The Designated Work of the Spirit

Second Study on the Holy Spirit


"Nevertheless I tell you the truth: It is ex­pedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send Him unto you." John 16:7.

The coming of the Holy Spirit, according to  promise, was in intimate relationship to a very vital purpose of the Lord in going away. Yesterday we dealt with what the Spirit was to do for the church when He came. Now let us consider, first of all, what He was to do for the world when He came. The Word de­clared He would "reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment." John 16:8.

Sin was not very clearly understood before the coming of Christ 1900 years ago. It was known to be an awful thing, but was not very fully understood before Jesus came to this earth in the flesh. Then its true meaning was brought to men by the cross of Calvary. Jesus stated that when the Spirit should come, He would reprove the world "of sin, because they believe not on Me." Verse 9. If He had not come and spoken unto them, what would have been their relationship to sin? They "had not known sin." But now that He had come, they had "no cloak for their sin." So His coming enables us to understand what sin really is.

The coming of the Spirit—sent by Jesus according to the promise—was to convince and reprove the world of sin because they believed not on Him. If we believe on the Lord Jesus, we have forgiveness; and that leads us to life eternal. But if we believe not on Jesus, the Spirit "reproves" us of sin. And the fruit of sin is death, for "the wages of sin is death." So it is absolutely necessary that the Spirit of God should speak concerning "sin."

But He was to convince the world also "of righteousness." For what reason?—"Because I go to My Father." What had His going to the Father to do with the Spirit's witness of righteousness? Just this: The witness of the Spirit, when He came, was to be of "righteous­ness," and "if I go not away," the Spirit will not come. Christ had first to go away, for the Spirit to come. And Christ says that the Spirit witnesses on earth of His righteousness because He (Christ) goes to the Father.

Jesus came forth from the Father into this world to take our flesh, to be tempted in all points, and to conquer sin, and to destroy him that had the power of death. Having done that,—having come forth from the Father, hav­ing taken our flesh and been made sin for all humanity, having Himself paid the penalty for our guilt through His death, and having thus received the power to put away sin and de­stroy our enemy,—what was it necessary for Him to do?—To go back to His Father. If He did not do that, all that He had done in the flesh for us would be ineffective. In John 16:28, He says: "I came forth from the Father, and am come into the world: again, I leave the world, and go to the Father."

Let us ask: What sort of life did He bring with Him from the Father?—A righteous life. What sort of life did He take with Him back to the Father?—A righteous life. He came forth the righteous Son of God; He returned the righteous Son of God. And between His coming and His return to the Father there was the endurance of all the temptations that can assail human flesh. But through it all He preserved His righteousness. And His purpose in going back to the Father was to minister that accepted righteousness to us through His priestly ministry in heaven.

In His righteousness He came forth from the Father to the world. In His righteousness He offered Himself for sinners. In His righteous­ness He went back to God and was accepted of the Father for us. And in His righteousness He sent forth the Holy Spirit to minister to human beings in the world. This is very definitely stated in Isaiah 53, in the first epis­tle of John, the tenth chapter of Acts, and in the fifth of Romans. Only through that right­eousness have we hope in God: "As by the offense of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of One the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life." Rom. 5:18. That is not only a very plain statement, but a very im­portant truth. Its blessedness should be always in our hearts as teachers of the gospel of Jesus Christ. As the righteous One, He has been made not only our High Priest in heaven. but the Head of the church here on the earth.

"And hath put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be the head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him that filleth all in all." Eph. 1:22, 23.

That which had before been testified in prophecy is now a reality. Christ has come in the flesh, has lived as man, has died our death, has burst the bands of death, and has come forth from the tomb the conqueror of death. He has gone to the Father, and has been accepted as the one Sacrifice for sin and the one Mediator between God and man, made a Priest after the power of an endless life by the oath of God. Because of all this the Spirit was sent to testify to His righteousness,—righteousness no longer merely foretold as yet to be achieved, but righteousness now both im­puted and imparted through the merits of a life lived, a death which has taken place, a victory that has been obtained, and a ministry which is continuous for us in heaven.

In Hebrews 9:12-14 we read that it was by His own blood, "through the eternal Spirit" that Christ "offered Himself without spot to God." That is a very plain statement. It was the acceptance of this offering by God that made it possible for Jesus to become the Media­tor of the new covenant.

It was through His death that Christ became the Mediator of that new covenant, which then came into force. And it was by the acceptance of the sacrifice made that He became the Medi­ator of this new covenant. If that sacrifice had not been accepted by God, Jesus could not have become the Mediator of that covenant. His mediation of the new covenant began, therefore, after His ascension, after the offer­ing of Himself had been accepted for us. And it was in connection with this work of media­tion of the new covenant that the Spirit was sent to us, according to the promise made by the Father. Observe how this is stated in Acts 2:32, 33, in the sermon on the day of Pentecost:

"This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses. Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, He hath shed forth this, which ye' now see and hear."

First of all He was "raised" from the dead. Next He was "exalted." His exaltation is evi­dence that the offering made for us and presented to God for us, nas been accepted: The witness of the Holy Spirit is to this great and vital fact. This Pentecostal announcement, therefore, had to do with the induction of Christ into the priesthood. In that we cannot be mistaken. There is evidence of this, too, in such passages as Ephesians 1:20-23; He­brews 1:3; Acts 2, etc. Or if one turns back to Psalms 110,—which is a prophecy of Christ's priesthood,—the thing that chiefly character­izes the prophecy is that in His induction into the priesthood Christ is so exalted. Therefore, all these statements in the New Testament about Christ having been exalted to the right hand of the Father witness to the fulfillment of the prophecy concerning the priesthood of our Lord and the time of its beginning.

If Christ had not begun His priestly work in heaven, the Holy Spirit could not have come according to the promise. But the Spirit, hav­ing come, is able to testify of righteousness because of Christ's high-priestly ministry.

Please let me emphasize the thought: Every­thing for which the Spirit should conic after the death of Christ was consequent and de­pendent upon Christ's being accepted in heaven as our offering and His being inducted into His priestly ministry in the heavenly sanctu­ary, where He now is ministering in our be­half. The testimony of Paul is that in the res­urrection Christ conquered death; and had He not conquered death, we could not have been released from death. Had He gone into the tomb without perfect righteousness, He would have remained in death. But, thank God, He arose from the dead and is alive for­evermore.

Without Christ's priestly ministry the cross of Calvary would be meaningless and valueless, just as Paul has written, "If Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain." 1 Cor. 15:14. Without that blessed ministry there would be no value to truth, no basis for the Holy Spirit's teach­ing and guidance, no interest for sinful man in the Spirit's testimony of Christ, and no need for Him to speak of Christ; for there would be no redemption. A fountain "for uncleanness" was opened by the atoning sacri­fice of Christ, but without Christ's priesthood no man would be brought to its cleansing, and no one saved from condemnation. So it is because of the priesthood of Christ that there now is reproof of sin, witness for righteous­ness, and warning of judgment through the Spirit. The Holy Spirit of promise therefore was sent at Pentecost to witness to the fact that Jesus had been exalted to the priesthood, and the Spirit, having come, is the "earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession." Eph. 1:14.

Now I desire to take up the question of our being filled with the Spirit. The outpour­ing of the Holy Spirit is also for the evangeliza­tion of the world. He was not only to come to individuals to reprove of sin and testify of righteousness, and warn of judgment, but also to provide power for witnessing. We receive the Holy Spirit first that our own need may be met. But in the supplying of our own need, provision for which God has made through our receiving the Holy Spirit, there is also the purpose that we shall witness to others of that which we have received. God purposes to win others by the outflow of His Spirit from His children. That is the very essence of evangelism. This outflowing of the Spirit is foretold in John 7:37-39:

"In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto Me, and drink. He that believeth on Me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.

(But this spake He of the Spirit, which they that believe on Him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.)"

That is the testimony of Jesus. He here speaks of those filled with the Holy Spirit witnessing because of that experience. We are first to drink for ourselves, to meet our own need,—and if anyone really does need to come and drink, it is the man who is to witness for Christ,—and by our drinking, God has provided for an outflow to others. There must be an intaking before there can be an outflowing. If the intake is not constant, the outflow will be unsatisfactory.

Every minute of our lives, beginning with the very first recollection of our awakening senses in the morning, it is our privilege to remember that God has given us the Holy Spirit, not merely to be with us, but to be in us and to fill us, as the controlling power of our lives. That is what God wants to do for us, and what we greatly need to have done in us. The widest provision that God has made for helping others is by the outflow of His Holy Spirit from those to whom the Spirit has already come. But the Holy Spirit does not overflow any man's heart until that heart is itself fined. That was the secret of Pente­cost.

I seriously think that even the most success­ful of soul winners have failed to realize how limitless are our possibilities through the Holy Spirit. God does not have a mere tricklet in mind as flowing out from us. Rivers! Rivers! "Rivers of living water!" If rivers of living water are flowing, there will be, there must be, life as a result. Note the steps. First of all comes our own conversion, then such an intake of the Holy Spirit as will satisfy all our needs; and then such a fullness and outflow of the Spirit in our ministry as will bring soul-win­ning power into our service. But observe that the fruits of the Spirit in us are not the re­sult of our service.

"The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law." Gal. 5:22, 23.

These things do not appear in us because of what we do for others, but rather because of what the Spirit has brought to us. They are not the fruits of service, but the fruits of character. You cannot get them by just serv­ing. When God speaks to us of the fruit of the Spirit, let us not begin to think of numbers being added to the church roll. When we are filled with the Holy Spirit, there will be love, and that love will replace criticism, variance, hatred. There will be unity, and not strife nor contention. What is the use of talking about such an outpouring of the Holy Spirit when we allow the influences of hate, strife, and disunion to prevail in our lives?

It is not the Spirit speaking through us when we are criticizing our brethren. Such a work has nothing to do with "rivers of living water" flowing out. When our ministry is characterized by criticism and strife, let us not even think of it then as a ministry of the Spirit. Instead of convincing of righteousness, He then reproves us of sin. But on the other hand, when the Spirit fills our hearts, the fruits of the Spirit are seen in our lives, and love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, good­ness, faith, meekness, temperance, appear in us and abide in the experience of the church.

There are things that have been crippling our ministry. God has sent His Holy Spirit to protect our hearts from their influence, but the one safe way of life and service for us is to be filled with the Spirit. When the heart is filled with the Spirit, the mouth, speaking out of the abundance of the heart, will utter the language of the Spirit. If criticism and variance and strife and self-exaltation are in our hearts, the language of the heart will be of such things. Discovery of these in us should alarm us, and send us to the Lord with con­fession and pleading to be filled with the Spirit of the Holy God. We know of a certainty that so long as we permit them to remain, refusing to yield them, we are not filled with the Spirit of God, and there being no fullness of the Spirit, there is no outflow.

There is little use for us as a ministry to talk about being "filled with the Holy Spirit," and "witnessing in the power of the Holy Spirit," if we allow such things to exist in our hearts. The one way of victory for us is to yield ourselves wholly to the control of the Spirit. We frequently speak of revival and reformation. The revival needed will come only by such surrender of unholy things, and by permitting the Spirit to fill us and to control our lives.

"Be filled with the Spirit," is God's command in Ephesians 5:18. Unless we are, we are not equipped with the power necessary to do the work to which we are called. Being filled with the Holy Spirit does not make us radical. foolish, or extreme. If we begin to be extreme about something, that is not to be accepted as evidence that we are full of the Holy Spirit —not at all. Being filled with the Holy Spirit means living a rational, well-balanced life. It will not cause us to be foolish or irrational. The Spirit of God in our hearts removes us farther and farther from the foolish. Being "filled with the Spirit" means living lives that are in harmony with the truth of the gospel, and being ordered in all things in right rela­tionship to the life of our Lord.

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April 1935

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