For many decades, the Christian Church had neglected the interest and study of the Holy Spirit and its role within the life of the church. Recently, however, that interest and study has been revived and so, many scholars and theologians are starting to ask questions such as, “Does the Church need the gift of the Holy Spirit?”. This essay will attempt to answer the question by looking at three areas: The Holy Spirit and the Believer in relation to the Church; The Holy Spirit and its role in the Trinity; and The Holy Spirit and its role in Liturgy and Worship in the assembly and community of Believers.
The Holy Spirit and the Believer in relation to the Church
In Acts 2.1-4, we read of the Pentecost, the event where the Holy Spirit comes to the church as a gift from Christ himself. But how do we know that this Holy Spirit is needed in the church? Jesus, in his farewell discourses, tells his followers exactly why they need the Holy Spirit. This can be read in John 14 to 16. In John 14:26 Jesus says, ‘”But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.”’
Immediately, we know that God the Father had the purpose of sending the Holy Spirit in the name of Christ to teach and remind followers about the truth. Earlier, in John 4:24, Jesus says that true worshippers will worship ‘…in Spirit and in Truth’. The scholar, David Peterson picks up on this in his book, Engaging With God,
New-covenant worship is essentially the engagement with God that he has made possible through the revelation of himself in Jesus Christ and the life he has made available through the Holy Spirit. [1992:100]
Peterson helpfully demonstrates the whole role of the Trinity in worship here which emphasises in particular the role of the Holy Spirit; that is, life and communication to God is made possible through the work of the Holy Spirit. Essentially, the role of the Holy Spirit in worship is the dialogue between man and God through Jesus Christ with the aid of the Holy Spirit teaching and prompting us. This leads us into our next section on the Holy Spirit’s role in the Trinity.
The Holy Spirit and its role in the Trinity
It is important to realise that the Holy Spirit would have no use in the Church at all if it didn’t have a purpose in the Trinity. James Torrance reminds us of the words of Irenaeus, ‘Irenaeus used the metaphor of “the two hands of God’ [1996:66]. Irenaeus says that without the Spirit, the work of the other two persons of the Trinity is ineffective, as the spirit breathes life into the word. Thus the Church cannot function without any one persons of the Godhead.
Torrance explains to us the ‘ministry’ of the Holy Spirit in the Church which is unique to the other roles that the other persons of the Trinity have,
It is by these two hands that God gives himself to us in love to bring us to intimate communion… In Christ, the Word made flesh, and in the Holy Spirit – his two hands – God our Father in grace gives himself to us as God. But in Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh, and in the Spirit we are led to the Father by the intercessions of Christ and the intercessions of the Spirit. [1996:66-67]
In other words, Torrance explains that Christ and the Spirit work hand in hand. They may have different roles, but if either one was absent, the other’s ministry would be in vain. Bob Kauflin also emphasises the unity between Word and Spirit, ‘The Word and the Spirit were never meant to be separated. In fact, God’s Spirit is the one who inspired God’s Word.’ [2008:89-90]
The Holy Spirit and its role in Liturgy and Worship in the assembly and community of Believers
Moving on to focus upon Christian Worship and Music in relation to the Holy Spirit, we can observe a few things. From these observations, we can draw conclusions that help us to answer the question as to whether the church needs the gift of the Holy Spirit. It is crucial to note that as worship leaders and musicians, the Holy Spirit is the one who leads, inspires, teaches, rebukes, trains and encourages us in our ministry to the assembly. At the other end of the spectrum, it is the same Holy Spirit who works in and through believers who are taking part in the service in order that they may be filled with the Holy Spirit to be sent out into the world to witness for Christ.
Firstly, the Holy Spirit works in the community of believers to bring them together as one body. In Pauline writings, we see this very clearly. Paul is determined to show believers that we are one in purpose and mission. Romans 8:9-11 says
You are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, so long as the Spirit of God dwells in you. If anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, this one does not belong to him. If Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness. But 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.
Furthermore, Paul says ‘We were all baptised into one Spirit to become one body whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were given one Spirit to drink.’ 1 Corinthians 12:13. A few points are made in these verses; that we are not in the flesh, the Holy Spirit dwells in believers, the Spirit is alive in us because of Christ’s righteousness, and that there is one body and no distinction between believers – we are united in Christ by the Holy Spirit. It therefore assumes that the Holy Spirit is the one who is needed in order to make this uniting effective. He is the one who binds us together in love and community. Gordon W. Lathrop says that, ‘…the Holy Spirit is religious power turned to the purposes of God… enlivening this meeting by drawing us… into the identity of Christ.’ [1998:136]
This is the same for musicians in worship. Just as Christians need to be united in Christ by the Holy Spirit, so a choir or music group need to be reading from the same page in order to be effective in their ministry! This is a practical way in which we, as church musicians and worship leaders, show the unifying force of the Holy Spirit upon the Church. How then, is the gift of the Holy Spirit needed specifically for worship ministry?
Firstly, the gift of the Spirit is needed as we are expected as believers to fully depend and rely on Him to guide us. We are taught to pray in and by the Spirit, and to ask for the Spirit to work (Ephesians 6:18, Jude 20, Romans 8:26). Secondly, we are expected to be expectant of the Holy Spirit! Kauflin encourages us to be expectant of the Spirit’s promise, ‘So expect him to keep his promise to empower our activities as we gather in his name… he is eager to give each of us manifestations of his Spirit for the good of his church (1 Cor. 12:11)’ [2008:85]. Lastly, we are told to be humbly responsive to the Spirit. This comes as a product of the first two points. When we are dependant and expectant, we will be humbled in response to what God does in the gathered assembly in a service (2 Cor. 5:18).
The Holy Spirit is needed in the first instance in order that these things are achieved. Just as a musicians speech is affected by breath when singing, so is the word affected by the Holy Spirit. This is explained in DA Carson’s book, Worship by the Book [2008:158] In response to effective worship ministry by the power of the Holy Spirit, Frame suggests that the Holy Spirit initiates edification and the use of the body of believers through us, ‘ …all believers are priests, [and] as servant leaders, [we are to]…help the congregation exercise their gifts to build up the body of Christ’ [1996:65]
In conclusion, the role of the Spirit in the Church is vital to our ministry and teaching as Christian believers. Not only this, but the Spirit is needed in order to train and teach us as we worship. It is the soul of the church, giving the church rhythm and life to go out into the world and evangelise. It can thus be said that the church does need the gift of the Holy Spirit.
CARSON, D.A, Worship by the Book (2002, Zondervan)
FRAME, John M. Worship in Spirit and Truth (1996, P&R Publishing)
KAUFLIN, Bob. Worship Matters (2008, Crossway Books)
LATHROP, Gordon W. Holy Things: A Liturgical Theology (1998, Augsburg Fortress)
PETERSON, David. Engaging With God (1992, APOLLOS).
TORRANCE, James B. Worship, Community & The Triune God of Grace (1996, IVP)
Dean is a Minister in the Anglican Church. Currently he is Curate in the parishes of Bedwas, Machen, Michaelston-y-Fedw and Rudry in South Wales. He was born and bred in Wales, is married to Megan, and has two dogs called Taliesin and Melyn, and two cats named Sinsir and Hâf. He graduated from Cardiff University with a BA Hons. in Theology & Religious Studies, and has studied for an MA in Theology, Ministry & Mission at Trinity College Bristol. He also holds a Cert.RSCM from the Royal School of Church Music. He loves playing music, walking, reading, blogging and horse riding as well as going to the cinema and theatre.
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