Since the church is found where the word is preached and the sacraments are administered, and since the Spirit is promised to us alongside the means of grace, we rest assured that wherever the church is, there too is the Spirit.
What exactly does it mean for a church to have the Spirit? Ephesians 2:13-22 helps answer this question and radically reframes our understanding of what it means to be spiritual. Here, Paul urges believers to avoid false spirituality, and he turns our focus to the true source and guarantee of the Spirit’s presence: the faithful proclamation of Christ’s work.
One Body by the Cross: Vertical and Horizontal Reconciliation
Paul addresses those who “once were far off” (v. 13) and says that God gathers people to become “a dwelling place for God by the Spirit” (v. 22). He rejects spiritualties that rely on human effort and turns our focus to “Christ Jesus himself” (v. 20). For him, a church is spiritual neither because of members’ enthusiasm nor through institutional unity. Instead, he connects the presence of the Spirit to the horizontal and vertical peace achieved by the cross.
Our relationship to God is a vertical relationship, and our relationship to fellow humans is a horizontal relationship. Sin constructed barriers to peace along each axis. Gentiles were once vertically disconnected from God’s promises but “have been brought near by the blood of Christ” (v. 13). Likewise, Christ removed a horizontal “dividing wall of hostility” (v. 14) between Jews and Gentiles, reconciling all “in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility” (v. 16).
The architecture of the old temple represented the barriers that existed prior to the cross. A curtain separated the Holy of Holies from the people (Heb. 9:1-9), and the only time anyone passed through the veil was when the high priest entered on the Day of Atonement (Exod. 30:10). But on Good Friday, the curtain was torn from top to bottom, allowing access to the Spirit once more (Matt. 27:50-51). None of this has anything to do with humans working themselves into the right spiritual state, and everything to do with God’s habit of showing up on his own terms.