The idea of personal service for others was in the mind of the Holy Spirit when He through the prophets had it recorded that a Pentecost would take place. It is not at all difficult for us, in reading the record of Pentecost, to discover that its experience was a fulfillment of those prophecies. Indeed, it was so explained by the disciples themselves, for when the multitude, recognizing something quite beyond their understanding in the fact of those disciples so speaking the things of God that every man heard the message in his own tongue, thought to explain it all by attributing the unusual occurrence to possible drunkenness on the part of the disciples,
"Peter, standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice, and said unto them, Ye men of Judea, and all ye that dwell at Jerusalem, be this known unto you, and hearken to my words: for these are not drunken, as ye suppose, seeing it is but the third hour of the day. But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel: And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of My Spirit upon all flesh." Acts 2:14-17.
The coming of the Holy Spirit to those disciples in fulfillment of that prophecy immediately manifested itself in their activities in behalf of others. The result was a great ingathering of souls. Those men were Spirit-filled, and their work was with mighty power. It is the purpose of God that this Spirit-filled service shall always be carried forward by His church. Each one coming to God by Jesus is, by that coming, to be fitted for service. Observe this in our Saviour's statement to the woman of Samaria in John 4:13, 14:
"Jesus answered and said unto her, Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again: but whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life."
It will be remembered that the whole of the fourth chapter of John is on soul winning. Christ there is speaking about the recovery of man from sin and sin's result by the service of evangelism. Admonishing His disciples to lift up their eyes and look on the fields, He declared the great human harvest of the world to be white and ready for the gathering. But He revealed to them quite clearly that the gathering of the harvest must be a work of the Spirit—that man by natural means alone is wholly unable to perform such a service successfully. It would be necessary for him to come and drink, not merely for his own soul's need, but to make him a successful minister of the things of the kingdom. Not having by nature those spiritual qualities needed for such service, it is necessary for him to come to the Source from which they may be drawn.
When Jesus spoke these words, He was by the well of Samaria. His audience was one woman, a sinner. He had asked her for water. She had expressed her surprise at His request, she being a Samaritan and He a Jew. He told her that had she but known who it was that asked her, she would have asked of Him that which He had to give. Plainly He told her that coming to the well from which Jacob had drawn would not fully meet her need. "Whosoever drinketh of this water," said He, "shall thirst again. But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst." This He spoke concerning the Holy Spirit.
We have but to turn to the seventh chapter of John to discover that this is so, for where Jesus has again spoken of the living water which He gives, it is clearly stated, "This spake He of the Spirit, which they that believe on Him should receive." Verse 39. So right in the heart of that great missionary chapter Jesus has placed the statement that it is absolutely necessary for the child of God to come to the inexhaustible well and drink of the water that springeth up unto everlasting life.
We should notice, too, the tense of the verb there used. It is not "drink," but "drinketh," —present progressive. It does not suggest one completed act, the drawing of a supply that would meet the need once for all. But it definitely suggests the need of constant drawing from the source. It suggests that we drink and drink and keep on drinking. And when that is done, a well is provided within us, a well from which there is a living flow, a well of water springing up into everlasting life. Until we have actually come and have entered into that experience, our need is to come and drink both for Christian living and for evangelistic service.
Consider for a moment the personal, individual aspect of this scripture. Too often we think of the coming of the Spirit in the sense of its reception by the church as a collective body. We think and speak of it as something that is to come upon the church as a whole, and be received equally by the members of the church. It is possible that we make a great mistake in so thinking. Jesus said to the woman of Samaria, "Whosoever drinketh." Again, in the seventh chapter of John, He says, "If any man thirst, let him come unto Me, and drink." We surely need the quickening influence of the Holy Spirit of God. But belief of the idea that it is to be received by the church as a whole, rather than by individual church members seeking it and receiving it for themselves, begets in us the attitude of waiting for something unusual that concerns the whole church, rather than an attitude of earnest, personal desire and determination to come personally, and to receive for ourselves.
"There is no place for us to rest in a careless attitude. We must never forget the warnings of Christ, 'Watch unto prayer,' Watch and pray always.' A connection with the divine agency every moment is essential to our progress. We may have had a measure of the Spirit of God, but by prayer and faith we are continually to seek more of the Spirit. It will never do to cease our efforts. If we do not progress, if we do not place ourselves in an attitude to receive both the former and the latter rain, we shall lose our souls, and the responsibility will lie at our own door. 'Ask ye of the Lord rain in the time of the latter rain.' Do not rest satisfied that in the ordinary course of the season, rain will fall."—"Testimonies to Ministers," p. 508.
The coming of the Holy Spirit in the latter rain is not to be as a snowfall into which we may step and have the same measure of snow fall upon us each. It is not like that at all. With all my heart I believe that the latter rain is even now falling, for we are in the time of the latter rain. We have evidence on every hand that this is so. But the measure of the Holy Spirit received by each is determined by the personal attitude of each toward receiving the Holy Spirit. I sometimes hear prayers offered that the latter rain may begin to fall. My friends, what should concern us much more deeply and definitely than that is that we shall each one himself come now and drink and drink and keep on drinking of the water of life, and have that water in us a well of water springing up into life everlasting.
Let us take now that statement of Jesus 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.)"
This scripture indicates that there must be something within ourselves prompting us, urging us, to come for that which God has to give.
"If any man thirst, let him come." There must be voluntary action. It isn't a matter of our walking casually out into the open and allowing the rain to fall upon us simply because it is falling, just as it would fall on any other man that happened to be there. That is neither what is purposed nor what is promised. It is something that we ourselves must seek and pursue. There must be voluntary action on our part,—first a recognition of need, then a coming to the source of supply to have that need met.
Then we must drink—not merely have rain fall upon us, but drink. It can rain a long time upon us before any of it gets inside. The Spirit of the living God has to come in and abide within in order to be a power in my life. I must sense my need. I must come. And then by my own voluntary act I must receive that which is there for me. If I come to water, needing it as much as I may, and though the supply is there in great abundance, if I do not receive it, it does me no good. It does not meet my need. It is exactly so with the Holy Spirit. Sensing our need of the Spirit, we come to the Source of supply, but there must be an intake of the Spirit before that need can be met in us or in others through us. The latter rain might fall in great abundance, but it will do us no good unless we personally receive it. But when we do receive of the Holy Spirit in the manner suggested by this scripture, then out of us shall flow rivers of living water.
It is God that gives the Holy Spirit. For all that we hope for in eternity it is absolutely necessary that we believe God. Faith is the hand by which we reach everything heavenly. But there is no more effectual way in which our faith in God manifests itself than by our receiving His Holy Spirit. The Spirit, received by faith, becomes in us a fountain of mighty power. Out of us then shall flow rivers of living water. Where there is a river of water there is always power. But you will notice that all that Jesus has said in this scripture is spoken of those who believe. Faith must operate in the reception of the Holy Spirit. Now 4t is mot -mere-assento the-truth that Jesus is the Saviour, or that He has sent the Spirit, that enables me to receive the Spirit in such a way that it becomes in me a fountain from which living rivers flow. It is steadfast, earnest faith, faith that enables me to be done with that which in me has been unsatisfactory and wrong, and which causes me to reach out for that which I have not had, but which I must have, of the things of God.
Again let me say, there must first of all be an infilling before there can be any outflow of the Holy Spirit. Observe what it is that flows, —living waters, rivers. Think of that! Sometimes we are satisfied with but little of what we might have in abundance. But that is not what God has in mind,—not a brook that babbles, revealing its own lack of depth by its noise, for noise will never take the place of power,—but rivers, a mighty, irresistible flow. As I read this it seems that "there is no limit to the usefulness of one who, by putting self aside, makes room for the working of the Holy Spirit upon his heart, and lives a life wholly consecrated to God."—"The Desire of Ages," p. 250. The whole flow of spiritual power from us must of course be from God. But it starts in our own voluntary action of coming unto Him and drinking. If the intake is satisfactory, the outflow is certain.
Reading through the Gospel of John, we discover that the whole matter of the reception and operation of the Spirit begins with regeneration. "Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." John 3:3. Really, the regenerate heart is the place of the Spirit's power. It was by changing the hearts of the disciples that room was made for the power that manifested itself through them at Pentecost. Before, there had been dissension and strife; but when their hearts were changed by the regeneration of the Holy Spirit, they were all of one accord. Then it was that the Spirit came and filled them, and a mighty outflow of power was manifested.
Proceeding to the fourth chapter of John, we have the assurance that the Spirit received into our hearts shall be in us a source of unfailing supply to others,—a well of water springing up into everlasting life. Then on into the seventh chapter, we find that the well becomes rivers outflowing. It is not God's purpose that we shall live only in the third chapter of John. We need to go on into the fourth and through into the seventh. And no one can read those chapters without recognizing the uselessness of endeavoring to put the things of our natural life in the place of the Spirit of God for service that is acceptable in heaven. "Learning, talent, eloquence, every natural or acquired endowment," we may have; but as we love the souls of our fellow men, let us never think of putting such things in the place of God's Holy Spirit. Such things we may have, but "without the presence of the Spirit of God, no heart will be touched, no sinner won to Christ."—"Testimonies," Vol. VIII, pp. 21, 22.
On the other hand, if we are connected with Christ, if the gifts of the Spirit are ours, poor and ignorant though we may be, we shall have a power that will move upon hearts, and God will make us channels for the outflowing of the highest influence in the universe.
"Why do we not hunger and thirst for the gift of the Spirit, since this is the means by which we are to receive power? Why do we not talk of it, pray for it, preach concerning it? The Lord is more willing to give the Holy Spirit to us than parents are to give good gifts to their children. For the baptism of the Spirit every worker should be pleading with God. Companies should be gathered together to ask for special help, for heavenly wisdom, that they may know how to plan and execute wisely. Especially should men pray that God will baptize His missionaries with the Holy Spirit."--I.d. p. 22.