In further response to another form of Arianism (from Eunomius: divine substance is unbegotten and belongs only to the Father), the Cappadocian fathers (Basil, Gregory of Nyssa, and Gregory of Nazianzus, between 358-380) formulated the distinction between the same substance of God and the different persons (hypostasis) of God, thereby establishing the doctrine of the Trinity: one God existing in three persons.[2]

Essentially, from the fourth century into the twenty-first, we have observed one aspect of God emphasized over another (e.g. the oneness of God or the divine threeness), and some aspect of God reduced (e.g. Godís substance [ousia] or the persons/personhood [hypostasis] of God), as well as redefined or ignored (e.g. as ďbegottenĒ or the relationality of the Trinity). If not in the theology most certainly in function, these perceptions and interpretations critically affect how we define Godís ontology and functionónotably in the relational nature of the whole of God. I suggest that much of this theological difficulty can be resolved or prevented if trinitarian theology emerged first and foremost from pleroma Christology, and thereby better put together (syniemi) the whole in Paulís theology needed for the whole knowledge and understanding (synesis) of any theology of the whole of God.

Since Paul was no trinitarian, his purpose and responsibility to pleroo the word of God was not to theologically clarify the Trinity or to develop theological concepts like homoousios, hypostasis and perichoresis. His purpose was more functional and distinctly relational in order to make definitive the gospel as whole without any reductionism. Within his purpose, Paul instead epistemologically clarified the whole of God and hermeneutically corrected human shaping and construction of theological cognition, challenging theological assumptions which were either limiting or reductionist. Therefore, Paul indeed took Judaismís monotheism beyond its limited knowledge and understanding, and he extended the Jesus tradition into the depths of the whole of God. In making relationally functional the pleroma of God, Paul focused also in making relationally definitive the whole of God in the relational presence and relational work of the Spirit.

 

Integral, Pleroma Pneumatology

In pleroma Christology of Paulís theological forest, salvation was constituted by Christ and completed in Christ for the relational outcome of pleroma soteriology. Pleroma soteriology is the relational act solely by Christ and the relational outcome is the function solely of relationship with Christ (Rom 6:5-11); and both of these are constituted in reciprocal relational involvement with the Spirit (Rom 8:11; 1 Cor 6:11; 12:13; 2 Cor 1:22; 3:6,17; Eph 1:13; 2:18,22; 1 Tim 3:16; cf. Jn 1:32-33; Lk 4:1). In the whole of Godís ontology and function, pneuma is person, the Holy Spirit, and not to be reduced to a power, also noted by Paul (1 Cor 2:4; Rom 15:13,19). There is a dynamic interaction for Paul between the embodied pleroma of God and the person of the Spiritóthat is, the Spirit as the functional cohort of Jesus who shares in, even constitutes, and now completes the relational work of the Son, whose embodiment (prior to and after the cross) fulfills the relational response of grace from the Father (Gal 4:4-6; Rom 8:9b-11). This is the dynamic interaction between pneuma and soma (body) of the pleroma of God, that is vital for integrally understanding the whole of Godís ontology in its depth, as Paul claimed for the Spirit (1 Cor 2:10-11) and Jesus promised about the Spirit (Jn 16:12-15). Paul understood that soma without pneuma can be confused with or reduced to sarx (ďflesh,Ē cf. Paulís polemic about the resurrection, 1 Cor 15:35-44). In this sense, pneuma is also a whatódistinguished from whoóthat signifies the qualitative depth (the innermost) of Godís ontology which is irreducible for God to be God (cf. Phil 3:3 and Jn 4:23-24).

Moreover, the dynamic interaction between pneuma and soma is critical for putting together the whole of Godís function, as well as understanding Godís ontology, in the dynamic of nothing less and no substitutes. Pneuma will not allow for the embodied pleroma of God to be reduced or renegotiated to anything less than and any substitutes for whole ontology and function. There is indeed mystery involved in this interaction, but for Paul pneuma is unequivocally the person of the Spirit. Even though Paul had whole knowledge and understanding (synesis) from the Spirit, he did not claim to totally understand this dynamic (1 Tim 3:16).

This dynamic interaction with the Spirit likewise points to the embodiment of the pleroma of Christ (Eph 1:23). Pneuma is the person who constitutes also those who belong to Christ (Rom 8:9). In cooperative reciprocal relationship as well with these human persons, the Spiritówho functions as the relational replacement of the Son, as Jesus promised (Jn 14:16-17, 26; 15:26; cf. Eph 1:13)óconstitutes persons (both individually and together) in whole ontology and function, that is, the qualitative ontology and relational function from inner out in likeness of the pneuma of Godís whole ontology and function (2 Cor 3:17-18; Rom 8:11, 14-17). For Paul, in other words, the Spirit is not a mere Object of theological discourse but the experiential truth of Subject-theos, who is present in us and relationally involved with us for relationship together as Godís whole family (ďdwells,Ē oikeo from oikos and its cognates in reference to family, Rom 8:11, 14-16; 1 Cor 3:16; Eph 2:22). Paul goes beyond merely the Spiritís agency (e.g. power, instrumentality) to make definitive the depth of the Spirit as Subjectís agape relational involvement as the whole of God (Rom 5:5). Importantly, Paul understands that the person of the Spirit is Jesusí relational replacement for the continued involvement necessary to complete the relational work Jesus constituted. When Paul speaks specifically of ďthe Spirit of ChristĒ (Rom 8:9; Gal 4:6; Phil 1:19; cf. Acts 16:7), this is Paulís shorthand-relational language implying the Spiritís relational replacement and extension of Jesus (Ďwho replacesí and Ďwhat is replacedí), whose further involvement is irreplaceable for extending the qualitative process of embodying the pleroma of Christ and making functional its relational process of participation in the whole of Godís life and family together (cf. 1 Cor 6:14-15a; Rom 8:11; Eph 1:23).

What emerges from this reciprocal relational involvement together with the Spirit? Paul first addresses what does not emerge when relationship with the Spirit becomes incompatible. The issue of incompatibility, incongruity or discontinuity with the Spirit (as with Jesus and with the whole of God) hinges on theological anthropology and our assumptions about the human person. This specifically involves defining the person by what one does/has and, on this basis, engaging in relationships with both God and each other, individually and together as church. What underlies this process is an ontological deficit and reduced function of the person. Paul exposed such reductionist assumptions of theological anthropology in the church at Corinth (1 Cor 3:1-4; 4:6-7). This reductionism directly fragments the person from the dynamic interaction between pneuma and soma, thereby leaving soma without the quality of pneuma to then be confused with or reduced to sarx: ďI could not speak to you as pneuma people but rather as people of sarx, as infants in Christ without identity formation as whole personsĒ (1 Cor 3:1). Sarx (and its cognates sarkikos and sarkinos) signifies reduced human ontology and function in Paulís discourse, whereas pneuma is inseparable from soma in the whole ontology and function of the person.

This reduction of soma to sarx is the issue in Paulís polemic when he made the ambiguous claim: ďEvery sin that a person commits is outside the body; but the fornicator sins against the body itselfĒ (1 Cor 6:18). Paulís focus goes beyond sexual immorality and is not implying that all other sins are inconsequential for human ontology and function. He is focused on the sin of reductionism that fragments soma from pneuma to reduce a human personís ontology and function to that signified by sarx (6:16-17). The consequence is reductionist embodiment diminishing the whole person, which further includes the relational consequence of fragmenting the embodiment of whole relationship together (6:14-15, 19-20). Essentially, Paul argues rather that every sin a person commits is the sin of reductionism, therefore against the embodiment of wholeness. Whole human ontology and function is the inseparable embodiment of both soma and pneuma by the Spirit (Rom 8:11), which is irreducibly and nonnegotiably embodied together by and with the Spirit in Godís whole family (1 Cor 12:13).

In Paulís theological systemic framework and theological forest, the Spirit functions to bridge the quantitative of bios (including all creation) with the qualitative of zoe. Even more than bridge, the Spirit integrates the quantitative into the qualitative to embody irreducible wholeness and the nonnegotiable embodiment of Godís whole (2 Cor 3:18; Col 1:20; 2:9-10; 3:10-11,15; Rom 8:18-23). This is why cosmology and theological anthropology converge in Paulís theological systemic framework, and how they are integrated in the theological dynamic of wholeness. Therefore, the Spiritís person is inseparable from both the whole of God and Godís whole, and the Spiritís involvement is irreplaceable for the embodying of wholeness. Anything less and any substitutes of this whole, either of the Spirit or of human persons, are reductionism for Paul, the sin of reductionism that must always be exposed and its counter-relational work confrontedówhatever its form, conditions or assumptions.

In Galatians, Paul extended his polemic against these assumptions reducing theological anthropology and their broader relational consequence for human persons. While the situation in Galatians involved ďfalse believersĒ (2:4) who were teaching ďa different gospelĒ (1:6) and ďconfusing youĒ (1:7), and had ďbewitched youĒ (3:1), the underlying dynamic involved assimilation in human contextualization (3:2-5; 4:8-31). Paul challenged their theological anthropology by framing the issue within the further and deeper relational context and process embodied by Christ and extended by the Spirit. Here again, the dynamic interaction between the soma of the pleroma of God and the pneuma of the whole of God is inseparable. If fragmented, soma becomes confused with or reduced to definitions from human contextualization (ďelemental spirits,Ē stoicheion, basic principles, 4:9; cf. Col 2:8,20) and consequently shaped by the reduced ontology and function of sarx (3:3). Moreover, when fragmented, pneuma is reduced to mere Object, at best only in agency to do something or to help us to do something based on the reductionist self-definition of what one does: ďHaving started with the person of the Spirit, are you now epiteleo [fully completing your purpose] with sarx?Ēóthat is, by human effort in reduced ontology and function (3:3). For Paul, this is incompatible, incongruent and discontinuous with the Spirit (5:16-17; 6:8; cf. 2 Cor 7:1)óa relational condition that even acknowledgement of the Spirit is insufficient alone to make whole.

The whole of the Spirit is received, experienced and ongoingly engaged in relationship together solely on the basis of our reciprocal relational response and involvement of trust, not on the basis of human effort shaped by human terms from human contextualization (Gal 3:5-14). The latter is consequential for the human person and persons together to be enslaved in a reductionist comparative system of human ontology and function based on quantitative human effort/possessionsóthe self-determination and self-justification to erase the ontological deficitóresulting in constructing false human distinctions which relegate persons to stratified relationships together in systems of inequality (3:28; 4:3, 8-9)

This fragmentation can never be whole because the who of Pneuma as Subject is not engaged in relationship together within the whole of Godís relational context and process (5:16,25; Rom 8:5-6; cf. 1 Thes 4:7-8), and because the what of pneuma is divided from soma in dualistic ontology and function characteristic of shaping by sarx from human contextualization (cf. the wholeness in 1 Thes 5:23; 2 Cor 7:1). These are the consequences of assimilation in human contextualization and its defining and determining influence by reductionism. For Paul, the dynamic interaction between pneuma and soma precludes this fragmentation and duality (cf. his claim in Phil 3:3). Throughout his letters, Paul addressed various situations involving moral and ethical issues. Yet, Paulís readers must understand what Paul is further speaking to and where he is speaking from. As Paul addresses these situations, he goes beyond moral and ethical behavior to speak directly to the underlying and more far-reaching issue in human contextualization: reductionism, exposing reductionism as sin and confronting the sin of reductionism, and its pervasive consequence on human ontology and function. Paul was definitive and decisive about this without being shaped, diminished or minimalized by human terms from human contextualization because with epistemic humility he spoke from Godís relational context in Godís relational process through reciprocal involvement with the Spirit, the integral Subject of the innermost of God (1 Cor 2:9-16, cf. Rom 8:27).

What does Paul also make definitive as the outcome of reciprocal relational involvement together with the Spirit?

What clearly emerges from ongoing relationship together with the Spirit is the functional wholeness that is incompatible, incongruent and discontinuous with reductionism pervading human contextualization, as Paul clarified functionally and theologically (Gal 6:14-16; Rom 8:6). When Paul boasts of the cross of Christ through whom he has been crucified to human contextualization (ďto the world,Ē Gal 6:14), the soma of the pleroma of God and the pneuma of the whole of God are integrated and resurrected for the whole embodying of the new creation. That is, this is the embodying in qualitative zoe (not quantitative bios) and wholeness (ďlife and peace,Ē Rom 8:6), in which the Pneuma inseparably dwells also in mortal soma for whole relationship together as Godís family (Rom 8:11, 14-16; cf. Eph 2:22). The theological dynamics Paul illuminates have only functional significance for this relationship together (Eph 2:18). Apart from the function of relationship and its relational embodiment Paulís theological clarity has no significance, both to God and to human persons for the fulfillment of the inherent human relational need and the resolution of its relational problem (Eph 2:14-16). The Spirit is present and relationally involved for the whole ontology and function necessary for the ongoing relationship together to be Godís wholeóthe embodying as the pleroma of Christ Ďalreadyí in relational progression to its completion in the relational conclusion Ďnot yetí (1 Cor 12:13; cf. Jn 7:37-39).

The Spiritís relational involvement notably emerges in the resurrection, in which the Spiritís dynamic interaction also involves us wholly (soma and pneuma) to be embodied in the new creation (new person, new life, new covenant, Rom 8:11). Involvement together in this relational process is also defined by Paul as being baptized in the Spirit (1 Cor 12:13; cf. Mt 3:11; Acts 1:5; 11:16). The theological dynamic of baptism is complex and mysterious but the relational process involved is uncomplicated yet rigorous: death to the old and raising of the new (Rom 6:3-8). Being baptized with the Spirit makes functional the redemptive change from reduced ontology and function (consequential of the sin of reductionism) necessary for the emergence of whole ontology and function (cf. Ti 3:5). The relational outcome of this relational process is the redemptive reconciliation of whole persons embodied in relationship together as the new creation family of God (Col 1:19-22; Eph 2:14-22)óďbaptized into one bodyĒ without false human distinctions from reductionism (1 Cor 12:13). This zoe, the embodying of the new creation, emerges specifically from the relational work of the Spirit (Rom 8:11; 2 Cor 3:6; cf. Jn 6:63; Rom 8:6)óďwe were all made to drink of one SpiritĒ (1 Cor 12:13; cf. Jn 7:38-39). On this basis, Paul declares unequivocally: ďAnyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to himÖ. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of GodĒ (Rom 8:9,14); furthermore, ďno one can say ĎJesus is Lordí except by the Holy SpiritĒ (1 Cor 12:3). Therefore, the experiential truth of the theological dynamics of wholeness, relational belonging and ontological identity functionally emerge from reciprocal relational involvement with the Spirit for their experiential reality.

The dynamic interaction of the Spirit and the pleroma of God always constitutes ontology and function in the dynamic of nothing less and no substitutes. Accordingly, the reciprocal relational involvement by the Spirit is neither with only the human pneuma nor with just the human soma. Such involvement would create a duality which fragments the person. Human soma without pneuma is a critical condition because it is a reductionism focused on the outer in that the person cannot distinguish unequivocally from sarx, consequently is rendered to the sin of reductionism notably in ontological simulation (as discussed earlier about Paulís polemic beyond the situation to the underlying reductionism in 1 Cor 6:12-20). Likewise, human pneuma apart from involvement of soma becomes disembodied, which is also a reductionism focused on a subjective part of a person, not the whole person qualitatively integrated from inner out. The focus of such a person cannot distinguish from subjectivism, esoteric individualism or self-centered separatismóas often found in spiritualism, mysticism and asceticismóthus rendered to the sin of reductionism notably in epistemological illusion (cf. Paulís polemic about reductionism in spiritual practice disembodied from the church in 1 Cor 14). The Spirit is relationally involved only with the whole person (soma and pneuma inseparably) from inner out signified by the function of the heart and embodied in the primacy of relationship together (2 Cor 1:22; Gal 4:6; Rom 5:5; 8:16; Eph 1:17-18; 3:16-19). Additionally, the Spiritís relational involvement with the whole person from inner out includes both the personís mindset (phroneo, Rom 8:5) and its basis, the personís perceptual-interpretive framework (phronema, 8:6). In this involvement, the Spirit transforms quantitative phroneo and reduced phronema and composes the qualitative phroneo (interpretive lens) in its whole phronema (interpretive framework). Both of these changes are necessary for the Spirit to embody persons in qualitative zoe and wholeness together (ďlife and peaceĒ), and to function ongoingly in this new embodiment (1 Thes 5:19,23; 2 Thes 2:13; Rom 15:16).

Paul is clear about the experiential truth of the Spiritís relational involvement. Yet, it is important for his readers to understand that by Godís relational nature the Spirit is involved in reciprocal relationship, not unilateral relationship. The Spiritís reciprocal relational involvement implies a necessary compatible reciprocal relational response to and involvement with the Spiritónot as contingency limiting Godís relational nature but as the condition/terms for relationships together according to Godís relational nature (cf. Paulís conditional sense in Phil 2:1; 2 Cor 13:13). Therefore, in relation to the Spirit, Paul always assumes the presence of the Spirit (e.g. 1 Cor 3:16; 2 Cor 1:21-22; Gal 5:5), but he does not assume that the Spirit has the opportunity to engage in reciprocal relational involvement and work, as he implies in his ongoing relational imperative (not moral imperative) ďDo not quench the SpiritĒ (1 Thes 5:19). Certainly, the Spirit can and does act unilaterally; yet his primary concern and function is in reciprocal relational involvement with persons who ďbelong to ChristĒ (Rom 8:9) to extend and complete the whole relationship together constituted by the embodied pleroma of Godóall of whom the Spirit also raised up together in order to functionally embody the pleroma of Christ as Jesusí relational replacement.

This is the depth and breadth of the Spiritís relational involvement with persons belonging to Christ, and the likeness of involvement necessary from those persons to be compatible, congruent and continuous in reciprocal relationship together with the Spirit. The dynamic of nothing less and no substitutes constitutes the ontology and function of the Spirit and needs to constitute the ontology and function of those in whom the Spirit dwells. In Paulís theological forest, anything less and any substitutes of the Spiritís ontology and function are an immature pneumatology still undeveloped and needing to be whole; anything less and any substitutes of human ontology and function are a deficient theological anthropology, the assumptions of which for Paul always need to be challenged in order to be made whole. That wholeness, however, is made functional solely by the relational dynamic of pleroma pneumatology.

In the dynamic of nothing less and no substitutes, the relational involvement of the Spiritís whole ontology and function makes functional the theological dynamics of wholeness integrated with relational belonging and ontological identity for the experiential truth of their embodiment in those belonging to Christ. The emergence of the new (wine) identity for these persons is functionally constituted only by the reciprocal relational work of the Spirit; human terms from human contextualization cannot establish the identity formation of who they are with Christ and whose they are in Christ (Rom 8:9-11). Paul is definitive that this identity is not formed by a social process but by the relational dynamic of the Spirit in reciprocal relationship together (Rom 8:12-17; Gal 5:16-26). The new creation identity constituted in this relationship together as family is neither a static condition nor a contextual characteristic, but a dynamic process of relationship together necessitating by its nature ongoing reciprocal relational involvement with each other without the veil. Paul also describes this reciprocal response as ďwe are debtorsĒ (opheiletes from opheilo, Rom 8:12), that is, not in human terms and contextualization but to Godís favor (indebted to a benefactor). Yet, opheiletes is this context should not be reduced to an obligation (opheilo) to fulfill. Paul is not defining an ethical mandate but illuminating, by the nature (dei, not opheilo) of Godís relational response of grace, the reciprocal relational response necessary for whole relationship together. Moreover, when Paul further defines this reciprocal response by ďLive by the SpiritĒ and ďare led by the SpiritĒ (Gal 5:16,18), he is also not defining a moral imperative for our conduct (outlined in 5:19-24). Rather this is another relational imperative by which he further illuminates the reciprocal relational involvement with the Spirit necessary for functionally constituting the new identity distinguishing who we are with Christ and whose we are in Christ (5:25).

What this reciprocal involvement with the Spirit constitutes is the ontological identity and embodying of Godís new creation (Gal 5:6; 6:15; 1 Cor 12:13; Col 3:10-11; cf. 2 Cor 3:17-18). Just as pneuma and soma are inseparable for the whole ontology and function emerging from the Spiritís involvement, ontological identity and embodying of the new creation are also inseparably integrated for the wholeness made functional by the Spirit (examine Paulís relational connections: 1 Cor 12:13; Gal 3:26-28; 4:6-7; Rom 8:14; 12:5; Col 3:15; Eph 2:14,18,22). And this ontological identity and embodying of the new creation are integrally based on the functional reality of relational belonging to Godís family as definitive daughters and sons, the experiential truth of which only emerges from the reciprocal relational involvement of the Spirit (Eph 1:13-14; 2 Cor 1:21-22; Rom 8:14-16; Gal 4:6-7). Without the Spiritís reciprocal involvement and relational work, this identity and new creation are rendered, at best, to only ontological simulation and epistemological illusion of wholenessósimulation of whole relationship together with illusions of the whole of God (Gal 6:16; Col 3:15; cf. Rom 12:3-5; 1 Cor 3:21-22).

This relational dynamic of belonging or not belonging is either the relational outcome with the Spirit or the relational consequence without the Spirit, which Jesus made unmistakable in his promise ďI will not leave you orphanedĒ (Jn 14:18). The term for ďleaveĒ (aphiemi) means to let go from oneself, essentially abandon to a condition deprived of their parents and family, which in the ancient Mediterranean world was an unprotected, helpless position. What Jesus defines, however, is only that the significance of orphans is relational, not situational, which directly involves the condition of wholeness in relationship together constituted by the Spiritóthe what and who, respectively, that Jesus did leave them (Jn 14:26-27; 16:33). Paul further illuminates the relational belonging emerging with the Spirit and its embodying by the Spirit, which includes the counter-relational issue of orphans, to be discussed in Paulís ecclesiology.

In Paulís theological forest, along with Godís relational dynamic of grace, the Spiritís reciprocal relational involvement is indispensableóand thus irreplaceable as with graceófor the experiential truth of the theological dynamics of wholeness, relational belonging and ontological identity. Clearly for Paul, those who are relationally involved with the Spirit in reciprocal relationship togetheróďwho are led by the Spirit of GodĒóare the daughters and sons of God (Rom 8:14). Paul is not using family language merely for emphasis in a kinship-oriented context, perhaps as a hyperbole, for example, to evoke obligation in response to the Spirit. Rather Paul is illuminating the depth of the theological dynamics involved in the gospel and clearly identifies the person who is necessary for its fulfillment and completion. In dynamic interaction with the embodied pleroma of God, the Spirit of the whole of God relationally extends pleroma Christology to make functional pleroma soteriology by the embodying of Godís new creation family. That is to say, the Spirit makes functional the experiential truth of the whole gospel in its relational outcome Ďalreadyí in whole relationship together, just as the Son prayed for the formation of Godís family (Jn 17:20-26).

What is the significance of distinguishing this relational outcome Ďalreadyí by the Spirit? As Jesusí relational replacement, the Spirit both fulfills this relational outcome Ďalreadyí and completes what is necessary for its relational conclusion Ďnot yetí (2 Cor 1:21-22; 5:4-5; 1 Thes 5:19-23; Rom 8:23; Gal 5:5 Eph 1:13-14; Phil 3:21). In Paulís theological forest, pneumatology is conjoined with eschatology. Paul adds theological and functional clarity to the relational outcome already of the embodying of Godís new creation family by engaging his family further and deeper into the big picture of Godís eschatological plan framing the trajectory of Godís thematic response to the human condition (Rom 8:18-23). Just as the Spirit is the functional bridge for the quantitative of bios with the qualitative of zoe, the Spirit functionally connects the whole embodying of Godís family with all of creation, with the cosmos and those in it in order to be involved as well with the world for the redemptive reconciliation necessary to be restored to Godís whole in the innermostóas Paul also made definitive in other letters (2 Cor 5:17-19; Col 1:20), and as Jesus constituted in prayer for the already (Jn 17:21-23).

The big picture Paul paints goes back to creation and the emergence of the human condition (cf. Gen 3:17-19 with Rom 8:20). Not only human persons were enslaved in the condition Ďto be apartí from Godís whole but the rest of creation was also (Rom 8:20-22; cf. Gen 5:29). Godís whole also encompasses all of creation; and Godís relational response of grace to the human condition is the redemptive key for the rest of creation to ďbe set free from its bondage to decayĒ and restored to Godís wholeóďobtain the freedom of the glory of the children of GodĒ (8:21). Godís whole is what holds together the world and all in it in their innermost. Therefore, all of creation is dependent on the relational outcome and conclusion of the Spiritís relational involvement to raise up and embody Godís whole new creation family: ďFor the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of GodĒ (8:19). The timing of this revealing is ambiguous in this verse but the contingency is clearly eschatological. If our eschatology involves both Ďalreadyí and Ďnot yetí, as Paulís did, then that new creation family Ďalreadyí is revealed by the Spiritís relational involvement in those who belong to Christ (8:9), in those whom the Spirit has wholly embodied along with Christ and already dwells now (8:11), and thus in those ďled by the SpiritĒ (8:14) and the Spirit relationally constitutes already and ongoingly as the whole daughters and sons of Godís family (8:15-16).

Paul further illuminates this already/not-yet eschatological picture to provide deeper clarity for Godís family. As all of creation waits eagerly for the embodying of Godís children together, ďwe ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodiesĒ (Rom 8:23). Paul is not suggesting that the theological dynamics of redemption and adoption have not taken place, only that their functional significance is in the relational process and progression of being completed by the Spiritówho has already constituted the relational outcome for those belonging to Christ as Godís daughters and sons, and who continues to embody them for the relational conclusion Ďnot yetí in this eschatological process. Paul clarifies that the Spirit has not yet completed this relational progression, and the basis for this expectation (ďhopeĒ) is conclusive in the experiential truth already of having been both saved from and to (sozo, delivered and made whole in Gk aorist tense, 8:24). This hope for full completion ďnowĒ is always present and ongoing along with the already (ďwait for it with patience,Ē v.25); yet this unequivocal hope should not be confused with Ďalreadyí (ďhopeÖwe do not seeĒ), nor should it be perceived with a reductionist interpretive lens (ďhope that is seen,Ē v.24).

As Paul clarifies the line between the already and the not yet, he understands that Godís children vacillate between them, even unintentionally or unknowingly. This happens notably when situations and circumstances are difficult. These tend to create various scenarios, drama and anxiety which can define and determine who we are and whose we are, thereby rattling our sense of belonging and straining our relational response of trust, just as Paul summarized (8:28-39). In such moments, Godís presence may seem distant and perhaps too transcendent to make relational connection with. Paul addresses the equivocation of relational connection and the ambiguity of relational involvement in those moments. With more than just his own empathy, Paul makes definitive Godís deep understanding and intimate involvement with us through the relational involvement of the Spirit (8:26-27). Especially in our deepest moments of weakness when ďwe do not know how to be relationally involved as is necessaryĒ (Paul uses dei not opheilo, v. 26), the Spirit helps us be involved in Godís relational context and processóďthat very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words; and God who searches the heart, intimately knows what is the phronema of the Spirit because the Spirit is reciprocally relationally involved with and for the saints according to the whole ontology and function of God.Ē This further clarifies Paulís relational experience with the whole of God while in his weakness, in which Christís power is the Spiritís person (2 Cor 12:9, cf. Acts 1:8; Eph 3:20). Therefore, the Spirit ongoingly helps Godís children in the relational connection and involvement with God necessary for engagement in the process of reciprocating contextualization (dynamic interaction between Godís context and human context) in order not to be defined and determined by human contextualization, whether in difficult moments or notójust as Paulís weakness did not define his ontology and determine his function.

The already-now embodying of Godís new creation family, ongoingly functioning in reciprocal whole relationship together, unequivocally in relational progression to Ďnot yetí, is the integrated relational dynamic at the heart of Paulís pneumatology. The presence of the person of the Spirit as Jesusí relational replacement and the Spiritís reciprocal relational involvement must be accounted for both theologically and functionally. Therefore, Paulís pneumatology is a theological dynamic always in integral function with an eschatology that is not either-or but both-and, both already and not yet. The significance of Paulís eschatological picture above is to further deepen theologically the experiential truth of the whole gospel for the definitive wholeness in both the theology and function of the church as Godís new creation family. Paulís primary concern always focused on the present from which the future will emergeónecessarily because the depth of the gospel is the sole source for responding to and fulfilling the breadth of the human condition.

In the complex theological dynamics of Paulís theological forest, the dynamic presence and involvement of the whole person of the Spirit functions while inseparably on an eschatological trajectory. Yet for Paul, this does not and must not take away from the primary focus on the Spiritís presence and involvement for the present, just as Paul addressed the Thessaloniansí eschatological anxiety with the relational imperative not to quench the Spiritís present relational involvement (1 Thes 5:19). The Spiritís present concern and function is relational involvement for constituting whole ontology and function, for making functional wholeness together, and for the embodying of the whole of Godís new creation family in whole relationship together as the church, the pleroma of Christówhich is why the person of the Spirit is deeply affected, grieving over any reductionism in reciprocal relational involvement together.

In Paulís theological forest, the theological dynamic of the Spirit in wholeness is pleroma pneumatology, which is integral for all theology and function, not only Paulís. Anything less or any substitute for the Spirit is an immature pneumatology, both underdeveloped and stunted, the practice of which signifies the reduction of our reciprocal relational involvement with the Spirit. In such reductionism, Paul rightly defines the Spiritís grief (Eph 4:30) because it clearly diminishes the Spiritís relational involvement for wholeness and being whole already (ďblameless,Ē amemptos, as in tamiym, 1 Thes 5:19,23; cf. Gen 17:1). Even the historical theology of the churchís spirituality and spiritual formation often has diminished involvement in whole relationship together reciprocally with the Spiritís person, ironically in efforts to participate in Godís life. Any such immature pneumatology is underdeveloped or stunted and continues to grieve the Spirit. Moreover, any fragmentary efforts, even with good intention to know God, serve Christ and participate in Godís life, by its nature participate in reductionism with its counter-relational work, and essentially reflect, reinforce or sustain the human relational condition (cf. Mt 7:22-23; Lk 13:26-27).

 

Participating in Godís Life

The primacy of whole relationship together is the theological trajectory and relational path that Jesus embodied in whole. As Ďwho replacesí and Ďwhat is replacedí, the Spiritís presence and involvement function only in this primacy of relationship to complete the theological trajectory and relational path of the whole of God, whose relational response Ďalreadyí resolves the human relational condition and fulfills the human relational need (as Jesus prayed, Jn 17:21-23). The relational outcome of whole relationship together as Godís new family is contingent irreducibly and nonnegotiably on the Spiritís reciprocal relational work (Jn 14:16-17; 1 Cor 3:16; Eph 2:22; Rom 8:9,15-16). Without the Spiritís presence and involvement there is no relational belonging to Godís family, only a membership in referential terms (1 Cor 12:13); and without the Spiritís ongoing reciprocal relational work there is no intimate relational connection to participate in Godís life, only an association in referential terms (Rom 8:9,26-27). The primacy of whole relationship together is the innermost of Godís desires, and the whole of Godís presence and involvement vulnerably constitute the heart of Godís family love to remove the veil for participation in relationship together Face to face to Faceórelationship both improbable and intrusive. This was the experiential Truth and his relational replacement who transformed and extended into the whole of Paul.

For Paul, participating in Godís life is neither precluded by a somatic limitation nor limited to just a pneumatic experience, but rather involves the relational dynamic of whole human ontology and function with the whole of Godís ontology and function. In contrast, and at times in conflict, with how some of Paulís readers (past and present) have interpreted him, this relational involvement was not defined or determined by mysticism, nor was its depth esoteric and thus limited to certain individuals (cf. 1 Cor 14:36; Col 2:8). In Paulís theological forest, participating in Godís life is the relational outcome that emerges from ongoing reciprocal relational involvement with the Spirit.

How does this relational outcome emerge? Related to this question, I think it is accurate to say that prior to the Damascus road Paul participated (however limited by reductionism) in the life of Godís people, and that after the Damascus road he began participating in the life of God. What is the difference, and how is this difference constituted and its dynamic significance experienced ongoingly?

Participating in Godís life necessitates by Godís qualitative being and relational nature the following: the relational involvement of whole persons (pneuma and soma) of whole ontology and function from inner out, who are vulnerably involved by the heart with the whole of Godís ontology and function, who initially is vulnerably disclosed to them in direct Face-to-face, intimate heart-to-heart relationship together as family. As Paul indicated previously, Moses participated face to face in Godís life, but it was limited (2 Cor 3:7-13; cf. Num 12:6-8). By the nature of reciprocal relationship, Godís children can participate in Godís life only to the extent that God participates in theirs; however, participation in Godís life is never the result of unilateral human effort. In Paulís theological forest, the whole of Godís thematic relational response and involvement is fulfilled by Christ and completed by the Spirit (2 Cor 3:14-18; 4:4-6). In other words, with the depth of Godís whole participation, it is now insufficient for Godís children to participate in the whole of Godís life with anything but face-to-Face involvement compatible with Godís qualitative being and congruent with Godís relational natureóthat glory of God vulnerably disclosed in the distinguished face of Jesus Christís whole ontology and function (not just soma or pneuma, as some have interpreted the incarnation, but soma and pneuma together, inseparably without reduction). This is ďthe gospel of the glory of ChristĒ (4:4), the meaning of which is rendered without relational significance by the lack of reciprocal relational involvement face to Face, thereby reducing the gospel of its experiential truth.

Paul focuses all participation in ďthe glory of God in the face of Jesus ChristĒ first on Christís blood and body and participating in his death (1 Cor 10:16-17) in order to participate in his resurrection (Rom 8:11,17; Phil 3:10). This participation involves being baptized with Christ and the Spirit for the death of reduced ontology and function and the raising of whole ontology and function (Rom 6:3-5; 1 Cor 12:13). Relational involvement with Christ and the Spirit in these theological dynamics is critical for face-to-Face-to-face involvement compatible with Godís qualitative being (the whole and holy God) and thus congruent with Godís relational nature. To participate in the whole and holy Godís life begins with the necessary transformation of human persons integrally both to ontology in the image of Godís qualitative being vulnerably disclosed by Christ (ďthe image of God,Ē 2 Cor 4:4), and to function in the likeness of the whole of Godís relational nature together (2 Cor 3:18; Rom 8:29; Col 3:10). Paul defines this critical initial participation with the term koinonia (ďsharing,Ē 1 Cor 10:16) and its cognate koinonos (ďpartners,Ē 10:18), from which our notions of fellowship and Communion come. Basically these koin terms define a common bond among its participants which is relational involvement definitive of having a share in something togetheróthat is, the intimate involvement of the new wine table fellowship with the veil removed. This understanding of participation goes further and deeper than what our practices of fellowship and Communion tend to be; moreover, it goes beyond common efforts of spirituality to participate in Godís life.

For Paul, the definitive relational involvement of sharing together in Christís death is a complete participation in his sacrifice behind the curtain, which is irreducible and nonnegotiable to koinonia and koinonos in human contextualization (1 Cor 10:20-21). Accordingly, this undivided-complete participation is inseparable from sharing together also in Christís resurrection, by which the necessary transformation to whole ontology and function emerges without the veil (2 Cor 3:16-18) in order to wholly participate compatibly and congruently in Godís life as Godís whole family in relationship together (Rom 6:5; 8:11,15; Gal 4:5-6). This inner-out change from the process of redemptive reconciliation is an ongoing necessity for increasing and deepening participation in the whole of Godís life. The embodying of this new creation in koinonia with the whole of God is both of the whole person and of whole persons together (1 Cor 10:17) in reciprocal relational involvement with the Spirit (1 Cor 12:13; Eph 2:22; 4:3-4). Therefore, participating in the qualitative whole of Godís life is neither limited to the intimate involvement of the individual person, nor is individual involvement sufficient by itself to constitute participation in the relational whole of Godís life. Participation is complete with only whole persons together (Col 3:15; Eph 2:14-18); this challenges our theological assumptions about God, the human person, and the church. Paul makes these vital distinctions for the reciprocal relational involvement in whole relationship together both with God and with each other, which is integral to embody Godís new creation familyóthe intimate dwelling in relational terms (not referential) for the whole of Godís participation in whole relationship together (Eph 2:22; cf. Jn 14:23).

Through the relational involvement of the Spirit, participation in the whole of Godís life is unequivocal in its relational outcome Ďalreadyí (Eph 2:18,22; 3:12; Rom 5:5; cf. Jn 17:23). And by reciprocal relational involvement with the Spirit, participation in Godís whole life in family is ongoing to its relational conclusion Ďnot yetí (Rom 8:14,17; Phil 2:1; 3:10)ójust as Paul prayed for the church family (Eph 3:16-19) and Jesus vulnerably disclosed in his face and prayed for his family (Jn 17:26). The whole of Paulís person and the whole in his theology fight for nothing less and no substitutes of this gospel of wholeness, and thereby nonnegotiably against any and all reductionism.

As those belonging to Christ through the Spirit gather for the koinonia at the Lordís table to celebrate the Eucharistóthat is, without reductionism to human terms shaping relationship together by human contextualization, as Paulís polemic makes indisputable about incompatible and incongruent participation (1 Cor 10:21; 11:17-22, 27)ótheir whole persons together deeply participate in the embodied pleroma of God. Conjointly, their intimate relational involvement with the whole of God in whole relationship together also embodies them together in the whole ontology and function of the church, the pleroma of Christ (1 Cor 10:17; Eph 1:23; 3:19; 4:13). This embodying is the relational outcome of only direct participation in Godís life without the veil, not from participation just in church life in front of the curtain (note Paulís polemic, 1 Cor 11:20, 29).

Therefore, the church emerges as Godís new creation family only to the extent that its reciprocal relational involvement is compatible and congruent with the extent of Godís participation in its life, notably now by the Spirit. Given that Godís participation is solely by the relational response of grace with the theological dynamic of wholeness to remove the veil, the participation of Godís children likewise can be nothing less and no substitutes. Only this whole relationship together embodies the pleroma of Christ in Paulís theological forest, which Paul makes theologically definitive in Ephesians for the functional clarity necessary for the whole ontology and function of the church in the relational belonging of family in contrast and conflict with a gathering of relational orphans.

Paul was reciprocally involved with the Spirit embodying the theology and hermeneutic of the whole gospel that constituted the integral extension of Jesus into Paul. The theological dynamics deeply involved in this qualitative process of embodying and its relational process of reciprocal participation not only have converged and are integrated in Paulís theological forest. These dynamics, both theological and functional, are also relationally extending Ďalreadyí ďby the power of the Spiritís person at work within usĒ to go beyond what Paul can only rightly describe as ďabundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, to him be glory in the churchĒ (Eph 3:20-21).

 


 


[1] As one exception to this urgent discussion on pneumatology, see the exegetical study by Gordon D. Fee, Godís Empowering Presence: The Holy Spirit in the Letters of Paul (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1994).

[2] J.N.D. Kelly, Early Christian Doctrines, rev. (Peabody, MA: Prince Press, 2004), 252-69. Catherine Mowry LaCugna, ed., Freeing Theology: the Essentials of Theology in Feminist Perspective (San Francisco: Harper, 1993), 85-87. Stanley J. Grenz, Rediscovering the Triune God (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2004), 7-8.

 

 

©2012 T. Dave Matsuo

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