Who Are We? The Church Baptized in the Spirit

mark18cWhere does the church as a body get the energy to serve God? Where do you as part of that body find the power you need to resist temptation and grow in obedience? Are you empty . . . or are you full of the power of the Spirit? The Holy Spirit is where Paul points you in 1 Corinthians 12:13.

Live as the body of Christ baptized in the Spirit. The church is where the Spirit works. The Old Testament church longed for the fullness of the Spirit, Ezekiel 36:25-27. Note the use of the purification, washing, baptism imagery. The Spirit was not absent from Old Testament believers (Psalm 51:11), but the new covenant, the Day of the Lord, the time of the Messiah is anticipated as involving a dramatically new, rich pouring out of the Spirit. John the Baptist contrasted his ministry with the coming ministry of Christ in terms of baptism: “I baptize with water, he will baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire.” The Spirit who had been given to Jesus for his earthly ministry is then poured out on the church in power as a blessing, Luke 24, Acts 1,2. Recognize that the Spirit is the gift of the Father and the Son to the church. He is the gift poured out at Pentecost, he is the One with whom the church is baptized. “. . . all that Paul says about the activity of the Spirit is rooted in the more basic reality that the church, as the body of Christ, is the locus, the place where the Spirit is present in his diverse working.” (Richard B. Gaffin, Jr., Perspectives on Pentecost, p. 28).

See all three persons of the Trinity at work in the church. Beware of abuses that deny the Trinity. The Father has called both the church and its individual members, loving you in Christ from before the creation of the world. He sent the Son and the Spirit. The Son gave his life as a substitute in the place of his people, and makes you his body. The Spirit who equipped Christ for his redemptive work, who was powerfully involved in the resurrection, has made the church his temple–and makes you individually his dwelling. Notice the fellowship and concern for one another in the Spirit-filled church described early in Acts. Don’t ignore the challenge of that picture of a church that realizes that Christ has indeed not left them or you orphans–he has come to you in the Comforter, in the gift of the Spirit. All have been baptized in the Spirit. All have been made to drink. If you don’t have the Spirit of Christ, you don’t belong to him, Romans 8:9. “If we think of the Spirit only as our possession, we risk depersonalizing him. We lose sight of his lordship if we think of the Spirit merely as spiritual voltage into which we can plug. On the other hand, if we forget that we possess him, we lose sight of the mystery of his power in our lives and service.” (Edmund P. Clowney, The Church, p. 50).

Depend on the Spirit of whom you have been made to drink. You have been united with the Spirit. Your baptism with the Holy Spirit took place at Pentecost. Pentecost is as unique and unrepeatable as the death, resurrection, and ascension of Christ. Remember that the death and resurrection of Christ are unique events–but they are also events in which you are involved by faith. And Pentecost, the baptism of the church with the Holy Spirit, is an event which involves you–as you are baptized into the body of Christ. The Spirit is the one in whom, or which whom you have been baptized. You have been made to drink of the same Spirit. The selfish focus of the Corinthians on their own gifts ignores the unity that they have in having been made to drink of that one Spirit. A church that has drunk of the Spirit should be a church in which people take time to know one another, pray for each other, meet each other’s needs.

Rejoice in the gift of the Spirit. The Father and the Son gave him to you. He is the one who replaced dead hearts with living ones. He, in all of his life-giving power, has been given to the church–has been given to you. He is the seal of the fullness of your salvation. How do you connect with this Spirit of power? Never forget the close relationship between the Spirit and the Word. Not only did the Spirit inspire the Scripture (they are God-breathed), but he also illumines us to understand them. Don’t forget that he is a person, one who can be grieved. Do you want to be more characterized by the Spirit, less empty, more full of him? Make use of the means of grace, the reading and preaching of the Word. Be faithful in prayer, and in your own study of Scripture. Function as part of the church. Use the gifts you receive from the Spirit. The Spirit gives people, people whom the Spirit equips to do what needs doing in the church. Focusing on me and my gifts can be selfishly destructive of the unity of the body (as it was at Corinth). You identify your gifts, not by introspection, but by looking around you at the body, and asking, what needs are there? Who needs someone to come alongside them? Who seems to be discouraged? Develop your gifts by starting to meet those needs. You may feel inadequate, but realize that you are the Spirit’s gift to the church, not to exalt yourself as a person, but rather to recognize your high calling by God to be his servant. Do that in the church. Also do it in your home. Where does your wife need encouragement and support? What needs does your husband have that you can meet?

You are not empty, for, as you trust in Christ, you have been baptized with the Spirit, filled with him, and made to drink of him. You have been given what God intended you to have in order to serve him in this church, in your family, and in the world that needs the good news of Jesus.

About jwm

I serve as pastor of Trinity Presbyterian Church, Newberg, Oregon.
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