The Minister and the Holy Spirit

FEATURES: The Minister and the Holy Spirit

Translated from the French by Leona Glidden Running, our copy editor. EDITORS.

Secretary, Advent Sources and Defense Office, Southern European Division

There is within thirst for truth, justice, and holiness that only the Spirit of God can satisfy. How thankful we should be for the marvelous promise of Jesus: "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." John 7:37, 38.

Taking the living water will do more than quench our thirst; it will spread floods over the world, not floods of eloquence or waves of learning, but floods of living water, that water to which the Holy Spirit gives life.

A question immediately arises: What are the conditions necessary to receiving the Holy Spirit?

The answer is found in Acts 5:32: "God hath given [the Holy Ghost] to them that obey him."

If there is therefore a reason why we have not yet received the Holy Spirit, it is that we do not obey. Such a statement may seem daring, for certainly we profess to keep the commandments of God.

But it does not suffice to observe the Sab bath or to give oneself up to an exterior practice of the law of God in order to fulfill the required conditions for receiving the Holy Spirit. A life of obedience implies that in all details we accept the directions of the Spirit, renouncing, if that is necessary, legitimate joys, allowable projects, real rights. We must obey the Holy Spirit.

An Absolute Sovereign

When the Holy Spirit is given to us, is He put at our service, or is He, like an absolute sovereign, to reign over our feelings, OIT thoughts, and our acts?

We have in the Bible numerous examples which show that the Holy Spirit does not content Himself with proposing, but that He orders. Thus in the church at Antioch there were prophets and doctors who sought, through prayer and fasting, the directions of the Lord. The Holy Spirit answered them by ordering them to set apart Barnabas and Paul for a particular work. (Acts 13:1-3.) The order was precise, positive, leaving room for no questioning. And the prophets and doctors of Antioch obeyed, as is proved by the rest of the recital in the book of Acts.

When the Holy Spirit speaks and orders, everything depends upon the attitude that we take in the face of that order, for we have the ability to accept or to refuse, to obey or to disobey. We can exercise our liberty in one direction or in another. That means that we can oppose the order of the Spirit. That eventuality comes about some times in an unconscious way and sometimes in a conscious manner.

Now, if an individual can disobey the Holy Spirit, a group equally faces the possibility of disobeying. Even a group of ministers may disobey the Holy Spirit.

In giving orders, the Holy Spirit may impose prohibitions, interdictions. The book of Acts tells us that the apostles were "for bidden of the Holy Ghost to preach the word in Asia." And as they prepared themselves to enter into Bithynia, "the Spirit suffered them not." Acts 16:6, 7.

Together they had formed projects, drawn up plans, organized trips, in full sincerity, without consideration for their personal interests, and yet the Holy Spirit prevented them from carrying out their plans.

If we have not known prohibitions of this kind, it is perhaps because we have not consulted the Holy Spirit, who has His own plans, that is, plans that are not necessarily ours.

What are therefore the normal relations between the minister and the Holy Spirit"?

A very precise answer is given to us in Acts 20:22, 23. The apostle Paul has the foreboding that serious difficulties await him. His brethren plead with him to renounce his project; besides, the Holy Spirit warns him that tribulations await him; but nevertheless he goes to Jerusalem, "bound in the Spirit."

Later he will be at Rome, held by chains, but now he is free. He could abstain from going up to Jerusalem, he could find enough brethren to approve it, but he feels himself morally bound. He obeys. He accepts in advance the sacrifice that his obedience will impose upon him. He will go, cost what it may.

This illustrates the relations that should exist between the minister and the Holy Spirit. No other attitude would be "normal."

A Daily Connection Necessary

We are not obliged to accept these relations. We can prefer our will, as did Balaam, and seek to exercise a certain pressure upon the Holy Spirit to lead Him to change to our point of view, to espouse our particular interests. Besides, our relations with the Holy Spirit can vary from one day to another, from one hour to another.

The example of Peter shows that to us. One day he says to his Master: "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God," and draws out the praise of Jesus: "Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee." Matt. 16: 16, 17. It is the Holy Spirit who has suggested to Peter his beautiful confession. But now Jesus predicts to the disciples that He will have to suffer much and will finally be put to death. Peter rebukes Him with these words: "Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto thee." He draws upon himself this stinging answer: "Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men." Verses 22, 23. On this occasion the Holy Spirit has not inspired Peter's remark. In the same way Peter was directed by exclusively human thoughts when later, at Antioch, Paul was constrained to rebuke him openly.

Our relations with the Holy Spirit can therefore change from one moment to another. That should make us prudent and attentive. The fact that yesterday I spoke under the influence of the Holy Spirit does not guarantee that today I shall do the same. We can go to sleep on our laurels. From the mount of transfiguration we can be brusquely transported down to the plain. Besides, we are nowhere sheltered from error, not more so on the mountain where the apostle Peter himself succumbed to the temptation to pronounce senseless words (Mark 9:6; Luke 9:33) than on the plain. Our relations with the Holy Spirit must be constant; it is the only way that we can be kept in obedience.

The promise of Jesus concerning the pouring out of the Holy Spirit could not be more clear, more definite, more solemn: "Ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost. ... Ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you." Acts 1:5-8. You shall be baptized, that is: you shall be plunged into a bath of the Spirit. That marvelous promise is not yet fully realized. We have received a few drops, but not the downpour that has been promised to us. It is that flood that we should ask for, that we should receive ourselves.

But let us leave to the Holy Spirit the care of doing His work in us. "We cannot use the Holy Spirit; the Spirit is to use us." Gospel Workers, p. 285. Individually and collectively we can seek to make use of the Holy Spirit. Simon offered money to pro cure for himself this power. But his request was denied with a severe rebuke because he desired to obtain the Holy Spirit for his own personal use, for the satisfaction of his own interests.

Have we never given way to the same temptation? In our prayers for receiving the Holy Spirit have we never introduced feelings of personal ambition? If we received the Spirit in His fullness, what preachers we would be! And what success we would attain!

The Holy Spirit is our master, our lord. He presents Himself to us with His orders, His commands, which often do not accord either with our ambitions or with our interests.

We must learn to surrender completely. We have not yet consented to that absolutely. There is a danger that we will want to hold on somehow to some of our own way, in the hope that the Holy Spirit will show Himself conciliatory. We cannot use the Holy Spirit, either individually or collectively.

We must never forget the royalty of the Holy Spirit, before which we are invited to humble ourselves, to completely empty ourselves and let Him take over. We must pre sent ourselves before the Holy Spirit in a spirit of profound humility, forgetting our titles, our positions, our privileges.

The Holy Spirit being our teacher, we should maintain the attitude of the humble, childlike student who desires to learn from a teacher in whom he has implicit confidence and whose every precept he obeys promptly and joyously, without having the slightest trace of any hesitancy or doubt.

Brethren, let us pray for the right attitude toward, for the right relationship to, the Holy Spirit, and we will receive the Spirit.

 

 


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Secretary, Advent Sources and Defense Office, Southern European Division

November 1952

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