In the sermon last Sunday (‘The Spirit of God’), I asked the question: “How do you know if a church is Spirit-filled?” The answer provided was: Does that church glorify Jesus (John 16:14)? Does that church testify to Jesus (John 15:26)? This answer was given to reflect and summarise the essence and the heart of the Spirit’s work among us today.
J.I. Packer describes the main work of the Spirit in this way: “The distinctive, constant, basic ministry of the Holy Spirit under the new covenant is… to mediate Christ’s presence to believers—that is, to give them such knowledge of his presence with them as their Saviour, Lord, and God...” (J.I. Packer, Keep in Step with the Spirit, pp.47, 49)
We must have this basic theological building block in place, otherwise we go awry. And with this basic building block in place, we are better positioned to expand the answer to our question: How do you know if a church is Spirit-filled?
Here are six signs of a Spirit-filled church:
We become like Jesus:The Holy Spirit is constantly at work in our lives to make us more like Jesus. The Apostle Paul writes: “We all, with unveiled faces, are looking as in a mirror at the glory of the Lord and are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory; this is from the Lord who is the Spirit” (2 Cor. 3:18). Simply put, a Spirit-filled church is one that reflects the values and character of Jesus himself (Php. 2:1-5; Eph. 4:12-13; Rom. 8:1-11; Gal. 5:16–25). This is why, before we ask: ‘Are we a Spirit-filled church?’, we should first ask: Am I a Spirit-filled person? Am I increasingly exhibiting the fruit of the Spirit?
We are united in Jesus:The Holy Spirit joins us, a diverse group of people from all different backgrounds and walks of life, together into a single body united in Jesus (Eph. 2:19-22; 4:3,12; Gal. 4:6; Jude 19). In Christ, we are “…being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit” (Eph. 2:22). A sign of a Spirit-filled church, then, is unity that transcends any and all cultural differences and distinctions (Rev. 7:9).
We witness to Jesus:In the book of Acts, the coming of the Spirit is clearly and obviously connected with empowerment to share the good news of salvation in Christ (Acts 1:8; 4:31). The Holy Spirit equips believers to share and promote the gospel in every generation.
We serve like Jesus: The Spirit empowers us to serve one another by giving us varied gifts of God’s grace (1 Pet. 4:10). The gifts are given for “the common good” (1 Cor. 12:7) and for “building up the church” (1 Cor. 14:12). Thus, a sign of a Spirit-filled church will be people actively working to build up the church, not to promote themselves or to get their own way, but rather for the promotion of Christ, the good of others, and the building up of the body.
We hold to the truth about Jesus:The “Spirit of truth” (John 16:13) also enables believers to understand and discern the truth of God’s Word (Eph. 1:17; 1 Cor. 2:12), and therefore hold fast to God's revealed truth in Scripture without compromise (Jude 1:3; Tit. 1:9; 2 Tim. 1:13; Php. 1:27; Rev. 22:18-19).
We enjoy relationship with Jesus: The Holy Spirit applies the experiential benefits of being joined in relationship with Christ. That is, the Spirit helps us to move beyond theory and into experience; to “taste and see” that God is good (Rom. 8:15-16; 15:13; Gal. 5:5; Eph. 3:16; Php. 2:1; Col. 1:8; 1 Thess. 1:5; 2 Tim. 1:7; Heb. 6:4). A sign of a Spirit-filled church, then, will be people who not only talk about joy and peace but people who experience and exhibit these realities (among others). Of course, we continue to live in a world ravaged by sin and influenced by the devil, but in the midst of our struggle the Spirit brings light and manifests the love of God in our hearts (Rom. 5:5).
So, is BPCC a Spirit-filled church?
In light of the above truths, we can conclude there are clear and encouraging signs that the Spirit of God is wonderfully at work in our church. Of course, we are keenly aware that on this side of Jesus’ return we will continue to struggle against sin and the devil, and we know that we are ever in need of continual filling by the Holy Spirit (Eph. 5:18), but we can be thankful to God for what He is doing among us and we can be hopeful for what God will do in the future.
Grace and peace,