Back to Holy Spirit and Revival

A.J. Gordon
The Enduement of the Spirit
Key Thoughts

"The great end for which the enduement of the Spirit is bestowed is our qualification for the highest and most effective service in the church of Christ."

"When we receive the gift of the Holy Spirit it is that we may count ourselves henceforth and altogether Christ's. If any shrink from this devotement, how can he have the fullness of the Spirit? God cannot put his signature upon what is not his.

Whether consciously or not, it is to the fact of the Holy Spirit's coming in new power to the soul that all new life is due; and the more that this is consciously understood the more is the Holy Ghost in his due place in our hearts. It is only when he is consciously accepted in all his power that we can be said to be either 'baptized' or 'filled' with the Holy Ghost."

"If we ask now what this anointing is, the reply is obviously the Holy Spirit himself. As before he was the seal attesting us, so now he is the oil sanctifying us—the same gift described by different symbols."

The Enduement of the Spirit
We have maintained in the previous chapter that the baptism in the Holy Ghost was given once for all on the day of Pentecost, when the Paraclete came in person to make his abode in the church. It does not follow therefore that every believer has received this baptism. God's gift is one thing; our appropriation of that gift is quite another thing. Our relation to the second and to the third persons of the Godhead is exactly parallel in this respect. "God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son" (John 3 : 16). "But as many as received him to them gave he the right to become the children of God, even to them that believe on his name" (John 1 : 12). Here are the two sides of salvation, the divine and the human, which are absolutely co-essential. There is a doctrine somewhat in vogue, not inappropriately denominated redemption by incarnation, which maintains that since God gave his Son to the world, all the world has the Son, consciously or unconsciously, and that therefore all the world will be saved. It need not be said that a true evangelical teaching must reject this theory as utterly untenable, since it ignores the necessity of individual faith in Christ. But some orthodox writers have urged an almost identical view with respect to the Holy Ghost. They have contended that the enduement of the Spirit is “not any special or more advanced experience, but simply the condition of every one who is a child of God"; that "believers converted after Pentecost, and living in other localities, are just as really endowed with the indwelling Spirit as those who actually partook of the Pentecostal blessing at Jerusalem." (E. Boys, Filled with the Spirit, p. 87.)
On the contrary, it seems clear from the Scriptures that it is still the duty and privilege of believers to receive the Holy Spirit by a conscious, definite act of appropriating faith, just as they received Jesus Christ. We base this conclusion on several grounds. Presumably if the Paraclete is a person, coming down at a certain definite time to make his abode in the church, for guiding, teaching, and sanctifying the body of Christ, there is the same reason for our accepting him for his special ministry as for accepting the Lord Jesus for his special ministry. To say that in receiving Christ we necessarily received in the same act the gift of the Spirit, seems to confound what the Scriptures make distinct. Note the following:
“It is assumed by some that because those that walked with Christ of old received the baptism of the Holy Ghost and fire at Pentecost, more than eighteen hundred years ago, therefore all believers now have received the same. As well might the apostles, when first called, have concluded that because at his baptism the Spirit like a dove rested upon Christ, therefore they had equally received the same blessing. Surely the Spirit has been given and the work in Christ wrought for all; but to enter into possession, to be enlightened and made partakers of the Holy Ghost, there must be a personal application to the Lord….” —Andrew Jukes, The New Man
 For it is as sinners that we accept Christ for our justification, but it is as sons that we accept the Spirit for our sanctification: "And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying Abba, Father” (Gal. 4 : 6). Thus, when Peter preached his first sermon to the multitude after the Spirit had been given, he said: “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).
This passage shows that logically and chronologically the gift of the Spirit is subsequent to repentance. Whether it follows as a necessary and inseparable consequence, as might seem, we shall consider later. Suffice that this point is clear, so clear that one of the most conservative as well as ablest writers on this subject, in commenting on this text in Acts, says: “Therefore it is evident that the reception of the Holy Ghost, as here spoken of, has nothing whatever to do with bringing men to believe and repent. It is a subsequent operation; it is an additional and separate blessing; it is a privilege founded on faith already actively working in the heart. . . I do not mean to deny that the gift of the Holy Ghost may be practically on the same occasion, but never in the same moment. The reason is quite simple too. The gift of the Holy Ghost is grounded on the fact that we are sons by faith in Christ, believers resting on redemption in him. Plainly, therefore, it appears that the Spirit of God has already regenerated us."( William Kelly, Lectures on the New Testament Doctrine of the Holy Spirit, p. 161.)
Now, as we examine the Scriptures on this point, we shall see that we are required to appropriate the Spirit as sons, in the same way that we appropriated Christ as sinners. "As many as received him, even to them that believe on his name," is the condition of becoming sons, as we have already seen, receiving and believing being used as equivalent terms. In a kind of foretaste of Pentecost, the risen Christ, standing in the midst of his disciples, “breathed on them and said, Receive ye the Holy Ghost'' The verb is not passive, as our English version might lead us to suppose, but has here as generally an active signification just as in the familiar passage in Revelation: “Whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely." Twice in the Epistle to the Galatians the possession of the Holy Ghost is put on the same grounds of active appropriation through faith: “Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law or by the hearing of faith?” (3 : 2). "That ye might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith" (3:14). These texts seem to imply that just as there is a "faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ" for salvation, there is a faith toward the Holy Ghost for power and consecration.
If we turn from New Testament teaching to New Testament example we are strongly confirmed in this impression. We begin with that striking incident in the nineteenth chapter of Acts. Paul, having found certain disciples at Ephesus, said unto them: “Did ye receive the Holy Ghost when ye believed? And they said unto him, Nay; we did not so much as hear whether there is a Holy Ghost." This passage seems decisive as showing that one may be a disciple without having entered into possession of the Spirit as God's gift to believers. Some admit this, who yet deny any possible application of the incident to our own times, alleging that it is the miraculous gifts of the Spirit which are here under consideration, since, after recording that when Paul had laid his hands upon them and "the Holy Ghost came upon them," it is added that “they spake with tongues and prophesied." All that need be said upon this point is simply that these Ephesian disciples, by the reception of the Spirit, came into the same condition with the upper-room disciples who received him some twenty years before, and of whom it is written that “they were all filled with the Holy Ghost and began to speak with other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance." In other words, these Ephesian disciples on receiving the Holy Ghost exhibited the traits of the Spirit common to the other disciples of the apostolic age.
Whether those traits—the speaking of tongues and the working of miracles—were intended to be perpetual or not we do not here discuss. But that the presence of the personal Holy Spirit in the church was intended to be perpetual there can be no question. And whatsoever relations believers held to that Spirit in the beginning they have a right to claim to-day. We hold indeed, that Pentecost was once for all, but equally that the appropriation of the Spirit by believers is always for all, and that the shutting up of certain great blessings of the Holy Ghost within that ideal realm called "the apostolic age," however convenient it may be as an escape from fancied difficulties, may be the means of robbing believers of some of their most precious covenant rights, as noted in the following:
“It is a great mistake into which some have fallen, to suppose that the results of Pentecost were chiefly miraculous and temporary. The effect of such a view is to keep spiritual influences out of sight; and it will be well ever to hold fast the assurance that a wide, deep, and perpetual spiritual blessing in the church is that which above all things else was secured by the descent of the Spirit after Christ was glorified.”—Dr. J. Elder Cumming, Through the Eternal Spirit.
Let us transfer this incident of the Ephesian Christians to our own times. We need not bring forward an imaginary case, for by the testimony of many experienced witnesses the same condition is constantly encountered. Not only individual Christians, but whole communities of disciples are found who have been so imperfectly instructed that they have never known that there is a Holy Spirit, except as an influence, an impersonal something to be vaguely recognized. Of the Holy Ghost as a Divine Person, dwelling in the church, to be honored and invoked and obeyed and implicitly trusted, they know nothing. Is it conceivable that there could be any deep spiritual life or any real sanctified energy for service in a community like this? And what should a well-instructed teacher or evangelist do, on discovering a church or an individual Christian in such a condition? Let us turn to another passage of the Acts for an answer: “Now when the apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God they sent unto them Peter and John, who when they were come down prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Ghost; for as yet he had fallen upon none of them; only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then laid they their hands on them and they received the Holy Ghost" (Acts 8 : 14-17)
Here were believers who had been baptized in water. But this was not enough. The baptism in the Spirit, already bestowed at Pentecost, must be appropriated. Hear the prayer of the apostles “that they might receive the Holy Ghost." Such prayer we deem eminently proper for those who today may be ignorant of the Comforter. And yet such prayer should be followed by an act of believing acceptance on the part of the willing disciple: “O Holy Spirit, I yield to thee now in humble surrender. I receive thee as my Teacher, my Comforter, my Sanctifier, and my Guide." Do not testimonies abound on every hand of new lives resulting from such an act of consecration as this, lives full of peace and power and victory among those who before had received the forgiveness of sins but not the enduement of power?
We conceive that the great end for which the enduement of the Spirit is bestowed is our qualification for the highest and most effective service in the church of Christ. Other effects will certainly attend the blessing, a fixed assurance of our acceptance in Christ, and a holy separateness from the world; but these results will be conducive to the greatest and supreme end, our consecrated usefulness.
Let us observe that Christ, who is our example in this as in all things, did not enter upon his ministry till he had received the Holy Ghost. Not only so, but we see that all his service from his baptism to his ascension was wrought in the Spirit. Ask concerning his miracles, and we hear him saying: "I by the Spirit of God cast out devils" (Matt. 12 : 28). Ask concerning that decease which he accomplished at Jerusalem, and we read “that he through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot unto God” (Heb. 9 : 14). Ask concerning the giving of the great commission, and we read that he was received up “after that he through the Holy Ghost had given commandments unto the apostles” (Acts 1 : 2). Thus, though he was the Son of God, he acted ever in supreme reliance upon him who has been called the “Executive of the Godhead."
Plainly we see how Christ was our pattern and exemplar in his relation to the Holy Spirit. He had been begotten of the Holy Ghost in the womb of the virgin, and had lived that holy and obedient life which this divine nativity would imply. But when he would enter upon his public ministry, he waited for the Spirit to come upon him, as he had hitherto been in him. For this anointing we find him praying: "Jesus also being baptized and praying, the heaven was opened, and the Holy Ghost descended in a bodily shape like a dove upon him" (Luke 3 : 22). Had he any “promise of the Father" to plead, as he now asked the anointing of the Spirit, if as we may believe this was the subject of his prayer? Yes; it had been written in the prophets concerning the rod out of the stem of Jesse: “And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him; the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord" (Isa. 11 : 2). “The promise of the sevenfold Spirit," the Jewish commentators call it. Certainly it was literally fulfilled upon the Son of God at the Jordan, when God gave him the Spirit without measure. For he who was now baptized was in turn to be baptizer. “Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and remaining on him, the same is he which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost" (John 1:33), "I indeed baptize you in water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I ... he shall baptize you in the Holy Ghost and in fire" (Matt. 3:11, R. V.). And now being at the right hand exalted, and having "the seven spirits of God" (Rev. 3 : 3), the fullness of the Holy Ghost, he will shed forth his power upon those who pray for it, even as the Father shed it forth upon himself.
Let us observe now the symbols and descriptions of the enduement of the Spirit which are applied equally to Christ and to the disciples of Christ.
1. The Sealing of the Spirit.
We hear Jesus saying to the multitude that sought him for the loaves and fishes, “Labor not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto eternal life, which the Son of man shall give unto you, for him hath God the Father sealed" (John 6 : 27). This sealing must evidently refer back to his reception of the Spirit at the Jordan. One of the most instructive writers on the Hebrew worship and ritual tells us that it was the custom for the priest to whom the service pertained, having selected a lamb from the flock, to inspect it with the most minute scrutiny, in order to discover if it was without physical defect, and then to seal it with the temple seal, thus certifying that it was fit for sacrifice and for food. Behold the Lamb of God presenting himself for inspection at the Jordan! Under the Father's omniscient scrutiny he is found to be “a lamb without blemish and without spot." From the opening heaven God gives witness to the fact in the words: “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased," and then he puts the Holy Ghost upon him, the testimony to his sonship, the seal of his separation unto sacrifice and service.
The disciple is as his Lord in this experience “In whom having also believed ye were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise" (Eph. 1 : 13). As always in the statements of Scripture, this transaction is represented as subsequent to faith. It is not conversion, but something done upon a converted soul, a kind of crown of consecration put upon his faith. Indeed the two events stand in marked contrast. In conversion the believer receives the testimony of God and “sets his seal to it that God is true” (John 3:33). In consecration God sets his seal upon the believer that he is true. The last is God's "Amen" to the Christian, verifying the Christian's “Amen” to God. “Now he which establisheth us with you in Christ, and anointed us, is God; who also sealed us and gave us the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts” (2 Cor. 1 : 21, 22).
If we ask to what we are committed and separated by this divine transaction, we may learn by studying the church's monograph, if such we may name what is brought out in a mysterious passage in one of the pastoral epistles. In spite of the defection and unbelief of some, the apostle says: “Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal." Then he gives us the two inscriptions on the seal: “The Lord knoweth them that are his”; and, “Let every one that nameth the name of the Lord depart from unrighteousness” (2 Tim. 2 : 19)—Ownership and holiness. When we receive the gift of the Holy Spirit it is that we may count ourselves henceforth and altogether Christ's. If any shrink from this devotement, how can he have the fullness of the Spirit? God cannot put his signature upon what is not his. Hence, if under the sway of a worldly spirit we withhold ourselves from God and insist on self-ownership, we need not count it strange if God withholds himself from us and denies us the seal of divine ownership. God is very jealous of his divine signet. He graciously bestows it upon those who are ready to devote themselves utterly and irrevocably to his service, but he strenuously withholds it from those who, while professing his name, are yet “serving divers lusts and pleasures." There is a suggestive passage in the Gospel of John which, translated so as to bring out the antitheses which it contains, reads thus: “Many trusted in his name, beholding the signs which he did; but Jesus did not trust himself to them” (John 2 :23, 24). Here is the great essential to our having the seal of the Spirit. Can the Lord trust us? Nay; the question is more serious. Can he trust himself to us? The Holy Spirit, which his signet ring, can he commit it to our use for signing our prayers and for certifying ourselves, and his honor not be compromised?
The other inscription on the seal is: “Let every one that nameth the name of the Lord depart from unrighteousness." Note, “It will be observed that the inscription on the seal is substantially the same as that upon the forehead of the High Priest: Holiness To The Lord (Exod. 39 : 30).
The possession of the Spirit commits us irrevocably to separation from sin. For what is holiness but an emanation of the Spirit of holiness who dwells within us? A sanctified life is therefore the print or impression of his seal: “He can never own us without his mark, the stamp of holiness. The devil’s stamp is none of God's badge. Our spiritual extraction from him is but pretended unless we do things worthy of so illustrious birth and becoming the honor of so great a Father." The great office of the Spirit in the present economy is to commuicate Christ to his church which is his body. And what is so truly essential of Christ as holiness? “In him is no sin; whosoever abideth in him sinneth not." The body can only be sinless by uninterrupted communion with the Head; the Head will not maintain communion with the body except it be holy.
The idea of ownership, just considered, comes out still further in the words of the apostle: “And grieve not the Spirit of God in whom ye were sealed unto the day of redemption” (Eph. 4 : 30). The day of redemption is at the advent of our Lord in glory, when he shall raise the dead and translate, the living. Now his own are in the world, but the world knows them not. But he has put his mark and secret sign upon them, by which he shall recognize them at his coming. In that great quickening, at the Redeemer's advent, the Holy Spirit will be the seal by which the saints will be recognized, and the power through which they will be drawn up to God. “If the Spirit that raised up Jesus dwell in you” (Rom. 11 :9), is the great condition of final quickening. As the magnet attracts the particles of iron and attaches them to itself by first imparting its own magnetism to them, so Christ, having given his Spirit to his own, will draw them to himself through the Spirit. We are not questioning now that all who have eternal life dwelling in them will share in the redemption of the body; we are simply entering into the apostle's exhortation against grieving the Spirit. We must fear lest we mar the seal by which we were stamped, lest we deface or obscure the signature by which we are to be recognized in the day of redemption. Note the following on the Ephesians understanding of the seal:
“The allusion to the seal as a pledge of purchase would be peculiarly intelligible to the Ephesians, for Ephesus was a maritime city, and an extensive trade in timber was carried on there by the shipmasters of the neighboring ports. The method of purchase was this: The merchant, after selecting his timber, stamped it with his own signet, which was an acknowledged sign of ownership. He often did not carry off his possession at the time; it was left in the harbor with other floats of timber; but it was chosen, bought, and stamped; and in due time the merchant sent a trusty agent with the signet, who finding that timber which bore a corresponding impress, claimed and brought it away for the master's use. Thus the Holy Spirit impresses on the soul now the image of Jesus Christ; and this is the sure pledge of the everlasting inheritance.—E. H. Bickersteth, The Spirit of Life, p. 176.
In a word the sealing is the Spirit himself, now received by faith and resting upon the believer, with all the results in assurance, in joy, and in empowering for service, which must follow his unhindered sway in the soul. Dr. John Owen, who has written more intelligently and more exhaustively on this subject than any with whom we are acquainted, thus sums up the subject: “If we can learn aright how Christ was sealed, we shall learn how we are sealed. The sealing of Christ by the Father is the communication of the Holy Spirit in fullness to him, authorizing him unto and acting his divine power in all the acts and duties of his office, so as to evidence the presence of God with him and approbation of him. God's sealing of believers then is his gracious communication of the Holy Spirit unto them so to act his divine power in them as to enable them unto all the duties of their holy calling, evidencing them to be accepted with him both for themselves and others, and asserting their preservation unto eternal life." (John Owen, D. D., Discourse Concerning the Spirit, pp. 406, 407.)
2. The Fullness of the Spirit.
Immediately upon his baptism we read: “And Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness" (Luke 4:1). The same record is made concerning the upper-room disciples, immediately after the descent of the Spirit: “And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit" (Acts 2:4). What is here spoken of seems nothing different from what in other Scriptures is called the reception of the Spirit. It is a transaction that may be repeated, and will be if we are living in the Spirit. But it is clearly an experience belonging to one who has already been converted. This comes out very plainly in the life of Paul. If according to the opinion quoted in the early part of this chapter, the reception of the Spirit is associated always and inseparably with conversion, one will reasonably ask, why a conversion so marked and so radical as that of the apostle to the Gentiles need be followed by such an experience as that named in Acts 9:17: “And Ananias departed and entered into the house, and laying his hands on him, said: Brother Saul, the Lord, even Jesus who appeared unto thee in the way which thou earnest, hath sent me that thou mightest receive thy sight and be filled with the Holy Ghost." We seem to have a clear allusion here to that which so constantly appears in Scripture, both in doctrine and in life, a divine something distinct from conversion and subsequent to it, which we have called the reception of the Spirit. "The enduement of power" we may well name it; for observe how constantly throughout the book of Acts mighty works and mighty utterances are connected with this qualification. "Then Peter, filled with the Holy Ghost, said unto them” (Acts 4 : 8), is the preface to one of the apostle's most powerful sermons. “And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word with boldness" (Acts 4: 31), is a similar record. And they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Ghost, the narrative runs, regarding the choice of deacons in Acts 6:5. “And he, being full of the Holy Ghost" is the keynote to his great martyr-sermon. This infilling of the Spirit marks a decisive and most important crisis in the Christian life, judging from the story of the apostle's conversion, to which we have just referred.
But, as we have intimated, we are far from maintaining that this is an experience once for all, as the sealing seems to be. As the words "regeneration” and “renewal" used in Scripture mark respectively the impartation of the divine life as a perpetual possession and its increase by repeated communications, so in our sealing there is a reception of the Spirit once for all, which reception may be followed by repeated fillings. It is reasonable to conclude this since our capacity is ever increasing and our need constantly recurring, according to the beautiful saying of Godet: “Man is a vessel destined to receive God, a vessel which must be enlarged in proportion as it is filled and filled in proportion as it is enlarged."
And yet we confess here to a degree of uncertainty as to the use of terms, and as to whether the two now under consideration are identical. We may well pause therefore and lift a prayer, that since "we have received not the spirit of the world but the Spirit which is of God, that we might know the things which are freely given to us of God," this blessed Revelator and Interpreter may not only reveal to us our privilege and inheritance in the Holy Ghost, but teach us to name and distinguish the terms by which it is conveyed.
While the fact of which we are speaking seems undoubted, the exposition of it is far from being easy. Therefore we should attach no little value to a consensus of opinion on this subject from those who have thought most carefully and searched most prayerfully concerning it This is our apology for the multiplied quotations which we are introducing into this chapter, believing that the Holy Spirit is most likely to interpret himself through those who most honor him in seeking his guidance and illumination.
In a recent work upon this subject, in which careful scholarship and spiritual insight seem to be well united, the author thus states his conclusions: “It seems to me beyond question, as a matter of experience both of Christians in the present day and of the early church, as recorded by inspiration, that in addition to the gift of the Spirit received at conversion, there is another blessing corresponding in its signs and effects to the blessing received by the apostles at Pentecost-—a blessing to be asked for and expected by Christians still, and to be described in language similar to that employed in the book of the Acts. Whatever that blessing may be, it is in immediate connection with the Holy Ghost; and one of the terms by which we may designate it is ‘to be filled with the Spirit.' As with the early Christians so with us now, the filling comes when there is special need for it. . . And there is an occasion when that blessing comes to a man for the first time. That first time is a spiritual crisis from which his future spiritual life must be dated. There may be a question as to what it is to be called, or at least by what name in Scripture we are authorized to call it. . . Whether consciously or not, it is to the fact of the Holy Spirit's coming in new power to the soul that all new life is due; and the more that this is consciously understood the more is the Holy Ghost in his due place in our hearts. It is only when he is consciously accepted in all his power that we can be said to be either 'baptized' or 'filled' with the Holy Ghost. I should like to add that it is possible to maintain that God from the first offered to his own people a higher position in this matter than they have generally been able to occupy, in that the fullness of the Spirit was and is offered to each soul at conversion; and that it is only from want of faith that subsequent outpourings of the Holy Ghost become needful." (Through the Eternal Spirit, by James Elder Cumming, D.D., pp. 146, 147.)
That the filling of the Spirit belongs to us as a covenant privilege seems to be clear from the exhortation in the Epistle to the Ephesians, which is confessedly of universal application: “Be not drunken with wine, wherein is excess, but be filled with the Spirit" (Eph. 5 : 18). The passive verb employed here is suggestive. The surrendered will, the yielded body, the emptied heart, are the great requisites to his incoming. And when he has come and filled the believer, the result is a kind of passive activity, as of one wrought upon and controlled rather than of one directing his own efforts. Under the influence of strong drink there is an outpouring of all that the evil spirit inspires—frivolity, profanity, and riotous conduct. "Be God-intoxicated men," the apostle would seem to say; "let the Spirit of God so control you that you shall pour yourself out in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs." If such divine enthusiasm has its perils, we believe that they are less to be dreaded than that “moderatism” which makes the servants of God satisfied with the letter of Scripture if only that letter be skillfully and scientifically handled, rather than giving the supreme place to the Spirit as the inspirer and motor of all Christian service.
3. The Anointing of the Spirit.
After the baptism and temptation we find our Lord appropriating to himself the words of the prophet, as he read them in the synagogue of Nazareth: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach good tidings to the poor” (Luke 4 : 18). Twice in the Acts there is a reference to this important event in similar terms: "Thy holy servant Jesus, whom thou didst anoint" (Acts 4 : 27, R. V.). “Jesus of Nazareth, how that God anointed him with the Holy Ghost and with power" (Acts 10 : 38). And as with the Lord so with his disciples: "Now he that establisheth us with you in Christ, and anointed us, is God” (2 Cor. 1 : 21, R. V.).
A student of the Scriptures need not be told how closely the ceremony of anointing was related to all important offices and ministries of the servants of Jehovah under the old covenant. The priest was anointed that he might be holy unto the Lord (Lev. 8 : 12). The king was anointed that the Spirit of the Lord might rest upon him in power (1 Sam. 16 : 15). The prophet was anointed that he might be the oracle of God to the people (1 Kings 19 : 16). No servant of Jehovah was deemed qualified for his ministry without this holy sanctifying touch laid upon him. Even in the cleansing of the leper this ceremony was not wanting. The priest was required to dip his right finger in the oil that was in his left hand and to put it upon the tip of the right ear, upon the thumb of the right hand, and upon the great toe of the right foot of him that was to be cleansed, the oil “upon the blood of the trespass-offering" (Lev. 14 : 17). Thus with divine accuracy did even the types foretell the two-fold provision for the Christian life, cleansing by the blood and hallowing by the oil—justification in Christ, sanctification in the Spirit.
If we ask now what this anointing is, the reply is obviously the Holy Spirit himself. As before he was the seal attesting us, so now he is the oil sanctifying us—the same gift described by different symbols. And as it was the Aaron who had been the first anointed who was qualified to anoint others, so with our great High Priest. It is he within the veil who gives the Spirit unto his own, that he may qualify them to be “an elect race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God's own possession (1 Peter 2 : 9, R. V.). "But ye have an anointing from the Holy One, and ye know all things” (1 John 2 : 20). Christ in the New Testament is constantly called “the Holy One." And because the Spirit was sent to communicate him to the people, they are made partakers of his knowledge as well as of his holiness. If it should be said that this unction of which John speaks is miraculous, the divine illumination of evangelists and prophets who were commissioned to be the vehicles of inspired Scripture, we must call attention to other passages which connect the knowledge of God with the Holy Ghost. “For who among men knoweth the things of a man save the spirit of a man which is in him; even so the things of God none knoweth save the Spirit of God” (i Cor. 2 : 11, R. V.). The horse and his rider may see the same magnificent piece of statuary in the park; the one may be delighted with it as a work of human genius, but upon the dull eye of the other it makes no impression, and for the reason that it takes a human mind to appreciate the work of the human mind. Likewise only the Spirit of God can know and make known the thoughts and teachings and revelations of God. This seems to be the meaning of John in his discourse concerning the divine unction: “But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you; but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things” (1 John 2 : 27).
In nothing does the enduement of the Spirit more distinctly manifest itself than in the fine discernment of revealed truth which it imparts. As in service, the contrast between working in the power of the Spirit and in the energy of the flesh is easily discernible, even more clearly in knowledge and teaching is the contrast between the tuition of learning and the intuition of the Spirit. While we should not undervalue the former, it is striking to note how the Bible puts the weightier emphasis on the latter; so that really the unspiritual hearer is to be accounted less blameworthy for not discerning the truth than the intellectual preacher is for expecting him to do so. When, for example, one attempts with the utmost learning to convince an unbeliever of the deity of Christ and fails, the word of Scripture to him is: “No man is able to say 'Lord Jesus ' save in the Holy Ghost” (1 Cor. 12 : 3).
The Spirit of Jesus can alone reveal to men the lordship of Jesus, and this key of knowledge the Holy Ghost will never put into the hand of any man however learned. As it is written that Christ is the "raying forth” of the Father's glory, and “the express image of his person” (Heb. 1 : 3), thus by a beautiful figure reminding us that as we can only see the sun in the rays of the sun, so we can only know God in Jesus Christ, who is the manifestation of God. It is so likewise between the second and third Persons of the Trinity. Christ is the image of the invisible God; the Holy Ghost is the invisible image of Christ. As Jesus manifested the Father outwardly, the Spirit manifests Jesus inwardly, forming him within us as the hidden man of the heart, imaging him to the spirit by an interior impression which no intellectual instruction, however diligent, can effect!
In his profound discourse concerning the “unction” and accompanying illumination, John was only expounding by the Spirit what Jesus had said before his departure: “Howbeit, when he the Spirit of truth is come, he will guide you into all truth; he shall glorify me; for he shall receive of mine and shall show it unto you" (John 16 : 13). “The Spirit of truth”—How much instruction and suggestion is conveyed by this term! As he is called "the Spirit of Christ," as revealing Christ in his suffering and glory, so he is Called “the Spirit of truth," as manifesting the truth in all its depths and heights. As impossible as it is that we should know the person of Christ without the Spirit of Christ who reveals him, so impossible it is that we should know the truth as it is in Jesus without the Spirit of truth who is appointed to convey it. “The Spirit of truth whom the world cannot receive" (John 14 : 17)—We must come to Christ before the Spirit can come to us. “The Spirit of truth which proceedeth from the Father" (John 15 : 26)—He can only teach us in intelligent sonship to cry "Abba, Father.” The Spirit of truth . . . shall guide you into all truth” (John 16 : 13). Divine knowledge is all and altogether in his power to communicate, and without his illumination it must be hidden from our understanding.
Thus we have had the enduement of the Spirit presented to us under three aspects—sealing, filling, and anointing—all of which terms, so far as we can understand, signify the same thing—the gift of the Holy Ghost appropriated through faith. Each of these terms is connected with some special Divine endowment—the seal with assurance and consecration; the filling with power; and the anointing with knowledge. All these gifts are" wrapt up in the one gift in which they are included, and without whom we are excluded from their possession.
While thus we conclude that it is a Christian's privilege and duty to claim a distinct anointing of the Spirit to qualify him for his work, we would be careful not to prescribe any stereotyped exercises through which one must necessarily pass in order to possess it. It is easy to cite cases of decisive, vivid, and clearly marked experience of the Spirit's enduement, as in the lives of Dr. Finney, James Brainard Taylor, and many others. And instead of discrediting these experiences—so definite as to time and so distinct as to accompanying credentials —we would ask the reader to study them, and observe the remarkable effects which followed in the ministry of those who enjoyed them. The lives of many of the co-laborers with Wesley and Whitefield give a striking confirmation of the doctrine which we are defending. Years of barren ministry, in which the gospel was preached with orthodox correctness and literary finish, followed, after the Holy Spirit had been recognized and appropriated, by evangelistic pastorates of the most fervent type, such is the history of not a few of these mighty men of God.
Let not this great subject be embarrassed by too minute theological definitions on the one hand, nor by the too exacting demand for striking spiritual exercises on the other, lest we put upon simple souls a burden greater than they can bear. Nevertheless we cannot emphasize too strongly the divine crisis in the soul which a full reception of the Holy Ghost may bring. “My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you” (Gal. 4 : 19), writes the apostle to those who had already believed on the Son of God. Whatever he may have meant in this fervent saying, we doubt not that the deepest yearning of the Spirit is for the informing of Christ in the heart, in order to that outward conformity to Christ which is the supreme end of Christian nurture. If we conceive of the Christian life as only a gradual growth in grace, is there not danger that we come to regard this growth as both invisible and inevitable, and so take little responsibility for its accomplishment? Let the believer receive the Holy Ghost by a definite act of faith for his consecration, as he received Christ by faith for his justification, and may he not be sure that he is in a safe and scriptural way of acting? We know of no plainer form of stating the matter than to speak of it as a simple acceptance by faith, the faith which is
An affirmation and an act,
Which bids eternal truth be present fact.
It is a fact that Christ has made atonement for sin; in conversion faith appropriates this fact in order to our justification. It is a fact that the Holy Ghost has been given; in consecration faith appropriates this fact for our sanctification. One who writes upon this subject with a scholarship evidently illuminated by a deep spiritual tuition, says: “If a reference to personal experience may be permitted, I may indeed here ‘set my seal.' Never shall I forget the gain to conscious faith and peace which came to my own soul, not long after a first decisive and appropriating view of the crucified Lord as the sinner's sacrifice of peace, from a more intelligent and conscious hold upon the living and most gracious personality of the Spirit through whose mercy the soul had got that blessed view. It was a new development of insight into the love of God. It was a new contact as it were with the inner and eternal movements of redeeming goodness and power, a new discovery in divine resources.” (H. C. G. Moule, Veni Creator Spiritus, p. 13.)
Well is our doctrine described in these italicized words: “A contact with the inner movements of Divine power." The energy of the Spirit appropriated, even as with uplifted finger the electric car touches the current which is moving just above it in the wire and is borne irresistibly on by it.— Thus does the power which is eternally for us become a power within us; the law of Sinai, with its tables of stone, is replaced by “the law of the Spirit of life" in the fleshly tables of the heart; the outward commandment is exchanged for an inward decalogue; hard duty by holy delight, that henceforth the Christian life may be “all in Christ, by the Holy Spirit, for the glory of God."
A.J. Gordon, Ministry of the Spirit, (Philadelphia: American Baptist Publication Society, 1894), pp. 65-96.