The Spirit of God and the Baptism of the Holy Ghost: Part 1

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IN order to understand these subjects of divine revelation, and yet to distinguish them in dispensational action, it is necessary to learn from the word of God the present standing and relations of a believer in Christ to the Father and to the Son, as compared with the previous calling of Israel into a place of blessing on the earth. It will be seen that “the Spirit of God” is connected with each, as likewise with the nation and the church, but in different ways; whilst “the baptism of the Holy Ghost” (at Pentecost) brings out from the world into a present portion with Christ glorified in heaven. Indeed it is this, and the blessings which flow from union with Christ, our new Head of life, founded on eternal redemption through His blood, and opened out by His resurrection and departure to the right hand of God in power and glory, which characterize Christianity and Christians: and distinguish them from the economy of Moses, and the position of Israel in the Old Testament, as a “people under law and in the flesh."
In bringing these observations to bear on the subjects proposed, I would say, in the first place, that “the Spirit of God” could not bear witness to Judaism as an economy, or to its ritualistic and sacerdotal observances, except to say, that “the law made nothing perfect,” and to add further, “that the way into the holiest was not made manifest while the first tabernacle was yet standing."
“The Spirit of God” declined to witness to man under the law, and to its ordinances, by Moses and Aaron, for the simple reason, that “in burnt-offerings and sacrifices for sin God had no pleasure,” inasmuch as there was a remembrance of sins. “The Spirit of God, which moved upon the face of the waters” in the chaos of creation, could and did act likewise upon the creature-man—at every time, and under any circumstances, in this ruined world. Judaism, though an institution from God, started with nothing. perfect; it did not possess in itself a perfect sacrifice, or a perfect priest, or a worshipper made perfect; and therefore the Holy Ghost waited on the person of the Son of God, and tarried in His testimony for the coming in of Jesus as the Savior, “the Lamb of God, that taketh away the sin of the world.” This refusal on the part of the Spirit to witness to the polity of Moses “and the worldly sanctuary” is stated in Heb. 9:88The Holy Ghost this signifying, that the way into the holiest of all was not yet made manifest, while as the first tabernacle was yet standing: (Hebrews 9:8), and that He waited for the “time of reformation.” His readiness to bear testimony “to the blood of Christ, who, through the eternal Spirit, offered himself without spot unto God,” is unhesitatingly declared, as well as to the purged worshipper, and to the new and living way which was opened into the holiest “through the rent veil.” This is the basis of our communion.
Heb. 10:1414For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified. (Hebrews 10:14) affirms this to be the glorious truth of Christianity and of the perfections of Christ, throughout the length and breadth of its revelations, namely, “This man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins, forever sat down on the right hand of God.” For by one offering” he hath perfected forever them that are sanctified, whereof the Holy Ghost also is a witness to us."
“The Spirit of God” thus tarried for Christ, and then rested upon Him, when He took His place as “the sent One from the Father,” and entered on His ministry and work, for the glorification of God, in the midst of men below.
Indeed one peculiarity of John the Baptist's testimony was this— “upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and remaining on him, the same is he which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost.” We have further before us from this scripture the two great parts of Christ's ministry: one, as “the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world;” and the other, “he which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost.” The first was accomplished by His death on the cross below, and the last by His ascension into the heavens as the glorified Son of man. Our redemption by His blood, and our acceptance in the risen Christ, was a pre-requisite to any witness of the Spirit of God to men. He did wait upon Christ, and rest upon Him, as we have seen; but the work of redemption could be the only basis of our intimacy with God, and by which he could shed his love abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost.” It is, then, as believers in Christ “we joy in God,” by whom we have received the reconciliation. “The men whom thou gavest me out of the world,” as Jesus said to the Father, must first be born again of the Spirit, and become partakers of eternal life and of the divine nature; before the Holy Ghost could bear record to them as new creatures, or come and dwell in them as “the Spirit of adoption, and witness to us that we are the sons of God.” The descent of the Holy Ghost is consequent also upon the departure of Christ out of this world, and His exaltation at the right hand of the Father. “If I depart, I will send him.” Moreover, the Holy Ghost tarried for the glorification “of the Son of man in heaven,” even as He had waited upon Him at His incarnation, and rested upon Him, when on the earth. This is the first and prime object of the Spirit, namely, “He shall glorify me, for he shall take of mine, and show it unto you.” United as we are with Christ, by the power of the quickening Spirit, He can then witness in His turn to us, “that as Christ is, so are we in this world,” and “make our bodies the temples of the Holy Ghost.” “Ye have an unction from the Holy One,” &c.
It will be easily perceived that all which has been stated, and which distinguishes us as Christians, flows from the grace of God into which we are called by the Son of His love, and from the perfection of Christ's work on His cross below, as well as from the glory into which He has been raised above.
In this range of blessedness which pertains to the new creation, and of which the Son of man, as second Adam, takes the Headship, our prayers can have no part in the way of means, either as to “sending the Holy Spirit, or receiving His baptism.” We are introduced by sovereign grace into this circle by the Father's love, and the prayer of His beloved Son, “Father, I will that those also whom thou hast given me be with me where I am, that they may behold my glory which thou hast given me, for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world.” In an earlier chapter of John's Gospel, Jesus had spoken of this further witness and presence of the Holy Ghost in the midst “of his own who were in the world,” as the result of His own prayer entirely. “I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you forever.” In chapter 16 also, the coming of the Spirit depended upon the Lord's absence from His disciples: “It is expedient for you that I go away, for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come; but if I depart, I will send him.” Once more, in chapter 14, which is very precious, because out of the range or need of our prayers, as touching the Holy Ghost and any of His relations which prayers some suppose to be necessary to bring Him), Jesus says, “but the Comforter which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name,” &c. The presence of the Spirit of God on earth depended thus on the departure of our Lord—upon the Son of man being glorified—and on the double action of the Father and the Son, as further stated in the following verse, “but when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me,” &c.
It is evident that our Lord's own prayer to the Father, and not ours in any way, whether past or present, have to do with the descent of the Holy Ghost, or with any of the relations which He undertakes and carries into effect, for the accomplishment of the Father's purpose, and the Son's glory. Indeed this is the only ground taken by the Lord when He actually leaves the disciples in Acts 1, and is carried up in a cloud into heaven; “being assembled together, he 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.” “The baptism of the Holy Ghost” was thus a future thing, though proximate, yet not connected with His resurrection from amongst the dead so much as with His departure and place in heaven, as “Head over all things;” therefore He said to them, “Ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence."
This descent of the Spirit of God was in effect the fruit of Christ's own request to the Father, and not an object of prayer on the part of others. It was a promise of the Father's, and further, a promise of the Son, for He adds, “Which, saith he, ye have heard of me.” Moreover, His prayer, and this promise to send, coupled the fact of their “receiving power” with the descent of the Spirit, “but ye shall receive power after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you, and ye shall be witnesses to me, both in Jerusalem.... and to the uttermost parts of the earth."
Here it is of all importance to acknowledge a further peculiarity of this dispensation, namely, that another and a new sample of men was left behind at Christ's ascension, and bidden to tarry for “the promise of the Father,” and “the baptism of the Holy Ghost.” This new company waiting below were connected with Christ, “the firstfruits,” who had gone up as the wave-sheaf before God, and as associated with whom James writes, “Of his own will begat he us, with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of first-fruits of his creatures."
Before the Lord had ascended, and taken His own place as Head of the new creation, the Holy Ghost could only witness and abide with one person on the earth, and that One “the Word made flesh.” The Spirit of God could not witness to the perfection of Israel, even when under Solomon in all his glory, for they were a nation in the flesh, and separated to God by external ordinances, and were a responsible people to Jehovah their King, both by covenant, and as under His government. It may be proper to notice here, that the Holy Spirit could, and did, bear testimony to all that the God of Israel was and did amongst them by His words and ways, and could likewise act on any individual—for Jehovah was sovereign.
The prophet Isaiah records this historically in chapter 63: “As a beast goeth down into the valley, the Spirit of Jehovah caused him to rest; so didst thou lead thy people, to make thyself a glorious name.” So in their journeyings, “the angel of his presence saved them, in his love and in his pity he redeemed them,” &c. The presence of the Spirit was likewise amongst them from the onset, for the prophet says, “Then he remembered the days of old, Moses and his people, saying, Where is he that brought them up out of the sea, with the shepherd of his flock? Where is be that put his Holy Spirit within him?” And, lastly, “but they rebelled, and vexed his Holy Spirit; therefore he was turned to be their enemy, and he fought against them."
Besides this recognition of the Holy Spirit in the general history of Israel, and the ways of God towards them in government, we may as well introduce here the cry of David, “the anointed of the God of Jacob,” when he prayed, “Cast me not away from thy presence, and take not thy Holy Spirit from me.” This penitential cry is often quoted to prove a coming and a going away of the Holy Spirit in Christianity as in former days (so little is the abiding presence of the Holy Ghost realized); but the dispensational difference which has been already described is a sufficient answer to any such difficulty. In whatever ways the Holy Spirit was with Moses, as the leader and commander of God's people Israel, and in whatever way the Holy Spirit was with the sweet psalmist as the spirit of prophecy—or with the long line of the prophets in Old Testament history—yet the Holy Ghost, as such, was never a witness to an economy which consisted in types, and shadows, and patterns of the heavenly things to come, and stood only in meats and drinks, and divers washings, imposed on them until the time of reformation.
The Holy Ghost waited for the heavenly things themselves ere He could become the indwelling Spirit of a believer in Christ, and the witness to the second Man, as Head over all things, or as the earnest of the inheritance, and as the anointing and seal from God the Father to His many sons. He could not be this till that “which was perfect was come."
(To be continued, if the Lord will)