I do not think that the American church is dependent upon the Spirit’s empowerment. Most of what takes place among our local gatherings may be able to occur without the Holy Spirit. This is tragic because Jesus depended on the Spirit’s empowerment for His ministry (Luke 4) and He sent the first church in the power of the Spirit (Acts 1:8). Josh Kouri is leading a Spirit-empowered church in Oklahoma City. His words below are an encouragement to me. — Scott Thomas, Acts 29 President
Paul rebukes his friends for acting as mere humans in 1 Corinthians 3. Their carnal, man-focused approach to church and life has left them spiritually stunted and weak. Instead of growing up and thriving as a church, they are divided, anemic, and impotent. With patience and love, Paul reminds them that God is the one who builds His church. The essence of Christian community is supernatural. The Son of God has taken on flesh to redeem a people who by His grace and power are no longer merely human.
Paul shows that for the supernatural church to thrive it must be built on Jesus and filled with the Spirit. It also must be structured for health and on mission with God.
1. Built on Jesus.
“For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 3:11).
Through His perfect life and atoning death, Jesus has purchased the people of God for the Glory of God. It’s about Jesus. Christ is at the center of all Christian community, worship, mission, and life. He alone is the grounds of our hope, the theme of our songs, the treasure of our lives.
The gospel is not just entry level Christianity. It is our primary and most important message.
Jesus is the first and last thing. The Holy Spirit glorifies Jesus so that one of the primary marks of a Spirit filled church is love for Jesus. The Great Spirit filled man is Jesus Christ.
2. Filled with the Spirit
“Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?” (1 Corinthians 3:16)
Jesus ministered in the power of the Holy Spirit and He fills His church so that we can do the same. Jesus walks among His churches through the person of the Spirit. Without the empowering work of the Spirit, our labor is in vain.
Churches built on Jesus need to be seeker sensible but also Spirit sensitive.
There is nothing more tragic; nothing more merely human than a church built on the effort and gifting of people and not on the power of God. If the Holy Spirit didn’t show up, would our church notice or even care? When the Spirit is moving on mission through the church, dead men are made alive, hard hearts are softened, demons are driven out, affection for Christ is stirred, genuine hatred of sin replaces apathy, sick bodies are made well, suffering saints are strengthened and the Word of God is released like a lion.
3. Structured for Health
“According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it” (1 Corinthians 3:10).
Paul, an Apostle of Jesus, made it his practice to appoint qualified teams of elders in each church to shepherd, oversee, and lead the people of God. These elders are men who will give an account to the Head of the church, Jesus, for how they lead, feed, and protect the flock.
An effective and healthy church has qualified shepherds leading under the Chief Shepherd Jesus.
4. On Mission with God
“For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building“ (1 Corinthians 3:9).
In Luke 4:18, Jesus quoted Isaiah, saying, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (c.f. Isaiah 61:1).
We are God’s fellow workers! We are God’s people working in the grace of God to accomplish the mission of God, proclaiming the Kingdom of God in both word and deed. The church is to continue the ministry of Jesus that Isaiah described.
Paul is describing a mature and functional church, a church built on the gospel, filled with the Spirit, structured for health, and living on mission with God. Strong and functioning christology, pneumatology, ecclesiology, and missiology all go together. Where one aspect is weak, the church is not functioning fully by the power of God for the glory of God.