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"They were all filled with the Holy Spirit" (Acts 2:4).
Whenever we speak of being filled with the Holy Spirit, and desire to know what it precisely is, our thoughts always turn back to the day of Pentecost. There we see as in a mirror how glorious the blessing is that is brought from heaven by the Holy Spirit and with which He can fill the hearts of men.
There is one fact which makes the great event of the day of Pentecost doubly instructive this namely, that we have learned to know very intimately the men who were then filled with the Spirit, by their fellowship for three years with the Lord Jesus. Their infirmities and defects, their sins and perversities, all stand open to our view. But the blessing of Pentecost wrought a complete transformation. They became entirely new men, so that one might say of them with truth: "Old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new" (2 Cor. 5:17). Close study of them and their example helps us in more than one way. It shows us to what weak and sinful men the Spirit will come. It teaches us how they were prepared for the blessing.
It teaches us also and this is the principal thing how mighty and complete the revolution is that is brought to pass when the Holy Spirit is received in His fullness. It lets us see how glorious the grace that awaits us is if we press on to the full blessing of Pentecost.
The ever-abiding presence and indwelling of the Lord Jesus.
In this we have the first and principal blessing of the Pentecostal life. In the course of our Lords dealings with His disciples on earth He spared no pains to teach and train them, to renew and sanctify them. In most respects, however, they remained just what they were. The reason was that up to this point He was nothing more than an external Christ who stood outside of them and from without sought to work upon them by His word and His personal influence. With the advent of Pentecost this condition was entirely changed.
In the Holy Spirit He came down as the inward, indwelling Christ, to become in the very innermost recesses of their being the life of their life. This is what He Himself had promised in the words: "I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you
. At that day ye shall know that I am in My Father, and ye in Me, and I in you" (John 14:18,20).
This was the source of all the other blessings that came with Pentecost. Jesus Christ, the crucified, the glorified, the Lord from heaven, came in spiritual power, by the Spirit, to impart to them that ever-abiding presence of their Lord that had been promised to them. And that was in a way that was most intimate, all-powerful, and wholly divine: by the indwelling which makes Him in truth their life. Him whom they had had in the flesh, living with them on earth, they now received by the Spirit in His heavenly glory within them! Instead of an outward Jesus near them, they now obtained the inward Jesus within them.
The Spirit of Jesus came into them as the life and the power of sanctification.
This springs from the first and principal blessing. Here I shall allude at the outset to only one feature in this change. We know how often the Lord had to rebuke them for their pride and exhort them to humility. It was all of no avail. Even on the last night of His earthly life, at the table of the Holy Supper, there was a strife amongst them as to which of them should be the greatest (Luke 22:24).
The outward teaching of the outward Christ, whatever other influences it may have exercised, was not sufficient to redeem them from the power of indwelling sin. This could be achieved only by the indwelling Christ. Only when Jesus descended into them by the Holy Spirit did they undergo a complete change. They received Him in His heavenly humility and subjection to the Father, and in His self-sacrifice for others, as their life. Henceforth all was changed. From that moment onwards they were animated by the spirit of the meek and lowly Jesus.
This in very truth is still the only way to a real sanctification, to a life that actually overcomes sin. Many preachers and many Christians keep their minds occupied only with the external Christ on the cross or in heaven, and wait for the blessing of His teaching and His working without understanding that the blessing of Pentecost brings Him into us, to work Himself all in us. Because of this, they make little progress in sanctification. Christ Himself is of God made unto us sanctification: and that in no other way than by our living and being moved and existing in Him, because He lives and abides in our heart and works all there (1 Cor. 1:30).
An overflowing of the heart with the love of God.
This also is a part of the blessing of Pentecost. Next to pride, lack of love or as we may put it in one word, lovelessness was the sin for which the Lord had so often to rebuke His disciples. These two sins have in truth one and the same root: the self-seeking I, the desire for self-pleasing. The new commandment that He gave them, the token whereby all men should know that they were His disciples, was love to one another (John 13:35).
How gloriously was it manifested on the day of Pentecost that the Spirit of the Lord shed abroad His love in the hearts of His own. The multitude of them that believed were as one heart, one soul. All things they possessed were held in common. No one said that anything of that which he had was his own. The kingdom of heaven with its life of love had come down to them. The spirit, the disposition, the wonderful love of Jesus, filled them, because He Himself had come into them.
How closely the mighty working of the Spirit and the indwelling of the Lord Jesus are bound up with a life in love appears from the prayer of Paul in behalf of the Ephesians. He asks that they might be strengthened with power by the Spirit, in order that Christ might dwell in their hearts. Then he forthwith makes this addition: "that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, may be strong to apprehend the love of Christ which passeth knowledge" (Eph. 3:17-19).
The filling with the Spirit and the indwelling of Christ bring of themselves a life that has its root, its joy, its power, its evidence in love, because the indwelling Christ Himself is Love. O how would the love of God fill the Church and convince the world that she has received a heavenly element into her life, if the filling with the Spirit and the indwelling of Christ in the heart were recognized as the blessing which the Father has promised us!
The coming of the Spirit changed weakness and fear into courage and power.
We all know how, from fear rising in his heart at the word of a woman, Peter denied his Lord, and how that same night all the disciples fled and forsook Him. Their hearts were really attached to Him, and they were sincerely willing to do what they had promised and go to die with Him. But when it came to the crisis, they had neither courage nor power. They had to say: "To will is present with me, but to perform that which is good I find not" (Rom. 7:18).
After the blessing of the Spirit of Pentecost, there was no more question of merely willing apart from performing. By Christ dwelling in us God works both the willing and the doing (Phil. 2:13). With what confidence of spirit did Peter on the day of Pentecost dare to preach the Crucified One to thousands of hostile Jews. With what boldness was he able in opposition to the leaders of the people, to say, "We ought to obey God rather than men" (Acts 5:29).
With what courage and joy were Stephen and Paul and so many others enabled to encounter threatening and suffering and death. They did this even triumphantly. It was because the Spirit of Christ, the Victor yes, the Christ Himself, who had been glorified dwelt within them. It is the joy of the blessing of Pentecost that gives courage and power to speak for Jesus, because by it the whole heart is filled with Him.
The blessing of Pentecost makes the whole Word of God new.
How distinctly do we see this fact in the case of the disciples. As with all the Jews of that age, their ideas of the Messiah and the kingdom of God were utterly external and carnal. All the instruction of the Lord Jesus throughout three long years could not detach their minds from them. They were utterly unable to comprehend the doctrine of a suffering and dying Messiah or the hope of His invisible spiritual dominion. Even after His resurrection He had to rebuke them for their unbelieving spirit and their backwardness in understanding the Scriptures.
With the coming of the day of Pentecost an entire change took place. The whole of their ancient Scriptures opened up before them. The light of the Holy Spirit in them illumined the Word. In the preaching of Peter and Stephen, in the addresses of Paul and James, we see how a divine light had shone upon the Word of the Old Testament. They saw everything through the Spirit of this Jesus who had made His abode with them.
So will it be also with ourselves. It is as necessary as it is helpful that we should study the Scriptures and meditate upon them, and keep the Word of God alike in head and heart and daily walk. Let us, however, constantly remember that it is only when we are filled with the Spirit that we can rightly and fully experience the spiritual power and truth of the Word. He is "the Spirit of truth." He alone guides into all truth when He dwells in us (John 14:17; 16:13).
It is the blessing of Pentecost that gives power to bless others.
The divine power of the exalted Jesus to grant repentance and the forgiveness of sins is exercised by Him through His servants whom He sends forth to proclaim these blessings. The minister of the Gospel who desires to preach repentance and forgiveness through Jesus with success in winning souls, must do the work in the power of the Spirit of this Jesus.
The chief reason why so much preaching of conversion and pardon is fruitless lies in the fact that these elements of truth are presented only as a doctrine. Preachers endeavor to secure a way to the hearts of their audience in the power of merely human earnestness and reasoning and eloquence. But little blessing is won by these means.
It is the man that makes it his chief desire to be filled with the Spirit of God, and then by faith in the indwelling of Christ comes to be assured that the glorified Lord will speak and work in him, who will obtain blessing. It is true, indeed, that this blessing will not always be given in the very same measure or in the very same manner, but it will always certainly come, just because the preacher permits the Lord to work in and through him. Alike in preaching and in the daily life of a servant of Christ, the full blessing of Pentecost is the sure way of becoming a blessing to others. "He that believeth in Me," said Jesus, "out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water" (John 7:38). This He said of the Holy Spirit. A heart filled with the Spirit will overflow with the Spirit.
It is the blessing of Pentecost that will make the Church of Christ what God would have her be.
We have spoken of what the Spirit will do in individual believers. We have also to think of what the blessing will be when the Church as a whole shall apprehend her calling to be filled with the Spirit, and then to exhibit the life and the power yes, and the very presence of her Lord to the world. We must not only seek and receive this blessing, every one for himself, but we must also remember that the full manifestation of what the blessing itself is, cannot be given until the whole body of Christ be filled with it.
"If one member suffers, all the members suffer with it" (1 Cor. 12:26). If many members of the Church of Christ are content to remain without this blessing, the whole Church will suffer. Even in individual disciples the blessing cannot come to its full manifestation. Hence it is of the utmost importance that we should not only think of what the being "filled with the Spirit" means for ourselves, but also consider what it will do for the Church, especially in our own neighborhood, and by her for all the world.
To this end, let us simply recall the morning of the day of Pentecost. At that juncture the Christian Church in Jerusalem consisted only of one hundred and twenty disciples, most of them unlearned fishermen, publicans and humble women, an insignificant and despised gathering (Acts 1:15). Yet it was just by these believers that the kingdom of God had to be proclaimed and extended, and they did it. By them, and those who were added to them, the power of Jewish prejudice and of pagan hardness of heart was overcome, and the Church of Christ won glorious triumphs.
This grand result was achieved simply and only because the first Christian Church was filled with the Spirit. The members of it gave themselves wholly to their Lord. They allowed themselves to be filled and consecrated, governed and used only by Him. They yielded themselves to Him as instruments of His power. He dwelt in them and wrought in them all His wondrous deeds.
It is to this same experience that the Church of Christ in our age must be brought back. This is the only thing that will help her in the conflict with mere civilization or paganism, with sin or the world. She must be filled with the Spirit.
One Thing Needful
Beloved fellow Christians, this summons comes to you. "One thing is needful" (Luke 10:42). Alike for yourselves and the whole Church of the Lord, this is the one thing that is needful: we have to be filled with the Spirit. Please do not imagine that you must comprehend or understand it all before you seek and find it. For those who wait upon Him God will do even that which has not yet entered into their heart to conceive.
If you would taste the happiness, if you would know by personal experience the unutterable blessedness of having Jesus in the heart, of having in you His Spirit of holiness and humility, of love and self-sacrifice, of courage and power, as naturally and continuously as you have your own spirit; if you would have the Word of God in you as light and power, and be enabled to carry it about as a blessing for others; if you would see the Church of Christ stand forth arrayed in her first splendor then separate yourselves from everything that is evil. Cast evil utterly out of your heart, and fix your desire on this one thing: to be filled with the Spirit of God. Reckon upon receiving this as your rightful heritage. Appropriate it and hold it fast by faith. It shall certainly be given you.
From The Full Blessing Of Pentecost by Andrew Murray.