“It is surely a fact of inexhaustible significance that what our Lord left behind him was not a book nor a creed, nor a system of thought nor a rule of life, but a visible community.”
The above statement sets the direction of reflection in this section, precisely, to examine a Pentecostal form of ecclesiology with emphasis on the Spirit over a structured ecclesiology. Looking through the perspective of Macchia, this visible community of persons is governed by the principle of the baptism in the Spirit. One discovers the idea of a church from the perspective of the Spirit-filled communities. Macchia terms this “church as Spirit-baptised and gifted fellowship, [which is] a sign of grace in the midst of gracelessness that is in the world”. There are two ways Macchia considers the church here, (i) church as individuals baptized in the Spirit and (ii) church as a gifted fellowship. (i) The essential character of the church as individuals baptized in the Spirit is based on the communion of the people who are in fellowship with the Holy Spirit. There are two effects of this fellowship, namely, the Spirit of God always breathes the truth about God to the people. It also implies the idea of justice (social) which this community should radiate. In other words, the church, in this line of thought, refers to the assembly of people governed by the Spirit of God.
(ii) On the other hand, under the church as a gifted fellowship, we see how the Spirit provides the contour of the paschal mystery (life, death, and resurrection of Jesus) in Macchia’s thought. In this thinking, it is perceived that the manner the love of the Spirit unifies the Trinitarian Godhead is also the way the love of the Spirit should shape our understanding of the church. Macchia emphasizes the love of the Spirit in connection with the filioque dispute which for him puts less emphasis on the status of the Holy Spirit. He faults the Nicaean idea of filioque because it seems to subordinate the role of the Spirit. If the Spirit is subordinated, it means that the dominant focus on the foundation of the church is only Christological. In this regard, he argues that the “Western theology did not subordinate the Spirit simply by ascending Christ’s role in imparting the Spirit but rather by not allowing this impartation decisively to define the substance of his redeeming work”. In other words, for him, the Christological framework of Western theology and ecclesiology was constructed at the expense of the unifying love of the Spirit. The problem with this reasoning is that it creates a cleavage between an understanding of the Christological foundation of the church and the role of the Spirit in the Christian tradition with respect to 1 Corinthians 12,28 and the idea of co-inherence in the Trinitarian communion.
Moreover, viewed from the idea of the love of the Holy Spirit in the Trinitarian communion, one argues that the community of believers is determined by an emphasis on the person of the Spirit. By so reasoning, the Christological prayer in John 17,21 is strongly brought into focus. The remarkable aspect of this emphasis on the Person of the Spirit in ecclesiology is an invitation to reflect on the unifying works of the Spirit. The Spirit as the love that proceeds from the Father through the Son is also the love that unites individual Christians and by extension the diverse Christian communities. Macchia argues in this regard saying, “of course, the Spirit-anointed Christ also determines the direction of the Spirit’s expansively free work in history and creation. But Spirit baptism does not just imply that Christ determines the shape of the Spirit’s work. If highlighted as the organizing principle, Spirit baptism also fundamentally determines the very substance and significance of Christ as the redeemer and the object of faith in the church”. The later part of this statement seems to be a bold claim regarding the fact that the Spirit baptism determines the substance and significance of the redemptive work of Christ. On the other hand, looking at Spirit baptism from the perspective of an organizing principle appears to give us a sign for further reflection.
Given this, reflecting on the Spirit baptism as an organizing principle indicates how it plays the role of incorporating many into being in communion. The divine self-giving in love poured out on all humanity in Spirit baptism becomes the basis of this communion. This insinuates an ecclesiological paradigm which can be employed in an ecumenical discussion. In this view, inter-church relation becomes the self-giving of various denominations. Self-giving in love can be explored as a principle guiding Christians as people filled by the Spirit. Again, horizontally, we discern a Pentecostal understanding of the church from the perspective of the fellowship of people endowed with the gifts of the Spirit of love and who journey in the Spirit. This shows an ecclesiology which focuses on the human person filled with the Spirit in accordance with Christ baptized in the Spirit. It is in this view that we look at the ‘latter-day rain’ motif in the Pentecostal worshipping community.