We have been remade in Christ: “whoever is in Christ is a new creation” (2Cor 5:17). If this is true, our recreation should look something like the first creation.
The Book of Genesis records two distinct moments in the creation of Adam. First, God formed his body “out of the clay of the ground.” Second, God “blew into his nostrils the breath of life.” By these two actions “man became a living being” (Gen 2:7). We were similarly remade.
There are also two moments in our recreation. First God forms our new humanity in the womb of the virgin. This is the new Adam (Rom 5:14; 1Cor 15:45). He takes on the flesh of the first Adam, but he remakes it; he reforms it after the pattern of heaven (1Cor 15:47). Yet the Incarnation, like Adam’s formation from clay, is only the first moment. It is incomplete without the second moment: Pentecost.
God breathed into the clay man. On Pentecost, our new humanity received a new breath, a new principal of life: the “Spirit of adoption, through whom we cry “Abba, Father!” (Rom 8:15). In Jesus, our humanity is refashioned. When Jesus assumed our flesh, we assumed his Sonship. But as Adam was not a living being before receiving the breath of life, neither are we alive in Christ before receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit. Jesus reforms our humanity. The Spirit makes it live.
Christian life is impossible without the Spirit (Rom 8:9b). As we remain in the body by breathing, so we remain in Christ by the Holy Spirit. But how do we know if we have the Spirit? Is there a litmus test? St. Paul provides two.
First, whom do we call Lord? St. Paul teaches, “No one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit” (1Cor 12:3). The lord of our life is the person or thing that sets our values and determines our actions. The lord of our life forms our life. We can only have one (Matt 6:24). If we are alive in the Spirit, then Jesus is our Lord.
The second test: whom do we call father? That is, to whom do we credit our life? Are we preoccupied with securing pleasure, rest, and wealth? Is the world our father? Are the goods of the world our breath of life? Those who have the Spirit are not “debtors to the flesh.” Rather they are freed from “a spirit of slavery” and call upon God as Father.
In the Spirit we live as a new creature. We know we have the Spirit by whom we call Lord and whom we call Father.
Father George K. Nixon serves as assistant pastor at St. Philip Parish, Greenville. Ordained in 2011, he holds a licentiate in sacred theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. “Verbum Domini” is a series of Father Nixon’s reflections on the Scriptures.