ANCIENT Israel never broke through as God intended, but the promise remains and the heralds of the everlasting gospel are now commissioned to take God's message, over all obstacles, to every nation, tongue, and people. The commission includes your nation and mine. What causes the breakthrough?
When reading the Scriptures one is impressed by the frequent references to the Spirit. This emphasis reveals the Holy Spirit as the unique power of Christianity. Other religions have their founders, sacred books, and laws, but they lack the Biblical doctrine of the Holy Spirit.
Pentecost Won at Calvary
Called the "promise of the Father," the outpouring of the Spirit upon the early disciples signaled God's acceptance of Christ's atonement for man. Always remember that Pentecost was won at Calvary. Everything we have of Christ—truth, grace, life, power, holiness—comes through the Holy Spirit. His work makes Christ real and relevant by empowering gospel messengers in their proclamation of the crucified, risen, and soon-coming Saviour, and by convicting hearers of sin, righteousness, and judgment to come.
Startling as it may seem, and it is, there is no other way for an individual to achieve personal communication with God except by the Holy Spirit. Anyone seeking access to the Father must know the Son, and to know the Son one must be possessed by the Spirit. Thus, in a very real sense, devout readers of the Scriptures are made aware that the Father—God over us —is disclosed in the Son—God for us—and imparted in the Spirit—God in us. Paul sums up this comprehensive truth when he says, "For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father" (Eph. 2:18).
Modern. Man Needs Revelation
Modern man, regardless of national or ethnic origin, likewise needs a revelation of God through the Spirit. In just what manner does the Spirit reveal redemption? That the revelation in question is available in the Holy Scriptures is apparent, since only in some permanently written form could continuity and accuracy of God's thought be guaranteed through the centuries. Man can have confidence in this revelation, "for the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost" (2 Peter 1:21).
More precisely, what is the nature of the revelation that the Spirit makes so real in the Scriptures? Summed up in the person of Jesus Christ, the revelation portrays Him as Christ the Creator, Christ the Lawgiver, Christ the Shekinah glory during Israel's history, Christ the incarnate Son of God, Christ the Lamb of God on Calvary, Christ the ascended High Priest, and Christ the coming King.
Apostles Achieved a Breakthrough
By proclaiming these specific truths and the facts related to them, the apostles, under the Holy Spirit, achieved a breakthrough in their day. They stormed the cities of their time—Corinth, Antioch, Ephesus, Athens, Philippi, Thessalonica, Rome, and others made desolate by wickedness, idolatry, and paganism—and filled them with Christian believers. These men started a religion which, without any political advantage, spread throughout the world, endured persecution, and centuries later still wins and transforms believers in all the world.
After Christ's ascension the apostles continued as the authoritative revealers and interpreters of Christ. Their death, however, made necessary the New Testament, and so the body of truth, the whole Bible, took the apostles' place. Therefore, those who would perpetuate the presence and authority of Christ in our day must do so through the Bible as the truth of God, and the Holy Spirit as the teacher of truth. The two never contradict, but always confirm each other.
Manifestly, modern man's search for an authoritative religion and teacher ends in the Author of the Bible who is also its expounder, the Holy Spirit. Concerning Him it is written, "He shall teach you all things." "He will guide you into all truth" (John 14:26; 16:13). Through this divine agent God supplies man not only with truth but also with the perception to understand and the power to follow truth.
Light and Life
Therein lies the close and essential relationship between the Word of God and the Spirit. The one supplies light, the other life. In practice, the Word enlightens and the Spirit empowers. Experience proves that God's Word directs man in moral duty, and moral duty, through the Spirit, delights itself in God's will and the keeping of His commandments. He who does not know the Holy Scriptures and the Holy Spirit in this manner does not know God at all.
When God's Spirit breaks through to any man, that man gives evidence of the Spirit's leading by a life of Christian discipline and obedience. The apostle John states it even more tersely, "Here is the test by which we can make sure that we know him: do we keep his commands?" (1 John 2:3; N.E.B.).*
Significantly, any spiritual breakthrough or revival in our day faces hazards created by religious apostasy. Claiming to pioneer a new understanding of God, a group of so-called Christian theologians have virtually dismissed the Holy Spirit from their thinking, and human speculation now colors and controls their concepts of God. To the degree that such religious teachers deny dependence upon the Word and the Spirit, to that degree do they compound confusion as to man's origin, salvation, and foreordained future.
Consider their current reaffirmation of human self-adequacy as expressed in the blasphemous hypothesis "God is dead." This embroidered phantasy, concocted in minds shorn of spiritual anchors, is merely a revival of the ancient heresy that man can achieve his destiny without God. Man tried it before the Flood, after the Flood, and has been trying it ever since. Why depend upon God to get to heaven, they reason, when you can get to the moon and Mars in a spaceship?
Empty Churches and Overcrowded Sports Arenas
Muddled theology also envisions the New Testament as the product of overwrought imaginations and thereby totally irrelevant to modern life, at least without modern theology's sophisticated and complicated explanations. What effect does this have on the man in the street? Disillusioned by the skepticism permeating both pulpit and religious literature, modern man slowly succumbs to the ensuing secularism and moral disintegration, and in practice adopts the pagan maxim—"Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die." This, in turn, overcrowds emporiums of sport and pleasure and empties houses of worship.
Without question, the remnant church faces a blasé, cynical, and scoffing generation, of which all cities of earth are prime exhibits. What, then, are we to do? Shall we stand still, wring our hands, and bemoan evil? On the contrary, ours is the task of spreading the gospel everywhere. Although the obstacles are formidable and strongly entrenched, we are commissioned to break through at home and abroad. Where is the power for the task? Is it in increased scholarship, prestige, wealth, or equipment? These, standing alone, are powerless.
Let us remind ourselves again and again that truth or truths about God, when standing alone, no matter how impressive, are solely intellectualistic. However penetrating or persuasive, truth without the Holy Spirit merely produces certainty of knowledge and not of salvation. Ideas, ethics, and philosophical definition save no one. Paul discovered that in Athens and we would do well to recognize it today. Nevertheless, Christ can be made real to modern man in the "demonstration of the Spirit and power."
Breakthrough by the Spirit
Are we concerned for a breakthrough similar to that of the disciples, Luther, and Wesley? Their breakthrough was that of the Spirit for the work and results of the Spirit. Individually and collectively we should pray for nothing less. Our instruction is that "we should hold convocations for prayer, asking the Lord to open the way for the truth to enter the strongholds where Satan has set up his throne, and dispel the shadow he has cast athwart the pathway of those whom he is seeking to deceive and destroy."—Testimonies, vol. 6, p. 80.
As in the past, before the church breaks through to the world, the Spirit must break through into the lives of church members. Call it the latter rain or anything else, it simply means the control of God, through the Holy Spirit, of our very lives, homes, schools, colleges, universities, and churches.
All will agree that an outpouring of God's Spirit must be preceded by heart searching and forsaking of sin. Cost what it may, this soul cleansing needs to be sought and realized individually. When experienced, such consecration expresses itself in brotherly love and a zealous concern for the lost around us. Thus only will the earth lighten with the splendor of gospel truth.
Compel Attention of Modern Man
As God lives, the third angel's message will break through to modern man and compel his attention before the end comes, but that compelling power is the Holy Spirit working through surrendered men, women, and youth. The foregoing is clearly focused by the following statements:
"The preaching of the word will be of no avail without the continual presence and aid of the Holy Spirit. This is the only effectual teacher of divine truth. Only when the truth is accompanied to the heart by the Spirit will it quicken the conscience or transform the life. One might be able to present the letter of the word of God, he might be familiar with all its commands and promises; but unless the Holy Spirit sets home the truth, no souls will fall on the Rock and be broken. No amount of education, no advantages, however great, can make one a channel of light without the cooperation of the Spirit of God."—The Desire of Ages, pp. 671, 672.
In another place, in a comment on Pentecost, we read: "So it may be now. Instead of man's speculations, let the word of God be preached. Let Christians put away their dissensions, and give themselves to God for the saving of the lost. Let them in faith ask for the blessing, and it will come. The outpouring of the Spirit in apostolic days was the 'former rain,' and glorious was the result. But the 'latter rain' will be more abundant."—Ibid., p. 827.
The time is here for Adventist evangelists, pastors, teachers, and laymen to arise and proclaim God's last warning message. The greatest victories for God's people are just ahead and the question naturally comes to me, as it does to you, "Am I possessed and led by the Spirit of God?"