Many Christians tend to be relatively familiar with what the Holy Spirit does for each individual believer when it comes to applying the work of Christ in our lives (for example, his regenerating and sanctifying work).
But what does the Holy Spirit do for the collective church as a whole? Among many things, the Holy Spirit nourishes the church (Jn. 7:37-39), comforts the church (Jn. 14:25-27), and empowers the church for ministry (Rom. 12).
Above and beyond all of these things, however, the Holy Spirit unites the Church to Christ, and therefore brings the church into the inner life of the Holy Trinity.
The church only exists in restored relationship with the Holy Trinity. The Holy Spirit, on the merits of Christ’s work, restores what was lost in the fall: divine-human relationship. The restoration of this relationship brings the church into existence. Restored relationship with the Creator constitutes the very being of the church. Just as the Holy Spirit brought Jesus into the world, he also births the church, the body of Christ, into the world.
The Holy Spirit gave birth to the church at Pentecost by bringing the disciples into union with Christ. The Holy Spirit filled each disciple as he did the temple in the Old Testament. This time, however, the temple is the unified body of Christ. In the new covenant, God is not just near but within. Eden, the place of divine-human fellowship and unity, is now in the heart of each believer.
While the Holy Spirit indwells individuals, each is a part of one baptism, worshiping one Lord, making up one temple (Eph. 4:5). Like the inner life of the Trinity, there is a mutual indwelling (perichoresis) among believers with one another, and with Christ. There is no single Christian apart from the rest, and there is no collective apart from the individual. There is unity with distinction, diversity in oneness. Through the church, the body of believers, salvation comes to the individual, never apart from it. The salvation of one always originates in another.
All of this is because in being united with Christ who was united to humanity through the incarnation, humanity is introduced into the inner life of God. That new race in Jesus is the church, and the Holy Spirit is the bond of love that joins them together in unity. There is no church without the Holy Spirit because there no union with Christ without the Holy Spirit. Furthermore, there is no union of Christ with the human nature (i.e., incarnation) without the Holy Spirit.
The Spirit’s activity then extends backward and forward, making possible both the originating work of salvation found in Jesus Christ, as well as its application which went outward from his person into all the world.
We can see then that the work of the Holy Spirit enlivens all of the good and beautiful works that bring God into union with his creation, especially his people.
This is what the Holy Spirit does for the Church.
If you would like to learn more about the Holy Spirit, Matt Ayars’s new book The Holy Spirit: An Introduction releases Pentecost 2023. This readable systematic theology works through the person and work of the Spirit that offers a comprehensive overview not just of this doctrine but as a vision for the Spirit’s indispensable role in the victorious Christian life.
Readers will come away with the sound biblical and historic Christian basis for the divine personhood of the Holy Spirit and the optimism of living a Christian life that is free from the power of sin. This results from the graceful reality of the indwelling Spirit, who unites our lives with Christ. This book—The Holy Spirit: An Introduction—drives home our high privilege of having the Holy Spirit restore the image of God in individuals by uniting us to Jesus. It will serve as an indispensable resource for leaders, students, and anyone desiring to deepen their understanding of the Holy Spirit.
“This book will help guide earnest Christians into a deeper understanding of the person and work of the Holy Spirit, and it will be a blessing to many.”
Timothy C. and Julie M. Tennent Chair of Theology
Asbury Theological Seminary
Get it from our store here.