Smedes develops a “Situationist” Christology as he works through the doctrine of the Holy Spirit with respect to Christ. The key text for Smedes is 2 Corinthians 3:17, “The Lord is the Spirit”. His understanding works through the fact of the New Covenant, the new situation created by Christ. He even goes so far as to write, “The new covenant is Jesus Christ” (Smedes, 37).
It seems to me that this examination of the context of Paul’s statement has established the following propositions:
(1) Paul’s line of thought is historical: the present era is superior to the old.
(2) Jesus Christ is the head of the new ear; the new age was created by His death and resurrection and is the age of His lordship.
(3) The Spirit is the prevailing and character-giving power of the new ear; it is the Spirit who writes the law on men’s hearts and brings dead men to life.
(4) These objective facts about the new covenant form the basis for the superiority of Paul’s apostolate: he is a minister of the new covenant.
(39). Thus, he explains the phrase “The Lord is the Spirit” by looking to the Holy Spirit’s work in this age, “It is still His work. But the Spirit does it. The Spirit is the Lord at work. The Spirit is Christ imminent” (40). Thus, “to live in the Spirit and to live in Christ are one and the same” (43).
The work of Christ has thus brought the future age into the present space. The Spirit is the pledge and the beginning of that new creation 46). The life embodied in Christ, the life of the new covenant is communicated to us by the Spirit (47).
Now it becomes curious. Smedes begins to speak of this new age as a historical, spatial, political (if you will), “Jesus is the head of the new epoch”. However his relationship is more profound than that, “He is also the life of the new epoch” (49). The new epoch is more than just the present with Jesus as King. Jesus as King transforms the entire nature of the new epoch.
Smedes writes, “History moves on, with Christ in control” (49). That is certainly true, but we must note that history itself is not wholly continuous with the present age. “The whole life, from its fundamental being to its discrete actions is surrounded by Christ. The pilgrim journey is not a burdensome trudge up a lonely road; it is a way that cuts through Jesus Christ himself. Life begins, proceeds and ends in Christ.
Smedes then works through the question of what being in Christ means. He first reviews understandings of the topic. Smedes own position of “Situation” takes an interest cue from Barth’s understanding of “in Christ” as being where Christ is acting. Although he stringently denies an ontological identification, Barth does not make an active identification, “Chirst is spatially present where the Christian is, and the Christ is spatially present where Christ is, “not merely alongside but in exactly the same spot” (64).