The Role of the Holy Spirit as Presented in Ephesians

The fact that the Holy Spirit is not mentioned until the thirteenth verse of the first chapter does not in any way suggest that Paul’s letter to the converts of the most successful mission he ever held  neglects Him as a subject or as a major source of what he teaches. He refers to the Holy Spirit some thirteen times in the letter and each time there are flashes of revelation in his explanation of biblical truth and his practical guidance.


After reading through the letter several times in quick succession and deep concentration, I suggest a few random thoughts concerning the Holy Spirit as taught solely in Ephesians.  These are thoughts from a recent address.



In Ephesians we see the following aspects of the work of the Holy Spirit in the Christian life and our understanding of His modus operandi:


The Christological role of the Spirit

Ephesians clearly paints the picture of the body of Christ, i.e. the church militant that is alive and well on planet earth, as being the sphere of activity of God’s gift of the Spirit within the household of faith.  Ephesians 1:13  suggests, just as Jesus taught, that the other Comforter would reside in us and teach us in the same manner that Jesus taught the twelve.  It is “after that” we “believed” we were actually sealed by the Spirit having been born of the Spirit. He is here to take of the things of Christ and make them real to us.  Ephesians 3:5 explains how that which was hidden since creation is now revealed through ministry gifts of apostles and prophets.  Those hidden things are centred on the person of Christ.  Ephesians 2:18-22 uses the imageries of building and temple to highlight Christ’s foundational role in the formation of the church and the Holy Spirit’s indwelling presence in the church. In fact the church, i.e. the people are actually His habitat.   Each “stone” as it were, is sealed by the gift of the Spirit after that they had individually come to faith, yet the exaltation and foundation laying of Christ as the very source of salvation is the backbone of all Christian truth, as taught by the Holy Spirit. The presence and manifestation of the Spirit, and the indwelling of the Spirit in the hearts of those who are born again by faith in Christ, leads us to more and more depend on the Saviour. This process creates an ever increasing presence of Christ within us moving towards an ever expanding manifestation of the fruit of the Spirit. The fruit of the Holy Spirit is simply the duplication and engrafting of the character of Christ within the character of the believer.  This is what I am referring to as the Christological role of the Holy Spirit in Ephesians.



The Eschatological role of the Spirit

“In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession–to the praise of his glory..” (Ephesians 1:13-14).  Ephesians explains how the Holy Spirit is God’s eschatological seal on the salvation of the believer. He (the Holy Spirit) is the earnest – the deposit  – that guarantees the future eschatological inheritance.  He Himself is the earnest deposit of God on the Christians life that gives the assurance of future blessings which I understand to mean of blessings both in this life and the next. It is in the resurrection that manifests what Paul here refers to as “the redemption of the purchased possession.”


To express it in a different manner, the sealing of the Spirit is the first instalment, of the fullness of the spiritual blessing, and divine presence in God’s new temple which is being continually built into a more magnificent structure as the second advent draws near and will be fully exhibited in and after the resurrection. Retrieving Old Testament analogy and illustration, Ephesians images and describes the gift of the Spirit as the fulfilment of Ezekiel’s vision (Ezekiel 37), even more graphically than Joel’s promise (Joel 2).  Both Ezekiel and Joel link the outpouring of the Holy Spirit with the resurrection future as well as the present aspect of eschatology.  It cannot be doubted that the more the church of Christ understands the eschatological relevance of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit that started on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2) (and Christians are even more aware today because of the Pentecostal and Charismatic movements of the present day), the more there will be a general awareness among believers around the world that the “coming of the Lord draws near.”


I am seriously convinced that the second coming of Christ is less noted by a particular date on the Calendar, and more as a date when the hearts of believers are in a more Christ like state of heart and mind.  I see it clearly not as God declaring “I have a date set in my Calendar,” but as “I will come when the heart of my people is in a certain condition.”

The Prophetic role of the Spirit

The letter to the Ephesians associates the revelatory work of the Spirit with the saving plan of mankind that has been unravelling throughout time.  The whole programme as presented by Paul is a breathtaking mystery of God.  The whole character of the creation of the plan, designed before time began, and the implementation of the plan in and through Christ, as well as the future summing up of all things in Christ, is not to be dryly repeated and passed on throughout the generations but is to be declared and prophesied through the work of God’s holy apostles and prophets, as well as all those who are called to minister and/or share their faith throughout the world. This is the glorious prophetic role of the Holy Spirit.  Christians believe in progressive revelation. They are forced to by the gradual unfolding of God’s purposes throughout the Old Testament. The Spirit of God revealed as much as mankind was ready for, and as much as they could take. Peter even tells us that the prophets did not properly grasp the awesome truths of Christ’s conception, birth, life, death, resurrection, ascension and second coming.  When we read the likes of Isaiah 53, Isaiah 11’s early verses and the seven servant songs, we cannot but concluded that Isaiah somehow saw Christ and all He was and did. Peter tells us that the Hebrew prophets spent their lives searching for the details of what they were uttering by the revelation of the Holy Spirit.  Paul himself continued in the same prophetic mode but gloriously knew exactly of who and what he spoke of.  All true prophecy that explains the testimony of Christ is from, and by the Holy Spirit.


The future plan outlined throughout the first dozen or so verses of Ephesians 1, which has to do with the believer’s purpose and inheritance, is in itself a prophetic inspirational declaration. The insights and understanding of God’s plan do not come by book reading and study but by revelation of the Holy Spirit. Prophecy is of the Spirit  or it isn’t prophecy. Paul prays in the first chapter that the Ephesian believers may be given a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Christ.  Such knowledge of God is not and cannot be gained by academic  learning, it is a thing of the Holy Spirit Himself.



The Revelatory role of the Spirit

“Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit.”  (Ephesians 3:5)  I use the word “revelatory” here to differentiate from the “prophetic  role” meaning that the actual knowledge that comes along with the hearing and receiving of the gospel and the penetration of the light of the truth of God’s word.  I am here talking of the ever increasing understanding and establishing of those truths that the Christian already believes.  The old song that repeats “Tell me the old old staory of Jesus and His love,”  is seriously profound. Repetatition of biblical truth is like pile driving the pillar of truth deeper and deeper into the Christians psyche and heart.  “Faith comes by hearing and hearing..” That means repetition. It may be considered by some to be unnecessary, having considered the prophetic role of the Holy Spirit above, but my point is to highlight the fact that Christ is building His church on the rock of revelation concerning Himself, and the Spirit of  is always wanting to reveal more light concerning the truths that we are already aware of. All revelation held within the hearts of human beings is light imparted by the Spirit of God Himself.


Spiritual understanding is what the Spirit of God has revealed to people what He knows of Christ and the full breadth of gospel truth and data.


The Supernatural role of the Spirit

“And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit.” (Ephesians 5:18).  There is clearly an aspect of the Holy Spirit that is manifested not only in the miraculous, but in the overwhelming of the normal rationale of humanity.  Speaking in tongues, falling as dead, revealing truth by dreams and visions, which according to Joel is to be part of the norm in these gospel days is all part of the role of the Spirit.  It is the Spirit of God that brings this about.  The sealing of the Holy Spirit that is after coming to faith is what this writer believes is a reference to the baptism in the Holy Spirit. That is supernatural in its manifestation of tongues and/or prophecy.  The opening of the mind to gospel truth is a gloriously supernatural thing that literally changes people’s character. It is all done by the Spirit of God.


Strangely Ephesians 5:18 refers to the extraordinary unnatural manifestation of alcoholic drunkenness as the opposite of being filled with the Holy Spirit. The fact that strange things happen in outbreaks of the Holy Spirit, should not necessarily surprise us.  Being strange and acting strange could never be in and of itself  proof of a visitation  of the Holy Spirit, but remember even Jesus was considered out of His mind at some points. Read Mark’s Gospel.  It happened when the Holy Spirit was breaking out in different ways.


The Unifying role of the Spirit

“Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3).  Everything the Holy Spirit does is to bring unity amongst mankind, even when it is separation from the world. Because there is one Lord, One faith, One Baptism and One Spirit, and because that self same Spirit is He that has convicted every Christian of their sin, brought them to faith and caused them to be born again, one does not need a degree in theology to conclude that there is an intrinsic unity in the fellowship of every Christian that has ever lived. The unity that is a manifestation of the Spirit, needs to be cultivated and developed with the binding power and strength of peace amongst the Christian family worldwide. Ephesians particularly draws attentions to the chasm between Jews and gentiles.  “By this shall all men know that you are my disciples,” said Jesus, “That you love one another.”  The “agape” love that Jesus was talking about is something that cannot take place without the work of the Holy Spirit. Ephesians 4:3 tells us clearly that even though the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of love and peace, Christians need to work hard at maintaining that unity that the Spirit has placed within us, and it has to be done in the bonds of peace. In plain English, aiming for peace with all men is not an option, but a God given goal – and it is the goal of the Holy  Spirit.



The universality of the role of the Spirit

“There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling.” (Ephesians 4:4).  I have absolutely certainty when declaring that the wall that Paul refers to as being broken down between Jew and Gentile did not in any way suggest any similarity in the format of their worship.  Jewish Messianic fellowships that I have visited worship differently that any kind of gentile body of believers.  There are in the world, as far as outward practice is concerned, differing “brands,” “types,” or “flavours” of Christianity.  The different “brands” and “flavours” of the body of Christ should not, in our hearts, disenfranchise any other “brand” or “flavour” from being considered as right, true or orthodox.  The body of Christ is utterly diverse.  That is how it should be.  Anybody that is born of the Spirit of God is part of the body of Christ.  And there is only one body of Christ. Different doctrinal emphases or practical differences in modes of worship, music style or bible translations used is fine. However, none of that sort of criteria should reduce us to bad naming other churches, movements or people simply because they “do church” differently that the way we, personally like it done.  Where people of God worship the Lord in Spirit and in truth, they are carried on the wings of the Spirit no matter what it says on the notice board at the front entrance.  The Holy Spirits vision is huge and broad. The Spirit lives within us. We are to be submitted to the will of the Spirit, therefore the exterior and superficial differences should be acknowledged but not allowed to separate us.  It is truth that makes us one, not our worship style or doctrinal emphases, not our central Headquarters or our autonomous fellowships, not our leaders who are called pastors as opposed to those being referred to as bishops, prophets or apostles.


My point, in what I am referring to as the universality of the role of the Holy Spirit, is not to suggest universality with every wind of doctrine as long as it includes Christ.  Not at all!  But I am amazed in my travels to discover the different manifestations of the Holy Spirit in the lives of different groups of Christians.  Some are noisy, some quiet, some worship with huge musical accompaniment, and some sing acapella in perpetuity, some emphasize evangelism, some stress devotion  – and one can go on and on. The Holy Spirit adapts to the culture, the age, the music, and the race.  As long as a group of people are born again and gathered in Christ’s name around the Word of God, the Holy Spirit is there to glorify Christ.  In that respect the Holy Spirit promotes a universality of attitude.


The Soterialogical role of the Spirit

Soteriology is the study of the process of salvation. “Soteria” means “salvation.”   Ephesians 1:3 allows us to conclude that every blessing that  heaven can bring us is the inheritance of the believer. Those blessings are sourced in the manifestation and ministry of the Holy Spirit – that is why they are referred to as spiritual blessings. Those heavenly blessings are embedded in our salvation.  Ephesians 1:13, informs us that being sealed by the Holy Spirit after we have believed leaves us with the firm certainty that the Spirit of God is our personal heavenly tutor all the way through our earthly walk with Jesus. So the Spirit of God is the “hands on” heavenly tutor, comforter and counsellor. That is what He does, because that is who He is.  Ephesians sees the Holy Spirit as God’s seal of ownership of the believer, and the first instalment of the believer’s eschatological inheritance. It links the Spirit explicitly with the believer’s sonship to God.  When Ephesians 1:17 says; “That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him,” it is clear that the “Spirit of wisdom and revelation,” is a euphemism for the Holy Spirit implanting both His wisdom and His revelation in the hearts of those that Paul was praying for. We could go on to elucidate more and more that the Holy Spirit is working within us those things the Christian needs to work out.  We are kept by the Holy Spirit. The Christian has access to deep intimacy with Him.


The developmental role of the Spirit

“That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man” (Ephesians 3:16). The principle of “self” decreasing and “Christ” increasing within us is a principle that is actuated by the Spirit of God.  Strengthening with might in the inner man is a developmental process that only the Spirit of God can activate


The Ethical role of the Spirit

“That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him” (Ephesians 1:17).  This thought in Paul’s prayer links the Holy Spirit with mutual edification in the context of corporate worship, with charismatic wisdom in daily life, and with the transforming power of God conforming the believer to the image of Christ by getting to know Christ more and more.


The Ecclesiological role of the Spirit

For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father” (Ephesians 2:18)This statement facilitates our envisioning of the Spirit as the presence of God in his one temple, and the gift of Christ to his one body, unifying the believing Jew with the believing gentile.  It stresses the common endowment of the Spirit on all believers of differing cultures and races. It emphasise the edifying and unifying impact of the Holy Spirit in the church.


The Missiological role of the Spirit

“Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints” (Ephesians 6:18).  In Ephesians Paul tends to highlight the role of the Spirit in the ecclesiological interaction of the believers for mutual edification and growth. In plain English he helps Christians to bless and help each other, as well as seeking to reach out to those beyond the body of Christ.  This verse is encouraging prayer in the Spirit (i.e. in tongues) whilst praying for mutual edification throughout the entire church of Jesus Christ, worldwide.  The apostle exhorts all kinds of prayer with great perseverance and observation of the needs of all Christians.  The important highlight I wish to impress my readers with is that the prayer is required to be made in the Holy Spirit. The principle being expressed is that which is expanded upon in Romans 8 which tells us that when we do not know how to pray it is expedient to pray in the Holy Spirit and to allow the Spirit of God to pray through us.  I conclude automatically that the purest manifestation of the Holy Spirit praying through me without my own thoughts and emphases seeping through is when I pray in tongues. This is missiological prayer on every conceivable level, and it is the Holy Spirit that empowers the whole.


The Spiritual Combat role of the Spirit

“And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Ephesians 6:17). Christians are to fight the devil and his hordes with the word of God. This is not to in any way infer a parrot like quoting of scripture like some vain superstitious mantra, but to speak biblical truth, in faith and energised by the Holy Spirit. I declare this to be true simply because when Paul writes, “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God,” the word or “word” is not “logos” but Rhima. This suggests that the combat with demonic forces must be engaged in with the Holy Spirit’s empowering. To engage with demonic forces without the empowering of the Holy Spirit is extremely dangerous.



The music and praise creating role of the Spirit

“speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord” (Ephesians 5:19 NIV) or “But speak to yourselves in Psalms and hymns and songs of The Spirit; be singing in your hearts to THE LORD JEHOVAH”(The same verse from the Aramaic Bible in plain English.). There are songs of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit sings. The Old Testament prophet spoke of Yahweh singing over us. Jesus sang a hymn, surely a psalm, as they left the upper room after the last supper.  It is essential to edify ourselves by singing the praises of Him who bought us and paid our ransom with His own blood. To glorify Christ, such songs of the Spirit need to be discovered and sung. Discovered in the Holy Spirit, sung in the Holy Spirit, and this is a mutually edifying exercise that Christians need to do together.



This is by no means an exhaustive list, but a list that helps us to see the comprehensive nature of what it means to live our lives in the power of the Holy Spirit.



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