The Glory of the Indwelling Spirit: Ephesians 2:11-22
As we continue our study on the blessings that we have after our conversion in Christ, we now are reminded of the blessing of the Holy Spirit’s presence in believers. In John 14:26, Christ promised to send “the Comforter, which is the Holy Spirit, whom the Father would send in His name.” He did as He promised He would, and on Pentecost, the Spirit came and permanently indwelt every genuine believer. Paul’s point in Ephesians 2:18 however, was not to develop in depth the work and role of the Spirit, but rather to focus on one aspect of the Spirit’s relationship to believers. Paul said, we “both have access by the same Spirit to the Father.” Yes the Spirit permanently indwells all believers, renovating their thinking through the word of God, changing their character into Christ-likeness through the word of God, and opening our eyes to the significance of Biblical truths, but Paul’s point is that both Jews and Gentiles have equal access to the Father because they have the same Spirit. This was the significance of the progressive reception of the Spirit in Acts through the Apostles. In Acts 2 the Jews received the Spirit; Acts 8 the Samaritans received the Spirit; and in Acts 10 and 19, Gentiles and some Old Testament saints received the Spirit. This progressive reception of the Spirit through the reception of the gospel at conversion was meant to be a sign, especially to unbelieving Jews that Jesus of Nazareth whom they had rejected was indeed their Messiah, those that had received their Messiah were God’s people, and those who rejected this Messiah were under God’s judgment, according to 1 Corinthians 14:22. Think about it, we all have equal access, because we all have the same Spirit.
Paul does not stop with equal access. He goes further to say that we together are God’s temple or dwelling place. Notice what he says in verses 21-22. We are “framed together growing unto an holy temple in the Lord,” and that we are “built together for the dwelling place of God through the Spirit.” I have heard a lot of teaching on the doctrine that the individual believer is the temple of the Holy Spirit, and that is a sound Biblical doctrine. In 1 Corinthians 3:16, Paul asks“Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that God dwells in you?” His point is that God owns each one of us and resides in each one of us. While this is true, this is not Paul’s point later in the book. In 1 Corinthians 6:19, Paul says “Do you not know that you as a singular body are the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?” In this passage, Paul refers the singular body of the church made up of individuals as the temple of God. He is saying that there is a special relationship that the Spirit has not only to the individual believer, but also to local assemblies. Each assembly made up of individuals indwelt by the Spirit is the “temple” of God by means of the indwelling Spirit. In an age when the health and necessity of the local church is often neglected, we need to get back to a firm conviction regarding the importance of the growth not only of the individual, but also of the body. God has called us not to grow independent of one another, though each of us is personally accountable before God, but He has called us to grow together as a spiritual body. This truth is one of the reasons that God not only demands personal holiness of individuals, but He also demands personal holiness of local churches. The church is not made up of rich and poor, black and white, influential and obscure, Jew and Gentile, blue collar and white collar, clergy and laity. The church is made up of sinners saved by grace and called to walk together in harmony fitted together as the temple of God.