3) Church's relationship with Christ

1.3.3 The proprium of the Church’s self-understanding: her relationship with Jesus Christ

The Church’s experience of the Spirit enabled her to view herself and the People of the New Covenant, the new Israel. But this experience must be seen the the context of her relationship with Jesus Christ

The christian community has become the church of God in virtue of the New Covenant—that is, in virtue of its having received the Spirit of God through the preaching of the Gospel. But for Paul there exists no church of God which is not at the same time the church of Christ Jesus, and no Spirit of God which is not at the same time the Spirit of Christ (Rom 8:9; cf. Phil 1:19), the Spirit of his Son (Gal 4:6), the Spirit of the Risen Christ (cf. Rom 1:4; 8:9-11), inhabiting the Temple of which Christ is the sole foundation (cf. 1 Cor 3:9,11,16f) —The Spirit that is imparted to Christians at the moment of their Baptism into the body (1 Cor 12:13; 2 Cor 1:21f), into Christ (Gal 3:27), into his death (Rom 6:3), and which is continuously assimilating them to their glorified Lord (cf. 2 Cor 3:18), as sons in the Son (cf. Gal 4:6; Rom 8:14,29). Further, there is no eschatological newness except in Christ (cf. 2 Cor 5:17), and no New Covenant except that which is in my blood (1 Cor 11:25) and realised in the hearts of the faithful by Christ himself (cf. 2 Cor 3:3: letter of Christ—genitive of author). Finally, there is no Gospel which is not the Gospel of Christ, the Gospel of his Son (Rom 1:9), concerning his Son (Rom 1:3)… p.39[Greek has been translated]
Christians participate in the New Covenant when they hear the message of Christ Crucified, accept it in faith and thus receive the Spirit (Gal 3:3).
  • This New Covenant community is defined as those who confess that Jesus is the Son of God (Rom 1:4) and is Lord (Rom 10:9)
  • It is through his sacrifice that their sins are forgiven (cf. Rom 3:24f; 1 Cor 15:3)
  • “…and through him that they receive the Spirit (cf. Gal 4:4f; Rom 8:2f).p.40
  • Christians live in Christ and he lives in them
  • “…the activity of the Spirit is the activity of the Risen Christ”p.40
  • Christians are baptized into Christ
  • They put on Christ
  • They are his property
  • They must love, serve, please and imitate himp.40 [See the original for Scripture references in this section.]
    It is essential, for a complete understanding of the theological context of christian morality, to appreciate the profoundly personal nature of the Christian’s relationship with Christ. Christ loved and delivered himself for me, and this is the faith that makes me live; my fellow Christian is ‘(my brother for whom Christ died’ (1 Cor 8:11; cf. Rom 14:15); Paul yearns to depart and be with Christp.40-41

What is the relationship between the ‘People of God’ and the ‘body of Christ’?

  1. The body theme is principally about union with Christ and between Christians. Yet people are brought into the body through Spirit Baptism (1 Cor 10:1f, 12:13)
  2. The body theme tends to appear in exhortatory contexts where there is a question of unity or purity. “This suggests that Paul employes it only to explicate and intensify the moral implications of the People theme.”p.42
    This means that the People of the New Covenant is a uniquely christian creation. Of Israel of old ‘People of God’ was an exhaustive description; but Christians are People of God only in so far as they are also ἐν κυρὶῳ ᾿Ιησοῦ Χριστοῷ [in the Lord Jesus Christ].p.44

Updated 2009-09-27 (build:50) by Andrew Fountain