No. 1: His Person and Work in Old Testament Times
Surely we should approach such an exalted theme as this with the utmost reverence. The Scriptures tell us who the Spirit of God is, and what and how He works, and it is, therefore, our privilege to draw attention to these Scriptures.
Who is the Holy Spirit? The Scriptures take for granted who the Spirit of God is in the first mention of Him in Genesis 1:2. We are not there told who the Spirit of God is, simply that He moved on the face of the waters. Yet Scripture clearly tells us who He is in an indirect, though none the less impressive way.
Hebrews 9:14, says, “Christ. . . . through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God.” Here we are told the Spirit of God is eternal. Now that predicates Deity. None but Deity can be from eternity without beginning and without end. The adjective “eternal” applied in this absolute sense, ascribes Deity to the one so described.
Some theologians would have us believe that the Holy Spirit is an influence and not a Person. There cannot be an influence apart from a Person. We may talk about the influence of the prevailing winds and such like and come to the conclusion that there can be influence apart from a Person, But on reflection this cannot be so. Agur, the son of Jakeh, knew better when he asked the question, “Who has gathered the wind in His fists?” (Prov. 30:4). He knew that behind the wind was a Person. To try to make out there can be an influence apart from a Person is the stultification of common sense.
Moreover, read John 16:13-14, and you will find the Holy Spirit comes, guides, hears, speaks, glorifies, receives, shows—all activities of a Person. Further, in Acts 13:2, “The Holy Ghost said, separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called then.” Here we have a Person giving positive instructions and using language which none but Deity could rightly use. This is fully borne out in 1 Corinthians 12:11, “All these works the one and the self-same Spirit, dividing to every many severally as HE will.” Here again language is used which is only proper to Deity. Sovereignty is one of the attributes of God. “Dividing. . . . as He will” in relation to the assembly of God on earth is the assertion of Sovereignty, and therefore of Deity.
THE HOLY SPIRIT IS A MEMBER OF THE HOLY TRINITY
This is indicated in the rite of baptism—“baptising them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.” This is borne out in the threefold benediction in 2 Corinthians 13:14, “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost be with you all. Amen.” It is seen in the tri-partite parable of Luke 15—the Shepherd (typical of our Lord) seeking the lost sheep; the woman (typical of the Holy Spirit) seeking the lost piece of silver; the Father (typical of God the Father) welcoming the returning and repentant prodigal. In the sentence “Let us be merry” (Luke 15:24) we have typified the joy of Father, Son and Holy Ghost in the blessing of sinful men. The same truth is set forth in the first Scripture we quoted, Hebrews 9:14, “Christ. . . . through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God.” Here we have Christ, the Spirit and God, all occupied in the work of redemption. We see it in the baptism of our Lord, when the Spirit of God, descending like a dove, rested upon Him, and a voice from heaven, the Father’s voice was heard, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Matt. 3:17). Father, Son and Spirit in happy relationship!
THE FIRST, SECOND, AND THIRD PERSONS OF TRINITY
We are accustomed to speak of the first, second and third Persons of the Holy Trinity, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Doubtless the formula for baptism has led to this order, and the wisdom of it can be easily seen. But we must be very careful not to place the Persons in our minds as in order of importance. There have been some of late who have put dishonour on our blessed Lord by declaring that He, the Son, was in the nature of things inferior to His Father, and that in face of the Scripture, “That all men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father” (John 5:23).
A document may have to be signed by three persons. They must of necessity be placed in order of first, second and third. But that does not mean necessarily that first, second and third in order of importance. We might illustrate it by a chandelier with three arms at equal distances. If it were necessary to distinguish one from the other, how would we begin? They are alike in appearance and use. They are equally distant from each other. How would we begin? We should be obliged to number them one, two and three. But that certainly would not designate any difference in importance.
So we must be careful in using the terms, first, second and third Persons in the Trinity, not to think there is any difference in importance. The Father is God; the Son is God; the Spirit is God—the Spirit equal in nature and substance to the Father and the Son. If the three Persons of the Godhead are each of them God, it does not follow that there are three Gods. That were impossible. There can be only one God, supreme and unique. Orthodox Christendom believes in three Persons in the Godhead, yet one God, indivisible and unique—the three Persons in the Godhead with one will, one purpose, each sharing to the full every thought and desire and purpose in the minds of the others. We may not, nay cannot, comprehend this. It is a mystery hidden in the Godhead, yet the Godhead is pleased to reveal Itself as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
GOD’S NAME IS IN THE PLURAL 2,500 TIMES
Scripture indicates from the earliest times the Trinity and the first one to be named is the Holy Spirit. In the English language we have, as we all know, two numbers, singular, meaning one, and plural, meaning two and more. In the Hebrew language, however, there are three numbers—singular, meaning one; dual, meaning two; and plural mean three or more. Now this is very remarkable. Indeed we see in it a Divine intention to set forth the truth of the Trinity. For in the very first verse of the Bible, Genesis 1, we read, “In the beginning God [Elohim, plural] created [singular] the heaven [dual] and the earth” In the light of the full unfolding of the truth in the New Testament do we not clearly see indicated the Holy Trinity? In verse 2 we get it stated that the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters, the eternal Spirit of Hebrews 9:14.
It is very remarkable, too, that the Old Testament contains the word, God, in the plural over 2,500 times, and in the singular only about 300 times. The Jews, custodians of the Old Testament Scriptures were fiercely monotheistic. What must they have thought of the word God being often repeated in the plural?
THREE IN ONE AND ONE IN THREE
One passage is very striking, Deuteronomy 6:4, “Hear O Israel: The Lord [Jehovah singular], our God [Elohim plural] is one Lord [Jehovah singular]”. That is to say in the most impressive affirmative of the one and only God there is the care to preserve the truth of the Trinity.
One last Old Testament Scripture we refer to, perhaps the most remarkable of its kind. Isaiah 48:16, says, “Come ye near unto Me, hear ye this; I have not spoken in secret from the beginning; from the time that it was, there am I: and now the Lord God, and His Spirit, has sent Me.” The spokesman in this passage is one who speaks “from the beginning” and who refers to Himself as “I am.” Surely it is none less than the Son of God who is speaking, for He asserts of Himself as being sent by God and His Spirit. We know that our Lord often spoke of Himself as the Sent One in John’s Gospel. So here we get in Isaiah, seven centuries before Christ came, the prophecy that He would be sent, by the Lord God and His Spirit. We mention all this to prove the position of the Holy Spirit. He is the Spirit, a Divine Person, in the Godhead from all eternity. Equal with the Father and the Son—one God.
THE HOLY SPIRIT’S WORK IN OLD TESTAMENT TIMES
The first thing we must draw attention to is His Creatorship. We have already alluded to Genesis 1 where the story of creation is told. We read, “And the earth was without form and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters” (v. 2). Here the Spirit of God alone of the Persons of the Godhead is specially mentioned as acting. Seeing the word God, throughout Genesis 1 is in the plural we find all three Persons of the Godhead, including the Holy Spirit, are engaged in the work of creation.
1 Corinthians 8:6, tells us God the Father is the source of creation.
Genesis 2:2, and Job 26:13, “By His Spirit He has garnished the heavens” tells us God the Holy Spirit is the Creator. Look up at the starry heavens, try to number the stars, think of their magnitude, our little planet is very insignificant as to size, and remember the Holy Spirit garnished the heavens.
Colossians 1:16; Hebrews 1:2; John 1:3, tell that the Son of God was the Creator.
No contradiction in all this. If three members of a firm carried out a policy each member could claim he had carried it out, so long as he did not claim this exclusively.
THE HOLY SPIRIT STROVE WITH MEN IN OLD TESTAMENT TIMES
We read, “And the Lord said, My Spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh” (Gen. 6:3). How good it is that the Spirit of God strives with men, and how unutterably sad that they can resist until the awful moment comes when the striving ceases.
THE HOLY SPIRIT USED A WICKED MAN
“And Balaam,” the soothsayer, the spiritist medium, the covetous man, “lifted up his, eyes, and he saw Israel abiding in his tents according to their tribes; and the Spirit of God came upon him” (Num. 24:2). Was there ever a stronger proof of inspiration when a covetous man, who could have filled his house with silver and gold had he prophesied to please Balak, the King of Moab, was unable to do so? He was obliged to bless Balak’s enemies when, left to himself, he would have cursed them. Not only was Balaam so energised but the Lord opened the dumb mouth of his ass to rebuke the madness of the prophet.
THE HOLY SPIRIT EMPOWERED MEN FOR SPECIAL SERVICE
Pharaoh recognised that the Spirit of God was in Joseph when he said to his servants “Can we find such a one as this is, a man in whom the Spirit of God is?” (Gen. 41:38). Then again God called Bezaleel in connection with the construction of the Tabernacle, and said “See. . . . I have filled him with the Spirit of God, in wisdom and in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship” (Ex. 31:3).
We read of Othniel, the son of Kenaz, “And the Spirit of the Lord came upon him, and he judged Israel” (Jud 3:10). We read that “the Spirit of the Lord came upon Gideon; and he blew a trumpet; and Abi-ezer was gathered after him” (Jud. 6:34). We read four times that the Spirit of the Lord came upon Samson in connection with his mighty feats against Israel’s foes (Jud. 13:25; 14:6-19; 15:14).
In connection with the prophet Samuel anointing Saul the son of Kish to be King over Israel we read that “the Spirit of God came upon him” (1 Sam. 10:10). Yet when he disgraced himself and David was anointed in his stead we read, “The Spirit of the Lord came upon David from that day forward. . . . But the Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul” (1 Sam. 16:13-14).
This is an interesting passage as showing that the Spirit was not given as a permanent indwelling as in this dispensation, but could be given for a specific act or for a certain period, and could be forfeited as it was in the ease of Saul.
Finally we would like to draw attention to a general statement in conclusion. We read, “The prophets . . . prophesied. . . . searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow” (1 Peter 1:11), add to this, “The testimony of Jesus is the Spirit of Prophecy” (Rev. 19:10). How this awakens memories of many foretellings in the Old Testament, whether from the pens of prophets or psalmists, all animated by the Spirit of God, prophesying beyond their own comprehension, but each prophecy dovetailing one with the other, and very many of them already gloriously fulfilled.
No. 2: Our Lord’s Discourse concerning the Holy Spirit
The close of John’s Gospel is markedly distinct from those of the synoptical Gospels. The latter at their close is distinguished by the discourse of our Lord on the Mount of Olives concerning Israel and the last days and the kingdom of heaven on the earth. But in John’s Gospel from chapter 13 and on our Lord is concerned about His disciples. He intimates that things are about to change, viz., His absence from His own and His presence in the Father’s House, and as a consequence the sending forth of the Holy Spirit to dwell with them and be in them. It is sweet to see His tender solicitude for His own.
THE HOLY SPIRIT SENT BY THE FATHER AND THE SON—THE HOLY SPIRIT COMES
In chapter 14 we read, “The Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost whom the FATHER will send in My name.” Here the Father sends the Holy Spirit. In chapter 15:26, we read, “But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send from the Father, even the Spirit of Truth.” There our Lord sends the Holy Spirit. In chapter 16:13 we read, “Howbeit when He, the Spirit of truth IS COME.” Here we have the Spirit of God coming, not as sent in this passage by the Father or the Son, but, as it were, of His own volition. In all this we see the oneness of God, the three Persons of the Trinity acting in harmony, so much so that the descent of the Holy Spirit can be equally, though not exclusively, attributed to each Person of the Godhead.
THE HOLY SPIRIT ABIDES WITH THE DISCIPLES FOR EVER
We read, “And I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter, that He may abide with you for ever” (chap. 14:16). This was a new thought. As we have seen in dealing with the truth of the Holy Spirit in relation to Old Testament times, the Spirit acted then with individuals at special times and for distinct purposes in regard to position or service, and did not come to abide. It was not then the dispensation of the Holy Spirit, but largely one of probation and of man’s testing. And yet apart from the Spirit there would have been no blessing for men in Old Testament times. But, in this new dispensation the disciples were about to enter upon, the chief feature would be the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit.
WHAT IS MEANT BY THE WORD “COMFORTER”?
The Greek word for “Comforter” is paracletes, which is transliterated—paraclete. It is the same word used to describe our Lord in 1 John 2:1, “If any man sin, we have an ADVOCATE [paracletes] with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” The meaning of the original Greek word is One called alongside to help. Does the word, Comforter, suffice for this meaning? We think not. We have no word in the English language that quite conveys the full meaning, and to use anything more than a single word would be cumbersome, so the translators, in our most excellent translation, use the word, Comforter.
Perhaps an illustration will help. Suppose a man develops certain symptoms of a disquieting nature. He and his wife confide his fears to a specialist. A thorough examination is made. At its close they anxiously listen to the doctor’s verdict. He tells them that he is quite sure if his patient will follow faithfully his treatment in three months time he will be quite well. The couple have confidence in the skill and judgment of the specialist. He is known as one who does not promise anything he cannot perform. As husband and wife wend their way home, greatly relieved of anxiety, and filled with hope, one says to the other, “What a comforter Dr. So-and-so is!” Yes, but what makes him a comforter? Not merely comforting words, but the knowledge that the skill and ability to fulfil these words of comfort are at their disposal, and will be used to bring about the desired result. He has come alongside to help.
And what makes our Lord a Comforter and the Holy Spirit a Comforter? The knowledge that their power and wisdom and interest are at our disposal to carry us through every difficulty and fit us for every Christian position and activity we are called upon to take.
THE HOLY SPIRIT MARKS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE DISCIPLES AND THE WORLD
It is said of the Spirit of God, “Whom the world cannot receive, because it sees Him not, neither knows Him; but ye know Him; for He dwells with you, and shall be an you” (John 14:17). There is a great cleavage between the believer and the world. As our Lord said twice of His disciples in His prayer to His Father, “They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world” (John 17:14-16).
As to the world when the Spirit came, it was said, “He will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment” (John 16:8). How does this happen? He convinces “of sin because they [the world] believe not in Me” [the Lord Jesus] (v. 9). Why is the Holy Spirit in this world in the special way in which He is? Because Christ is rejected. Why is the Holy Spirit given to some and not to others? Because some believe and some do not. This marks the difference between the believer and the world, and it demonstrates the guilt of the world.
The Holy Spirit convinces, “Of righteousness, because,” as our Lord said, “I go to My Father, and ye see Me no more” (v. 10). Christ is the righteous One, and the world proved its unrighteousness by rejecting Him. Righteousness is with the Father, and the descent of the Holy Spirit consequent on the ascension of our Lord, is the proof of the world’s unrighteousness. They rejected Him whom heaven acclaimed. Everything is out of joint in this world to those who love the Lord, just as the affairs of a kingdom would be out of joint to every loyal subject if the lawful king were driven out and a Republic set up in his place.
The Holy Spirit convinces “of judgment because the prince of this world [Satan] is judged.” If Satan had really the upper hand there would be no Holy Spirit here, neither the Holy Spirit nor those whom He indwells would be tolerated in this world. How cheering is the word, “Ye are of God, little children. . . . because greater is He [the Holy Spirit] that is in you, than he [Satan] that is in the world” (1 John 4:4). That may be said of the feeblest or youngest believer in whom the Holy Spirit indwells. Wonderful words!
THE HOLY SPIRIT TEACHES, TESTIFIES, GUIDES
We read, “But the Comforter which is the Holy Ghost whom the Father will send in My name, He shall TEACH you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance whatsoever I have said to you” (John 14:26). This was said to the apostles, who sojourned with our Lord when upon earth, but the principle stretches out to all God’s people. The Holy Spirit is the infallible Teacher. How important then is our study of God’s Word, which contains this teaching for our learning. We may rest assured that what the Holy Spirit taught the apostles is for us, and all things brought to their remembrance is found in the Word of God.
We read, “But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceeds from the Father, He shall TESTIFY of Me” (John 15:26). This certainly is the test of the Holy Spirit’s activity. The Pentecostalists pervert the teaching of the Spirit, leading to believers being occupied with themselves, and with their own attainments, with their power, with their ability, it may be, as they often claim, to speak with tongues and perform divine healing. Christ is lost sight of in this perversion of one of the greatest and most blessed truths of Christianity, viz., the true office of the Holy Spirit is to testify of Christ. What blessed occupation of the Holy Spirit it is to testify of our risen Lord. All truth centres round Him. He is the revealer of God, the Father; He is the Mediator between God and man; He is the Finisher of the work of redemption; He is the Giver of the Holy Spirit; He is Apostle and High Priest of our confession: He is our great High Priest and Advocate in heaven; He is the great Head of the church, His body; He is the One who walks in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks; He is the Bridegroom, soon coming to claim His bride; He is the Judge of all the earth. We know this and much more by the Spirit.
We read, “Howbeit when He the Spirit of Truth is come, He will GUIDE you into all truth: for He shall not speak of Himself; but whatsoever He shall hear, that shall He speak: and He will show you things to come” (John 16:13). Here the Spirit is the Guide. Well for us if we do not bring our pre-conceived notions to the Word of God and endeavour to force Scripture to conform to our pet ideas. Well for us if we reverently take what the Spirit gives and follow His guidance.
There is some question as to what the words mean, “He [the Holy Spirit] shall not speak OF Himself”. Some think it means that the Spirit will speak about the Father and the Son, but not about Himself. Others think it means that the Holy Spirit will not speak of His own initiation. The latter view is undoubtedly the truth. Greek scholars tell us there is no doubt that this is the force of the original. This is confirmed by the fact of a good deal of teaching concerning the Holy Spirit is found throughout the New Testament, notably Romans 8, and the Epistle to the Ephesians. The Spirit in the wisdom of the Godhead does not take an inferior position, but becomes the Power for the formation of Christian character, and the inspirer of prayer and praise and worship and of service to the Lord.
Then we read, “He shall show you things to come.” What was to come? Christianity as we know it! The full unfolding of Christ and all that He brings to light, the teaching as to the individual saints, and to the assembly of God upon the earth, the prophecies of the future, whether it be the rapture of the saints of God to heaven, the unfolding of judgments on this world, the millennial kingdom of our Lord and the eternal state of blessedness and all else that was to be revealed.
No. 3: The Descent of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost
Our Lord, just before He ascended to heaven, bid His disciples tarry at Jerusalem until they had received the Holy Spirit, which He described as the “promise of My Father” (Luke 24:49), whereby they would be “endued with power from on high.”
He then took His disciples to Mount Olivet, and from thence He ascended to heaven. As He went up, His hands, once pierced on the cross, were held up in blessing. Two angels in white then appeared, giving His disciples the cheering promise, “This same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen Him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11).
Thereupon the apostles returned to Jerusalem and abode in an upper room. With them were devoted women, including Mary, the mother of our Lord, and His brethren.
This is the only “tarrying” meeting acknowledged by Scripture. “Tarrying” meetings so-called, as practised today, are dangerous, for they are conducted in such a fashion as to open the door to Satanic delusions, and are a practical denial that the Spirit has come.
What a difference the presence of the Spirit made! The disciples behind closed doors, no power for testimony, waiting in prayer before God, tells its own tale. Once the Spirit was given how changed everything became.
In Leviticus 23 we find among the feasts of the Lord two that are special to our subject. (1) The wave sheaf offering and (2) A new meat offering. What do they signify? First they both took place “on the morrow after the sabbath” (vv. 11, 16).
It must have been a surprise to the Israelites to hear this. The sabbath was their great day—every seventh day was “the sabbath of rest—an holy convocation” (v. 3). Why then “the morrow after the sabbath?” What two great events happened on that day? for these feasts were all typical and prophetical.
In reply we ask, When did our Lord rise from the dead? The answer is, “On the morrow after the sabbath,” that is the first day of the week. If the resurrection of our Lord had meant the continuation of Judaism, how appropriate would the sabbath have been for this resurrection. But rising “on the morrow after the sabbath” meant a new day was dawning. It is not that the ceremonial was set aside. It passed away because all the types and shadows were fulfilled in Christ. He is our true Passover (1 Cor. 5:7). He is our true sin-offering (2 Cor. 5:21). He is our true peace-offering (Eph. 5:2). He is our true burnt-offering (Heb. 10:5-14). He is our true Manna (John 6:33). He is our smitten Rock from which flows spiritual refreshment (1 Cor. 10:4). In short the shadows were “of things to come; but the body [substance] is of Christ” (Col. 2:17).
Everything depends on the resurrection of Christ. “If Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins” (1 Cor. 15:17). Just as the wave sheaf was a firstfruits of the harvest, so in resurrection Christ has become the firstfruits of them that slept” (1 Cor. 15:20).
In Leviticus 23 a second feast occurred “on the morrow after the sabbath,” fifty days following the feast of the wave sheaf. The wave sheaf sets forth Christ in resurrection, what great event was it that followed fifty days after that great event? We know our Lord was forty days on this earth after resurrection, proving to His disciples—“fools and slow of heart to believe”—that He was indeed risen from the dead, for on that fact the survival of Christianity depended. Then the disciples were bidden to remain at Jerusalem till the promise of the Father should be fulfilled in the gift of the Holy Spirit. They assembled in an upper room till the day of Pentecost was fully come. Now the word Pentecost means the fiftieth day. So that means the disciples tarried in Jerusalem ten days after the ascension, which coincided with fifty days after the resurrection. Then the great gift of the Holy Spirit was poured forth.
Leviticus gives us the symbolical picture of this—“Two wave loaves of two tenth deals; they shall be of fine flour, baken with leaven. . . . the first-fruits of the Lord.” May not the two loaves set forth the great triumph of Christianity, the bringing together of Jew and Gentile in spiritual blessing, the breaking down of the middle wall of partition at the cross, the abolishing of enmity, the making of twain, one new man, so making peace (Eph. 2:13-22)?
In short the day of Pentecost was the day of the church’s birthday. It had never existed before. Our Lord had declared upon the confession of Peter that He was the Christ, the Son of the living God, “upon this rock [The Person of the Son of God and the confession of it] I WILL [future] build My church [called-out assembly]” (Matt. 15:18). It awaited His death, burial, resurrection, ascension, and taking His place on high. The coming of the Holy Spirit was contingent on His returning to heaven. “If I go not away, the Comforter will not come to you” (John 16:7).
The Head must be in heaven before the body could be on earth. “The church. . . . is His body, the fulness of Him that fills all in all” (Eph. 1:22-23).
The coming of the Spirit was spectacular. This is in keeping with the tenor of Scripture. Whenever there is a new departure in the ways of God, the initiation of it is marked by the miraculous, the spectacular, and this is no exception. Hebrews 2:3-4 tells us of the “so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard Him; God also bearing them witness both with signs and with wonders and with divers miracles and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to His own will.” It is like the coronation at the beginning of a reign—spectacular but not repeated, or like the tolling of a church bell to announce the service, which ceases once the service begins.
The Holy Spirit’s descent was accompanied by a sound of a rushing mighty wind, which filled the house where the disciples were assembled. Cloven tongues like as of fire sat upon each of them. The sound would set forth the irresistible power of the Holy Spirit, the permeating power of His presence. “The cloven tongues like as of fire,” speaks of the Holy Spirit calling for separation in heart and ways in the believers, who form the church of God. The cloven foot was one of the distinguishing features of the clean animals in the Old Testament dispensation. “Fire” speaks of the judgment of the flesh in the believer, and the Holy Spirit helping to this end. Separation from the world, and the judgment of the flesh are the two marks of the Christian walking in the Spirit. Alas! how much power is lost by world-bordering on the one hand and carnality on the other.
The disciples were filled with the Holy Spirit. As we examine the instances of being filled with the Spirit as recorded in the Acts of the Apostles we see that it was the special emergency of the Spirit for special service. On the Day of Pentecost about three thousand souls were added to the church. It is very significant that the last mention of being filled with the Spirit occurs in Acts 13:52, scarcely half-way through the book. It is very ominous that this is so, showing how decline comes in when things are committed to man’s responsibility. For all time we have the exhortation to us all, “Be filled with the Spirit” (Eph. 5:18).
When the disciples were filled with the Holy Ghost, they “began to speak with other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance” (Acts 2:4). Here was a band of unlettered men, some of them with hands horny from their fishing occupation, speaking the rude Galilean dialect, and behold! every one of the cosmopolitan multitude gathered from all parts of Europe, Asia and Africa heard the gospel in their own tongue. Blank amazement was the result. The first presentation of the gospel message was thus accredited by divine power. No wonder that in these circumstances we read of three thousand being converted by Peter’s sermon on that wonderful day of Pentecost.
Why speaking with tongues? We can see two good reasons at least. First it emphasised the world-wide aspect of Christianity. Judaism was confined to one little nation. Christianity was to know no geographical boundaries, no national frontiers, no distinction of class or caste. If the message had been confined to the Hebrew or Aramaic language, it might have been supposed that this was a continuation of Judaism in an improved form. But here was a new start altogether.
Another reason for the tongues was that here were men of one speech and that a Galilean dialect, who alone had the wonderful message of forgiveness and salvation. The strangers from all parts heard the wonderful message. That it should have been delivered in many tongues showed it was a universal gospel, a message for all mankind, a message of universality and urgency. The news of it would travel far and wide. The meaning of it would be discussed everywhere the travellers went. Those who received the message would carry it to their own circle and nation, and so it would spread far and wide.
And what was the permanent result? The climax of Peter’s sermon was reached, when he, who had so lately denied His Lord, charged the nation, “Let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God has made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36). What an issue! The nation had treated Christ as a malefactor not fit to live. God had exalted Him to highest glory. They crucified Him. God made Him Lord and Christ—Lord, all should bow to Him; Christ, the anointed of God, the only Mediator of blessing to men. When this was brought home to them no wonder they were pricked in their heart, convicted of their sin and alive to the issue at stake. “About three thousand souls,” repented, were baptized and received the Holy Ghost. They did not act now as mere individuals, who had received spiritual blessing. They had that, but we read, They continued steadfastly in the Apostolic doctrine and fellowship, a walking together, its central expression being the breaking of bread, and prayer, the breath of the church, characterizing them. How helpful then to study the apostles’ doctrine as we find it outlined in the epistles. This then was the wondrous descent of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost, the formation and initiation of the assembly of God on the earth.
No. 4: As Seal, Anointing and Earnest
Needless to say that the Holy Spirit comes to a believer once and once only. He comes, as our Lord said when near the end of His life on this earth, “that He may ABIDE with YOU for ever” (John 14:16). This was in contrast to Old Testament times when the Spirit might come and go, as for instance when “the Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul” (1 Sam. 16:14). With this agrees Ephesians 4:30, where it is said to the believers, “Ye are sealed unto the day of redemption,” that is until the glad day when our Lord shall raise His sleeping saints and change His living saints, when redemption shall even touch our bodies as it has our souls, and the flesh and mortality and corruption shall be left behind for ever.
There is then only one coming of the Holy Spirit to indwell the believer, though the one coming is looked at as from three different points of view as Seal, Anointing and Earnest.
We read, “Now He which stablishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us is God; who also has sealed us, and given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts” (2 Cor. 1:21-22). Again we read, “In Whom [the Lord Jesus Christ] ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession unto the praise of His glory” (Eph. 1:13-14).
Again we read, “Ye [believers] have an unction [same word as anointing] from the Holy One, and ye know all things” (1 John 2:20). “But the anointing which ye have received of Him abides in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teaches you of all things, and is truth and is no lie, and even as it has taught you, ye shall abide in Him” (1 John 2:27).
THE HOLY SPIRIT AS SEAL
We all know what idea a seal presents. It speaks of authority, ownership, a complete contract not to be put aside but legally binding. There is the Great Seal of the British Government. Once it is affixed to a document that document has binding force. We seal a valuable package going through the post to make sure it gets into hands for whom it is meant. The chief priests and Pharisees sought that Pilate should make the sepulchre on our Lord sure to hinder His disciples from snatching His sacred body, and putting forth the statement that He was risen from the dead. Pilate acceding to their requests, we read, “So they went and made the sepulchre sure, sealing the stone, and setting a watch” (Matt. 27:66). Anyone breaking that seal would have to reckon with the authority that put it there.
But what shall we say of the Seal that God puts upon the believer? What power can break that Seal? That Seal is no less a Person than God, the Holy Ghost, who indwells the believer in that character. It is God by that means claiming the believer for Himself and for ever. How blessed this is! How it lifts the matter outside the region of uncertainty or doubt.
WHEN DOES THE BELIEVER RECEIVE THE SEAL?
Ephesians 1:13 gives us the answer in a very definite way. We read, “In whom [the Lord Jesus] ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise.” Here we find after they believed they were sealed. The important point to grasp is what they believed. We are told, “The word of truth, the gospel of your salvation.” What is meant by “The gospel of your salvation?” The answer is the good news that enabled them to know in trusting Christ that they were definitely saved. When a man or woman can say as the outcome of believing on Christ and receiving the testimony of His Word, “I am saved,” that person is sealed by God’s Holy Spirit. How many there are through bearing a defective gospel are brought to trust Christ as Saviour but are not clear as to their soul’s salvation.
Ask such, Can you say your sins are forgiven, your soul saved? They reply in somewhat after this fashion, “I hope so. I am not so presumptuous as to take the ground that I am saved, only I do trust in Christ, but I cannot say I am saved.” Such persons have not received the gospel of their salvation, and are therefore not sealed.
A further question arises. Our text says, “After that ye believed, and were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise.” How long after believing is the Spirit given? The writer well remembers an answer to this question, “After is not a question of time, but of order.” Receive the gospel of your salvation, receive the Spirit, the one is the consequence following on the other. A recruit in the army could say. “After I took the King’s shilling I became a soldier.” The becoming a soldier was consequent on taking the King’s shilling. After the blow the sword cut. How long after? It is simply a case of cause and effect. When once a man or woman receives the gospel of their salvation, that moment God gives the Seal of the Holy Spirit, claiming the believer for Himself for ever.
FOR HOW LONG IS THE BELIEVER SEALED?
Ephesians 4:30 gives us the answer, “Grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption”. Grieving the Spirit is a serious matter, but we cannot grieve Him away. Believers are sealed “unto the day of redemption,” that is till the Lord comes and redeems our very bodies, when in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, we are with Him and like Him for ever.
THE HOLY SPIRIT AS ANOINTING
The word, anointing, as a symbolic word carries with it a definite meaning. There were three classes anointed in Old Testament times—priests, prophets, kings. Of course they were anointed by oil being poured upon their heads. But though it was a rite in Old Testament times, it carried with it a definite result. This is plainly indicated in 1 Samuel 16:13: “Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him [David] in the midst of his brethren: and the Spirit of the Lord came upon David from that day forward.” Scripture thus links anointing with oil with the bestowal of the Spirit. With the priest, it was to enable him to take the priestly position and service; with the prophet the prophetic position and service; with the king the kingly position and service.
In the New Testament there is no anointing with oil in this connection, but that which anointing with oil typifies takes place, viz., the bestowal of the Holy Spirit as the anointing, enabling the believer to take up the Christian position for walk, worship and service.
The anointing is the power for the understanding of the Christian position, and the ability to take it up. Romans 8:15-16 tells us, we “have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit itself bears witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God.” The Spirit gives the believer the understanding of relationship of children to the Father, the Spirit bearing witness with our Spirit, so that there comes from the lips of the believer the cry of conscious divine relationship, “Abba, Father.” “Abba” in the original is the word first uttered by the newly-born babe. It is an easy word to pronounce, and shows that this sense of relationship is given to the youngest believer, as the Apostle John addressed the youngest class in the family of God, “I write unto you, little children, because ye have known the Father” (1 John 2:13).
And further! Why “the Spirit of adoption?” Adoption as men understand it in human affairs means the receiving of a child, begotten by other parents into your home, and giving it the status of your own child and bestowing upon it all the care and love you would give to your own child. But, however fully this is carried out the adopted child cannot be the real child of his foster parents. But believers are the real spiritual children of God. They are born from above and are partakers of the divine nature. Why then “the Spirit of adoption?” Simply because we were once sinners, and as such were “children of disobedience . . . children of wrath even as others” (Eph. 2:2-3). And then came the quickening power of God bringing us into a new life in association with Christ who died and was raised, and ascended to God’s right hand, so that the believer in the estimation of God is “quickened . . . with Christ . . . raised up together, and made to sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” So transferred from Adam to Christ, brings us the word, “adoption,” but the transfer being affected by the introduction of a new life by the quickening power of God’s Spirit, we become real children of God in the spiritual sense.
To this Galatians 4:6 agrees, “And because ye are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying Abba Father” How wonderful! How blessed! The Holy Spirit can be described as “the Spirit of His Son” so that the Holy Spirit can bring us in an intelligent worshipful spirit in the Father’s presence.
As we often sing,
“Thou gav’st us in eternal love,
To Him to bring us home to Thee.
Suited to Thine own thought above
As sons like Him, with Him to be.”
The Apostle throws light on this interesting subject, we read, “Ye have an Unction [Anointing] from the Holy One, and ye know all things” (1 John 2:20). At first sight this seems staggering. Can a week old convert claim to know all things? Can the writer, saved for sixty years, claim to know all things? Surely not! Why the very increase of true knowledge only enlarges our realization of how little we do know, and what vast tracts of knowledge have not been explored by us, and above all how very much we can never know for we are but creatures and in the creature’s place. But in having the Unction or Anointing we have One who surely knows all things, and who is able to communicate all knowledge to us as we need it and seek it.
Again we are told, “The Anointing which ye have received of Him abides in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same Anointing teaches you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it has taught you, ye shall abide in Him” (1 John 2:27). Again we may be surprised. We need no man to teach us. So says this Scripture. We have known a Christian, alas! tainted with communism, who seized upon this sentence, and in a bold unspiritual harsh way declared he needed no man to teach him: that no longer would he condescend to listen to servants of Christ ministering the truth, nor read books written by such. But surely this is far from the meaning of the passage. Common sense revolts from such an interpretation. The very fact that the apostle John is teaching the little children in the family of God by these words shows that the meaning is far otherwise than our communistically minded friend put upon it.
What does it mean then?
We believe it means that man as such cannot communicate the mind of the Spirit. The Spirit can alone teach, but the Spirit ever uses men in this service. We can look past the instrument to the One who uses him. The whole service of Paul, John, and Peter bears testimony to this. The natural man finds the things of the Spirit of God foolishness to him. He cannot understand them. They are spiritually discerned (1 Cor. 2:14). To refuse the ministry of the gifts is to put a serious slight on the One who led captivity captive and gave gifts unto men. But whatever I may get through gift, I get FROM the Spirit. A child gets no nourishment from the cup in which the milk is contained. The milk sustains, but the cup does not add to the sustainment, but it is very necessary as a container.
THE HOLY SPIRIT AS EARNEST
What is the meaning of the word “earnest”? The Greek dictionary tells us it is a Semitic word, meaning an earnest, earnest money, a part of the payment, given in advance as a security that the whole will be paid afterwards.
Suppose you buy a house whose price is a £1,000, The estate agent will say, If you have decided to buy this house, you will be prepared to pay 5 per cent deposit. £50 is paid to show that you are in earnest. As the estate agent takes the cheque for £50 he remarks that it is the pledge, that you fully intend paying the balance, a much larger sum, £950, to complete the purchase. No one would be so foolish as to pay £50 earnest money, unless he were decided to carry the transaction through.
So the Spirit is graciously given to the believer as the Pledge, the Earnest, that God will bring us into the fulness of blessing. The Holy Spirit is “the Earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of His glory” (Eph. 1:14). If we want to know what that inheritance is we are told we are “heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ” (Rom. 8:17).
No. 5: The Baptism of the Holy Spirit
1 Corinthians 12:13, tells us, “By one Spirit are we all baptised into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.” The Holy Spirit not only indwells the believer as an individual, but here we learn that He brings him into a new relationship to his fellow believers as well as to Christ. The Holy Spirit formed “one body in Christ” (Rom. 12:5)—Christ, the Head, in heaven; and on earth all believers, as members of the one body of which He is the Head. No doubt the simile of a body is chosen as showing the vital connection and nearness of the spiritual association thus formed.
It is well to see that this is organism and not organisation. Organism is a matter of life, of every part necessary to the whole. Organisation may descend to the soullessness of a mere machine. Christendom is a glaring example of this. It is super organised. Popes, cardinals, archbishops, bishops, presidents, moderators, generals, reverends, deacons, elders, superintendents, etc., etc., etc., testify to this evil. The men holding these offices may or may not be good men. Some may be converted. Many, alas! may not be converted. It is a monstrous thing that organisation may put forth as servants of Christ, men who are utterly unconverted—men undermining the very faith of Christianity, whilst receiving a salary for the purpose of upholding it.
Organism is different. It counts for nothing if it is not living. For that the Spirit is necessary. So we get in Ephesians 4:4, “There is one body and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling.” We must lay emphasis on the one Spirit in relation to the one body. Who form this body of Christ? Every believer who has received “the gospel of his salvation” and received the gift of the Holy Spirit. It is in virtue of the one Spirit indwelling each believer that the body is formed. The descent of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost was the day when this took place.
As men and women in the world we have different spirits; as believers the one Spirit of God indwells all. Thus whilst each member differs from the other, and each may have a different Christian activity, there is harmony and all tending to one common end.
How wonderfully simple is the divine method! And yet it calls for real spiritual life in each member. For our verse in 1 Corinthians 12:13 not only says believers are baptised into one body by the one Spirit, but it adds “and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.” This is where the practical side comes in. Just as James 2:26 says, “The body [the human body] without the spirit [the human spirit] is dead,” so we can say there could be no body of Christ without the one Holy Spirit of God. If a believer gets only a mental apprehension of the one body without this drinking into the one Spirit, his mental apprehension will result in the most flagrant and subtle sectarianism, and only produce havoc and ruin in the church of God.
We see this in the assembly at Corinth. There were, doubtless, those too enlightened to say, “I am of Paul,” or Apollos or Cephas. They would not attach a human name to their party. But what shall be said of those who said, “I am of Christ.” To confine Christ to their little following, and refuse His connection with other believers, this is, indeed, sectarianism of the worst sort. Is this not possible today? If it were possible in Paul’s day, surely it is more possible in our Laodicean age. So we see the necessity of drinking into the one Spirit. If each believer were doing this according to their measure what happiness and harmony there would be.
You may say it is a wonderful conception but impossible of being carried out. Alas! the carrying of it out has broken down and failed and there never will be again an unbroken front of Christianity to the world. Yet it is true there is “the unity of the Spirit” (Eph. 4:3), and we are exhorted to endeavour to keep it. In what way can we endeavour to keep it? The inspired writings speak of things as they are. Alas! As long as the flesh is in us and there are different mental angles natural to us there will be difficulties. So we are exhorted to walk “with all lowliness and meekness, with long suffering, forbearing one another in love; endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph. 4:1-3).
We begin with lowliness. It is a most important beginning. Without it all is in vain. Diotrophes stands at the other end. He “loves to have the pre-eminence” (3 John 9). What trouble he occasioned! What trouble his all-too-numerous descendants occasion. “Lowliness!” There comes up before one’s mind the Perfect One who said, “I am meek and lowly in heart” (Matt. 11:29). If our Lord could say this in the perfection of His true manhood, it may well be the moving example to be followed. “Lowliness!” that is
“Low thoughts of self befitting
Proclaimers of His praise.”
It is like the spirit of John the Baptist, who said, “He [our Lord] must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30). The order of these words is beautiful. If he had said, “I must decrease and He must increase,” it would have been as foolish as suggesting that a farthing dip should cease to burn to enable the light of the sun to be seen. His way of putting was equivalent to saying, The rising light of the sun completely eclipses the shining of the moon and stars. They continue to shine, but in the light of the great sun their shining becomes invisible. Lowliness! what a beautiful Christian feature, the fruit of the Spirit of God.
Meekness! What is meekness? Lowliness is low thoughts of self, the reverse of self-love, whilst meekness is the virtue that is not disturbed when others belittle or undervalue or asperse the character of the possessor of that virtue. It characterises one not ready to resent an injury, or retaliate when ill-treated.
So much for the character of the believer. What of his conduct? “Long suffering!” That does not mean to suffer for a little time, but LONG suffering, it may mean long years, a life-time, as we say “Forbearing one another IN LOVE.” How touchy we generally are! How we strike back and resent what we do not like! “IN LOVE!” That is the difficulty. We need, indeed, to be in the Spirit to do this. In these ways we endeavour “to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”
“THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE MYSTERY”
This wonderful formation of the Spirit, the one body of Christ, was a mystery, which was kept secret since the world began” (Rom. 16:25). True it is that in the Old Testament times there were types of Christ and His bride, such as Adam and Eve, Isaac and Rebekeh; the type of the new meat offering, fifty days after the feast of the wave sheaf of the first fruits of the harvest, setting forth the church on the day of Pentecost. And even these types would not be understood till the fulfilment made than clear. But there was no hint whatever given of the church as the one body of Christ, thus it was a mystery kept secret from all ages.
But now the secret is out. There is “the fellowship of the mystery. . . . to the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God” (Eph. 3:9-10). Surely if all Christians walked together in lowliness and meekness, endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace, it would be a wonderful sight for principalities and powers in heavenly places to look upon. Well for us if we have the vision of what was in God’s mind from all eternity, this wonderful mystery, this masterpiece of eternal counsel, and seek to fill our place in the body of Christ the Holy Spirit of God being the power for this.
No. 6: The Holy Spirit and the Assembly
1 Corinthians 12 is the great chapter that throws a flood of light on our subject. If the chapter is read carefully it will be seen that the great worker in connection with the assembly of God is the Holy Spirit. And because the Holy Spirit permeates and energizes, it speaks in verses 12-31 of the body of Christ and its members, for it is by the Spirit that believers are joined to the Lord and each other, forming thus the body of Christ, the vehicle by which this life of Christ can be manifested on this earth. Perhaps the pivotal statement of the whole chapter is found in verse 11, “But all these works the one and the self-same Spirit, dividing to every man severally AS HE WILL.” What a contrast to this verse Christendom is, rent into numerous denominations, sects, parties, divisions and sub-divisions; God would have the unity of the Spirit kept, and all believers walking in happy accord with the Lord and each other. And instead of the Spirit dividing to every man severally as He will, these bodies organize and arrange matters according to their judgment. A special class is set up, and believers are divided most unscripturally into clergy and laymen.
It may be there is a lip confession that all believers are priests. The Apostle Peter writing to Christians says, “Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood [believers without distinction] to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 2:5). The Apostle John writes, “And has made us [believers without distinction] kings and priests unto God and His Father” (Rev. 1:6). Happy it is to acknowledge with the lips that all believers are priests to God; but sad and dishonest, if this is realised, to refuse it in practice. For what is the assertion of a religious class as clergy or ministers, but to do this. Expediency in many cases sets aside the word of God. Let any Christian read 1 Corinthians 12, Ephesians 4, Romans 12, as the divine teaching and he will see how far removed from Scripture is the present condition of Christendom.
One most gladly and thankfully recognizes the devotion and gift and sincerity of very many Christians who are involved in this state of things, but that is not bestowed by the laying on of man’s hands, but by the only true ordination, that of our Lord, who “ascended up on high . . . and gave gifts unto men” (Eph. 4:8). We are told what these gifts are—apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, teachers. 1 Corinthians 12:4-6, tells us the different gifts are by the same Holy Spirit, the different administrations by the same Lord—He controls His servants—and the different operations, the effect of this working, is by the same God, the spring and source of everything.
And where the saints of God gather there the Lord is in the midst, “for where two or three are gathered to My name, there am I in the midst of them” (Matt. 18:20), are our Lord’s own words. Our Lord was corporeally in the midst of His own in “the large upper room furnished” on the night of His betrayal, when He instituted the Supper in remembrance of His death. What would be thought of a suggestion that one of the Apostles should be set aside to conduct the service: would this not be an insufferable insult to our Lord? Then what of today? Though not corporeally, is He not present in the midst?
1 Corinthians 12:8, says, “To one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit,” etc. How sovereign is the action of the Spirit of God. Yet if one were set aside to conduct the service in the assembly of God would his appointment not set aside those of the Holy Spirit? Can we think of the one with the word of wisdom, doing everything as appointed of men, and the one with the word of knowledge being condemned to silence as a mere layman. How Scripture speaks for itself.
Take the much discussed question of tongues and healing. It is taught that every believer who receives the baptism of the Spirit shows it by speaking with tongues. But that is not the teaching of Scripture. 1 Corinthians 12:9-10, says “To another [not to ALL] the gifts of healing by the same Spirit. . . . to another [not to ALL] diverse kinds of tongues.” People, who claim as teachers to be filled with the Spirit, would, we should judge, prove it by the correct exposition of Scripture under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, that infallible Teacher.
We read that it is God who sets the gifts in the church. Apostles and prophets are the foundation on which all is built spiritually, Jesus Christ being the chief corner stone. Then teachers, miracles, gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues—all under divine arrangement and control.
There we are shown the more excellent way in 1 Corinthians 13. Love, divine love, is the divine oil that lubricates the machinery in all its parts, and 1 Corinthians 14 would emphasize that this would result in edification, real building up. The best help is to read the Scriptures for ourselves and see what God’s order is, and in a day of ruin and confusion and Laodicean lukewarmness seek to answer to the truth of God for ourselves.