The Spirit in the Church and Believers

Renewalists have a robust and biblical pneumatology (doctrine of the Spirit). The church is a living organism, and the Spirit is guiding it. But the church is made up of individual believers. The Spirit works in them too.

The “church” here in this post is not one particular denomination or one local church, but the universal, worldwide church.

Thirty-one points.

The outline format is used for clarity and conciseness.

Let’s get started.

I The Spirit in the Church

A.. The Spirit birthed the church at Pentecost.

It is not as if the movement Jesus formed during his ministry were made up of unbelievers, but the numbers were small, when compared with the global outreach in the book of Acts. So it is accurate to say the church as a growing and expanding organism began when the Spirit fell on the 120 believers in the upper room (Acts 2:1-4)

B.. He dwells in the church.

In the context of God’s judgment, Paul tells the Corinthians that together they are God’s temple, and he will protect it, even if he has to “destroy” its destroyers. Sobering words. But the main idea for this post is that the Spirit lives in the new temple (the church) as he once did in the old temple in Jerusalem. (1 Cor. 3:16-17)

Paul repeats this idea of the Spirit living in the new temple—all of us together (Eph. 2:22). That’s a wonderful promise for the church. Maybe we should do less fighting and more loving.

C.. He appoints ministers in the Church.

In Paul’s farewell address to the Ephesian elders, he says the Spirit appointed them to be overseers, so they should be diligent to care for the flock (Acts 20:28).

D.. He directs decisions in the church.

In James’s letter to the Gentile believers, whom he called “brothers,” he wrote that the Holy Spirit told them not to burden them with too many rules (Acts 15:28).

E.. He chooses and commissions missionary-apostles.

Barnabas, Simeon, Lucius, Manaen, and Saul were praying for direction and just seeking God’s face. The Spirit finally spoke to them, to send Barnabas and Saul for their first missionary journey (Acts 13:2-4). Expect the Spirit to speak to you, too, but please be warned of directional prophecies that come out of “left field.” Rather, they should confirm what God has already put on your heart. But if they do seem to come out of “left field,” then put them on the shelf and let God fulfill them, if they came from him.

F.. He directs the missionary endeavors and projects and direction.

The Spirit told Philip to approach the wagon on which the Ethiopian eunuch was riding, exactly at the time he was reading a Messianic prophecy (Acts 8:29)

Paul and Barnabas intended to go into Asia, but the Spirit prevented them (Acts 16:8-7). This shows that the Spirit has to direct us and spare us from a good idea, as distinct from a God idea. Sometimes they are the same, but in other circumstances they are different.

II.. The Spirit in the believer’s new beginnings

A.. He gives us new life.

You must be born again, of Spirit and water, which probably means water in baptism, which comes second—the Spirit is the one who causes new birth (John 3:3-6).

In a very similar theology to that of John, Paul says the believer is washed from his sins and experiences new birth by the Spirit (Tit. 3:5).

B.. Repent of your sins.

Peter just finished his first sermon after Pentecost. The Jews asked what they had to do. He told them, “Repent, and let each one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ, for the forgiveness of your sins, and you shall receive the free gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:37-38, my translation). So baptism is for forgiveness of sins, and the Spirit washes you at the same time water washes you. The free gift of the Spirit includes empowerment and prophetic speaking.

C.. Believe in Jesus.

While Peter was recounting his meeting with Cornelius (Acts 10) to the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem, he told them that the Spirit fell on Cornelius and his household before he finished his sermon (Acts 11:15-17). Faith must have surged in their hearts, so they believed in Jesus. And then the fullness and baptism in the Spirit came on and through them.

Paul asked this simple question: did the Galatians receive the Spirit by works of the law or faith in Jesus? The answer is the second one (Gal. 3:2-3). Then he restates his case: we receive the Spirit by believing in Jesus Gal. 3:14).

When the Ephesians heard the gospel of truth and believed they were sealed with the Spirit (Eph. 1:13). We have to preach the truth, so people can have a knowledge of it. Then faith will rise in their hearts.

D.. Be baptized in Jesus’s name.

As noted in point no. II.B, Peter said the hearers of his gospel had to be baptized for the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38). This does not mean, however, that water—H2O—saves a person. The Spirit must first work salvation in the heart. Cornelius, for example, received the Spirit, without being water baptized (Acts 10:44-46). And then afterwards they were water baptized (vv. 47-48). So let’s not make too much of sequential steps and formulas.

While Paul was in Ephesus, he came across disciples (a word used exclusively in Acts for followers of Jesus) who had not received the Spirit. They had not even heard of him, but had been baptized under John’s ministry—the baptism of repentance. So then they were baptized in Jesus’s name and were filled with the Spirit with the evidence of payer languages (Acts 19:1-6).

Once again, let’s not make too much of formulas and develop a theology of sequential steps.

E.. Pray to receive him.

If we are imperfect—even bad—people, yet we know how to give good gifts, then the Father in heaven knows how to give the Holy Spirit to those who ask (Luke 11:13). The Spirit does not often fall sovereignly on a life. (Even Cornelius and his household were seekers.) One has to ask, and he has to be invited. Be hungry for the Spirit, and ask you Father for him expecting to receive him.

III… The Spirit in the life of the believer

A.. The Spirit lives in us.

The Advocate, the Stand-by Helper, the Spirit of truth, will be with us forever, because Jesus will ask the Father to send him (John 14:16-17). You can be sure this happened at Pentecost (Acts 2:1-4).

The same Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead lives in us (Rom. 8:11).

Our bodies are the temple of the Spirit (1 Cor. 6:19). Take care of your bodies. Don’t let them become polluted.

B.. He reveals God’s love and sends it into our hearts.

God’s love has been poured out in us through the Spirit (Rom. 5:5).

C.. He reveals God’s secrets to us.

Eyes have not seen or ears have not heard or no human mind has conceived what God has in store for us. But the Spirit has revealed those things (1 Cor. 2:10-16).

D.. He brings Christ’s presence to us.

As noted, Jesus said he would ask the Father, who would send his Spirit of truth, who will live in us forever (John 14:16-18).

E.. He teaches us about Christ and truth.

Jesus says plainly that the Advocate, the Helper, the Spirit, whom the Father will send in Christ’s name, will teach them all things and remind them what he said (John 14:26). This applies to us, as well, when the Spirit leads us to the truth.

The same is ideas is repeated here: “When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father—the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father—he will testify about me” (John 15:26).

F.. He leads us to find the truth.

John teaches in his first epistle that we can know truth from falsehood by the Spirit and this test: Has Jesus come in the flesh and not some strange being who simply occupied a seeming body (1 John 4:1-6)? In other words, we must hold true to what the truth is. In John’s day, Scripture was being written, so they had other tests from what he learned directly from Jesus and spending hours with him. We don’t have that advantage today, so we better stay true to what they wrote about him—the written Scriptures. Yes, the Spirit will lead us too, but often our own private interpretations and desires can confuse us. We need to test our leadings by the Scriptures.

G.. He leads us into fellowship.

Here is Paul’s final words to the Corinthians: “May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all” (2 Cor. 13:14).

There is common sharing and comfort and encouragement in the Spirit (Phil. 2:1).

H.. He governs us.

If the Spirit lives in us, then we are not in the realm of the flesh (human sin nature), but we live in the Spirit (Rom. 8:9). He takes the lead.

I.. He empowers us to pray in him.

Paul says to pray in the Spirit (Eph. 6:18), and so does Jude (Jude 20), most likely Jesus’s half-brother (same mother, different Father!). If so, then he was in the upper room at Pentecost (Acts 1:14), and received his prayer language at Pentecost (Acts 2:1-4).

Praying in the Spirit is explained in 1 Cor. 14:16; it is done in a language that the speaker does not understand, but God does (1 Cor. 14:14).

J.. He empowers us to live the Christian life.

We either have our minds on the things of the flesh or the things of the Spirit. The Spirit governs our minds to life and peace. The mind governed by the sin nature is hostile to God, but the mind led by the Spirit is set on God (Rom. 8:5-9).

K.. He produces his fruit in us.

Paul writes straightforwardly: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Gal. 5:22-23).

We do not have to struggle or strain to produce fruit by self-effort. When the Spirit lives in us, the fruit comes naturally-supernaturally.

L.. He gives us righteousness, joy, and peace.

The kingdom of God consists of those three virtues (Rom. 14:17). Righteousness is also produced in us by the Spirit. We lead righteous lives, by the Spirit’s power. And we also have joy (cf. 1 Thess. 1:6) and peace, which are more “fun” than righteousness.

M.. He sanctifies us.

God gave Paul the priestly duty to proclaim the gospel to the Gentiles, who are sanctified by the Spirit (Rom. 15:16). Sanctification is a process. It literally means sanct- (holy), fic- (making), and -ion (act or process). If you do not see holiness in your life after receiving salvation, you need to call out to the Spirit to help you.

God saved you through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and believing the truth (2 Thess. 2:13). Then Paul goes on to say that God called them through the gospel.  Sanctification does save us from the devil’s foothold and our fleshly desires.

N.. He gives us gifts.

These gifts are the charismata, which is the plural of charisma. The –ma– suffix means “the result of.” Add it is the stem charis (grace), and you get “the result of grace.” So his charismata is distributed as the Spirit wills (1 Cor. 12:4-11), and they empower us to help people, not to show off or burnish our ministries while the cameras are rolling.

O.. He encourages us.

A paraclete is someone who has been called (klete– or clete-) alongside (para-). He is like an attorney or advocate standing by you to plead your cause for you. He is your stand-by helper.

The verb form of the word can mean exhort, which means to stir someone up to walk on the right path and not the wrong one. It can mean comfort, that is, giving support and strength during tough times. And it can mean, as noted, to encourage, which puts courage in your heart (John 14:26; John 15:26; John 16:13-14.

The next verse is one of six summary verses Luke inserts throughout Acts: “And so the church throughout all of Judea, Samaria, and Galilee enjoyed peace and was being built up and walking in awe for the Lord and the encouragement of the Holy Spirit, and increasing in numbers” (Acts 9:31).

Just because it is a summary verse does not mean it is empty. They really were being encouraged by the Spirit.

P.. He gives us his sword to fight Satan.

The Sword of the Spirit is the Word of God (Eph. 6:17; cf. Heb. 4:12), like the epistle Paul was writing to the Ephesians. Yes, 2000 years ago it can mean the gospel as it was preached apart from a written text, but we better stay close to the Scriptures handed down to us, because our own ideas can interfere with God’s truths.

Q.. He empowers us to witness.

The Spirit has to come on us with great power, so we can be witnesses (Acts 1:8). Power cannot come by soul power and intellect alone. The “great power” includes prayer languages. If you got this wonderful gift, use it. If you don’t, ask for it. You’ll never be the same.

Jews of the Synagogue of the Freedmen opposed Stephen’s message, but they could not counter what he was saying because the power of the Spirit was flowing through him (Acts 6:9-10).

R.. He teaches us what to say during persecution.

This point illustrates the previous one. When Messianic Jews are called before synagogue authorities, they do not need to obsess over what to say, rehearsing it in their minds. The Spirit will guide them (Luke 12:12). In countries where persecution is still happening, this is “real.”

In nations like ours where persecution is not happening (though things seem to be worsening), this can apply to us in a variety of situations. When you have a demanding presentation before a hostile board or an authority, for example, relax and trust God that at the right time the Spirit will bring thoughts to your mind.

S.. He intercedes for us.

It is comforting and encouraging that the Spirit intercedes for and with us through “wordless groans” (Rom. 8:26). This means that something is transpiring in the heaven realm between the Spirit and the Father that does not need words, but they communication is deep, full of compassion. I get the impression that on a human level, we participate in those wordless groans, through the Spirit.

T.. He empowers our bodies right now and at the future resurrection.

He whisked Philip away by supernatural translation (Acts 8:39). This is how powerful the Spirit is in working miracles in our bodies.

The Spirit lives in us, and he raised Jesus from the dead. He will also and similarly give life to our mortal bodies, both now and at the future resurrection (Rom. 8:11). For the here and now, we can have supernatural renovation and strength in our bodies.

So how does this post help me grow closer to the Spirit?

It is wonderful to believe that the Spirit is active in your life, just like those points emphasize. You can get to know him in all of those ways. One key point is that he sanctifies us. In grace, we need holiness. If the grace teaching does not lead to purity and right living, then this brand of the grace teaching should be avoided.

On a positive note, he regenerates you or gives you new birth. That is, through the Spirit, you can be born again. He can wash you of your past sins, and that’s great news. He sanctifies you. He empowers you to live a godly life. He can work miracles through your life.

Surrender to Jesus now, and he instantly sends his Spirit into your heart and mind, so you can follow him.


Do I Really Know God? He Is Spirit

The Spirit in the Old Testament

The Spirit’s Deity and Divine Attributes

The Personhood of the Spirit

Titles of the Holy Spirit

Images of the Holy Spirit

The Spirit in the Life of Christ


Works Cited

At that link, look for NIV Study Bible.

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