Three articles follow dealing with the activity of the Holy Spirit of God in a local assembly.
His Presence and Power in the Church
The Lord Jesus Christ said, “Upon this rock I will build my church” (Matt 16:18). The Rock is Christ as set forth in Peter’s confession, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matt 16:16). All true believers from Pentecost until the coming of the Lord (1 Thess 4:16-17) are members of “this church which is His body” (Eph 1:23). The Lord has baptized us in one Spirit into one body, and we have all become partakers of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 12:13). Paul reminded the Ephesian believers, both saved Jews and Gentiles, that they “were built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, in Whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: in Whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit” (Eph 2:20-21). The presence of the Holy Spirit in the church which is the body of Christ is thus clearly established.
In 2 Thess 2:6-7, we have further reference to the Holy Spirit. Paul refers in v.6 to “what (neuter gender) withholdeth” and in v 7 to “He who now letteth.” The reference to “what” cannot be applied to the Roman Empire as the “man of sin” was not manifested when it disintegrated. Human government will also continue after his manifestation. The writer firmly believes that the presence and power of the Holy Spirit indwelling believers in the world and the coming of the Lord at the completion of the church which is his body are the restraining factors.
Another passage which clearly affirms the presence and power of the Holy Spirit in the church is Revelation 22:17, where we read, “and the Spirit and the Bride say, Come.” The Holy Spirit is seen to be deeply interested in the coming again of the Lord for His church, which is undoubtedly “the Bride of the Lamb.” He prompts the Bride, distinct from but in fellowship with Himself, to say, “Come.” Our personal exercise should be to maintain a spiritual condition in which we can say at any time, “Amen, even so come, Lord Jesus.”
Further consideration of the subject brings us to the “church of God,” which is always used with reference to a local assembly. The Lord had this in view when He said, “Tell it unto the church” (Matt 18:17). It is neither an aspect nor a replica of “the church which is the body of Christ.” It is a distinct and new entity composed of believers gathered by the power of the Spirit of God unto the name of our Lord Jesus Christ as in Matthew 18:20. The church of God in Corinth was the assembly planted by Paul in that city (1 Cor 1:1; 3:6; 10:32). The presence of the Holy Spirit was a reality in the assembly: “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you”(1 Cor 3:16). Since His power is essential and available for every spiritual exercise and exigency in maintaining church of God testimony, we shall consider this in a threefold way as follows:
1. Godward, by the saints in Worship and Prayer.
2. Saintward in Ministry and Teaching of the Word of God.
3. Worldward, in Preaching the Gospel of God.
Saints can worship and pray to God anywhere. However, the allotted time for the “breaking of bread” and prayer(1 Cor 11:26, Acts 20:7, Acts 12: 5), are special occasions for collective worship and prayer. “We worship God in the Spirit and have no confidence in the flesh”(Phil 3:3). We all need divine help to pray “in the Holy Spirit” (Jude 20). Even the apostles felt need for prayer in relation to the ministry of the Word of God in Acts 6. When we know not how to pray, we can count upon the help of the Holy Spirit in a special way (Rom 8:26-27). Lack of exercise and formality, for which we are collectively responsible, stand in bold contrast with the power of the Spirit in prayer as seen in Acts 4:23-31. “And when they prayed the place was shaken where they were assembled together.” Although He indwells each believer, it is essential that He is not grieved if we are to experience His power in these holy exercises.
Christians need to be taught, fed and guided by the Word of God. Spiritual gifts have been divinely given for the purpose of the saints being brought to maturity. In Ephesians 4, these gifts are men whom the Lord has saved. In I Corinthians 12 and Romans 12, the gifts are seen as spiritual abilities given to the men. The unity of the Godhead is seen in the impartation of gift, while the diversity of gift is attributed to the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 12:4). All true gift originates in God, and should be exercised in subjection to the Lordship of Christ, and in the energy of the Holy Spirit. In I Corinthians 12 – 14, the gifts functioned without human arrangement. This did not mean a “free for all” to speak regardless of ability or profit. All things were to be done decently and in order (1 Cor 14:26, 40). In verses 26-29, whether a psalm, doctrine or speaking to meet a present need as did the prophet, there is no prearrangement of speakers, subjects or time given to any participant. The man with “the five words” might be greatly gifted (Paul was) but could give a condensed ministry as needed. We need much exercise lest the Holy Spirit be quenched either by human arrangement or refusal of God-given ministry The power of the Holy Spirit is needed to receive the things of God and for proper words to convey the mind of God to others (1 Cor 2:10-14).
The divine ideal is to preach the gospel of God “in demonstration of the Spirit and of power” (1 Cor 2:4), or as Peter writes (1 Pet 1:12), “them that have preached the gospel unto you with the Holy Spirit sent down from heaven.” This should be the aim of all who preach the gospel, which is a message very different from much of the story telling of the present day. This tends to touch the emotions resulting in empty profession, whereas the gospel preached with Holy Spirit power produces conviction, leading to repentance and salvation. We should preach it with the dignity that it demands as a message divinely ordained for the furtherance of the purpose of God and the advancement of His kingdom. We cannot “popularize” a message designed to bring sinners to repentance and remission of sins. We need to learn anew that we are utterly dependent upon the PRESENCE and POWER of the HOLY SPIRIT in the church. Let us then make more use of “access to the Father, through the Son, in one Spirit” (Eph 2:18), that we might have greater liberty and power in worship, prayer, ministry of the Word and gospel preaching.