There Is One Body and One Spirit: 6. The Formation of One Body by the Baptism of the Holy Ghost

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We have heard of the Lord’s promise — “Ye shall be baptized by the Holy Ghost not many days hence,” brought to pass on the day of Pentecost. The little band of disciples, at first some 120 (see Acts 1:1515And in those days Peter stood up in the midst of the disciples, and said, (the number of names together were about an hundred and twenty,) (Acts 1:15)), then about 3,000 (Acts 2:4141Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls. (Acts 2:41)), increased largely afterward (Acts 4:44Howbeit many of them which heard the word believed; and the number of the men was about five thousand. (Acts 4:4)), were baptized of the Holy Spirit, according to the Lord’s promise; but still this was only the Jewish side of the blessing. In Acts 10 Peter opens the door to the Gentiles, bringing them into the same position and privileges, not merely as individuals, but by the baptism of the Holy Spirit. When they of Judea heard of this (see Acts 11), Peter was called to account for what he had done, and he rehearsed the matter from the beginning to them, and declared that the Holy Spirit had acted in a similar manner to that which he had done at the day of Pentecost with the Jews, and the Gentiles too had received the baptism of the Holy Spirit.
Thus we have, in the clearest way, the Jew and Gentile receiving the baptism of the Holy Spirit.1
We must now turn to Paul, for it was to him alone of all the Apostles was the revelation of the “mystery” committed, of which he speaks in Ephesians 3:66That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel: (Ephesians 3:6), &c., which had heretofore been “hid in God” (Eph. 3:99And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ: (Ephesians 3:9)), not even in “Scripture,” but “in God” — His eternal purpose. “That the Gentiles should be joint-heirs, and a joint-body (with the Jews), and joint-partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel.” Thus should the passage be read.
Paul describes at length this body in 1 Corinthians 12:12-2712For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. 13For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit. 14For the body is not one member, but many. 15If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? 16And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? 17If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling? 18But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him. 19And if they were all one member, where were the body? 20But now are they many members, yet but one body. 21And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you. 22Nay, much more those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are necessary: 23And those members of the body, which we think to be less honorable, upon these we bestow more abundant honor; and our uncomely parts have more abundant comeliness. 24For our comely parts have no need: but God hath tempered the body together, having given more abundant honor to that part which lacked: 25That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another. 26And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honored, all the members rejoice with it. 27Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular. (1 Corinthians 12:12‑27), where he says, “For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is (the) Christ. (This name, “the Christ,” is here applied to the members and head, as to Adam and his wife jointly, in Genesis 5:22Male and female created he them; and blessed them, and called their name Adam, in the day when they were created. (Genesis 5:2)). For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free, and have been all made to drink into one Spirit, for the body is not one member, but many, &c., &c. Here both Jew and Gentile lose their places, as such, and are brought into one body, and united by the Holy Spirit to each other and to Christ, the Head, a Man glorified.2
Now this body is in the world, as is the Holy Spirit, whose presence constitutes it. It is not in heaven. The Head is in heaven, and the members have a heavenly position by faith; while in fact, they are in the world. This body has been passing along through the world; its unity as perfect as the day in which the presence of the Holy Spirit first constituted it. Nothing has ever marred its unity. True, the outward manifestation of this body, by the oneness of those who compose it, is gone; true that the “house of God,” as it first appeared in the world, has drifted into a “great house” of 2 Timothy 2:19-2219Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his. And, Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity. 20But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and of silver, but also of wood and of earth; and some to honor, and some to dishonor. 21If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honor, sanctified, and meet for the master's use, and prepared unto every good work. 22Flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart. (2 Timothy 2:19‑22); true, that all that was committed to mans responsibility has, as ever, failed. But the body of Christ was in the world then — was here through the dark middle ages — is now in the world; remaining all through the ruin of the professing church; its unity perfectly maintained by the Holy Spirit, who, by His presence and baptism constitutes it; for He as ever maintains the unity of the body of Christ!
Let me put a figure before my reader, which will convey simply the fact that the entire number of saints in the world at any given time (just as I write these words for instance), indwelt by the Holy Spirit, is that which is recognized of God as the body of Christ. Let us suppose a regiment of soldiers, a thousand strong, goes to India, and serves there for many years. All those who composed that regiment die off or are slain in battle, and their places are filled up by others — the numerical strength of the regiment is kept up — after years of service, the time comes for it to return home — not a man who went out, is in it now, and yet the same regiment returns without change of its number or facings or identity. Thus with the body of Christ. Those who composed it in the days of Paul, are not here, yet the body has passed along through the last eighteen centuries, the members of it dying off; and the ranks filled up by others, and now at the end of the journey the body is here — the Holy Spirit who constitutes its unity, being here — as perfect in its unity, as ever it was.3
Now it is quite true that all the saints between those two great events are of the body of Christ —of it in the mind and council of God. But those who have died have lost their present actual connection with the body, having passed away from the sphere where, as to personal place, the Holy Spirit is. They have ceased to be in its unity. The bodies of the dead saints, once the temples of the Holy Spirit, are now in the dust, and their spirits are with the Lord. Their bodies not being yet raised, they do not now enter into account of the body as recognized of God. As those on the retired list of an army, they have passed into the reserve, or freedom from service, as it were, out of the scene now occupied by the Holy Spirit sent down from heaven. We read, “If one member suffer, all the members suffer with it,” &c. (1 Cor. 12:2626And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honored, all the members rejoice with it. (1 Corinthians 12:26)), the dead do not suffer. The passage treats of those who are alive here, in a place where they may do so.
Thus the body of Christ, as now recognized of God, embraces all believers here upon earth, at the moment I write, as at any given moment. 1 Corinthians 12 treats of the church of God upon earth: healings, &c., are not set in heaven. The difficulty with many is not reading Scripture as God’s mind at any given moment — speaking of a thing before His eye. The Apostles spoke of a thing before their eyes; they never looked for a long continuance of the Church; they looked for the Lord’s coming. All was viewed as contemplating this, though prophetically ruin was predicted, and felt as it came in.)
In Ephesians 2:2121In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: (Ephesians 2:21), we have the purpose and mind of God, as the whole Building, that is, the entire complement of the saints from the day of Pentecost, till the moment when all are in heaven. In Ephesians 2:2222In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit. (Ephesians 2:22), we have what the entire number of the saints are, who are alive in the world at any given moment between those two points of time which I have mentioned, namely, between the day of Pentecost and the moment when all shall have been taken up to heaven.
Ephesians 2:2121In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: (Ephesians 2:21), “In whom all the building, fitly framed together, groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord.
Here we find a temple or building growing, but not yet grown: that is, it is growing up day by day, into that which it will be finally when in glory — a holy temple in the Lord.”
Ephesians 2:2222In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit. (Ephesians 2:22), “In whom ye also (the saints and believers in Christ Jesus, to whom the Epistle is addressed) are builded together, for an habitation of God through the Spirit.” This gives me what the entire number of saints now or at any moment, constitute corporately in the world. They are a habitation, or dwelling-place of God through the Spirit.
These two thoughts may be illustrated thus. When Jehovah was passing through the wilderness, from Egypt to Canaan, He dwelt in a tabernacle, which in itself was perfect in all its parts and furniture — a complete thing. It moved along through the wilderness towards the Land of Promise, and was a habitation of God. But when at last Israel was settled in the land, Jehovah had a temple — a magnificent structure in dimensions and furniture, and appointments, far beyond the little tabernacle which was His dwelling- place in the journey.
Thus, with those two verses, verse 21 shows us what God will have in the Land (in heaven itself with us) when the temple now growing under His workmanship will have attained its full proportions, and be in glory. But verse 22 tells us what the saints are meanwhile — God’s dwelling place — His tabernacle or habitation through the Spirit.
This may serve to illustrate in some measure, and bring home to our hearts and consciences for our practical walk, what we are as a present thing. How responsible then, we are, in observing such a truth — to cast in our purposes, our aims, our all, into it — to act upon it. Not merely to know it as some nice truth or doctrine, but as a living member of it; to walk in it, to link my soul on to the practice of it, with those who are observing it in weakness; to separate myself from all that in practice disowns it; to act upon the living, abiding truth, that which occupies the mind and purpose of God; that which is now a “spectacle to the principalities and powers in heavenly places,” disclosing to them “the manifold wisdom of God” (Eph. 3:1010To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God, (Ephesians 3:10)). How solemn on the other hand to disown it!
What an amazing truth! Although the oneness prayed for by the Lord Jesus in John 17 has almost vanished away; and mans unfaithfulness, yea the unfaithfulness of God’s people, under the highest blessing ever vouchsafed to them in this world, has been shown in the almost entire obliteration of that oneness which the Son demanded of the Father. Although all that men could do to mar it has been done, still there is that which never changes, never fails, and never is spoiled; because (are we not ashamed to say it) it is not in our power to do so, for it is kept, as it is constituted, by the presence and baptism of God the Holy Spirit — the body of Christ, in the world!
How beautifully do we find Christ’s prayer for their oneness answered in Acts 2;4. We read there, “They lifted up their voices with one accord.” “The multitudes of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul.” His prayer was answered for the little moment, “that they all may be one,” as in practice they were. But soon, indeed, did this oneness of practice fail. Then we find, in Acts 9, Saul of Tarsus, afterward Paul the Apostle, called out to reveal to us something that could never fail — the unity of the Spirit — the body of Christ.
The difference between oneness and unity is important; because we are exhorted “to endeavor to keep the unity of the Spirit4 in the bond of peace.” To endeavor to keep practically that which exists in fact, by the presence of the Spirit of God. Not to make a unity but to keep, by the bond of peace, that unity which exists by the Holy Spirit.
Suppose a number of persons are led to have one aim, one mind, one object, one heart, and one purpose; this would be oneness of practice. But this would not constitute them into a body. But suppose that such were united together by an indissoluble bond, this would be unity. The Holy Spirit is this bond of the Body, and consequently its unity exists independently of the oneness of practice of those who are thus united.
Is it not a blessed thought, however, that this oneness, so well pleasing to the Lord, does exist amongst those who endeavor to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace?
1. The Baptism of the Holy Ghost is only used with reference to the corporate body of saints upon earth. By it individuals are brought into a corporate relationship to each other and to Christ. [But see previous footnote.]
2. In verse 27, the Apostle recognizes the assembly of God at Corinth as the Body. "Now ye are the body of Christ; and members in particular"; that is in the principle and ground of gathering they were the body of Christ.
3. I take opportunity to add a few remarks here. The main point sought to be established in this tract is easily seen to be the present actuality of Christ's body here upon earth. There are many vague notions as to this grand truth in the minds of the saints. Some have thought that the body of Christ is in heaven; some that it is in course of formation since the descent of the Holy Ghost at Pentecost ——a body gradually being formed, part of which is in heaven, part on earth, part (if the Lord tarry) not yet gathered in; that this formation progresses till a certain moment (the Lord's coming), when it is completed, and taken away to be with the Lord. (See Preface to Third Edition.
4. See The Unity of the Spirit, Part 2.