The gift of the Spirit is the “first-fruits” and foretaste of the future resurrection and the coming New Creation.
Paul presents Abraham as the great exemplar of faith. God counted his faith as “righteousness” even when he was uncircumcised. This means He justified him apart from the “works of the Law.” Therefore, he became the father of all men who are also “from faith.” Circumcision was added later as the “seal” of his justifying faith.
Because of his faith, Abraham became the “heir of the world,” the kosmos, a promise that from the beginning envisioned something far greater than the tiny territory of Palestine. And all men and women who exercise that same faith become heirs of the same promise. “For not through the law does the promise belong to Abraham or to his seed, but through a righteousness from faith” – (Romans 4:13-18).
References to “promise” and “heir” point to future realities, to things not yet received. For Abraham and his “seed,” that inheritance will be nothing less than the entire kosmos. And God appointed Abraham the “father of many nations” because he believed the word of the One who raises the dead, therefore, He granted him “seed,” though Sarah’s womb was “dead.”
Paul’s terms – “heir,” “seed,” “children,” “raising the dead” – anticipate his later discussion about the “first-fruits of the Spirit,” the resurrection, and the redemption of the creation.
In fact, believers are heirs because through faith they have become “coheirs” with Jesus. Moreover, because they now have “the Spirit of him that raised Jesus from the dead. he that raised Christ Jesus from the dead will quicken their death-doomed bodies through his indwelling Spirit” – (Romans 8:10-11).
Our present mortal bodies are “dead because of sin”; all men remain subject to death. However, that is not the end of the story. The Spirit that now indwells believers is the same Spirit that resurrected Jesus.
In his statement, Paul has connected the gift of the Spirit to the future resurrection and it to the past resurrection of Jesus. His bodily resurrection, the Spirit, and the future raising of the righteous are all inextricably linked.
If God is to redeem humanity and recover all that was lost to sin, redemption must include the physical body and the creation:
- (Romans 8:15-20) – “For you have not received a spirit of bondage leading back into fear, but you have received a spirit of sonship, whereby we are exclaiming – ‘Abba! Oh, Father!’ – The Spirit itself is bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God; and if children, heirs also, heirs, indeed, of God but co-heirs with Christ, if, at least, we are suffering together in order that we may also be glorified together. For I reckon that unworthy are the sufferings of the present season to be compared with the glory about to be revealed towards us; for the eager outlook of creation is ardently waiting for the revelation of the sons of God.”
Because of Adam’s transgression, all things were subjected to death and decay, and they continue to suffer till the present hour while “awaiting the revelation of the sons of God,” at which time the “creation itself also shall be freed from the bondage of decay into the freedom of the glory of the sons of God.” Nevertheless, believers can rest assured that they will receive this inheritance, for even now they have a foretaste of it in the gift of the Spirit, which is the “first-fruit” of the inheritance – (Romans 8:21-23).
In agriculture, the “first-fruit” represents the fuller harvest to come. And in this case, the gift of the same “Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead” is the “first-fruit” of the “redemption of our bodies.” But it also is a foretaste of the coming “new heavens and the new earth,” the redemption of the original creation.
Thus, Paul links the gift of the Spirit, the New Creation, and the bodily resurrection. Like Abraham, the “heirs of the world,” believers will inherit the new heavens and the earth, and that will occur when they are raised from the dead. And at present, they possess the Spirit, the “first-fruit” of the final harvest that will be reaped at the end of the age.
The gift of the Spirit is not simply a means to experience the miraculous or mystical experiences, but the guarantee and foretaste of our inheritance, namely, resurrection life.