The Spirit of God and the Baptism of the Holy Ghost: Part 2

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We may now return to the Acts, to witness, as a matter of fact, the descent of the Holy Ghost, which “filled all the house” where the men who tarried were sitting. His coming was not what they had to pray for then or now (as some affirm), when all were waiting in confident expectation of the gift. Nay, all depended upon the Father and the Son, as touching “the promise, which ye have heard of me!” Cloven tongues as of fire, which sat upon each of them, were the result of Christ's “prayer” to the Father, and of His own faithful love to those whom He had left behind; and so “they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance."
The baptism of the Holy Ghost, which was promised “not many days hence,” was come, and they were under its grace and power. For the first time on earth there were “men in Christ,” united to Him who had gone up to heaven by the presence and power of the Holy Ghost who had come down. He further claimed them in Christ's name, and possessed them for Himself as His temple, being one with the glorified Head on high; “and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost.” What had been promised was thus accomplished, and the Holy Ghost was present on earth as the other Comforter sent by the Father, “to abide with us forever.” He takes His place likewise as the formative power here, in uniting the members of Christ together, “for by one Spirit we are 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.” His power and presence, as we have said, is formative of the present dispensation, and therefore necessary for the carrying out of the Father's counsels as to Christ and the church, “which is his body, the fullness of him that filleth all in all.” The presence of the Holy Ghost upon earth in divine power is requisite, therefore, for the counsels of God, and for the glory of Christ, in gathering the members of His body into this unity; and in fashioning the bride, as the Lamb's wife, in expectation of the day when the marriage of the Lamb shall have come, and the bride have made herself ready.
The Holy Ghost, and His presence and actings on the earth, as sent by the Father and the Son, “this other Comforter,” is, further, a constituent part of our faith, because essential to Christianity itself, which is dispensationally in the power of the Spirit. “The baptism of the Holy Ghost” is thus indispensable to “the church of the living God;” nor could there be “the body of Christ on earth,” till His descent at Pentecost had witnessed afresh to the Lord as Head above, and made known to us the presence and power by which “Christ and his members” were to be formed, and united as one body. “So also is Christ.” There was no such work or operation as this till the Head was seated in the heavenlies; on the contrary, up to the cross, and the crucifixion of Jesus, there was a doctrine of baptisms and “laying on of hands,” with a crowd of ordinances, which only “served for the purifying of the flesh,” before that Christ arose, as may be seen abundantly in the Old Testament, and the synoptical gospels.
A baptism by water, in Jordan and elsewhere, was connected with John's ministry, as the forerunner of the Messiah; but this was for repentance and remission of sins, and recognized man as still under the law. The disciples also of Jesus baptized with water; but there could be no “baptism of the Holy Ghost,” even in connection with the Lord's ministry, before His death and crucifixion; for there was nothing on earth with which God was “well pleased,” or in which He “could rest with pleasure,” except the Son of His own love, and He was buried.
Our eternal redemption by the cross of Christ has put us on the other side of the flesh and the world and the devil's power and dominion; and our union with Christ by resurrection has associated us with Him in life, and “as new creatures in the Father's counsels and love,” which were pre-determined before the foundation of the world. It is this “mystery, which was hid in God,” but is now brought to light, and manifested in the glorified Son of man, that the Holy Ghost witnesses to, and declares to us by the apostles, under the anointing of the Spirit, in the epistles. This opens out the place, as well as the objects and ministry of the Holy Ghost, in this present dispensation, and which required His descent to carry out. He had, moreover, to form upon the earth that glorious church, without spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing, which Christ will finally present to Himself when He comes to fetch her.
"The baptism of the Holy Ghost,” having relation to the members of Christ, is therefore more corporate than individual, seeing that it is by it we are brought into the unity of this body with all our fellow-members, and in which we are respectively set as” it hath pleased God.” His bestowment and presence cannot therefore be the subject or object of our prayer and supplication, seeing that the day of Pentecost is the record of His descent; and not only this, but that those who waited the few days as representative men received this baptism, and “were all filled with the Holy Ghost,” and united to Christ as the Head with ourselves. On our part His presence is to be acknowledged as abiding with us forever, and this forms our new responsibility as “men in Christ;” for example (and individually), “Grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption;” and again (as in the assembly of God), “Quench not the Spirit,” despise not prophesyings.
We have thus looked at the Holy Ghost, not only as a Person revealed to us in Christianity, as one with the Father and the Son, but chiefly as taking His place of co-operation on earth, in this dispensation, and consequent upon the departure of the Son to the Father. He is also the energizing power in quickening, and gathering, and uniting the members of Christ to their Head in heaven, by “the baptism” of the Holy Ghost. This, as we have said, is a more corporate action of the descended Paraclete at Pentecost, than as a proper personal expectation, and not, therefore, to be understood or restricted to us individually, like the indwelling of the Spirit, or as the Spirit of adoption.
Besides this formative power of the Holy Ghost, between the Head in heaven and the members of Christ on earth, and this baptism, by which the body is gathered out and completed, and the “unity of the Spirit” maintained and kept, there remains yet to be considered what this new order of man is, and what this new company of men are, who come out of “the upper chamber” in Acts 1—for this is individual. Personally they are new creatures, born of God, and one with their departed Lord in the Father's love and counsels, in the many-mansioned house.
As to their description and nature, they are “men in Christ,” and correspondingly “they were all filled with the Holy Ghost,” and tongues as of fire sat upon each of them. Thus are they distinguished from all the Jews in Jerusalem and Judea, and from mankind at large. Their characteristics are, first, that they are individually united to Christ in life and righteousness, who is gone up; and filled with the Holy Ghost, who has come down. There are thus men upon the earth who are “not of the world, even as Jesus was not of the world” —men who are one with the Second Adam above, and are to represent Christ below as heavenly men, and to “walk as sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation,” &c. Moreover, while this was their peculiarity, as gathered out from the children of men, it was also their normal state and description, as seen in “the Holy Ghost's actings” throughout the Acts. Perhaps one of the most convincing and remarkable proofs of this is supplied in chapter vi.: “Wherefore look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom,” &c. Another may yet be added: “And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness.” Proofs of an opposite kind may also be stated, which sprang from the enmity produced in those who were of the wicked one, against those who were one with their Lord, and the consequent persecution “against the church” which was at Jerusalem, so that the disciples “were all scattered abroad."
"As for Saul, he made havoc of the church, entering into every house, and haling men and women, committed them to prison;” they that were after the flesh persecuted them who were after the Spirit. Another proof of the contrariety which thus originally existed may be gathered from the declension and growing apostasy of these last and closing days, when the difference has been so completely lost that the world cannot find anything like enough to Christ, or sufficiently unlike itself, against which to stir up its enmity, or to call out its persecution. This fact, however, ought only to give more earnest desire “to walk worthy of the vocation wherewith we are called,” in the true confession of what has been let go and departed from, through the craft of men, and by the subtle wiles of Satan. Our responsibility is in the acknowledgment of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, and the distinctive relations in which by grace we have been set, and in the confession that our sufficiency is of God. The rights of Christ, and the privileges of His own, and the mystery of the church, are inalienable and indestructible, and it is only adding to the confusion and declension to say, “who shall ascend into heaven to bring Christ down from above; or who shall descend into the deep, that is, to bring up Christ again from the dead.” Nor is it different in principle to pray for the descent of the Spirit, or the baptism of the Holy Ghost, which were promised by the Lord, and sent from the Father and the Son at Pentecost, and which characterize Christianity itself as the only adequate power on earth, whether for the formation of the church of God, the body of Christ, or for making ready the bride of the Lamb.
(To be continued)