The Spirit Characteristically

1 Cor. 12:11-13, 25-27

I will tell you of a mistake I made myself for many a year, and only got clear on the subject little by little, and I press it on you because we naturally attach great importance to what we learn in our own soul's experience. Well, I used to think that whenever the Spirit is spoken of in scripture it only referred to the Spirit personally and not the Spirit characteristically. It is, of course, an immense thing to get hold of the truth that the Holy Ghost is a person, just as much a person as the Father or the Son. He is really God. The Holy Ghost is God, and He is a person. I use the word "person" for want of a better. This comes out in that part of the chapter where it says in verse 2, "Dividing to every man severally as He will." An influence could not do that. It could only be done by a divine person, who has a will of His own. Of course, His will is not like ours. Our will is a wrong will, His is right.

The Holy Ghost, according to scripture, came down to dwell on earth at Pentecost, and He is dwelling here to-day. We need to get hold of that truth very clearly. It is one of the great truths God was pleased to restore to us in the early part of the century, and it is extremely important, but we should not stop there as we are apt to do. I admit that I read the passages where the Spirit is spoken of very differently to what I used to in days gone by. The Holy Ghost is a divine person, and He came down to earth in order that He might form Christ within us, so that might be our character, and that we might express Christ, not self. It will only take us a very little way, if we have the Holy Ghost dwelling in us, if He does not also characterize us. It would be like a householder, who had a beautiful cooking stove in the house, but the meals were daily cooked in the primitive Indian fashion on three bricks; the stove is there, but for practical purposes it might be non-existent.

We read in the thirteenth verse, "By one Spirit are we all baptized 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." This you will understand is characteristic. Now supposing I were to say the Boers in South Africa are all animated and imbued with one spirit, you would understand that easily enough. They are all of one mind, they are all bent on the same thing; heart and soul they are seeking the same object. Well, that is what we get here, "We have all been made to drink into one Spirit." What is that Spirit? It is the Spirit of Christ, that Spirit which produces likeness to Christ. What is "the Christ."* The company of Christians in Corinth, that is called "the Christ?" Why is it thus named? The Spirit had formed this company, and it was given this name that Christ might be manifested in Corinth. It has not at all come home to us in power, that seeing that the Holy Spirit dwelling in us is a divine person there can be but one result, viz. that Christ be set forth in us; that the likeness, the lineaments, the features of Christ must be seen in us, if there be any reality in this great truth.

{*It is not meant that "the Christ" always means this. All that is meant is that this is the meaning in this passage.}

I feel sure that you will find this same thing running all through scripture. I will just give one or two instances, because they will help us. Take, for instance, the eighth of Romans, the last part of the ninth verse. "If any man have not the Spirit of Christ he is none of His." What does that mean? Years ago I would have explained that wrongly, for we are slow to learn. What it means is this: If a man is not like Christ, he cannot claim to belong to Him. If you want to claim to belong to Christ here upon earth you must shew your likeness to Him; and if you do not, then what you say is worthless. That is very simple. We often make everything a matter of whether we get to heaven or not, but that is not God's thought. The point is where and what are you now? Not where and what are you going to be by and by. Taking it in a general way, we are very poor judges of what is going to happen to a man in eternity. Do not attempt to judge as to your neighbour in this matter. The great thing is, Do we belong to Christ to-day? and God wants us all to shew whether we belong to Him or not. Supposing a man comes to you and he has got thick lips and the crisp, curly hair that belongs to the African negro, and he says to you, I am a European. You will at once say, I don't believe you, your features betray you. Well, in the same way, unless we are Christ-like it is useless to claim to belong to Christ to-day.

I will give you another example. Turn to 1 Cor. 2:13. "Which things also we speak, not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual." What does that mean? It is characteristic. It does not mean that the Holy Ghost dictated things to the apostle Paul as you would to an amanuensis, but rather that the apostle gave out that which had been formed in him experimentally by the Holy Spirit (there is no article in the Greek before Holy Spirit), and all ministry must be of the same character, if it is to be worth anything. First there must be the inward entrance into the truth, and then the giving out of what has been first experienced within. If not, the ministry is a sham. Of course, when the scriptures were written the writers were kept from all error, while as to our ministry we are liable to error, but otherwise the principle is the same, and the apostles gave out that which they had first learnt experimentally; unlike the Old Testament scriptures which the prophets themselves studied but could not fully understand. See 1 Peter 1:10-12.

Just one more example. See 2 Cor. 3:17. "Now the Lord is that Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is there is liberty." When you have got the mind, the thought of the Lord, you are in liberty. If you are like the Lord, you are in liberty. Was not the Lord in liberty? Whatever He had to do was not only done in obedience to the will of God, but He delighted in doing that will. This is liberty. There is no other way of liberty than that.

Mr. Darby, in his introduction to the new translation, speaks of the difficulty in the use of either the big or the little "s" for spirit, because so often the word means both the personal Spirit, and the result of the Spirit's indwelling. I feel this difficulty much. If you put in the little "s" you are apt to lose the sense of the personal Spirit, and if you use the big "S," you leave out the inward work of the Spirit as characteristic, and the loss is immense. Please, always remember this. I sometimes wish we had no capitals because of the difficulty in their use. Be sure it is not for nothing that Bible MSS. had only one kind of letter. Two kinds are most convenient, but they may easily mislead. On no account leave out the thought of the Spirit as characteristic.

Well now, to come back to 1 Cor. 12, it says in verse 13, "By one Spirit are we all baptized 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." Now I feel a constraint upon me to say what I am going to say. The great point here is that all, whether Jew or Gentile, are made of one mind — one spirit — for the setting forth of Christ. Now I want you to weigh what I am going to say, which is this, That although we here are not a company composed of Jew and Gentile, yet in this tent* there are two quite different races, two different nationalities with different natural ideas, ways, and methods. In consequence of this I believe that we have an opportunity for the display of Christ, which scarcely any other people on the face of the earth enjoy. An opportunity, for instance, which the Christians have not in England. What have they in England? English Christians, in France French Christians, in America American. In America they have the opportunity, but as far as I know they do not generally avail themselves of it. The white and black races are not manifestly one in Christ. In South Africa the negroes form separate congregations. They are not one. We, in this country, of India, have a splendid opportunity of shewing out a little bit of the truth that was being pressed on the Corinthians at that time; that, no matter what the nationality, one spirit animates the whole. Let this be true, then the Jew no longer exhibits the Jew, or the Gentile the Gentile. It is no longer English and native: the natural tendencies are overpowered by a stronger power still, and instead of the display of what is national, Christ is displayed in all.

{*At a conference in India.}

This marvellous display is unknown where all the company is composed of saints out of one nation only. Social differences are very strong, but national are far stronger. When the power of the Spirit causes one and the same display in saints nationally diverse it is a most wonderful testimony. I verily believe we are very guilty in this matter. Oh! you say, it is very difficult. Of course it is. If it was meant to be otherwise, where would the wonder be? Do not you think that I feel the difficulty as much as you do? Oh, you say, I have come across so much that is counterfeit and unreal. Be it so, this will not in the least exempt you from responsibility. We have an opportunity in this country which is, as far as I know, unique on the face of the earth. If we had really drunk of the one Spirit we would shew that one spirit animating saints both the Europeans and the people of this land. We Europeans are very guilty as to this, and will have to answer for it at the judgment seat of Christ. I find that when an Englishman goes to France, within two years at most he is perfectly familiar with the French language, and has made many friends in the country; and so when he goes to any other country where he finds social equals and an interesting literature.

When he comes to this country it is different. There is no literature worth having, there is no society among the natives which he cares for, and often he never learns the language or gets to know the people. Nothing better can be expected from those who know not Christ, but what about us who do? Will not the love of Christ constrain us to do what the love of society and love of literature constrain the English people of this world to do when they get to another European country? Do you think that the excuses many of us offer will be accepted at the judgment seat of Christ? I am constrained to say these things. I feel that God is making me speak thus. Now that I am going away from this country, I am pressed to bring this matter home to you. Some of us may have to answer at the judgment seat of Christ about our neglect of our native brethren, because of our lack of love. We had better take heed because, believers or unbelievers, we do not want to be pulled up at the judgment seat. Surely we would all far rather be pulled up now while the remedy is possible than when it is too late.

Here then according to this passage there is one Spirit, and He is forming exactly the same thing in each. Nothing but Christ comes out of each saint who is so characterised. Could we say that this is manifested in us? Doubtless this has to be made good in the midst of disadvantages, through all kinds of difficulties and dangers. All these things are allowed of God that we may be tested to see whether we are willing to carry out the truth in the face of everything that is contrary, just as the Lord Himself did when here. The power given us is adequate for this display.

The chapter goes on to say everyone of us is necessary to everyone else. You say, That brother is so bad; but I say, He is necessary to you. You say, Oh! but he troubles me so much, there is this thing and that thing about him. Well, that is the very thing you want. Do you think there is a single thing that happens that is not necessary to us? This world is God's training ground, and God sees to it that there is everything to exercise us, and even to rub us up the wrong way, in order that He might have the opportunity to strengthen us and make us faithful. Thus it is that our spiritual muscles are developed, and we become Christians in truth instead of being sham ones. Oh! we should be magnificent Christians in our own opinions, if there were no difficulties, no obstacles, no stumbling-blocks; but really we should only be a set of hypocrites, because we should not know ourselves. We do not know what we are till we are tried. When we have to carry out the truth of God in the midst of very difficult circumstances then we learn whether we are in the truth or not, and generally the lesson is a very humbling one. It is only when a soldier goes to war that you can tell what kind of a soldier he is. Remember then, that everyone of us is necessary to the rest. If one is a bright Christian, he is necessary; if one is only a poor kind of Christian, he is necessary also. If you try to do without half the company you will suffer for it in your soul.

I often say to Christians in England when they talk of the one body, I do not think you know very much about it practically, for this reason, we are not tested as to this truth until we have a company composed of saints from diverse nationalities, which naturally do not amalgamate. The presence of a stray Christian or two from another nation is no test, for he has to fall in with the ways of the mass, but it is when those of another nationality are numerous enough to make their presence felt, if they walk in the flesh, then the test is felt, and it is very severe. Here in India we have this test, and we shew how poorly we have learnt the truth. How far have we advanced in the carrying out of this truth in heart and spirit? Very little. If this be so we are missing a most glorious opportunity. If we do not realise this now, then when we get to heaven we shall find out what an opportunity we had and we did not take advantage of it, and we shall see what a loss it has been. See that you do not lose this great blessing. If we have drunk of the one Spirit it will be effectual in making us overcome natural prejudices, and the testimony thus manifested will shew forth the attraction of Christ, and the power of the Spirit, more than anything else.

There is one thing more, "Whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it." This is not a matter of exhortation, it is a matter of fact. If I am in a bad way I affect you all, hinder you all. This is not the same thing as you get in Romans, "Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep." There it is an exhortation to shew sympathy, but here it is different. If a fellow-member of the body of Christ is in a low spiritual state the other members suffer spiritually in spite of themselves. If your foot aches you cannot disregard it. Then, you say, I shall always be thinking about somebody else. All the better. If you only think of them in the right way that Christ may be glorified in them, the more you think of them the better.

There should be no schism in the body. What is schism? Schism is division. At the present time the professing Church of God is fearfully divided even in an outward manner, and any number of separate companies are seen on every side. This is dreadful, but there may be schism without outward division or separation. God wants us to be one in aim, in mind, in heart and soul, in everything. God's object is for Christ to be set forth. The Church of God has terribly sinned as to this, and the difficulty is immense; at all events, seek to carry out the truth of this chapter with the company with which you are. I do not say confine it to that, but unless you carry it out there, you will not do it anywhere else. It is very easy to love in the abstract, to love (or rather to think you love) those who are afar off, but do you love those with whom you meet day by day? Do you love those saints with whom you would not naturally associate and who rub you up the wrong way because they belong to Christ? I know these things are very difficult for us, but if we want to please the heart of Christ, if we want to enter into the love of Christ, then this is the only way. It will be made up to you a hundredfold by the sense of love that will be poured into your heart. If you will only think of Christ and of all He went through, it will not be so difficult. If He loves you, and wants you, and walks with you, bearing with all your follies, blunders, and denseness. If He goes on with you in spite of the thousand things in which you grieve Him, is it so very difficult to walk with your fellow-Christians in the same way. Oh! but you say, I do not quarrel with my fellow-Christians, I do my best for them, but you cannot expect me to love them all; then I say, This is all worthless. You must love all, or it is of no use. Suppose a husband says to his wife, who is pleading for love, Why, what do you want? Do I not give you a house, food and clothes, all the necessaries and comforts of life, and many luxuries? What else do you want? If she be a true woman she will say, I do not want things, I want love. Nothing will do but love. Surely that is simple. The Spirit we all drink of is the Spirit of love; and unless we love we know not the Spirit. May God in truth give us to know the Spirit in this way.