The Holy Spirit came to perform a twofold work — a work of salvation and a work of sanctification. A work of salvation with reference to those who are in the world; a work of sanctification with reference to those who are in the Church. And both of these aspects of the Spirit’s work are related most intimately to the Person of Christ. How is it that men are saved? By calling on the name of the Lord and being united to Him.
How is it that men are sanctified? By coming into the enjoyment of the benefits which are treasured up in Christ. The Spirit’s work in salvation and sanctification, then, is based on the Person of Christ — His Person and work and riches and glory.
- He brings men into union with Christ for salvation.
- He brings men into communion with Christ for sanctification.
Therefore the burden of the Holy Spirit’s message, whether it be to the world or to the Church, is Christ — Christ to begin with and Christ to go on with.
For nineteen centuries the Holy Spirit has been active in this dual work of His. As the Son was active on this earth within the narrow confines of Palestine, the Spirit has been active on this earth amongst all nations. The Son came to provide, the Spirit to apply salvation. The Son performed His work through the instrumentality of a material body which He assumed at the outset and the Spirit performs His work of salvation and sanctification through the instrumentality of the spiritual Body, the Church, which He, so to speak, assumed when He arrived. Not that the Spirit is incarnate as the Son is incarnate, but after a fashion we may speak of the Holy Spirit as incarnate.
A. J. Gordon, in his book on The Ministry of the Spirit, has a chapter on “The Embodiment of the Spirit.” As the embodiment of the Son was an act of grace, the embodiment of the Spirit is an act of grace. But consider this, that when the Son came forth and took to Himself a body, He took to Himself a body which was perfect; but when the Spirit came forth and entered into this mystical Body, He entered into a Body which is imperfect. Oh, the condescension of the Son and Spirit to come down into the confines of a body.
When the Son had completed His work, He returned to the Father. This was the ascension. When the Spirit completes His work, He will return to the Father. This is the rapture [1 Thess 4:13-17]. The Son returned to the Father in the body which He had assumed and through which He had operated. The Spirit shall return to the Father in the Body which He, so to speak, assumed and through which He has been operating in both cases, whether it be the ascension of the Son or of the Spirit, the entire Body is transported at one and the same time.
As the entirety of Christ’s natural body was carried from earth to heaven at one and the same time, so the entirety of His mystical Body will be carried from earth to heaven at one and the same time. As the first body ascended into glorification, so the second Body, the Church, indwelt by the Spirit, will ascend to be glorified.
So we have these two great cycles, the cycle of the Son and of the Spirit. The Son said (John 16:28), “I came out from the Father, and am come into the world: again, I leave the world, and go unto the Father.” He completed His cycle. The Spirit will complete His cycle. He, the heavenly Wind, returns again to His circuit, as is stated in Ecclesiastes 1:6 concerning the natural wind.
Out from the Father, into the world; out from the world and unto the Father. So it was with the Son; so it will be, when all is carried out, with the Spirit.
Out from the Father and the Son, into the Church; in the Church and with the Church, out of the world unto the Father. The second is based on the first, for until human nature in the Person of Christ was rendered perfect and offered up and glorified, human nature in our persons could not be benefited.
As the completion of the Son’s cycle was introductory to a new phase of the Divine purpose, so the completion of the Spirit’s cycle will be introductory to a new phase of the Divine purpose. When the Son had completed His cycle, the Head, which God had intended, was completed. And when the Head was completed, the Body was formed — a new phase in the Divine purpose was introduced. But when the Body has been completed and is carried back by the indwelling Spirit to the Father, then the mystical Christ is completed; not only the Head, but also the Body.
When the mystical Christ is completed, then God will proceed to enter upon a new phase of His purpose which, in a word, is this — He will rid His universe of every vestige of sin and fill it from center to circumference with His infinite glory. God is not dealing with the sin that is in His universe now. No, He is not trying to get rid of it. He is working on one thing. Having formed the Head, He is forming the Body and when the Body is completed, so that Head and Body are perfected together, then, and not till then, will He proceed to rid His universe of every defiling thing and fill it with His glory, so that the glory of God shall cover the earth as the waters the face of the deep, and not only the earth, but the heavens shall be made to speak His praise.
For more on this subject see Norman F. Douty’s Union with Christ (Swengel, PA: Reiner Publications, 1973).
Norman F. Douty (1899–1993) was president of Cornerstone University in Grand Rapids, Michigan, pastor and itinerant Bible teacher. He authored 15 books.