Dr. John Hartmann

Proclaiming the Whole Counsel of God

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The Spirit’s Work in the Church as the Body of Christ

January 3rd, 2010 · No Comments

As suggested by the title, Dr. Hartmann in this study discusses the work of the Holy Spirit in the Church as the Body of Christ. Ephesians 4:7-10 teaches that Jesus ascended to the right hand of God and poured out gifts (in the gift of the one Spirit) on the church, so that every member in the body of Christ has received grace for service in accordance with the measure of the gift Christ gave. There is a oneness and unity in the Body that is not a creation of man, but created by God: one Body, one Spirit, one hope to which all have been called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, Who is above all, through all, and in all. The body of Christ thus is unified by something supernatural: the gift of the one Spirit. By the Spirit all were baptized into one Body, and made to drink of one Spirit. Thus, just as the human body is one and has many members, and all the members of that human body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ (1 Corinthians 12:12). Note not just “so also is the body of Christ”, but “so also is Christ”. Dr. Hartmann suggests that Paul deliberately worded it this way, wishing to emphasize the union of Christ as Head and His body the church.

Two related mysteries are found here. First, that Christ and His body are one. Paul’s logic in this regard is demonstrated in the argument of 1 Corinthians 6, where he thus reasons with those who had fallen into sexual sin: “do I take the members of Christ and join them to a harlot?” Here the union with Christ is so real, so vital, that the bodily members of the one joined to Christ are viewed as being Christ’s own members. Paul also speaks of believer’s body as the temple of the Holy Spirit, something so sacred and holy that it is not to be polluted with something so unclean and profane as fornication, which is actually sin against one’s own body, which in this case is a defiling of the temple of the Holy Spirit. Two metaphors are thus in play here, stressing the church’s vital and real union with Christ: our bodily members are the members of Christ; our bodies are likewise the temple of the Holy Spirit. Which leads to one more metaphor: the “purchased possession”, bought with a price of redemption (Christ’s blood). Paul thus reasons that we are not our own, and that we therefore ought to glorify God in our bodies.

So here again is the first mystery: that Christ and His body are one. The second related mystery is that all the members of that body, though different in function (Rom 12:3-5), are one body in Him. Unity and diversity work together. Varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit, varieties of ministries, and the same Lord, varieties of effects, but the same God working all things in all persons (1 Corinthians 12:4-6). The goal is stated in 1 Corinthians 12:7: to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. We find joy in employing the gifts we have been given in service of others, for their benefit. The manifestation of the Spirit imparts “life” to the Body, so that it becomes strong, healthy and grows into something: “the measure of stature belonging to the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:13). This “fullness language” is found throughout Ephesians (1:22-23; 3:19; 4:10; 5:18-19). Paul declares in Ephesians 3:20 that God is able to bring the church to such fullness, “exceeding abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us”, and follows with this doxological statement: “to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever, Amen (3:21). All of this becomes a part of the revelation of the mystery: Christ in you (plural pronoun, hence collective) the hope of glory.

This emphasis on the gifts of the Spirit is not to the neglect of the fruit of the Spirit. The two go hand in hand, both being the work of the one Spirit given as the down payment and first fruits of our inheritance. Those who walk by the Spirit will not fulfill the lusts of the flesh and spiral downward into the deeds of the flesh described in Galatians 5:19-21. Instead they will bear the “fruit” of the one Spirit: love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, meekness, self-control, and faithfulness.

It thus is to our advantage that Jesus has ascended to the right hand of God, for in doing so He has now sent the Spirit, Who is the Spirit of power, conviction, witness, revelation, comfort, peace, utterance and, last but not least, the Spirit of adoption, through Whom we know the love of the Father and our acceptance in Him as those beloved of God.

Passages to be considered in response to the message: Romans 12:1-21; Colossians 3:1-4:6; James 3:1-4:10, especially 4:6-10; 1 John 1:1-2:2.

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