Click to Change

Return to Top

Return to Top

Printer Icon


Prior Section Next Section Back to Commentaries Author Bio & Contents
The Blue Letter Bible
Study Resources :: Text Commentaries :: Don Stewart :: The Holy Spirit: How He Works

Don Stewart :: What Is the Work of the Holy Spirit in Relation to the Formation and Functioning of the Church?

toggle collapse
Choose a new font size and typeface

What Is the Work of the Holy Spirit in Relation to the Formation and Functioning of the Church?

The Holy Spirit: How He Works – Question 10

The Bible says that the work of the Holy Spirit took on a new dimension with the beginning of the New Testament church. During the Old Testament period, the church did not exist. The church, the body of Christ, began on the Day of Pentecost by the work of the Holy Spirit. Before the church could begin Jesus had to die, rise again, and then ascend into heaven. The Bible teaches the following concerning how the Holy Spirit was involved with the formation and the functioning of the church.

The Father Sent the Son into the World

The Bible says that in the fullness of time the God of the Bible sent forth His Son into the world. Paul wrote.

But when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law (Galatians 4:4 NRSV).

It was in God’s timing that the Father sent the Son.

Jesus’ Earthly Ministry Were the Days of His Humiliation

The life of Jesus Christ on the earth was the time of His poverty and humiliation. Paul wrote about how Jesus humbled Himself.

For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich (2 Corinthians 8:9 NKJV).

For our sake, He humbled Himself. This is something we should never forget.

Jesus Secured the Riches of His Grace on Calvary

On Calvary’s cross, Jesus Christ secured the riches of His grace by dying for the sins of the world. Paul wrote the following to the Ephesians.

In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace (Ephesians 1:7 NKJV).

Because of Jesus Christ, we can have and enjoy the riches of God.

The Holy Spirit Was Sent to Convey These Riches

After His ascension, Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to convey the riches of His inheritance to believers. Paul wrote.

[I pray] that He may grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, and that the Messiah may dwell in your hearts through faith. [I pray that] you, being rooted and firmly established in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and width, height and depth, and to know the Messiah’s love that surpasses knowledge, so you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to Him who is able to do above and beyond all that we ask or think–according to the power that works in you (Ephesians 3:16-20 HCSB).

When the mission of God the Son had been accomplished, God the Father sent the Holy Spirit to continue the work under new conditions.

The Holy Spirit Gave Birth to the New Testament Church

The Holy Spirit gave birth to the church on the Day of Pentecost. It became a body of living members. We read about its birthday in the Book of Acts.

When the day of Pentecost had arrived, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like that of a violent rushing wind came from heaven, and it filled the whole house where they were staying. And tongues, like flames of fire that were divided, appeared to them and rested on each one of them. Then they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different languages, as the Spirit gave them ability for speech (Acts 2:1-4 HCSB).

It was the Holy Spirit who formed the church on that day.

The church, which God Himself has formed, is likened to a human body. Paul wrote about this to the Ephesians.

And God has put all things under the authority of Christ, and he gave him this authority for the benefit of the church. And the church is his body; it is filled by Christ, who fills everything everywhere with his presence (Ephesians 1:22, 23 NLT).

The church exists because of the work of God the Holy Spirit

The Holy Spirit Indwells the Church

The Holy Spirit indwells each believer in Jesus Christ. Furthermore, the body of each believer is called the temple of God. Paul wrote to the Corinthians.

Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you were bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body (1 Corinthians 6:19, 20 NRSV)

Those who have believed in Jesus Christ are indwelt with the Spirit of God. We belong to Him, we do not belong to ourselves.

The Holy Spirit Gives the Church Power

The Holy Spirit gives power to the church. Jesus promised this power to His disciples after His resurrection from the dead. He said the following.

And you are witnesses of these things. “Behold, I send the Promise of My Father upon you; but tarry in the city of Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high” (Luke 24:48, 49 NKJV).

They would receive power to testify of Him to the world.

Jesus also said that after the Holy Spirit had come upon them their testimony would be to the very ends of the earth.

But when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, you will receive power and will tell people about me everywhere–in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8 NLT).

The power that the church has is a result of the work of God the Holy Spirit. Indeed, we have no power in ourselves.

The Holy Spirit Gives Gifts to the Church

We also find that it is the Holy Spirit who gives gifts to each of the members of the true church. Paul wrote the following to the church at Corinth.

All these are activated by one and the same Spirit, who allots to each one individually just as the Spirit chooses (1 Corinthians 12:11 NRSV).

The gifts of the Holy Spirit have been given to the members of the church. The purpose is to do the work of the ministry.

The Holy Spirit Guides the Church

The Holy Spirit presides over the church and guides the people into doing the will of God. After certain leaders of the church met at the council of Jerusalem, they wrote the following to the churches.

For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay no greater burden on you than these requirements (Acts 15:28 NLT).

The work of the Spirit guides the members of the church. These leaders certainly realized this truth.

The Holy Spirit Illuminates Believers into the Truth of Christ

The Bible says that the Holy Spirit illuminates the hearts and minds of believers to understand the truth of Jesus Christ. John wrote the following.

But you have been anointed by the Holy One, and all of you have knowledge (1 John 2:20 NRSV).

The anointing of the Holy Spirit gives us the knowledge of Jesus.

John also wrote about the anointing of the Holy Spirit.

As for you, the anointing that you received from him abides in you, and so you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things, and is true and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, abide in him (1 John 2:27 NRSV).

The believer is guided into the truth of God by the work of the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit Teaches What Jesus Christ Taught

The Holy Spirit teaches what Jesus Christ taught as well as much more. Before the crucifixion, resurrection and ascension of Jesus, Christian doctrine was not complete. Consequently, it could not be communicated to those who believed in Jesus.

Right before His death on the cross, Jesus told His disciples that He had more to tell them. In other words, there were certain teachings which were incomplete at that time.

We read about this in the Gospel of John.

I still have many things to tell you, but you can’t bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all the truth. For He will not speak on His own, but He will speak whatever He hears. He will also declare to you what is to come (John 16:12, 13 HCSB).

Now that Christ has ascended into heaven, these truths can be communicated to the believers. These divinely revealed truths were known as the apostles’ teaching, or doctrine. In the Book of Acts, we are told the following about the practices of the first believers.

So those who welcomed his message were baptized, and that day about three thousand persons were added. They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers (Acts 2:41, 42 NRSV).

It is the Holy Spirit who teaches believers the things of Christ; the apostles’ teaching or the apostles’ doctrine.

The Holy Spirit Completes the Body of Christ

The Holy Spirit completes the church, the body of Christ, by calling out a people for Jesus. At the council of Jerusalem when the leaders from the early church met, James the brother of Jesus declared this important truth. He explained it in this manner.

Simon has explained how God first showed his concern by taking from non-Jewish people those who would honor his name This agrees with what the prophets said. Scripture says, ‘Afterwards, I will return. I will set up David’s fallen tent again. I will restore its ruined places again. I will set it up again so that the survivors and all the people who aren’t Jewish over whom my name is spoken, may search for the Lord, declares the Lord. He is the one who will do these things that have always been known!’ (Acts 15:14-18 God’s Word).

The church will be made complete by the work of the Holy Spirit. He is the One who forms the church and He will complete the job which He has started.

The Holy Spirit Allowed the Believers to Preach in a Powerful Way

We also find the Holy Spirit giving the believers power to preach the gospel to others. There are a number of examples of this.

Peter Preached through the Power of the Spirit

In the Book of Acts, we read the account of the Spirit filling Peter. It says.

Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them: “Rulers and elders of the people!” (Acts 4:8 NIV).

Peter could speak boldly to these rulers of the Jews because he was filled with the Holy Spirit.

The Entire Church Was Filled with the Spirit

Later, we read how the place where the believers had gathered was physically shaken. At this time they were filled with the Holy Spirit. We read the following.

When they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God with boldness (Acts 4:31 NRSV).

Once filled with the Spirit of God, these believers in Jesus Christ then preached the Word of God with boldness.

Stephen Spoke Boldly through the Power of the Spirit

Stephen, the first martyr of the Christian church, spoke boldly through the power of the Holy Spirit. We are told.

And they were not able to resist the wisdom and the Spirit by which he spoke (Acts 6:10 NKJV).

Interestingly, we find that these people could not resist or refute what he was saying to them. The Holy Spirit gave him the right words to say.

The Apostle Paul Spoke with the Power of the Spirit

The Apostle Paul wrote to the Thessalonians about the power of the Holy Spirit to preach. He explained it in this manner.

For our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Spirit and in much assurance, as you know what kind of men we were among you for your sake (1 Thessalonians 1:5 NKJV).

The good news of Christ came about through the power of the Holy Spirit.

In another place, Paul emphasized the power of the Spirit. He wrote the following to the Corinthians.

And my message and my preaching were very plain. I did not use wise and persuasive speeches, but the Holy Spirit was powerful among you (1 Corinthians 2:4 NLT).

It was the Spirit of God who gave these people the words to preach. In other words, it was not their own great wisdom and power that caused people to believe in Jesus.

The Old Testament Prophets Preached in the Power of the Spirit

Peter said that the Old Testament prophets preached their words in the power of the Holy Spirit. He wrote the following.

It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in regard to the things that have now been announced to you through those who brought you good news by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven—things into which angels long to look! (1 Peter 1:12 NRSV).

The Holy Spirit gives believers the ability to preach the truths of the Lord in a powerful way. He is the power behind the message.

The Holy Spirit Gave Certain Believers Power to Work Miracles

We are also told that certain believers were able to work miracles through the power of the Holy Spirit. For example, we read of the miracles performed by Stephen.

This proposal pleased the whole group. They chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit; also Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas from Antioch, a convert to Judaism... Now Stephen, a man full of God’s grace and power, performed great wonders and signs among the people (Acts 6:5, 8 TNIV).

He was able to do miraculous things through the power of the Spirit.

Paul wrote to the church at Rome about the power God had given him to perform signs and wonders.

I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me in leading the Gentiles to obey God by what I have said and done–by the power of signs and wonders, through the power of the Spirit of God. So from Jerusalem all the way around to Illyricum, I have fully proclaimed the gospel of Christ (Romans 15:18, 19 TNIV).

Physical miracles were the result of the work of the Holy Spirit in the lives of certain believers in the early church.

The Holy Spirit Is Still Calling People to Believe in Jesus

The church is made up of those people who believe in Jesus Christ. During this age the New Testament convicts unbelievers of their sin and their need to believe in Jesus. In the Book of Hebrews, we read the following.

For by that one offering he perfected forever all those whom he is making holy. And the Holy Spirit also testifies that this is so (Hebrews 10:14, 15 NLT).

The Holy Spirit gives testimony to Jesus Christ.

The New Testament ends with the Holy Spirit, as well as the church, inviting people to come and drink of the water of life – to believe in Jesus Christ. We read the following words in the last chapter of the Book of Revelation.

The Spirit and the bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who wishes take the water of life without cost (Revelation 22:17 NASB).

That offer, of eternal life through Jesus Christ, is still available for those who wish to receive it.

In sum, the Holy Spirit has worked with the members of the church from the very beginning and will continue to work until the Lord Jesus returns.

Summary – Question 10
What Is the Work of the Holy Spirit in Relation to the Formation and the Functioning of the Church?

While the church is made up of believers in Jesus Christ, it is the work of the Holy Spirit which formed the church as well as making it function properly. A number of points need to be made.

To begin with, Jesus Christ had to die, rise from the dead and ascend to heaven before the New Testament church could begin. Ten days after Jesus ascended into heaven, the Holy Spirit came down to form the church on the Day of Pentecost. This was the continuation of the work of Jesus.

The Holy Spirit is thus the One who initially formed the church. The New Testament says that He indwells believers in Jesus Christ. To those believers the Spirit of God gives power to live the Christian life.

The Scripture also says that the Spirit gives gifts to believers. The purpose of these gifts is to do the work of the Christian ministry. The Spirit of God allows believers to teach about Jesus Christ in a powerful way. He is the One who directs and guides their teaching.

Indeed, it is the job of the Holy Spirit is to teach others what Christ taught. He only speaks about Jesus; He does not speak about Himself.

We also find that the Holy Spirit works through individuals as well as through the entire body of Christ. The entire church, the body of Christ, is a thus work of the Holy Spirit of God.

On certain occasions the Holy Spirit gave some believers the power to work miracles. This, however, was not the usual way in which He worked with every believer.

The Spirit of God is now in the process of completing the body of Christ by calling out a people for His name. He is still calling out people to believe in Jesus. However, one day the church will be complete. At that time Jesus Christ will return to the earth.

Thus, we can rightly conclude that the Holy Spirit has been at work with the New Testament church from the very beginning and He will continue His work until Jesus returns.

What Were the Three Occasions When the Holy Spirit Came Down in a Special Way? ← Prior Section
What Is the Role of the Holy Spirit in the Missionary Enterprise of the Church? Next Section →
BLB Searches
Search the Bible

Advanced Options

Other Searches

Multi-Verse Retrieval

Daily Devotionals

Blue Letter Bible offers several daily devotional readings in order to help you refocus on Christ and the Gospel of His peace and righteousness.

Daily Bible Reading Plans

Recognizing the value of consistent reflection upon the Word of God in order to refocus one's mind and heart upon Christ and His Gospel of peace, we provide several reading plans designed to cover the entire Bible in a year.

One-Year Plans

Two-Year Plan


The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.