Tuesday, February 12, 2008

The Spirit is the Soul of the Church

When Christians speak of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, they most often refer to the indwelling of the individual believer. This is a true Biblical teaching. However, there is another important sense in which the Spirit indwells the church itself as a corporate reality. In this way, the Church is the building or Temple in which God's presence by his Spirit dwells within his intentionally gathered people. Believers who are "built together" become "a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit" (Eph 2:22). Paul tells the Corinthian Christians that when they "assemble in the name of our Lord Jesus," then the "power of our Lord Jesus is present" (1 Cor 5:4).

The Spirit is the soul of the Church. As Augustine articulates, "What the soul is in our body, the Holy Spirit is in the body of Christ, which is the Church." Without the Spirit, the body of Christ lives devoid of its life.

I have been thinking these things after reading a chapter about the essence of the Church in John Hammett's recent book about the Church. I found the following words particularly striking:

Without the Spirit, the church is a dead body; his presence makes the church alive. In an age that increasingly utilizes demographic study and market analyses, we need to remember anew that, as it was with the rebuilding of God's temple long ago, so it is with the building of temples of living stones in churches today: "Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,' says the LORD Almighty" (Zech 4:6). Biblical Foundations for Baptist Churches, p. 76.

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