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Spirit in the Kehillah: The Spirit’s Workings in the Body of Messiah

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(Ruach HaKodesh, Session 7)

 

This session of the Ruach HaKodesh series wraps up our survey of the Scriptures by focusing on the Spirit’s work in the remainder of the book of Acts, and the successive outpourings after Acts 2. We also touch on some of the themes regarding the Holy Spirit in the epistles: How the Spirit is what defines the Kehillah (Body of Messiah), and what it means to be a Temple of the Holy Spirit. The episode lays the foundation for the next major segment of our study: The gifts of the Spirit.

The following is a condensed version of the audio teaching, including all the references and sources cited. You can also subscribe to this podcast here.

 

Acts 2 and Joel 2

In our last session we looked at the Great Outpouring in Acts 2. One question we didn’t answer, however, is this: Is Acts 2 really the fulfillment of Joel 2:28-32? Peter quotes Joel 2 and applies it to the event they had just experienced. But if we take a closer look at Joel 2, there are several elements missing in Acts 2:

“And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions. Even on the male and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit. And I will show wonders in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and columns of smoke. The sun shall be turned to darkness, and the moon to blood, before the great and awesome day of the LORD comes. And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved. For in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there shall be those who escape, as the LORD has said, and among the survivors shall be those whom the LORD calls.” (Joel 2:28–32)

In Acts 2, where is the blood, fire, and columns of smoke? Where are the signs in the heavens, the signs of God’s judgment? Most of the details in Joel’s prophecy did not occur in or around Acts 2.

There are three main views on how Acts 2 fulfills Joel 2 and other prophecies of the Tanakh (Old Testament):

  1. Allegorical fulfillment: The Old Testament prophecies are fulfilled in a “spiritual” sense only, and that is the only fulfillment they will ever receive.
  2. Gradual fulfillment: The Old Testament prophecies receive a gradual fulfillment over the course of history. Acts 2 fulfills part of Joel 2 and leaves part unfulfilled. Thus Acts 2 is in fact the only fulfillment that will ever occur of the outpouring of the Spirit, even though the other events described will come later. There is no future outpouring for us to expect.
  3. Foretaste fulfillment: Acts 2 is a foretaste only. It is a partial fulfillment of Joel 2, but we are still waiting for the full promise of the Spirit. Acts 2 was amazing, but the best is yet to come.

I personally favour the third view. I would like to propose that Acts 2 is more of a foretaste, a firstfruits of the final outpouring. There is an even greater outpouring that will come in the future. In this view, Peter quotes Joel 2 not to suggest that they were living out the ultimate fulfillment of that prophecy, but to show that this is a foretaste of the Kingdom and the final judgment that God would bring at Yeshua’s return.

I believe we find support for this view in the Scriptures. For instance, the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer is likened to “the powers of the age to come” (Hebrews 6:4-5). The Spirit dwelling in us is a “down payment” (ἀρραβὼν) of what is to come (2 Corinthians 1:22; 5:5; Ephesians 1:13-14). Paul says that we possess “the firstfruits of the Spirit” (Romans 8:23).

The prophetic expectation is that the Spirit will be upon all Israel; but even more, upon all flesh. Knowledge of God will be universal. Even the least will have a knowledge of God on par with Moses (cf. 1Cor 13:12 with Num 12:8). It seems that the final outpouring of the Spirit will be on Israel just in advance of Messiah’s return (cf. Zech 12:10ff.). An outpouring on all Israel will usher in the Kingdom.

 

The Threefold Outpouring in Acts

The Holy Spirit being poured out doesn’t end in Acts 2. In fact there are three primary outpourings we read about in the book of Acts. Each one of these was accompanied by the gift of languages (tongues). Acts 1:8 offers us a pattern:

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

This verse serves as an outline for the entire book, a table of contents of sorts:

  • Jerusalem/Judea: Acts 2 – the Holy Spirit on the Jewish believers
  • Samaria: Acts 8 – the Holy Spirit on the Samaritan believers
  • The ends of the earth: Acts 10 – the Holy Spirit on the Gentile believers

These are the three main outpourings of the Holy Spirit in the book of Acts. Speaking in tongues/foreign languages is mentioned explicitly in each instance. There are other smaller outpourings in Acts (e.g. Acts 4:31), but not necessarily accompanied by foreign languages.

Each of these three outpourings crosses an ethnic boundary, pushing the borders of God’s Kingdom further and further. Seeing Samaritans come into the Kingdom was a bit of a stretch for the apostles, but at least the Samaritans were distantly related to the Jewish people. According to 2 Kings 17:24-41, they were a mixture of the northern tribes and some relocated pagan peoples. But it was the Gentiles that caused the biggest controversy and resistance in the minds of the apostles. The Holy Spirit falling even on the Gentiles was almost unthinkable.

Keep in mind that it was a common opinion in Judaism of their day that Gentiles cannot receive the Holy Spirit.[1]See Toby Janicki, “Gentiles and the Holy Spirit,” in Gifts of the Spirit (FFOZ, 2013), pp. 137-142. Acts 2:5-11 is very clear in specifying that all present were Jews. For this reason, the Spirit being poured out on the Gentiles in Acts 10:44-48 was a watershed moment in history! All the allusions in that passage back to Acts 2 are obvious and intentional.

Remember, Joel 2:28-29 crosses every manmade social boundary that exists:

  • On all flesh = every nationality, both Jew and Gentile
  • Sons and daughters = both male and female
  • Even on slaves/servants = both slave and free

Paul follows exactly this pattern when he describes our status as believers in Messiah:

“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Messiah Yeshua.” (Galatians 3:28)

Thus, the Body of Messiah represents a unity of believers unlike any other social institution. And that unity is a primary function of the Holy Spirit.

 

The Spirit in the Kehillah (Body of Messiah)

(For an explanation of the term “Kehillah,” see Why I Avoid the Word “Church.”)

Paul says,

“For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.” (1 Corinthians 12:13)

For Paul, the defining characteristic of the Kehillah, the Body of Messiah, is the Spirit. It is the Spirit that gives life to the Kehillah. Just as my body without my spirit is dead, so the Body of Messiah without the Spirit of Messiah is dead. What’s more, it is a common experience with the Holy Spirit that unites us as believers.

“There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” (Ephesians 4:4–6)

Paul assumes that his readers all possess the Holy Spirit:

“You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.” (Romans 8:9–11)

Notice how having the Spirit of God dwelling in us is synonymous with belonging to Messiah and having Messiah in us.[2]Cf. also 2Corinthians 11:1-4; Galatians 3:2-3; Titus 3:4-7. In other words, it is the Holy Spirit that defines the Kehillah. We are all one Body by virtue of the Spirit. Gentiles are part of that same Body by virtue of the Spirit. For Paul, if you are in the Kehillah, it is a given that you have the Spirit. Having the Spirit isn’t a higher plane of spirituality reserved only for the elite. It isn’t the culmination of yearning and struggling. It isn’t earned! It is a free gracious gift.

Here we are touching on what is known as the doctrine of subsequence. Pentecostalism and the Charismatic movement both assert that the reception of the Holy Spirit is an experience subsequent to salvation. In other words, there are two steps to becoming a mature believer: (1) salvation, and (2) Holy Spirit baptism. We will discuss this topic in more detail in a future session. The point I want to stress here is that in the theology of Paul and the other apostles, there is a common experience with the Holy Spirit that clearly defines the Kehillah. To be “in Messiah” is to partake of His Spirit. Accepting Yeshua into your heart and accepting His Spirit into your heart are one and the same thing.

This is not to say the Holy Spirit cannot manifest Himself to us in different ways at different times in our lives. He certainly does. The apostles in the book of Acts were filled with the Spirit multiple times, and I believe we can too. But Scripture is clear that no one can truly come to terms with who Yeshua is, and acknowledge Him as Lord, without the Spirit (1Cor 12:3). The Spirit is active in our salvation; rebirth takes place through the Spirit (Titus 3:5). Salvation starts a lifelong journey of being sanctified and conformed to the likeness of Yeshua through the Spirit.

 

Temple Imagery

Paul uses the imagery of believers forming a Temple for God’s Spirit. This comes up twice in 1 Corinthians:

Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.” (1 Corinthians 3:16–17)

“Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” (1 Corinthians 6:18–20)

Note that in both these passages, the “you/your” is plural in Greek. In other words, Paul does not mean to teach that every believer becomes an individual little temple, but rather that together, as the Kehillah, we are one Temple in Messiah. This also comes up in 2 Corinthians:

“Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, “I will make my dwelling in them[3]Note that the ESV has, “I will make my dwelling among them” rather than “in them.” The Greek uses the preposition en, which could be more ...continue and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing; then I will welcome you, and I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty.” Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God.” (2 Corinthians 6:14–7:1)

This Temple imagery is also found elsewhere,[4]Ephesians 2:21-22 and 1 Peter 2:4-6; cf. 1 Corinthians 3:9ff.; Hebrews 3:6. but I want to focus in on this passage from 2 Corinthians. The apostles’ use of this imagery is fitting: Just as God’s manifest presence took up residence in the physical Tabernacle and Temple, so the Kehillah serves as a dwelling place for God’s Spirit. This is an awesome truth. As Solomon says, “Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain you; how much less this house that I have built!” (1 Kings 8:27) I would say that is even more true of us. If the heavens cannot contain God, how much less to dwell in us!

A common misconception is that this indwelling of the Spirit is something new with the New Testament. Some interpreters claim that God dwelling in people is something new and represents a contrast with the Old. In the Old Testament, God dwelt in buildings, but in the New Testament God dwells in us. This is related to the idea that the Holy Spirit is something new with the New Testament. We have already seen that to be false. The Holy Spirit did indwell people in the Tanakh (Old Testament).

In addition, it is important to realize that Paul is using the Torah as his prooftext for God dwelling in people. It doesn’t make sense for Paul to teach this concept from the Tanakh if it was never taught in the Tanakh. Paul seems to be alluding to several passages here. In Exodus 25:8, God says, “Let them make me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them.” This was the purpose of the Tabernacle: so that God could dwell in the midst of His people. But Paul may be alluding to a hyperliteral reading of this verse, since b’tocham could also be translated as “within them.” The Tabernacle is a picture of God dwelling not just among His people, but within His people through His Spirit.

The same concept shows up elsewhere. For example:

  • Exodus 29:46: “And they shall know that I am the LORD their God, who brought them out of the land of Egypt that I might dwell among/within them (b’tocham).”
  • Leviticus 26:11-12: “I will make my dwelling among you (b’toch’chem), and my soul shall not abhor you. And I will walk among you (b’toch’chem) and will be your God, and you shall be my people.”
  • Ezekiel 37:26-28: “…I will set my sanctuary in their midst (b’tocham) forevermore. My dwelling place shall be with them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.”
  • Haggai 2:5: “According to the covenant that I made with you when you came out of Egypt, My Spirit remains in your midst (b’toch’chem).”
  • Isaiah 63:11: “Where is He who put His Holy Spirit within them (b’kirbo)?”[5]Although this passage uses a different word, the meaning is synonymous with b’tocham. Here the link to the Spirit is made explicit.

These passages all speak of God dwelling in the midst of, among, or within His people. And I believe it is these passages that Paul is alluding to in 2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1.

The goal of the Tabernacle/Temple was to gain proximity between God and His people. God’s Spirit dwelling in us makes us into a sort of Temple. But the “spiritual” does not abolish the physical. Paul is not saying that we replace the Temple. In the Kingdom, the 1,000-year reign of Messiah, the prophets are clear that there will be a Temple. But there will also be the Spirit. The two are not mutually exclusive.

What is the message for us here? Keep in mind in all these places the Temple is a corporate image, the language is plural. The Kehillah as a whole is the Temple, the Body of Messiah. We are not “temples” (plural) but one Temple (singular). Yet it is also true that God dwells in each of us as individuals through His Spirit. And it is that individual experience that reconciles us to God and to one another. Together, we are a Body, and it is His Spirit in each of us that defines that Body.

 

Summary

For the apostles the Holy Spirit is God’s special gift to us that is a guarantee of the coming Kingdom. It is the life-force of the Kehillah, the defining characteristic of all who are in Messiah. It is the Holy Spirit that empowers us with gifts to use for building up the Kehillah. And it is to these gifts that we will turn in the next sessions.

Of course, it is up to us to submit to the Spirit. Just because we have the Spirit, or have access to the Spirit, does not mean we are walking in the Spirit’s fullness. As one writer once said, “There is no time to be thinking about whether or not we have the person of the Holy Spirit. There is only time to completely surrender the throne of our lives so the Holy Spirit has us.”[6]Mike Evans, God Wrestling (Minneapolis: Bethany House, 2004), p. 173. By submitting ourselves to God and His plan for our lives, we are able to be vessels that He can use and fill. The more we submit to Him, the more He is able to work in us and through us.

 

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References   [ + ]

1. See Toby Janicki, “Gentiles and the Holy Spirit,” in Gifts of the Spirit (FFOZ, 2013), pp. 137-142.
2. Cf. also 2Corinthians 11:1-4; Galatians 3:2-3; Titus 3:4-7.
3. Note that the ESV has, “I will make my dwelling among them” rather than “in them.” The Greek uses the preposition en, which could be more easily translated “in.” In my opinion, translating it as “among” entirely misses the point Paul is making, and that Paul may in fact be playing on a hyperliteral reading of Exodus 25:8 and other passages (see below).
4. Ephesians 2:21-22 and 1 Peter 2:4-6; cf. 1 Corinthians 3:9ff.; Hebrews 3:6.
5. Although this passage uses a different word, the meaning is synonymous with b’tocham. Here the link to the Spirit is made explicit.
6. Mike Evans, God Wrestling (Minneapolis: Bethany House, 2004), p. 173.


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