JESUS LEAVES no doubt as to the vital importance of the
coming and work of the Holy Spirit. Once Christ has returned to heaven,
the third Person of the Godhead is to take His place on earth. Jesus
promised His disciples: "I will not leave you bereft," or
orphans (John 14:18, N.E.B.). He would come to them in the Person of the
But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto
you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the
Father, he shall testify of me (John 15:26).
He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine,
and shall shew it unto you (chap. 16:14).
Jesusí bodily presence was about to be withdrawn. He
promised another divine Presence from the Father. The Greek word
"another" means one like unto Christ, of the same kind. Christ
was incarnateóin human flesh. The Spirit was not. Christ always speaks
of the Spirit as a Person distinct from Himself. The Holy Spirit does not
appear in human form as Christ did, lest men might conceive of there being
two Christs. The Holy Spirit is never to be confused with our own spirit.
He remains personally distinct from ourselves.
The Spirit of Christ
Since Christís resurrection and ascension, there was
to be in the world the third Person of the Godhead, as real and dynamic as
is Christ. The Scriptures clearly teach the existence of a spirit world of
some kind. Men come either under the control of the Holy Spirit or under
demonic control. This issue is so crucial as to require the most careful
study and spiritual insight. The failure to experience the fullness of the
Holy Spirit explains the failure in Christian living and Christian
service. The neglect of the Spirit is as disastrous as the neglect of
Christ when He was on earth.
The word "Comforter" in the King James
Version does not give the right idea. Christ promised "another
Paraclete," not another comforter. The Greek word literally means one
called to the side of. In the New English Bible the word is
translated "Advocate," or counsel for the defense. The apostle
John is probably thinking of a friend at court when he uses this word. The
Paraclete is the divine Friend who does whatever is necessary for the
Christian life. He responds when called upon for help in every way and in
every situation. The word was never used before of a member of the
Godhead. It is used four times in our Lordís parting words and with
deliberate emphasis. As Christís substitute on earth, the Spirit is to
be the Captain of our lives, to inspire courage and total allegiance, to
provide power for triumphant living.
The Holy Spirit could come only when Jesus went away.
Nevertheless I tell you the truth: it is for your
good that I am leaving you. If I do not go, your Advocate will not come,
whereas if I go, I will send him to you (John 16:7, N.E.B.).
On the last and greatest day of the festival Jesus
stood and cried aloud, "If anyone is thirsty let him come to me;
whoever believes in me, let him drink." As Scripture says,
"Streams of living water shall flow out from within him." He
was speaking of the Spirit which believers in him would receive later;
for the Spirit had not yet been given, because Jesus had not yet been
glorified (chap. 7:37-39, N.E.B.).
What did Jesus mean by this? Why could not the Spirit
come until Jesus had returned to heaven? The clear implication is that the
work of the Spirit on earth is a consequence of the completion of the
saving work of Christ and dependent upon it.
Just what is meant by Christís words, "the Holy
Spirit was not yet given"? It cannot mean that the Spirit was not in
the world until Pentecost and after. The Spirit was ever manifesting His
divine power and presence. At Creation the Spirit moved upon the face of
the deep" (Gen. 1:2). David prayed, "Take not thy holy spirit
from me" (Ps. 51:11). Ezekiel speaks most frequently of the work of
the Holy Spirit. All the great men of God in the Old Testament were born
again by the Holy Spirit.
Neither is it Biblical to interpret this to mean that
previous to Pentecost the Holy Spirit worked on man from the outside, and
that afterwards He worked from within man. This concept is based on an
unfortunate inference drawn from the statement, "He dwelleth with you
and shall be in you" (John 14:17). Speaking of Gideon, the Scripture
says that the Spirit of the Lord took possession of Gideon (see Judges
6:34, N.E.B.). The Hebrew states that "the spirit of God clothed
himself with Gideon." In that case the Spirit must be within man. No
one should try to localize the Spirit as being ĎĎoníí or Ď
The prophet Joel prophesied: "And it shall come to
pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh" (Joel
2:28). The apostle Peter later declares that this prophecy was fulfilled
on the day of Pentecost (see Acts 2:16-18). This seemed to point to the
fact that the Spirit was not poured out in His fullness until Pentecost;
that until then, the gift of the Spirit was partial; after that, it was
Why was the gift of the Spirit not complete before
Pentecost? John gives the explanation: "Because Jesus had not yet
been glorified." When the Son had ascended to heaven to the right
hand of the Father, Christ was glorified. Pentecost was the evidence of
Christís glorification. The full manifestation of the Holy Spirit
depended upon this exaltation of Christ on His return to the Father. Then
the Spirit was to flow out like rivers of living water.
The full manifestation of the Spirit depended upon
Christís completing His work on earth. Henceforth the work of the Spirit
was to be one with the work of the Son. So closely are they identified
that the Spirit is given the title, "the Spirit of the Lord" (2
Cor. 3:17, N.E.B.), "the Spirit of Jesus Christ" (Phil. 1:19).
The Holy Spirit had now at His disposal the finished
work of Christ. Redemption was accomplished when the fullness of the time
came. Pentecost was the Spiritís supreme opportunity to bear witness to
Christ. The Spiritís work is to hold the spotlight on Christ, to glorify
Him by taking what Christ is and has done and making it effective in and
through His followers. "He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of
mine, and shall shew it unto you" (John 16: 14). The Spirit does not
proclaim new truths. He is not an innovator. He leads Christís followers
into the truths taught and realized by Jesus (see chaps. 1:17; 14:26). He
makes Christ living and real to men (see verses 17-20).
For he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he
shall hear, that shall he speak (John 16:13).
The new fact is Jesus Christ, the perfect Man in heaven
Upon the throne of God, glorified by the Father.
This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we are all
witnesses. Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted, and having
received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, he hath shed forth
this, which ye now see and hear. For David is not ascended into the
heavens: but he saith himself, The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou on
my right hand, until I make thy foes thy footstool. Therefore let
all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same
Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ (Acts 2:32-36).
The work accomplished by Christ on earth remains
central. It cannot be superseded by the Holy Spirit.
The Spirit is to effect in the lives of men the reality
of what Christ is and what He has wrought in His own Person. This is why
"no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost"
(1 Cor. 12:3). Experiencing the saving power of Christ in the life does
not depend upon human eloquence or manís wisdom but "in
demonstration of the Spirit and of power: that your faith should not stand
in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God" (chap. 2:4, 5). Only
the Spirit can bring the saving knowledge and power of Christ to man. That
is the exclusive work of the Spirit. Without this, Jesus must remain to us
just a figure of history who lived two thousand years ago.
Therefore the statement, "The Spirit had not yet
been given, because Jesus had not been glorified," emphasizes the
fact that the work of the Spirit is tied to that historical work of Christ
when He lived and died on the earth, that apart from this the Spirit would
have no witness to bear.
The New Testament knows no work of the Spirit except
in relation to the historical manifestation of Christ.. .. The Spirit of
God is always a gift that comes from God and testifies to the human
spirit of the salvation that God has wrought in Christ.óGE0RGE S.
HENDRY, The Holy Spirit in Christian Theology (Philadelphia:
The Westminster Press, 1965), p. 29.
All He does is in Christ Jesus." The Spirit is
the Spirit of Christ. He operates in and through the Son. God has no
gifts for us out of Christ, not even the gift of the Spirit. It is the
Spirit who brings life, but the life He brings is Christ. The Spirit is
the vehicle, but it is "Christ who is our life" (Col. 3:4).óFrom
Life by the Spirit by A. SKEVINGTON WOOD, copyright 1966,
Paternoster Press, Ltd., pp. 23, 24. Used by permission.
This association of the Holy Spirit with the living
Christ prevents the Christian faith from degenerating into a vague
mysticism and an impersonal religion. Because the Holy Spirit is a Person
sent to take the place of Christ and to witness to Christ and His
completed work, God meets us personally.
The cross of Christ is the center of all human history.
It is the one decisive event for all mankind. Here the decisive battle in
the great controversy with Satan was fought and won. Christ conquered the
powers of evil. Man is therefore a redeemed person.
Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the
prince of this world be cast out. And I, if I be lifted up from the
earth, will draw all men unto me (John 12:3 1, 32).
Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom
of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren
is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night. And they
overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their
testimony (Rev. 12:10, 11).
The divine gift of the Paraclete is based on the fact
of our exalted Lord, now triumphant. He will reign until He has put all
enemies under His feet (see Heb. 10:11-14). We Christians share in this
resurrection life through the Holy Spirit. Sin and death no longer hold
dominion over us. The victory was for us. The Spirit makes that victory
real in our own experience. Man is not a spectator in the great
controversy, looking back to a historical event that had happened two
millenniums ago. He is a participant. Christís victory must become part
of our life and experience. Man must be made free.
Because in Christ Jesus the life-giving law of the
Spirit has set you free from the law of sin and death (Rom. 8:2, N.E.B.).
Victory and redemption are not automatic or mechanical.
They cannot be taken for granted as some distant battle that has decided
our fate. Christians are to share in the battle and the victory. The
participation must be real.
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. And if Christ be in you, the body
is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness
(Rom. 8:9, 10).
These verses speak of our being "in the
Spirit" and "Christ in you." They describe the way we are
to live our whole lives: how completely we are involved with the Godhead,
wholly dependent upon Their presence and control for our salvation.
To live in the flesh or in the world means to live our
lives entirely involved on that level, affirming that these natural powers
dominate our interests, our desires, our actions, and our behavior. Life
in the flesh means we are spiritually dead. On the other hand life in the
Spirit means we are spiritually alive. Our lives belong either to one
realm or to the other. The sensational event or experience so-called that
catches the headlines and startles the mind is never adequate, because in
Christian living endurance is required.
The Christian retains his moral autonomy. The Spirit is
no blind force, working on emotionally misguided recipients, overwhelming
the mind. For the Spiritís leading and control can be rejected. The
Spirit can be grieved, and He can be quenched (see Eph. 4:30; 1 Thess.
We know that presence by the newness of life, the new
sense of all things are now possible. The ordinary ministry of the Holy
Spirit is through and not against the normal faculties of man.óLYCURGUS
M. STARKEY, JR., The Work of the Holy Spirit (New York:
Abingdon Press, 1952), p. 73.
One of the great errors is a disposition to make
special manifestations an evidence of the baptism of the Holy Ghost,
giving to them the name of Pentecost, as though none had received the
Spirit of Pentecost but those who had the power to speak in tongues;
thus leading many sincere Christians to cast away their confidence,
plunging them into perplexity and darkness or causing them to seek after
special manifestations of other than God Himself. Another grave tendency
is the disposition to turn aside from the great trust which God has
given us in the salvation of sinners and the sanctification of
believers, and seek for signs and wonders and special manifestationsóReprinted
by permission from I Believe in the Holy Spirit by MAYNARD
JAMES, published and copyrighted 1965, Bethany Fellowship, Inc.,
Minneapolis, Minnesota 55438. P. 116.
The Spirit of Truth
Time and again in His last words to His disciples,
Christ associated the gift of the Spirit with truth.
And I will ask the Father, and he will give you
another to be your Advocate, who will be with you for everóthe Spirit
of truth (John 14:16, N.E.B.).
However, when he comes who is the Spirit of truth, he
will guide you into all truth (chap. 16:13, N.E.B.).
The term "Spirit of truth" means the Spirit
who communicates truth.
But your Advocate, the Holy Spirit whom the Father
will send in my name, will teach you everything, and will call to mind
all that I have told you (chap. 14: 26, N.E.B.).
The Holy Spirit is the divine Teacher. He will bring
back to the disciplesí minds all the things that Jesus has taught them.
He will make clear their meaning, which they did not previously
understand, opening up vistas that have been beyond them. The Spirit will
not change the teachings of Jesus. He will establish their truth and full
meaning, "not in the words which manís wisdom teacheth, but which
the Holy Ghost teacheth" (1 Cor. 2:13).
At, the very core of the Christian faith is Godís
respect for man as a rational and responsible person. This requires that
men judge truth from an intelligent and rational standpoint. God respects
the freedom of choice. God can use no methods or bring no pressures to
bear that violate manís personal integrity and freedom of choice. The
Christian faith is supernatural, but it is never irrational. It commends
itself to the mind of man. Within its framework, emotional excitations of
the moment cannot form the basis for a sound choice.
Distortions and false premises in Christian experience
must be met by the authority of the truth of the Word of God. The most
rational and inspired records of revelation were given by the Holy Spirit.
Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture
is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time
by the will of man; but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the
Holy Ghost (2 Peter 1:20, 21).
The impulses of the Holy Spirit, even in men really
inspired, so suited themselves to their rational faculties, as not to
divest them of the government of themselves, like heathen priests under
their diabolical possessions. Evil spirits threw their prophets into
such ungovernable ecstasies. . . . But the Spirit of God left His
prophets the clear use of their judgement, when, and how long, it was
fit for them to speak, and never hurried them into any improprieties
either as to the matter, manner, or time of their speaking.óSTARKEY,
JR., op. cit.
What kind of truth does the Spirit present to our minds
in Scripture? What kind of God does the Word offer for our truth? "He
that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the
churches" (Rev. 3:22). The Spirit will teach the truth about Christ,
about God, about man, with total reliability and saving power. Without
this guidance and divine instruction Paul speaks of those who have ĎĎthe
understanding darkened being alienated from the life of God through the
ignorance that isí in them, because of the blindness of their
heart" (Eph. 4:18).
What is needed for the communication of truth and the
banishment of error? No new faculties need to be created. No newly
inspired truth is required. God has already provided a revelation, the
Word of God, through the prophets and apostles.
For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and
sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even 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 (Heb. 4:12).
The leading of the Spirit here contemplated is not
removed from the normal processes of the thinking mind. In all the leading
and teaching by the Holy Spirit the human mind is to be preserved. We must
not take refuge in a supposed encounter with the supernatural in absence
of the revealed Word of God in the Scriptures.
Through the leading of the Spirit, Christ offers His
own revealed and spoken word. Christ the Truth in us corresponds to the
highest conception of what is genuine. There is no false leading of the
Spirit by the Word. His leading awakens the mind, whereby the Bible comes
alive. Only by the balanced emphasis on the Word and the Holy Spirit can
God be glorified and men be sanctified by the truth.
God hath . . . chosen you to salvation through
sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth (2 Thess. 2:13).
The Word of truth, the Word of God, the Word
contained in the Bible, is the instrument which the Holy Spirit uses in
regeneration, but it is only as the Holy Spirit uses the Word that
regeneration results. The mere written Word will not produce the new
birth, no matter how faithfully preached or faithfully given . . .unless
the living Spirit of God makes it a living thing in the hearts..ófrom The
Holy Spirit by R. A. TORREY. Copyright 1927 by Fleming H. Revell
Company, p. 74. Used by permission.
Our Daily Bread
We pray God to "give us . . . our daily
bread" (Matt. 6:11).
The spirit alone gives life; the flesh is of no
avail; the words which I have spoken to you are both spirit and life. .
. . Your words are words of eternal life (John 6:63, 68, N.E.B.).
All of us need to have the Word of God empower us, to
be "born anew, not of mortal parentage but of immortal, through the
living and enduring word of God" (1 Peter 1:23, N.E.B.).
Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth,
that we should be of a kind of firstfruits of his creatures. Wherefore
lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive
with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls
(James 1:18, 21).
We receive life by receiving the Word through the Holy
Spirit. Nothing is more important for spiritual growth than to keep the
Word and the Spirit together as we study the Bible. This is the divine
encounter the Bible speaks of. Divine truth is never simply an
intellectual idea to be argued about. It is a divine message sent from
God: trustworthy, dependable, by which man is never deceived. Because God
always keeps His word, the promises and prophecies in the Bible are true
For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are
the sons of God. The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that
we are the children of God (Rom. 8: 14, 16).
How does the Holy Spirit bear witness with our spirit?
The Spirit takes the truths about Christ, His work, and His Word and
produces an experience in agreement with, and obedience to, that Word.
Thereby the Spirit assures us that the Word of Scripture is the embodiment
of special revelation, the very Word and Truth of God. The Spirit does not
witness to something that is false. This witness can be understood and
experienced by the wise and the simple, by the learned and the ignorant.
Our spiritual experience answers precisely to the Word of God. An
intelligent communication between Godís mind and our minds, between His
life and ours, we can understand. What God promises and has done in and
through Christ does actually come true in our lives.
The natural man cannot discern the truths of the Word
because they are spiritually discerned. Our realizing in experience that
Christ is "made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and
sanctification, and redemption" (1 Cor. 1:30) is convincing evidence
of the truth about God and His Son.
To keep spiritually alive and hungry for the Word of
God is one of the great needs today. The limited use of the living Word is
one of the churchís perils. Men read the Bible, but subject it to their
own control and superior wisdom, without the guidance of the Spirit. We as
Christians are called to introduce men to the reality of Godís truth and
thereby to experience the power of it.
The Spirit is married to the Word, not merely in that
the Spirit guides the intellect to a proper understanding of the words
and sentences of the Scriptures, but in that He brings the reality of
Christís power into human lives as they hear and identify themselves
with the word about the cross.óLEWIS B. SMEDES, All
Things Made New, p. 181.
The Word of God seeks to capture the heart and the life
with a commanding moral and spiritual power not found in any other book.
Because of this it brings assurance to those who are Spirit-led. They will
not deny the truth in the day of trial and anxiety. The Holy Spirit is
never given to be enjoyed as a luxury for special occasions. He comes that
men may be changed into sons of God and know it to be so. He leads into a
glad obedience to Godís commandments, into loving service for others,
and into sacrifice for the kingdom of God.
At times men are tempted to lose confidence in the
church. Only the Christian led into truth by the Spirit will be able to
tolerate the shortcomings of the church and at the same time put himself
under her influence. In these days we need to remind ourselves that one
who criticizes the mistakes of the church often becomes an absentee from
the truth. To be Spirit-led draws men together. It bids them overlook
errors of understanding and the mistakes of sinful men. It prompts them in
love to bear with one anotherís faults, to pray together and to bear
witness to Godís truth together.
When men step from the ranks of the church ostensibly
because of what they claim to see as hypocrisy, they also step from the
truth of God. The effort to remain in the truth by oneís own decisions
in isolation cannot succeed. Whenever men choose to isolate themselves
from the church of God with the false idea that the truth is still left to
them, they are mistaken.
I am the light of the world. No follower of mine
shall wander in the dark; he shall have the light of life (John 8:12,
Let us be firm and unswerving in the confession of
our hope, for the Giver of the promise may be trusted. We ought to see
how each of us may best arouse others to love and active goodness, not
staying away from our meetings, as some do, but rather encouraging one
another, all the more because you see the Day drawing near (Heb.
Much of contemporary theology has lost faith in the
Bible as the word of God. Men cherish an existential method of reaching
truth, while rejecting the objective propositional truths of the Bible.
This position holds that truth does not reside in the verbal, rational,
creedal statements of the Scriptures. We are told that the written and the
spoken word of the Bible is not the word of God. In this way men reject
the historicity of much of the Bible: the historical account of Creation,
the fall of man, and much of the historical Jesus recorded in the Gospels.
The traditional Christian position holds that the
written doctrinal statements and teachings and recorded historical events
are completely trustworthy. Because men live on the plane of history,
revelation and redemption occur on that plane. Because man is made in the
image of God with power to reason and to think, God speaks to man on that
plane. Study, to know the truth rationally and spiritually is no mystical
experience. The leading of the Spirit through the given Word makes the
rational communication of truth dynamic.
Contemporary theology affirms that God communicates
life and not doctrine. But when Jesus promised that the Spirit would lead
His followers into "all truth," this is a form of statement that
must include rational knowledge. Unless human nature is constituted
rationally, it is difficult to see how God can get through to man at all.
For if God is known, but nothing is said, do we not border on mysticism or
spiritualism? Are we not left without an objective test of truth? And if
something is said, but God is not known, is this not mere theoretical
religion? Can there be any communication without knowledge spoken or
written in the form of ideas and statements such as we find in the Bible?
Where there is a meeting of minds, must not a known language be used? If
we deny the function of a known language, of words spoken and written that
can be understood, must we not ignore the mind as an essential part of the
image of God?
What arouses faith is both knowledge and the leading of
the Holy Spirit. The Christian faith involves a rational, intelligent
voice and content from God in the Scriptures. The fundamental issue is
whether God is able to reach man through the faculties with which He has
endowed man at Creation. The real barrier between man and God is sin, not
rational knowledge. We should never forget that man was fashioned at
Creation for moral and spiritual fellowship with God, for an obedience to
His will and to His commandments, spoken and then written by God in
propositional form in two tables of stone.
As a safeguard against all forms of spiritualism and
antinomianism, God gave His word in the Bible as the only source of
trustworthy doctrinal truth. These doctrines and truths bring the mind of
God and the mind of man together. The written word in Scripture is the
infallible voice of God to man.
During the past few years a religious revival has been
sweeping the land. Tens of thousands of people seek some experience with
the supernatural under the terms "God" and "Jesus
Christ." These people are no longer content with a conventional
approach to religion. They seek a deeper awareness and more intimate
knowledge of God. Basic to all this experience the Bible must be
recognized and accepted as the authority.
Men assure us that Christianity is a life, and not a
creed or a doctrine, but an encounter with the supernatural. But there
should be no conflict between correct thinking and correct living; rather
the contrary. To swing the pendulum of belief away from doctrine is not
necessarily to swing nearer to God or to Jesus Christ. The leading of
Christians by the Spirit into "all truth" leaves no doubt as to
the value of Bible teachings. The true contrast that men need to make
between holding a theory of the Christian faith and experiencing it is not
between doctrine and life; for he who "will do his will [the will of
God], he shall know of the doctrine [teaching], whether it be of God"
(John 7:17). This cannot be translated to mean that if the life is right
with Christ, Bible teachings and doctrines are of little or no
consequence. Christ is saying that if men will live in accordance with
Bible truth that they already know, they will have certainty and be led
into more light and truth.
The problem is that men do not transmit the Bible
truths they know into genuine living. The contrast is not between life and
doctrine, but between life that results from true doctrine and that which
results from false doctrine or the absence of doctrine. Obviously, since
the Spirit leads into "all truth," it is not by our faithfulness
to the truth that we become less like Jesus Christ. The issue is not
between the law of love and the law of the Ten Commandments, but between
true and false doctrines. The arguments that have raged and the
differences that have existed on this point through the centuries show the
difference between truth and error, not between a doctrine and a life.
Bible teachings and the rational content of the Bible invariably have been
bulwarks in the church against error and apostasy.
The present state of the world shows a tragic departure
from the objective truths and teachings of the Bible and the moral law of
God. It is unfortunate that professing Christians express doubts as to the
emphasis to be placed on Bible teachings. If this is the way toward the
final spiritual revival in the world and in the church, then is there not
more need to let others know just what we believe and what the Bible
teaches on truth?
The cry "dogmatism" has to do with attitudes
of people, not with teachings. In all modern religious revivals, that
which holds to the Bible doctrines comes nearest to the truth of God. That
religious movement that raises the question, What Bible doctrines and
truths shall we stand upon? is closer to hearing the voice of God than all
claims to unintelligible spiritistic communications. This is one of the
tests of whether one is led by the Spirit, whether one is moving more and
more into the light of God or into darkness.
To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not
according to this word, it is because there is no light in them (Isa.
How much error or departure from the truths of Godís
Word is safe? How much Bible doctrine must be omitted in a
"revival" in order to arrive at love? Just what are modernist
revivalists trying to accomplish? Are they taking refuge in vague terms on
doctrine in the place of Jesus? At this point it may be profitable to ask
whether a religious revival is regarded as successful because of the
truths it contains or the truths it omits?
To proclaim Bible truth in the power of the Spirit is
to challenge people to think and to decide which side to take in the great
controversy between truth and error. The leading of the Spirit is not
promoted by downgrading Bible teachings. Granted that a man can hold
dogmatically to doctrine without the Spirit. But doctrines are never so
cried against by men as when error is breeding and when compromise in the
life is taking place.
The source of the churchís authority is the Bible and
the Spirit. The truth of the Scriptures does not change. Time does not
destroy its relation to life itself. Christians led of the Spirit will
find that the Word of God transforms the life. Obedience in life will be
in accordance with and not contrary to the Word of God.
The doctrines of the Bible have not been twisted to fit
our particular denomination. The church has grown out of commitment to
Bible truth. It is this that must clothe our pulpits with an authority not
based on men. Sound Bible truth will never restrain liberty. Nevertheless,
truth and doctrine of the Bible do limit men. The affirmations we make in
standing on the Word of God are a limit indeed. But so is the law of
gravitation. So are the laws that control the blood in the body. So are
all the other laws in the natural world.
There are no other alternatives. To search the
Scriptures under the leading of the Spirit and to bring oneís life in
accordance with them is vital to our strength. License to believe and to
follow what one chooses can become the most destructive factor in
Christian experience. The church whose doctrines tend in life to
obedience, to purity, to love under the guidance of the Spirit, will be
the church that restores the truth of God to the world. So far as the
great controversy between Christ and Satan is concerned, the deeper and
more diligent our study of Godís Word and obedience to it, the more we
shall give glory to God and fulfill our mission in the world.
The question of right doctrines or teachings is related
to the issue of which church to join; whether the doctrinal tests of
church fellowship shall be undefined and relegated to the inconsequential;
whether men may even call upon Jesus in the darkness of our world. Each
goes in a different direction as far as doctrinal truth is concerned, each
hoping that he will at last arrive at the gates of heaven and gain an
entrance into the kingdom of God.
I suppose it is possible to enlarge the church
membership by slacking-up on or eliminating disturbing doctrines, and thus
bring everyone who names the name of Christ under one church roof.
However, it would be too bad to be led astray by ambiguities on the truth
of God, thinking oneself to be secure while all the time one is actually
adrift from God and headed for eternal darkness and disaster.
There is nothing that he [Satan] desires more than to
destroy confidence in God and in His word.... God has given in His
word.., the great truths which concern our redemption. . . . By the aid
of the Holy Spirit, which is promised to all who seek it in sincerity,
every man may understand these truths for himself. God has granted to
men a strong foundation upon which to rest their faith.óThe
Great Controversy, p. 526.
There should be no conflict between the revealed Word
and the mind of man. The Spirit carries the authority of the Word to the
mind and life of the believer. Being persuaded and enlightened, convicted
and led, the believer is satisfied that God has spoken in His Word. He is
now sure that the only thing for him to do is to obey that Word.
Righteousness in the life and power to obey Godís commandments have
their foundation in Scripture. It is the truth of Scripture that must come
alive, not some other kind of truth. God seeks deeply to influence and
change men by the Word and the Spirit.
There is no optional authority for the Christian. Under
the inspiration of the Spirit, all the books of the Bible were written in
solemn procession to lay their tribute to the truth from God. By the faith
that works by love, by the sense and leading of the Spirit into the truth,
the Christian knows that he has passed from death unto life, from
uncertainty to living truth. He can say with the apostle Paul:
I know who it is in whom I have trusted, and am
confident of his power to keep safe what he has put into my charge,
until the great Day. Keep before you an outline of the sound teaching
which you heard from me, living by the faith and love which are ours in
Christ Jesus. Guard the treasure put into our charge, with the help of
the Holy Spirit dwelling within us (2 Tim. 1: 12-14, N.E.B.).
The Spirit of Power
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes
upon you (Acts 1:8, N.E.B.).
People are often confused about spiritual power. Many
interpret the power of the Holy Spirit in terms of the sensational, in
ways that are removed from the normal everyday experience of the
Christian. The basic Biblical meaning and use of the word is adequacy for
living the abundant life, the sufficiency of divine resources for every
For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of
power, and of love, and of a sound mind (2 Tim. 1:7).
Adequacy for living, love in every relationship, a
balanced, integrated mindówhat tremendous realities to have in oneís
Christian experience! If we had been privileged to meet Christ when He
walked the earth, this is the kind of person and personality we would have
expected Him to be. He was equal to everything.
He put restraint upon His show of power, but gave no
limits to His love, His kindness, His mercy. How totally adequate He was
in living the abundant life that He offered to His followers. In the hour
of trial, suffering, and the loss of all things, even life itself, men of
God through the centuries had this divine adequacy that banished fear,
anxiety, and doubt. They possessed a sound and spiritual mind, a mind
integrated with Christ and with their fellow men.
What was the consequence of the Spiritís outpouring
upon men? We have only to look at the lives of the apostles prior to and
after Pentecost. Previously they were afraid of themselves and the people
around them. With the crucifixion of their Master, a sense of failure and
discouragement possessed their hearts. All was lifeless and powerless. The
best of them were helpless. Then the Spirit came. The disciples poured
forth from the upper room into the streets. Both Jew and Roman tried to
silence their witness. They replied boldly:
Peter and John said to them in reply: "Is it
right in Godís eyes for us to obey you rather than God? Judge for
yourselves. We cannot possibly give up speaking of things we have seen
and heard" (Acts 4:19, 20, N.E.B.).
They defied high priests and the Jewish hierarchy,
Roman kings and procurators. They laughed at difficulties and at the
pressures that came upon them. They displayed a mental, moral, and
spiritual power that confounded their enemies and converted their
listeners. Their holy boldness in the confession of faith in their Lord,
their emotional buoyancy and flaming convictions on the spiritual and
moral issues of their day, captured for Christ the hearts of those around
them. Thousands were converted in a day. The Holy Spirit witnessed through
them as to the power of the gospel.
The Holy Spirit added nothing new to Jesus Christ or to
the Word of God. He added everything to the disciples. He gave their lives
meaning and purpose. The Holy Spirit came not as an incoherent sound, but
as the power of God.
Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and
perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marvelled; and
they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus (Acts 4:13).
There is a divine adequacy and spiritual fitness that
comes to those who are filled with the Holy Spirit. They are not empowered
to startle people, but to convert them. Miracles and shattering upsets are
all to the good in their place and time. But these are not the kind of
things that can be maintained through every waking hour. Christians do not
live and move in such an atmosphere. To find the divine resources adequate
for daily living, to face the truth about themselves because Godís love
never fails, to forget themselves in loving concern for the lost, to bear
witness to their Lord even unto death and face it all with a sense of
assurance, peace, and securityóthat is the power that people need most.
In the whole of the remnant church there is not to be
found a single believer who does not need this fullness of the Spirit.
This need is one of the supreme affirmations of our faith. Without the
Spirit we may build the church externally and increase both our numbers
and our real estate, but we cannot build spiritual life. Without the
Spirit we may gain church members, but it is very doubtful that we can win
people to Christ for eternity.
There is always the danger of "having a form of
godliness, but denying the power thereof" (2 Tim. 3:5). Religion can
be both a form and a power. We can structure our religion intellectually,
formally, organizationally. Religion can be man-made. Men do construct
their own righteousness. We have all done that at times. This was the
basic problem of the Jews whose religion centered in the law. They
believed that the requirements of the law could be met and lived by the
natural life they had.
But man cannot live what he does not have potentially
within him. He can only live what he has intrinsically the power to do.
The power of Christianity is the power of the Holy Spirit. Without
spiritual power, religion is only a form. Sin in the life is a power, not
a form. The form of religion cannot possibly meet the power of sin. There
must be a corresponding power or dynamic. The basic question is: Does the
Christian faith really give people the power to change and transform their
This supreme question of the Christian faith hangs over
life and religion today. Mental assent to truth offers only the form of
religion. The extent of its reach is superficial. Men want a faith that
gives meaning and power to life. The promise of the Spirit offers exactly
When the church is too eager to get across to people
all the doctrines and duties contained in the religious program, the Holy
Spirit may be overlooked. Baptismal classes may communicate religious
information whereby the only response gained is mental agreement and
consent to what has been explained. In such case there is little or no
incentive to commitment. All too often we try to validate and establish
the teachings of church and school without the power of the Spirit.
In these days the church has used all manner of methods
and techniques to communicate the message. She has proclaimed her
doctrines by all kinds of names, sought the right phrases in advertising
the truth. But do we lead the convert to the source of spiritual power?
However fervently we change our music or sing our ditties, are we offering
to people the one thing that can save and transform life, clear the mind
of ignorance and darkness, increase faith, sanctify relationships,
emancipate them from the slavery of sin by a genuine commitment to Christ
and to the control of the Holy Spirit?
Form and respectability in religion are dangerous,
especially when they are of the Laodicean kind. Spiritual progress and
triumph are not the result of soft and superficial amiability. A
spiritless sophistication never leads to great campaigns for Christ. Great
enterprises that bring about the triumph of the everlasting gospel are
possible only by men who have experienced the power of the Spirit in their
own lives. We need to listen not only to clever people but to spiritual
people. We need to give the Holy Spirit His Ďrightful place. The whole
essence of the third angelís message is the conviction that no other
power is available to us than the power of Godís Holy Spirit. Truly all
our hopes are in Christ. The spiritual power is His alone.
Spiritual or Carnal
For my part, my brothers, I could not speak to you as I
should speak to people who have the Spirit. I had to deal with you on the
merely natural plane, as infants in Christ. And so I gave you milk to
drink, instead of solid food, for which you were not yet ready. Indeed,
you are still not ready for it, for you are still on the merely natural
plane. Can you not see that while there is jealousy and strife among you,
you are living on the purely human level of your lower nature? (1 Coy.
In this message to the Corinthians Paul writes of the
contrast that exists between the spiritual and the nonspiritual members in
the church. The Corinthian church was a chief problem church of Paulís
day and of the first century of the Christian era. The members were
divided in their loyalties, being attracted more to men than to Jesus
Christ. They boasted of their worldly wisdom. They were emotionally and
spiritually immature. Paul called them "babes." They had never
grown up. They were motivated by their own selfishness. They seemed unable
to settle their own problems within themselves, so they went to law
against one another
Paul indicated they were building their lives on hay
and stubble, not on Christ the rock. Some of the church members were
libertines engaged in immorality; they had problems in marriage,
indicating the absence of the love by the Holy Spirit. In their worship
they profaned the Lordís Supper. The tongues they claimed to speak were
an embarrassment to the church, not an inspiration. So Paul described the
church members as carnal.
One of the most difficult things for Christians to do
is to learn to live their lives in a right relation to eternal values and
realities. We are no longer to be fashioned according to the world. Our
lives are to be ordered by the divine working of the Holy Spirit. But the
temptation is to seek lifeís meaning on the natural level of the world
and the flesh. Consequently, in the life of the Christian there exists a
spiritual tension created by the flesh and the Spirit.
If you are guided by the Spirit you will not fulfil
the desires of your lower nature. That nature sets its desires against
the Spirit, while the Spirit fights against it. They are in conflict
with one another so that what you will to do you cannot do. But if you
are led by the Spirit, you are not under law.... Those who belong to
Christ Jesus have crucified the lower nature with its passions and
desires. If the Spirit is the source of our life, let the Spirit also
direct our course (Gal. 5:16-18, 24, 25, N.E.B.).
The flesh signifies human nature in its sinful
limitations and weakness, human nature in its sinful state apart from the
Spirit. Paul calls such a person the "natural man," who loves
the present life. The "natural manís" desires are attached to
this world with little desire for heavenly values. He loves the riches and
pleasures of the world more than he loves God.
The spiritual man is entirely different. His
sufficiency is in God. His inner life is possessed and motivated by the
For they that are after the flesh do mind the things
of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the
Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded
is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it
is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they
that are in the flesh cannot please God. 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. 8:5-9).
In this world it is no simple matter to let God be our
all in all. Secularity and carnality plead that attention be given to
earthly pursuits. This is an age of wealth, of teeming plenty, of an
abundance of pleasure, an age full of appeal to sensual excitement. The
lust of the eye and of the flesh is stimulated by every possible medium of
Spirituality does not require the Christian to be
isolated from the world. Neither does it condemn the marvelous riches and
advancements of modern civilization. But it places all these things in
proper perspective. Our faith does not exclude the best in science,
painting, sculpture, architecture, music, and literature. We are free to
appreciate the highest culture as is any man. But we insist upon the
supremacy of the spiritual. We affirm that we can only possess and enjoy
all these things as we are truly Christian and heavenly minded.
With appreciation for all the benefits that God has
given us in our world must come our devotion to the Creator. With
admiration for the beauty of this life must come the beauty of holiness.
With relish for pleasures that are helpful there must be the power to
sacrifice, the willingness to do without all these things for Christís
sake. The Christlike life must have priority. This spiritual way of life
with Christ we must passionately maintain at all costs. Are we prepared to
make this kind of commitment?
There is possible a certain quality of life by virtue
of the Spiritís indwelling. Thereby the Christian becomes a higher
species of the human race. The spiritual man has within him the life force
that belongs to God. He lives always in newness of the Spirit, not in the
oldness of the letter (see Rom. 7:6). Christians are to be spiritually the
richest people, the most radiant and dedicated people on earth. Life is
filled with the love of God and the fruits of the Spirit.
But the harvest of the Spirit is love, joy, peace,
patience, kindness, goodness, fidelity, gentleness, and self-control
(Gal. 5:22, 23, N.E.B.).
These verses identify the spiritual man. They affirm
some of the great and commanding words of the spiritual life. They speak
of a divine power and beauty of life that transcend the superficiality of
things. This new, spiritual life is like a resurrection from the dead. The
Holy Spirit bids us rise to the fullness in Christ. The spiritual man
finds it impossible to desire and enjoy the cheap, l the ugly, the impure,
and the superficial. Christian refinement, gentleness, and all the graces
of the Spirit are not born of sluggish, flippant thinking, of idle and
shallow observation. By the Holy Spirit, God has made Christlikeness
possible. What is impossible for the natural man is now possible through
the Spirit. The Christian has the i mind of Christ.
"Things beyond our seeing, things beyond our
hearing, things beyond our imagining, all prepared by God for those who
love him," these it is that God has revealed to us through the
This is the Spirit that we have received from God,
and not the spirit of the world, so that we may know all that God of his
own grace has given us; and, because we are interpreting spiritual
truths to those who have the Spirit, we speak of these gifts of God in
words found for us not by our human wisdom but by the Spirit. A man who
is unspiritual refuses what belongs to the Spirit of God; it is folly to
him; he cannot grasp it, because it needs to be judged in the light of
the Spirit. A man gifted with the Spirit can judge the worth of
everything (1 Cor. 2:9, 10, 12-15, N.E.B.).
There is a kinship between us and Christ that nothing
can destroy. In spite of the increased awareness of tendencies to sin and
self, the battle is not lost. We are sure of the power of God. We know He
will work out what He has put within us by the Spirit. We continually
reach up to God in prayer.
Because Christ kept His word and sent the Holy Spirit
to abide with us, we are sure of the sufficiency applied to us. The
everlasting love of God for us, the eternal vigilance of the angels toward
us, the heavenly ministry of Christ, all unite us with supernatural power.
For those who put their trust in Him, it is impossible
that they should be lost and defeated at last. Without doubt and without
controversy, we are tied to God with unbreakable bonds. Amid all the
temptations and trials of earth, we know and experience the inexhaustible
power and support of the everlasting arms of God. To this end we daily
surrender our lives to God, intelligently, wholeheartedly. We pledge our
allegiance to be obedient to all His will and to His Word. We daily open
our lives to be filled with the love of God.
The Spirit of Love
Godís love has flooded our inmost heart through the
Holy Spirit he has given us (Rom. 5:5, N.E.B.).
The primary thing, the essential, spiritual thing in
Christian experience, is the ability to love as Christ loved. This is the
test by which God seeks to present Himself to the world and to the
And we have known and believed the love that God hath
to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and
God in him (1 John 4:16).
This is the focal point from which we take our bearings
Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God;
and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that
loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. In this was manifested the
love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into
the world, that we might live through him. Herein is love, not that we
loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation
for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one
another (1 John 4:7-1 1).
The third angelís message is never the word of God in
isolation. We do not experience truth in cold words. We do not proclaim
the truth by some formal statement. Because love has been shed abroad in
our hearts by the Holy Spirit, suddenly Christ is present in our lives.
A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one
another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this
shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to
another (John 13:34, 35).
Christian maturity involves, then, progress in our
capacity to love. This is the most difficult thing to affirm. . . If
Christian experience means anything at all it is also the most
difficult to deny there can be no Christian life at all unless
there is some real meaning in progress . . . to express loveóDANIEL
D. WILLIAMS, Godís Grace and Manís Hope (New York:
Harper and Bros. Publishers, 1949), pp. 195, 196.
Love alone makes total response and personal
involvement possible. Love is the point of no return. God is not giving us
theological lectures in the Bible. He is giving us Himself. God involved
Himself with the whole human race of sinners in the giving of His Son.
That was Godís total response to us all. God does not stand afar off to
achieve His purpose merely by legislation.
Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of
them shall not fall on the ground without your Father. But the very
hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear ye not therefore, ye are of
more value than many sparrows (Matt. 10:29-31).
The most incomparable thing in all the world is the
coming of the love of God into the human heart. We cannot command
ourselves to love. We can only respond to a love that is given. "We
love Him because He first loved us." All men, even in the midst of
their sinfulness and despair, are encircled by Godís love. His eternal
concern for His children meets our need for self-worth and meaning. God
affirms our integrity as sons and daughters of God. He never stops loving
us. Therefore we can open our entire life to God, with all its moral,
emotional, and spiritual problems, and be absolutely secure in doing it.
We can really face the truth about ourselves without fear and anxiety; and
in the process of being loved, healing takes place.
The divine imperative to love is fulfilled by the love
with which we are embraced. We are no longer preoccupied with ourselves
under the pressure of laws and rules. The very reality of actually
belonging to God, at one with Him, makes obedience a delight and sacrifice
Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of
the Lord is, there is liberty (2 Cor. 3:17).
There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth
out fear (1 John 4:18).
Where love reigns there can be no slavery, no
exploitation. Love means dependence. At the same time it gives freedom.
Our integrity is safe where Christian love reigns. Our sense of selfworth
and well-being is increased and never suppressed. We are fulfilled, not
Love is patient; love is kind and envies no one. Love
is never boastful, nor conceited, nor rude; never selfish, not quick to
take offence. Love keeps no score of wrongs; does not gloat over other
menís sins, but delights in the truth. There is nothing love cannot
face; there is no limit to its faith, its hope, and its endurance (1
Cor. 13:4-7, N.E.B.).
We know that any real inner change is beyond ourselves
to accomplish. But because God loves us, we can accept ourselves. In the
presence of such an everlasting love we can face our inner problems
truthfully. At the same time we experience the way in which God cares for
us and loves us. "God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while
we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" (Rom. 5:8).
The Christian life is a life fully exposed to Christ
without pretense or hypocrisy. No one can really be safe unless he permits
Christ to cleanse and redeem the innermost parts of his soul. We need the
love of God to break through our selfishness and the ugliness of our
resentments and hostility. How is it possible that we should learn to love
as Christ loved, with all our imperfections and sinfulness? Because love
is a response to a life and a love so wonderful, so irresistible in Jesus
Such a love makes us debtors to all men. The cry of the
human race is to be truly loved. Manís great hunger is for this abundant
life and redeeming love. The soul of man is not redeemed by passing
fantasies. Under loveís redeeming power men awake to a new life of
liberty, gladness, and hope. Eternal love must be our inspiration, our
strength, and our greatest commodity. Then loveís triumph will be
"As scripture hath said, out of his belly shall
flow rivers of living water" (John 7:38). Wherever a clean river
flows it imparts life. To overflow with the Holy Spirit means that divine
life possesses us. It springs forth in a vital ministry to others. We are
able ministers, not of the letter which kills, but of the Spirit that
gives life (see 2 Cor. 3:6). The Spirit-led Christian is at odds with all
that is death to the life, to the mind, to the family, and to the church.
His witness pours forth as a river, shedding spiritual vitality, healing
the sick mind, restoring the waning love.
What more fitting symbol of the Spirit-filled life is
there than that of a bounding river. As the river takes its rise in the
high places of the earth, so the river of life by the Spirit issues from
the mountaintops of Godís redeeming love and grace. To be filled with
the Spirit makes life to sing and to shed abroad the beauty of Jesus