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The Mystery of the Church

The Body of Christ.
Lesson 62 from The HOPE Study Guide

INTRODUCTION

So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and there were added that day about three thousand souls. And they were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. And everyone kept feeling a sense of awe; and many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles. And all those who had believed were together, and had all things in common; and they began selling their property and possessions, and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need. And day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, praising God, and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.

– Acts 2:41–47

And from that day, His followers went out into the world sharing God’s truth, and love, and forgiveness with others. By His Spirit, they did the works that Jesus did when He walked among them: healing the sick, casting out evil spirits, and reconciling people to God. And their number increased daily.

– The HOPE, Chapter 12

OBSERVE & CONSIDER

On the day the Holy Spirit filled the followers of Jesus, something extraordinary was born. What is known to most people as the Church, the Bible calls a mystery. In Ephesians 3:9–10, Paul writes of “the mystery which for ages has been hidden in God, who created all things; in order that the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the church to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places.”

The Bible uses several metaphors to describe the relationship between Jesus and His Church. Some of these include:

Each of these metaphors is rich with descriptive imagery, but perhaps none more so than the one we find in 1 Corinthians 12. This scripture describes the Church as the body of Christ Jesus, with Him being the head (as we read in Ephesians 5:23). At this present time, we know that Jesus is with the Father in heaven. He is preparing a place for those who believe in Him (John 14:2) and He is praying for them (Romans 8:34). His presence on earth is now manifested by the Holy Spirit through His body, the Church. In this sense, the members of the Church are His arms, hands, feet, eyes, and lips in the world. As the Head of His body, Jesus is directing the activity of the Church on earth through the Holy Spirit.

As we compare the metaphor of a physical body to the relationship between Jesus and His Church, consider these two truths:

  1. All the parts of a body are necessary to form a complete functioning unit. If any member of the body is weak or missing, the entire body suffers.
  2. It is only in the context of a functioning body that each member discovers his or her identity. Just as a finger cannot fulfill its function apart from the hand, so a follower of Jesus will never know (walk in) his or her identity in Jesus apart from a right relationship with the Body of Jesus.

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The Coming of the Spirit

The Holy Spirit and the mystery of the Trinity.
Lesson 61 from The HOPE Study Guide

INTRODUCTION

And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not behold Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you, and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. In that day you shall know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you.

– John 14:16–20

And when the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a noise like a violent, rushing wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them tongues as of fire distributing themselves, and they rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance. Now there were Jews living in Jerusalem, devout men, from every nation under heaven. And when this sound occurred, the multitude came together, and were bewildered, because they were each one hearing them speak in his own language.

– Acts 2:1–6

…we hear them in our own tongues speaking of the mighty deeds of God.

– Acts 2:11

Not many days after Jesus has ascended to heaven, His followers were gathered together. Suddenly there came from heaven a noise like a rushing wind filling the whole house. They saw what appeared to be tongues of fire, which came to rest on each person. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit of God, and began speaking in languages other than their own. Just as Jesus had promised, His followers were not alone, for His very presence was being manifested in them by the Spirit of God filling them.

– The HOPE, Chapter 12

OBSERVE & CONSIDER

On the eve of His crucifixion Jesus promised His disciples He would not leave them as orphans. He told them that the Father would send the Helper, the Holy Spirit (John 14:16), who would be with them forever. On the fiftieth day (the Pentecost) after His resurrection, Jesus’ promise was fulfilled. The Holy Spirit came and filled the followers of Jesus.

In Genesis 1:26 God speaks of Himself in a plural form. “Let us make man in our image.” In Matthew 28:19 Jesus said, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.” These verses (and many others1) speak to a truth that is clearly taught in the Bible, though not necessarily explained. God is one (Deuteronomy 6:4), and He is three–in–one. He is not one God with three parts. He is not three distinct Gods existing in community. God is three–in–one. This truth is known as the doctrine of the Trinity, and though it is supported by scripture it remains a mystery to the human mind.

Just as the Bible speaks of the Father and the Son as God, so also it speaks of the Holy Spirit as having the attributes of God:

Although He is God, manifesting all the attributes of God, the Holy Spirit does not draw attention to Himself. Rather most theologians would say that the ministry of the Holy Spirit is to mediate or manifest (make known) the person and presence of Jesus Christ in God the Father. In John 14:9, Jesus said, “He who has seen me has seen the Father.” The Holy Spirit reveals Jesus (John 15:26) and Jesus reveals the Father. Continue reading