The Real Goal of Salvation

This past Sunday there was a phrase in the sermon's text, I Corinthians 12:7, that has stayed with me and has not let me move on. The manifestation of the Spirit. I love that phrase. We Baptists underplay the role of the Holy Spirit far too much. In fact, the chief promise of the gospel that is fulfilled through Jesus is the giving of the Holy Spirit to all people, all flesh, old men, young men, sons and daughters prophesying. The chief promise, we usually think, is forgiveness of sins, but it is not so. Forgiveness of sins is important. But forgiveness is not the ultimate and final goal. Forgiveness is the means to an end. The end forgiveness makes possible is the breath of God breathed into Adam at his creation being breathed again into our also earthen vessels so that we will become fully alive, empowered, real human beings. This is what the Gospel of John is moving towards. In that Gospel, after an enormous number of echoes of Genesis' creation story which start with the very first line of the Gospel, it virtually ends with Jesus pulling his disciples close and breathing on them as the Father did with Adam. They receive the Holy Spirit and for the first time since Adam there are real human beings alive in the world who can worship, rule, and speak like God and see things happen, real things, by mere words.

Even the Old Testament looks forward to the giving of the Spirit. When Moses is told that two of the elders of Israel are in the camp and are unexpectedly prophesying he replies, "I wish that all the Lord's people were prophets and that the Lord would place his Spirit on them all." In the New Testament, that wish comes true. God's Spirit is given to old and young, to male and female. The fulfillment of prophecy and the goal of the ages has come. For the first time since creation there are real human beings in the world, people who are not just flesh and bone but are flesh, bone, and Spirit. We are fully alive.

That means God's restoration of the world, wrecked by sin and death, can go forward. That means the restoration has begun. Death has been banished. Life, real life in all its fullness, is back. It means you can manifest, make obvious, the Spirit of God. You can speak words that have power to teach, encourage, impart wisdom, even heal. It means you can touch, you can work, and see real effects, real change, instead of the shriveling that happens under sin's curse. It means you can display the power and presence of God. And that is your only purpose in the world.