The promise of the Spirit is a far-reaching promise--Acts 2:39: "For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call" (NKJV). It is to all that God shall call, yet the work of the Spirit, the power of the Spirit, and the filling of the Spirit are not much emphasized in most Baptist churches.
The very subject of the Holy Spirit divides not only Christians of different denominations, but it divides Baptists. Most Christians are not divided on God the Father, or God the Son, but often they are divided on God the Holy Spirit. For example, some of the best of men have differences on the baptism of the Spirit; the witness of the Spirit and the filling of the Spirit.
We would all agree that whatever Christians have, whatever we are and enjoy compared to the worldly unconverted, we owe to the agency of the Holy Spirit. He makes the difference. The apostates separate themselves from real Christians because they are "sensual, having not the Spirit" (Jude 19).
By Him we are first called, quickened and made alive. Of Him we are born again, and made new creatures. By Him we are convinced of sin, guided into all truth and led to Christ. By Him we are sealed unto the day of redemption. He witnesses with our spirits--gives us the spirit of adoption, makes us cry Abba Father, and makes intercession for us. By Him we are sanctified. By Him the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts. Through Him we wait for the hope of righteousness by faith. Through Him we walk. In Him we live. In short, all that believers have from grace to glory--all that we are from the moment we believe to the day we depart to be with Christ--all, all, all may be traced to the work of God the Holy Spirit. (John 6:63; 3:8; 16:9,10; Eph. 4:30; I Cor. 6:19; Rom. 8:15,16,26; I Thes. 2:13; Rom. 5:5; 15:13; Gal. 5:5,25; Rom. 8:1,13.)
Let it be settled in our minds that the work of all three Persons in the blessed Trinity, is absolutely and equally needful to the salvation of every saved soul. The election of God the Father, and the atoning blood of God the Son, are the foundation stones of our faith. But from them must never be separated the applicatory work of God the Holy Ghost. The Father chooses. The Son mediates, absolves, justifies, and intercedes. The Holy Ghost applies the whole work to man's soul. Always together in Scripture, never separated in Scripture, let the offices of the three Persons in the Trinity never be wrenched asunder and disjoined in your Christianity. What God hath so beautifully joined together let no man dare to put asunder.
The Holy Spirit Breathed the Holy ScripturesScripture is now perfected: therefore the work of the Spirit is now, not to perfect Scripture, nor to add anything to its discovery, nor to be instead of Scripture where it is wanting, but to remove the darkness from our understanding, that we may see clearly what the Scripture speaks clearly.
Power to Evangelize (Acts 1:8)"But you shall receive power," When? "after that the Holy Spirit has come upon you." For what purpose? Not tongues--not healing--but, "and you shall be My witnesses" (Acts 1:8). This point alone should make every serious Christian jealous for the work and office of the third Person of the blessed Trinity. The Jews in our Lord's day lacked two things according to our Lord: "not knowing the scriptures nor the power of God" (Mt. 22:29). Is this not our great need? Oh, for the power of God to be known in our pulpits, our churches and in our individual lives.
Filled with the Spirit (Eph. 5:18)The sacred manual of evangelism is the book of Acts. Therefore, I want to appeal to that sacred manual for some instruction on the most common terminology to express the relationship between the believer and the Holy Spirit--"filled with the Spirit."
Consider Peter's sermon in Acts 2:14-37. After being filled with the Holy Spirit he preached.
In Acts 2 and in Luke 24:49 we find our Lord's promise of the Spirit. In Acts 1:8 this promise was fulfilled. Yes, they spoke in tongues but "tongues" was not the real purpose. Tongues was almost insignificant. They were to receive power, not to speak in tongues, but to witness--evangelize (Acts 1:8). The real purpose is seen in Peter's bold witness--Acts 2:14-37. Only being filled with the Spirit will produce such preaching and such results; in short, Peter gave witness and many were converted (see Acts 2:41, 47).
Acts 4--When Peter and John were before the Sanhedrin for healing the lame man they were on the spot. They were asked, "by what power have you done this?" "Then Peter filled with the Holy Spirit gave witness to the rulers and elders" (v.9). Yes, power to witness. Exactly what he witnessed is found in verses 4:9-23. After they boldly witnessed they prayed (see 4:24-30). What happened after they prayed (v. 31)? "They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke [not in tongues] the word of God with boldness." Being filled with the Spirit was for power to evangelize, to witness.
Acts 6:3, 5, 7--The apostles chose seven men "full of the Holy Spirit. " In v. 7 we learn some of the results of being filled with the Spirit: "The word of God spread and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly." I like that word "multiplied." This is another example of the connection of being filled with the Spirit and real biblical evangelism.
Acts 6:5, 8--"Stephen a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit" (v. 5). "And Stephen a man full of power." (v.8) What did this man, filled with the Holy Spirit, do? The very next chapter, Acts 7, gives us the answer. He preached (Acts 7:2ff). He witnessed as to who Jesus was, and it was so powerful that it cost him his life. Filled with the Holy Spirit not for the phenomena but for witness.
Acts 9--This chapter records what was probably the greatest conversion to Christianity--Paul's conversion. In Acts 9:17 we learn that Paul was "filled with the Spirit." What did he do immediately after he was filled with the Spirit? Acts 9:20: "Immediately he preached Christ."
Acts 11:24--Barnabas was "a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith." What was the result of being "filled with the Spirit"? "And a great many people were added to the Lord." (see Acts 5:14; 11:21.) Barnabas was empowered to evangelize.
Acts 13:9--This passage again speaks of Paul being "filled with the Holy Spirit." In this same chapter (v. 52) we see they were filled with joy. They preached the word of God in the synagogue of the Jews (v. 5). And, as we usually find when the word of God is going forth, there is opposition. In this case it was a false prophet, surnamed Bar-Jesus, who was seeking to turn a good man who desired to hear the word of God (v. 9) away from the faith. Here we see what a man "filled with the Holy Spirit" does. Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, spoke in a language that could be understood (he did not need an interpreter): "You son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness."
Acts 8--In this chapter the apostles were given apostolic power to do some unusual things, and again, we have a false prophet, Simon the sorcerer, who had witnessed these men filled with the Holy Spirit proclaiming Christ in power (v. 5). Simon wanted, by this power, to work miracles that were real, because he knew that the miracles that the apostles worked were not fraud, fake or fanatical. Again, we see men "filled with the Holy Spirit" were so filled to empower them for gospel purposes, particularly for evangelizing.
There are other references in the Book of Acts to "being filled with the Spirit." And any careful study will clearly show that the filling of the Spirit was to give power for gospel purposes and to empower the apostles to do unusual things to authenticate and confirm their message.
ConclusionThe giving of the Spirit, then, is for empowering men and women for gospel purposes, gospel work, and particularly, for evangelizing. This one thing is very clear from any serious reading of the whole Book of Acts, namely, the reason the Holy Spirit came in power was not to produce a class of super Christians who were identified by the gift of unknown tongues--those who have IT and leave the have-nots to struggle without IT. No! No! The Holy Spirit was given to empower the Church to bear a faithful witness to Jesus Christ to the end of the earth--in words that people can understand (Acts 1:8).
My object just now is not to write of the descent of the Holy Spirit as a piece of history, but to view it as a fact bearing upon us at this hour, even upon us who are called in these days to evangelize.
The Holy Ghost is here, and we ought to expect His divine working among us; and if He does not so work we should search ourselves to see what it is that hinders, and whether there may not be somewhat in ourselves which vexes Him, so that He restrains His sacred energy, and does not work among us as He did before. The Bible very clearly teaches that He can be grieved and that we can quench the Spirit.
May God grant that this meditation may increase our faith in the Holy Spirit, and inflame our desires toward Him, so that we may look to see Him fulfilling His mission among men as at the beginning.
This article is not suggesting that the filling of the Spirit is a once and for all experience subsequent to conversion, or a second work of grace. Rather, such filling is something that must happen over and over again until we reach the celestial city.
This is entirely practical, and, I suggest, most important. If we stop at a mere theoretical consideration of this great doctrine, this great truth, it will avail us nothing. The whole object of dealing with the doctrine is to create within us a desire for this great blessing which characterized the early church as we have seen, and which has always characterized the church in days of revival, true quickening and awakening, when the church, vibrant with power, is acting truly as the body of Christ in this sinful world.
It is this truth and this alone that holds out any hope for us today. Pray, Christian, pray. "If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!" (Luke 11:13).