The gospel dispensation was launched with a glorious manifestation of divine power. Pentecost was the fulfillment of prophecy, spoken of first by the prophet Joel, and later by the Saviour Himself. Jesus "commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith He, ye have heard of Me. For John truly baptized with water: but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence."
At first the disciples failed to grasp the significance of Christ's words, and when they all came together again, they asked Him, "Lord, wilt Thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?" They were thinking of Israel, and of the prophecies and traditions concerning her restoration. How little they even imagined what would take place through their ministry in the next few years. But Christ, in a sweeping sentence, brushed aside all their narrow, provincial thinking, bringing into their vision the whole lost world as the goal of their endeavor. He said, "It is not for you to know the times or the seasons. . . . But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto Me both in Jerusalem,. and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth."
This was the last word of Christ to these men whom He had drawn into the circle of His love and had trained for three and a half years. Two points evidently made a profound impression upon their minds,—the world-wide extent of their mission, and the absolute necessity of that supernatural power which He assured them they must receive.
The promise of the Holy Spirit was made on conditions. Whether these were given in greater detail than is recorded we know not, but the course pursued by the disciples shows that they understood them and fulfilled them conscientiously.
"In obedience to the word of their Master, the disciples assembled in Jerusalem to wait for the fulfillment of God's promise. Here they spent ten days,—days of deep heart searching. They put away all differences, and drew close together in Christian fellowship. At the end of ten days the Lord fulfilled His promise by a wonderful outpouring of His Spirit."—"Testimonies," Vol. VIII, p. 15.
"For ten days the disciples prayed before the Pentecostal blessing came. It required all that time to bring them to an understanding of what it meant to offer effectual prayer, drawing nearer and nearer to God, . . . and by faith beholding Jesus, and becoming changed unto His image. When the blessing did come, it filled all the place where they were assembled, and endowed with power, they went forth to do effectual work for the Master."—"Special Testimonies," Series A, No. 2, p. 92.
The promise was that they should receive power when the Holy Spirit came. The power was immediately manifested, but not, as some seem to suppose, as a supernatural power for them to use as they chose. The Holy Spirit exerted a mighty power independent of them, or using them as instruments, as He chose. Notice the sequence of events. They were all with one accord in one place fulfilling the conditions, Suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing, mighty wind And there appeared cloven tongues as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. They were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.
At that time, devout Jews were gathered in Jerusalem from all nations. Word quickly spread over the city concerning what had occurred in the upper room, and in a short time thousands of people of seventeen languages and nationalities came hurrying together. How can this be explained? There was no advertising, no tremendous, concerted, 'well-organized effort to get a crowd. They were gathered, not by natural but by supernatural means, not as a result of something the disciples did, but as a result of what the Holy Spirit did.
Then followed a simple sermon by the apostle Peter. His purpose was not to explain who the apostles were and to exalt them, but to lift up Christ crucified. There was deep conviction, and three thousand were converted. That divine, almighty Spirit so melted their hearts that as they saw the horror of sin in rejecting and crucifying the Lamb of God, their hearts were broken, and they cried out, "Men and brethren, what shall we do?"
Sometimes I wonder If we would not do well to think of the Holy Spirit in another way. We speak of Him as, first of all, convicting of sin. But let us think of Him first of all as the Spirit of divine love. God is love, and His Spirit must be the Spirit of love. Love is power. Love appeals, love melts, love convicts. The love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost.
Have we, therefore, really any good grounds for supposing that the next and final great manifestation of the Holy Spirit will be given on different conditions, and operate in a new and different way? We believe the answer to this question is given in the Word, which we shall study further in the next article.
(To be continued)