In my previous ACT3 Weekly we considered several of the important metaphors used for the church in accounts of the New Testament. The last metaphor we considered was that the church is the temple of the Holy Spirit.
Though the church has continuity with the people of God under the Mosaic covenant the church is also a community that was born through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:1-4, 43-47). This is why Pentecost has always had such a unique place in Christian thought and practice. (It would eventually become a feast day in the church calendar.)
Jesus plainly identified himself with the temple, thus the church has now become God’s new temple (1 Corinthians 3:9, 16-17; 2 Corinthians 6:16; Ephesians 2:19-22). We are also the one people gathered into Christ through our one baptism (Ephesians 4:3-6). We share in the one meal that is the food for the people of God’s temple in the earth (1 Corinthians 11:23-26).
But how is the Holy Spirit’s ministry actually manifested in the church? A number of answers are given in the New Testament. Even more can be inferred by the narratives we have as well and the continuing history of the church since Pentecost.
*One Spirit plainly works through teaching us what to say (Luke 12:12).
*One Spirit also reveals the mysteries of God (Luke 1:46, 67; Acts 11:28; 13:9). *One Spirit inspires prophecy (Acts 2:18).
*One Spirit is the source of wisdom (Act 6:3).
*One Spirit calls to trust God and creates faith (Acts 6:5; 2 Corinthians 4:13).
*One Spirit brings encouragement (Acts 9:31).
*One Spirit inspires joy (Acts 13:52), stirs hope (Romans 15:13).
*One Spirit empowers us to live costly love (Romans 5:5; Colossians 1:18; Galatians 5:13-26).
*One Spirit also helps our leaders make good decisions when they seek Him (Acts 13:2; 15:28; 20:28).
*One Spirit builds up the whole church (1 Corinthians 14:12, 26).
Christians have debated the relationship of baptism and eucharist to the work of the Spirit, but the fact that there is a direct relationship between these signs and the present and work of the one Spirit seems beyond question when you read the New Testament (Acts 19:2, 6; 2:38-39; 15:8-9; 8:16-18; 9:17; 10:44; 11:16-17).
Furthermore, there can be little doubt that the church is built up by the work and ministry of the Holy Spirit, not by its own cleverness and leadership skills (1 Corinthians 14:12, 26). And it is the Spirit’s presence in the church that is likened to the presence of God in the temple. Finally, the church is a foretaste (Romans 8:23) and pledge (2 Corinthians 1:22; 5:5) of the salvation yet to fully come in Jesus Christ.
These images and metaphors all underscore three important truths when they are taken as a whole. First, the origin of the church is in the call of the Father. Second, these truths demonstrate that the church shares in the mission of Christ. Third, the church empowered by the outpoured Spirit demonstrates an ongoing and intimate relationship with God the Holy Spirit. Thus the church is rooted in the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
The congregation, in the teaching of the New Testament, becomes the way the whole church is visible. Thus we look for the visible church the life of a local congregation, warts and all. As messy as this church life can be it is meant to be both human and divine. The human keeps us rooted with the inherent reality of our created being while the divine empowers us to live in the reality of our new nature, the divine nature of God.
Peter puts this clearly in these words:
His divine power has given us everything needed for life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Thus he has given us, through these things, his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may escape from the corruption that is in the world because of lust, and may become participants of the divine nature (2 Peter 1:3-4).
As we participate in the divine nature we become more and more like Jesus. What he was in this world we become by grace through faith and in the community of the baptized. We are to be, in this world, healthy reflections (icons) of the Holy Trinity.
ACT3 This Week
- I am home this week, recovering from trips to seven cities since Easter, and preparing many aspects of the program for the first gathering of The Initiative, June 24-28, in Wisconsin.
- You can still register for Green Lake but the door firmly closes on Thursday, May 31. Take some time and check out www.theinitiative.org and/or contact me personally.
John H. Armstrong