THE HOLY SPIRIT AND THE BODY OF CHRIST

CHAPTER 11

THE HOLY SPIRIT AND THE BODY OF CHRIST

Up to this point we have considered the work of the Holy Spirit toward the individual, whether that one is saved or unsaved. Beside that essential work, we need to consider His work, in particular, toward the Body of Christ collectively. God?s purpose to establish the church and to complete it has been entrusted into the hands of the Spirit of God. This is certainly true because it is a work that is beyond the ability of any man. Also, in this aspect of His work,  we are not looking primarily at believers individually, but looking rather at that work toward the entire church which is His body.

We must distinguish between the local aspect of the church, i.e., the local assembly, and the wider aspect of the church that includes every believer, that is the Body of Christ. We can see many differences between the two and they are important, yet many people fail to distinguish between them and thus they fall into serious errors and confusion. The Body of Christ began on the day of Pentecost and continues, not coming to completion until the church period is ended, which we believe will occur at the coming of the Lord at the rapture of the church. It exists regardless of the identity or existence of local churches; it includes every saved one in this present period of God?s dealings with men without consideration of their particular affiliation or fellowship. One enters the Body of Christ only by salvation, and one thus added to it can never be severed from it. There are no false professors in this aspect of the church, neither are there any functions connected with it such as any gatherings, testimony or government. There are no distinctions between individuals in the Body of Christ (Gal.3:27-28), for they are all one in Christ.

The church pictured as the Body teaches us its unity, its living vitality and its link with the Head, which is Christ (Eph. 1:22-23). As the Body, it is seen in its completion without a member missing, absolutely perfect before God. The church is spoken of as the Bride (Eph.5:25-27, Rev.19:7, 21:2,9), showing us the mutual love shared by Christ and His church along with the purity and holiness of the church being presented to Him. It is seen as the Building (Eph.2:20-22), teaching us that it is being brought to completion by the addition of living stones (I Peter 2:5) according to the perfect plan of the wise Architect. He has built it on the foundation, which is Jesus Christ. Other expressions are also important, such as the One New Man (Eph. 2:15), the New Creation (Gal. 6:15), the Household of God (Eph.2:19) and the Holy Temple (Eph.2:21).

The local aspect of the church will be considered more in future chapters, but at this point we might mention some of the vital points of distinction between it and the Body of Christ. The local assembly is a gathering of saints by the Holy Spirit unto the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ, with believers functioning to maintain a testimony for Him and to express worship that is honoring to His Name. A person enters the assembly by being received into it through the discretion of elders and the welcome of the saints of that assembly. At times, it is even possible that one who is not saved might be in an assembly, though this should not be the case. It is also true that there are true believers who are not found in the fellowship of a local assembly.  There are reasons why one who is in an assembly may have to be removed from it through discipline, or that person may leave for other reasons. There are distinctions between persons in the assembly, there is government in the assembly  and  there is  imperfection  in  any  assembly. The local assembly meets regularly and has responsibilities that require the personal exercise of every believer in that assembly.

The formation of the Body of Christ could not take place until the Lord Jesus had risen from among the dead and had been exalted to God?s right hand in heaven. It was then that God the Father ?gave Him to be the head over all things to the church which is His body? (Eph.1:19-23). He was not the Head of the Church before His death, but after His resurrection and ascension to the right hand of God. Linked with that great truth is the baptism of the Spirit to form the body of which Christ is the head. Those two events occurred in Acts 1 and 2, when Christ ascended to the right hand of the Father and the Spirit descended in fulfillment of the promise the Father had given.

The Spirit of God has a particular work toward the Body of Christ that is expressed in at least two ways: He accomplishes the Baptism in the Holy Spirit, and He is responsible for Building the church and bringing it to its completed state.

BAPTISM IN THE HOLY SPIRIT

Many Christians are confused they think of the baptism in the Holy Spirit. We would like our understanding of this truth to be clear and Scriptural. It is best, in order to clarify our thinking and understand it Scripturally, to examine the references to this event and to determine from them what it is and what it signifies.

The first mention of this event was by John the Baptizer in Matt.3:11, Mk.1:8, Lk.3:16, Jn.1:33. Every one of these references occurs when John was baptizing with water. At that time he told the people that there was One coming who would not baptize with water, but He would baptize with the Holy Ghost (and in Matthew?s and Luke?s account there is also the mention of a baptism with fire). There are some important things we must learn from these passages. First, at this point when John was speaking, this baptism was yet in the future, it was an event that had not taken place up to that point. That places this event subsequent to the ministry of the Lord Jesus on earth. We notice also that the Lord Jesus was the One Who would do the baptizing. This is important because many teach that the Holy Spirit is the One doing the baptizing. In every case, we find the Lord Himself baptizing believers in (rather than with) the Holy Spirit. So the Lord did the baptizing, and the Spirit was the agent involved in the baptizing. It remains yet to be seen in subsequent references what the purpose of this baptism was and who were going to be baptized.

Before this, we should consider the three baptisms in these passages. One is the baptism in water that John was carrying out toward those who believed his message about the coming Messiah and had repented of their sins. That baptism signified their identification with that message and the accompanying repentance that prepared them for His coming. The act of baptism didn?t bring about the forgiveness of sins (any more than baptism has that effect in any other reference such as in Acts 2:38). The baptism signified the inward work of repentance that resulted in the forgiveness of sins through the Lord Jesus. The second baptism is the baptism in the Holy Spirit, and the third baptism is that of fire. If the second baptism is linked with the gracious work of God toward those who believe on the Lord Jesus, the third baptism speaks of His judgment on those who do not believe. It is important to notice that the baptism in fire was only mentioned when the religious leaders who actively opposed John and his message were present, and in the two references where their presence is not indicated,  we do not find this aspect of baptism. Their rejection of the truth inevitably brought God?s judgment then even as now. The fire was not the cloven tongues as of fire that were seen on the day of Pentecost but rather it is emblematic  of God?s judgment associated with the future coming of Christ. At that time the grain (true believers) will be gathered into the barn in the place of safety, while the chaff (unbelievers) will still be exposed and will be consumed with unquenchable fire. This is further confirmed when we examine the Lord?s own promise to His disciples in Acts 1:5 where the baptism in fire is not mentioned. In that passage in Acts 1:5, the Lord told his disciples before He ascended up in glory to heaven that the baptism in the Spirit would take place ?not many days hence.? So it had not taken place to this point, but it was yet to take place soon. For that reason they were to ?wait for the promise of the Father, which (saith He) ye have heard of me.? They didn?t know what kind of experience to expect or what signs might accompany it, but they were to wait for the fulfillment of that promise. The Lord also linked it with the word John had already spoken, making it clear that this was the same thing to which  he is referring. 

In Acts 11:15-16, Peter reminded the disciples of that promise of the Lord and joined it with the further development of the gospel going forth to the Gentiles. God?s work to bring Gentiles into this blessing had been marked by the fact that they had received the Holy Ghost the same as the disciples had, thus pointing back to an event that had already taken place in their own experience. So this baptism in the Holy Spirit took place between Acts 1 and Acts 10.

THE DAY OF PENTECOST

The event they were waiting for in Acts 1 took place in Acts 2 on the Day of Pentecost. It seems clear that this was that moment the Lord had told them to wait for, since from this point on they were no longer waiting for it to take place. So we believe we are justified in saying that the baptism in the Holy Spirit took place on this day.

The meaning of the baptism can be seen from I Cor. 12:13. There  we read, ?for by (in) one Spirit are (lit. ?were?) we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.? This shows that this baptism is true of ALL believers, regardless of their spiritual condition. In that great work, all believers were baptized into one body, so it indicates that this was linked with the formation of the Body of Christ. Every individual believer was included in that work. This work encompassed both Jews and Gentiles so that it embraced those who were there on that day as well as those who were not actually there. So the purpose of this baptism was the formation of the Body of Christ on that momentous Day of Pentecost. From the words used when this truth is referred to, we would say that it was an event that occurred once for all, and was never repeated after that day. That was the day the Holy Spirit descended and that band of disciples, who had gathered fearfully in the upper room, were now formed into a body through what was clearly a work of the Holy Spirit. There was no church prior to that moment. The Lord Jesus, in Matt. 16:18, spoke prophetically when He said that ?on this rock I will build my church.? That church did not exist prior to that moment when the Holy Spirit formed those Jewish believers, along with every believer who would be saved in the church period, into the church at the point of its commencement.

This baptism can be compared with what is recorded of Israel in I Cor. 10:1-2. There we read of conditions that were true of every Israelite as a part of that company that came out of Egypt. That coming out of Egypt was more than an individual event; it involved an entire nation and in one sense it included those of Israel who were not even present at that time. It was true of ?all our fathers.? 

So the thought of this passage is that this was an event that affected an entire company, a nation, in the broadest sense of the word. The same is true of this  baptism  in the Holy Spirit. This event embraced and included all believers who are part of the Body of Christ.

The Day of Pentecost (Lev 23:15-21) was the day on the religious calendar of Israel when the two loaves were brought out of their houses. Those loaves were unique in that they were provided by the people and were baked with leaven, suggesting the infiltration of sin into that which is presented to God by man. The two loaves represent Jews and Gentiles both being brought together before God, not without sin and imperfection, but in an act linked with the lives and exercise of the people. This is what took place on Pentecost. In fact, there is no recorded celebration of this feast until Acts 2, and there we read that this was the day when ?Pentecost was fully come? or it was being accomplished, in the process of being fulfilled. This gives authority to state that this was the day that had been typified by this feast, a day when from Jew and Gentile, God formed a body of believers for Himself, and that body is the church.

Since that event took place on the Day of Pentecost and included the entire Body of Christ, then isn?t it right to say that it had within its scope every believer who would ever be saved and brought into that body? By way of illustration, we see that every baptism in Scripture (water baptism) involved entire persons, not a partial baptism in the sense of a part of the body being baptized at one time and not the rest. God had in view the entirety of the Body of Christ when in the power of the Holy Spirit this work was accomplished. What about the individual believer? They have come into the effect and reality of it when they are saved. It is not a ?rebaptizing? when one is saved. We are then brought personally into all the blessing of what was  accomplished on  that day. In I Cor.   12:13, the collective sense is in the baptizing work; the individual sense is in the aspect of drinking into one Spirit. They both affect the individual believer, but they are not the same work. ?Baptism means I am engulfed in something; drinking means something enters into me. When the Holy Spirit came into this world He formed a Body and every believer then existing on earth and every subsequent believer has a niche to fill in that Body. Collectively we are all baptized into One Body while individually we must receive the supply of the Spirit daily" (H. St. John).

In contrast to the filling of the individual believer, we can say that the baptism in the Holy Spirit is a once for all occurrence while the filling of the believer takes place many times. ?One baptism, but many fillings? is one way of expressing this truth.

Some good expositors believe that every individual believer is personally the subject of this baptism upon salvation, that it is the act of the Holy Spirit by which that person is put into the body of Christ. To be fair, we need to consider that view. In this view, this baptism is not a once for all occurrence, but it is a work that is repeated for every individual at the time that one is saved. Then that believer is baptized into the Body of Christ by the Holy Spirit when he is  saved. Whether this is the case or not, the effect is the same in that we would agree that it is realized personally immediately upon believing. There is no true child of God in this church age who is not a part of the Body of Christ. The ultimate effect is the same as that which has been already stated and its personal conditions remain the same.

We must notice that no one was ever told to wait for this baptizing apart from the disciples in Acts 1:5. To teach, as some do, that this is not something that is made real to the believer upon salvation but that it has to be earnestly sought for and waited for is contrary to Scripture.   Perhaps the  King James  translation  confuses  this point in reading ?For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body. .? (I Cor.12:13). A better translation is ?were we  all baptized.? This places the event in the past for every believer, not something he has to wait for subsequent to salvation. We have received no command to seek the baptism in the Spirit nor are we told we have to wait for it any more than we are told to wait for the sealing of the Spirit or the earnest of the Spirit (Eph.2:13-14). The only reason the disciples were told to ?wait for the promise of the Father,? in Acts 1:4 is that it was an event that had not taken place yet. The Holy Spirit had not come for that purpose as of that moment. That command is not one that has validity for us today, now that the Holy Spirit has come and that work has been done. In fact, we can find no individual responsibility connected with this baptism apart from the requirement to be saved. In addition, to teach that this event for the individual is always accompanied by visible signs such as speaking in tongues is to reject the pattern of events subsequent to Pentecost and to try to establish a pattern from the events of that day alone. We see that the pattern of events on that day was not always true of subsequent occurrences when believers were saved and added to the Body of Christ (Acts 8:12-17; 10:44-47; 11:14-17, 19-26; 19:1-7). We will consider the subject of speaking in tongues in a future chapter.

We also should mention that some writers teach that this baptism in the Holy Spirit is the baptism found in Gal.3:27, Rom. 6:1-4, Col. 2:9-13 and Eph. 4:4-6. As there are varying opinions on these references, we prefer to leave them and only consider those scriptures that are clear. Some of them may indeed refer to this event, such as Gal.3:27 where we read of being baptized into Christ. However, it seems that some of those who see all these references as referring to the baptism in the Holy Spirit are seeking to minimize the importance of water baptism in relation to God?s purposes for the believer today. Some who hold this view also compromise regarding  the mode of baptism, saying that it is not important how it is carried out. But most brethren believe that these passages primarily refer to water baptism.

BUILDING THE CHURCH

The work of adding believers to the church is ascribed to the Holy Spirit in Eph.2:22. The church is seen in this passage as a building into which both Jews and Gentiles are being added through the work of the Spirit. The adding work is spoken of three ways: in verse 20, we ?are built upon the foundation,? signifying the place of a solid foundation upon which we are built. It is a passive verb, so it indicates that another One is doing that building. We believe that Christ is the Rock upon which the church is built (Matt.16:18), and only upon Him as the object of our faith are we brought into this building.

We read in verse 21 that ?all the building fitly framed together groweth (increaseth) into an holy temple in the Lord.? This indicates that in the building, every part is being brought in exactly as God planned, and the addition of each Living Stone is adding strength to the building  and is making it increasingly joined and more solid with growth. It is a living building, so it is said to grow. It is also making progress toward completion, and one day it will be finished to the glory of Christ Jesus our Lord.

The body of Christ seen as a building is not composed of local assemblies but of individual believers. Such visible gatherings, while essential in God?s purpose for His testimony on earth, do not corporately comprise the entire church. Obviously, this would leave out those believers who are not part of a local assembly fellowship. No, the building referred to in this passage is composed of all believers in Christ out of this present dispensation who have been brought into it by the work of the Spirit of God, with a place for every one.

In verse 22 it is stated that ?ye also are builded,? thus showing that the building is yet continuing. Again it is in the passive, showing us that we are not doing the work ourselves, but the Spirit of God is accomplishing it for God.

The purpose of this building is important as well. It is a ?holy temple in the Lord,? and as we read in I Peter 2:5, it is ?a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Christ Jesus.? The great purpose of this building is to be a dwelling place of God, of a holy character and composition that conforms to His own presence among them. Those who are part of it are ?saints? and are exercised to offer their worship to their God. They are those who in I Cor.1:2 are ?sanctified in Christ Jesus, called (to be) saints, with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord.? The chief occupation of this church in eternity will be to give praise, worship and honor to the Lord Jesus (Rev. 1:5-6, 4:9-11), and it is to be our occupation and privilege even now.

This emphasis on the Spirit as the One Who is building the Temple makes clear that there are no mistakes in it. It is being completed according to God?s eternal purpose, not man?s theory or ideas. In addition, His work insures that there are none added to it who are not genuinely saved. A person might be a member of any denomination or have a place in a local assembly gathered unto the Lord?s Name, but if that individual is not saved, he is not a part of the Body of Christ. No false material is being added to this building.

We can see a lovely picture of this work in the building of the temple by Solomon (I Kings 6:7). The stones were quarried out of the dark earth, even as sinners are delivered from the kingdom of darkness and taken out of spiritual death. They were shaped and made ready before they were brought to their place in the temple, suggesting to us that  the  Spirit of  God  has a purposed place for each saved one to occupy, and that He puts him there without noise or fanfare,   without any visible show that  would attract  attention from others. That great building was built without the noise of hammers or axes, and in the same way the Spirit of God is bringing precious, Living stones into this building.

What a blessed truth to realize that this wonderful, unique, living building will one day (we believe soon) be brought to completion. When will that take place? Not until the Lord comes to the air to catch away every believer will that church be complete. That is not to say there will not be those saved after that event, but they will not be a part of the church that is being built today. When taken from this scene that church will be with the Lord Jesus, to reign with Him over this earth when His glory will be known and He will be given His rightful place. In that day, the glory of the Lord Jesus will be enhanced by the presence of this body of redeemed souls in which His gracious power has been exerted to bring such blessing!

?In Him it is ordained to raise

A temple to Jehovah?s praise,

Composed of all His saints who own

No Saviour but the ?Living Stone.?

Samuel Medley  (BHB 212)