Things Which Are Most Surely Believed Among Us
The phrase, “Things which are most surely believed among us” is to be interpreted in no sectarian sense. “Food for the Flock” does not foster sectarianism. The phrase has been extracted from Luke 1:1, and, in using it as a caption for a series of articles touching our Faith, we wish to imply that those responsible for the production of the magazine unreservedly believe all that is contained in “the Scriptures of Truth,” and they write for that large body of Christians who share their like faith. All over the world, and at all times, God has those who like Paul say, “I believe God.”
Seeing that our beliefs are based on Holy Scripture, it follows that we should first consider the nature of those Scriptures, in order to satisfy ourselves that our faith is well-founded. Our tenth paper, therefore, will relate to…
The Holy Spirit
During the absence of Christ in Heaven, He has not left “His own” to tread life’s journey alone on earth. He, the Good Shepherd, has left them in the hand of a Keeper” (1 Sam 17:20). Indeed, His very absence in Heaven and the presence on earth with them of the Holy Spirit is a positive gain (John 16:7). Although the apostles had supposed that the departure of their Lord would entail them in irreparable loss, the contrary was the case. “It is expedient (profitable) for you that I go away,” said the Lord, for had He not done so the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, could not have come. The glorification of the Lord Jesus was essential in order that the Holy Spirit should come and reside among His people on earth. (John 7:39).
The stupendous vital changes that were effected by the death, resurrection, and ascension of Christ are not sufficiently apprehended. The presence at God’s right hand of a glorified sinless Man was something altogether new in the economy of God. It is no wonder, therefore, that there should be on earth something else that was new, and that is the permanent residence here of the Holy Spirit one person of the Godhead, in His people on earth. This is the peculiar characteristic of the present era; it is the age of the Spirit.
Never before Pentecost had there been such a thing, as the Spirit of God taking up His permanent abode on earth. He had, from time to time, visited earth and clothing persons for a particular purpose, enabled them to do exploits (Jud. 6:34), but when accomplished He left such persons. It was not until the Lord Jesus was here that the Spirit could find a resting place among men. He had been as Noah’s dove that had to return because it found no resting place for the sole of its foot (Gen. 8:8). Christ was the only One on whom He could abide, (John 1:33), and it was this that identified Him as God’s Messiah to John Baptist. But, even so, the Spirit of God had not then taken up His permanent residence on earth amongst the redeemed of men. The Spirit could not be given until Jesus was glorified. But once Christ had died and risen again. He could breath on His own people and say, “Receive ye the Holy Ghost,” not that they then and there received Him, but the way was clear for their so doing, everything having been now done that was requisite for the purpose, and every obstacle having been removed.
We must not imagine the Holy Spirit is a mere influence. It is true the word “Spirit” in Greek is neuter, but verbs are used of Him such as leading, teaching, bringing to remembrance, and the like, which show beyond doubt that He is a distinct Person in the Godhead and attributes are ascribed to Him showing His absolute equality in the Godhead. There can be no escape from His presence: He is omnipresent (Psa. 39:7). Moreover He searches all things: He is omniscient (1 Cor. 2:10). And His works, right from the beginning of Scripture and throughout, make clear His omnipotence (Gen. 1:2). We must distinguish between His personality and His influence. That He exerts a mighty influence is true, but that He is much more than that cannot be effectively gainsaid.
The Lord Jesus was conceived in the virgin’s womb by the Spirit (Matt. 1:20). He was throughout His life led by the Spirit: (Matt 4:1). He was full of the Holy Ghost. (Luke 4:1). It was by the same Spirit He wrought His miracles (Matt 12:28), and also offered Himself without spot to God (Heb. 9:14), as well as by the same Spirit He gave commandment to His apostles after His resurrection (Acts 1:2). In all this He becomes the exemplary and perfect Man who has left His people an example as to how they should walk.
John Baptist said of Him that He would “baptise in the Holy Spirit” (Matt. 3:11), and the Lord Jesus said the same (Acts 1:5). This was fulfilled on the day of Pentecost when the Spirit of God changed His headquarters from Heaven and took up residence among His people on earth. Hitherto He had wrought from Heaven on men on earth: now-a-days He works on earth, through His people, for He dwells here. Later on He will resume His former mode of operation.
The Baptism of the Holy Spirit is an epoch making event in the ways of God. It was historic, for the day and year may be named. It was unique, for the like had never before occured nor has it since. It was final, for it admitted of no repetition. The Church was born on that day, and it only now needed for it to develop and grow. It was, therefore, a corporate thing. The baptism of the Spirit is not an individual experience now-a-days, to be sought after by some under the name of “a second blessing.” Of this the Scriptures know nothing. When Adam sinned, all his posterity was adversely affected and, when each was born, he came into the consequences of that one act. So, too, when Christ baptised the believers in the Spirit, it was a thing which affected all His posterity, and when each one was born again, he came into the consequences of that one act. The correct reading of 1 Corinthians 12:13, in the R.V., should be noted. Paul is there speaking of the entire Church of which, of course, he formed part. He uses the pronoun “we” though when he alludes to the Corinthian local church (V. 27) of which he was not a resident member, he uses the pronoun “ye.” The baptism of the Spirit, then, is not a blessing to be sought, but a position which may and ought to be enjoyed.
We have said that the absence of the Lord Jesus in Heaven and the presence of the Spirit on earth is a gain for the believer, and by no means a loss.
When the Lord was here on earth there were occasions when He and the apostles were not together, and they were in distress because of His absence. No such circumstance like that can recur now, for the Spirit is not only with us but is in us (John 14:17). More than that, the Lord was with them for but three years and a little more at most: but the Spirit is with us forever (John 14:16). Then the Lord could not disclose all His mind for His people were not able to bear it. But now the Spirit brings all things to our remembrance (John 14: 26). He takes of the things of Christ and shows them to us (John 16:14), and He reveals to us things to come (John 16:13). All is disclosed, nothing is held back. Our apprehension of it may be small, but the disclosure is complete.
The Spirit is called “Another Comforter” (John 14:16). The word “Another” means another and equal. There is a Greek word which means another and different, but it is not that word which is used in this connection. The Spirit is equal with the Son, though sent both by the Father and Son. As we have seen before in our studies, voluntarily assumed subordination in the Godhead does not involve personal inequality. He is called “the Comforter,” a word which means advocate or patron, and implies one who stands at our side to maintain our cause whatsoever it may be. Thus the believer has an Advocate in Heaven, the Lord Jesus (1 John 2:1), and an Advocate on earth, the Holy Spirit. The Spirit has been called “the Vicar of Christ” because He acts for Christ on earth, whilst Christ acts for the believer in Heaven.
It is not possible within the compass of these papers to deal exhaustively with such a vast subject but, in brief, we may say: The work of the Spirit stands in relation (a) to Christ (b) to the believer (c) to the world and (d) to the devil. Let us consider these.
(a) As to Christ: “He shall glorify Me” (John 16:14). This is the prime work of the Spirit on earth. He does not speak from Himself (John 16:13), but He is here to pursue the interests of Christ. It may, therefore, be presumed that all that is done by His people which tends to this end is wrought by the Spirit: all that is otherwise does not emanate from Him. It is His business to “witness to Christ”: His is an inaudible, invisible, irresistible presence securing the honour of Him who had been so grossly put to shame by men.
(b) To the believer: He is not only with him, but He indwells him (John 14:17). This is the hall-mark of every true Christian. “If any man have not the Spirit of Christ he is none of His” (Rom. 8:9). Every believer is instantly, the moment he believes, sealed with that Holy Spirit (Eph. 1:13). The Spirit becomes his Teacher (John 14:25), Monitor, Guide (John 16:13), Indweller (John 14:17), Earnest (Eph. 1:14), Activator (Eph. 3:16), and much else. The reader should examine all the noted passages if the benefit of this study is to be obtained. Where the Spirit is not given His rightful place, defeat must inevitably follow, but where the Spirit is owned and His prompting obeyed, there is bound to issue a life of love, joy, peace. Nor is it only for this life that the Spirit works, but on account of the fact that the believer’s body has been a temple of the Holy Ghost (Rom. 8:11), the resurrection of that body into conformity with the body of the glory of Christ his Saviour is ensured also.
A lifeless machine can work, but it is only where life exists that fruit can be found (Gal. 5:19). So, too, the works of the flesh are enumerated by Paul and by their side he places the “fruit of the Spirit.” Healthy introspection at times does not harm, and it would be well for us to examine our lives to ascertain whether or not this “cluster” of fruit is to be found in us (Gal. 5:22).
The reader should consult every reference to the Spirit of God in the epistles, a thing which it is not possible for us to do in this brief paper; it will reveal to him the tremendous scope of His activities in the individual believer, in the Church as a whole, in the local church in particular, and in every sundry earthly relationship.
(c) To the world: The Spirit’s presence on earth brings a demonstration to the world of three things (John 16:8). Whether individual sinners are themselves convicted of this is another matter. But the Spirit’s presence on earth is because of Christ’s presence in Heaven. And Christ’s presence in Heaven denotes man’s wickedness on earth in that they cast Him out by a violent death. Thus the Spirit’s presence demonstrates man’s sin because they did not believe on Christ but cast Him out. It demonstrates also Christ’s righteousness because, while the world adjudicated Him in the wrong, the Father asserted His righteousness and received Him in Heaven. And Christ’s presence in Heaven denotes the devil’s conquest, in that he could neither keep Him in the tomb nor could he keep Him bound to earth. Up from the grave He arose; up through the skies He went! So that the Spirit’s presence here denotes man’s sin, Christ’s righteousness, and Satan’s defeat.
(d) To the devil. We have anticipated this in our last paragraph so that we need not repeat it. As the Lord Jesus when on earth went about healing all that were oppressed of the devil, so, too, now the Spirit of God is likewise pursuing the eternal counsels of the Godhead in also liberating those who are held in the bondage of Satan.
But we may add more. The Universal Church is a habitation of God by the Spirit (Eph. 2:22). The local church likewise is the place where the Spirit of God is dwelling (1 Cor. 3:16). How often we are apt to forget this, the invisibility of the Spirit tending to make us unmindful of the awesome reality. The context in which Paul reminds the Corinthians of this should be pondered. Had they but borne it in mind much of the disorder occurrent among them would not have flourished. And one is led to believe that, were the Spirit’s presence a greater reality to our own souls, much of the levity and hypocrisy of which our own hearts are aware would be cast out, and greater purity and greater reverence would mark our gatherings.
In such a study as this the believer must bear in mind the two aspects of it: that relating to doctrine and position, the other relating to condition and behaviour. Categorical affirmations are made that the Spirit has been given, received, indwells, abides, baptises, and so on. On the other hand, the believer is exhorted to “be filled” with the Spirit, (Eph. 5:18), to be “led” by Him (Gal. 5:18), to “sow the Spirit” (Gal. 6:8), to “walk in the Spirit” (Gal. 5:16), to “keep step in the Spirit” (Gal. 5:25) and the like. Due weight must be given to each set of statements. These two things God hath joined together and where the practical obedience is lacking, in all likelihood the positional reality is also lacking.