On the doctrine of the Holy Spirit according to Paul’s letter to the Ephesians.
One of the enduring quandaries with which Christian’s of every age must contend is that of the person and work of the Holy Spirit. The third person of the Trinity has prevailed as the source for untold dilemmas and debates throughout the eons of church history. Those who profess faith in Christ Jesus are constrained to grapple between the tangible effects of religion and the spiritual erudition of the gospel. In contradistinction to any sort of archaic necromantic or mystic art, which is often conjured through sundry esoteric and enigmatic incantations, the supernatural ministration of God’s Spirit is extended freely to all who believe. That is to say, the lone condition on experiencing the metaphysical benefits of the Spirit of God is faith in the reconciliatory death of the Son of God.
Paul speaks to the “what” and “how” of the Holy Spirit’s ministry when he writes of God’s insistence on giving his redeemed ones his “Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him.” (Eph 1:17) The “him” which comprises the Spirit’s revelatory wisdom is the Lord Jesus Christ, specifically the crucified Lord Jesus Christ. “It is precisely the crucified Savior,” writes T. Paige, “who is the content of God’s mysterious wisdom, a wisdom that cannot be grasped apart from the Spirit.”1 The wisdom of God, which makes one “wise unto salvation” (2 Tm 3:15), is none other than the “Spirit of wisdom” whose ministry is entirely encapsulated with Christ. (Eph 1:17–19; 3:4–7) It is strictly through the reception of the proclaimed Word of God by the attendance of the Spirit that one is “saved by grace through faith.” (Eph 2:4–9)
Furthermore, God’s glorious grace is not accompanied by a host of spirits. Rather, there is only one Spirit (Eph 1:4–6; 4:4–6), and he possesses a singular ministerial purpose, namely, to ceaselessly evince the “already-but-not-yet” glory and “right-now” power of Jesus’s passion, death, and resurrection. “A key function of the Spirit,” continues Paige, “is its power to make the saving events of Jesus’ life-death-resurrection present in an effective way for the believer.”2 Paul articulates this to great effect in Ephesians 4—6, wherein he communicates the concomitant repercussions of the Spirit’s indwelling in one’s life. “Therefore I,” the apostle proclaims, “urge you to live worthy of the calling you have received, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love.” (Eph 4:1–2) The Ephesian Christians were only able to live according to that measure as they themselves lived in association with the Spirit who strengthens them with the incalculable love of Christ Jesus. (Eph 3:16–19) So writes Jared C. Wilson:
The Spirit of God is committed to filling us continually in our insidest insides with the love of God.3
As such, it is the Holy Spirit of God whose ongoing occupation is to “seal” all those who believe “the word of truth.” (Eph 1:13) “The Holy Spirit,” continues Paul, “is the down payment of our inheritance, until the redemption of the possession, to the praise of his glory.” (Eph 1:14) Christ’s Spirit, then, is the collateral of the cross which concretizes one’s life of faith. The Holy Spirit, one might even say, is the ring espoused by Christ himself to his beloved, whose service is a wellspring of encouragement and faithfulness. (Eph 5:22–33) Likewise, Paige asserts, “all who have faith in Christ are on the basis of that faith assured of the eschatological gift of the Spirit.”4 Indeed, it is the particular appointment of the Holy Spirit as God’s guaranty that assures one of the jubilant and triumphant future purchased in the propitiating work of Jesus Christ. The glory to come is ratified by the indwelling ministry of the Spirit.
The church is given a “foretaste of glory divine” in the ministry of the Spirit of Christ, wherein “foreigners and strangers” are made “fellow citizens” and “members of God’s household.” (Eph 2:19) For Paul, the unity which comes through faith and fellowship with the Spirit is archetypal of the eschatological glory which fills God’s house. Jews and Gentiles, then, are alike “coheirs” and “partners in the promise in Christ Jesus.” (Eph 2:11–22; 3:4–7) The ecclesiological bond shared by the family of God is signed by the cross and sealed by the Spirit. (Eph 4:1–6) Such is the paradigmatic efficacy of the gospel, which untethers the marks of faith from the old credal and ritualistic restraints of the law and consigns them to the ministerial influence of the Spirit. Accordingly, the Ephesians’ faith would be transformed (Eph 5:15–21) and fortified (Eph 6:17–18) only as they themselves received and trusted in the Spirit’s ministry to them — a ministry which, Paige submits, reforms and revolutionizes the believer “from the heart outward to have the character of their Lord Jesus Christ.”5
T. Paige, “Holy Spirit,” Dictionary of Paul and His Letters, edited by Gerald F. Hawthorne, Ralph P. Martin, and Daniel G. Reid (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1993), 406.
Jared C. Wilson, Supernatural Power for Everyday People: Experiencing God’s Extraordinary Spirit in Your Ordinary Life (Nashville, TN: Nelson Books, 2018), 190.