What is the relationship of the Spirit to the Church? This question, if not answered, can cause some consternation. It can cause that grief because the Church could not exist without the power of the Spirit. If the Spirit were not empowering every believer, then if the church somehow existed, it would lack its power agent.
The power of the Spirit can be found in several Scriptures. One is in Luke 1:13-17, where the angel tells Zechariah that his son will “be filled with the Holy Spirit even from his mother’s womb” (English Standard Version, Luke 1:15b). According to Robert Gundry, this means that the Lord filling him with the Spirit “will empower him for service” (Commentary on the New Testament, 2010, 223). This is a common theme throughout Luke-Acts for the Spirit and Church. Gundry confirmed this when he wrote, “Throughout Luke-Acts, being filled with the Holy Spirit gives observable and therefore credible evidence of God’s powerful activity” (227).
This evidence of God’s power is demonstrated powerfully in Acts 1-3. In these first chapters of Acts, one sees the Spirit descend and fill the disciples (2:1-4). The beginning of the church and its dynamic growth (2:37-47). Then there is the power to heal those who are lame and ill (3:1-10). God’s extensive power is seen in those three chapters.
Stepping back to Luke 3:21-22, we see the story of Jesus’ baptism and the Spirit descending on Him. The concept of the Spirit descending in the bodily form of a dove (Luke 3:22) is a similar showing of the “tongues of fire” (Acts 2:3). This was showing the same thing, just in a different way. The most amazing part is the filling of the Spirit of the disciples. As Gundry writes of this filling, “the Spirit also filled them just as the Spirit had filled Jesus upon his baptism in water” (468). This is a fantastic thing that the disciples were filled with the same Spirit and guided by Him as Christ was “so immersed in the Spirit that the Spirit determines his movements” (Gundry 238).
When reading Luke-Acts and seeing the overarching theme of salvation to all people, one will see that, as I. Howard Marshall started, God acts throughout His “various agents” to bring about this salvation (A Concise New Testament Theology, 2008, 49). The Spirit is what enables men to “bear effective witness about Jesus and for Him” (Gundry 465). So, the connection of Spirit and Church is that without the Spirit, the Church would not have happened. The first chapters of Acts give the finality of the message of Luke and why Christ came. They show that the act of Christ coming, dying, rising, and ascending to send the Spirit to His chosen to spread His gospel, came to be just as spoken beforehand by the prophets.