“I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance; but He that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear; He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire.” Matt. 3: 11.
These words from the lips of the forerunner intimate that there was to be a great distinction between the old dispensation which he was closing, and the new, which Jesus Christ was about to usher in.
The distinction was to be very marked in connection with the manner and measure in which the Holy Ghost would be poured out upon the people of God and manifested in connection with the work of redemption. The two natural emblems of water and fire are used to denote the difference between the two dispensations.
We have seen that the Holy Ghost was present on earth during the Old Testament age, speaking through the prophets and messengers of God, and working out Hie divine purpose in the lives of God’s chosen agents, and instruments. But the New Testament is preeminently the age of the Holy Ghost, and we might, therefore, expect that there would be a great and infinite difference. The principal difference between the old and new dispensations, with respect to the presence and manifestations of the Holy Ghost, might be summed up in the following particulars.
1. In the Old Testament, the Holy Ghost was given to special individuals to fit them for special service; in the New Testament, the promise is that the Spirit shall be poured out upon all flesh, and they shall not need to say, one to another, “Know the Lord, for all shall know Him,” through the divine unction, “from the least to the greatest.” The universal outpouring of the Holy Ghost upon all believers is the striking feature of the New Testament.
2. The Holy Spirit was with men and upon men, rather than in them in the Old Testament. In the New Testament dispensation, the Holy Ghost comes to dwell in us and to unite us personally with God, and to be in us, not only a Spirit of power and a preparation for service, but a Spirit of life, holiness, and fellowship with the Divine Being. It is not the influence of the Holy Ghost that we receive, but it is the Person of the Holy Ghost.
3. This leads us to the third distinction; namely, that under the Old Testament dispensation, the Holy Ghost was not resident upon earth, but visited it from time to time as occasion required. Now the Spirit of God is dwelling upon the earth. This is His abode. He resides in the hearts of men, and in the Church of Christ, just as literally as Jesus resided upon the earth during the thirty-three years of His incarnation and life below.
4. Perhaps the principal difference was this; in the Old Testament age the Holy Ghost came rather as the Spirit of the Father, in the glory and majesty of the Deity, while under the New Testament He comes rather as the Spirit of the Son, to represent Jesus to us, and to make Him real in our experience and life. Indeed, the Person of the Holy Ghost was not fully constituted under the Old Testament. It was necessary that He should reside for three and a half years in the heart of Jesus of Nazareth, and become, as it were, humanized, colored, and brought nearer to us by His personal union with our Incarnate Lord. Now He comes to us as the same Spirit that lived, and loved, and suffered, and wrought, in Jesus Christ.
In a sense, our Master left His heart behind Him, and when the Holy Ghost comes to dwell within us, He brings the living Christ and makes His person real to our hearts.
This must be the meaning of that remarkable passage in John 7: 37, 38, where Jesus said that the Spirit in the believer should flow out like rivers of living water; then the evangelist adds, “The Spirit was not yet; because Jesus was not yet glorified.” The Holy Spirit, in the form in which He was to be manifest in the coming age was not constituted until after the ascension of Jesus. Now, He comes to us as the Spirit of Christ. Therefore it, is intensely interesting to us to look at the relation of the Holy Ghost to the person of our Lord in His first baptism and earthly ministry.
This is our present theme. May the Holy Ghost Himself illuminate and apply it to all our hearts!
I. Our Lord was born of the Holy Spirit. The announcement by the angel to Mary connects the Divine Spirit directly with the conception and incarnation of Christ. “The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee, therefore, that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the son of God.” Luke 1: 35.
The human mind cannot fathom this mystery — a holy Christ conceived and born of one who was herself the daughter of a sinful race. We cannot believe in the immaculate Mary, but we can believe in the immaculate Son of God, born of her without sin.
The very fact that she was an imperfect and sinful woman adds to the glory of this mystery and makes it the more perfect type of the experience through which we also come into fellowship with our living Head. For just as Jesus was born of the Spirit, so we, the disciples of Jesus, must also be born of the Holy Ghost; for “except a man be born from above he cannot enter the kingdom of God.”
The mystery of the incarnation is repeated every time a soul is created anew in Christ Jesus. Into the unholy being of a child of Adam, a seed of incorruptible and eternal life is implanted by the divine Spirit, and that seed is in itself, through the life of God, holy and incorruptible. Just as you may see in the sweet springtime the little white, spotless shoot, coming from the dark soil and out of the heap of manure, unstained by all its gross surroundings, so out of our lost humanity the Holy Spirit causes to spring forth the life of the newborn soul; and while the subject of that marvelous experience may seem an imperfect being, still he has that within him, of which the apostle has said, “His seed remaineth in him, and cannot sin; because it is born of God.” He can sin, but that holy nature implanted in him cannot; it is like its Author, holy, too.
“And so He that sanctifieth, and they that are sanctified, are all of one, for which cause He is not ashamed to call them brethren.” Like Him we are born of the Holy Ghost and become the sons of God, not by adoption, but by the divine regeneration.
II. Jesus Christ was baptized by the Holy Spirit. Not only did He derive His person and His incarnate life from the Holy Ghost, but when at thirty years of age He consecrated Himself to His ministry of life and suffering and service, and went down into the waters of the Jordan, in token of His self-renunciation and His assumption of death, the heavens were opened and the Holy Ghost, by whom He had been born, now came down and personally possessed His being and henceforth dwelt within Him.
No one can for a moment deny that this was something transcendently more than the incarnation of Christ. Up to this time there had been one personality, henceforth there were two; for the Holy Ghost was added to the Christ, and in the strength of this indwelling Spirit, henceforth He wrought His works, and spake His words, and accomplished His ministry on earth.
But this also has its parallel in the experience of the disciples of Christ. It is not enough for us to be born of the Holy Ghost, we must also be baptized with the Holy Ghost. There must come a crisis hour in the life of every Christian when he, too, steps down into the Jordan of death; when he yields his will to fulfill all righteousness, like his Master; when he voluntarily assumes the life of self-renunciation and service, which God has appointed for him in His holy will, and when there is added to him, as a divine trust, the Holy Ghost; henceforth it is not one, but two, and then these two are one.
I remember the day when my daughter walked down one aisle of this building, and another walked down the other aisle, and they met at this altar and then they walked back after that simple, solemn ceremony, but not as they came. It was not one person now, but two; yet those two were one, and she leaned her weakness upon his strength and, assuming his name, henceforth looked to him for all the needs of her life.
And so there comes a time when the believer joins his hand with the Holy Ghost, and there is added to his new heart and his Christian experience the mighty stupendous fact of God Himself, and the personal indwelling of the Holy Ghost.
How perfectly this is described in the two sentences in Ezekiel. “A new heart will I give unto you and a right spirit will I put within you.” This is the new heart in us. “And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you shall keep My commandments and do them.” That is the baptism with the Holy Ghost. And so Peter and the other disciples were born of the Spirit before the day of Pentecost; but Jesus promised them that they should be baptized with the Holy Ghost at the appointed time, and when that day was fully come there was added to their true Christian life the divine personality, the infinite presence and all-sufficiency of God, the indwelling Holy Ghost, who had lived and wrought in Jesus Christ.
Beloved, have we entered into this experience? Have we received the Holy Ghost since we believed, or have we allowed our theological traditions and our preconceived ideas to shut us out from our inheritance of blessing and of power? Let us do so no longer. Let us, with the Master, step down to Jordan, enter with Him into death, rise with Him in resurrection life into the baptism of the Holy Ghost, and then go forth in the fulness of His power and liberty, even as He.
Oh, if the Son of God did not presume to begin His public work until He had received this power from on high, what presumption it is that we should attempt in our own strength to fulfill the ministry committed to us and be witnesses unto Him!
III. No sooner had the Lord received the baptism of the Holy Ghost than He was led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to “be tempted of the devil.” This is especially emphasized by the evangelist. It was not the devil that appeared first, but it was the Spirit. In the Gospel of Mark the language is still stronger, and it is said that he was “driven of the Spirit.”
Perhaps His human spirit recoiled from the awful ordeal of the wilderness, as it afterwards shrank from the anguish of Gethsemane, and the Holy Ghost pressed Him forward by one of those resistless impulses which many of us have learned to understand, and for forty days His blessing was challenged; His faith was tested; His very soul was tried by all the assaults of the adversary.
He was brought into certain places that seemed to contradict all that He believed, and to challenge all that had been promised to Him. The devil might well say to Him, “Art Thou indeed the Son of God in the midst of hunger, desolation, and wild beasts, and every form of suffering, cast off and neglected even by God, and left in destitution and desolation?”
And then, amid all these perils and privations, suddenly there opened before Him the vision of power and pleasure — the kingdoms of the world and all the glory of them, if He would but yield a single point and accept the leadership of the enemy, who doubtless appealed to His higher nature and represented Himself as an angel of light, or perhaps approached Him through His own form, and all the visions and possibilities of power He might use for the good of men and the benefit of the world.
These and other more subtle insinuations and instigations came to Him on every side and yet, amid them all, He stood unmoved in His obedience to His Father’s will and His reliance upon His Father’s word, until Satan was driven from His presence, and He came forth more than conqueror. And so the first thing that we may look for, after the baptism of the Holy Ghost, is the wilderness with its desolations and privations. Circumstances will surely come to us, which seem to contradict all that we have believed, and to render impossible the promise of God. Even God will seem to have failed us, and when all is dark as midnight, the vision of help from other sources will come to us, and a thousand voices will whisper to us their promises of sympathy and aid, if we but yield a single point of conscience and give ourselves up to the will of the deceiver. All the temptations of our Master will come to us, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, the pride of life, the temptation to take help from forbidden sources, or perhaps to carry even our faith to the extreme of fanaticism and presumption.
All these will come, but if the Spirit has led us up into the wilderness He will lead us out. If we will but lift our eyes above the tempter to the divine Deliverer, we shall find that even Satan shall be compelled to become our ally; and, more than conquerors, like our Master, we shall take our enemy prisoner and make him fight our very battles.
Let us not fear the conflict; let us not shrink from the testing; let us not count it strange concerning the fiery trial that is to try us; let us not see the devil first, but the Lord always above him, and the Holy Ghost in the midst of our being, our Victor and Deliverer. “When the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord shall lift up a standard against Him.”
We must first fight the battle in our own soul that we are to fight in the world. David must meet Goliath alone, before he can meet him in the hosts of the Philistines. Jesus must conquer Satan in single combat, before He can go forth to drive him out of hearts and lives. And so we, too, must live out our public service in the private arena of our own spiritual experience, and then repeat our victory in the victory that God shall give us for the lives of others.
Beloved, shall we not trust, through all our tests and trials, and take the Holy Ghost as our Deliverer in the hour of temptation, and our blessed and divine Discipliner, leading us through the ordeal of suffering to the strength of victory?
IV. We next read that Jesus went forth in the power of the Spirit from the wilderness into Galilee. He was not weakened but strengthened by His conflict, and almost immediately afterward we find Him standing in the synagogue at Nazareth publicly declaring, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; He hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable ,year of the Lord.” Luke 4: 18, 19.
Henceforth all His teachings, all His works, all His miracles of power were attributed directly to the Holy Ghost. In the twelfth chapter of Matthew and the twenty-eighth verse, we have a very distinct statement of the connection of the Holy Spirit with His miracles of power. “If I by the Spirit of God, cast out demons, then the kingdom of God is come unto you.” That is to say, it is the Holy Ghost that casts out demons in us, and this same Holy Ghost is to remain in us and to perpetuate the kingdom of God in the church through the dispensation.
It is a very wonderful truth that it is the same Spirit who wrought in Christ, that He has given to the church to perform her works of love and power.
This was what the Master meant when He said, “He that believeth on Me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto the Father.” The Holy Ghost in us is the same Holy Ghost that wrought in Christ. We yield to none, in honor to the Son of God. He was truly the Eternal God, “very God of very God.” But when He came down from yonder heights of glory, he suspended the direct operation of His own independent power and became voluntarily dependent upon the power of God through the Holy Ghost. He constantly said, “I can of mine own self do nothing.” He purposely took His place side by side with us, needing equally with the humblest disciple the constant power of God to sustain Him in all His work. Not that He might be dishonored in His glory and majesty, “For being in the form of God He thought it not a thing to be grasped to be equal with God, but He emptied Himself and made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Him the form of a servant.”
And so He went through life in the position of dependence, that He might be our public example and teach us that we, too, have the same secret of strength and power that He possessed, and that as surely as He overcame through the Holy Ghost, so may we.
Oh, what a solemn spectacle it is to see the Son of God spending thirty years on earth without one single act of public ministry until He received the baptism of power from on high, and then concentrating a whole lifetime of service into forty-two short months of intense activity and almighty power!
But He has left to us the same power which He possessed. He has bequeathed to the church the very Holy Ghost that lived and wrought in Him. Let us accept this mighty gift. Let us believe in Him and His all-sufficiency. Let us receive Him and give Him room, and let us go forth to reproduce the life and ministry of Jesus and perpetuate the divine miracles of our holy Christianity through the power of the blessed Comforter.
This is the mighty gift of our ascended Lord. This is the supreme need of the church of today. This is the special promise of the latter days. God help us to claim it fully and, in the power of the Spirit, to go forth to meet our coming Lord.
“He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire.” Matt. 3: 11.
This sounds almost like an echo of the last promise of the Old Testament. The voice of “the Messenger” is taken up by “the Forerunner.” “He is like a refiner’s fire, and like fullers’ soap; and He shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver: and He shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them like gold and silver, that they may offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness.”
In the last chapter we have seen the relation of the Holy Ghost to the person of Christ. First, He was born by the Spirit, then He was baptized by the Spirit, and then He went forth to work out His life and ministry in the power of the Spirit.
But “He that sanctifieth and they that are sanctified are all of one;” so in like manner we must follow in His Footsteps and relive His life. Born like Him of the Spirit, we, too, must be baptized of the Spirit, and then go forth to live His life and reproduce His work. And so our next theme is the baptism of the Spirit of God through the Lord Jesus Christ.
I. THE BAPTIZER. It is Christ’s province to baptize with the Holy Ghost. The sinner does not come first to the Holy Spirit, but to Christ. Our first business is to receive Jesus, and then to receive the Holy Ghost. Therefore, the great promise of the Old Testament is the coming of Christ, while the great promise of the New is the coming of the Spirit.
Jesus received the Spirit from the Father. We receive the Spirit from Jesus. It is necessary for us, in order that we may fully receive the Holy Ghost, that we shall first receive Christ in His person as our Savior and as our indwelling life.
The Father gave the Spirit to Him not by measure and, if He dwells in us, He will bring the Spirit with Him, and He shall dwell in us likewise in the same measure in which He dwells in Jesus.
Our mere human hearts are not fit temples for the Holy Ghost. It is only as we are united to Christ that we are prepared and enabled to receive the Holy Ghost in the fullness of His life and power. It is the Christ within us, that still receives the Holy Ghost.
And so, when our Master was about to leave the world, it is significantly stated that He breathed upon them, and said: “Receive ye the Holy Ghost.” The Holy Spirit came upon them through the breath of Christ. This significant action emphasized the fact that the Spirit was imparted to them from His own person and as His own very life. It is true that the act of breathing on them did not bring immediately the residence of the Holy Ghost into their hearts, for this could not be until after the day of Pentecost. But it was meant to connect it with Himself, so that when the Holy Ghost did descend and dwell in them they would receive Him as the Spirit of Jesus, and as communicated to them by the breath and the very kiss of their departing Master.
As we have already seen, the Holy Ghost comes to us as the Spirit of Christ and even as His very heart, the One who wrought in Him His mighty works and repeats them in us.
Would we receive the baptism with the Holy Ghost, let us receive Jesus in all His fullness. Let us draw near to His inmost being, and from His lips let us in-breathe the Spirit of His mouth.
II. THE BAPTISM. What is the baptism imparted to us by Christ?
Sometimes we hear this spoken of as if He baptized us with something different from Himself, some sort of an influence, or feeling, or power. The truth is, the Spirit Himself is the baptism. Christ baptizes, and it is with or in the Spirit that He baptizes us. There is, therefore, one baptism with the Spirit once for all, and, from that time, the Holy Ghost Himself is our indwelling life.
The word “baptize” is significant in this connection. Literally, it might be translated “Baptize you in the Holy Ghost.” It is scarcely necessary to say that the word baptize means to immerse, and carries along with it always the idea of death and resurrection. There is something very significant in this in connection with the reception of the Holy Ghost. It means that we are baptized into death, and raised into life, and thus receive the Spirit from on high. Just as Jesus went down into the Jordan, which was the symbol of death, and there received the Heavenly Dove, so we must step down into the death of all our strength and all our life, and, surrendering ourselves completely to Him, rise in newness of life with Christ, and thus receive the Holy Ghost as the seal and source of that new life.
The most important condition of the baptism with the Holy Ghost is that we shall truly die to all our own life, and enter into the meaning of Christ’s resurrection. We must be completely submerged, not a hair of our head left; in sight; then when we cease from ourselves we shall enter into God and find that while, in one sense, we have received the Holy Ghost into us, we have in a far greater sense been received into the Holy Ghost. He is too vast and glorious for any soul to exhaust His fullness; therefore, after He has filled and flooded all our being, there is an overflow as boundless as the ocean of immensity, and we are still in that ocean as the element of our inexhaustible life.
It is scarcely necessary to say that the baptism of the Holy Ghost is our union with the living personality of the Spirit. It is not an influence. It is not a notion, nor a feeling, nor a power, nor a joy, into which we are submerged; but it is a heart of love, a mind of intelligence, a living being as real as Jesus Christ of Nazareth, and as real as our own personality.
III. THE SYMBOL OF THIS BAPTISM, FIRE. “He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire.” This does not mean that the Holy Ghost and fire are different, or that the baptism of fire is something distinct from that of the Spirit, but simply that the figure of fire expresses more fully the intensity and power of this divine baptism. It means that the soul that is truly baptized with God is a soul on fire. Fire is the most forceful and suggestive of natural elements, and seems made especially to symbolize the Holy Ghost.
1. It is a penetrating element. It goes to the very fibre and heart of things, and is internal and intrinsic in its action. And so the Holy Ghost “pierces to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a Discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” He searches our inmost being, and requires and produces “truth in the hidden part.”
2. Fire is a purifying element. It separates the dross from the gold. It burns up the stubble and purges the vessel from all defilement. It is the type of the cleansing, sanctifying Spirit of God, who alone can purify our sinful and polluted souls and burn up the dross of sin.
3. Fire is a consuming element. It is the most destructive of forces; so the Holy Ghost comes to destroy all that is destructible, to consume all that is corruptible, and to burn out all that is combustible. God wants a people that have been so burned out, that when the testing fires of the great final day shall come there shall be nothing left to consume. It is not only the sinful but the earthly, the natural, the self-bound life, that the Spirit comes to wither, until there is nothing left but the divine and everlasting. “The grass withereth and the flower fadeth; because the Spirit of the Lord bloweth upon it.” Do we not want this blessed fire? Shall we not welcome this blessed flame? Are we not weary of the things that wither and decay, and do we not desire the life that cannot pass away; the loves and friendships that shall never say good-bye, and the treasures that shall meet us in the sky?
4. Fire is a refining element. And so the Holy Ghost in the great Refiner. He comes, not only to cleanse, but to improve, to elevate, to mature, to beautify and glorify the soul, and fit our heavenly robes for the marriage of the Lamb. “He shall sit as a Refiner and Purifier of silver.” There is an instantaneous and there is a gradual work of the Holy Ghost. There is an act by which He baptizes us into Himself forever. And there is a process in which He sits down beside the crucible, and watches the molten silver until it perfectly reflects His image, and then He removes the fire and declares the work complete. He comes not only to give us love, but all the gentleness of love; not only long-suffering, but also “all long-suffering with joyfulness;” not only “the things that are pure, and true, and honest,” but also the “things that are lovely and of good report.” Let us welcome the refining fire. Let us invite Him to sit down in our willing hearts, and finish His glorious work, until we are “all glorious within,” our clothing of wrought gold, and our raiment “white and lustrous” for the Marriage Feast.
5. Fire is a necessary element in preparing almost every article of food for our nourishment. We cannot live on raw wheat nor uncooked meat. It must pass through the process of fire to be wholesome and nourishing; so the Holy Ghost prepares the Word of God for our spiritual subsistence. A great many people live on raw and cold theology. It is little wonder that they are spiritual invalids and suffer terribly from bad digestion. A little truth, thoroughly prepared and presented to us by the loving hands of the Holy Ghost, is worth volumes of dry theology and learned exegesis.
The Passover must not be eaten “raw or sodden,” but it must be roasted in the fire and properly prepared. The Holy Ghost is as necessary as the blood of Christ and the word of truth. He is a very foolish preacher who tries to preach without Him, and a very foolish Christian who expects to find the truth and the power of God without His blessed anointing and constant illumination.
6. Fire is a quickening element. And so the Holy Ghost is the source of life. What is it that makes the spring, the flowers, and the swarming life of the insect world? It is the warmth of spring, it is the fire of yonder sun. And so the Holy Ghost quickens our whole spiritual being into vitality. Like the mother bird, whose warm bosom incubates the germs of life that she has dropped into her nest, so the Spirit of God vitalizes all our being, and quickens into life and blessing seeds that lay dormant, perhaps, for years. He quickens our spiritual life; He quickens our intellectual life; He quickens our physical life, and is the source of healing and strength.
7. The Holy Spirit, like fire, melts the rigid heart and molds it into the form of God’s holy will, and highest purpose. Without the Holy Ghost we are set in our own ideas, plans, and thoughts; but the soul that is filled with the Holy Ghost is adjustable, both to God and to man. The easiest people to get along with are those most filled with God.
The Spirit is a great lubricator and mellower, and He keeps us adjusted to the will of God, and to the providences of life as they meet us, day by day, in God’s perfect order of place and time.
8. Fire is the great energizer and source of power. It is the real secret of the electric current and the throbbing piston of yonder engine. And so the Holy Ghost is the source of all spiritual power. He and He alone can give effectiveness to our lives, and make us tell for God and humanity, and the great purpose of our existence. We need His power in every department of life. He is not only for the pulpit, but for every walk of life. The Holy Ghost will give power to all who will receive it, to make life effective and to make us accomplish the purpose of our being.
The Old Testament age was a life of effort, struggle, and human endeavor. It was man’s best with God’s help; but God is through with that forever. God is not now trying to get people to do as well as they can, but He is offering to undertake Himself the whole responsibility of their life and work, to enter and possess their hearts, and to be their all-sufficiency. And so we are without excuse if we fail through our own imperfection and ability . God is not blaming us for what we do not do, but for what we do not let Him enable us to do.
“Ye shall receive power after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you;” and we “can do all things through Christ who is our strength.”
9. Fire warms, and so the Holy Ghost is the source of love, zeal, and holy earnestness. He sets souls on fire for God, and duty, and humanity. He makes us all aglow with divine enthusiasm. An ordinary mind will accomplish more than a brilliant one, if it is alive with holy earnestness.
We are living in an earnest age. All the forces of human intelligence are intensely alive. Be in earnest. The world is in earnest. Satan is in earnest. God is in earnest. Redemption is an earnest business and cost its Author every drop of His crimson blood. The Holy Ghost is intensely in earnest. Everything in heaven and earth and hell is in earnest but man. It is an awful thing for a Christian, redeemed by the blood of Christ, and destined to an eternal future of weal or woe, to be frivolous or trifling. O, friend, think, if that day you are wasting were to be cut off the end of your life, instead of the middle, how quickly you would awaken and tremble at the thought of trifling! If every hour you waste were deducted from the sum of your life at the close, how frightful the sacrifice would seem! And yet it is even so. God help us to be intensely aroused to life’s solemn meaning!
Now, the Holy Ghost will make us earnest. Indeed, one of His own names is this, “The Earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession.” The earnest means the reality. The Holy Ghost is the reality of things, and He makes us real and earnest, too.
10. Finally, fire is a protective element. The eastern shepherd surrounds his fold by night with a little wall of fire, as he heaps up the dry wood of the desert in a circle around his flock, and the wild beasts fear to come within the fiery wall. So God says, “I will be unto her a wall of fire round about, and will be the glory in the midst of her.”
The Holy Ghost defends us from the power of evil. A heart on fire with God throws off a thousand temptations. An electric wire, charged with the fiery current, is as mighty as a battery of artillery. A hot stove cover throws off the water that vainly tries to rest upon it. So a heart filled with the Spirit of God is proof against temptation, sin, sorrow, and even disease.
Oh, let us be filled with the Holy Ghost, and we shall carry a charmed life and be preserved from all the powers of earth and hell!
“Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom. And five of them were wise, and five were foolish. They that were foolish took their lamps, and took no oil with them: But the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps.” Matt. 25; 1-4.
The Gospel of Matthew is the Gospel of the King, and its latest chapters are full of the Master’s teachings about His coming. The parable of the virgins is a picture of the attitude of the church at the coming f the Lord, and the necessity of the Holy Ghost in order to prepare us for that great event.
The ten virgins, like the ten servants in the parable of the pounds, represent the whole church. The church is often represented in the Scriptures under the figure of a woman. It is an unnecessary and irrelevant strain to try to make a distinction between the virgins and the bride, and assume that the bride is somewhere in the background of the parable, and in a still higher place than the wise virgins. If that were so, it is strange that the Lord makes no reference to so important a part of the dramatis personae in any of these closing discourses. The truth is, that which is elsewhere represented by the bride is here represented by the virgins. Sometimes the church is called a bride, sometimes a building, sometimes a body, sometimes disciples, servants, virgins; but it is always the same church, and all that is necessary in the interpretation is to simply work out the figure used in each case, consistently with itself, and not to drag in every other feature and accompaniment which a lively fancy may suggest. As well might we try to work out an hypothesis for the mother in the parable of the prodigal son, or to find a meaning for all the figures introduced in the necessary drapery of any of the parables. The Great Teacher has one object in view in this great parable — to show the need of special preparation for the Lord’s coming, and we only confuse the mind, and detract from the simple object of the lesson when we try to bring in a whole system of theology.
I. THE POINTS OF RESEMBLANCE BETWEEN THE WISE AND FOOLISH VIRGINS.
1. They were both virgins. They were both separated and pure. It is possible to have a blameless character, to have come out from the world and to be faultlessly right, moral, and correct in our life, and yet be devoid of the Holy Ghost and unprepared for the Lord’s return.
2. Both were looking for the coming of the bridegroom. They had all gone out with this one object and were definitely expecting and preparing for him. And so we may fully believe in the doctrine of the Lord’s return, may be deeply interested in it, may be personally desiring and expecting it, and yet may be, if we are without the Holy Ghost, unprepared for it, and be found among the foolish virgins at the last.
3. They both Slumbered and slept. The Greek word for ‘slumbered’, literally means ‘nodded’. It vividly describes the drowsiness that gradually creeps over one, until, at last, unwillingly and almost unconsciously, he falls asleep. It implies that, even at the very best, the people of God are more than half asleep. And yet it is a very different thing to doze with the oil in your vessels, than to fall asleep utterly unprepared for your Master’s appearing.
4. Both were called just before the Bridegroom came. How gracious it was of the Master to send word to the sleeping virgins! He has promised us that “that day shall not overtake us as a thief.” And even the foolish virgins were awakened at the last moment, and were aware of the Master’s near approach. But, alas! it did not avail them now; it was too late to obtain the oil and prepare their dying lamps for the glorious procession that welcomed their King’s return.
There was much, very much, in their favor. Just one thing they lacked. But it was enough to prevent their entering in. God help us all to make sure of “that one thing needful!”
II. THE DIFFERENCE. What then was the difference between these two classes of virgins? What was the secret of failure on the part of the foolish ones?
1. Five were wise and five were foolish. It is not enough for us to be earnest and well meaning. God expects us also to be intelligent, instructed, and wise. “Be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is.” “See that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil.”
It will be no excuse for us in the day of His coming that we did not know what He expected of us. He has given us full instructions, and to neglect His word is evidence of guilty and careless disobedience. How many are defaulting in their life and service because they do not even understand the truth about their Master’s coming, and the Bible is to them a sealed book! God make us wise!
2. The foolish virgins were impulsive, shallow, enthusiastic, and lacking in real solid and lasting qualities. This is indicated by the simple statement that the first thing that the foolish virgins thought about was their lamps, and the first thing that the wise thought about was their vessels and the oil that filled them. The one looked at the transient flame; the other at the abiding source of life and light. The one represents the present people; the other the permanent people with whom we are always coming in contact.
John Bunyan expresses the difference by his two characters of Passion and Patience. The one wanted everything now; the other wanted that which he would have at the end.
3. But the supreme difference between the wise and foolish virgins was the fact that the foolish virgins took their lamps only, and the others took the oil in their vessels. This, we need hardly say, expresses these two great facts and experiences; namely, a Christian life and the baptism with the Holy Ghost. The burning lamp represents the spiritual life which has been kindled by the Holy Ghost; the oil in the vessels with the lamps represents the Holy Ghost Himself, personally received in the consecrated heart.
There is an infinite difference between these two facts. The apostles before Pentecost and the apostles after Pentecost represent this difference.
The vessel, of course, is our personality — spirit, soul, and body; the oil is the Holy Ghost who comes to the yielded and obedient heart to control it, and fill it with the fullness of God. This is the true preparation for a life of holiness and for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
With this we are ready to meet Him when He appears, and although we may have but a few moments to prepare, and may even nod and sleep at times, we have the secret of the Lord within us, and “we shall be found of Him in peace.”
This is the great question which God is pressing upon His church today. “Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed?” This is the great mark of distinction between Christians and Christians. Beloved, let us make no mistake, but let us be filled with the Spirit and so “give all diligence to make our calling and election sure.”
IV. THE EFFECTS UPON BOTH CLASSES.
1. The wise virgins were ready, and after a few moments of immediate preparation were received to the marriage feast and the joy of their Lord.
2. The foolish virgins woke to find their lamps expiring. “Give us of your oil,” they cried, “for our lamps are going out.”They were not able to supply their lamps from the vessels of the wise. These needed all the oil they had for the great occasion which had come, and there was none to spare for the lamps of the other virgins.
It is true that the Holy Ghost is indivisible, and we cannot give part of our blessing to another. If we have Him, we have Him personally and He cannot be separated into parts. We need all His fullness for our own preparation. We may lead others to Him and help them to receive Him, but they must take Him for themselves.
3. We may receive even this blessing too late. It would seem to be implied that the Holy Spirit might still be secured, even at the very moment of the Lord’s return, but “while they went to buy, the bridegroom came, and they that were ready went in, and the door was shut.”
There will be, doubtless, many spiritual blessings poured out upon the world immediately after the Parousia of our blessed Master, and the translation of His waiting Bride; but it will be too late to enter into the joys of the marriage, and escape the sorrows of the great tribulation. Time is one of the factors in every great question, and it is not only well for us to obey God’s call, but it is essential to obey it promptly. The very essence of obedience is, “redeeming the time” — the very point of time — “because the days are evil.”
O beloved, let us not lose a moment before we receive the baptism of the Holy Ghost! There is not an hour to spare. We are in solemn days, and we are neither ready to live nor to die, nor to meet our coming Lord, without the Holy Ghost.
There is something very suggestive in this figure of buying. The traders in this case do not represent any body of men who can sell us the Holy Ghost; they simply represent the divine sources from which we receive Him, the divine method which God has provided. There is a sense in which we buy Him by making Him our own. When we buy a thing, it becomes our own property, and so we may receive the Holy Ghost for ourselves and claim Him as our very own.
In the early part of the parable the beautiful original expresses the idea very strongly. “They took their own lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom.”
There is another sense, also, in which we buy. We must give up something. We must let something go, before we can receive the Holy Ghost. Indeed, we must let all go and then receive Him in His fullness.
A few weeks ago, as we were passing out of a large meeting, a sobbing girl was sitting near the aisle, and asked us to pray with her. Her heart was very heavy. She had come to the Gethsemane of life; she was letting go everything, and some of the things were very dear; but she was true to God and obedient to the heavenly calling. Less than a week afterwards, we were passing away from that place, and a friend came up to greet us and say goodbye. It was the same face, but we scarcely knew her, it was so transfigured. The light of heaven was shining in her beautiful countenance, and the joy and glory of the Lord had lighted up all her face. The sacrifice was past; the resurrection morning had come; she had let all go, and she had received Him.
There is still another sense in which we buy this great blessing. Christ has purchased it for us, and He says to us, “Come ye, buy and eat! yea, come, buy wine and milk without money, and without price.” The Holy Ghost is the purchased privilege of every believer. Beloved, come and receive Him, and receive Him at once, that you may be prepared for the trusts of life and the great Parousia.
4. The foolish virgins were excluded from the marriage of the Lamb. All that this means we dare not attempt to explain. That it does mean a difference, a mighty difference between the two classes of Christians, there can be no doubt, and that there shall be such a difference between those who shall meet the Master with joy, and those who meet Him with grief; between those who have confidence, and those who shall be ashamed before Him at His coming, the Bible leaves us no room to doubt.
Just what will be the peculiar privilege of those who enter in, and the severest loss of those who are excluded, it is presumptuous to attempt to define in detail; but it will be loss enough, sorrow enough, to be shut out of anything which our Master had for us; and the soul that is willing just to be saved and forego its crown and a place in the bosom of the Lord, is too ignoble almost to be saved. God write upon our hearts the solemn emphasis of that awful sentence, “the door was shut!”
5. But there was still a more solemn word, “I know you not.” They came, they came perhaps with oil. They knocked; they begged for entrance, but He from within only answered, “I know you not.” This, as has been shown by Dean Alford, is very different from the more terrible sentence addressed to others, “I never knew you.” It is simply an intimation hat they are not in the circle of His intimate personal friendship. He does not exclude them from salvation, but He excludes them from the place of the Bride, and the innermost center of His communion and love.
Beloved, what constitutes a bride? It is not wedding robes nor dowry nor surroundings. It is the heart of love that knows her bridegroom and responds to his affection. It is an interior preparation, and this is the preparation which the Holy Ghost is offering today to the children of God. He is calling out a Bride for the Lamb. He is saying to many a hesitating heart, “Hearken, O daughter, and consider; forget also thy kindred and thy father’s house; so shall the King greatly desire thy beauty; for He is thy Lord, and worship thou Him.”
The Holy Ghost is bringing those who are willing into a closer fellowship with Jesus, and giving them such an acquaintance with Him that in that day no bolts, nor bars, nor closed doors can keep them from the bosom of their Lord. They know Him and are known of Him; when He appears, His loving smile will recognize them and the magnetic attraction of His presence will draw them in a moment to His heart and His throne.
May God make us willing to receive this blessed preparation that we may be found ready at His coming!
Archelaus, the son of Herod, went to Rome to secure, by influence at the court of the Emperor, the kingdom of Judea, and then returned to enjoy his patrimony. Christ used this familiar illustration to represent His return to the Father to receive the Kingdom, and then to return to enjoy it with His followers during the millennial age. This is the frame-work of the parable of the pounds.
The special theme of the parable, however, is the trust committed to His disciples during His absence, and the resources given them to enable them to fulfill their trust.While the Master is representing us and caring for our interests at God’s right hand, we are left here to carry on His work and to represent the interests of His Kingdom; to enable us to fulfill this ministry He gives us the necessary resources. These are illustrated by the pound, or mina, given to each of the ten persons. This was a little sum of money worth about fifteen dollars. It represents the resources which God gives to His servants for their work. What are these resources as represented by the pounds?
In answering this question it is necessary to remember the difference between the parable of the pounds and the talents. In the case of the latter, there was a difference in the enduement and endowment of the servants. They had different talents. In the case of the pound, they had an equal allowance. They cannot therefore mean the same thing. If the talents represent our natural gifts of wealth, social influence, or personal intelligence and capacity, then the pound must represent the special enduement of the Holy Ghost given to the people of God and the servants of Christ to equip them for their work.
We are taught most distinctly that spiritual service must come from spiritual enabling. “No man can say that Jesus Christ is Lord except by the Holy Ghost.” No man can render any acceptable service to God through natural talent or fleshly energy. The apostles were commanded “to wait for the promise of the Father,” and were to “receive power after that the Holy Ghost had come upon them,” and then to be witnesses unto Christ, in the power of God.
There is but one divine enabling for service, and that is the enabling of the Holy Ghost. There was but one pound given to each of the servants, and it is the one promise to every true servant of Christ — “Ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost.”
The same amount was given to each of the servants, and the same Holy Ghost is given to all who will receive Him. We do not receive a part of His Person or power, but we receive Him personally, and have as much of His life and strength as we are able to take. The Holy Ghost is one and indivisible, and there is no partiality whatever in the opportunity which God gives to every one of His consecrated children to serve and glorify Him.
The talents may be quite different. One may be obscure, while another may be in the blaze of publicity; but the same power is given to each one, and the same glory will redound to God through each, no matter how different they appear in the judgment of the world.
This blessed pound is given to every one of His servants. The Holy Ghost is purchased for all who belong to Christ and will yield their lives in surrender and obedience to the divine Spirit. The Apostle has given us the simple condition when He says, “The Holy Ghost whom God hath given to them that obey Him.” The promise of Pentecost was not restricted to a few special cases, but the Apostle distinctly states, “The promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.”
God does not send us warring upon our own charges. He gives to us all that is needful for the trust committed to us. If you should be sent by a great commercial house to carry out a trust for them in some distant land you would expect them to pay your expenses, to provide you your ticket, to give you all necessary introductions, and to equip you thoroughly for your important journey. And when God sends us on His great embassy, He pledges Himself to enable us to carry it out successfully. This promise of power just means — all we need for efficiency. It is sufficiency for efficiency, all personal qualifications, providential workings, and divine enablings that we have a right to expect for the successful accomplishment of the work that is given us to do.
If our work is in the secular realm, we have a right to expect His help and success. If it is in directly spiritual things, we have a right to expect it there. The power is in proportion to the place. God’s provision is ample for God’s trust. Now the Holy Ghost is the equivalent of all we need for our trust and work.
An English writer, I think Mr. Pearse, tells how he once spoke to a poor woman in a London City Mission, and tried to show her how Christ was the adequate supply for all her need. She could not understand it at first, and then he stopped and began to ask her about her home and her circumstances, and what she needed for her family. Then, handing her a shilling, he said, “Now what would you do with this shilling if you had it?” She told him that she would spend two pence for bread, and a penny for coal, and so on until she had spent the shilling. “So you see,” he said, “that this shilling is really not a shilling, but it is coal, and sugar, and bread.” “Now,” he said, “Christ is the same. Looking at Him in one way He is Christ but in another way He becomes to you peace and joy and salvation and answered prayer, providential help and guidance, supply for all your needs, — everything God can be to you both for time and eternity.” The illustration was very simple and beautiful. She understood it and accepted the Savior, who was the equivalent of all her need.
Just in the same sense the Holy Ghost is the equivalent of all things. Therefore, in one place in Luke, He says, “How much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Ghost to them that ask Him;” and in another place in Matthew He says, “How much more will your Father in heaven give good things to them that ask Him.” So this pound is the equivalent of all we need for our work.
Do we need to understand the Bible? He will be Light and Teacher. Do we need unction? He will give the anointing of the Holy Ghost. Do we need faith? He will be to us the Spirit of faith. Do we need sympathy and love to draw souls to Christ? He will be in us, the love of God shed abroad by the Holy Ghost. Do we need power to convict and convert men? He will convict the world of sin and righteousness and judgment, and will accompany our words with His effectiveness. Do we need a power that will cooperate in the circumstances of life? He will make all things work together for us. So the Holy Ghost is just all things, and none of us is excused if ever we fail or come short. God has made provision for all that we require, and He will surely expect us to be faithful and true and to measure up to His high calling.
A Quaker lady was approached, one day, by a friend who begged her to pray for her son, who was going down to destruction through the power of drink. The Quaker lady turned to her and said, “Sister, has thee prayed for thy son?” “Oh yes,” she said, “I pray as well as I can, but I’m afraid my prayers are not worth much. I want you to pray, for I believe you know how to pray better than I.” “Sister, has thee prayed with thy boy?”she again asked. “Why,” replied the lady, “I couldn’t pray aloud, I should be embarrassed at the sound of my own voice. Why, you don’t expect me to pray in public, do you? I’m a woman.” “Sister,” said the Quaker friend, “what right has thee to be weak, so that thee cannot pray for thy boy? Thee has the same Holy Ghost as I, to be thy power. Sister, I will not pray for thy boy, till thee prays with thy boy.” The lady went away, angry, like Naaman of old, and feeling very badly used; but, like Naaman, she came to her senses a little later, and God began to talk to her, and to make her feel that her friend was right; that she ought not to be powerless; that perhaps her boy was going to perdition through her own weakness and unbelief.
There were many tears and much heart-searching and earnest prayers to God for righteousness and help; at length the Holy Ghost came to her heart, and she began to pray for her boy in faith and love. One night, he came home in a drunken stupor, lay down in his room, and was soon fast asleep. But the Spirit drew that mother to his side, and she knelt and laid her hand on his hot brow, and began to smooth his tangled hair and pray to God that He would touch his heart and save her boy. Suddenly, he awoke, and the Holy Ghost sobered him in a moment. He looked up in surprise, and cried, “Mother! you praying for me? Oh God, have mercy on me,” and then he broke down in repentance and prayer for his own soul. God heard those united prayers, and before the night was over that boy was saved, and that mother’s heart was filled with the Holy Ghost.
“O sister, what right has thee to be weak?” O brother, why should you be ineffective and powerless? “Ye shall receive power after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you, and ye shall be witnesses unto Me.” We have said that the Holy Ghost is given alike to all God’s servants. Why then was there such a difference? There is a difference in the way that we use the Holy Ghost. He is given to us to use Him, and this is the meaning of that word, “Occupy till I come.”
A similar thought is expressed in the twelfth chapter of 1 Corinthians, where the apostle says, “The manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal.” He is given to us to “profit,” to use, to invest, to exercise the divine gift, and thus to grow; and as we use the Holy Ghost, we become accustomed to using Him, and we have great boldness in the faith and work of God; our efficiency increases and multiplies, until the one pound is worth ten, and the servant hands back his trust, tenfold greater than he received it. This is the reason of the difference between men and men. It is a difference of faithfulness. It is a difference of diligence in improving the trust given them. It is a very solemn thing to receive divine power. God invests Himself in men, and God is a great economist of power and is deeply grieved when we waste His treasures; when we let His power lie idle, or sluggishly neglect the mighty trust that has cost Him so much.
Let us use God’s precious gifts. Let us be diligent and faithful in the exercise of spiritual things, and, as we do, our faith will grow; our love will increase, and our usefulness will expand until we shall “bring forth some thirty, some sixty, and some an hundredfold.”
The word “occupy” in the original is a very striking one. Indeed, even the English word is quite suggestive. It implies that we do not own our gifts, but that they are simply lent to us, and we use them as the gifts of another. It is not your power. It is not your faith, but His, and He lends to you His own divine sufficiency for the special service required of you; when the service is performed, you are no stronger nor wiser than before. You just quietly depend upon Him for His own personal power for the next service and opportunity.
But the word in the original has a still stronger force. It is a word of affairs. It literally means to be engaged in business affairs. The expression, “trading,” used later in the parable, expresses the same idea. There is the deepest emphasis in the expression. The Holy Ghost is not restricted to what we call spiritual things, but He is a great business manager. He is a Spirit of practical wisdom and power. He is an all-round Friend, and He wants to be concerned in all the affairs of our life. Indeed, there is nothing secular, but all things that are given to God are sacred, holy and divine.
It is not necessary, therefore, that you should give up your business and go out of the world to serve Him; but let it be God’s business, and then it will always be service. God has no better opportunity for glorifying Himself than to use a man in the secular affairs of life, and be as near to him on Monday as on Sunday; in the workshop as in the holy sanctuary and the secret place.
There are plenty of preachers in the world today, but God wants more practitioners. There are many apostles, but Christ is looking for living epistles. There is nothing that speaks more for God than a life spent in the blaze of the world, yet lighted up with holy and heavenly purity and power. Such lives preach to men, whether they want to hear or not.
We are living in a day when the great men of the world are businessmen. The strongest men of the present century are our railroad kings, our bankers, the founders of our immense corporations and commercial enterprises. These men have gigantic intellects and far-reaching power. Why can they not be as mighty for God as they are for the world? Why can they not be as effective on the Board of Missions as they are on the Board of Trade? They can spend their millions for railways and business corporations; what is to hinder their spending their hundreds of millions to spread the Gospel of Christ? Why should the day not come when men of wealth and successful enterprise shall invest, not a few thousand, but ten, twenty, yes, fifty million, for China, Africa and India? I should not eulogize the man who should come to me and say, “I have twenty million I want to spend for evangelizing Central Africa.” I should say to him, “You have done just right, but you have been a long time getting at it.”
When businessmen come to understand that this is the nature of entire consecration, we shall see greater things than were seen on the day of Pentecost. Then young men will come forward and consecrate their lives to God, and He will give them the millions that belong to Him to spend as grandly for Him, as the men of the world are laying out their treasures for commercial enterprises and gigantic schemes of selfishness and gain. God help us to “occupy” in these practical ways and days, with a view of His coming!
The most encouraging facts which I know today are just such facts as I have spoken of. There are men in this country who are carrying on great commercial enterprizes for the exclusive purpose of devoting the proceeds on a magnificent scale to the evangelizing of the world, and the giving of the Gospel to all nations.
“Occupy till I come.” The object of the Holy Ghost and the object of the consecrated believer must always have direct reference to the Lord’s personal return. The business of the Holy Spirit is to prepare Christ’s people and the world for His second coming. First, this will be done by the spiritual preparation of our own hearts and lives. The Bride must be made ready, and so the Holy Ghost is working out today a wondrous work of sanctifying grace, in the hearts of the chosen few who are willing to hear His call and to prepare for His return.
But this is not all. Our work is also to have reference to His coming. We are “to occupy till He come.” We are to accomplish our ministry with direct reference to the millennial reign of Jesus. Our Christian work is to be shaped and molded by this consideration. Oh, what a difference it would make in our methods of service, if we would make this the standpoint and object of all our work for God! Then we should not have 120,000 ministers among sixty million on this continent, and a few hundred among the vaster millions of China.
Oh, if the Holy Ghost had His way, how many of us He would scatter to the uttermost parts of the earth! I think I see Him going through Scotland, and dismissing a thousand preachers, and saying, “Go to India, China, and Africa.” I think I see Him entering a western town, where a dozen churches are competing for the scanty population and trying to establish their separate sects. I can hear Him say, “Shut up three-fourths of these places, and send the men to the neglected and destitute fields where no voice speaks of Me.”
How much of our Christian work is standing in the way of Christ’s will! How much of our best service is not the service of the Holy Ghost, and is not occupying till He come! How long we have delayed Him even by doing good, and not doing it in His way! But we can be looking for His coming even in our business.
It is very beautiful to notice that in the picture given of Christ’s return and the translation of His waiting people, they are found occupied in their callings. It is night in one part of the world, and “two are in one bed;” “one is taken, and the other is left. “It is all right to be in bed when Christ comes, if it is night, far better be there than in sin. It is early morning in another place, and “two women are grinding at the mill.” One of them is getting her husband’s breakfast ready. It is quite right to be found there, and so she is taken right up from her secular occupation. It is midday in another land, and two are in one field working at their harvest. It is all right to be there, too, if the work is done for God. There is no need for them to hurry home and change their clothes. There is no need to go and fix up things. They are “found of Him in peace, without spot and blameless.” And so these toiling farmers are taken right up to be with God, and meet their Lord in the air, and to sit down with the wedding robe at the marriage supper of the Lamb.
How beautiful to know that all that is done for God is sacred! How sweet the old story of the New England Legislature; when the storm came on, and some of the members thought that the day of judgment had come, one of them anxiously moved that the house adjourn. An old Puritan sprang to his feet and said, “Mr. Speaker, if the day of judgment has not come, there is no need for this unbecoming haste; and if it has come, I, for one, prefer to be found at my post. I move that the house do not adjourn.” Thus let us “occupy” and be occupied with the Master’s work, and for His glory and His approval.
Finally, when He comes there will be a just award. The servant that has faithfully used his enduement of power, receives the Master’s commendation and is promoted to higher service. I am so glad that the coming of Christ is not going to end our work. I should not want to meet Him if I had to give up working for the Master. Thank God, we shall have higher service through the eternal years. “Be thou ruler over ten cities.” Oh, how much greater is the recompense than the service! A city for a pound; ten cities instead of a hundred and fifty dollars!
All our service here is but a training for that higher ministry. How touching to hear the Master say, “Thou hast been faithful over a very little.” The man that had gained ten pounds had done “a very little.” The highest service we do for God on earth is but “a very little.” We are simply playing at service, or rather going to school at it. We are taking lessons in true ministry. The best we do is but childish and trifling, but it is preparing us for the grand service of the ages to come when, with our Lord Himself, endued with His wisdom, power, and glory, we shall be co-workers, perhaps, amid yonder constellations or, on this green earth, to restore it to the beauties and glories of Paradise again, and to rear the eternal temple for which He is now preparing the precious stones.
The Master does not say that they have been successful, but He recognizes them as having been “faithful.” God help us at least to be faithful!
The reward will be in proportion to the fidelity of the servant. The servant that had gained tenfold was rewarded tenfold, and the servant that had increased his investment fivefold received only in proportion. Beloved, we are laying up our treasures. We are carving our eternal destiny. We are preparing our immortal crown. Oh, how the days are telling! God help us to be true!
But alas for the servant who came with his pound wrapped up in a napkin! It was nicely kept. It was a clean napkin, perhaps a costly one. He had taken good care of his salvation. He had nursed his blessing, and he gave it back as good as he got it. But was the Master pleased? Alas, alas, for such a servant! “Take from him the pound, and give it unto him that hath ten pounds.” He was not lost. He was not destroyed, as the “enemies” of the Master were. He was deprived. He had some place in the kingdom, but he was forever conscious of an opportunity lost, and a life that never would come again. Beloved, we may save our souls, but lose our lives. We may gain an entrance into heaven, but lose our everlasting crown. God help us to be our best!
Not easily shall that crown be won by any. Even the great apostle did not think rashly of his reward, but straining every nerve and reaching forth unto these things that were before as one that had not yet attained, he used this intense language, “If by any manner of means I might attain unto the resurrection from among the dead.” So let us so run that we may obtain.
Beloved, we have an eternity before us. We have an unfading crown to win or lose; we have a life in which to win it, and we have the infinite Holy Ghost to enable us for this mighty competition, for this glorious prize, for this divine trust. God help us to be TRUE!
“In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto Me, and drink. He that believeth on Me, as the Scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. But 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.” John 7: 37-39.
In the first seven chapters of the Gospel of John, we have a very striking progressive unfolding of the doctrine of the Holy Ghost; first, in abstract statements of truth, and then, illustrated in a very significant and beautiful miracle.
I. First, we have the Holy Spirit in relation to the Lord Jesus. In John 1: 32, we see the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and abiding upon Him, and in John 3: 34, we are further told that God giveth not the Spirit by measure unto Him.
Up to this time all men had received the Spirit by measure; that is, they had received some of His gifts, influences, and power; but Christ received the Spirit Himself in His personal presence and immeasurable fullness, and since then the Spirit has resided in the world in His boundless and infinite attributes.
Christ first received Him as a pattern for His followers, and then gave Him forth to them, from His own very heart, as the Spirit that had resided in Him, and that comes to us softened by His humanity and witnessing to His person.
Therefore we read in the next place not only of Christ’s receiving the Spirit, but of Christ’s giving the Spirit. In John 1:33, the great forerunner says of Him, “The same is He which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost.” It is Christ that baptizeth with the Holy Ghost. It is through Him we receive the Spirit. It is He who “hath shed forth,” as the Apostle Peter says, the power from on high, and the Spirit of Pentecost.
This is the peculiarity of the Holy Ghost as He comes to us in the New Testament age. He comes not only from the Father, but especially from the Son, and through the Son, and He comes to us as the Spirit of the Lord Jesus Christ.
II. We next see the Holy Ghost in relation to the believer; first, He is presented to us as the Spirit of regeneration. In John 3, verses 5 and 6, Christ says, “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the Kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, that which is born of the Spirit is Spirit.”
The very first experience of the Christian life is to receive the new heart from the Holy Ghost. The natural man is unable even to see the Kingdom of God, and is powerless to enter. The Holy Ghost creates in us a new life and a new set of spiritual senses altogether, through which we discern, understand, and enter into the life of God and the spiritual realm. “As many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name; which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.”
Next, we see the Holy Ghost in His deeper, and personal indwelling in the heart. In John 4: 14, Christ said to the woman of Samaria, “The water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up unto everlasting life.” This is the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. It is much more than regeneration. It is the personal incoming of the Spirit Himself, bringing not a cup of water, but a well of water, and establishing in the heart the fountain of life, so that we are henceforth dependent, not upon each other, but upon God only, for the source of our life.
Again in John 7: 37, we have a still stronger expression to describe the interior life of the Holy Ghost in the heart; “If any man thirst, let him come unto Me, and drink.” Drinking of the Spirit is more than receiving the Spirit. It is possible for us to receive the Spirit and have Him, and yet not use Him nor drink from the flowing fountain as abundantly as we might.
The Apostle in 1 Cor. 12: 13 uses the same figures where he says, “By one Spirit are ye all baptized into one body, . . . and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.” To use the old figure, it is the bottle in the ocean and the ocean in the bottle. It is possible for us to be in the Spirit, and yet not be receiving the Spirit as fully as we need. Drinking is the habit of faith, an exercise of our spiritual senses which constantly renews and quickens our spiritual life, refreshing us and filling us, so that we are glad to pour out our full vessel in service for others.
Then this receiving of the Spirit needs, on our part as well as on Christ’s, the using and giving forth of the Holy Ghost to others. And so we read in the next verse, “He that believeth on Me, as the Scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. But this spake He of the Spirit, which they that believe on Him should receive.” This is the outflow of the spiritual life. This is the evidence that we are filled, because we cannot hold it longer, and now occupy ourselves in imparting the blessing to others. Like Ezekiel’s river, it is flowing not in, but out, pouring in streams of blessing through the dry and desert places of life. As soon as our life becomes positive, unselfish, and outflowing, it becomes unspeakably magnified; so that what was a well, in the heart, has grown to rivers of blessing, in the life devoted to God and expended in blessing the world.
The river suggests the idea of fullness, magnitude, and abundance; spontaneous, free, and overflowing, it does not need to be pumped but flows of itself for very fullness. It is the service of a glad, unselfish and loving heart.
God does not want anything that has to be pressed from an unwilling giver. The prayer that is offered God from a sense of duty, the work that is done just because we have to do it, the word that is spoken because we are expected to be ministers and to be consistent with our profession, are dead, cold, and comparatively worthless. True service springs from a full and joyful heart and runs over, like the broad and boundless river. Like the river, too, it runs downward into the lowest places and aims to reach the saddest, hardest, and most hopeless cases. And, like the river, it is a perennial and ever flowing spring, running on amid the changing scenes around it, flowing through the whole course of life, and saying, like the beautiful streamlet as it glides along, “Men may come, and men may go, but I go on forever.”
This is the power of the Holy Ghost. It makes us simple, sweet, exuberant, full-hearted, and enthusiastic for God, and our work, and our words are the overflow of a life so deep and full that it brings its own witnesses, and it makes others long for the blessing that shines in our faces and speaks in our voices and springs in our glad and buoyant steps. And it is not merely a river, but rivers. It runs wherever it can find a channel and blesses every life that it touches on its way. Is God thus using us, and has He thus filled us with the Holy Ghost until the fullness overflows?
It is not necessary that we should be always preaching. Indeed, sometimes we are looking too far off for the service that God expects of us. Just at hand we might often find the opening and the channel which would bring blessing to some heart that God has brought into our life, to prepare us for future blessing to a wider circle.
An anxious, earnest Christian woman was crying to God for service and wondering why she was tied up in her home and unable, like other women, to go out and reach a broader place. Her bright little girl was playing beside her and calling in vain to the preoccupied mother to help her with her little doll, which had lost a finger or a garment, and which to her was the central object of life.
Again and again she came to the mother with her little trouble, and the mother, fretted and worried with her own spiritual need, pushed her off, and, at length, rather harshly sent her away and told her not to bother her, as she was busy about higher things. Wearied and disappointed, the little one went off alone into a corner and sat down with her little broken doll and cried herself to sleep.
A while afterward, that mother turned around and saw the little rosy cheeks covered with tears, and the little wrecked doll lying in her bosom, and then God spake to her, and said, “My child, in seeking some higher service for Me, you have broken a little heart of Mine. You wanted to do something for Me. That little child was the messenger I sent, and that little service was the test I gave you. He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in more, and he that is unfaithful in the least is unfit for the greater.”
The mother learned her lesson. She picked up the little lamb in her arms and kissed her awake; then she asked God and her baby to forgive her, and began from that hour to pour out the love of Christ on every object that came in her way. As she became faithful to do the things nearest at hand, God widened her sphere until the day came when, standing among her sisters, leading the on to higher service and speaking to hundreds and thousands of her fellow-workers, she told the story of her experience, and the lesson by which she learned that God does not need our great service, but simply that we should meet Him in the things that He brings to us, and that we should everywhere be channels of blessing and love.
So let our lives be filled, and then emptied throughout the channels around us. Let us come to Him, and drink and drink again, and yet again, until our hearts are so full that we shall go out to find the sad, the sinning, and the suffering and comfort them with the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.
This was the story of the Master. This must be the story of the disciple. We receive that we may give, and only as we give, shall we continue to receive; the more abundantly we impart, the more richly shall we be filled with all the fullness of God.
III. Let us now look at a beautiful object lesson of this double truth in the second chapter of this blessed Gospel. It is the miracle of Cana of Galilee. The evangelist tells us that this was the first of Christ’s miracles, and it must have had a special significance. He also tells us that it was a miracle which manifested forth His glory, and this undoubtedly suggests to us that there was some deep lesson back of this miracle, which made it worthy to occupy a place right in the beginning of the deeply spiritual teaching of this wonderful gospel. Indeed, it is a kind of parable and symbol of the whole truth which we have been endeavoring to unfold from the direct teaching of the Lord Jesus Christ in the passages which we have quoted.
1. We see the failure of our natural life, joy, and love, in the exhausting of Cana’s wine. Beautiful, indeed, is the bridal scene with its fair and fragrant blossoms, the freshness and beauty of youth, the vigor and nobility of young manhood, the sympathy of innumerable friends, and the bright and sunny hopes and prospects of future happiness. But oh, how soon the vision fails! How quickly the goblet of pleasure is drained, and how often the serpent is left in the dregs, and all that remains is a memory more bitter because of the joy that has turned to sadness!
Alas for life, if this were all! But it is just when the natural fails, that the divine begins. It is just when the old creation dies, that the new creation rises. It is just when Cana’s wine is exhausted, that Jesus of Nazareth appears. And now we see in this exquisite miracle the very truths we have been endeavoring to unfold.
2. Next we have the filling of the vessels. The Master’s command is, “Fill the waterpots with water to the brim.” They were just earthen vessels, waterpots for ordinary use; but they were empty and clean, and all that was necessary was to fill them with pure water. They represent these vessels of our human lives, earthen vessels; but if they are empty vessels and offered to the Master, and if they are filled to the brim with the Holy Ghost, of which water is ever the type, then something will surely come to pass.
They must be full to the brim. A whole heart must receive a whole Christ. The Holy Ghost does not take us by halves, nor will He give Himself by halves. It is the fullness which makes the overflow.
3. Next comes the other and nobler side of the miracle. The filling is the smallest part. What next? “Draw out now, and bear to the governor of the feast.” Begin to use the water, and lo! it becomes wine.
Oh! how clear and plain the lesson! It is blessed to receive the Holy Ghost, but it is more blessed to impart Him. And the only way you will know that you have received Him, is by beginning to give Him. You must go forward like the servants of the parable, in faith, and draw out before you see the miracle; but as you bear it to the guests, lo, it becomes wine, and it rises to a higher quality. Both are types of the Holy Ghost, but the wine is the higher. The water speaks of cleansing and fullness, but the wine tells of joy, and love, and life divine.
When we are receiving the Holy Ghost we are only cold water Christians, but when we are pouring forth His fullness in holy service we are drinking of the heavenly wine, and we are made partakers of the Master’s own divine and ineffable joy.
It is exactly the same idea expressed later in the rivers of living water, running out, and running over; but it is more than the river. It is the joy and the gladness that turns all life into a marriage feast and a joyful song. Even the world itself is forced to admit, like the ruler of Cana’s wedding, that the best wine has come last.
Oh, that we might so live and so minister that men would recognize, even as he, the higher qualities and value of the blessing that He brings! All around us are hearts and lives where the wine of earth has failed, God help us to bring them the heavenly cup, and the divine life of the Lord Jesus Christ, until this poor, starving world shall recognize that we have something better than they, and shall be made hungry by our benignant faces and our overflowing joy.
Now, in conclusion, how are we to receive this blessing? Let us hearken to the message of Mary. “Whatsoever He saith unto thee, do it.” It comes to us through some step of obedience to the Master Himself. He will show you the way, and as you obey Him step by step, you will enter into the joy of your Lord. He will interpret every experience and more than realize every anticipation.
But next, you must not forget the other command, “Fill the water pots with water; fill them to the brim.” Leave no vacant place in the soul. Hold back no part of your life from Him. Yield a whole heart and fill it with a whole Christ.
And then finally, above all else, go forward and use the gift of His love. “Draw out, and bear to the governor of the feast.” Take the life that He has given and use it to comfort the sorrowing, save the lost, help the discouraged, and minister in the name and grace of your blessed Master; as you go forth, the Holy Ghost will go before you, and will work through you, and lead you on from strength to strength, and will multiply you one hundred fold, until, like Ezekiel’s vision, the trickling streamlet will become “water to the ankles,” “water to the knees,” “water to the loins,” “water over head, a river to swim in,” a torrent of blessing and of power, with the trees of life on either shore, the leaves of healing, and the gladness and the glory of Paradise restored all along your way.
“And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you forever.” John 14: 16.
These three chapters contain Christ’s deepest teachings concerning the Holy Ghost.
I. THE NAME, THE COMFORTER. This is not a very happy translation. The Greek word is Paraclete, and it literally means a God at hand, One by our side, One that we may call upon in every emergency. The Latin word, advocate, has the same meaning, One that we call upon or call to us, One ever within call. In this connection, the Holy Ghost is represented to us as the present and all sufficient God. Of course, there is comfort, infinite comfort in all this; but the primary idea is not so much spiritual enjoyment, as practical efficiency and sufficiency for every occasion and emergency that arises.
This is just what the Holy Ghost is — God for everything. God at hand under all circumstances and equal to all demands. Oh, what comfort this brings to our oppressed and struggling life! A God able to make all grace abound to us; so that we, always having all-sufficiency in all things, may abound unto every good work.
II. MODE OF HIS PRESENCE. He shall be in you. “He dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.” The presence of God, through the Old Testament and even during the ministry of Christ, was a presence with men; but in the New Testament dispensation and after the coming of the Holy Ghost, it was to be a presence in men.
The Holy Ghost was to become corporately united and identified with the life of the believer, so that He would bring us into direct personal union, and act, not upon us, but in us and through us, becoming part of our very life, and controlling every faculty, volition, and power, from the inmost depths of our being. This is the difference between the two classes of Christians we find today; those who have God with them, and those who have Him in them.
It may not be possible to explain it. It certainly is impossible to make spiritual mysteries plain to any that have not experienced them. It is difficult to explain how the sunshine enters into the midst of the flower and manifests itself in all the living beauties and tints of the blossom; how the water saturates the ground and comes forth again in the leaf, and laden fruit; how the influence and image and personality of a friend becomes a part of our very being, until we think as he thinks, and act under his influence. These are but distant approximations to the blessed mystery of the Holy Ghost’s entering, as a Person, into the life and being of a consecrated disciple and controlling every choice, affection, thought and action, and thus fulfilling His own promise, “I will dwell in you and walk in you,” “And I will put My Spirit within you, and I will cause you to walk in My statutes, and ye shall keep My judgments, and do them.”
III. THE DURATION OF THIS ABIDING. “He shall abide with you forever.”
The Holy Ghost comes to stay. He seals the heart into the day of redemption. He takes possession of it to depart no more. We may grieve Him; we may lose the consciousness of His approval; but He has loved us with an everlasting love, and we are kept by His power through faith unto salvation.
There are some who tell us that the Holy Ghost will leave the world at the coming of Christ. This is not the promise of the Master. “He shall abide with you forever.” Even when Jesus comes, He will still remain. For through those dark tribulation days, there will be souls on earth that need His consolation, His keeping and His help; He will linger with them through the darkness, and then, through the millennial age, He will cooperate with Christ as He did during the days of His earthly ministry, in bringing this world into harmony with the will of God, and establishing the dominion of righteousness throughout the utmost limits of the creation.
We do not dishonor the work of the Spirit when we pray for Christ to come. The grandest theatre of His work will be in these millennial days, for which we are looking forward with longing and prayer.
IV. HIS RELATION TO JESUS CHRIST. “Whom the Father will send in My name,” that is, in My character, to represent Me. He will be “another Comforter.” He is to correspond in His relation to us to what Christ was, but He is to be a substitute for Christ, a successor to Christ, and, indeed, more to us than Christ could continue to be. “It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come; but if I depart, I will send Him unto you.”
Oh, how precious His presence must be, if it can be more than Christ’s presence was! Can we conceive how much Jesus was to these disciples? More than a mother to her child, more than a shepherd to his flock, more than a guide through the pathless desert, more than a pilot on the trackless ocean.
The disciples had leaned upon Him, lived upon Him, and were utterly dependent upon Him for everything, and yet He says, “It is better for you that I go, for One will come that will be more to you than I have been in all these relationships.”
Beloved, is the Comforter more to us than Jesus was to His Galilean followers? Ah, then how much more you have to learn of His intimacy and His ministry. Is He to you the Counselor and Companion of every moment, the Leader and the Guide of every step, the Teacher of all you know, the Substance of all you believe, the Source of all your strength and joy and life? This He wants to be. Christ could only be present in one place; but He can be everywhere. Christ spoke to them from outside their natures, He speaks from within. Christ was to a certain extent a physical presence; He in a spiritual, that enters into the deepest life of our being, blends with every consciousness and every thought and every capacity and feeling.
Was He so to supersede and substitute Christ as to displace Him? Not at all. On the contrary, He was to make Christ more real than He had ever been. Here is the great mistake that many are liable to make in their zeal for the honor of the Holy Ghost. They represent Christ as far away at the right hand of God, and they think they honor the Spirit when they exclude the personal presence of the Master.
This was not the way the Savior taught, and this is not the way the Spirit comes. Nay, listen, “He shall testify of Me, He shall not speak of Himself.” “I will not leave you comfortless, I will come to you.” “At that day ye shall know that I am in the Father, and ye in Me, and I in you.”
“He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me; and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him. If a man love me he will keep my words; and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.”
It is not possible to read these verses and not see that the personal and conscious presence of Jesus Christ is to be ever with His people through the ministry of the Comforter. Indeed, the great business of the Holy Ghost is to stand behind the scenes and make Jesus real. Just as the telescope reveals not itself, but the stars beyond, so Christ is revealed by the blessed Spirit, as the medium of our spiritual vision.
Just as the atmosphere can bring yonder sun down until he is nearer to us here than if we went up into the air to meet him, so the Holy Ghost, God’s divine medium for the revelation of spiritual realities, brings Christ from the throne, until distance is annihilated and space has no power to divide.
Surely, if a human telephone or telegraph can sweep at a flash or by a wave of sound across intervening space and bring the distant near, it is not hard for the divine Author of light and life, and all creation, to open a line of communication from earth to heaven, so that we may dwell in the heavenlies, and the living realities of that world be within whispering distance of our quickened souls.
It is even so. Through the telephone of prayer, we may catch the very voice of our absent Master, and be conscious of the heartthrobs of His love; we may even go on into the presence of the spirits of the just made perfect, and almost hear the songs that echo around the throne. Yes, He is with us still, “all the days even unto the end of the age.” The presence of the Comforter but makes Him nearer and dearer, and enables us to realize and know that we are in Him, and He in us.
V. THE SPIRIT AS A TEACHER. Not only does He reveal the person of Christ, but He reveals the truth which Christ only began to teach. “He will guide you into all truth, He will teach you all things.” “Ihave many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now, howbeit when He, the Spirit of truth, is come, He will guide you into all truth; for He shall not speak of His own knowledge; but that which He shall hear He shall speak.”
And so the Holy Ghost, the Author of the Scriptures, is the Illuminator and Teacher of the Word. He makes the truth clear, intelligible, and intensely real, just as you have seen on some great occasion the metal frames, where some grand illumination was to take place; and it seemed to you, in the light of day, that the forms of men and the figures of crowns and stars and processions could be dimly traced in that network of leaden pipes, erected above the triumphal arch, but it was dull and dim to you and made little impression upon your senses or your mind. But wait till evening, till the sun goes down, and a flash of light bursts over that dead framework. Lo! in a moment it is lighted up, and you see the figure of the military hero, the glowing crown with its many colored jewels, the procession of living forms and all the pageant of a grand triumph. The light has done it all.
And so this Holy Book needs to be lighted up by the Holy Ghost, and then we do not read the Bible from a sense of duty; it speaks to us as the living message from our Master, the love letter of our Bridegroom’s heart.
Then how gentle and patient the Holy Ghost is in teaching us! He will guide us into all truth. He knows how fast we can go, and He does not cram us; but He unites the word to the action, and the action to the word, and fits His teaching into the framework of our lives, making truth real, day by day, “line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little,” until He has led us on to the graduating class, and fitted us for the more mature tasks of the school of faith.
How much He left to be revealed in the later epistles and the Apocalypse that they could not then endure! And how much truth He keeps back from us, until we are ready not only to understand it, but fully to obey it and translate it into the living characters of our experience!
VI. THE HOLY GHOST AS A REMINDER OF TRUTH. “He shall bring all things to your remembrance whatsoever I have said unto you.”
Not only does He teach us, but He quickens our intellect to remember and to learn. He is the Author and the Illuminator of the mind, and He is the Spirit of suggestion. He knows how to bring back forgotten truths in the moment of need. He knows how to suggest the promise in the time of depression. He knows how to say, “It is written,” and put into our hand the sword of the Spirit, when the adversary’s wiles are trying and perplexing us.
He knows how to “waken our ear, morning by morning, to hear as one that’s been instructed, that we might know how to speak a word in season to Him that is weary.” He knows how to give the appropriate message for the fitting time, and then to bless it and send it home with lasting power.
Let us trust Him to guide us, to speak through us, triumph through us, and to be our monitor and mother until all the mazes of life shall have been passed.
VII. THE HOLY SPIRIT AS THE SPIRIT OF POWER FOR SERVICE. “He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment.” We can rebuke the world but He alone can convict it.
He can make our expression, our words, our actions, awaken in the hearts of men a sense of sin, and a realization of eternity.
He can bring the message to the conscience and press the will to the great decision, and make our words vehicles for His power. Then He alone can convict of righteousness, and so reveal Christ that it shall not be merely reformation and self-improvement, but true repentance, faith and reliance upon the finished work of Jesus Christ. He can convict the world of judgment. He can pass sentence of death on self, sin, and the world, and separate men from this present evil world for the kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ.
He can take men out of the power of the prince of this world, and introduce them into the kingdom of God’s dear Son. He can give victory over Satan and finish the work which He begins.
Oh, how helpless all our work without Him! Oh, how He waits to show us the great things that He is willing yet to do, not only for us but for the world!
Finally, He is the Spirit of hope, and the promise and the realization of the future. He will show you things to come.
Oh, how this promise was to be fulfilled in the later teachings of the epistles and the Apocalypse, concerning the blessed hope of the Lord’s coming! And the same Spirit that has given the light of prophecy, can give the light of interpretation and the life of faith and living hope! He alone can make these things real to us; He alone can center our hopes and hearts in the blessed hope of Christ’s coming, and the throne of His Ascension.
It is not enough merely to know that Christ is coming, and to desire it, but it is a great crisis in the life of a soul when it becomes truly centered there, when the source of attraction is removed from the earth to the heavens, and when it learns to live under the power of the world to come. It is one thing to be lifting up the world from the earth side, it is another thing to be drawing up the world from the heaven side. It is one thing to be a man on the earth, living for the glory; it is another thing to be a man in the glory, living for the world. We must be taken out of the world first, and then sent back into it, to be any blessing to it.
The reason that Christ knew how to live was because He did not belong here. The Father had sent Him from heaven, and we must be sent from heaven, too, and work on earth as men that dwell in heaven. Oh, may the Spirit so show us things to come that we shall have our center in the throne of our ascended Lord, and with Him see and live and work to save the world in which, for a little while, we sojourn!
“Tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high.” “Wait,” saith He, “for the promise of the Father, which ye have heard of Me.” “And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.”
These three passages all suggest a single and very definite thought — waiting on God for the filling of the Holy Ghost. The law of time is an important factor both in nature and in grace. There are some operations which are instantaneous, but there are many more that require the lapse of time and the process of development. The principle of vegetation is gradual, unfolding first the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear. Winter is as needful as spring to fertilize the ground, and the seed must lie silent in the soil until it germinates and springs into the blade and the blossom.
And so, in the spiritual world, there is a place for waiting. God’s work of creation was not instantaneous but successive. The promise of the coming Redeemer waited for four thousand years. Abraham waited for the fulfillment of the promise of his son. Moses waited forty years before he could go forth to the great work of His life. Jesus waited for thirty years to begin His public ministry.
The promises of God are for those that wait for Him; and the spiritual life which, in some respects is instantaneous in its operations, in others, is progressive. There is a moment when we definitely receive the Holy Ghost; but there is a preparation for His coming, and a waiting for His fullness for us, just as much as for Jesus and Moses. Doubtless there is a sense in which they waited, which cannot be true of us. For them the Holy Ghost was not yet sent from heaven. The day of Pentecost was the moment of His arrival on earth. Up to that moment He had resided in the person of Jesus, now He was to reside in his Body, the Church, and the earth was to be His home. In that sense we cannot wait for the coming of the Comforter, for He has come and He is here.
But even if the Holy Ghost had come to earth already, that very same command would still have been given to the disciples to wait in the upper room. There was a preparation on their part, just as necessary as the Spirit’s coming from heaven to earth. And there is a preparation on our part just as necessary in these days.
It is important, however, that we understand the true nature of this waiting. It is not waiting for the Lord, but it is waiting on the Lord. It is not looking forward to a distant blessing, but it is continuing in the attitude of receiving and claiming the blessing, and giving time for the Holy Spirit to fill the waiting heart with all His fullness.
It is more than expectation of a future blessing. It is rather accepting a present blessing, and yet a blessing so large and full, that it cannot be taken by us in all its completeness in a moment of time, but requires the opening of every vessel of our being, and the continuance of our heart in the attitude of receiving.
The Master is calling us, as He called them to these seasons of waiting, and there are deep reasons in the principles that underlie all Christian experience, which will show the importance and necessity of our thus waiting on the Lord.
I. This season of waiting on the Lord was fitted and designed to mark a great transition in their lives, an epoch of spiritual new departure, an era of the chronology of the heart. God wants His people to have such epochs and such eras.
As we read the records of geology we find that the surface of our globe has been formed by successive layers, between which can be traced successive breaks. There is a stratum of rock, and then there is a stratum of wreck and conglomerate masses, between the layers of previous strata.
It is so in spiritual life. These days of waiting lead us to new planes and new advances. Sometimes it is very desirable that there should be a complete break, that we may get out of the old ruts, and be free to take a higher place, and make a bolder advance.
In music one of the most effective things is the emphatic pause. The word “Selah” in the book of Psalms expresses this pause, and in order to have the effectiveness of such a pause it cannot be too complete a silence. Then the chorus which follows has a double emphasis. And so the Holy Ghost has given us our Selahs in the chorus of spiritual life, emphatic pauses when God wants us to be still and listen to Him, and break away from old ideas and measures, and reach out into the larger fullness of His thought and will.
II. This time of waiting on God was also necessary in order to teach them the greatest lesson of the Christian life — to cease from themselves. The greatest danger about these men was not in what they might fail to do, but in what they might try to do. The greatest harm that we can do is the attempt to do anything at all when we are not prepared, and when we do not understand our Master’s will. Suppose a regiment of soldiers should start off without their captain’s orders, or their necessary equipment or artillery; the next attempt of the army would be rendered more hopeless by their rash exposure and needless failure.
And so the Master wants to keep us from doing anything, until we are prepared to go forth in His strength and victory. Our hardest lesson to learn is to unlearn, and to know our utter helplessness and wretchedness.
The deepest experience into which they had to enter was self-crucifixion, and crucifixion is the death not only of the evil self, but of the strong and self-sufficient self.
Peter had not yet learned to be still, for before these waiting days were over we find him rushing again to the front, and proposing the election of a new disciple, without the divine direction or recognition. The best that can be said of his work is that it did no harm if it did no good, for God never afterwards seems to have recognized the apostle that Peter led the brethren to choose, but in His own time He called His own apostle.
And so it was necessary that these days should be spent in waiting and learning to be silent, and forming the habit of the suspension of our own activity, and the dependence of our will entirely upon the direction of the Holy Ghost. There are times when the most masterly thing we can exercise is inactivity, and there are times when the most mischievous thing we can do is to do anything at all.
That is a most instructive story that is told of the nervous passenger on board a vessel in a dangerous storm, who was running about the deck in every direction, and asking the captain what he could do to save the ship from going to the bottom; at last the captain, more alarmed by him than by the tempest, fearing that he would drive the passengers into a panic, called him to his side and said, “Yes, you can help me immensely if you will just hold that rope hard and firm; and don’t let it go until I tell you!” He eagerly grasped the rope and held it tight and steady until the storm was past, and then he walked about the deck boasting that he had saved the ship, until the captain, hearing of this, came up and, looking at him with a twinkle in his eye, said, “Why, do you know the reason I gave you that rope to hold was to keep you quiet? The only good you did by holding on so steadily was that you were kept from doing any mischief.”
Ah, how much mischief we do by doing our own work! How long it took God to teach Abraham to be still! How long Abraham tried to help God to the fulfillment of His own promise! Then he got Sarah into his counsel, and then he took Hagar into partnership, and out of it came Ishmael. Out of Ishmael came nothing but sorrow and hindrance, until, after a quarter of a century had been spent, God quietly fulfilled His own promise in His own way.
How long it took Moses to learn to be still! Forty years he had to wait in the desert until all his young-mannishness had died, and his precocious activity had been changed into modesty and even timidity; then, when Moses shrank back and asked God to send someone else, Moses was small enough and still enough for God to use for His people’s deliverance. And so, when he came to the gates of deliverance, his first lesson was to “stand still and see the salvation of God;” to do nothing but wait for Him, and then God stepped upon the scene, and did the work Himself.
God cannot use us until we come to the end of ourselves, and see our utter worthlessness, and helplessness, and then put on His mighty strength, and go forth, crying, “I am not sufficient even to think anything as of myself; but my sufficiency is of God.”
III. These waiting days were necessary to enable the disciples to realize their need, their nothingness, their failure and their dependence upon the Master. They had to get emptied first, before they could get filled. Oh, how often they must have thought, as those days went by, of the positions they were now to occupy, the responsibility that was resting upon them, the charge that the Master had committed to them, and their utter inability for it all! How they must have recalled their folly, their unbelief, their strife, their selfishness, their fears, their defeats, and shrunk back into nothingness, and even stood aghast at the prospect before them, until in the very dust they cried to Him for help and strength needed.
And so God wants us to go apart and quietly wait upon Him, until He searches into the depths of our being, and shows us our folly, our failures, our need. There is no wiser nor better thing to do on the eve of a season of blessing than to make an inventory, not of our riches, but of our poverty; to count up all the voids and vacuums and places of insufficiency; to make the valley full of ditches, and then to bring to God the depths of our need for Him to fill.
And it takes time to make this work thorough. It takes time to burn it into our consciousness. It takes time to make us feel it. It is one thing to know in a general way our need and failure; it is quite another thing to realize it, to mourn over it, to be distressed about it, and to be filled with sorrow and shame and that holy zeal and revenge upon ourselves which the apostle tells us is part of true repentance.
In the golden stairway of the Beatitudes, the first promise is to those that are poor in spirit; but there is another step still deeper down on the way to God, and that is “Blessed are they that mourn.” It is needful that we shall mourn over our poverty, that we shall realize our need, that we shall be deeply troubled over our spiritual wretchedness, and that we shall come with such hunger that nothing less than all the fullness of Christ can ever satisfy us again.
There are some spiritual conditions that cannot be accomplished in a moment. The breaking up of the fallow ground takes time; the frosts of winter are as necessary as the rains of spring to prepare the soil for fertility. God has to break our hearts to pieces by the slow processes of His discipline, and grind every particle to powder, and then to mellow us, and saturate us with His blessed Spirit, until we are open for the blessing He has to give us. Oh, let us wait upon the Lord with brokenness of heart, with openness of soul, with willingness of spirit, to hear what God the Lord will say!
IV. These days of waiting are important also that we may listen to God’s voice. We are so busy that we cannot hear. We talk so much that we give Him no chance to talk to us. He wants us to hearken to what He has to say to us. He wants us on our faces before Him, that He may give us His thought, His prayer, His longing, and then lead us into His better will.
And if He keeps us waiting long, we know the message when it comes will be worth all the delay. “If He tarry, let us wait for Him.” Only a few times did He speak to Abraham. Only a few times did He speak to Paul. But these were messages that will live forever, and their echoes have sounded through all the years, and will resound from the ages yet to come.
Let us wait upon God, not so much in prayer as in hearkening.
V. God wants us to wait upon Him also that we may realize not only our need, but His fullness and His will for us. He wants to show us the vision of the future as well as of the past. He wants to open to us the treasures of His grace, and make us know all the riches of the glory of His inheritance in us.
He wants to lift up our eyes northward and southward and eastward and westward, and then say to us, “All the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it.”
He wants to give us the vision of the King in His beauty and the land of far distances. He wants to reveal to us yet unexplored regions of glorious advances in the life of faith. He wants to call us to higher service, and show us mightier resources and enabling for the work of life.
Oh, it is so sweet to wait upon the Lord and dwell on high, to survey the mountain peaks of His glorious grace and look out on the boundless fullness of His promises and His power, and to hear Him say, “Call unto Me, and I will answer thee, and show thee” not merely the things thou hast seen, but “great and hidden things which thou knowest not!”
This is the waiting to which He is calling us today. God grant that these days before us may bring the vision, and then the victory!
VI. Waiting on the Lord is not only a preparation for the Holy Spirit, but is a process of receiving the Holy Spirit. There is a cumulative power in waiting prayer to bring the answer and the blessing, breath by breath and moment by moment. God’s blessing is too vast and our capacity is too great to be filled in a moment. We must drink, and drink, and drink again, and yet again, if we would know all the fullness of the river of His grace.
Take an ash barrel, and begin to pour into it a bucket of water, and your whole bucket will be exhausted before the water has made the slightest impression; the ashes will be as dry as at first, and you can pour bucket after bucket, and still the ashes be as dry as ever. It is only when the barrel has been filled that at last you see the first trace of the water you have been pouring in. That ash heap was so dry that it could only be saturated by degrees from the bottom upwards; and it is only when the whole body has been saturated, that the first evidence appears.
And so our hearts are so dry, that we need to wait upon the Lord for days and days before there is any impression. But all the while the dry ground is filling, and the thirsty soil is absorbing, and after the waiting is completed we shall know that it was not in vain; we shall realize that not one breath of prayer was vainly spent; we shall find that every moment was storing up the treasures of His grace and power in the depths of our being.
Beloved, we do not wait enough upon the Lord. We do not spend sufficient time at the Mercy Seat. We allow the rush and hurry of life to drive us off, and we lose time instead of gaining it, by our reckless haste.
Yes, that is an instructive old story about the horseman pursued by his foes, who found his trusted charger beginning to fail in the race, for one of the shoes upon his feet had been detached, and he was slipping upon the rocky path. Suddenly the horseman dismounted at the blacksmith shop, where the two ways met, and although he could see his pursuers over yonder hill, bearing down upon him, yet he waited long enough to shoe his horse. He called to the blacksmith, “Be quick,” as he threw him a coin of tenfold value; and the sweating workman filed and hammered and clinched the nails, and did his work fast and well. And when the last nail was turned, and the fugitive leaped into his saddle, the hoofs of his pursuers were thundering just behind him, and he heard their shouts of triumph, as they felt they had secured their prey.
But no! he leaped into his saddle, plunged his spurs into his horse’s haunches, and dashed away like the ightning, because he was now prepared for the journey.
Ah yes, he gained by losing time, and would have lost all by going before he was prepared. O, beloved, “Tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high.” “Wait for the promise of the Father, which ye have heard of Him.” “In quietness and confidence shall be your strength.”
Without the Holy Ghost you are unequal to the journey of life; you are unfit for the service of the Master; you are unwarranted in attempting to preach the gospel, or to win a soul for Christ, and you are unprepared for the future which He is immediately opening to you. Oh, let us wait at His feet; let us learn our weakness; let us realize our nothingness; let us get emptied for His filling, and then baptized with the Holy Ghost or filled anew with His utmost fullness; and we shall go forth not to our work, but to His, and find that “He is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us. To whom be glory now and forever. Amen.”
“Ye shall receive the power of the Holy Ghost coming upon you; and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.” Acts 1:8.
The greatest need of human nature is power. Man is weaker than all other creatures. The tiger’s cub is able to take care of itself, but the human being spends one-third of an ordinary lifetime before he reaches maturity.
He is the prey of all the elements around him, and morally he is much weaker still. In his heart are elements of evil that drag him downward, and around him a thousand influences that lead him astray.
There is unspeakable pathos in the cry of a poor, sinning woman who once said in a hospital, as we were pleading with her to do right: “I am not strong enough to be good;” there is infinite comfort in that blessed assurance of the Holy Scriptures, “When we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.”
The gospel is a message of strength. “It is the power of God unto salvation, to every one that believeth.” It is the special ministry of the Holy Ghost to give power from on high. How much is signified in this mighty promise? How far have we come short of His fullness? How far may we claim its fulfillment?
We cannot find a better answer than in the book of Acts. This verse is the keynote and the table of contents. Every word in this verse points forward to a whole section of the book which follows.
The first chapter of Acts tell us the story of the power. The next chapters tell us of the witnessing which followed. Then we have the church in Jerusalem. Then we have the gospel in all Judea. Then we have the story of Samaria. And finally, the closing chapters are wholly devoted to the preaching of the gospel unto the uttermost part of the earth.
We shall not attempt now to trace the unfolding of this order through the book of Acts, but shall simply endeavor to illustrate the meaning of this word “power”by the facts and incidents of the story of the apostolic church, as given in the book of Acts, which is really the story of the acts of the Holy Ghost more than the acts of the apostles.
I. THIS IS THE POWER OF A PERSON. The right translation is, ye shall receive not power, but the power of the Holy Ghost coming upon you. It is not your power, but His power. It is not abstract power under your control, but it is a Person, whose presence with you is necessary to your possessing and retaining the power.
He has the power and you have Him. In the science of electricity, it has been found that the best form in which this motive power can be used to run our street cars, is not through storage batteries, but through overhead wires. The power is not stored up in the car, but in the dynamo and the wire, and the car just draws it from above by constant contact, and the moment it lets go its touch the power is gone. The power is not in the car, but in the wire.
And so the power of the Holy Ghost is power from above. It is not our power, but His, and received from Him moment by moment.
In order to receive this power and retain it, there are certain conditions which are necessary. One of them is that we shall obey Him and follow His directions. We can only have His power in the line of His will. The car can only draw the power from the wire in so far as it follows the track. It can have the power to run along the highway, but it cannot have it to run into the neighboring farms and follow the capricious will of the driver. The Holy Ghost is given to them that obey Him, and obedience to the Holy Ghost is a much larger thing than many dream.
It is not merely to keep from doing wrong in some little contracted sphere; but it is to understand and follow the whole will and purpose of God in the use of this divine enduement. We cannot have it to please ourselves. We cannot have it to please ourselves even in the mode of our Christian work. We can only enjoy the fullness of the Spirit, in so far as we use this fullness for the work to which He has called us.
This verse is the measure and the limit of the Spirit’s power. He is given that we shall be witnesses unto Christ, both “in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.”
We can only know the fullness of the Spirit’s power as we use it to give the gospel to the whole world. Only in the line of the world’s evangelization and the fulfillment of our great trust can the church of God ever realize the utmost meaning of the promise of Pentecost.
II. IT IS THE POWER OF HOLY CHARACTER. It is not primarily power for service, but it is power to receive the life of Christ; power to be, rather than to say and to do. Our service and testimony will be the outcome of our life and experience. Our works and words must spring from our inmost being, or they will have little power or efficacy. “We must ourselves be true, if we the truth would teach.”
The change produced by the baptism of the Holy Ghost upon the first disciples was more remarkable in their own lives than even in their service and testimony.
Peter, the irresolute disciple — always running ahead of his Master, boasting in his self-confidence of what he would do or would not do, and then running away at the threat of a servant girl, transformed into the fearless hero, who stood before the murderers of His Lord and charged them with their crime, and then with lowly spirit and humble heart, going forth to walk in his Master’s steps, and at last to die upon his Master’s cross with downward head, is a greater miracle in his personal life than even in the wondrous power of his public testimony.
The spirit of unselfish love, that led to the entire consecration of all their means to the service of Christ and the help of one another, was an example that could not fail to impress the skeptical and selfish world. The “great grace” that was upon them all was more wonderful than “the great power” with which they bore witness to the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The heroic fortitude with which they endured unparalleled sufferings, “rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for the name of Jesus,” was an exhibition of power that no man can gainsay, and carried a weight of conviction that nothing can counterpoise.
This is the power which the church needs today to convince an unbelieving world; the power that will make us, not inspired apostles, but “living epistles, known and read of all men.” Nothing is so strong as the influence of a consistent, supernatural, and holy character. Many a skeptic, whom all the books in the universe would never have convinced, has been converted by the sweet example of his Christian wife.
Many a missionary among the heathen has found that the failure of his temper and spirit has done more in a moment to counteract all his teaching than years could undo. “He that keepeth his spirit is greater than he that taketh a city.” And the power that can surpass the angry word, and stand in sweetness in the hour of provocation in the humble kitchen and laundry, has often become an object lesson to the proud and cultured mistress, until her heart has hungered for the blessing which has made her lowly servant’s life a ministry of power, and her humble heart a heaven of love.
III. IT IS THE POWER OF TRUTH. The Holy Ghost works through the Holy Scriptures, and so the baptism of Pentecost was clearly identified with the power of the Word.
The very first thing that Peter did after the Holy Spirit came was to quote the Scriptures, and explain the manifestation from God’s own inspired Word, and it was a Scriptural sermon which was used in the extraordinary conversions of that day.
If you will carefully notice the different messages of the apostles, you will find that in every instance they made large use of the Bible, and some of their messages are simply statements of Scripture and quotations from the Old Testament.
The Holy Ghost has given the Holy Scriptures and will never dishonor His own message. The more we know of Him, the more will we honor His Word. The Bible must ever be the foundation of spiritual power, and the instrument of spiritual service; but it must ever be in the power of the Spirit. “The letter killeth, but the Spirit giveth life.”
The late Dr. Gordon tells of a Sabbath he spent abroad, on which day he went in the morning to hear a distinguished preacher who was celebrated for his Biblical knowledge. He came home delighted with the clear and brilliant expositions of the truth that he had heard, but chilled with the icy coldness of the message. It was true, clear, Scriptural truth, but as cold as an iceberg.
He went in the afternoon to hear another preacher distinguished for his fervor, and he came back delighted with the earnestness and unction of the preacher but it was a fire of shavings, and there was not truth enough in it to make it lasting.
He went again at night, and heard a third preacher, and he came away not only instructed, but thrilled, because this sermon had been not only an exposition of Scriptural truth, but it had also been alive with the power of God and full of the fire of the Holy Ghost. It was not a fire of shavings, but of substantial fuel, and it left not only a memory of truth, but a glow of warmth that filled his heart with joy and love. This is the power of the Holy Ghost, speaking the truth in love; the Bible ablaze with holy fire; the Word of God dissolved in unction and love, until it can be observed in every fibre of our being, and become the nutriment of our life.
IV. IT IS THE POWER OF LOVE. The baptism of Pentecost was a baptism of love. It brought a love to God that annihilated the power of self. “Neither said any of them that aught of the things which he possessed was his own.” Their costliest treasures were yielded up to God. Their wealth, their homes, were held at the service of the church of Christ.
It was love to one another, and they were so absolutely bound together that they formed a corporate body. There was no schism or possible place for the paralysis or mutilation of the whole body of Christ. Today the church of Christ has broken to pieces. Here and there we find a sound member, but the whole body is mutilated and severed, so that it is not possible for the Spirit to flow with undivided and unhindered fullness through the whole; consequently we do not have the gifts of the Spirit in the same measure as in the day of Pentecost. The body is carrying about with it diseased and lacerated members, and it takes the strength of those that are whole to carry those that are broken.
What we need today is the baptism of the Holy Ghost, and then the union will come because of the unity, and we shall not need our platforms and our convocations to bring the body together, but bone to his bone, member to member and heart to heart we shall stand in “unity of the Spirit,” and the Church of Jesus will be “fair as the moon, clear as the sun, and terrible as an army with banners.”
The baptism of the Holy Ghost will always bring a spirit of love. It will fill the heart with devotion and devotedness to God, with tender consideration for one another, with loving regard for our brethren, with intense longing for the salvation of souls, and with sweetness and charity toward all men.
V. IT IS THE POWER OF SUPERNATURAL GIFTS AND DIVINE HEALING. The name of Jesus, through the power of the Holy Ghost, was efficacious to restore the paralytic at the Beautiful Gate of the temple, and even to raise the dead at the prayer of Peter.
At every great crisis in the apostolic ministry, we find a special manifestation of supernatural power. It was given to emphasize their testimony in Jerusalem. It was specially marked at the opening of the gospel in Samaria. It was still more wonderfully manifested as Peter preached through all Judea. And at every new point in Paul’s missionary journey we find “God bearing witness by signs, and wonders, and mighty deeds.”
You will notice, however, that the healing of the sick and the working of supernatural power were not primary ends, but rather testimonies to something more important, even the reality and power of the name of Jesus, and the message of mercy through the gospel.
And so, while we must still recognize the supernatural ministry of the Spirit, which never was intended to be interrupted, and ought to be expected yet more wonderfully in these last days before the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ, let us never make the mistake of regarding it as an end, or allowing it to take the place of the higher truths that relate to our spiritual life. At the same time, let us not ignore it. The church is one through all the ages. “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, and today, and forever”; the Holy Spirit in unchanged, and the constitution of the church is identical with the twelfth chapter of First Corinthians and the plan which God gave at Pentecost.
We cannot leave out any part of the Gospel without weakening all the rest; and if there ever was an age when the world needed the witness of God’s supernatural working, it is this day of unbelief and Satanic power. Therefore, we may expect, as the end approaches, that the Holy Ghost will work in the healing of sickness, in the casting out of demons, in remarkable answers to prayer, in special and wonderful providences, and in such forms as may please His sovereign will, to prove to an unbelieving world that the power of Jesus’ name is still unchanged, and that “all the promises of God in Him are yea, and in Him, Amen, forever.”
Let us not fear to claim His power for our physical as well as our spiritual need, and we shall find that, “if the Spirit of Him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in us, He that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken our mortal bodies by His Spirit that dwelleth in us.”
VI. IT IS THE POWER OF PROVIDENTIAL WORKING. There is nothing more remakable than the manner in which God’s providence worked in line with the first disciples, showing that He who dwelt within them was the same God that controls the universe and all the affairs of human life.
How wonderful the providence that brought represtatives from the whole world to meet at Pentecost, and then to receive the power and go forth to their homes in every nation, as witnesses for Jesus!
How marvelous the providence that brought Philip and the eunuch of Ethiopia together down there at the cross roads of the desert, and then sent the prince on to his home in Africa converted, enlightened, and filled with the Holy Ghost, to be a witness for Jesus to his whole nation, and perhaps bring all North Africa to God!
How remarkable the providence that sent Peter to the housetop, and then brought to him the vision that illuminated his mind, enlarged his ideas, and prepared him for his greater commission for the Gentile churches; then, when he was ready, sent, on the very niche of time, the messengers of Cornelius to knock at his door and take him up to Caesarea to preach the gospel to the Gentiles and witness the outpouring of the Holy Ghost at Pentecost!
How wonderful the providence of God that opened the church at Antioch and prepared a new center for Gentile Christianity, in the larger spirit of the cosmopolitan congregation, and then gathered there men like Paul and Barnabas to be the leaders of a wider movement for all the world!
How marvelous the providence that saved Peter from the cruel hand of Herod, opening his prison doors on the very night preceding his intended execution, and smiting Herod down with a hideous disease in the hour of his presumptuous purpose to destroy the Church of God!
How extraordinary the providences that followed Paul through his wondrous life, opening his way from land to land, and making storm and tempest, and even the very viper that sprang upon him, to work for the cause of Christ!
And still the same God rules in the same realm of Providence. Still the Holy Ghost within us can control the circumstances around us. Still the march of events will keep time to the leadings of the Spirit. And the man that walks in the Holy Ghost shall have a charmed life and be immortal till his work is done, and he will find that winds and waves and fierce and cruel men, and even Satan’s very emissaries shall be forced to become auxiliaries to His purpose, and work with Him for the furtherance of the Gospel.
And so God has shown in the lives of men like Arnot, in Africa; Paton, in the New Hebrides; George Muller, in Bristol, and many a humble missionary of the cross who has dared to trust the mighty promise of the ascending Master, the permanent value of His words, “All power is given Me in heaven and in earth, and lo, I am with you all the days, even unto the end of the age.”
VII. IT IS THE POWER FOR GUIDANCE. The Holy Spirit gives power for guidance. He directed them. He led their steps. He sent Philip to Samaria, and down to the desert to meet the eunuch. He sent Peter to the housetop and then to the home of Cornelius. He restrained Paul and Silas from preaching in Bithynia and Ephesus, and then He sent them to Macedonia, to give the gospel to Europe.
Step by step He was the Guide of all their ways, and He is still our Counselor and Guide; and if we will trust Him and acknowledge Him in all our ways, He will direct our steps and lead us into all the fullness of our Father’s will.
VIII. IT IS THE POWER FOR THE GOVERNMENT OF THE CHURCH. There is nothing more wonderful than the oversight of the Holy Ghost in the church of the apostolic age. He was its recognized Leader and Head. He directed its councils, and was acknowledged as its President. He controlled its disciples, kept out unworthy members, and preserved it from the touch of the world.
How solemn and awful His dealing with Ananias and Sapphira! How suggestive the solemn statement “of the rest, durst none join themselves unto them”! Oh, if the Holy Ghost is in the Church, the world will not have to be kept out; it will be only too glad to stay out.
Alas, that day should have come when learning, genius, influence and worldly power should be recognized in the house of God, and the world should be sought by sinful compromises and unholy attractions, and the church should be baffled and hindered by the “mixed multitude” that she has no power to keep away. God is trying to show His ministers and people that He is adequate for all the needs of His work, and any pastor and church that will fully recognize Him, shall always be prospered and blessed, spiritually, financially, numerically, influentially, and every way.
Oh, that God would show His Church her true power and glory, and that she might again be the woman “clothed with the sun, with the moon beneath her feet!”
IX. IT IS THE POWER OF CONVICTION OVER THE HEARTS OF MEN. The power of the Holy Ghost is not always a conscious power on our part. It is marked chiefly by effectiveness in reaching the hearts of others. On the day of Pentecost, it was the power to convict the consciences of men, and to influence and control their actions. “They were pricked to the heart, and they said, Men and brethren, what shall we do?”
It is not always the highest excitement that indicates the strongest power. The great question is, “What is the effect upon the hearts and lives of men?” When Demosthenes used to speak in Athens, the people forgot all about Demosthenes, and said, “Let us go and find Philip.” It put the “go” into them. And so when the Holy Ghost is present in power He leads to results.
The speaker may be very calm, and have little consciousness of the power, but in the audience are men and women who are brought face to face with God; and the truth is “manifested to every man’s conscience in the sight of God,” and a Voice within says, “Thou art the man.” The will is led to decide and choose for God, and men turn from sin and yield themselves in entire surrender. This is the power we want — the power that “will convict men of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment;” not the power of great machinery, of thrilling eloquence, melting pathos, and marvelous preaching and singing but the power that quietly moves upon the hearts of men, in their workshops and in their homes, until they are constrained to give themselves to God.
X. IT IS THEPOWER TO SUFFER. Perhaps there is no more remarkable manifestation of the power of the Holy Ghost, in the early church, than the sweetness and grandeur with which they endured all things for Jesus’sake. Beaten with stripes and humiliated before the council, they came together, not to condole with each other or show their bleeding wounds, but to rejoice “that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for the name of Jesus.”
Hunted out of Iconium by a mob of respectable women, pelted with stones and hooted from the community, the “disciples were filled with joy, and with the Holy Ghost.” Theirs was a gladness that did not recognize their sufferings, but lifted them above persecution, and counted it but part of their coronation.
And so the power of the Holy Ghost will give us the heroism of endurance and enable us, like our Master, for the joy set before us to endure the cross, despising the shame. It will bring about a spirit of self-denial and holy sacrifice; it will make it easy for us to let go things and give up things “and endure all things for the elect’s sake,” and to say with the great apostle, “Yea, and if I be offered upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I joy and rejoice with you all.”
XI. IT IS THE POWER FOR SERVICE. Finally this was the power for unwearied, earnest and effective work. It was a power that could enable Paul, in a single lifetime, while supporting himself by his own manual labor, unsupported by any missionary society or church, and without the facilities of our railroads, steamboats, telegraphs and means of communication, to girdle the globe and preach the gospel everywhere, and say in words of superlative triumph, “So that from Jerusalem, round about unto Illyricum, I have fully preached the gospel of Christ.”
O, beloved, we are living in an earnest age, and surely the Holy Ghost ought to produce earnest men today. God give to us this power for work that will multiply our lives until they measure up to the extraordinary opportunities, and to the marvelous intensities of these last days on which the ends of the world are come.
Oh, for a race of Pauls! Oh, for an army of Gideons! Oh, for a band of heroes! Oh, for the baptism of the Holy Ghost in all the meaning of Pentecost and in all the highest thought of Christ Himself!
“They were all filled with the Holy Ghost.” Acts 2: 4. “Be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit.” Eph. 5: 18.
These words imply that there is a difference between having the Spirit and being filled with the Spirit. These disciples, on the day of Pentecost, had, in some measure, received the Spirit previously. The Lord Jesus must have meant something when He breathed on them and said, “Receive ye the Holy Ghost.” And the disciples to whom the apostle wrote the Epistle to the Ephesians had already been “sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise,” which was the earnest of their inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession; but they were not filled with the Spirit.
What this difference is we may not be able to state explicitly or accurately. Our theories and definitions may be at fault, and it is probably unnecessary that we should understand all about it theoretically. The most important thing is that we should feel after it until we find it; that we should long for it and press forward to receive it. It is very probable that many a soul is converted without being distinctly conscious of the process at the time, and that many a Christian receives the gift of the Holy Ghost when he is stumbling after it and reaching out for it in the darkness and the dimness of spiritual trouble. And so we may not know all about this, but we may earnestly desire it and persistently seek until we find it. All divine conditions transcend our understanding, and our most real, intense and important experiences often come to us by processes which we our-elves could not explain.
The most familiar operations of the natural world afford a forcible illustration of this distinction. We all easily understand the difference between the shallow stream and the overflowing river. In both cases there is water, but in one case it is a feeble current, while in the other it is an overflowing stream that drives the innumerable wheels of the factories along the shores. The power all comes from the fullness which causes the overflow.
We can easily understand the difference between a boiler full of water and a boiler full of boiling water. In the one case it is cold water which fills, but which has no power; in the other it is the water converted into steam, driving the wheels of the mighty engine and carrying the cars across the continent along the iron track.
That single degree of temperature makes all the difference in the world between power and impotence. The Scriptures of truth bear out this distinction with the greatest possible clearness and force.
In writing to Timothy, the Apostle Paul says, in the first chapter of the second epistle and sixth verse, “Wherefore I put thee in remembrance that thou stir up the gift of God, which is in thee by the putting on of my hands. God hath not given us the Spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.”
The gift was already bestowed and fully recognized, but it was like an expiring flame — the embers of the fire were falling into ashes, and the flame was almost dead. The word used is rekindle, stir up the fading embers, rekindle the fire — be filled with the Spirit.
Again, in 1 Corinthians 12: 7, we read, “But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal.” This word “profit” expresses the whole difference between receiving the Spirit and being filled with the Spirit. Every one may receive the Spirit, but only a few “profit withal”; that is, improve the gift, develop it, exercise it, and reach its utmost fullness.
All this is perfectly unfolded in the beautiful parable of the pounds, Luke 19. The one pound given to each servant is the special enduement of the Holy Ghost, power for service; but the improvement of the pound, in each case, is different, according to the diligence and fidelity of the servant. And so the outcome of each life is different, and the final reward bears the same proportion. It is a wonderful and solemn truth and places an awful responsibility upon every one of us for the right use of God’s spiritual gifts, and especially that Gift of gifts, the blessed Holy Ghost Himself.
In the twelfth chapter of First Corinthians and the thirteenth verse, we have another remarkable statement: “For 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.”
It is one thing to be baptized into the one body by the Spirit; it is another thing to drink into that one Spirit. The first is an act; the second is a habit. The first brings us into a relationship; the second is the true use of that relationship, the drinking of His fullness until we become filled, and the habit of abiding in His fullness so that we are always filled.
Once more, the same truth is very beautifully taught in the story of the widow and her pot of oil, already referred to in connection with 2 Kings 4: 1-7. That little pot of oil represents the Holy Ghost; but the outpouring of the pot of oil into all the vessels which the widow borrowed from her neighbors, illustrates the fullness of the Spirit, as we receive Him into all the needs of our life, and into all the circumstances which God’s providence brings to us as opportunities for the development of our spiritual life and the richer fullness of the Holy Ghost.
So many have the Holy Ghost confined in a little pot of oil and hidden away on the shelf of a cabinet. God wants us to go out into all the needs of life, and pour that divine fullness into every vessel that comes to us, until our whole life shall be a living embodiment and illustration of the all-sufficiency of Christ.
II. Let us now inquire what are some of the effects and evidences of the filling of the Holy Ghost.
1. To be filled with the Spirit, in the first place will bring us the fullness of Jesus. The person and work of the Holy Ghost must never be recognized apart from the person of Christ — to do this is sure to lead us into Spiritualism. Natural religion recognizes the spirit world. Spiritualism is full of it. The priestess of Apollo was called the Pythoness, because she inhaled a spiritual influence until her whole body became swollen like a python, and her whole being was alive with intense spiritual force; but it was the spirit of evil; it was a spirit apart from the person of Christ and the true God.
The Holy Ghost never comes to us apart from Jesus. He is the Way to the Father, and He is the Way from the Father to us; and the blessed Spirit when He comes witnesses not of Himself but of the Lord Jesus Christ. Let us be very careful of this. It is possible to become inflated with a spiritual influence, and yet to ignore and even disobey the Lord Jesus Christ, and to be led into pride, self-sufficient sentimentalism, and even sin.
The object of the Holy Ghost, like that of an artist, is to picture Jesus upon the canvas and make Him real to us, while the blessed Actor Himself is, in a measure, out of sight.
The more we are filled with the Holy Ghost, the more we recognize Christ, depend upon Christ, live upon Christ alone. Therefore this very word “filled” is used in connection with Him.
In Colossians 2: 9, 10, we have these two remarkable relative verses, “In Him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily, and ye are complete in Him.” Literally translated, it reads, “In Him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead in a bodily form, and ye are filled with Him.” God fills Jesus; Jesus fills us. Christ is the ideal man, the pattern of what a man should be, and God has put into Him all that humanity needs to be to satisfy Him; therefore, in order that we should be true men, we must relive His life, reproduce His personality, receive Him, grow up into Him, and live Him in all the completeness of His glorious life.
So we read, “Of His fullness have all we received, even grace for grace.” We ourselves are insufficient for every situation, and the great business of the Holy Ghost is to bring us up to the situations of life and show us our insufficiency, and then reveal to us Christ and bring Him into our life as the supply of our needs. So in connection with that wonderful promise of the Holy Ghost in the fourteenth chapter of John, the true sequel is, “I am the Vine, ye are the branches. Abide in Me and I in you. He that abideth in Me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit; for apart from Me ye can do nothing.”
This is the life into which the Holy Ghost brings us, the life of personal union with and constant dependence upon the Lord Jesus Christ. To be filled with the Spirit, then, is to be filled with Christ, and so live that our constant experience and testimony will be, “I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me.”
2. To be filled with the Spirit will exclude the life of self and sin, and will, of course, bring us into a life of holiness, righteousness and obedience.
We read in Exodus 40: 34, 35, that “when the cloud of the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle, Moses was not able to enter into the tent of the congregation; because the cloud abode thereon, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle.”
This is the true picture of a Spirit-filled man. The indwelling and in-filling of the Holy Spirit excludes self and sin. There is no room for Moses when the glory of God fills our being.
3. The filling of the Holy Ghost will bring us joy and fullness of joy. “These things have I spoken unto you,”the Master said after He had given us the promise of the Spirit, “that My joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.” And so the apostle prays that “the God of hope may fill us with all joy and peace in believing, that we may abound in hope through the power of the Holy Ghost.”
The fullness of the Spirit must crowd out pain, doubt, fear and sorrow, and bring the joy of Christ to fill our being. What is it that makes the melody in an organ? It is not the touch of skillful fingers only on the keys, but it is the filling of the pipes by the movement of the pedals. I may try in vain to play the most skillful tune, unless the organ is filled; and so our songs of praise are dead and cold until the breath of God fills all the channels of our being. Then comes the heart-song of praise and the overflowing fountain of gladness.
4. So all the fruits of the Spirit come from the Spirit-filled heart. “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, meekness, faith, temperance.” These are all fruits or, at least, the fruit of the Spirit, and spring spontaneous from the fullness of the Holy Ghost.
When, a few years ago, I stood at Hebron and looked at the pool of David and saw it overflowing, my friend turned to me, and said, “This is the token by which we know that the valleys of Judea are filled with water, and its plains will be covered with fertility and luxuriance. The rains have been abundant because the pool of David is full at Hebron, and the sources of irrigation are ample.”
And so when the heart is full of God, the life will be full of godliness. Spontaneously and sweetly will spring up all the fruits of righteousness, holiness and blessing, and “the desert shall rejoice and blossom as the rose.”
5. Again, the Holy Ghost can fill our minds and understandings with knowledge and light, and control our thoughts with harmony and sweetness and strength. The peace of God that passeth all understanding will keep our hearts and minds, and our thoughts will be stayed upon Him, and “brought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.”
6. Yes, our very bodies will feel the fullness. The Holy Ghost is a true tonic for physical energy and perfect health. The fullness of the Spirit is the elixir for body and brain and being. To be filled with His blessed life will make our feet spring, our nerves steady, our brain strong, our circulation regular, and our whole being at its best for God and holy service.
7. Then, also, our very circumstances keep time to the blessed fullness of the heart within.
Like the widow’s pot of oil that flowed out into every vessel, so the presence of God touches everything that comes into our life, and we find that all things work together for good to us if we love God and fulfill His purpose.
Our circumstances will become adjusted to us, or we become adjusted to our circumstances, and the whole of our life, “fitly framed together,” will become vigorous, and full of power and blessing.
8. The blessing will no longer be expended upon itself; but we shall have enough and to spare; it will overrun until there is not room to receive it, and the residue will become the inheritance of a suffering world. These are the lives God uses, and God cannot use us until we are running over.
It was when Cana’s water was poured out that it was changed from water into wine. It was when Ezekiel’s river ran from the sanctuary to the desert that it grew deeper and broader and fuller. And it is when our lives are lost in self-forgetting love that we know all the fullness of God.
III. HOW MAY WE BE FILLED?
1. We must be empty.
I have a phonograph into whose sensitive gelatine cylinders I dictate my literary work. One busy day, I dictated a large amount of matter, filling up every cylinder. I spent nearly two days getting through a great amount of literary labor, and felt very much relieved that it was off my hands.
But when my typist proceeded to copy the messages which I had spoken to these cylinders, she could not understand the words, they were all jargon and confusion. The reason was very simple. I had neglected to shave off the former dictation before giving the new message. I had really dictated a lot of matter into ears that were already filled and, therefore, it had made no impression. My work was lost, my labor was in vain. But I learned a lesson that was worth all it cost, and that is, that we must be empty before we can be filled. God cannot speak His messages into full ears. The Holy Ghost cannot pour His fullness into those who are already full.
2. We must be hungry. For “He hath filled the hungry with good things, and the rich hath He sent away empty.” The caravans on the burning desert, when they cannot find the accustomed well of water, let loose the thirsty harts and they sweep over the burning plains, panting with thirst, until they find the water brooks.
And so the hungry heart always finds the living bread, the thirsty soul is always filled with water. There is nothing that finds God so quickly as an earnest soul. We always find Him when “we search for Him with all our hearts.”
3. We must be open if we would be filled. “Open thy mouth wide and I will fill it.” We must be free from prejudice and preconceptions of truth that shut us up from God’s voice. We must be adjusted so as to catch His whisper and understand His will.
4. We must receive as well as ask; we must believe as well as pray; we must take the water of life freely; we must know the secret of drinking the living water, if we would be filled.
5. We must wait upon the Lord. The heart is too large to be filled in a moment; the soul is too great to be satisfied with a mere mouthful. “They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength.” We must “continue in prayer”; we must be much at the throne of grace; we must learn the secret of communion as well as supplication; and as we thus wait upon the Lord, we shall be filled until we shall find it a luxury to give forth our blessing to others.
6. And finally, if we would be filled, we must learn to give as well as receive; we must empty our hearts, that they may be refilled. God is a great economist and He loves to bless those who make the best use of their blessings, and become in turn a source of blessing to others.
The Holy Ghost is given for service; God cannot bless a selfish soul; and there is no selfishness more odious in His sight than that which can hoard God’s spiritual blessing, and let others die in ignorance of the gospel, and suffer through selfish neglect.
“The liberal soul shall be made fat, and he that watereth others shall be watered himself.” In this blessed work of winning the lost and giving the gospel to the world, we shall find our own rich reward, and “the fullness of the blessing of Christ.”
“But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.” Rom. 8: 9.
We approach, in this great epistle, a spiritual temple, and from its illuminated windows there shine out the beams of lofty and divine truth. It is so glorious that it needs only to be stated to bring its own illumination and vindication. This, the greatest of the epistles, presents to us the doctrine of the Holy Ghost with a symmetry and fullness quite as remarkable as the unfolding of the other doctrines which it contains.
I. First, we have the witnessing Spirit. In Romans 1: 3, 4, the Lord Jesus Christ is said to have been “of the seed of David according to the flesh, and declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead.”
The Spirit of holiness has been interpreted to mean the divine nature of Jesus Christ, but it is quite proper and, indeed, a more simple interpretation to apply it directly to the Holy Ghost as a divine Person, witnessing to the divinity of the Lord Jesus Christ, by raising Him from the dead according to the will of the Father.
The Holy Ghost was ever the witness to Christ’s divinity, and the Spirit Who had so distinct a part in the offering up of His sacrifice (for it was “by the eternal Spirit that He offered Himself to God without spot”) had surely as important a part in His resurrection. This is the first view we love to take of the Holy Spirit, as the Witness of Jesus, and especially of the risen Jesus, the living Christ, and the divine Lord.
II. We next see the Holy Ghost as the Spirit of life and holiness. In Romans 8: 2, we read, “The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.”
This is the first work of the Holy Ghost in sanctifying the soul. Let us carefully notice the place where this comes in. It is subsequent to our justification by faith and our surrender to Christ in death and resurrection. Then the Holy Spirit comes and takes possession of us and breathes into us the life of the Lord Jesus Christ. This becomes a new law of life and power in our spiritual being, and this new law lifts us above and sets us free from the old law of sin and death.
Just as the law of life lifts us above the law of gravitation, and the power of my will can raise my hand in spite of that physical law which makes dead matter fall to the ground, so the Holy Ghost, bringing Christ as a living presence into my heart and life, establishes a new law of feeling, thinking, choosing, and acting, and this new law lifts me above the power of sin and makes it natural for me to be holy, obedient, and Christ-like.
III. We see the Holy Spirit operating in the mind as well as in the spirit, and we read in the next paragraph, verses 5 and 6, “The minding of the flesh is death, but the minding of the Spirit is life and peace.” The Holy Spirit enters the mind and disposes it to the will of God, so that we choose the things that He chooses, and think God’s thoughts after Him.
We mind the Monitor Who dwells within us; we listen to the voice that speaks to us; we follow His directions, and “we walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.”
IV. The Holy Spirit is next revealed as the Spirit of quickening and healing in our mortal flesh. In verse 11, “If the Spirit of Him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, He that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal body by His Spirit that dwelleth in you.”
The Holy Ghost is the source of physical as well as mental and spiritual life. The human body consists of more than the outward frame. There is the inner mechanism of nerves, and, inside of that, the vital fluids and currents which quicken, energize, and impel the whole material organism.
Inside of all this is the principle of life, and inside of this is the Holy Ghost in the consecrated believer. He is most distinctly represented to us here as a vital force in our material being, a source of life, quickening, exhilaration and physical energy for those that know Him and obey Him. He is the Spirit that raised up Christ from the dead, and He dwells in our mortal bodies as a quickening life. This is not the immortal body of the resurrection, but the mortal frame of the present life which feeds upon the divine life. And this is the secret of living on the life of God.
It is thus that our bodies are the temples of the Holy Ghost, and our frames are the members of Christ, and partake of the life of our living Head.
V. The Holy Spirit, as the guide and director of our Christian life, is very clearly presented to us in the next few verses. “Therefore,” adds the apostle, “we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh. For if ye live after the flesh ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.”
We are to “live after the Spirit”; we are to obey our divine Guide; we are to follow our heavenly Leader; we are to yield ourselves to the Mother and the Monitor who comes to direct our pathway.
Christian life is not a mere moment of blessed transformation, but it is a life of continual abiding and obedience. Step by step, we must walk with God and maintain the attitude and habit of dependence and holy obedience. The Holy Spirit never wearies of the care of our life, and we should never weary of His loving jealousy for us. This is the secret of peace and gladness constant obedience and a hearkening spirit that waits to catch the whisper of His will and obey His every word.
VI. In this passage we have another most important truth; namely, that the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of crucifixion. He is the One that mortifies our evil nature and holds us in the place of death and resurrection life. The attitude of the Christian life is that of reckoning ourselves dead, indeed, unto sin.
This attitude must be maintained as a habit, and there are constant occasions when the old life will seek to reassert itself and must be held steadily in the place of death. This is what is meant by “mortifying our members,” and this can only be done by the Holy Ghost. If we attempt it ourselves we shall be everlastingly in the attitude of attempted suicide, and we shall never reach the place of peaceful death. The reason so many ghosts are walking around is because so many people have tried to die in their own strength, and have got up in the same strength, and walk about as the apparitions and shadows of the old carnal life.
The Church of God is full of these uncanny spirits, these live corpses, these resurrected ones; and they are very sad looking objects to themselves and to everybody else. The true secret is to be so full of the Holy Ghost that, like the autumn leaves which drop off by the coming of the spring, our old life shall be kept in the place of death by the expulsive power of divine love and Christ’s indwelling life.
VII. The Spirit of sonship is also clearly unfolded in this beautiful paragraph: “As many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.” The Holy Ghost brings us into the same relation with the Father as Jesus Christ, the divine Son. We are made partakers of His Sonship through His indwelling life, and the prayer of the Master becomes fulfilled in us and through us, “that the love wherewith Thou hast loved Me, may be in them and I in them.” It is because He is in us that the Father loves us with the same love that He loves the Son, and we dwell in the blessed consciousness and confidence of this place of child liberty and love.
We are called the first born ones. We are all first born ones, even as He is the First Born One and the Only Begotten. We partake of His very Sonship; and as the bride shares the bridegroom’s family and home, so we enter into all privileges, immunities, glories, and prospects of Christ’s own glorious life. “Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us,” and the Spirit hath brought to us, “that we should be called the sons of God.”
Beloved, have we received power thus to become the sons of God, and does the Spirit, not of adoption, but of Sonship, cry out instinctively from our inmost being, “Papa, Father,” our own dear Father, His Father and our Father, His God and our God?
VIII. The Spirit of hope and anticipation of the coming glory is next seen. And so we read in verse 23, “And not only they, but ourselves also, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption; to wit, the redemption of our body.”
That is, the Holy Spirit awakens the consciousness and brings the earnest of the coming glory, and calls forth our eager longing and outreaching for it. Just as the embryo birdling in its shell, when the time for its birth draws near it, presses through the restraints that confine until at last it bursts the fragile shell and leaps forth into liberty and life to breathe the air of the great world, and soon to leave the firmament on eagle’s wings, so the Spirit-filled heart has in it the bud and the embryo of a transcendent future, and it stretches out even now its nascent wings, and groans within itself for the coming glory.
Who is there of all the disciples of Christ who has not some time felt the birth-pangs of a grander life and the prophecy of a future transcending all we know of power and blessing?
We have not only the conception and anticipation of this glorious future, but the apostle says we have “the first fruits”even now. The Spirit of God in our hearts is the prophecy and promise of the coming age of more glorious spiritual life when we shall be like Him, and clothed with His perfections and something of His wisdom and power, we shall share His throne forever.
The touches of divine healing that have thrilled our mortal frame are but the foretaste of the resurrection hour, when we shall sweep up into the fullness of our eternal manhood, and these mortal frames shall be as beautiful, as glorious, as pure, and as strong as His glorified body on the throne.
What we have seen of answered prayer, of power over nature, of victory over circumstances, of divine life even in this limited sphere, these are but anticipations and earnest-payments of the time when we shall inherit the kingdom which Adam lost, and share man’s destined dominion over the whole creation.
And so the Holy Spirit in us is teaching us the millennial song, is waking up in us the pulses of the resurrection, is illuminating before us the vision of the coming glory, and is calling us out to prove even here our celestial wings.
And as the parent eagle teaches her little ones to fly, moment by moment and effort by effort, luring them from their soft nest, bearing them on her mighty wings, so the Mother Dove is teaching us to spread our wings upon the higher air and press forward into a little of our future inheritance.
Oh, let us not be disobedient to these heavenly visions! Let us not repress these outreachings. Let us not quench these immortal fires. And let us not cramp and stunt, and crush out the heavenly inspirations and aspirations which carry with them not only the prophecy, but the vital power of an endless and boundless life.
IX. In the twenty-sixth verse we have the Holy Spirit as the Spirit of prayer. “Likewise also the Spirit helpeth our infirmities; for we know not what to pray for as we ought; but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. And He that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because He maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God.”
This is the deep mystery of prayer. This is the delicate divine mechanism which words cannot interpret, and which theology cannot explain, but which the humblest believer knows even when he does not understand.
Oh, the burdens that we love to bear and cannot understand! Oh, the inarticulate outreachings of our hearts for things we cannot comprehend! And yet we know they are an echo from the throne and a whisper from the heart of God. It is often a groan rather than a song, a burden rather than a buoyant wing. But it is a blessed burden, and it is a groan whose undertone is praise and unutterable joy. It is “a groaning which cannot be uttered.” We could not ourselves express it always, and sometimes we do not understand any more than that God is praying in us, for something that needs His touch and that He understands.
And so we can just pour out the fullness of our heart, the burden of our spirit, the sorrow that crushes us, and know that He hears, He loves, He understands, He receives; and He separates from our prayer all that is imperfect, ignorant and wrong, and presents the rest, with the incense of the great High Priest, before the throne on high; and our prayer is heard, accepted and answered in His name.
X. The Spirit of service is His attribute. The Holy Ghost is next represented as the Spirit of power for consecrated service. In the twelfth chapter of Romans and the first verse, there is a singular and beautiful force in the use of the Greek word “paraclete.”
The expression, “I beseech you, therefore, brethren by the mercies of God ” literally means, “I paraclete you by the mercies of God”; that is, not I, but the Holy Ghost beseeches you, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. This is the Holy Spirit’s message to the saved and sanctified children of God, and this is the true power for consecration and service.
We may so identify ourselves with the blessed Paraclete, that our appeals and messages to men shall not be ours but His, and we can say, “I Paraclete you”; in the name of the Holy Ghost, beseech you. Thus our words and works will come to men with the authority and the power of the Holy Ghost.
XI. The Spirit of gladness is revealed in Romans 14: 17. “The kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.” Romans 15: 13. “Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost.”
The Holy Spirit is always the Spirit of gladness, and the Spirit of gladness and hope is essential to power for service and effective testimony for Christ.
XII. The Spirit of missions is His Spirit. The crowning revelation of the Holy Ghost in this sublime epistle is the Spirit of evangelization for the whole world. It is very beautiful that in this, the most doctrinal of all the epistles, the most profound theological treatise on justification, sanctification and the purposes of God ever written by inspired hands, should be these closing words respecting the ministry of the Holy Ghost for the evangelization of the whole world. But how could it be otherwise from such a soul and such a hand as Paul’s?
Listen to these inspiring words: “I have written more boldly unto you, as putting you again in remembrance, because of the grace that was given me of God, that I should be the minister of Jesus Christ unto the Gentiles, ministering the Gospel of God, that the offering up of the Gentiles might be made acceptable, being sanctified by the Holy Ghost. I have therefore my glorifying in Jesus Christ in those things which pertain to God. For I will not dare to speak of anything save those which Christ wrought for me, for the obedience of the Gentiles by word and deed, through mighty signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God; so that from Jerusalem and round about unto Illyricum, I have fully preached the gospel of Christ; yea, so have I strived to preach the gospel, not where Christ was already named, lest I should build upon another man’s foundation; but as it is written, To whom He was not spoken of, they shall see; and they who have not heard shall understand.” Rom. 15: 15-21.
To the glowing heart of Paul the work of missions was just the offering up of the Gentile world as a great living sacrifice to God, sanctified by the Holy Ghost. To present this offering to God was the glorious and all absorbing service of his life, and in this he had claimed and received the mighty power of the Holy Spirit; so that his soul could truly say, “through mighty signs and wonders from Jerusalem round about unto Illyricum, I have fully preached the gospel of Christ.” He could not rest in the beaten tracks of old and occupied fields, but pressed forward to the regions beyond to tell the story of divine love and grace, where Christ had not been named.
In an age when all our methods of international communication were unknown, when there were no railroads, steamboats, telegraphs, nor missionary societies, this lone man preached the Gospel, from land to land, until he could say of this vast region of the known world that circled round Jerusalem, he had so fully preached the gospel of Christ that no place was left in those parts, and that he was now at length at leisure to visit his friends in Rome and do some home mission work.
Wherever the Holy Ghost has possession of our hearts and lives, this will be the impulse that will possess us, and it will be the practical outcome of our consecration, until we shall have given the gospel as a witness to every tribe and tongue, and the purpose of the Christian Dispensation to gather out of the Gentiles a people for His name shall be accomplished, and the Lord Himself shall come.
Oh, may the Holy Spirit help each of us, from the study of this wonderful epistle, to understand His meaning for us and for our times, and to rise from the grandest truths of the gospel to the grandest work of the ages!