The greatest gift God has conferred, or can confer, upon His beloved people is that of the Holy Spirit. A vast inheritance is ours, which is beyond the ability of the most powerful mind to grasp, and which baffles the most prodigious imagination, for what mind is able to grasp the vast inheritance of God? And we are heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ. But the earnest of that inheritance is the Spirit of God, and the earnest is greater than the inheritance itself.
This great gift was in promise for His people in the past dispensation. And in the day in which God will recover His earthly people from among the heathen, He says that He will sprinkle clean water upon them, so that they shall be cleansed from their idols; a new heart also He will give them, and will put a new spirit within them. But He also says, “I will put My Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in My statutes, and ye shall keep My judgments, and do them” (Ezek. 36:25-27). That will be a wonderful day of blessing for Israel, and bright with the glory of God.
But the Lord also speaks of this great gift on the eve of His departure out of this world, and gives His disciples to understand that they would be better off in the possession of the Spirit than they were in having Him corporeally in their midst. While He was here upon earth, He could only be said to be with them, but when He should be glorified and the Spirit here He would be in them. He says, “At that day ye shall know that I am in My Father, and ye in Me, and I in you” (John 14:20).
He could not be given until Christ was glorified, because the new order of relationships and blessings for man were not brought fully to light until redemption was accomplished and Christ set at the right hand of God. The Spirit was not promised in connection with Adam, either innocent or guilty, but with the new sphere and order of things which lay in the purpose of God before the world was. He is given in connection with the determination of God to head up everything in Christ, and to set up the poor fallen creature on the ground of redemption, and in His own power before His face, in the light of His love revealed in the person of His beloved Son.
Think only of the intimacy with God into which this wonderful gift brings the recipient of it! I need not ask a saint of God if he thinks anything could exceed the holy familiarity with the Father and the Son into which we are brought by this unspeakable power, which has taken possession of our bodies on behalf of the Christ of God, but I would ask if anyone thinks such a favour could be equalled. The question is asked by the Apostle in 1 Corinthians 2, “What man knoweth the things of a man save the spirit of man that is in him?” There can be only one answer to such a question, and the answer is, No man. Had I the spirit of anyone who is listening to me this evening I should know all about him. I should know him as well as he knows himself. There would be none of his thoughts, feelings, or affections hidden from me. Nothing of that man would remain a secret from me. But we have got the Spirit of God. What for? That we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. Could we not know them without the Spirit? No: for they are things the eye has never seen, nor the ear ever heard, nor the imagination ever pictured. But the Spirit knows them. He searches all things, yea the deep things of God. There is nothing hidden from the Spirit, nor is there anything hidden from the one who has received the Spirit. The very babes in Christ are said to have an unction from the Holy One, and to know all things (1 John 2:20). The depths of God are known to the Spirit, and we have received Him that we might know these depths.
By Him we become acquainted with the counsels of the Father. By Him we are enabled to enter into the greatness of the revelation God has made of Himself in Christ. By Him we are in the enjoyment of the love of God that was declared in the cross of His Son, for by Him it has been shed abroad in our hearts. By Him we know that we are children of God. By Him we are enabled to address God as our Father. By Him we are able to reckon ourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ. By His power we are made free from the law of sin which works in our members, and by His power we are enabled to produce righteousness. He is also the power for all worship and service. In fact He is the power of all our relationships with God, for He is the power of the life we have from, and in, the risen Christ. How very thankful we should be for such an unspeakable gift! Were we able to communicate our spirit to another person there is not a soul on earth to whom we would give such a gift, for we do not wish people to know us too intimately. We are too evil to wish to be well known. But God desires us to know Him, that all our delight might be in Him; and the better we know Him the more closely do we draw to Him, and the happier we are; but the better we know men in their natural condition the more we recoil from more than a very limited degree of familiarity with them. With Him who knows us best we are most at home, and that we might find our home in His presence He has bestowed upon us this gift of His Holy Spirit.
But if we contemplate for a moment the greatness of the gift He has given for us, we shall not be so much surprised at the gift He has given to us. To take our place under the judgment due to us on account of sin, He has given His only begotten Son. This is beyond everything else that He has done on our behalf. Nothing greater could He have done. It is in this that the whole extent of His love toward us has come to light. It is there we learn it. Surely all His dealings with us spring from the great love of His heart toward us. But it is not in His care for us in our pilgrim pathway, not in the mercies that we daily experience, not in His tender grace to us, meeting our every need, and giving us abundant proof that we are ever in His mind, and that He ever does the best thing possible for us; but it is in that cross, and in that cross alone, that we are to learn the greatness of that love that is just as deep and wide and boundless as is the heart from which it springs. It is to that cross, and to it alone, that we shall look back from an eternity of unspeakable happiness, as the one, solitary, unique place where, from the hitherto pent-up fountain of the heart of God, flowed forth in infinite volume that love that chose such worthless things as we for its objects.
What a day it will be for us when we stand in the Father’s house in the likeness of the Son of God; when as we look around on that glorious company nothing but Christ shall meet our eye, for, as regards us, the counsels of the Father will all have been fulfilled, and we shall be just that which He purposed we should be before the world was. But not that which shall meet us in that house, not our circumstances there, not the glory in which we shall find ourselves, not the wealth, magnificence, and splendour of that palace of delights will we gaze upon as the mighty witness of the love of God to us, though every bit of it will be designed by the wisdom, and fashioned by the hand of love; but from that circle and sphere of everlasting pleasures we shall cast our minds backward to that lone and cloud-swathed Golgotha, swept with the tempest of devouring wrath, but radiant with love that, as we sometimes sing, no tongue could teach, nor thought be able to reach, for there alone has it had its perfect expression. From the crown of that lonely mount the living light shall fling its deathless rays throughout the whole vast universe of blessing, waking up everlasting praises to the Father and the Son.
Can we, as we contemplate that love, wonder that He who gave His Son to die our death and save us from our woe, should give His Holy Spirit to us? Surely not. Seeing He has given up to the judgment of the cross His well-beloved, we need not be surprised at anything He may give us after that, for “He who spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?” (Rom. 8:32). In the light of that cross must all His dealings with us be estimated.
But as the gift of His Son was the only thing that could meet our deep need, as sinners, so was the gift of the Spirit the only thing that could meet our need in view of the position given to us in divine counsel, for it is only by that power we can occupy that place. Therefore was the Spirit promised and therefore does the Lord say here that “if ye, then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask Him?”
The necessity of this great gift for the people of God is witnessed in the fact that in past dispensations all great deeds done in the service of God were done in the power of the Spirit. Then the Spirit came upon men on special occasions, and was not so much viewed as the power by which they enjoyed relationship with God. But in the day that is coming, when Israel is taken up again, the Spirit will be given in connection with the new covenant. “I will put My Spirit within you.” Then the Spirit will be the acknowledged source and power of the life and activities of the saint Godward, and indeed manward also.
In Luke 10 we have set before us the contrast between the old and new covenants. The lawyer asks the Lord what he must do to inherit eternal life, and the Lord refers him to what was written in the law. The man had no sense of his ruined and helpless condition, and it was necessary that he should have; therefore the Lord turns his attention to his responsibilities. The lawyer quotes the two commandments which sum up the whole duty of man to God and to his neighbour, but knowing little about the true nature of the law, and nothing at all about grace, he seeks to justify himself on the ground that no one has ever been able to prove his claim to this neighbourly regard. He says, “Who is my neighbour?” As much as to say, Let him come and prove his claim upon me, and I will pay him in full.
In what has been called the parable of the Good Samaritan, the Lord sets forth the true character of the grace of God in connection with the new covenant. In the man who went down from Jerusalem to Jericho we get the course of the sinner in his departure from God. Next we have the company into which he drifts. Then we get his condition, stripped naked, wounded, and half dead. Such is the Jew today, such will he be when God takes him up again, and such is every soul in rebellion against his Maker. What could the law do for such a man as that? Curse him, that was all. He was a law-breaker. Therefore the representatives of the old covenant pass him by on the other side. They can do nothing for him.
“But a certain Samaritan as he journeyed.” Here we have the introduction of a person who was most objectionable to a Jew. But whoever he may be he is the only one who has either the inclination or the ability to do anything for this poor wanderer. “He came where he was.” This is Jesus. They said to Him, “Thou art a Samaritan, and hast a devil” (John 8:48). But this is just the Samaritan in whom the grace of a Saviour-God is to manifest itself. With him it is no question whether that poor miserable creature weltering in his gore by the wayside can establish a claim upon his compassions or not. The man is in need, the compassions are there, mercy is manifested, and the part of a neighbour is graciously carried out.
He “bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine”; “oil to make his face shine, and wine to gladden his heart” (Ps. 104:15). Here the oil and wine prefigure the Holy Spirit shedding the love of God abroad in the heart: the oil representing the Spirit, and the wine the revelation of God to the soul, so that the heart is filled with a gladness that causes the face to shine.
Next we are told “he set him on his own beast.” The power that carried the Samaritan is now to carry the subject of his grace. So we are to be carried through this world in the power of Christ. The power in which He passed through this scene is the power by which we are to pass through it, and that power is that of the Holy Spirit of God. He began with us when we were without strength (Rom. 5. 6), but He sets us up in His strength, and His strength is made perfect in weakness (2 Cor. 12:9), therefore the weaker we are in ourselves the better. We get His strength in lieu of our own.
He also brings him to an inn; that is, makes a stranger of him down here. Then he commits him to the host, pays for his keep until the time of his return. Nothing is expected from the subject of grace, nor does he do anything. He ruined himself. That was the sum total of all that he did. The Samaritan took upon himself the whole responsibility of his salvation, and maintenance in every way. He did everything for the poor ruined creature, right from beginning to end. Just what the Lord will do for Israel when He takes up that nation in grace. He will sprinkle water upon them. He will give them a new heart. He will give them His Spirit. He will put His laws into their hearts, and write them in their minds. He will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and iniquities will He remember no more. We come in for the spirit of all this before the day comes in which He will work in grace for the recovery of His earthly people. But He is the worker.
Another thing: the Lord tells the lawyer that the Samaritan, in his gracious dealings with this poor, wretched creature whom he found fallen and half dead by the wayside, is to be an example to Him. He says, “Go, and do thou likewise.” He is no longer to be an exponent of the law, but of grace. He has learned who his neighbour is, and this knowledge is not to be in his soul like a fruitless and withered weed, but his life is to take character from the gracious ways of one from whom he had hitherto expected nothing good. He is to be an exponent of the grace of a Saviour-God.
But if this effect was to be produced it could only be by keeping the Saviour constantly before the mind and heart. Hence in the attitude taken up by Mary we see the attitude that becomes us. The Samaritan was to become the model for the Jew, and the Samaritan is Christ. He is our example. We are to learn of Him. Hence our place is at His feet. We must hearken to His word. Martha was filled with service. She did not understand that Christ had come to serve and not to be served (Matt. 20:28). Mary understood this, and her choice has the great Servant’s commendation. If we are to be exponents of grace we require to listen to the words of grace that proceed out of His mouth, for we are all naturally hard and exacting.
But while it is true that the Samaritan did everything for the poor unfortunate victim of his own miserable folly, and that all brought before us in that connection was the sovereign operations of grace, unsolicited and unexpected, the eleventh chapter of the Gospel of Luke shows us that there is another aspect of the case to be considered. We are, through the operation of grace in our hearts, led to turn to God as those who expect Him to do something for us. He that comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him (Heb. 11:6).
But from the fall the lips of man were sealed against God by the fell destroyer of the human race. Men are afflicted with a dumb devil. Even in their miseries the Lord charges His people with refusing to cry to Him when they howled upon their beds (Hos. 7:14). But where grace works there is always the turning of the heart to God. Paul was sent to open the eyes of the Gentiles, that they might turn to God and receive forgiveness (Acts 26:18). The Lord says to the unbelieving Jews, “Ye will not come unto Me that ye might have life” (John 5:40). When He takes up Israel again He will pour out upon them the spirit of grace and of supplication (Zech. 12:10), and He says they “will come with weeping, and with supplications will I lead them” (Jer. 31:9). This is effected by some ray of light of the knowledge of God which reached the heart. This light breaks the seal that the devil has placed upon the lips. The Lord here cast out the dumb devil. Then the dumb spoke, and the people wondered.
Therefore the Lord, at the request of the disciples, teaches them to address God, and not only so, but encourages them to persevere in their supplications. Let the time be seasonable or unseasonable, make your requests. Do not be denied. Do not be put off. “Ask, and it shall be given unto you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.” You may not get the answer at the moment, though you may be perfectly assured that at all times while you are speaking He will hear (Isa. 65:24). For three whole weeks Daniel chastened himself, and made his supplication to God, but not until the three weeks were finished did he get the answer. Yet the messenger sent to him by God tells him that from the first day he had set his heart to understand, and to chasten himself before God, his words were heard, and the answer was despatched, but for twenty-one days it was delayed by the power of the enemy. We need not, therefore, be astonished if we do not receive the answer at once. We should have the utmost confidence in the words of Christ, who tells us that if we ask we shall receive; that is, as long as it is something which is right and proper for us to have. He says, “Every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.” What encouragement this gives us always to pray and not to faint!
But if God gives in His infinite grace and love, He gives also according to His boundless wisdom. A father gives to his child that which he knows will be for its good, and does not give it merely according to its notion of its own need. But he will not give it evil things. If a son ask bread, the father does not give him a stone; or if he ask a fish, he does not give him a serpent; neither does he give him a scorpion if he ask an egg. Again the allusion is to the old covenant. The stone was the instrument of death in that dispensation; in the serpent we have the virulence of the flesh aroused by the commandment, which also resulted in death; in the scorpion we have set forth the hidden principle of death, which while speaking of life, killed with all the torment of a condemning conscience.
But in the bread, the fish, and the egg we have Christ according to the grace of God set before us. In Him we have the bread of life; the energy of life, as set forth in the fish which goes against the stream, the evil currents of the world; in the egg the source and principle of life, which is the love of God, the foundation of all His activities toward us. But all this is made good to us by the indwelling Spirit of God. Therefore He says that our heavenly Father will give the Holy Spirit to them that ask Him. He is the One who is able and willing to make all the grace that is in Christ good to our souls.
As I have already said, a greater gift God could not bestow upon us. He dwells in the bodies of His saints. By Him we are sealed until the day of redemption (Eph. 4:30). He will never leave us. Let us be careful not to grieve Him, but rather let us seek to be always in some measure under His gracious influence.