Luke 2:41; Acts 9:17.
Nothing is plainer, from the teaching of the word of God, than that there is a great difference between the actings and presence of the Holy Ghost before and after Pentecost. It must, however, be firmly held that He came upon, wrought in, and, as in the case of Elizabeth and others, even filled chosen vessels of God for special service. (Exodus 31:3; Psalm 51:11; Luke 1:15; 2 Peter 1:21, etc.) On the other hand, it must be as strenuously maintained that there is a very great distinction between the character of His presence and power in past dispensations and in Christianity. Our attention is directed to this again and again. For example, to cite two scriptures only, John, referring to the words which the Lord had just uttered (John 7:38), says, "This spake He of the Spirit, which they that believe on Him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet [given]; because that Jesus was not yet glorified" (v. 39); and the Lord Himself said to His disciples, "It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him unto you." (John 16:7.) These passages are conclusive as to the fact of the Holy Ghost coming in an altogether new way after the death, resurrection, and ascension of our blessed Lord. How then may the difference be defined? Up till Pentecost, the Holy Ghost wrought in every soul where divine life was found; Old Testament saints were born again, as now, through the action of the Spirit through the Word; He "moved" the holy men of old in the testimony they rendered in their prophecies; He even filled some, as we have seen, with His power to qualify them for their mission; and He "came upon" the servants of the Lord to enable them to accomplish any special service to which they were called, as in the case of Gideon (Judges 6:34), Jephthah (11:29), Samson (14:19; 15:14), and many others. But while all this is true, He never dwelt as a divine Person in the believers of old; nor did He come abidingly upon them, and hence David cried, "Take not Thy Holy Spirit from me" (Ps. 51:11) - a prayer which could not now be intelligently offered, seeing that believers of this period "are sealed unto the day of redemption." The difference is thus immense, inasmuch as every believer now who has received the forgiveness of sins, in addition to being sealed, possesses the Spirit of God as the anointing, as the earnest (2 Cor. 1:21, 22; Eph. 1:13, 14), as the Spirit of adoption (Rom. 8:15, 16), and, moreover, the bodies of the saints are temples of the Holy Ghost. (1 Cor. 6:19.) Much more might be added from John 14 - 16, but enough has been said to show beyond question that the Holy Spirit dwells in believers now in a way He has never done in any past dispensation, and as indeed He will never do in any future age. Heavenly relationship with the Father, in association with Christ, and union with Christ as Head of His body the Church, not to say more, are peculiar to Christianity, distinctive Christian privileges.
Acts 3:19; James 5:20.
In so far as our English translation is concerned, the word "convert," or "converted," is very seldom used; but the Greek word so translated is very frequently found. We have therefore abundant materials for ascertaining the meaning of the term conversion. Primarily it signifies "to turn towards," "to turn round," "to turn about," etc.; and hence, when applied to souls, it includes "turning from" their evil ways and sins, and "turning to" God. An example or two will make this apparent. Paul and Barnabas exhorted the people of Lystra to "turn from these vanities unto the living God" (Acts 14:15); Paul was sent to turn men "from darkness to light" (Acts 26:18); and the Thessalonians are said to have "turned to God from idols." (1 Thess. 1:9.) In the full scriptural sense of conversion, therefore, nothing less than the change from the state of a sinner to that of a Christian is implied. In other words, a converted man in this aspect is one who has received the forgiveness of sins, and has been sealed with the Holy Ghost. No doubt the word is often used of those who have been born again; but, strictly speaking, bearing in mind the full scripture sense of the term, such are undergoing the process of conversion - a process which is not completed until they are brought into the Christian place and position before God. It should be added that in examining the use of the word in scripture attention must be given to the subject and its context. The question is thus often put, What did the Lord mean when He said to Peter, "When thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren"? (Luke 22:32.) We are certainly not to understand that Peter was not "converted," according to the truth of that dispensation, before this time; for it is very evident that he was a "converted" man. But the Lord speaks in this passage of his conversion, his "turning round" from his awful sin of denying his Lord into which he was so soon to fall. It is, in fact, what we often mean by "restoration." So also James, as we judge, employs the word in chapter 5:20, for he expressly says, "If any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him." If however it be asked, How could he in that case speak of saving a soul from death? the words of the apostle Paul should be remembered, "If ye live after the flesh, ye shall die." (Rom. 8:13.) It is not that a back-slider, if he has been truly converted, may perish, but rather that the bearing of living after the flesh, the full issue of such a course, is death, and would be such were it not for the grace of God and the advocacy of Christ with the Father. The occurrence of the word "convert" in such cases does not therefore in any way, as will be at once observed, interfere with the interpretation we have given.