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A Study of Four Key Passages
Our final task is to seek an understanding of various scriptures additional to those already studied, where the Holy Spirit is associated with men. In this study it is important always to have clearly in mind the four differing uses of spirit which we have already considered. We have distinguished (1) God's Spirit in every believer from (2) a Holy Spirit gift acting directly on and through men in mortal life. Then there is (3) the operation of the Holy Spirit on men when incorruptibility and life are bestowed in the partaking of the divine nature in a material sense. And (4) we should bear in mind that spirit in a man may be referring to his own spirit -- that part of his threefold make-up, "body, soul and spirit." Of course, Spirit has still other connotations in scripture, but it would be confusing rather than helpful to go into further detail. Sometimes in a passage of scripture and its context more than one of these four uses is involved.
We take as a first group, four passages all of which are regarded as primary proof of the present possession of the Holy Spirit.
Romans Chapter 8:8-10
This is the clearest expression of scripture that in some sense the Spirit of God is in the believer. The case presented in this book has been that the Spirit of God grows in a man according as he appreciates the mind of God revealed in His word, and brings himself into harmony therewith. We believe a study of Romans chapters 7 and 8 will confirm this.
It is important to study chapters 7 and 8 together; they are a continuing theme and the phrases in the early part of chapter 8 must be interpreted by what has gone before at the end of chapter 7. Chapter 8:1 should be read without a break from the end of chapter 7. If we do this, starting, say, at chapter 7:21, we find that "walking after the Spirit" of chapter 8:1 is "being captive to the law of sin in my members," and "serving the law of sin with the flesh." So walking after the Spirit is giving attention to the law of God, walking after the flesh is giving heed to one's own fleshly desires. It is a broad concept of the things from God and things from our own hearts. The thought of a Holy Spirit Gift operating upon us is not present.
Paul confirms these ideas as he proceeds. There is a minding of the things of the flesh, and a minding of the things of the Spirit, the one leading to death, the other to life (Vv. 5-6). The carnal mind, or in the Greek the minding of the flesh is not subject to the law of God (v. 7); inferring that by contrast the minding of the Spirit is our being subject to the law of God. It is our choice, our effort; we either allow ourselves to follow the minding of the flesh, or we consciously choose to follow the mind of the Spirit, the way of God. In the one case we are in the flesh, in the other we are in the Spirit, either servants of sin or servants of God. It is a choice we make; there is nothing here of a Holy Spirit Gift influencing us to holy living. Walking after the Spirit, in the Spirit, led by the Spirit of God, are all phrases to be understood in harmony with Paul's unfolding theme of two basic positions after the flesh or after the Spirit. There is no dispute that after the flesh means serving ourselves, and so by contrast with this, after the Spirit means serving God; or as Paul said at the beginning of his argument, serving the law of God with the mind.
The phrases in verse 9: Christ in us and the spirit of Christ in us, mean the mind of Christ in us. This is the same thing as
the mind of God in us, and our thinking and doing in harmony with His revealed will. There is nothing here to infer that this is the result of a Holy Spirit Gift at baptism; rather it is the result of serving the law of God with the mind.
In the 10th verse of chapter 8 it should be noted Paul is making a different contrast. It is not between flesh and spirit, but between the body and the spirit. This takes us back again to chapter 7:22-23 where Paul sees himself as two parts: my members in which dwell sin; and my mind in which dwells the law of God. So in chapter 8:10 body and spirit define the two parts of the believer. In his body he is still in the grip of sin and death: but in his spirit, in his mind, he has Christ dwelling there which assures him of life through righteousness.
There are varying shades of meaning, or applications, of spirit in this chapter. If the reader wishes to pursue the matter, Brother John Carter's book Paul's letter to the Romans is well worth studying; also his series in The Christadelphian, (May to December 1955) entitled: The Holy Spirit in the Church.
Luke Chapter 11:11
Jesus is here using the gifts of a father to a son on a natural plane to illustrate God's gifts to his children on a spiritual plane. All that God does for His children is by the Holy Spirit -- Whether it is the initiation of spiritual life, the growth of the new man of the spirit, or the final putting on of the divine nature in the possession of a spirit body like to that of the Lord Jesus Christ. Giving the Holy Spirit to them that ask Him is the briefest way to cover all that God does for His children. There is no need to assume that Jesus is referring to a bestowal of a Spirit Gift after Pentecost on all believers. This does not in fact fit the context. The disciples, conscious of their insufficiency and need, had asked Jesus to help them in prayer, and he has just given them the pattern of the Lord's prayer. Jesus then encourages them to have faith, to ask God for help, and believe He will respond. He is your Heavenly Father, and as a Father He cares for you. This was something that was operative for them at this time -- Jesus was not prophesying about a future Holy Spirit Gift. The wide sense of the use of Holy Spirit here may be confirmed by noting the similar earlier statement in Matthew 7. The theme is the same: God giving to them that ask -- and in this case Jesus uses the words good things instead of Holy Spirit. "If he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent? If ye then, being evil
know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good gifts to them that ask Him", (Matthew 7:11).
At this time the disciples (both the 12 and the 70) had already possessed Holy Spirit power, probably for a limited period. The previous chapter records that they returned from their independent preaching tour, in which they had worked signs and wonders, "And the seventy returned again with joy, saying, Lord, even the devils are subject to us" (Luke 10:17). So Jesus' words about giving the Holy Spirit would, in their minds, include possessing the power of the Holy Spirit as they had already experienced it, and as they later received at Pentecost.
John Chapter 7:38
"He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water." (This spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified. These words were cried by Jesus on the last day of the feast of tabernacles, and were probably uttered as the priest poured out water at the foot of the altar. This was a ceremony in which water was taken from the pool of Siloam and poured out with the accompaniment of trumpets and singing, based on the words of Isaiah: "With joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation", (Isaiah 12:3). Jesus arrests the attention of the large audience by identifying himself with this symbolic act.
Isaiah's prophecy of Israel drawing water out of the wells of salvation will have its fulfilment when they receive blessing and teaching from the immortalised saints, their rulers. In this future day of Israel's restoration and obedience, God's Spirit will be poured out upon them through the saints (cp Isaiah 32:15; Isaiah 59:20-21; Ezekiel 39:29) as it was poured out through the apostles in the first century. There is symbolic language in Revelation 22, that expresses a similar idea: a river of water of life flows from the throne of God, and there is a wood of life, watered by the river, the leaves of the trees being for the healing of the nations. This language describes the saints sustained by the spirit of God, and bestowing blessing and healing on the peoples during the millenium. The symbology in Isaiah and Revelation is similar: wells of ever fresh water in the one, and a river of water of life in the other.
In the ceremony on the last day of the feast, Jesus associates himself with what was being done, and gives it its proper meaning. Through him and him alone, this prophecy of Isaiah 12 would
be fulfilled. "Rivers of living waters" (the Spirit) flowing to Israel, out of the belly of believers, Christ's immortal brethren, could only happen through him. The pouring out of the Spirit, both in the apostle's time, and in the future through the immortalised saints depends on the death, resurrection and glorification of the Lord Jesus Christ.
The Spirit was manifested through the apostles after the Lord was glorified. When John wrote his gospel this had taken place, and so he adds by way of explanation "for the Holy Spirit was not yet given because Jesus was not yet glorified." This Holy Spirit in the apostles was an earnest of the greater outpouring in the future when the believers themselves, made spirit beings, will teach and guide Israel and the world by the Holy Spirit power. "Living waters" will flow out from them to all men.
Those who believe in the possession of a Holy Spirit Gift by all believers today, use this quotation as their primary justification for their view. Bro. A. D. Norris says in his booklet Being Born Again: " 'The promise is' unto you and unto your children.' This is what Peter said to the repentant Jews at Pentecost, when they asked: "Men and brethren, what shall we do?' Peter seems to leave no gaps in the application of the promise: both in time and space it stands for everyone who receives the gospel: to you and to your children (as of time), to all that be afar off (as of place) and even as many as the Lord our God shall call' (for good measure). This message is as universal as that of John 3:5 and Titus 3:5" (p. 11).
We have in this series of articles, made an extensive study of the relation of the Holy Spirit to men, and we are now in a position to seek the meaning of these words of Peter. In particular there are two questions for answer: What is the promise? To whom is it given?
The Teaching of Acts ch. 2
It is impossible to give a proper answer to these by looking just at the verses in question. They come at the end of an extended and very important exposition by Peter of God's purpose, and before we attempt a precise answer to the questions we must see what the chapter is about. We will, however, state now the conclusions we shall arrive at. They are:
(1) the "gift of the Holy Spirit" they were to receive (v. 38), was in its immediate sense the same gift as the apostles had just received on the day of Pentecost; (2) the "promise" of v. 39 was a promise of salvation; and (3) the promise was to the Jew for a limited time, and also to the Gentiles, and those "afar off."
The teaching of Acts 2 is made up of a quotation from Joel, and Peter's explanation of the quotation in the light of Jesus' resurrection. We must therefore acquaint ourselves with the quotation first, and then Peter's interpretation. The quotation tells us (1) there was to be a pouring out of Spirit at a time when Israel's constitution was ending, when "the sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon into blood;" and this would be accompanied by great distress, violence, and war: "blood, fire, and vapour of smoke" (Vv. 19-20); (2) the pouring out of the Spirit was to result in prophesying and visions (v. 12). Peter's discourse in this chapter was a "prophesying" or setting forth of God's will, and the record through the Acts is an extensive prophesying or revealing of God's will regarding the New Covenant salvation. (3) the results of (1) and (2) was that "whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved" (v. 21). Although the pouring out of the Spirit among men was something dramatic, this was not an end in itself; its purpose was to lead men to salvation. Salvation is the essence of Joel's words. The Holy Spirit Gift was "the teacher of righteousness" (Joel 2:23) bringing that salvation.
Now when we study Peter's application of Joel to the crisis of that day, we find he, too, is promising salvation to men who have become conscious of their alienation from God, and cry out, "Men and brethren, what shall we do?" He explains that Joel's salvation was to be found in Jesus Christ. "Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ." He is the Messiah, the long looked for Redeemer. He then tells them how Joel's "call on the name of the Lord" for salvation should be carried out. He says "Repent and be baptised every one of you in (or into) the name of Jesus Christ." This would bring them forgiveness of sins and salvation. With all this background it should be clear that when he continues and says "the promise is unto you and to your children, etc." he means this wonderful promise of salvation. This then is our first answer to the question, what is the promise?
Peter having instructed them to "call on the name of the Lord" in baptism in order to receive God's salvation, also tells them that they would receive the Gift of the Holy Spirit (v. 38). This must be understood in the light of the basic quotation from
Joel. Peter has already told them (v. 16), that the Holy Spirit in the apostles was the fulfilment of Joel's prophecy of the pouring out of the Spirit. The power of the Holy Spirit had amazed them, and it was something in the forefront of their minds. Therefore when Peter says they would receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, they would understand that this was something similar to what was then manifest. It certainly could not convey to them a hidden quality in the heart, to be received at baptism. They would understand that they would receive the same sort of power as the apostles. And it is apparent from the Acts that the Holy Spirit power was widely received at the beginning. As Bro. Thomas has suggested, the words of Peter were particularly applicable to those listening to Peter: they were devout Jews from Parthia, Media, Asia, Egypt, and many other places of the Roman world, and when they departed from Jerusalem to their own countries with this new doctrine of salvation in Jesus Christ they would use the power of the Holy Spirit to witness to the truth of their words. This was a very effective way, arranged by the providence of God, by which the Truth should have an initial spreading abroad, through a multitude of preachers, preparing the ground for the arrival of the apostles as the ambassadors of Jesus Christ.
We learn from Paul's description of the working of the Spirit gifts (1 Cor. chps. 12-14) that Spirit gifts were not personally received by every believer. Selected brethren possessed the gifts for the good of all, and they were the hands, eyes, etc. of the community. In this way the Gift of the Spirit was available to all; and so Paul can say "No man can say that Jesus is Lord but by the Holy Spirit" (1 Cor. 12). This did not require a personal possession of the Gift, but a conviction derived through the teaching and witness of their companions, who did possess the Gift.
We believe, however, that the words "ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit" was not limited to this immediate possession of the Spirit. As we have already shown in relation to Luke 11:13, and John 7:38, the Spirit received at this time was but an earnest of the future possession of the Spirit, in the putting on of the divine nature, and in distilling the wisdom and power of the Spirit to the mortal occupants of the kingdom. We believe Joel's words themselves extend to this final outpouring of Spirit. Peter's application of Joel's words do not make up their complete fulfilment. By looking back to Joel, one will see that Joel is speaking of a pouring out of the Spirit when Israel shall be no more ashamed. This certainly did not fit the time of the apostles; it belongs to the future. So we conclude that Peter is telling Israel of the promise of salvation,
and how to call on the name of the Lord; and that this salvation included the teaching of the Spirit at that time, with power and signs, but that the salvation in its fulness was the receiving of the Gift of the Holy Spirit in the possession of divine nature.
To Whom Was The Promise Made?
The promise was first, "to you and your children;" and secondly, "all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call." There is something quite precise about these words. The first phrase refers to the call of the Jews, and the second to the call of the Gentiles. As far as the Jews were concerned, there was but a limited opportunity left: it was extended to those who were listening, and to their children, After that, the end would have come, the Jewish polity would be overthrown by the Romans, and the nation cast off for the time being as a branch broken off in unbelief (Rom. 11:20). Then, as to those "afar off," we have a scriptural definition of this phrase given by Paul in Eph. 2:13,17. "Ye being in times past Gentiles in the flesh .... but now in Christ Jesus, ye who sometimes were afar off are made nigh by the blood of Christ." "And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby: and came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh. For through him we both have access by One Spirit unto the Father . . . . an holy temple of the Lord: in whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit." These words of Paul give a full explanation of the briefer words of Peter. By the working of the Holy Spirit, Jew and Gentile have access to the Father, and will become a habitation of the Father by the power of the same Holy Spirit. This is Peter's promise on the day of Pentecost.
It will be seen therefore, that Peter in Acts 2:39 is not talking vaguely about a continuing Gift of the Spirit in the hearts of believers operating for all time and in every place, with an extra phrase thrown in "for good measure;" he is promising salvation to Jew and Gentile, a promise which involves at all stages the working of God's Holy Spirit unto salvation in them that believe.
There is interesting confirmation that Peter is referring first to Jews and then to Gentiles in this verse, by going back to the original promise in Joel 2. Peter, in his citation of it, concludes with the words: "whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved." But Joel has a further sentence that Peter omits. Joel adds: "for in mount Zion and in Jerusalem shall be deliverance, as the Lord has said, and in the remnant whom the Lord shall call." The last phrase is clearly the call of the Gentiles.
Joel's two classes therefore, are those of Jerusalem, the Jews; and the remnant. Bro. Carter has reasonably suggested that Peter does in fact complete the quotation from Joel; and he does this in the verse under examination: verse 39 of Acts 2 being his paraphrase of the last part of Joel 2:32, compare "and in the remnant whom the Lord shall call" with "to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call."
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