This article looks at the work of the Holy Spirit in the OT, the life of Christ, and the life of the church. It shows how the Spirit works to prepare the church for Christ.

Source: APC News, 2012. 2 pages.

The Bridegroom’s Friend

Someone approaching my hometown by sea in the late evening would notice a strange-looking building. It resembles the Colosseum, and stands, floodlit, on top of a hill overlooking the bay. They would not see the floodlights – obviously – only the building.

When John the Baptist was challenged about ‘losing’ followers to Christ, he replied that Christ was the Bridegroom while he, John, was only the Bridegroom’s friend. John rejoiced that Christ had come, and his entire work was to prepare Christ’s Bride (John 3:25-30). Like the floodlights, John was pointing people to something other than himself.

Those two illustrations help us to understand the work of the Holy Spirit insofar as it is revealed in the Bible. We read that all things were made for Christ as well as by Him; He is the heir of all (Colossians 1:16; Hebrews 1:2). The Holy Spirit is preparing a Bride for Christ. Like the hidden floodlights, we do not see the Spirit, but we see the growth of Christ’s church and His love for His people.

As we read through the Bible we see the Spirit working to prepare Christ’s Bride (Revelation 19:7). It was the Spirit of God who gave shape to the universe (Genesis 1:1-2). The climax of creation was the making of Man. That was not complete until the Spirit of God was breathed into him so that he became a living soul. Why was man made? To have fellowship with God. We see that taking place in the Garden of Eden.

The Fall involved estrangement from God and loss of the Spirit. But God’s purpose cannot be frustrated, and we see the Spirit again forming a Bride for Christ.

The Old Testament era was a time of preparation. The birth of Isaac (from whom generations of God’s people came) was obviously the result of the Spirit’s power (Genesis 17:15-21). The Spirit went with the Children of Israel, protecting them from Pharaoh and other enemies. When he gave the Law through Moses it showed the people their need of a Saviour; and when he gave the rituals of religion they reminded the people of God’s promise of Christ. Revelation led to relationship, as the Psalms and other literature demonstrate.

If the Son of God was to have a human bride, there had to be atonement for human sin. So we find the Spirit preparing a body for Christ. The writer of Psalm 40 hinted at that (Psalm 40:6; Hebrews 10:5-7). The angel Gabriel told Mary that it was happening (Luke 1:26-35). How close the Heavenly Bridegroom has come to us – He is now one of ourselves!

The Spirit filled the man Christ Jesus at His baptism, equipping Him for His life of service as the sin-bearer (Matthew 3:13-17). Thus we see a depth of love and wisdom in Jesus’ life that can only be explained by divine influence. That was especially the case at Gethsemane and Calvary. “Through the eternal Spirit he offered himself without spot unto God” (Hebrews 9:14).

It was the Spirit’s power that raised Christ from the dead. In a sense, that was the beginning of our relationship, for the Saviour and Bridegroom had returned to life. It is the same Spirit of God who will raise the bodies of Christ’s Bride at the Great Day (Romans 8:11).

Having prepared Christ, the Spirit now prepares His people. He who formed the first creation is now forming the new creation. The new birth is the Spirit’s work (John 3:5).

But life never exists apart from its surroundings, and the person who is born from above finds himself part of a spiritual environment. The Spirit is forming, not isolated individuals, but a church that will relate to Christ corporately. It is the womb in which individual Christians are born, and the community in which they grow and function.

Accordingly the Spirit led Christ’s apostles to record those things that are the foundation of our faith (John 16:12-15; 2 Peter 2:16-21). He gives people to the church who will declare the gospel to us (Ephesians 4:11-16). When the Spirit is breathed into our souls we receive the Lord Jesus Christ as the gospel presents Him. Thus we are united to Him in a relationship that will never end. Through the church, the gospel, and the new birth the Holy Spirit is forming a Bride for Christ. The Spirit does the work, but it is Christ we see and love.

That new life develops. The Spirit uses the gospel to bring Christ’s love home to His people. Christ’s character is formed through the challenges of temptation and the need to exercise brotherly love (James 1:2-4). The Spirit instructs us by the Word, and enables us by His power. Thus God’s people are progressively sanctified until they are fit for glory. Again, the Spirit works – or will work. The last stage is the resurrection of the dead, when the Spirit will “transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body” (Philippians 3:21). Then Christ will say, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you before the foundation of the world” (Matthew 25:34).

Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb” (Revelation 19:9). How we should rejoice at that prospect! We get a faint picture of it in Psalm 45. It originates in the Father’s love. It comes about because the Heavenly Bridegroom put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. And the Holy Spirit of God is the Person who is making it ready.

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