Cloven Tongues, Like as of Fire: No. 1

Acts 2  •  10 min. read  •  grade level: 6
All the readers of this paper may not have noticed that the Lord Jesus was anointed by the Holy Ghost and received the Holy Ghost under vastly different circumstances. On this earth He was thus recognized as the Holy One of God, but was alone: in heaven He received the Holy Ghost to shed upon us.
Let us turn to Matt. 3 for the first occasion. John the Baptist says," I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire, whose fan is in his hand, and he will thoroughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire."
On this occasion Jesus came to John to be baptized. " But John forbad him, saying, I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me?" Now mark the answer of Jesus, "Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfill all righteousness. Then he suffered him." Thus we see Jesus, the incarnate Son of God, enter upon His mission from heaven, fulfilling all righteousness. We must remember this. " And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him: and, lo, a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased."
He, the Holy One of God, was the only man on earth to whom the heavens were then open. He stood alone as the One who could really fulfill all righteousness. " Lo I come to do thy will, O God." That will had then to be done. Oh, look at that blessed Jesus in this world of sin and foul dishonor, engaged to fulfill all righteousness. Yes, to enable God, His Father, in absolute righteousness, to justify guilty sinners. And as a man, to glorify God—to manifest Him in this guilty world.
But mark, in the first case, John " saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him." There was no fire, or symbol of judgment. It was as angels had announced: " Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men." He descended as emblem of peace. It was God in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself, not in judgment now, not imputing their trespasses unto them. How pleasing was all this to God, for God is love. Hearken to that voice from heaven: " This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." But mark, He stands alone: no brethren here with Him. The voice from heaven does not proclaim, These are they in whom I am well pleased. Jesus alone then could hear those words. To Him alone then those heavens could be opened.
Yes, we see Him alone, the Holy One; and He must remain alone or die, as He says later on. He had been offered to men, to His own nation, and had been utterly rejected. He says," Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit." (John 12)
We will now pass on to another scene, not on this earth, but in heaven. Jesus has now fulfilled all righteousness. He has now glorified God His Father. He has now been delivered for our iniquities; as our substitute, He has borne our sins in His own body on the tree. The infinite claims of God's righteous wrath against sin have been fully met, God has shown this by His resurrection from the dead. God has raised Him from the dead for our justification. And more, as Peter declares: " This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we 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." (Acts 2:32, 3332This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses. 33Therefore 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. (Acts 2:32‑33).)
Let us now look at Jesus receiving from the Father the Holy Ghost for a special purpose.
What a change from the river Jordan to the right hand of the throne of God in heaven. The same Jesus by the right hand of God exalted, now, as man, receives the Holy Ghost—and He, the risen, glorified Jesus, He hath shed forth this. Everything is in contrast with the anointing of the Holy Ghost on earth. Then the work of our redemption had to be done, now it is done—done never to be repeated, wholly or in part. Such a thought would imply that He had failed to fulfill all righteousness. He has made peace by the blood of the cross, and now, in heaven as the exalted One, receives the Holy Ghost. We shall see how intimately this is connected with the righteousness of God.
At His baptism we have seen He was alone. Not so now. Then the Holy Ghost descended, and lighted, as a dove, on Him alone. Now, " When the day of Pentecost was fully tome, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues, like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them: and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.', What a contrast to the baptism of Jesus at the Jordan! Now all believers are baptized by the Spirit into one body. " For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles," &c. (1 Cor. 12:1313For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit. (1 Corinthians 12:13).) And Jesus received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost for this purpose. "He hath shed forth this, which ye now see and hear." What a revelation this is. May our eyes be fastened on Him in heaven, receiving the Spirit that He might baptize all believers by the Spirit into one body: His body; He the heavenly Head! A heavenly company, baptized into one body.
There are, however, other deeply important matters to notice in this baptism in contrast with the first. The Spirit did not now descend as a dove. Great is the change in this respect. There was a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, or " as of a violent, impetuous blowing," and there appeared unto them (not as a dove, but) as cloven or parted tongues of fire, and it sat upon each of them. Have you ever thought of this striking contrast? What does it mean? Fire is the emblem of judgment: our God is a consuming fire; and here there was a mighty rushing wind. And this appearance of parted tongues of fire sat upon each of them. How little we have understood this. If we turn to John 16.. we shall find the promise very remarkably in keeping with the fulfillment in Acts 2
" 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." If He had not died for us and risen again, we never could have been one with Him in heaven. The Father could never have given Him the Holy Ghost to baptize us into this one body.
" And when he is come, he will reprove [or convince] the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment." It is the very contrast of the dove resting on Him. " Of sin, because they believe not on me; of righteousness, because I go to the Father, and ye see me no more; of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged." Tongues of fire are needed for this testimony of the Holy Ghost come down from heaven: needed for witnesses of Christ in a world that has definitely rejected Him as peace and good will on earth. The world stands convicted of sin, because they believe not in Christ. It is no use trying to cover this sin, by pretending to keep the law. Do we as with tongues of fire declare to this world its damning sin in not believing on Christ? It was this that marked the preaching at Pentecost. The Holy Ghost did not come down from heaven to split hairs of theology. " Of righteousness, because I go to the Father, and ye see me no more." The righteousness of God was fully proved; for He had received to glory the Man that had made atonement for our sins. This same Jesus, who had fulfilled all righteousness by obedience unto death, the death of the cross, was exalted at the right hand of God. God, who had forsaken Him when made sin on the cross, now gives Him the Holy Ghost, as man, this same Jesus, and this in heaven. There is righteousness then in heaven. "Of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption."
Oh, Christ rejecting, unrighteous world, that has murdered the Son of God! There is righteousness proved by the Spirit come down from heaven, for the Jesus you rejected, and still reject, is gone to the Father. Talk not of probation, all is out as to the race of Adam; Christ has been rejected by us. More guilty we could not be. Wondrous grace! that which proves the world's deepest guilt, reveals to faith Christ the righteous One, to be our righteousness before the face of God; and we in Him, the righteousness of God. Yea, all this the righteousness of God; for it is what God has done, the sending of His Son; the acceptance of that blessed One who has done the will of God, by raising Him from the dead; by receiving Him up to glory; by sending the Holy Ghost to bear witness of Him. All is of God.
Still we have the tongue as of fire on each one. "Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged." Satan, this world's prince and god, is judged. His trial is over. He led Jew and Gentile to reject and crucify the Holy One of God. It was Satan's deepest possible act of sin and rebellion. Yes, both man and Satan have been tried and proved guilty. Mercy is still proclaimed to men, but Satan awaits his doom. What light this throws on the present scenes around us in Satan's world! Oh, reader, have you received the Holy Ghost? Or are you still in the darkness and chains of Satan?
If you have received the Spirit, you are linked with heaven; yea, with this same Jesus, now Lord and Christ. " 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."
We are found now in circumstances very similar in one respect to those who received the Holy Ghost, as parted tongues of fire, sitting on each of them. Coming judgment had to be proclaimed to Jerusalem and the Jews; for God was about to judge her and them as rejecters of His Christ, and of the Holy Ghost come down from heaven. Much in Christendom now, as Jerusalem then, has rejected Christ, and the judgments are at hand. Let us next look at the preaching of the apostles then, and the need to proclaim the judgments about to fall on Christendom now. Oh for tongues as of fire, to proclaim the same glad tidings of mercy, and also of judgment which will as surely fall on Christendom as it fell on Jerusalem.