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Lesson 9: The Holy Spirit and the Church *

Introduction: Is there evidence that the Holy Spirit is active in your church? Is there evidence that He is directing the work of your church? These are serious questions that go to the heart of the health of your congregation. My concern is that my church denomination, and many others, is a "quart low" on the Holy Spirit. Indeed, some denominations seem somewhat hostile to "charismatic" churches. Does "not charismatic" equal "not directed by the Holy Spirit?" The connection between the health of the church and the work of the Holy Spirit raises serious questions which are answered by our study this week. Let's plunge into our study of the Bible to see what we can learn about the Church and the Holy Spirit!

  1. The Church Structure and Jesus

    1. Read Ephesians 1:17-21. Who is essential to knowing God better? (The Holy Spirit.)

      1. When Ephesians 1:19 refers to "His incomparably great power for us who believe," to what does that refer? (This refers to the Holy Spirit. He is the power of God here on earth. Note especially, His power "raised [Jesus] from the dead.")

        1. Would you agree that the power to raise Jesus from the dead is an "incomparably great power?" (Imagine having that power available to you!)

    2. Read Ephesians 1:22-23. Who is head over everything for the church? (These verses refer to all three parts of the Trinity, but here it refers to Jesus! Jesus is in charge of His Church.)

      1. What is Jesus' body? (The church is the "body" of Jesus.)

        1. Why would the Bible analogize the church to a body, especially the body of Jesus? (Let's turn to that next.)

  2. The Church Structure and the Holy Spirit

    1. Read 1 Corinthians 12:12-13. What "body" does Paul use to teach us lessons about the body of the church? (A human body. It is like the church in the way you (and hopefully it) are organized under Jesus.)

      1. What is essential to the unity of your human body? (You were born that way. You did not make a choice.)

      2. What is essential to the unity of the church? (The Holy Spirit! We are not only "baptized by one Spirit into one body," but we are "all given the one Spirit to drink.")

        1. How would your body do without something to drink? (You would soon die.)

        2. Is that also true for the body of the church? Will it die if it does not drink from the Holy Spirit? (That is the analogy, and I believe it is true.)

        3. Are there "zombie" churches that have died because of a lack of the Holy Spirit, but they are still walking around?

        4. Have you ever heard that someone can drink too much water? If not, could you drink too much of the Holy Spirit? Could you be too charismatic?

    2. Read 1 Corinthians 12:14-20. What do you learn about the "body" of the church from this series of statements and questions? (That the church is organized by God. Everyone has a part, and we need to prize our part. Essential to the overall success of the "body" is unity - a coordination between the parts.)

    3. Read 1 Corinthians 12:21-24. Have you ever been in a church where a person filling a certain role said to another person with a different role, "We don't need you?"

      1. How might a church member convey the idea that another person is not needed without explicitly saying it? (We might say it with our attitude. Are there positions that you do not think are important?)

        1. What does Paul say is important for these less honorable parts? (He says we treat the less honorable parts of our own body with "special honor," while others need no "special treatment.")

        2. How would you apply this to your church? (I think everyone needs encouragement. We fail to follow Paul's advice when we give more praise to the preacher than we do to those who set up the chairs, or run the audio-visual system.)

          1. What can you do to fix this problem in your church, assuming that it is a problem?

    4. Read 1 Corinthians 12:25-26. If your foot is injured, so you notice? (Of course!)

      1. Did you notice your foot before it started bothering you?

      2. What is Paul's point? (When it comes to our own body, we automatically notice when a part is having trouble. We need that kind of unity in our church. We need to be automatically aware of all of the parts of the body and be sure that all are given honor.)

      3. Is the idea of given honor to a human contrary to the Bible? (Not according to Paul!)

  3. The Church Structure and Spiritual Gifts

    1. Read 1 Corinthians 12:27-28. We are no longer talking about literal body parts like hands and feet, we are talking about different roles in the church. Are these roles supposed to operate like parts of a body? (That is the logical conclusion to Paul's argument.)

      1. Notice that Paul says "first ... apostles, second prophets, third teachers." Is Paul ranking the roles in the church? If so, why? (He is ranking them. If you look ahead to 1 Corinthians 12:31 he refers to "greater gifts." When he made the analogy to the body, he referred to their relative "honor." The point is that all the gifts are necessary, but some are "greater.")

      2. Why is the gift of "administration" next to the bottom? In many churches, administrators seem to be at the top.

        1. How is the gift of being an "apostle," which is first on the list, different than being an administrator? (In Matthew 10:2-3 we find the twelve disciples being referred to as apostles. Romans 1:1 is just one (among many places) that Paul states that he is an apostle, even though he was not among the original twelve. In Romans 16:7 we find "Andronicus and Junias" listed as apostles. The role of "apostle" seems to be the lead ambassadors for Jesus. Can you see how that would differ from being an administrator?)

    2. Read 1 Corinthians 12:29-30. What point is Paul making by asking these questions? (The answer is obviously, "No." We all have a part in the body ( 1 Corinthians 12:27), but our part is distinct.)

      1. Can we move up? Can we enjoy a greater role? (Read 1 Corinthians 12:31. The answer is, "Yes.")

    3. Read 1 Corinthians 13:1-3. Some of the gifts of the Holy Spirit are mentioned here. Why do you think that Paul writes this just after he writes about the way the various gifts work together in the church? (Our gifts, however great, gain us nothing if we do not have love. The gifts are not about personal importance, they are about helping others.)

    4. Read Galatians 5:22. Love is the first fruit of the Holy Spirit that is mentioned. The fruits of the Holy Spirit are obviously different than the gifts of the Holy Spirit. How do they work together? (We studied fruits of the Holy Spirit two weeks ago, and we studied the gifts of the Holy Spirit last week. The fruits have to do with each of us individually. The gifts have to do with our role in the church. A broken foot, is like having something wrong with your "fruit." Not only is the foot in need of repair, but it doesn't work very well to help the body.)

    5. Friend, we started out asking, "How essential is the Holy Spirit to the health of the church?" The texts we've studied this week tell us that the Holy Spirit organizes and equips the members of the church into a unified body under the leadership of Jesus. The Holy Spirit is essential to a healthy church. More Holy Spirit is better than less! Will you pray that the Holy Spirit will come in power upon you and your church?

  4. Next week: The Holy Spirit, the Word, and Prayer.
* Copr. 2017, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. All scripture references are to the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society, unless otherwise noted. Quotations from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses a blackboard or some other visual aid.

© 2021 Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
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