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The Holy Spirit.
In the three preceding chapters Christ presents the fullest delineation of the work of the Holy Spirit, or Comforter, that is found in the Bible. It will be profitable to recapitulate and systematize the teaching he presents upon this important and imperfectly understood subject. And, first, I wish to present the fact that while the Fourth Gospel has much more to say of the Holy Spirit than the three preceding, they are by no means silent upon the subject. Not to enter into a summary of passages that speak of his work I note these items: That Luke declares that the miraculous conception was due to the Holy Spirit; the other Gospels declare that Christ shall baptize in the Holy Spirit; they point out sin against the Holy Spirit as the sin that hath no forgiveness; they allude to the promise of the Holy Spirit, which was fulfilled at Pentecost, give the great Commission which commanded to “baptize in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,” and leave the disciples waiting in Jerusalem “until they are endued with power from on high.” In addition we have the significant and wonderful circumstance of the Holy Spirit descending upon the Savior at his baptism, and also the fact that he commands his disciples to pray for the Holy Spirit as God's good gift to his children.
Nor is the doctrine of the Holy Spirit peculiar to the New Testament. Though more prominent as the period for the dispensation of the Holy Spirit, dating from Pentecost, approached, it is as old as the revelation of God; nay, as old as Creation. When first the darkness begins to lift from the chaos in which the original created matter first appears, “the Spirit of God is moving upon the face of the waters,” and just before the Deluge God declares, “My Spirit shall not always strive with man.” Frequent mention is made by the Old Testament writers of the “Spirit of God,” “the Spirit of Jehovah,” and the doctrine is fundamental in the Jewish Scriptures that “Holy men spake as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.”
It is, however, in the Gospel of John that the work of the Spirit is first fully outlined, while in Acts and the Epistles we see the influence and work of the Spirit as he dwells in the church and through it displays his power, and testifies to the world. Those who have followed the teachings of the Savior in these chapters have found, 1. That while the Holy Spirit might have seized upon and influenced certain ones chosen to present God's will in past times, he had never been imparted to the people of God in general before the Savior's ascension, as the heritage of all the children of God. Not even the Apostles enjoyed his influence, nor could they while Christ remained upon the earth. 2. It was needful that he go away in order that this permanent and universal manifestation of God should come. He would be “sent from the Father;” the Savior would “shed him forth;” he should be the possession 250of every heart prepared by faith, love and obedience; he should be an indwelling of the Father and the Son in the soul; his work in the heart of the believer would be to cheer, console, strengthen, to aid in bearing witness for Christ, and in bearing the fruits which glorify him, and prove that his followers enjoy his presence, while to the Apostles themselves, as witnesses of the resurrection of Christ, he should have an extraordinary operation, “teaching all things,” “guiding them into all truth,” and “bearing witness through them,” “with signs and wonders” to Christ. 3. The time when this beneficent manifestation should begin is named as “that day,” and the time is pointed out so unmistakably that it can never be overlooked. On the day of Pentecost the saints “received the promise of the Father,” “were endued with power from on high,” “baptized in the Holy Spirit,” and from that epoch the dispensation of the Spirit began; from that time is dated the promise made to all who repent and are baptized in the name of Jesus Christ, “Ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”
“God who spoke at sundry times and in divers manners unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken by his Son.” It was needful, however, that the Son should cease to speak in person, and go away in order that the Comforter might come. As Christ is a manifestation of the Father, so the Holy Spirit is the presence in the heart of the believer, the temple of God, of the Father and the Son (14:23). Nor will he dwell in any temple until it is prepared for his presence by love of Christ and an entire surrender to his will. The enjoyment of the Spirit is confined to the disciples of the Lord. “The world cannot receive or know him.” He has no home in unconverted hearts, and yet he has an important office to effect upon the world itself. That office is fully pointed out in chapter XVI., 7–15. His work towards the world divides itself into two parts; he shall convict it of sin, establish the righteousness of Christ, and arraign it for judgment; he shall also testify of Christ. In the light thrown upon this passage by the rest of the Scriptures it is of easy interpretation. The Spirit does not act upon the world as a mysterious, abstract influence, but through the saints in whom he dwells and by whom he exerts his power. “That day” of the descent of the Holy Spirit illustrates his mode of acting upon the world. The saints on the day of Pentecost were “filled with the Holy Spirit,” and then the Apostles “began to speak as the Spirit gave them utterance.” As the result of the testimony of the Holy Spirit spoken by men in words that he dictated, three thousand men of the world were “convicted of sin., “were convinced of the “righteousness” of Christ, and of the danger of “judgment,” and hence sought to “save themselves from that untoward generation.” Thus, by the words spoken by the Holy Spirit and recorded, by the word of preaching and exhortation that saints are moved to speak, by the pure lives and kind words and deeds of those to whom the Spirit is a helper, he convicts the world, and testifies to it of Christ. It should never be lost sight of that the Holy Spirit testifies by words that are spoken and thus became a joint witness with the Apostles to the exaltation of Christ. See Acts 5:32, Heb. 10:15, 16, and Rev. 2:7, 11, 17, 29; Rev. 3:6, 13, 22. He still bears witness in the word of God that has come down to us in the Holy Scriptures, and those who resist this word “resist the Spirit.” 251While he aids in the conquest of the world for Christ, the weapon that he uses, “the sword of the Spirit, is the WORD or GOD.”
It only remains to ask what are the proofs of the Spirit's presence? Not loud claims, nor fleshly feelings. “Spiritual things are spiritually discerned.” The tree is known by its fruits. Whoever enjoys the indwelling of the Spirit will exhibit its fruits (Gal. 5:22) and will mind the things which the Spirit has commanded (Rom. 8:5). The test that Paul enjoins in 1 Cor. 14:37, is the one by which the claims of every man who asserts that he is “spiritual,” or enjoys the presence of the Spirit, must be tried: “Let him acknowledge that the things I write unto you are the commandments of God.” The person who ignores God's ordinances, sets them aside, and does not “mind the things of the Spirit,” or bear its fruits, deceives himself if he thinks he has the presence of the Comforter.251
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