THE WICKET GATE
Chapter 2.....The Holy Spirit
"And because ye are, sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of His Son, into your hearts, crying Abba Father."
Galatians, ch. 4, verse 6.
AND because ye are sons! Sonship then is the gateway into the experience of the Spirit and if there is one truth more than another that the new convert should at least apprehend, it is that of the Spirit. Without some understanding of the Spirit the Christian life will be one of frequent failure, uncertain growth and possible collapse. Many go back into the world not because they have renounced their faith in Jesus Christ but because they have never known the secret of the Spirit. Once this truth is understood, believed and acted upon, the possibilities of backsliding are limited but without it the disciple will always be in grievous peril.
In proposing to cover such a theme in one chapter, I am attempting the almost impossible; but certain lines may be laid down which will prepare the way for further reflection upon the teaching of the Word of God upon the Spirit. It will be helpful if we can understand clearly the relationship of the Holy Spirit to the individual believer; what are the purposes for which the Spirit comes into relationship with the believer; and finally, how each one of us may co-operate with the Spirit for the fulfilment of those purposes. Three words will assist us. The first is:
How does a person come into relationship with the Holy Spirit? Is it accidental, emotional, institutional, ritualistic or optional? Some think that the Spirit comes unsought and even undesired. The figure of the wind used by our Lord is interpreted too narrowly and out of relation to other passages of Scripture. Many are sure it is an experience vested in the emotions. Large numbers are sure that the Spirit is experienced within certain institutions only, and then in association with some defined ritual. Others think that the subject is relatively unimportant and that the simple Christian need not trouble about these theological issues. Some of these views are definitely erroneous, and not one of them is adequate.
Three passages of Scripture will be sufficient to establish the relationship of the Holy Spirit to the believer. Our Lord is quoted by John (ch. 16, verse 7), " Nevertheless I tell you the truth; it is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart I will send Him unto you." Peter on the day of Pentecost (Acts ch. 2, verse 33) declared, "Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He hath shed forth this which ye now see and hear." Paul wrote to the Galatians the verse at the head of this chapter. Thus we have the teaching of our Lord, of Peter and of Paul. It may be interesting to study the Fathers, the creeds and tradition but we cannot disbelieve the teaching of the Lord Himself and of His apostles.
As part of the commission of "all power " granted to the Ascended Lord, He became a life-giving Spirit (l Corinthians ch. 15, verse 45). He as the Incorruptible Man in heaven, the "last Adam," has the ability to give forth from His own Being in heaven, the Holy Spirit. The Lord is a Person, and the Spirit is a Person. The Second Man in heaven imparts the Third Person in the Trinity to persons on earth who, through faith in Christ, are disciples, partakers of the Divine nature, sons of God by redemption. No person receives the Holy Spirit by any ceremony, nor is the gift of the Spirit conditioned by any person save the Lord in heaven and the child of God on earth. It is impossible that any other person should be essential to the imparting of Spirit from the Son in Heaven to the child of God on earth.
Now all this is very important and demands simple and sincere acceptance in faith. The Holy Spirit is imparted by Jesus in heaven to every person on earth who, willingly renouncing his or her sin, receives Him as Saviour. The passage in Galatians clearly indicates that as surely as God sent His Son into the world so surely He has through His Son sent the Spirit of the Son into the heart of the believer. The Incarnation of Bethlehem is followed by the incarnation in the heart of the believer. The one is as experimentally real as the other is historically true. God sent both the Son and the Spirit; and the two sendings are inseparable. Bethlehem and Pentecost are both the mighty acts of God in the Person of His Son. The Scriptures declare that "He that hath the Son hath the life." This life is brought to the believer in the Person of the Holy Spirit. He is God's advocate within our hearts, and maintains that holy life within. Our human life therefore is not obliterated but rather brought under the control and direction of the Spirit; if we will. This then is the basis of our spiritual constitution: the Lord Jesus Christ is our Advocate in heaven and He has sent the Holy Spirit to every believer to be God's Advocate in the redeemed heart. " Greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world " (1 John, ch. 4, verse 4). The second word is:
For what purpose is the Spirit given? The question is important because His ministry is precise and exclusive. Only as we are in line with the purposes of the Spirit can we invoke in faith His power and grace. The believer should learn very quickly that devising ways and means of doing good and thereupon seeking the blessing of God upon our doings is altogether vain. On the contrary it is our business to know the lines of the Spirit's activity and so, in obedience to His ministry prove His power. What saith the Scriptures? The new believer should carefully read from the Bible what it has to say about the ministry of the Spirit.
The following references are by no means complete but they will be sufficient to initiate the investigation:
The special point the new convert must bear in mind is that such ministries as are thus indicated in the Scriptures are ministries beyond the power of the believer to accomplish in human strength. He is the all-powerful Spirit coming within the believer with the life and power of God to achieve those ends of God that are superhuman. Beyond all else He is the Holy Spirit. The root idea of holiness is separation: He comes to dwell within us, joined to us for all those purposes of holiness that are the Divine passion, and for nothing else. Now if the constitution of the Spirit and of the believer is clear, and we see also from Scripture something of the nature of His commission, why He is thus communicated to the believer we can now consider the methods of:
It is possible for anyone to hold in their hands a valuable instrument which is useless if we do not know how to use it effectively. You could present a native in the Congo with a dynamo and he would leave it to rust through sheer ignorance of its use and purpose. In the same way a professing Christian may read passages of Scripture concerning the Holy Spirit--the Spirit bringing Divine omnipotence to a human life,-- and yet remain incapable and inert. When I was in the Congo I arrived with the missionary and his wife at their Station about 7 o'clock in the evening. This particular station was wired for electricity but unfortunately there had been trouble with the generating plant. The house had electric lamps in every room, but they were quite useless and candles and lamps had to be brought into service. But in the missionary's absence the new plant had arrived. Very quickly the engine was got out of the casing, linked up, the petrol poured in and was working! What a delight it was to suddenly see all the lights go on, scattering the darkness and enabling us to move about from room to room! Had I been by myself I could never have managed to fix up everything as the missionary did, and in the darkness some prowling leopard might have been glad to make intimate acquaintance with me! Co-operation with the Spirit is all-important. How the Spirit works with the believer, to what ends, and what the believer must do, are matters of the greatest practical importance. Let me therefore suggest one or two simple principles for the new convert.
First, there must be a sense of one's own weakness and insufficiency. "Apart from Me, ye can do nothing, " declared our Lord to His disciples. We are helpless. " How shall this be?" exclaimed Mary when Gabriel declared to her the Divine commission to be the mother of the world's Redeemer. She was utterly helpless and knew it, but Gabriel had the answer: "the Holy Spirit." Therefore as you think of entering into truth, of living a life of victory over sin, of growing into the likeness of Christ, let the sense of your utter impotence be real and dominant in the heart.
Secondly, you must humbly thank God that He has given you the Holy Spirit to achieve in your life all those ministries to which the Scriptures bear record. This is the reason for the incarnating of the Spirit in the believer that He may do in every one of us that which of ourselves we have not the slightest power to achieve. You must link your will with the will of the Spirit and therefore thanking God for the gift of the Spirit you must will these things in the Spirit that are impossible for you in the flesh.
Thirdly, the Spirit of God works in the believer not as the believer trusts the Spirit but as the believer trusts the Lord Jesus in heaven. The Spirit works in co-operation with the Glorified Lord, and as we exercise our simple faith in the Lord in heaven, the Spirit works within the heart. There does not appear to be any intuitive method by which the believer may be in communion with the Holy Spirit within him; all is accomplished as the believer lifts his eyes heavenward. Even as He does so, the Spirit will make Jesus real and as Jesus is real to faith, so the Spirit will be powerful in experience. While Peter, walking on the sea, kept his eyes on Jesus all was well but when he looked at the troubled waters he sank. The eye must be, not on our circumstances, but on our Saviour in heaven and as the eye of faith is centred on Him the Spirit will accomplish a full and ever increasing ministry in the heart. Ask the Lord in heaven to lead you into all the truth and then as you read the Word, the Spirit will enlighten the mind. Ask the Lord to give you the power to overcome temptation and as you take up the attitude of resistance, in faith in Him keeping the eyes on Him, the Spirit will endue you with all needed power within for victory.
One or two considerations may fittingly close this brief study. The Spirit of God is unwilling to exercise a partial ministry. It is useless to desire the Spirit to lead you into truth if you do not desire Him to lead you into holiness. You cannot have power to lead souls to Christ if you have no desire for power to be humble and patient and longsuffering. As we desire the full ministry of the Spirit so we may be sure of the special ministry of the Spirit in any situation of need. That is to say you must desire all the work of the Spirit, always, in all places and amongst all persons. Many Christians will be conscious of failure in this respect.
Then the Spirit is given for the ends of God and those ends alone. This means that the believer must be knowingly obedient to God. The Spirit will refuse to be a teacher to Christians who have no desire to be obedient or who will fear to launch out in Divine strength for what seems to be the impossible. Once the Lord knows that in our hearts is a most serious intention to fulfil His will at all cost, then the Spirit will be unfailing in every kind of need. All failure, all backsliding is due to a breakdown in these relationships, to lack of desire, unbelief, failure to read the Word, and inertia in laying hold of our Mighty Advocate in heaven. But where the weakest Christian takes the Heavenly Lord in the fullness of His promises, he shall be more than a conqueror in all places and at all times.
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