The Spirit and the Church
The traditional title for the book of Acts is The Acts of the Apostles because of its focus on the ministries of Peter and Paul and the development of the early church. It could also have been titled The Acts of Jesus Christ, because it describes what Jesus continued to do and teach through the church after He was “taken up to heaven” (Acts 1:2). It might also have been called The Acts of the Holy Spirit, since it depicts the Holy Spirit’s descent upon the church and tells how He empowered the early followers of Christ in their ministry.
The importance of the Spirit’s ministry to the church is evident from Jesus’ command to His disciples that they remain in Jerusalem and wait for the baptism of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:4). The Holy Spirit is the Father’s gift to the church. He is the church’s advocate and helper (John 14:16). The Spirit enables us to understand God’s truth and empowers us for service (John 16:13; 1 John 2:27; 1 Cor. 12:7–11).
The Holy Spirit’s ministry explains the remarkable community of the early church. The Holy Spirit joins believers to Christ and to one another (Eph. 4:3). As a result the church has become “a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit” (Eph. 2:22). We worship and serve God “by the Spirit” (Phil. 3:3). It is by His strength that we are enabled to overcome sin, obey God, and live as witnesses to Jesus Christ (Rom. 8:2–15; Acts 1:8).
Everything that is distinctive about the church can be traced to the presence of the Holy Spirit. In addition to this corporate dimension of His ministry, God’s Spirit also exercises a very personal ministry to the individual believer. The Holy Spirit provides believers with the assurance that they have been saved through Christ. He testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children (Rom. 8:16). He also prays to the Father on our behalf (Rom. 8:26–27). This is a great comfort to us in those moments when we find it difficult to pray.
The church is the house (or household) of God. It is the bride of Christ. It is the fellowship of saints and a community of believers. When the church gathers together for worship it becomes a temple. But more than anything else, it is a community of the Spirit.
FOR FURTHER STUDY
To learn more about the ministry of the Spirit to the church, read The Spirit and the Church by John Owen (Banner of Truth).
By John Koessler, Chair and Professor of Pastoral Studies
John Koessler serves as chair and professor in the division of applied theology and church ministry at the Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, Illinois. He is married to Jane and has two sons, Drew and Jarred. John is the author of The Radical Pursuit of Rest (InterVarsity), The Surprising Grace of Disappointment (Moody) and True Discipleship (Moody). John has written several other books and articles and serves as a contributing editor for Today in the Word.