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Sunday, April 27, 2008

Matt's Messages - The Holy Spirit Incorporates Us Into the Body of Christ

“The Holy Spirit Incorporates Us Into the Body of Christ”
The Fellowship of the Holy Spirit
April 27, 2008
1 Corinthians 12:13

Last Sunday, we talked about the Power of the Holy Spirit.

We said that you could sum up the person and work of the Holy Spirit with a three word phrase: God’s Empowering Presence.

We’ve seen His power all along in this series:

His power to bring us to Christ.
His power to assure us our relationship with God.
His power to guide us into truth.
His power to indwell our hearts and lives.
His power to produce His fruit in us.
And His power to make us witnesses for Jesus Christ.

God’s empowering presence.

Today, I want to talk about His empowering presence, not just in individuals’ lives, but in the life of the Church as a whole–the Body of Christ.

Because, this is also His ministry:

“The Holy Spirit Incorporates Us Into the Body of Christ.”

The word “incorporate” doesn’t mean a business corporation here.

It means to take parts and bring them together into a body. “Corpus” is the Latin for “body.” We get the word “corpse” from it. Or the “marine corps” is the body of the marines. To “incorporate” means to “in-body” something. To include it, to join it, to involve it, to vitally connect it to the rest of the body.

And that is another vital ministry of the Holy Spirit:

The Holy Spirit Incorporates Us Into the Body of Christ, the Church.

He doesn’t just come along and save us as individuals.

He also grabs us and incorporates us into something bigger than ourselves–the Body of Christ, the Church.

And one of the biblical words that points to this spiritual reality is the word: “baptism.”

Remember back in our first message on the Holy Spirit, we looked at Matthew chapter 3, when John the Baptist dunked Jesus in the water of the Jordan River?

And then the Holy Spirit came down like a dove and God the Father said how pleased He is with His Son?

That’s water baptism. But there is another kind of baptism, that John predicted just a few verses earlier. Turn there quickly with me. Matthew chapter 3. Starting at verse 11.

John the Baptist is describing his ministry and calling people to repentance. And he says this: “I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me will come one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not fit to carry. He will baptize you with [what?] the Holy Spirit and with fire.”

And then Jesus comes on the scene–and John baptizes Him.

And remember what we saw last week in Acts chapter 1? Turn back to that real quick. Verse 5. Acts 1:5.

The Lord Jesus was about to ascend to His Father. And what did He promise? V.5

“Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”

And then, Pentecost happened!

We talked about it last week. The Spirit “blew in” like a tornado! And He “burnt in” like a purifying flame! The new era of the Spirit had begun!

The disciples were baptized in the Holy Spirit and fire and the church was born that day!

Now, this language of “baptism in the Holy Spirit” occurs again and again in the book of Acts. It happens again in chapter 8, chapter 10, and chapter 19.

In each of these occasions, a new group or class of people is being dramatically incorporated into the Body of Christ.

In chapter 8, it’s the Samaritans. Imagine those dirty Samaritans getting baptized by the Spirit like the Jews had in chapter 2! But they were! They were a part of the church, too!

In chapter 10, it was...the Gentiles! The uncircumcised heaven were believing the gospel and trusting Jesus Christ–and they too were baptized in the Spirit.

And then in chapter 19, it was folks who had only received the baptism of John, and hadn’t yet heard about Jesus and the Holy Spirit. They, too, received the Father’s gift of the Holy Spirit! They were included in the Body of Christ. Dramatically!

Now, what about you and me? Have we been baptized with the Holy Spirit?

Have you been baptized with the Holy Spirit?

Some people will try to tell you that you need to have another experience beyond becoming a believer in Jesus Christ called “the baptism of the Holy Spirit” which only some Christians (higher level Christians) have experienced.

What does the Bible say?

Turn with me to 1 Corinthians chapter 12, verse 13. This is actually our key text for today though we’ll still be jumping around some more.

Verse 13 catches the apostle Paul in the middle of an argument about spiritual gifts.

We’ll be handling those in a few weeks, but the force of the argument is that everybody’s contribution to ministry of the church is important–everybody’s!

And so, verse 13, Paul argues, “For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body– whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free–and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.”

How many people have experienced the baptism in the Holy Spirit (the word “by” in verse 12 could easily be translated “with” or “in.” It’s the same Greek word as in Matthew 3 and Acts 1 and so on.)?

How many? 1 Corinthians 12:13...

“...We were all baptized by one Spirit into one body–whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free–and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.”

Now, it may not have been flashy!
It may not have included rushing wind or flames of fire or speaking in other languages!
It might not have included a blinding light and being knocked off my donkey!

It was probably much more subtle for most of us.

But we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body–the body of Christ.

The Holy Spirit Incorporates Us Into the Body of Christ.

Don’t let someone divide the church up into those who have had the experience of the Spirit and those who haven’t.

Those who live on a higher spiritual plain because they have had some mystical experience of the Spirit and those who haven’t.

The Holy Spirit incorporates all of us into the body of Christ.

And nowadays, He does it when we are converted and believe.

Now, when I say that the Holy Spirit does this, I want to emphasize that really Jesus does it!

He’s “Jesus the Baptist!”

John baptized with water, but Jesus baptizes with the Spirit.

As usual for the Spirit, this, too, spotlights the Lord Jesus Christ!

We are baptized in the Spirit, but this places us into the Body, and it’s not called the Body of the Spirit (even though it could be), but the Body of Christ!

Which is another biblical name for the church.

Now, I want us to think about this for a little bit. ...

This is big.

Our salvation, therefore, is corporate.

We are a part of something BIG.

Now, don’t get me wrong. We don’t get saved by joining the church. Impossible. Mistaken. Big problem if that’s your thinking.

We don’t get saved by joining the church.

But, when we are saved, the Spirit joins us to the Church!

We don’t lose our individuality or our individual relationship with God. The rest of this chapter talks about us as very individualized body parts, hands, eyes, feet, etc.

But, our individualities are FITTED to one another so that we are interconnected.

It makes us ONE. Notice that word ONE in our verse. V.13

“For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body– whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free–and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.”

E Pluribus Unum.

That’s not in your Bible. It’s actually on your dollar bill. It’s the motto on the Great Seal of the United States.

It’s Latin for: “Out of the Many, One.”

I don’t know how accurate that is about our country right now.

But I do know that that is an accurate description of what the Holy Spirit is doing in the Church!

We are all baptized by one Spirit into one body–whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free, Democrat or Republican, man or woman, African or Australian or Asian or American–and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.

Out of the Many, One.

I think that Christians in America have too overly individualized our relationship with God and missed the corporate dimensions of our faith.

There is a movement of Christ-followers with George Barna as their spokesman that are claiming that Christians don’t need the church any more.

That if it’s helpful to you, then great, but we don’t need it any more as an institution.

But Paul says that the Holy Spirit is incorporating us all into one body.

There is a very corporate dimension to our faith.

God lives in the church!

Remember a few weeks ago, we saw that God lives in believers?

And we are called temples of the Holy Spirit?

Well, Paul also says that the church together is a Temple of the Holy Spirit.

He says that in 1 Corinthians chapter 3, and also in Ephesians chapter 2.

Let me read to you Ephesians 2:21&22.

“In [Christ the cornerstone] the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.”

Together!

In some special way, the Holy Spirit lives in the church incorporated, not just individual believers’ lives.

The church is a “Holy Spirit Community!” And we are, by faith, a part of it.

Again, this is a ministry of the Holy Spirit, that we don’t always think of.

But it’s so important! We aren’t just Christian Lone Rangers, slogging it alone, just me and Jesus. We are in this together.

And we’re a part of something BIG!

The Holy Spirit Incorporates Us Into the Body of Christ.

Now, I want to give you 8 biblical applications of that truth this morning.

As we think about this spiritual reality, this corporate reality to our relationship with God, I came up with at least 8 applications for how this should change our thinking and our lives.

#1. BE BAPTIZED IN WATER TO ILLUSTRATE YOUR SPIRITUAL BAPTISM.

One scholar that I interacted with this week on this text, thinks that water baptism is what Paul is talking about in 1 Corinthians 12:13. And I think there’s something to that.

This being included, incorporated, identified with the Body of Christ, is one of the things that is being illustrated when we undergo Christian water baptism.

It’s not just our identification with the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus, it’s also our identification with the rest of God’s redeemed people.

I know that a number of you have not yet been baptized as believers in Jesus Christ.

And there are probably a number of reasons for that–some of them better than others.

But, as your pastor, it’s my job to try to help you to see that you are being disobedient if you don’t get baptized as a believer, because you are missing part of the corporate nature of your faith.

We have a baptism class forming right now, that’s going to be scheduled at a time convenient for each student.

Let me help you with your hang-ups about baptism. Because it’s an awesome picture of a spiritual reality.

Jesus said to do it!

And Paul says that it pictures our being placed into the Body of Christ.

#2. JOIN A LOCAL BODY OF CHRIST TO ILLUSTRATE YOUR MEMBERSHIP IN THE GLOBAL BODY OF CHRIST.

The Holy Spirit incorporates us into the Body of Christ. We are called to make that personal and local so that we join with a faithful local church to work out the implications of that corporate dimension to our faith.

We are going to have a membership seminar here this coming Saturday, and there’s still room to sign up.

I invite you to come and take part in the seminar. Bring your questions!

I know that many of you have some hang-ups that keep you from joining.

But I think that it is simply a matter of faithfulness to apply this teaching to ourselves personally and locally.

He joins us to the church globally, and we make that personal locally.

#3. LIVE IN HOLY SPIRIT EMPOWERED COMMUNITY.

Yes, it’s possible to get baptized and join a church and miss the whole point!

We are incorporated into something bigger. And that should shape our lives.

Discipleship is a community project.

We need to get into each others’ lives and help each other to grow.

That’s one of the reasons why we have Link Groups at LEFC. Our Link Groups, at their best, aren’t just Bible Studies with information poured into our brains. If we wanted to do that, we could just read books or watch TV programs.

Our Link Groups are little tastes of biblical community. They all have a time for sharing, for finding out what’s going on in your life, maybe a time for confession, a time for building each other up.

They are for the purpose of “doing life together.”

They all include Bible and prayer, yes, but they go further, they go into biblical community.

Are you connected to other believers? Do they have access into your life?

We need each other.

Don’t drift away. Get deeper into relationship with other Christ-followers.

I love my Link Group. And not just because they come over to my house and help me build a chicken coop.

They also confront me when I sin, and they check on me to find out how I’m doing spiritually, and they pray for me and encourage me to persevere in the Christian life.

That’s from the Spirit!

He’s building us together into a temple where God dwells!

And we need to lean into biblical community like that.

#4. USE YOUR SPIRITUAL GIFT TO BUILD UP THE BODY OF CHRIST.

We’re going to talk about that more in a couple of weeks, but it’s Paul’s application here. We need each other to minister to each other. Every one of us!

#5. BE THANKFUL FOR AND FOLLOW THE LEADERS THAT GOD GIVES TO THE CHURCH.

In Acts chapter 20, Paul is giving instructions to the Elders of the Ephesian church before he headed off on a journey.

And he tells them (Acts 20:28), “Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood.”

For those of us who are leaders, that’s a sober reminder that the church belongs to God, bought with the blood of Jesus.

This is not “My Church.” It’s God’s church.

But it’s also a reminder that God, the Holy Spirit places overseers in the church–elders, both vocational elders like me and non-vocational elders like the rest of our board.

And because the Holy Spirit gives this leadership, we need to be thankful for them and follow them when our leaders are following Christ.

I have so much to be thankful for in this category. Last Sunday was 10 years since I came to candidate as the Pastor here at Lanse Free Church.

I still remember that several day visit–meeting many of you–though many here weren’t here then. I’m going to talk more about that in June, when we celebrate our 10 year anniversary of our ministry here.

In the last 10 years, you’ve done a lot of following of me and our elders, and I’m very thankful for that, and I look forward to leading you further, into the next 10 years.

I’m thankful that God doesn’t just place us in the Body, He gives the Body leadership so that we can move together where He wants us to go.

#6. KEEP THE UNITY OF THE SPIRIT IN THE BODY.

I get this from Ephesians chapter 4, verses 3 through 6. Listen to it. You can turn there if you want to, it’s Pew Bible Page #1158. And it emphasizes that word “One” again.

“Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit–just as you were called to one hope when you were called–one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.”

You see, the Holy Spirit incorporates us into the Body of Christ. And that makes us ONE. But that doesn’t mean that we don’t also have to work at keeping that unity going. We do.

We have to make efforts.

We have to forgive each other.
We have to not gossip.
We have to not lie.
We have to not talk about each other.
We have not bite and pick at one another.

We can’t live with critical spirits, always judging other Christians.

We have to love each other!

We’re going to live together for all eternity.

We better start now!

And when we do, they will know that we are Christians by our love.

#7. BE ENCOURAGED BY THE HOLY SPIRIT’S ACTIVITY IN THE CHURCH.

Turn to Acts chapter 9. I found this little passage as I was studying the Holy Spirit and the church, and I fell in love with it. It’s just one verse, verse 31.

After Paul was converted and sent off for ministry training this happened:

“Then the church throughout Judea, Galilee and Samaria enjoyed a time of peace. It was strengthened; and encouraged by the Holy Spirit, it grew in numbers, living in the fear of the Lord.”

I would love for this verse to capture what the Holy Spirit does in our church and our churches in the next season of our life.

Strengthened.
Growing.
Living in the Fear of the Lord.

And ENCOURAGED by the Holy Spirit.

He’s at work!
He’s doing stuff!

This last week, I was really discouraged about church. Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, I spent a good part of the day just down about how little gospel growth we’ve experienced in recent days.

But as I was praying and planning, talking with Super Jeff Powell and with Heather, and then when I prayed with the little group of Prayer Warriors that meets on Wednesday night, God lifted my eyes and the Holy Spirit encouraged me and told me that He is at work and He is Mighty God. I need to trust Him.

Do you need encouraged today?

You aren’t alone. You are a part of something BIG.

The Body of Christ!

All because of the Holy Spirit!

...Unless you aren’t, of course.

The Holy Spirit Incorporates Us Into the Body of Christ when we [#8] PUT YOUR FAITH AND TRUST IN JESUS AND WHAT HE DID FOR US ON THE CROSS.

Until then, we’re alone. We’re a part of the world, cut off from the church.

You might come and sit here and sing the songs, maybe even give money or attend other ministries of the church.

But you don’t get joined to the other believers in a deep and vital connection until you’ve been joined to Christ.

Jesus talked about trusting Him in this way in John chapter 7.

It was the last and greatest day of the Feast of Tabernacles.

And Jesus stood up in front of a crowd and yelled out in a loud voice:

“If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.” By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified [crucified and then resurrected!].”

If you are spiritually thirsty, Jesus invites you to drink from Him.

That’s another way of talking about believing Him.

It’s deciding that He is the most satisfying person or thing in all of the universe and turning from whatever else you are trusting to drink in Him.

And when you do, you get the Spirit.

And your thirst gets quenched! And quenched! And quenched!

Streams of living water will flow from within you!

And when you do, you get connected, joined, included, incorporated into the Body of Christ.

“For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body– whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free [OR YOU!]–and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.”

And drink and drink. Forever.

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