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Purpose and Function of the Holy Spirit
By David A. DePra
And, being assembled together with them, commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith he, ye have heard of me. For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence. When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel? And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power. But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth. And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight. (Acts 1:4-9)
In these verses we have a description of the "baptism of the Holy Spirit." Jesus said that POWER – ability – shall come upon them. The result, says Jesus, is that they "shall be witnesses" unto Him.
A true witness is someone who gives testimony to the truth about someone or something. Thus, a witness to Christ is someone who tells the Truth about Jesus. But what is involved here is more than words. For they were to be "baptized" with the Holy Spirit. Thus, when Jesus said THEY would BE witnesses to Him, He meant wasn’t simply saying, "You shall go around speaking true words about Me." No. He was saying, "YOU – your lives – shall witness to Me. YOU shall BE that to Me."
It is important here to see that Jesus is talking about what the disciples were to BECOME, and not merely DO. Anyone can go around talking about Jesus. And there is nothing wrong with sharing the gospel. But a real witness for Christ is someone who actually belongs to Him. It is someone whose life – with all of it’s flaws – nevertheless points to Christ. A real witness says, "This is not about me. This is about Christ. THIS is what Jesus has done for me. I am the result of His Redemption."
A witness to Christ does not point to himself. He points to Christ. Even when we sin, we say, "Jesus paid for that sin." Even when we do well, we say, "This is because of what Jesus has done." A witness for Christ, over the course of time and growth, starts to look like Christ – in a moral and spiritual sense – as much as can be through a fleshly body.
This is only possible because of the baptism of the Holy Spirit. We can only be a witness to Christ OUTWARDLY if we have Him living in us. Note the words of the apostle John:
If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater: for this is the witness of God which he hath testified of his Son. He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself: he that believeth not God hath made him a liar; because he believeth not the record that God gave of his Son. And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. (1 John 5:9-11)
The fact is, unless our witness to Christ is the result of that "witness within" being worked out, it is nothing more than dead religion. Anyone can ACT religious, or do things which LOOK holy. But God wants our lives to be a witness which is a manifestation of Jesus Christ in us. (see Col.1:27)
The purpose and function of the Holy Spirit is to take everything of Jesus Christ, and make them real and livable TO us, IN us, and THROUGH us. This is what it means to BECOME a witness for Christ. We receive Him IN US. We grow to allow Him to live THROUGH US. This is so as individuals, and it is so as a Body of believers.
When you hear the term, "church," you might think about a building or an organization. But THE church of the Bible is neither. In the Bible, God’s church is PEOPLE. Saved people. The church is a spiritual household, consisting of all who are part of the Body of Christ.
The NT word for "church" is the Greek "ekkesia," which means "called out ones." Note the word, "ONES." Not, "called out organization." Nope. The church is a BODY OF BELIEVERS which is composed of "called out ONES." You cannot have a body unless you have distinctive individuals in it.
So what exactly does it mean that someone is a "called out one?" It means that they are called out of the world TO Jesus Christ. But not just in the sense that God says, "I wish you’d come over here and get religion." No. The calling is deliverance. It is the call of God to those who are dead in sin – that they might have life eternal. It is a call which we choose to either ignore or respond to by faith.
Another term helps define the church. God refers to those in the Body of Christ as "saints." The words means, "holy one," and comes from the root, "hagios," which means, "to be set apart for God’s use." In effect, a saint is one who BELONGS TO GOD. Sure. The Bible says:
What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's. (1 Cor 6:19-20)
A saint is someone who belongs to God because a saint became a saint by relinquishing any notion of belonging to himself, and by unconditionally surrendering himself to God. So, if you are a saint, you GOT THAT WAY by giving yourself to God. The very definition of your relationship to Him is that you belong to Him.
This is what it means to be a called out one: To be called to belong to God through Jesus Christ. The purpose of the Holy Spirit is to make that relationship real in every way – in us and through us. The work of the Holy Spirit will make us manifest the fact that we belong to God – which IS a witness of Jesus Christ, the One who bought us.
The reason the church got off the track early was that belonging to the church began to take precedent over belonging to God. Behind this, of course, was more than just a wrong idea. Behind it was unbelief, disobedience, and Satan himself. Sure. If you can make "belonging to a church" equal to "belonging to God," then you remove all individual and personal experience and responsibility to God. And if you make, "belonging to a church" equal "belonging to God," then you can control people. Just threaten them with excommunication. Tell them that if they are kicked out of the church that they are kicked out of heaven for all eternity.
The Truth about the relationship between myself, God, and the rest of the church, is clear in scripture: You are not "in Christ" because you are in a church. Rather, you are in the church because you are "in Christ." You are a member of the Body of Christ FIRST. Then you are members of each other in that Body.
Down through two-thousand years of church history, there have been a number of distortions of Truth which seem to pop up again and again. This Truth, that you are only in the church because you are first in Christ, is a Truth which people often get backwards. So many people believe that you are "in Christ" because you are "in church." They may not say it quite that way, but the inference is that if you are a member of a church that you must surely be a Christian; must surely be "in Christ." Yet nothing could be farther from the Truth.
The reality is, church membership has nothing to do with being a member of the Body of Christ. Neither is being associated with any group – even one which is teaching Truth. I am either in Christ or I am not – by personal and individual faith. But once I am in Christ, I am in His church, and a member of His body. And it is under that same dynamic of personal relationship to Christ FIRST that I operate in that Body.
You cannot be saved by proxy. You cannot get a "piggy back ride" into the kingdom of God. You must embrace Christ by faith – YOUR faith. You must answer God’s call to be a "called out one." Salvation is an individual blessing and an individual responsibility. Only then do you become a member of the Body of Christ and enter into fellowship.
Paul said, "There is one Mediator between God and man, that man, Jesus Christ." (I Tim. 2:5) The church is NOT a mediator between God and man. No group is. No leader is. Jesus is the only Mediator between EACH person and God. To repeat our earlier point, you cannot "plug into God" by first "plugging into" the church. Rather, you must first, "plug into God" through Jesus Christ. Then, you ARE in the church.
Some people, however, have wrongly taught that once you are IN the church, that your relationship with God is sort of "maintained" by your submission to the Body of Christ. This is also error. Your ministry, your worth, your relationship to others, in the Body of Christ, is governed by your relationship to God. It is always myself and God FIRST, and then my relationship with others.
To say this another way, our horizontal relationship with others is NOT equal to our vertical relationship with God. That is utter nonsense. Our vertical relationship with God is PRIMARY, and actually governs the horizontal.
Jesus said, "I am the Vine, and you are the branches." (John 15:5) Jesus is the Source for each branch. HE is why each branch is able to bear fruit. The branches have a relationship with each other, but only because they have a common VINE.
No better example could be given than that of the BODY of Christ. We are told that Christ is the HEAD of the body, of which we are all members, or parts. There is not more than ONE head. So even though each of the parts of the body have a connection and relationship with each other, ALL those parts get direction from the HEAD. Indeed, nothing at all functions without the head giving the direction.
Again, my relationship to Christ, the Head, determines my relationship with the rest of the Body. If there is something wrong between myself and Christ, it will eventually reflect towards my brethren. It has to. And if I am walking with Christ, the Head, then I will be health to the rest of the Body. It is ALWAYS my vertical relationship with Christ first, and then the horizontal.
But what about ministry? Aren’t we supposed to help each other? Sure. But my ministry to you is that you might be solid in your relationship to the Head. And yours to mine. We are to build up each other in Christ. And if we do, we will be, to each other, that which also glorifies God.
People talk about not being independent of one another, but in doing so, miss the whole point. Having my relationship with God FIRST is not being independent, because I am depending on HIM. And if I am depending on Him, I will be His gift to YOU. And visa versa. The dependency of the Body upon each other is always the outcome of each member putting God first in their lives.
One of the greatest mistakes of the Christian church has been to try to make these things work – but by leaving Christ off as the Head of EACH member. If I try to be your head, then I will end up coming between you and Christ, and will actually be your mediator. This is wrong. The work of the church is to present EACH person mature in Christ. This is accomplished by getting EACH member into business with Him for themselves.
Being a Witness
I stated earlier that the purpose of the Holy Spirit is to take everything about Jesus and His Redemption and make it real and livable in and through us. More specifically, this means that God seeks to be in a process of bringing every part of us under the power of the Cross and the power of the resurrection. He wants to bring our mind and our emotions under the Redemption. He wants more than what we DO. He wants all of US.
But doesn’t He have all of us if we are saved? Sure. On paper. If we gave ourselves to Christ, God took all of us. But there is more to the Christian life than getting saved and going to heaven. God wants us to experience His Redemption NOW. We will never be able to experience anywhere near the fullness of the Redemption in this life. But He wants us to begin the process.
There are a number of different ways to say this same thing. For instance, if you are born again a new creation in Jesus Christ, you should be growing to look, act, and function like one. This is not a matter of earning salvation, maintaining salvation, or even making sure we don’t "lose" salvation. It is a matter of living IN our salvation. What? Do we think that we can have Christ in us, and be baptized in the Holy Spirit, and it not make any difference?
The fact is, if we are in Christ, our salvation, as a fact, is FINISHED. But God isn’t finished with us. He wants to take everything that pertains to salvation and make it real and living in us. He cannot do this by waving His hand. It only happens as we slowly CHOOSE, by faith and obedience, to live out the surrender we made when we gave our lives to Christ.
Those who have begun to come under the Redemption NOW are becoming witnesses NOW. Do you see that? Once the Holy Spirit begins to take Jesus – His Redemption – and do a work by it
The Image of Christ
When we talk about being made a witness for Christ, we are talking about being conformed to HIS image. Of course. But what exactly does that mean? It clearly has nothing to do with a physical likeness. It has to do with a moral and spiritual likeness.
At the top of the list, we bear the image of Christ when we have the same relationship with God as He had. This is FAITH, and then obedience. Faith is the continual attitude of trust in God, and reliance upon Him. Faith means I am unconditionally surrendered to God, and live like it.
When a statement like this is made, however, we are apt to think that we are supposed to be perfect to bear the image of Jesus. No. What we are supposed to be is perfectly reliant upon His Redemption. As was the case with Abraham, we are supposed to place our faith in Christ, keep in there, and the result is that God, "reckons to us His righteousness." Being a person whose faith is in Christ, despite all of our flaws, is what it means to be a true witness of Christ.
To conform us to the image of Jesus Christ is THE purpose of God for this age. It is what He wants to do in His people:
And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified. (Rom 8:28-30)
The "good" towards which "all things work together" is the purpose of God. And that purpose is said to be, "that we might be conformed to the image of His Son." This is what God wants to do in this age in His church. But ask: Is it what we are allowing Him to do?
Purpose of the Body
For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office: So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another. (Rom 12:4-5)
Each Christian is a member of Christ, and consequently, of each other. However, as mentioned earlier, none of this works unless Christ is the HEAD for each member. If the members try to be "the head" of each other, the result is disaster.
This is, however, exactly the error much of the church has made over the last two thousand years. The purpose of all ministry should be to anchor each member to the HEAD. It should be to center each branch in the Vine. Instead, we have created popes, gurus, cults, and every manner of substitute, and told people they have to "submit" to such if they want to have a relationship with God.
We have to get this: I am of no value to you as a fellow member of the Body of Christ unless Christ Himself is my head and anchor. You are of no value to me either unless this is likewise true for you. It does not matter how wonderful of a relationship we might try to fashion. The only way I can be to you what God wants me to be to you is if I am right with God!
If my faith is not in Christ, and I am walking in error, and you are in the same condition, we might get along fine. We might have a nice church, and have total unity – in the SAME error! But where is Jesus in all of this? No where. He has neither of us in the relationship He wants. The only solution is for each of us to get right with Him. Then we will be right with each other.
If I am right with God by faith, and you are right with God by faith, then we will be right with each other. We CANNOT get right with God by trying to get right with each other first! We cannot.
Ministry is never supposed to make the members of the body reliant upon each other. It is supposed to make each other reliant upon God. In other words, if I have any reliance upon you, it is that you might show me how to place my faith, not in you, but in God! It is never our job to create others in our own image. We are to get them into business with God.
Paul tells us directly the purpose of the Body of Christ:
And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ. (Eph 4:11-13)
Clearly, all that is mentioned in this passage is unto the end that we might grow together to bear the image of Jesus Christ, both individually and as a body. The sobering reality is, few churches even KNOW this. If this is the purpose of God for this age, and we don’t know it, let alone yield to God in it, how can anything result but confusion?
It is time for the people of God to get back to the basics. What is the purpose and function of the Holy Spirit? To make of us witnesses. To bring us into some measure of conformity with Jesus Christ. To preach the gospel, yes, but to live the gospel. Until we get back to Jesus Christ as our reason for living, we will not get far in the purposes of God.
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