RPM, Volume 17, Number 3, January 11 to January 17, 2015

The Biblical Theology of the Church

By Edmund P. Clowney

Emeritus professor of practical theology and former president of Westminster
Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.


A. Worshipping in the Spirit

In some countries of the world, the church may seem to bear a close resemblance to Ezekiel's vision. Critics picture the church as a dead remainder of another age, the age of faith. They assume that the church survives in a post-Christian society only until its elderly members are laid to rest and its ancient buildings are torn down or converted into museums. For believers too, the lament of Israel seems sadly appropriate, 'Our bones are dried up and our hope is gone; we are cut off' (Ezekiel 37:11).

Ezekiel's vision, however, is not a picture of despair, but of hope. At the command of God Ezekiel prophesies to the dry bones in the valley. There is a thundering earthquake, and the bones are brought together. Again Ezekiel prophesies and the Spirit of God breathes life in the valley of death.

The church that is the people of God and the body of Christ is also the fellowship of the Holy Spirit. Apart from the Spirit the church can be only an institutional sepulchre organizing the bones of dead men. Indeed, it may organize those bones in surprising ways: in the ecclesiastical catacombs of Lima, Peru, the bones are classified not in skeletons, but by bones!

The vision God gave to Ezekiel is not just a passing image of the contrast between human deadness and the life-giving Spirit of God. No, it presents the central promise of the prophets: God himself will come to bring life from death. In Ezekiel's vision, God's coming is in the outbreathing of his Spirit.

1. The Spirit of the Lord

God's covenant promise is 'I will be your God, and you shall be my people' (Lv. 26:12). That relation means that God claims his people for himself. They become his heritage, his precious possession (Ex. 34:9; Dt. 4:20; Ps. 33:12; Ex. 19:5; 1 Pet. 2:9). It also means that God graciously gives to his people a claim upon himself. He is their God. Christ comes to fulfil the covenant promise. He comes as Lord, to claim for himself the people of God, those that have been given to him by the Father (Jn. 17:2; 15:19). He also comes as the Servant, to be identified with his disciples, and to give himself, not only for them, but also to them. Union with Christ becomes the great theme of the Apostle Paul.

The relation of the Spirit to the church must be understood in the same way. The Spirit is Lord: the coming of the Spirit is the coming of the Lord; the presence of the Spirit is the presence of the Lord. As Lord, the Spirit claims the people of God as his own. But the Spirit also comes so that God's people might possess God as their own. The Spirit seals the relation between God and his people from both sides. In the Spirit God seals his inheritance: his possession of his people. In the Spirit we have the seal of our inheritance: possessing the Spirit, we possess God himself, our Saviour (Eph. 1:13, 14).

2. The Spirit as Possessor

It is the presence of God in the Spirit that forms the church as the worshipping assembly. If we think only of the gifts of the Spirit to be used in worship and neglect the presence of the Spirit, we shall lose from view the very reality that makes worship to be worship: the presence of the Lord. The great event described in Acts 2 is the epiphany of the Holy Spirit. James Dunn has pointed out that just as the first chapter of Luke's Gospel prepares for the coming of the Son in chapter two, so does the first chapter of Acts prepare for the coming of the Spirit in chapter two. 1 Indeed, the ministry of Jesus has an aspect of preparation as well as of fulfilment. The coming of the Spirit is the promise of the Father which the disciples are to await in Jerusalem (Acts 1:4). Jesus promised that he would not leave the disciples orphaned, but would come to them (Jn. 14:18). It is better for them that he should leave them in the body of his incarnation in order that he might come again in the power of his Spirit (Jn. 16:7). At Pentecost, Jesus both comes in the Spirit and baptizes with the Spirit. The presence of the Lord the Giver and the enduing of his Gift are not in conflict. In the wonder of worship that crowns our relation to God, we possess him as we adore him.

Pentecost: Continuity and Newness

Pentecost is the coming of the Lord, the Spirit, to fill his temple, and so it marks both the continuity and the newness of the church. Like Sinai, Pentecost manifests the presence of God in the flame of fire. The promise of the Father is being fulfilled. As Peter says, this is the promise of the covenant: 'The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off – for all whom the Lord our God will call' (Acts 2:39). Paul identifies the promise of the Spirit with the promise made to Abraham. The blessing promised to Abraham is fulfilled in the coming of the Spirit (Galatians 3:14).

Yet, while Pentecost must be understood in continuity with the promise of the old covenant, it is continuity in fulfilment. The epiphany of the Spirit fills the church of the new covenant with the presence of God. The Christian church is a Holy Spiritual church. After Pentecost, we cannot think of the church in merely Old Testament categories. The church is still the people of God, but it is the Spirit-filled people of God of the latter days. The church is still the disciples of Christ, but disciples who have their Lord in their midst and in their hearts by his coming in the Spirit. Of course, even to say that the church is still the people of God is not enough. Only by the coming of the Spirit is the full meaning of Israel's calling displayed. The new covenant does not destroy, it fulfils; it brings to realization the calling of the Father and the Son.

Fulfilment at the Feast of the First-Fruits

At the command of Jesus, the disciples remained in Jerusalem until the feast of Pentecost. In the divine plan it is appropriate that the coming of the Spirit should be in the setting of the feast of the first-fruits at Jerusalem. Jesus had fulfilled the Passover in the offering of himself; the great harvest ingathering could now begin. Further, the feasts prescribed in the law summoned all God's people to appear before him and to praise his name before the peoples of the world. In Jewish tradition, as early as the writing of the Book of Jubilees, Pentecost was associated with the giving of the law at Sinai. 2 Israel came to Sinai in the third month after the Passover, when she left Egypt (Exodus 19:1). It was assumed that this period was equivalent to the fifty days between the Passover and Pentecost, and that the law was given on Pentecost. The Book of Jubilees makes Pentecost the time of covenant renewal for Noah, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Jubilees adds that it was then forgotten until renewed again at Sinai. In any case, this feast at Jerusalem marks the great day of covenant renewal for the disciples. They are gathered together when the rush of a great wind is heard and tongues of fire divide to rest upon them. The outward phenomena link the epiphany of the Spirit at Pentecost with the whirlwind, the fire, and the earthquake of the divine epiphany at Sinai (Acts 2:1-3; cf. 4:31; Ex. 19:18; 20:18; 1Ki. 19:11-12).

Repentance, Covenant Renewal and Praise

As is fitting when the Lord manifests his power and glory, the people are called to repentance and faith. Peter's sermon summons the men of Israel to repent of the crime of the crucifixion, and to acknowledge their Messianic King, now raised to heavenly glory. The coming of the Spirit is the fulfilment of the renewal of the covenant that the prophets have promised. The coming of the Lord in power calls forth praise from the disciples. The gift of tongues by which they can utter their praises is not, of course, that which evokes praise. They are enabled to express their praises in the languages of the many pilgrims gathered at Jerusalem. But they are not praising simply because they can praise in languages other than their own. They are praising the Lord because he has come. The greatness and goodness of their God and Father, of their risen Lord and Saviour are made known to them. Peter's sermon clearly shows what the subject of his praise had been: the glory of his risen Lord. The Spirit who came from the throne filled the hearts of the disciples with knowledge of heaven's Lord.

In Luke's account, the missionary implications of Pentecost are clear. In their diverse languages the pilgrims in Jerusalem hear the mighty works of God wrought in Jesus Christ. The curse of the tower of Babel is reversed in the outpouring of the Spirit. But the implications for the worship of the church are equally evident. When God comes in the Spirit, the response is corporate praise.

As we have seen, God is worshipped for what he has done, and for who he is. That worship is elicited and intensified by the awareness of the immediate presence of God. As the Spirit came upon the disciples at Pentecost they were moved to praise God for his mighty works (Acts 2:11). These are, of course, his mighty acts of salvation in Christ, culminating in the resurrection and the ascension. The presence of the Spirit opened the hearts of the disciples to recognize the actuality and significance of the things that they had seen and heard, and of which they were witnesses. A change was wrought in their consciousness; yet it was not such as to focus their attention on themselves, but on the Lord. Peter does not preach his transformed consciousness, but the truth that his transformed consciousness clearly perceived: the risen glory of Christ, and, therefore, the need of his hearers to repent of their sins and be baptized in the name of Christ so that they, too, might praise him in the joy of the Spirit.

The Filling of the Spirit

At Pentecost the Spirit comes to abide, to dwell in the midst of the new people of God. The house is filled with the wind of the Spirit (Acts 2:2) as a sign that the church, the house of God, is filled with the Spirit. If Pentecost is the coming of the Spirit, a coming in which God the Father and Christ the Son also come to dwell in the temple of living stones, then how can impersonal figures be used to describe the coming of the Spirit? The term 'filling' can describe the movement of the wind or of water filling a vessel, but how can it be applied to a personal presence? Jesus compared the Spirit to the wind when he spoke with Nicodemus (Jn. 3:8); he likened it to water when he spoke to the Samaritan woman, and when he called temple worshippers to himself (Jn. 4:13, 24; 7:38, 39). Jesus was to baptize with the Spirit and with fire (Mt. 3:11); when he was baptized, the Spirit descended upon him as a dove (Mt. 3:16; Mk. 1:10; Lk. 3:22; Jn. 1:32).

Such figurative terms do not deny the personal presence of God in the Spirit. Rudolf Bultmann uses unfortunate language when he speaks of the Holy Spirit being conceived of in the New Testament both animistically and dynamistically. 3 But it is true that the Spirit is presented both as the Giver and the Gift. The key to understanding the ministry of the Spirit in the church is to hold together both aspects of his presence: not to forget that even when we speak of the power and enabling of the Spirit in figurative terms, we are describing the work of a Person. The figure of the Spirit as a wind filling the house suggests the overwhelming power of the Spirit's presence, driving out everything else and taking complete possession of the disciples (and, in this case, their entire environment). So, too, the possession of the Spirit can be compared to the overmastering influence of wine (Eph. 5:18). Another contrast is also suggested. The possession of the Holy Spirit may be contrasted with demon possession. The mastery that an evil spirit may have over a man can be only at the expense of his own liberty and manhood. The Gerasene demoniac healed by Jesus was a man who had been brutalized and depersonalized by demonic power (Lk. 8:26-39). Possession by the Spirit has the opposite result. Since the possessing Spirit is the Creator Spirit, his presence does not bring destruction or suppression, but fulfilment and affirmation. The filling of the Spirit is not the invasion of an alien power, but the infusion of the life-giving presence of the Creator who has come as Redeemer.

Filling of Christ and the Father

That the figure of filling does not diminish the personal presence of the Spirit is also clear from the fact that the same figure is also used of the presence of Christ and of the Father. Christ not only fills all things by his divine power (Eph. 1:23; 4:10); he also fills the church in a special sense, for the church is his body, 'the fulness of him who fills everything in every way' (Eph. 1:23). So, too, the Father fills the church. Paul prays for the church that it might be 'filled to the measure of all the fulness of God' (Eph. 3:19). Clearly, the filling of the Spirit, of Christ, of the Father, are not different things. To be filled with the Spirit means to 'know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge' (Eph.3:19); it means to have Christ present in one's heart and life. By the coming of the Spirit, the church becomes the church where Christ is present. If the triune personality of God's presence is lost from view, there is danger that the figures for the Spirit's power will be misunderstood and abused. The error of Simon Magus then begins to emerge (Acts 8:9-24). We may erroneously think of the Spirit only as a power, like electricity, perhaps. We may seek the gifts of the Spirit for their own sake rather than for the fellowship with God that they manifest. Jesus was filled with the Spirit in his ministry, and as James Dunn has well said, 'the Spirit fills us with Jesus'. 4

3. The Spirit as Possessed: Gifts of the Spirit in Worship

The gifts of the Spirit, then, must not be abstracted from the Spirit who gives them. We need to appreciate, however, the New Testament emphasis on the rich abundance of gifts that the Spirit provides for worship, and particularly for the corporate worship of the people of God. Proclamation of the Word of God, prayer, singing of the praises of God, offering ourselves to God, along with the ministry of our possessions: all these elements of worship are enabled by gifts of the Spirit (1 Cor. 12:28; 14:1, 6, 14, 15; 2 Cor. 9:12; Rom. 12:1, 2; 15:16; 1 Pet. 4:9-11). The Corinthian church, as Paul put it rather ironically, did not fall behind any church in the possession of spiritual gifts. The church was the fruit of Paul's ministry and the 'signs of an apostle' continued to be manifest whenever the church met for worship (2 Cor. 12:11-13). The worship of the Corinthian church, however, for all of the miraculous gifts that were evident, was not different in character from the worship of other churches less markedly endued. The miraculous gifts were the heightening of gifts of the Spirit given to all the church of Christ in every age and circumstance. The ministry of the Word need not be the inspired ministry of an apostle or prophet to be carried out by the charism of the Spirit. Paul prays for the Colossians, that they might be filled with the knowledge of God's will 'through all spiritual wisdom and understanding' (Col. 1:9). This is not to ask that they all be made prophets, but that they be enriched in their understanding of how the Word of God was to be wrought out in their walk of obedience. So, later in the Epistle, Paul says, 'Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God' (Col. 3:16). Under the blessing of the Spirit the richly indwelling word of Christ would yield spiritual wisdom, wisdom that would find expression in songs of worship pleasing to God and edifying to the saints. 5

We may fully recognize the extraordinary character of the gifts of the Spirit in Corinthian worship. Presumably, if a member of that church 'had a psalm' (1 Cor. 14:26), he or she had it by revelation of the Spirit; it was an inspired utterance. But the charisms, the gifts of the Spirit for worship are not limited to the Corinthian phenomena. It would undercut the worship of the church to fail to understand the illuminating work of the Spirit, granting the gifts of teaching, praise, ordering and caring that must mark the corporate devotion of those who have been gathered by the Spirit into the presence of the Lord. It is in the Spirit that the church is 'built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ' (1 Pet. 2:5). No greater gift for our worship can be found, however, than the gift of the Spirit's intercession for us. At best, we do not know what or how to pray in accordance with the perfect purpose and will of God, but the Spirit intercedes for us, and in us, with groanings that go beyond words. 6

B. Nurture in the Spirit

1. The Spirit's Work of Edification

The indwelling of the Spirit of God requires holiness of the church as his temple (1 Cor. 6:19, 20; 2 Cor. 6:16-7:1). That holiness is achieved by the Spirit's sanctifying work, in which he not only cleanses and renews the inward life of believers (Ezk. 36:27), but also uses the communion of the saints to minister to one another (1 Pet. 4:10). The figure of the erection of a building is often used to describe the development of the church in maturity and holiness. This figure has a strong Old Testament background. The building of the people of God is a term for his blessing. It is used in parallel with planting, and both have their opposites in figures of judgment: tearing down and plucking up (Je. 24:6). Israel was judged of the Lord for sin; the house of the Lord was torn down. But through the prophets came the promise of the rebuilding of the house of David (Am. 9:11), and of the temple (Ezk. 40:48). 'The concept of up building thus becomes a symbol of the gracious dealings of God with the remnant of his people, and is found in this sense in later Judaism's expectation for the future.' 7

Paul shows how closely the thought of building is linked with that of the temple. Jesus Christ, rejected of the builders, is the chief Cornerstone 'in whom the whole building, fitly framed together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord' (Eph. 2:21).

The organic figure of growth and the architectural figure of construction are blended together in those words of the apostle, just as planting and building are used together in the Old Testament. Paul speaks of himself and Apollos as fellow labourers. Paul plants and Apollos waters (1 Cor. 3:6). Alternatively, they can be thought of as builders. Paul works as a master builder, laying the foundation. Other builders add to the structure: they are warned to build in gold, silver, and precious stones, not wood, hay, or stubble (1 Cor. 3:10-15; Rom. 15:20). But while there are many farmers and builders working together, they are all in God's service. The church is God's tilled land, God's building (1 Cor. 3:9).

God the Source of Nurture

A number of major lessons about the development of the church are drawn from the twin figures of building and growing. One is that God is the source of the nurture of the church. Specifically, it is the work of the Holy Spirit to nurture the church as the body of Christ. God gives the increase (1 Cor. 3:7), and God gives it through the Spirit who gives life to the body and holiness to the temple (1 Cor. 3:9; cf. 3:16; Eph. 3:16-19).

Growth Is Corporate

A second major principle is that growth is corporate. The temple grows as a structure, composed of living stones. It is rare to find the concept of building, of 'edification', used in application to the individual believer (as it is in 1 Cor. 14:4). The same is true of the growth figure in the image of the body. The body grows as a unity; individual members function for the development of the whole body (Eph. 4:11-16). The mature man of full stature is the one new man in Christ, not first the individual believer.

Growth through Mutual Ministry

This leads to a third principle: that growth takes place through the ministry of the members of the body to one another. Every member of the body becomes a 'joint of supply' to contribute to the upbuilding of the whole (Eph. 4:16). The work of the Spirit is therefore not only internal within every believer, providing the fruits of the Spirit that conform the individual to the image of Christ; the work of the Spirit is also to provide the gifts of the Spirit for ministry, so that the members of the body can minister to one another. Since these gifts of the Spirit are varied and of varying importance for the growth of the body, another implication follows: there are those who have special callings to be builders and horticulturalists. Not all are apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors or teachers. Some Christians carry major responsibility for the ministry of edification because of the gifts they have received (1 Cor. 12:28; Rom. 12:8; Eph. 4:11, 12).

Growth Is Gradual

A fourth principle that appears in the use of these figures is that growth is gradual. Paul labours unceasingly to present every man perfect in Christ (Col. 1:28), and to present the church corporately as 'a pure virgin to Christ' (2 Cor. 11:2). Sanctification is not instantaneous and complete. The holiness of the church must be zealously defended and advanced. As Israel was led through the wilderness to be tested and proved, so the Spirit guides the New Testament church along a life-curriculum of testing and growth. When Jesus was baptized and filled with the Spirit for his ministry, the Spirit led him into the wilderness. The power and blessing of the Spirit does not remove us from the world but leads us in a programme of growth through trial.

The Centrality of Christ for Nurture

A final principle that is emphatic in these figures takes us back to the first: it is the centrality of Jesus Christ for the church. Christ is the Builder, the Foundation, the Cornerstone; his is the body; he is the Vine, and the disciples are the branches. The gifts and nurture of the Spirit are given in the body of Christ.

As we have seen, the church is missionary in its nature, and the upbuilding of the church, too, includes outreach as well as inward development. Paul uses the figure of the olive tree to describe the ingrafting of the Gentiles into the people of God (Rom. 11:17-24). He describes his own far-flung ministry as laying a foundation where none has been laid (Rom. 15:20). The gospel bears fruit and increases, just as Christians bear fruit and increase (Col. 1:6, 10). The emphasis of the figures of building and growth, however, is on the inward edification of the church as the body of Christ.

2. Nurturing by the Spirit of Life

The up building of the church in the Spirit flows from the nature of the Spirit as the Spirit of life (Romans 8:2), and the Spirit of Truth (Jn. 14:17; 15:26; 1 Jn. 4:6; 5:7). In the Old Testament man is given life by the divine inbreathing. The ruach, the breath or Spirit of God, is not an additive, provided to add rationality to a living animal; no, the Spirit that gives man life makes him to be man in the image of God (Gen. 2:7). In his vision of the valley of dry bones, Ezekiel saw God breathe new spiritual life in a people devoid of life or hope (Ezk. 37:5, 9, 10, 14). Jesus accordingly teaches Nicodemus that entry into the kingdom is by the new birth, the giving of life by the Spirit, who moves with sovereign mystery like the wind (John 3:3-8). After his resurrection, Jesus breathed upon the disciples, and said, 'Receive the Holy Spirit' (Jn. 20:22). Paul continually associates the Spirit with the resurrection of Christ (e.g. Rom. 1:4). He recalls the Genesis passage when the first Adam received life by the breath of God and compares it to the resurrection life of Christ: 'So it is written: "The first man Adam became a living being"; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit' (1 Cor. 15:45).

Apart from the life-giving power of the Spirit, the church remains an empty shell, whatever its form or verbal profession. Paul answers the critics of his doctrine of justification by faith by affirming the new life in the Spirit of those who have been united to Christ (Romans 6:1-11; 8:1Â17). The life of the Spirit bears fruit in the Christian graces (Gal. 5:22-24). By the Spirit the love of God is poured out in our hearts: the love in which the Father did not withhold his only Son, but delivered him up for us all (Rom. 5:5, 8; 8:32). The life given by the Spirit is not a mere feeling, but a new realm of existence in relationship to God. Love is the first of the fruits of the Spirit, and the New Testament constantly describes the love for God and for neighbour that fulfils the law. In the church of Christ, life together manifests a love that the world does not know, a love modelled on that love of God imparted by the Spirit. The unity of the church is forged by sharing in the Spirit, and in the love of the Spirit. Paul joins the fellowship or sharing of the Spirit with the encouragement of love, and with tender mercy and compassion (Phil. 2:1). The lowliness of mind that enables Christians to think of the concerns of others before their own is the fruit of the Spirit of Christ, who humbled himself to become obedient to the death of the cross. The life of the Spirit has the power of Christ's resurrection, the power of eternal life already begun (Rom. 8:11; Jn. 4:14; 7:37-39). The Spirit is the Spirit of glory (1 Pet. 4:14). But the Spirit is the Spirit of Christ's glory, glory that he entered by way of the cross. Itis precisely in and through suffering that the power of the Spirit becomes manifest (note the context of 1 Peter 4:14). Paul's description of the power and joy of the life of the Spirit leads him to turn again to the theme of suffering. The final triumph is that nothing can separate us from the love of Christ (Rom. 8).

3. The Nurture of the Spirit of Truth

The Spirit of life is also the Spirit of Truth. In the Old Testament, the Spirit as the Breath of God is closely linked with the word of God, since a spoken word is a vocalized breath. The prophets wrote as they were borne along by the Holy Spirit (2 Pet. 1:21). Indeed, it was the Spirit of Christ in the prophets who pointed to the sufferings of Christ and the glory that was to follow (1 Pet. 1:11). The key New Testament term for inspiration is theopneustos: it means 'GodÂbreathed', not so much breathed into the prophets (inspired) as breathed out by God. 8 The church spreads as the word of God increases and is multiplied (Acts 6:7; 12:24; 19.20). The letters of Christ to the seven churches of Asia are concluded with the admonition, 'He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says unto the churches' (Rev. 2:7). The apostolic witness is in the power and authority of the Spirit. Jesus promised that the Spirit, sent from the Father in his name, would bring to the remembrance of the apostles all the things that he had taught them (Jn. 14:25, 26). The Spirit would also reveal further things of Christ that the apostles could not receive during Jesus' earthly ministry (Jn. 16:12-14). The apostles and prophets are the foundation of the New Testament church because they are organs of revelation, receiving in the Spirit the mystery of the gospel of Christ (Eph. 2:20; 3:4-6). The church is apostolic because it rests upon that foundation: the revelation of Christ given once for all by the witnesses chosen of God and attested by signs given of the Spirit (Heb. 1:1, 2; 2:3, 4: Acts 10:40-42; 2 Cor. 12:12; Acts 2:42). The church dare not abandon the apostolic witness or seek to build on another foundation. God's own witness to his saving work has been given by the Spirit in his Word. For that reason the Word of God holds authority and priority. Saving truth is not our project, to be wrought out in practice and subsequently given theoretical expression. 9 Only the Spirit of God knows the deep things of God, and these are the things that were revealed to the apostles by the Spirit (1 Cor. 2:6-16). To be sure, we receive the apostolic witness in our own context of thought and life. There exists a reciprocal relation between our practice of the truth and our understanding of it. But the way of life opens to us through hearing the Word of God and believing God's witness to himself.

The Illumination of the Spirit

The Spirit who communicated through the apostles and prophets the deposit of sound doctrine (1 Tim. 6:20, 21; 2 Tim. 1:13) also works to illumine our understanding of the truth. The Spirit uses the Word as a sword to pierce our hearts, and to build us up in the knowledge of Christ (Heb. 4:12, 13; 2 Timothy 3:16). The edification of the church rests upon the work of the Spirit in giving understanding of the truth. The people of God are taught of him, as the prophets promised (Is. 54:13; Jer. 31:34; 1 Jn. 2:27; 1 Thess. 4:9; Jn. 6:45; Ephesians 1:17, 18).

To recognize the authority of Scripture is not to strip Scripture of all but authority. Jesus said that the words that he spoke were spirit and life (Jn. 6:63). Too often we think of written words as 'dead letters', forgetting the meaning of theopneustos. The God who speaks by revelation also opens our ears to hear. He discloses a wisdom that is foolishness to men but is his power to salvation. Growth in edification always begins with understanding the Word of God.

The Spirit who edifies is the source of life and of truth. In his work he draws us into a new existence, a new relation to God, to one another, and to the world. He is therefore not only the Spirit of life and of truth, but also the Spirit of sonship and of stewardship.

4. The Nurture of the Spirit of Sonship

As the Spirit of sonship, the Holy Spirit seals the new relation that we have with God through the gift of Christ's righteousness (Gal. 3:5, 4:6). 10 That sonship secures our inheritance (Rom. 8:17). Our status as the children of God is affirmed by the witness of the Spirit (Rom. 8:15, 16). Since the Spirit also renews us in the image of Christ, and leads us as the children of God, he ministers the vital union that we have with Christ as well as the representative union by which we are declared to be children of God. But the renewing of the Spirit that gives us growth in Christ rests upon the attesting and sealing work of the Spirit that affirms our position in Christ. It is far from being the case that the New Testament church is merely a servant church, differing from the world only in the task it has received. The church differs in status. It is the family of God, sealed by the indwelling Spirit of adoption. The Spirit seals God's claim on us, marking us as his possession (Eph. 1:14; 4:30). We might say that from God's side the Spirit of Sonship is the Spirit of Fatherhood. At the same time the Spirit seals our possession of God (2 Cor. 1:21; Eph. 1:14).

Those who have been sealed as the sons and daughters of God have not only the assurance of their position in Christ. They have also the experience of being children of God, in fellowship with God and with each other. The fruits of the Spirit provide growth in that fellowship. Because the Spirit pours out God's love in their hearts, they are drawn to respond in love for God (1 Jn. 3:1). They also learn to love one another (1 Jn. 4:11). The mind of the Spirit is life and peace (Rom. 8:6). The peace with God that their justification establishes becomes the source of the peace that guards and patrols their hearts in their relations to each other (Eph. 4:3; 1 Cor. 14:33; Col. 3:15; Phil. 4:7). So, too, the joy and hope of the Spirit turn believers toward God and toward the fellowship of the church (Phil. 4:4, 10; Rom. 8:23-25; 12:15; 15:14). Paul emphasizes the hope of the church in the Spirit. We taste now the first-fruits of the Spirit (Romans 8:23). The Spirit who is present in our hearts is the Spirit of Glory. He is the 'earnest', the down-payment of the life to come (Eph. 1:13; 2 Cor. 1:21). That is, in the Spirit we have not merely a sure promise of eternal life, but the beginning of that life. The fellowship with God and with the saints that we now experience is already a taste of heaven. What we will receive in heaven is marvellously greater in degree, but it is not different in kind.

Sonship in Suffering

At the same time, the status and experience of sonship in the Spirit does not remove us from the sorrows and sufferings of our existence in this world. To the contrary, it is the sons of God who are chastised that they might be corrected, and tested that they might be proved (Heb. 12:5-13; Rom. 5:34). God proved Israel as his son, leading the nation through selected experiences in the wilderness that he might prove them (Ex. 16:4; Dt. 8:2). This was the work of his Spirit (Is. 63:9-14; Ne. 9:20).

Educational goals are often stated in terms of knowing, doing, and being. The nurture of the church in the Spirit involves knowing the truth and knowing the Lord; it also involves our doing of the truth. The Spirit leads us in paths of proving, corrects us by his discipline, and continually calls us to the obedience of the children of God. The nurture of the Spirit also provides the provision and protection that is necessary for our new being, as those called from darkness into light.

Edification requires that we bring to the test the truth of God as we apply it to our experience. We must prove the will of God as we make decisions and choices (Phil. 1:9-11). Growth cannot be instantaneous; the guidance of the Spirit does not unroll before us the journey that our lives are to take. But the leading of the Spirit develops in us a growing wisdom to discern what is pleasing to God in our daily circumstances.

5. Nurture in the Stewardship of the Spirit

The Spirit of sonship is also the Spirit of stewardship. In claiming us as sons and daughters of God, the Spirit personally possesses us. In providing his gifts for ministry and service the Spirit gives himself to us, is possessed by us. The gifts of the Spirit for the edification of the church are granted toward the goals of the Spirit in enduing us. Since they are given to help us build up the body, they are 'other directed' gifts. The work of the Spirit enables us to seek, not our own things, but the things of others. Those who seek the things of Christ will seek the things of others (Phil. 2:20, 21). It would be vain and foolish to seek self-fulfilment in bringing to expression the gifts of the Spirit. The steward is a servant. He does not seek to advance his own cause, but the cause of his master. The faithfulness required of stewards is precisely this. When Paul describes the spiritual service that we are to bring to God, he makes continual use of the expression 'one another' (Rom. 12:5, 10, 16; 13:8; 14:13, 19; 15:5, 7, 14; 16:16). 11 The gifts of the Spirit endue a mutual ministry of edification: 'try to excel in gifts that build up the church' (1 Cor. 14:12; Col. 3:16). The members of the church are to be built up so that they may build one another up; this is not an end in itself, since the object is that each brother and sister, as well as the church as a whole, may be presented to God to his glory (Col. 1:28; Eph. 4:12f.; 2 Cor. 11:2). Edification equips for worship and also for witness in the world. Since the church is as light and salt the vocations of Christians must reflect the Lordship of Christ in all the spheres and activities of life. Edification, therefore, includes equipping the saints for their individual ministries in the world.

Gifts and Calling of Stewards

The gifts and calling of the stewards of the Spirit are interrelated. Since spiritual gifts are not to be wrapped in a napkin, but used, the possession of a gift that would make for the edification of the church constitutes a call for its exercise. As the possessor of such a gift seeks to serve Christ by its use, he commends himself to the church so that his or her gifts may be recognized (Rom. 16:1, 2). As Paul was called to be an apostle, so every Christian is called to be a saint, and is granted gifts to exercise in mutual ministry (Romans 1:1, 6, 7). Paul's calling, of course was to a special and foundational office in the church, but the principles are the same. Paul serves as an apostle because of the gift of grace given to him. He sometimes designates his office by the term 'the grace given me' (Rom. 12:3, 6; 15:15, 16).

Individuality of Gift Patterns

Our calling is of one Lord, to one hope, in one faith, but to many individual ministries or functions. Every Christian has a function to perform. Not all functions require public recognition for their proper exercise: a man may show mercy to a sick friend without needing anyone to recognize his ministry, or even to know of it. But if someone is to administer diaconal funds on behalf of the church, or to become a regular hospital minister in the name of the church, public recognition is necessary. Church offices as they are presented in the New Testament require groupings of gifts. A teaching elder, for example, must have gifts to rule as well as gifts to teach. Yet the constellation of gifts that an individual possesses are uniquely his own.

The individuality of gifts implies, therefore, that gifts are granted in a measure. No one but Jesus Christ possesses all the gifts of the Spirit in their fulness. Since gifts are measured, a man is not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think (Rom. 12:3). The Christian must judge soberly as to what his or her own gifts are (1 Cor. 7:17; 2 Cor. 10:13). Further, these gifts form a pattern. Paul's analogies to the members of the body suggest that. When Paul tells Timothy to stir up the gift that is in him, he is saying, in effect, 'take care to fulfil your function' (2 Tim. 1:6). On the one hand, the fruits of the Spirit conform us to the image of Christ, and make us resemble one another. On the other hand, the varying patterns created by the gifts of the Spirit cause us to differ from one another. We are, therefore, identified by our gifts. What I am to do in serving Christ's body is an expression of who I am in the Lord. A harmony exists in Christian identity and vocation that cannot be found outside of Christ.

It is well to remember that each Christian is a new creation in Christ. It is not merely the gifts freshly granted of the Spirit that are new. One's 'natural' gifts are also new in the Creator Spirit. Since all gifts are granted for service, we discover them not in the abstract, but in use. In the love of Christ, we seek to serve others. To be effective in that service, we may desire greater gifts than we have received. We may expect to grow in the effectiveness of our own ministries as we seek to build up Christ's church.

When all our gifts are marshalled in the service of the Lord, we will be faithful stewards (2 Cor. 4:1, 2; 1 Pet. 4:10; Eph. 4:1; Col. 1:10). This does not mean that all our gifts, natural and spiritual, will come into full use. The purposes of Christ's kingdom set priorities for us. Since our goal is not self-realization, we need not worry about 'wasted' talents. Heaven offers time enough, in any case!

The case of Samson warns us that spiritual gifts may be misused. Paul knew that some of his opponents were preaching Christ out of envy during his imprisonment in Rome (Phil. 1:15). The Apostle takes pains to warn against both envy and pride in the use of the gifts of the Spirit. Most importantly, all the gifts lose their meaning apart from love, love that recognizes the indebtedness to others of the gift that has been received (1 Cor. 13; Rom. 1:1; 14:15; 1 Cor. 9:16-23).

Patterns of Gifts in the Ordering of the Church

The pattern of the gifts of the Spirit granted to individuals establishes and supports a pattern in the structure of the church. The church is a body; in an organism there is both life and structure, ardour and order, to use the phrase of J. E. L. Newbigin. Often there has been tension between the advocates of vitality and structure in the church. At times this has been seen as a struggle between the spiritual and the institutional. But it is a mistake to equate the Spirit with life and not also with order. The Creator Spirit moves upon the face of the waters and brings order out of that which is without form and void. Paul must tell the rather frenzied Corinthians that God is not a God of confusion, but of peace. His instructions, he reminds the church, are not lacking in inspired authority, given of the Spirit (1 Cor. 14:33-40). The life of the Spirit is organic life, ordered life, life in the discipline of the family of God, in the structure of the Christian temple.

In particular, the ministry of the church is ordered of the Spirit to the goals that we have been examining: the goals of the worship of God, the edification of the church, and the evangelization of the world. The gifts of the Spirit to these ends are gifts for the ministry of the Word, the ministry of order, and the ministry of mercy. Further, these gifts are granted to some in greater measure; their stewardship needs to be recognised in the church. We may therefore distinguish between the general office of every believer and the special offices recognized for those with outstanding gifts in these areas. The mediatorial office of Jesus Christ is unique, standing above all office in his church. The attached diagram provides a schematic picture of the order of ministry in the church of Christ.

The Means of Ministry: Ministering the Word

The ministry of the Word is committed to every believer in the sense that every Christian must confess Christ before men, and be ready to give a reason for the hope that is in him (Rom. 10:10; 1 Pet. 3:15). This is, of course, a minimum. Christians should seek to be as effective as possible in ministering the Word in their families, and as they have opportunity to encourage their fellow Christians. Paul and the other New Testament writers emphasize the ministry of those who have been called to preach and teach the Word of God (Eph. 4:11; 1 Cor. 12:28; Rom. 12:7; 1 Pet. 4:11). There is danger that the church today, in resisting clericalism, will move to an opposite extreme. A popular exegesis of Ephesians 4:12 explains that official teachers are to equip the saints for their work of ministry. That exegesis may well be correct. Certainly Paul does think of every Christian serving as a joint of supply (v.16). But the structure of the whole passage still needs attention. The risen and glorified Christ gives the special teaching gifts to the church as the means of its growth to maturity in Christ. It is the priority of the Word of God that gives such prominence to the teaching gifts. Jesus Christ is the only Logos; his is the prophetic office that has inspired the Scriptures, through the Spirit. Ministers of the Word are his servants.

The Ministry of Order

The Spirit of truth establishes the ministry of the Word, the Spirit of holiness establishes the ministry of order. It is not enough for the church to know the truth. We must confirm in our lives the confession of our lips. The order of the church is the order of the law of love. Paul is dismayed that the Corinthians are prepared to take financial disputes before heathen magistrates. He argues that if they do not have qualified judges to handle such matters, they should choose unqualified ones. All they stand to lose is money! But, really, no Christian ought to be regarded as without qualifications. Do not the Corinthians know that one day they will judge angels? (1 Cor. 6:3). How much more may they judge the affairs that concern only this life! The lifestyle of the Christian community must be ordered by love in all things. The hortatory sections of the New Testament epistles regularly recognize that God has appointed authority structures for the ordering of life in Christ's church. Special gifts for governing are given of the Spirit (Rom. 12:8; 1 Cor. 12:28; 2 Tim. 5: 17). 'Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account …' (Heb. 13:17). Rule under the Lordship of Christ is not imperial domination, but self-giving service, yet it does carry authority; Christ has given the keys of the kingdom to establish order in his church. The discipline of government in the church maintains the glory of Christ's name, reclaims the offender, and bears witness to the world.

The Ministry of Mercy

Finally, since the Spirit is the Spirit of glory, the Spirit of the age to come, the ministry of mercy is part of the form of the church. Christ's miracles of compassion were signs of hope; they foreshadowed the final salvation of the Lord when the curse would be removed. The Christian church continues to show mercy in Christ's name in faith and hope given of the Spirit. Every Christian has hope through the witness of the Spirit (Rom. 8:23). The Spirit prays for us and with us, and we find healing and relief from the throne of grace. The Christian reflects the hope of the Spirit in the tenderness of his service to those in need. Every Christian must minister to others, even to the least of Christ's brothers (Mt. 25:31-46). The ministry of mercy is also exercised in a special sense by those whose gifts enable them to bring comfort, hope, cheer and counsel to those in distress (Acts 6:1-6; 1 Tim. 3:8-13; Rom. 16:1, 2).

C. Mission in the Spirit

1. Missio Dei

The mission of the Spirit is the mission of God who draws men and women to himself through Jesus Christ. By the work of the Spirit Jesus was incarnate in the womb of Mary (Lk. 1:35). The Spirit descended upon Christ at his baptism, enduing him for ministry as one filled with the Spirit (Mt. 3:16; Lk. 3:22; 4:14). The mission of Jesus was fulfilled in the Spirit. When the time came for Jesus to leave his disciples, he promised the coming of another Friend and Advocate, who would be sent by the Father and the Son (Jn. 14:16; 15:26). The Holy Spirit would continue the divine mission. After the resurrection, Jesus told the disciples to remain in Jerusalem until they received the promise of the Father. This was the baptism of the Holy Spirit that Jesus alone could provide. It was the blessing that he would send from the throne of glory (Acts 1:4, 5; 2:33).

In the introduction to the Book of Acts, Luke refers to his Gospel, the first volume of his account about Jesus. Luke says that in the Gospel he recounted the things that Jesus 'began to do and to teach' (Acts 1:1). He evidently intends in his second volume to tell about what Jesus continued to do and teach. Jesus no longer appears in his resurrection body in Acts, except for his meeting with Saul on the Damascus road. Instead, Luke's second book is filled with references to the Holy Spirit. From the coming of the Spirit at Pentecost the great movement of the mission of the Spirit is evident. The initiative is always with the Spirit, who calls, empowers, and directs in the spread of the gospel from Jerusalem (where Peter preaches to the Jews), to Rome (where Paul teaches the Gentiles).

The Spirit uses believers as his instruments, but he shows his sovereignty in the whole mission enterprise. Peter well acknowledges, 'We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him' (Acts 5:32). Peter's own understanding had to be enlarged by a special vision before he was prepared to go to the house of Cornelius (Acts 10:9-16). The leaders of the Jerusalem church were shocked when they heard that Peter had baptized the uncircumcised Gentile centurion and his household. But the Spirit had again taken the initiative. He had fallen on those Gentiles as they heard the preaching of Peter. 'They had no further objections and praised God, saying, 'So then, God has granted even the Gentiles repentance unto life' (Acts 11:18).

The Spirit guides the church in choosing Spirit-filled men for its ministry (Acts 6:3), but the Spirit also intervenes directly in choosing whom he will. Jesus meets Saul the persecutor; Saul is filled with the Spirit (Acts 9:17), and the Spirit commands that Saul and Barnabas be separated as the first mission task-force to carry the gospel overseas (Acts 13:1-4). Luke tells us how Paul's journeys are directed by the Spirit (Acts 16:6, 7). Even through opposition and persecution the Spirit guides in scattering the church and thrusting forth witnesses to Christ.

The Mission of the Spirit for the Glory of God

The Spirit reveals divine power in accomplishing his mission. His task is to exalt Jesus Christ and to glorify the Father. The disciples, as they fulfil the Great Commission, are to baptize into the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. In mission, the Spirit is one with the Triune God.

The work of the Spirit in oneness with Christ is pictured in the Book of Revelation. There John beholds seven Spirits before the throne (Rev. 1:4). But the seven Spirits belong to Christ (Rev. 3:1); they may reflect the seven-fold enduing of the Messiah (Is. 11:2). In the intricacy of the vision, the seven Spirits are also the seven eyes of the Lamb, seeing and directing all things (Rev. 7:5). By the Spirit, Christ's work will be brought to consummation glory.

The Spirit, as the Spirit of glory, leads the mission of Christ's kingdom forward as well as heavenward. Jesus has returned to heaven, as Peter declared, until the 'time … for God to restore everything' (Acts 3:21). The outpouring of the Spirit points to the final cosmic renovation that will accompany the coming of the great day of the Lord (Acts 2:19, 20). The fire of the baptism of the Spirit signifies that renovation (Lk. 3:16, 17). If the disciples are endued rather than consumed by the flame of heaven, it is because the fire is the baptism of their Lord. He has borne the searing flame of judgment, having been baptized in that fire (Lk. 12:49, 50). Now his baptism of fire upon them cleanses and renews, but does not destroy.

Vindication by the Spirit's Mission

The Spirit's purpose in glorifying Christ is accomplished in a mission that brings judgment as well as blessing. The Spirit as Advocate brings the case for the prosecution against the world (Jn. 16:8-11). 12 The world stands convicted for the sin of unbelief. The Spirit also brings a verdict against the world with respect to Christ's triumphant righteousness, sealed by his ascension. Satan, the Prince of this world and the Accuser of the brethren, is also convicted and condemned. In Paul's confrontation with Elymas the power of the Spirit in judgment is evident. Ananias and Sapphira are judged for lying to the Spirit (Acts 5:3); Stephen accuses his hearers of resisting the Spirit (Acts 7:51). The mission of the Spirit of glory in a rebellious world brings conflict, as the history of missions after Acts continues to show.

2. The Mission of the Church in the Spirit

The mission of the church is carried out through ministries of the Word, of life (or order) and of mercy. In all of these areas the church witnesses through the Spirit. The witness of the Word is required of every believer, for every Christian must confess the name of Jesus Christ (Rom. 10:9, 10; Mt. 10:32f.). This confession must often be made before sceptical or hostile audiences. Every Christian must be prepared 'to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have' (1 Pet. 3:15). The questioner in such a case may well be a magistrate before whom the Christian stands accused. In such circumstances, the Holy Spirit will be the teacher of the accused, fulfilling his role as Advocate (Mt. 10:20; Mk. 13:11; Lk. 12:12; 2 Cor. 13:3). The New Testament never suggests that all Christians have the gifts of an evangelist, a pastor, or a teacher (1 Cor. 12:29). Skill in presenting the claims of the gospel, wisdom in expounding the Scriptures to show their testimony to Christ: these are special gifts of the Spirit. But, significantly, no Christian may be ashamed of Christ. The greatest obstacle to the spread of the gospel is not the limits of the believer's understanding or powers of expression. It is the limits of his courage and faithfulness. Faithfulness will often be put to the test in the life of the church and the experience of the Christian. For that reason, the witness of every Christian is put in the context of confession under scrutiny and duress. In the Book of Acts we have records of the witness of gifted men on trial, speaking as the Spirit gives them expression (Acts 4:8; 5:29-32; 22:3-21; 24:10-21). The filling of the Spirit endues Christians to speak the Word with boldness (Acts 4:31).

The Witness of Life

The verbal witness of the church is supported and extended by the witness of the life of the believing community. The apostolic church, 'encouraged by the Holy Spirit it grew in numbers, living in the fear of the Lord' (Acts 9:31). The grace of the Spirit that built up the church became the ground of the growth of the church. Barnabas, 'a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith', was called to mission after he had manifested his gifts in encouraging the saints in their walk with the Lord (Acts 11:23f.). As in the Old Testament, the very separation and holiness of the people of God (2 Cor. 6:17-7:1) becomes a witness, like that of a city set upon a hill. Seeing the good works of the Spirit-filled church, the nations will be brought near, will fall down and declare that God is in the midst of his people (Mt. 5:16; 1 Cor. 14:25). As the last cited passage shows, the gifts of the Spirit for worship and for edification have their own attractiveness with respect to witness. The spiritual holiness of the church, by its contrast with the corruption of a heathen world, will shine as a light of witness (Phil. 2:12-18).

As we have seen, the Spirit perfects the church in holiness through a godly discipline. The order of the law of love structures the life of the church. That self-denying love must also reach out to others (1 Thess. 3:12). Christians must be concerned for the peace of the city where they are passing residents. They pray for those in authority to this end, knowing the importance of a context in which the gospel can be spread (1 Tim. 2:1-4). It is part of the mission of the church to witness to God's standards of righteousness in the midst of a world where they are defied. Especially the lay members of the church must penetrate with their witness the spheres of work, government, and leisure where they are involved. The church penetrates like salt or leaven, not with physical force; it is the work of the Spirit that enables this penetration. The weapons of our warfare are not physical, but spiritual, as Paul reminds us (2 Cor. 10:3-5).

Witness of Mercy

The witness of the church is extended through the ministry of mercy. This appears clearly in the ministry of Jesus Christ. The miracles he performed were not wonders of judgment, but of healing and forgiveness. Jesus identified his own ministry in terms of the prophecy of Isaiah 61. He was anointed of the Spirit to preach the gospel to the poor, to proclaim release to the captives, recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty the bruised and to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord (Lk. 4:18, 19). The year of the Lord is God's own fulfilment of the year of Jubilee in the law of Moses (Leviticus 25). It was the fiftieth year in the sacred calendar, the year when all debts were to be cancelled, all Israelite slaves set free, and every man restored to his own inheritance. God's great day of restoration and renewal would accomplish all that was symbolized in the year of Jubilee. Jesus announces the fulfilment in himself, and proclaims that he is the Anointed One who will do all that the oracle promises. In his ministry of healing Jesus revealed the mercy of God's salvation. His miracles were signs of hope pointing to the final blessing in store for those who trusted in him. Again, the work of the Spirit is an anticipation of glory, an intrusion into the present of the joy that will come at last.

In the early church the work of ministering to the poor and afflicted took on such large proportions that the apostles were overwhelmed, and sought relief so that they might give priority to prayer and the ministry of the word. Those who were chosen to assist the apostles were men 'full of the Spirit and wisdom' (Acts 6:3). The involvement of others in the administration of benevolence did not end the ministrations of the apostles themselves. Miracles of healing were performed by Peter, John, and other apostles. The 'signs of an apostle' given of the Spirit were signs that conformed to the ministry of Jesus, who was anointed with the Spirit, and who 'went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil …' (Acts 10:38; cf. Heb. 2:4; Acts 5:12-16). Peter speaks of the stewardship of the gifts of the Spirit as benevolent sharing of what we have received, shown for example in the grace of hospitality (1 Pet. 4:10). Those who sow to the Spirit will be eager to show kindness to all men as they have opportunity, especially, of course, to the household of faith (Gal. 6:8-10).

3. The Missionary Gifts

The Spirit moves the whole church to witness to Christ in word and deed, but the Spirit also structures the church for witness according to the gifts that he imparts. The gifts and office of the apostle are first in the church, because the apostles, as we have seen, are foundation stones. Inspired apostolic teaching is the foundation upon which the church rests. But the apostles are also those who are sent into the world with the message of the gospel. Barnabas, who shared the missionary task, is called an apostle along with Paul.

Barnabas did not share the foundational calling of the twelve, but he did share their evangelistic labours (Acts 14:14). If the first office in the church, supported by unique gifts of the Spirit, is a missionary office, we are reminded again that the church itself is a missionary organization. Its missionary calling may be blunted by worldliness or smothered by worldly institutionalism, but the gifts of the Spirit do not move it in that direction. Unfortunately, the foundational aspect of the apostolic office, the authority of the apostles in delivering to the church the teachings of Christ, has been emphasized to the detriment of the missionary calling that they fulfilled. This may seem strange in view of the extensive information that we have in the New Testament about that apostolic missionary par excellence, the Apostle Paul. Still more unfortunate is the obscurity that has been allowed to surround the New Testament record about the office of the evangelist. At the time of the Reformation, the vast number of clergy at all levels in the hierarchy without pastoral charges was rightly seen as an abuse in need of correction. Appeal had been made to the office of the evangelist to justify ordination to hierarchical position (on the ground that Timothy and Titus were evangelists who ordained elders: 1 Tim. 5:22; Titus 1:5). 13 To avoid this possible conclusion, the Reformers linked the office of the evangelist to the office of the apostle so closely that both were held to have ceased with the apostolic age. 14 As a consequence, the missionary character of the church itself was diminished or lost from view for a large segment of Protestantism. When the church was reawakened to its missionary calling in the latter part of the eighteenth century, much of the organization of the mission was assumed to be unconnected with New Testament teaching regarding office. To this day the tendency persists. Missionary structure has been adapted to para-ecclesiastical forms that may be shaped more in the model of a business or political organization than the order of Christ's church.

Of course, the office of the evangelist is not the only missionary office in the church, although it has a distinctive missionary focus. Pastors and teachers are necessarily involved in proclaiming the gospel. Paul writes to the church at Rome and speaks of his desire to preach the gospel to them: something that he does in his epistle (Rom. 1:15). Deacons, particularly, are involved in witness as they exercise their gifts of helping and healing. As we recognize the missionary dimension of all church office, the outreach of the church can be seen to include not only the evangelist to preach the gospel, but the use of every gift of the Spirit by the widest range of gifted Christians. The fellowship of the Spirit that binds Christians together also calls and equips them to be Christ's envoys to the ends of the earth.


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Presbyterian and Reformed, 1969. Edmund P. Clowney, THE BIBLICAL DOCTRINE OF THE CHURCH. Vol. I. Philadelphia: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1979. Yves M.-J. Congar, SAINTE EGLISE. Paris: du CerE, 1964. Alan Cole, THE BODY OF CHRIST. London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1964. Oscar Cullmann, PETER. Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1953. Avery Dulles, MODELS OF THE CHURCH. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1978.

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J. Robert Nelson, THE REALM OF REDEMPTION. London: Epworth Press, 1951. Lesslie Newbigin, THE HOUSEHOLD OF GOD. London: SCM Press, 1957. Anders Nygren, CHRIST AND HIS CHURCH. Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1956. Wolfuart Pannenberg, THE CHURCH. Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1983. Lloyd M. Perry, GETTING THE CHURCH ON TARGET. Chicago: Moody Press, 1977. John H. Piet, THE ROAD AHEAD: A THEOLOGY FOR THE CHURCH IN MISSION. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1970. Karl Rahner, THE SHAPE OF THE CHURCH. London: SPCK, 1974. John A. T. Robinson. THE BODY. Boston: Regnery, 1952. Robert L. Saucy, THE CHURCH IN GOD'S PROGRAM. Chicago: Moody Press,1972. Edward Schillebeeckx, THE MISSION OF THE CHURCH. N.Y.: Seabury Press, 1973. Rudolf Schnackenburg, THE CHURCH IN THE NEW TEST AMENT. W. J. O'Hara, trans. N.Y.; Herder & Herder, 1965. Hans Schwarz, THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH. Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1982. Juan Luis Segundo, THE COMMUNITY CALLED CHURCH. Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis, 1973. Howard A. Snyder, THE PROBLEM OF WINESKINS. Downers Grove, Ill.: Inter-Varsity Press, 1977. Howard A. Snyder, THE COMMUNITY OF THE KING. Downers Grove, Ill.: Inter-Varsity Press, 1977. Alan Stibbs, GOD'S CHURCH. London: Inter-Varsity Press, 1959. Thomas F. Torrance, ROYAL PRIESTHOOD. Edinburgh: Oliver & Boyd, 1955.

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This essay first appeared in The Church in the Bible and the World: An International Study, D. A. Carson (ed.), (Baker/Paternoster, 1987, 1993), 13-87, 303-07 and is used here with permission. No part of this essay may be copied or transmitted in any form without the permission of the publishers.


  1. James D. G. Dunn, Baptism in the Holy Spirit (London 1970) 45.
  2. See Eduard Schweizer, 'Pneuma', TDNT 6, 411; Eduard Lohse, 'Pentekoste' ibid. 48; James D. G. Dunn, Jesus and the Spirit (Philadelphia 1975) 140; Baptism in the Spirit 48.
  3. Rudolf Bultmann, Theology of the New Testament (New York 1951) 1, 155-157.
  4. See James D. G. Dunn, Jesus and the Spirit 322, 323.
  5. See Peter T. O'Brien, Colossians, Philemon (WBC; Waco, TX 1982) 206-211.
  6. Michel de Goedt, 'The Intercession of the Spirit in Christian Prayer (Rom. 8:26-27)', in Christian Duquoc and Claude Geffre, eds., The Prayer Life (New York 1972) 26-28.
  7. Herman Ridderbos, Paul: An Outline of His Theology (Grand Rapids 1975) 429-430.
  8. B. B. Warfield, 'God-Inspired Scripture', in S. G. Craig, ed., The Inspiration and Authority of the Bible (Philadelphia 1948) 245-296. Cf. J. I. Packer, 'Fundamentalism' and the Word of God (Grand Rapids 1958) 75-114.
  9. For this concept of theory and praxis see Gutierrez, op. cit. , 'Theology as Critical Reflection on Praxis', 6-15.
  10. Geerhardus Vos, 'Paul's Eschatological Concept of the Spirit', in Richard B. Gaffin, Jr., ed., Redemptive History and Biblical Interpretation: the Shorter Writings of Geerhardus Vos (Phillipsburg, NJ 1980) 110.
  11. Gene A. Getz, Building Up One Another (Wheaton, Ill. 1976).
  12. Leon Morris, Commentary on the Gospel of John (Grand Rapids 1971) 697-698.
  13. Similar arguments have been advanced in support of hierarchical orders of ministry within the Reformed churches. See Thomas Witherow, The Form of the Christian Temple (Edinburgh 1889) 326-338.
  14. The Form of Presbyterian Church-Government Agreed upon by the Assembly of Divines at Westminster 49: 'The officers which Christ hath appointed for the Edification of his Church… are, Some extraordinary, as Apostles, Evangelists, and Prophets, which are ceased…'.
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