3 (Three) Fold Secret ot the Holy Spirit
James H. McConkey
I. THE SECRET OF HIS INCOMING
UNION WITH CHRIST
This Jesus…having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost. Acts 2:32, 33.
But of Him are ye in Christ Jesus. I Cor. 1:30.
In whom…ye were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise. Eph 1: 13
The Abundant Life.
“I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it MORE ABUNDANTLY.”
As the west-bound traveler speeds over the Alleghenies, his watchful gaze can hardly fail to note the gleaming surface of a little artiﬁcial lake whose azure-tinted waters mirroring the skies above, add much to the beauty of the great railroad system which spans our native state. This lakelet, embosomed in the depths of the mountains, is the reservoir which furnishes water to a busy neighboring city, and is fed by a mountain stream of modest supply. In the drought “of last summer the inﬁlling streams dwindled to a tiny thread; the waters of the reservoir sank to their lowest limits; and all the ills of a protracted water famine, with its constant menace to health and home, beset the city. The most rigid economy was urged by the authorities; the water was cut off save for a few hours per day; and the scant supply of precious ﬂuid was carefully husbanded against emergencies. Not a hundred miles from this city lies a smaller one nestling also among the mountains. In its very center bursts forth a natural fountain of unlimited abundance and marvelous beauty. In the same summer of disastrous drought this famous spring without abating one jot of its wondrous ﬂow or sinking one inch below the lip of its encircling embankment, furnished the thirsty city with fullest supply and then still outﬂowed over its waste-weir a sparkling, leaping stream of unstinted copiousness, earning right royally the privilege not only of refreshing with its water, but of christening with its own name the city of “The Beautiful Fountain.” The larger city, in truth had water. But the smaller one had it “more abundantly.” The scanty rivulet that trickled into the reservoir was barely enough to save from keen thirst. But the living bubbling fountain, pouring out its liquid wealth in prodigal ﬂow for its native town, had left still enough to slake the thirst of a city many times the size of its greater neighbor.
Even so is it with the life of the Holy Spirit in God’s children. Some have His indwelling life only as the trickling stream with scarce enough to keep and refresh them at times of test and stress, and never knowing what His fullness means. Others there are in whom the words of Jesus are joyously fulﬁlled: “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly” (more aboundingly). Not only are they ﬁlled with the Spirit in their own inner life, but they overﬂow in abundant, outgiving blessing to the hungry and thirsty lives about them that seek to know the secret of their refreshing. Sorrow comes, but it cannot rob them of their great peace. Dark grow the days, but their child-like faith abounds more and more. Heavily fall the afﬂictive blows but like the oil well which, under the blow of the explosive, gives forth a more abundant ﬂow because of the very shattering of its rocky reservoir, so their lives only pour out an ever increasing and enriching volume of blessing upon those about them. An unceasing stream of prayer ﬂows from their hearts. Praise leaps as instinctively and artlessly from their lips as glad song bursts from the soaring skylark. Trust has become a second nature; joy is its natural outcome; and ceaseless service springs not from the bondage of duty but as the gracious response of love. They are not like dry pumps, needing to be aided by others through impoured draughts of exhortation and stimulation ere they will give forth their scant supply. They are rather deep-driven artesian wells, spontaneous, constant, spirit-ﬂowing. In them the Master’s words have been fulﬁlled: “The water which I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.”
Such were the lives of the apostles after the eventful day of Pentecost; transformed from timid, self-seeking, hesitating followers to bold, sacriﬁcing, heroic messengers of Jesus Christ; preaching his gospel with wondrous power, joy, and effectiveness. Such was Stephen “FULL of faith and the Holy Ghost;” and Barnabas “FULL of the Holy Ghost and of faith.” Paul swept to and fro in his great missionary journeys “FILLED with the Holy Ghost.” Such was Charles Finney preaching the word of life with ﬁery earnestness born of a mighty FULLNESS of the Spirit. Such were Edwards, and Moody, and multitudes of others; and such an abundant life as this does God hold out to all His children as their birthright, their lawful inheritance. In His picture of its precious fruitage (Gal. 5:22, 23), we see it to be a life of
See the apostles ﬁlled with burning zeal to give the gospel of Christ’s love to all. Mark Stephen’s intense love for souls. Behold Peter’s glowing heart and fervent testimonies now well attesting his earnest assertion, “Yea, Lord, thou knowest that I love thee.” Mark the man of Tarsus, consumed with such a love for dying men as naught but God could inspire, and none but God could surpass. His great throbbing heart is too small a fountain to contain; his thrilling, burning words too weak a bridge to convey; his weak, toil-spent body too feeble a tabernacle to incarnate all the fulness of his passionate love for souls. So too Brainerd toils, fasts, weeps and dies for his Indians, because of the divine Love within him. Judson is driven from the land of his choice; is bafﬂed again and again in his efforts to obtain a foothold in Burma; languishes in prison amid unspeakable horrors and sufferings, yet the ﬂame of Love never abates. Livingstone travels through a pathless wilderness; endures untold hardships; is broken hearted by the vision of the infamy and anguish of the slave trafﬁc; yet, dying upon his knees in holy prayer Love burns more intensely than in the days of his youth. Paton exiles himself among the cannibals; faces difﬁculties that would daunt the most daring; labors with patience, prays with mighty faith; suffers with unmurmuring fortitude, reaps with joy unspeakable; and then girdles the earth in his travels, his heart all the while pulsating with the Spirit’s own mighty Love.
Whose heart has not thrilled at the story of Delia, the sin-marred queen of the Mulberry street dive, and of her rescue from a life of shame? Yet it was the burning love of Christ in her heart which led Mrs. Whittemore to seek to save this lost one. It was love that breathed out the earnest prayer over the spotless rose and offered it to the erring one. It was love that drew the poor girl to the Door of Hope in the hour of her conviction. It was love the welcomed her, wept over her, and melted her heart with contrition and repentance. And then Love begat Love. For saved to the uttermost, this rescued one broke the alabaster box of her redeemed life as an offering of sweetest savor at the feet of Him whose Love had saved her, and went forth to tell the story of the Love to others. In prisons, in the slums, in street meetings, wherever this ransomed one told the story of Him who loved us and gave Himself for us, the kindling love of the Holy Ghost so ﬁred her soul that strong, sin-hardened men, bowing and sobbing under her thrilling, impassioned words, were swept by scores into the kingdom of God. For one brief year the love-life of God streamed, brimful through the open channel of her surrendered being; quickening, thrilling and inspiring all with whom she came in touch, and then she went to Him who was the fountain of her life of Abounding Love.
In an interior city dwells a friend “grappled to our souls with hooks of steel” in the precious bonds of the kinship that is in Christ Jesus. By the grace of God he has been wonderfully saved from a life of scofﬁng, derisive, soul-destroying inﬁdelity. For days and weeks at a time he will be engaged in the busy, loving ministrations of a secular profession. Then, without warning the Holy Ghost will suddenly lay upon him the burden of lost souls. Driven by the Spirit to the seclusion of his own chamber, the love of God for the lost will so ﬂood his being that for hours at a time he will lie upon his face sobbing out his broken petitions to God for their salvation. Then, going forth into the surrounding country with mighty, convicting messages, from a heart overﬂowing with the abundant Love-life of his Master, he preaches the gospel of Christ in the needy places. In the few short years since his conversion God has given to this devoted servant over six hundred souls as the fruitage of the life of Abundant Love. Beloved, are we walking in this Abounding Love-life? Do we know its power, joy, and fullness? If not, we are falling short of the high calling of Him who came that we might have love not meagerly, but have it ABUNDANTLY.
Again it is a life of…
“The fruit of the Spirit is peace.” (Gal. 5:22.) “The peace OF GOD…shall keep your hearts and minds.” (Phil. 4:7.) “MY peace I leave with you.” (John 14:27.)
Here rises up here the vision of a lovely mid-summer forenoon. As we lay quietly resting, the inside shutters of the window under the puff of a passing breeze suddenly opened. Straightaway there lay before our gaze a beautiful picture of a sky of cloudless blue; green hills stretching away in the dim distance; and noble river smiling and tossing its sparkling waves in the broad path of the sunlight. A moment the vision lingered and then, under the ﬁtful gust of a contrary breeze, the shutters suddenly slammed shut. At once all the glory and beauty of the scene vanished, and stayed hidden until another ﬂow of wind again disclosed its loveliness, only to be followed anew by its disappearance. Even thus, we thought, is the peace of the natural heart. For awhile, when all goes well and plans prosper, our hearts are content and at peace. But let a gust of adverse fortune, a bafﬂing of some favorite purpose befall us, and at once peace vanishes and anxious care broods in its place. Peace indeed we have, but its manifestation is inconsistent and ﬁckle, ﬁlling us one day with rest, leaving us the next in darkness and hopelessness. What a contrast with this is the peace of the Abundant Spirit-life! For there is a peace which “passeth all understanding,” and, - as one has well said - “all misunderstanding;” a peace which keeps us, not we it; a peace of which it is said “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on thee;” a peace which, because born not of an outer calm, but an inner Christ, cannot be disturbed by sting or storm. It is the peace of the fullness of the Spirit. The sea has a surface which tosses, and frets, foams and spumes, rises, staggers, and falls under every passing wind that assails its unstable life. But it also has deeps which have lain in motionless peace for ages, unswept by wind, unswayed by billow. So there are for the timorous heart moveless deeps of peace whose unbroken rest can be pictured only by that wonderful phrase - “the peace of God.” THE PEACE OF GOD! Think of it for a moment. How wondrous must be GOD’S peace! With Him there is no frailty, no error, no sin. With Him there is no past to lament, no future to dread; no blunders, no mistakes to fear; no plans to be thwarted; no purposes to be unmet. No death can overcome, no suffering weaken, no ideal be unfulﬁlled, no perfection unattained. Past, present, or future; vanishing time or endless eternity; life or death, hope or fear, storm or calm - naught of these, and naught else within the bounds of the universe can disturb the peace of Him who calls Himself the GOD OF PEACE. And it is this peace that is ours to possess. “THE PEACE OF GOD shall keep YOUR heart and minds.” Not a human peace attained by self-struggle or self-discipline, but Divine peace - the very peace which God himself has, yea, is. This is why Jesus Himself says, “My peace I give unto you.” Human, man-made peace, which rises and falls with the vicissitudes of life, is worthless; but the peace of CHRIST, what a gift is this! Mark the surroundings when Christ spake these words, and how wonderful this peace appears! It was just before His death. Before him is the kiss of the traitor; the hiss of the scourge; the weary blood-stained way to death; the hiding of His Father’s face; the thorn-crowned, purple-robed mockery of His kingship; and the awful torture-climax of the cross. If ever a man’s soul ought to be torn with agony, burdened with horror, surely this is the hour. But instead of gloom, and fear, and shuddering anticipation, hear His wondrous words, “MY PEACE I leave with you!” Surely a peace like this is worth having! Surely a peace which does not take ﬂight before such a hideous vision of betrayal, agony, and death is an ABUNDANT peace; is one of which He can well say, “I leave it with you; it will stay; it is the God-peace which abides forever. My children, behold my hour of crisis, darker than shall ever come to any of you, yet my peace abides without a tremor. MY peace has stood the supreme test, therefore it can never fail; I pass it on to you.”
Some years ago a friend narrated to us an experience of the Johnstown ﬂood which we have never forgotten. His home was below that ill-fated city, and when the ﬂood burst he, with others, hurried out upon the bridge, rope in hand, to rescue if possible any unfortunates who might be borne down the river. Presently, as he waited, his attention was attracted by the approach of a half submerged house which the rushing torrent was bearing swiftly toward him, and upon the roof of which he saw the recumbent form of a woman. With heart thrilling with sympathy and earnest desire to compass her rescue, he quickly made ready, and as the strange craft neared the bridge he cast the rope with eager expectancy, but it fell short of the mark. Rushing to the lower side of the bridge, as the house swept under the arching span, he again cast the rope with feverish haste and intensity, but again it failed of its merciful purpose. “And then,” said our friend, “as the last hope of rescue faded with the second failure to reach her, and death became her inevitable doom, the occupant of the roof, who had been reclining on its steep slope with her head resting upon her hand, turned, and a sweet womanly face looked up into mine. Until my dying day I shall never forget the expression upon that upturned countenance! Instead of the fear, horror, and agony with which I expected to see it distorted, it was quiet and calm, with an unspeakable, serene, abiding Peace, and with a kindly nod of recognition of my poor effort to save her, as she swept on to certain death that Peace kindled into a glory that ‘ne’er was seen on land or sea,’ whose radiance was unshadowed even by the awful roar and strife of the elements about.” “Ah, friend,” thought I, as the tears leaped unbidden to my eyes under this touching story, “she must have been a child of the Lord; she knew HIM; and this that kept her was the Peace of God.”
Then too it is a life of…
ABUNDANT POWER FOR SERVICE.
“Ye shall receive power when the Holy Ghost is come upon you,” said Christ to His disciples. And their lives straightaway became a neverceasing record of mighty deeds done in the power of the Spirit. “Stephen,” we are told, “full of faith and power, did great wonders and miracles among the people” (Acts 6:8). Charles G. Finney, entering a mill, was so ﬁlled with the power of the Spirit that the operatives fell upon their knees before the mere presence of the evangelist, ere he had uttered a word. At a camp-meeting where the most learned and eloquent sermons had utterly failed to move men to repentance, the whole congregation broke down in tears of conviction and penitence under the quiet words of an unassuming man who spoke manifestly ﬁlled with the Spirit. A word, a prayer, an earnest appeal, a song that would fall otherwise unheeded, goes home to the heart, ﬁlled with some subtle power when issuing from a Spirit-ﬁlled life. Moody testiﬁes that never until he knew the fullness of the Spirit did he know the fullness of God’s power in his preaching, but after that his preached words never failed of some fruitage. Neither is the power of the abundant life conﬁned to the preaching of God’s word. God gives to some power in prayer; to others power in testimony; to others power in song; to others power in suffering and afﬂiction. Every soul that knows the Spirit’s abounding life is touching other lives with power whose full scope and intensity he will never know until the Lord comes to reward.
Nor is the fullness of the Spirit limited to abundant love, peace and power. It is a life too of abundant joy; “the joy of the Lord is our strength;” of abundant long-suffering, girding us with patience under trials that we never could otherwise endure; of abundant gentleness, as Christ’s own gentleness takes possession of us; of abundant goodness, abundant faith, abundant meekness, abundant self-control. That it is not meant for apostles, or ministers, or missionaries, or teachers only, but for all of God’s children is clear, for: - “The promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off.”
What is it’s secret?
THE SECRET OF HIS INCOMING
HOW then shall our heart-longings for the fullness of the Spirit be satisﬁed? How shall we know His abundance of love, peace, joy, and power for service? What is the secret of this abundant life, this fullness of the Spirit? We answer ﬁrst, negatively, It is not that we have not received the Holy Ghost. Seeing the powerlessness, the barrenness, the lack of love, joy, peace, and power in many Christian lives, and knowing these to be the fruitage of the abundant life of the Spirit, many leap to the conclusion that the Spirit has not been received, else how account for the feeble manifestations of His presence and power? Wherefore the ﬁrst thing we need clearly to see is that EVERY CHILD OF GOD HAS RECEIVED THE GIFT OF THE HOLY GHOST. It is of the greatest importance, in the search for the secret of the abundant life, that this glorious fact should be clearly seen and accepted by the believer. For if he has not received the Holy Ghost, then his attitude should be that of waiting, petitioning, and seeking for the gift which is not yet his. But if he has received the Holy Ghost, then he must take an entirely different attitude, namely, not of waiting and praying for the Holy Ghost to be received but of yielding and surrendering to Him who has already been received. In the ﬁrst case we are waiting on God to do something; in the other God is waiting on us to do something.
It will be seen at once that if a man is occupying either of these attitudes when he ought to be in the other, then confusion and failure are bound to result. For example, the simple conditions of salvation are repentance from sins and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Now, to keep a truly penitent soul in the attitude of seeking or praying for forgiveness, instead of simple faith in God’s Word that he has been forgiven in Christ, is a ruinous mistake, and leads to darkness and agony, instead of the light and joy that God means him to have. On the other hand, to try to get an impenitent soul to “only believe,” instead of ﬁrst repenting of his sins, will keep him in equal darkness, and make his nominal acceptance of Christ a mere profession and hypocrisy. Exactly so is it with the case in hand. If the absence of the abundant life of the Spirit in us is due, as we are persuaded it is, not to the fact that He has not come in, but that we have not surrendered to Him who is already in, then it is a tremendous and fatal mistake to keep a soul waiting and seeking, instead of surrendering and yielding. It puts him at cross purposes with God. He keeps calling on God to give him the Holy Ghost, to baptize him with the Spirit. But God has already done this to all who are in Christ, and is calling on him to fulﬁll certain conditions by which he may know the abundance of the Spirit, not the Spirit who is to come, but the Spirit who is already in him. Have we not known his children to wait, and cry, and agonize for the gift of the Holy Ghost through long, weary days, months, and even years, from not knowing the truth of His Word upon this point? For it is “the truth that makes us free,” and if we know it not we cannot be free. That all we, then, who are God’s children, have “received the Holy Spirit,” the “gift of the Holy Spirit,” (as God uses that term) is clearly taught in His Word, for
1. We have fulﬁlled the conditions of the gift of the Holy Ghost. What are these conditions? We would expect them ﬁrst to be very simple and easily comprehended by the most unlearned. God does not, and would not, make the greatest gift of His love to us, next to that of His Son, to hinge upon any but the very simplest and plainest conditions. Through all the ages the great promise of the Spirit was in the divine mind waiting for fulﬁllment. He would not have a single child of His to miss the way. He has made it a great highway, and set up ﬁnger-boards so plain and unambiguous that only preconceived human opinions, doctrines, theories, theologies, and darkening of counsel could make us miss it so grievously as we have done. Moreover when we have endeavored to lay aside our own opinions and prejudices, and to seek the light of His Word alone, we have complicated the question by conﬁning ourselves almost entirely to the experience of the apostles at the day of Pentecost. Accepting this as the “pattern in the mount” for us, we, consciously or unconsciously, deem the same conditions needful. Right here note that in our search for the conditions of the gift of the Holy Ghost we have conﬁned ourselves too closely to the apostolic experience instead of the apostolic teaching, at Pentecost. Now a man’s experience of conversion may be most marvelous and impressive in its accompaniments. But many a man who has had a genuine, glorious experience of conversion utterly fails when he tries to lead others to Christ. Why? Because he imparts into his directions to the anxious seeker conditions from his own experience which are not essential scriptural conditions for others. Equally disastrous has been this practice in the teaching concerning glorious truths of the Spirit, and that too, by men who have had genuine, striking experiences of His fullness of blessing. They teach us to pray without ceasing to wait not only ten days but ten years if need be; to “wait for the promise of the Comforter,” to look for wonderful experience, etc. How many an anxious soul has thus been plunged into hopeless confusion and spiritual darkness! The trouble is the same. They are endeavoring to guide us solely by the apostolic experience instead of the apostolic teaching. But the former is much more difﬁcult of analysis than the latter, and it may be fairly said to be abnormal to us in these important respects, that, the apostles lived before Christ came, while He walked the earth, and after He left it. They thus had one experience of the Holy Ghost as Old Testament believers; another when the risen Christ breathed upon them and said “receive ye the Holy Ghost”; another when the ascended Christ poured out the Holy Ghost upon them, at Pentecost. But this is not true of us. Wherefore, to our mind, the important question is not so much how the apostles - who lived through the dispensations, loosely speaking, of Father, Son and Holy Ghost - received the Holy Ghost, as how men who lived in the latter, AS WE DO, received Him. The experience that matches ours is not so much that of the apostles, who had also believed on Jesus before the gift of the Holy Ghost, as that of the apostles’ converts who believed on Him exactly as we do, after the work of Christ was ﬁnished, and after the Holy Ghost was given. Let us therefore now ask not so much what did the apostles experience as what did they teach. Not only how did they receive the Holy Ghost, but how did they instruct others to receive Him. And here, as always, we ﬁnd the Word of God to be wondrously simple, if we will lay aside our own prejudgments and hear only what it says. For on that same Pentecostal day the apostolic teaching was just as clear as the apostolic experience was wonderful.
If there ever was a time when the presence of God ﬁlled a human body, burned in a human heart, and inspired human lips with errorless accuracy of teaching, surely it was when Peter preached his great sermon on the day of Pentecost. All aﬂame he was with the mighty anointing of power, and it was the God of truth Himself who spoke through him and answered the pleading cry of the multitude “What shall WE DO” by His own divine word of direction and teaching. And what does He say? “Then Peter said unto them, Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost” (Acts 2:38). It is evident from many passages in the Word that baptism was here an ordinance administered upon faith in Christ as a sin-bearer, and thus God here taught through Peter this great truth that: - The two great conditions of receiving the Holy Ghost are: REPENTANCE, and FAITH IN CHRIST FOR THE REMISSION OF SINS. No other conditions are required. Repent of your sins, believe in the Lord Jesus Christ for the remission of your sins, (being baptized thereupon) and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. Two things for us to do, and then one thing God does. If ye do these two things ye shall receive, says God. The promise is absolute. Surely man has no right to put any other requirement between the “Repent and believe,” and the “Ye shall receive,” since God Himself puts none. If any soul honestly repents and believes on the Lord Jesus Christ for the remission of his sins, then the heavens would fall ere God would fail to fulﬁll His promise “Ye shall receive.”
Wherefore the only question that the child of God, in doubt whether he has received the gift of the Holy Ghost, need ask is: Have I turned away from my sins with an honest heart, and am I trusting, not in my poor works, but in Jesus Christ as my sin-bearer and Saviour. Then God has given me the Holy Ghost, and the peace I ﬁnd in my heart is born alone of that Spirit whom “if any man have not he is none of His.” If we have never honestly repented, or have never simply believed in Jesus Christ, then we have not received the Spirit. But if we have fulﬁlled these two simple conditions - a fact easily known to ourselves - then God must have given us His great gift. Albeit He does not leave us to rest alone upon logic even as good as this, but buttresses it with the next great proof that we have so received Him, namely,
2. By the witness of the Spirit Himself; by our own experience of His incoming, when we fulﬁlled these conditions. “Therefore being justiﬁed by faith we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Do not many of us remember the very day and hour and place, when having repented and believed in Jesus Christ, our hearts were ﬁlled with wondrous peace and joy therein? Or even if it did to others of us come less deﬁnitely as to time and place, yet was the experience of the peace that came into our heart, to replace the distress and unrest that had dwelt there for years, any the less deﬁnite or wonderful because it had stolen upon us gradually and quietly? The Spirit bore witness with our spirit. No power in existence could bring the peace that we have concerning past sins save the Holy Ghost. Jesus alone is our peace concerning the past, and the Holy Ghost alone could communicate to our hearts the experience of that peace. The fact that it is here, is proof absolute of the Spirit’s presence. Let none rob us of this conscious attestation of His incoming. We know He is in us because none but Him could work in us such fruitage as that of which we are conscious. We repented; we believed; and He came in, to “abide with us forever.” Let our hearts be at rest. Nor does it matter much that this is not what we mean by “the gift of the holy Ghost.” It is what God says. And the sooner we use God’s terms, accept God’s statements, and obey God’s commands, the sooner will the darkness that shrouds this great truth ﬂee away and let in upon our souls the clear shining of the day.
3. It is the constant assertion of God’s Word concerning believers. Notice how emphatic this is. “Know ye not that ye ARE the temple of God and the Spirit of God dwelleth in you” (I Cor. 3:16). Not that we shall be hereafter, but that now we believers are the temple of God, and that the Spirit dwells now (present tense) in us. Again (mark the tense) “What! Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which IS in YOU, which ye HAVE of God.” (I Cor. 6:19). Again “For ye ARE the temple of the living God” (II Cor. 6:16). Also (II Cor. 13:5 R. V.). “Try your own selves whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Or know ye not as to your own selves that Jesus Christ is in you? Unless indeed ye be reprobate.” How clear this last passage is upon the points named. Note the simple condition again: “Try your own selves whether ye be in the faith.” That is, “are you believers? Are you simply trusting the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation? If so, know ye not as to your own selves that Jesus Christ is in you. Unless indeed when you examine yourself you ﬁnd that you are “reprobate,” that is, “not-standing-the-test,” not trusting Christ, but something else. How simple all this is, and how harmonious, with the truth as Peter preached it! He says “repent and believe in Jesus Christ.” And Paul says to these who have repented and are now believers “Don’t you know that the only questions you have to ask yourselves is: ‘Am I trusting in Christ?’ If so Jesus dwells in you, in the Holy Ghost.” Beloved, even though we had never had a single emotional experience of the indwelling presence of the Holy Ghost yet we would be bold indeed - to say nothing worse - to deny the glorious fact of His indwelling in the face of the constant, explicit assertions of God that WE ARE His temple, that HE DOES dwell in US and that we HAVE this great gift of the Spirit from God NOW.
4. Christ and the Apostles always take this truth for granted in addressing believers. Note Paul’s exclamation of surprise that they should for a moment lose sight of this fundamental truth. What! “Know ye not?” (I Cor. 6:19). Are ye ignorant or forgetful of this great and glorious truth that the Holy Ghost dwelleth in you? (I Cor. 3:16). Do you grow doubtful of His presence because you are not having any such wonderful experience of it as you expect? Do you forget that His indwelling does not depend upon your emotions, but upon your union with Christ which has been long since accomplished by God through your faith in Him? (I Cor. 1:30). And then again (Acts 19:2). He says to them not “Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed?” as in the authorized version, but “Did ye receive the Holy Ghost when ye believed?” showing that he expected all the children of God to receive the gift at the time of repentance and belief in Christ.
So too, notice Christ’s attitude toward the same truth in His constant use of the word “Abide.” “Abide in me and I in you.” “If ye abide in me.” “And now, little children, abide in Him” (I John 2:28). What is the truth here? Clearly this: The word “abide” means to stay, to remain in a place in which you already are. Thus when you request a company of people to abide, to stay in a room, we at once understand that those addressed are already there. When Paul said “except these abide in the ship ye can not be saved” we know that they were already in the ship. Now Christ’s word to the sinner is, “Come,” because he is out of Christ. But His word to the believer is, “Abide, stay,” because he is already, and forever, in Christ. But no man can be in Christ and not have received the Holy Ghost. It is impossible. For He is the giver of the Spirit. In Him is life and the instant we are united to Him by faith we must receive the Spirit. The wire can no more be joined to the dynamo and not receive the electric ﬂuid; the branch can no more be joined to the vine and not receive the thrill of life, than we can be joined to Christ by faith and not receive His great resurrection gift. “I am the vine, ye are the branches.”
THE SECRET OF HIS INCOMING
But some one now says: “I believe that it is the Holy Ghost who has regenerated me, and that I could not be born again except by His agency. But I do not believe this is what God means by receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost. Is there not a second experience for the believer in which, after his conversion, he receives the Holy Ghost for service in great power and abundance, such as he has never known before? Did not Paul say to the Ephesian converts: ‘Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed?’ (Acts 19:2); and does this not clearly prove that one can be a Christian and yet need to receive the Holy Ghost afterward?”
To this we say both yes and no. There is a fullness of the Holy Ghost such as does not come to most Christians at conversion, and therefore is, in point of time, usually a second experience. But this is not the gift of the Holy Ghost, not the receiving of the Holy Ghost, not the baptism of the Holy Ghost as God’s Word teaches. The Holy Ghost is received once and forever at conversion. He is a person. He comes in them once and forever, and to stay. We receive then - though we may not yield to him - for service, as well as for regeneration. The greater experience of His presence and power that follows conversion, sooner or later, is not the gift of the Holy Ghost, the receiving of the Holy Ghost, or the baptism of the Holy Ghost as God uses those terms, but a fullness, in response to consecration, of that Holy Ghost who has already been given at regeneration. At Pentecost the Holy Ghost came down to form the church, the mystic body of Christ. On that great day Christ baptized the church with the Holy Ghost. Wherefore, as each one of us by faith becomes a member of that body, we are baptized with the same Spirit that dwells in that body; we receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. We can not too clearly lay hold of this. For our deceitful natural heart is all too quick to take refuge in prayer, and waiting to receive, and thus dodge the real issue which is an absolute surrender to Him who has been received. So subtle is the ﬂesh that it is glad, by waiting petition, to throw on God the burden of giving, if thereby it can evade the real issue which God has put upon us of yielding wholly to Him who has already been given. It is exactly matched by the case of the sinner who is far more willing to pray and wait on God for a blessing than to make the surrender that will bring the blessing. But how about the Ephesian converts who were taught that they must receive the Holy Ghost after they had believed? Does not this prove that many, though Christians, have not received the Holy Ghost, and that this is the secret of their lack of power and victory? Now, if we will examine this instance in the light of God’s own Word and with unbiased mind, we will see that this much-quoted passage (Acts 19:2) not only does not support the view that this was a receiving of the gift of the Holy Ghost by believers after regeneration, and thus proving our need of the same, but that it is one of the strongest proofs in God’s Word that the apostles expected men to receive the Holy Ghost at conversion. In other words, the teaching of Paul corresponds exactly with Peter upon this great theme. We will recall from the preceding chapter that the simple conditions, as laid down by Peter, for receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit were: Repentance, and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ for the remission of sins. These two alone were necessary. But mark this, that both of these were essential. One was not sufﬁcient. Men must repent and believe. For a man simply to repent of his sins, without faith in Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, would not bring the gift of the Holy Ghost, for one of the essential conditions would be missing. So also for a man to attempt to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ without repenting of his sins would not, and could not, bring the gift of the Holy Ghost, for the same reason; - the absence, in this case of the necessary condition of repentance. We need not do anything more than God requires, but we dare not do anything less. Every Christian worker’s experience conﬁrms this. How often we meet with seekers after salvation who can ﬁnd no witnessing peace of the Holy Ghost because there is some secret sin unsurrendered, some speciﬁc failure in repentance. Or again, some truly penitent one fails to ﬁnd peace because he will not simply believe in Jesus Christ’s atoning work for the remission of his sins. The evidence of multitudes of such cases conﬁrms then this great truth of God’s Word - that there are two conditions essential to receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, namely repentance and faith; and that the only reason any one fails to receive Him is that he has not repented, or does not believe in Jesus Christ for the remission of his sins.
With this truth now in mind consider Acts 19:1-6. Paul comes to Ephesus and, ﬁnding certain disciples, says to them, not as we have seen, “Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed” (authorized version), but “Did ye receive the Holy Ghost when ye believed” (revised version); thus showing that Paul expected them to receive Him at the time they turned from their sins. When they answer in the negative Paul begins at once to search for the cause, and he does so exactly in line with the conditions laid down by Peter, as already quoted. “Unto what then were ye baptized?” said Paul; and they said: “Unto John’s baptism.” “Oh, I see,” says Paul in effect, “but don’t you know that John baptized only unto REPENTANCE? Now repentance is not enough to bring the gift of the Holy Ghost; you must also BELIEVE in Jesus Christ.” And when they heard this, they believed on Jesus Christ and, baptized into His name, received the Holy Ghost. They were not believers at all as we are believers. They were practically believers under the old covenant, not under the new. They can be classed only with John’s converts, who did not, and could not, receive the gift of the Spirit, inasmuch as they fulﬁlled only one condition, that of repentance. So far from being believers as we are, and being cited to prove that believers must receive the Holy Ghost as a second experience after conversion, these men, we are distinctly told, had not believed in Jesus Christ at all up to this time. Paul simply supplied the missing condition of salvation under the New Testament - faith in Christ, which should have been taught them when they repented. They stood in the place a penitent stands nowadays who has honestly repented of his sins, but has not been instructed to believe in Jesus Christ for the remission of his sins. This failed to bring the gift of the Holy Ghost just as it would fail now. Then, too, the scriptural context, telling us exactly how this happened, seems to us forever to settle this mooted passage. If we go back to the preceding chapter we ﬁnd an explanation that makes the whole episode as clear as sunlight. In verse 24 we are told: “a certain Jew named Apollos, … came to Ephesus, … being fervent in the Spirit, he spake and taught diligently the things of the Lord, knowing only the baptism of John,” that is, only the baptism of REPENTANCE (chap. 19:4). While he was mighty in the Old Testament Scriptures, yet he evidently did not know of God’s full plan of salvation, and thus Aquila and Priscilla, when they heard him, “took him unto themselves and expounded unto him the way of God more perfectly,” (v. 26) doubtless teaching faith in Christ for remission of sins. Apollos now goes to Corinth, and Paul, coming to Ephesus, ﬁnds Apollos’ mis-instructed disciples, a dozen men who had not received the Holy Ghost. Why? Simply because they had not believed in Jesus Christ. True, they were believers in the sense that John’s disciples were believers, having “repentance toward God,” but they had not “faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.” Paul therefore simply supplies the missing condition of New Testament conversion, and they receive the Holy Ghost, not as a second experience of full-ﬂedged believers, but as the ﬁrst experience of those who had not believed in Christ at all as we believe in Him. Instead of proving that the Christian man does not receive the gift of the Holy Ghost at conversion, but as a second enduement, this passage is one of the strongest proofs in the Word of God that the apostles expected men to receive the Holy Ghost at conversion, and, if not received, they simply proceeded to show that some one of the two simple conditions of the new covenant salvation had been neglected at the time of professed discipleship.
Again, take the case of the Samaritans recorded in Acts 8:5-25. “Here,” it is said, “we are distinctly told that they believed Philip as he preached Christ, and that they were baptized.” (v. 12.) Why then was the Holy Spirit not received? It is suggested that there may not have been an honest repentance. For to Simon the sorcerer, who had professed belief and been baptized, Peter declared “Thy heart is not right with God.” Another, and likely more reasonable explanation is that God desired to show His condemnation of the enmity between Jew and Samaritan by using not Philip but two Jewish apostles, Peter and John, as the human instruments through which the outpoured Spirit came to the Samaritans.
A careful examination of these two chief passages cited to prove that the gift of the Holy Spirit comes as an after experience in the believer’s life, will show, we believe, that they have no application to us as believers, but only prove that seekers after Christ must both repent and believe, in order to receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.
It follows too from this that every child of God has also been baptized with the Holy Ghost. The receiving of the Holy Ghost, and the baptism of the Holy Ghost we conceive to be absolutely synonymous, as God uses these terms. John baptized with water telling his disciples to believe on Him that should come after, and that then He would baptize them with the Holy Ghost. This was to be the distinguishing characteristic that was to mark baptism by the resurrected Christ. When men turned to God under the preaching of John he baptized them with water. But when they turn to Him in this gospel age Jesus Christ baptizes them with the Holy Ghost. There is not a single instance that we recall where “baptism” with the Holy Ghost is made a subsequent experience of the believer. The apostles were again and again “ﬁlled,” with fresh anointing, as it were, of the Spirit, but they were never baptized again. Nor are any converts who have received the Spirit in regeneration ever said thereafter to be baptized with Him. The reason isclear. Baptism was plainly an initial rite. It was administered upon entrance into the kingdom of God. Both baptisms stand, in relation of time, at the same place, whether John’s with water, or Christ’s with the Holy Ghost, namely, at the threshold of the Christian life, not at any subsequent milestone. Wherefore when the baptism of the Spirit is urged now upon believers we may all agree with the thought behind it, namely, that of a fullness of the Spirit not yet known or possessed, for such a fullness is our birthright. Yet the expression itself is not a happy one in that it is never, to our knowledge, so used in the Scriptures, and therefore misleads men in attaching to a certain phrase a different meaning than God himself gives to it. Two speakers using a word to which each attached a different meaning would soon land in hopeless confusion. So has it been with this great theme, and it would clear up marvelously if we would not only study God’s truth upon it, but adopt His phrases in describing it using “the gift,” “the receiving,” “the baptism” of the Holy Ghost exactly as He himself does in His own inspired Word.
In fact the receiving of the Holy Ghost depends on one set of conditions, and the fullness of the Holy Ghost upon another. Because we have not His fullness, we leap to the conclusion that we have not received Him. The truth is that we should accept forever the fact that we have received Him, and press on to know the secret of His fullness. Beloved, let your heart go out no longer in petition to receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, but let it be ﬁlled with praise that you have received Him, and that He is dwelling in you. Read again and again God’s positive statements concerning it. Weigh them carefully. Recall your own experience of joy and peace when the Holy Spirit entered. Notice the constant statement in the epistles that the believer is the sanctuary, the “holy place” where the Spirit indwells. Then remember that he who stands with God, stands on sure ground. Let no one shake your conﬁdence at this point. If any would, then repeat again and again His word, “Ye are the temple of the Holy Ghost, which is in you, which ye have of God,” until you are forever settled in this glorious truth.
Then, if notwithstanding you have received Him, you are painfully conscious of powerlessness, joylessness, fruitlessness in your life, know that there is a failure of the Spirit who is in you; a life of abounding peace, and power, and joy, and love; a life of liberty; a life of victory over self and sin; that this life is for every child of God who will learn, and then fulﬁll, its conditions; that, therefore, it is for you. Then, knowing the secret of His incoming, the glorious fact that He is now in you, patiently waiting for you to act, press on to know the secret of His fullness.
To recapitulate, we believe God’s Word teaches:
• That every believer has received the Holy Ghost, the gift of the Holy Ghost, the baptism of the Holy Ghost.
• That the simple secret of His thus incoming is - Repentance and Faith.
• That there is a fullness of the Holy Ghost, greater than that usually thus received at conversion.
• That there are certain conditions of this fullness, different from the conditions on which the Holy Ghost is received (that is, one may receive the Holy Ghost, yet not know His fullness); lastly:
• That the secret of His fullness is - what?
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