Our readers are aware that while we believe in Jehovah and Jesus, and the holy Spirit, we reject as totally unscriptural, the teaching that these are three Gods in one person, or as some put it, one God in three persons. The doctrine of the Trinity had its rise in the third century, and has a very close resemblance to the heathen doctrines prevalent at that time, particularly Hindooism.* The only text in Scripture which was ever claimed to prove, or affirm, that the Father, Son and Spirit are one, is a portion of 1 John 5:7,8. This appears only in Manuscripts written since the fifth century, and is acknowledged by all Trinitarians to be a "forgery." So undisputable is this, that the translators of the "Revised Version" recently published, omit the clause without note or comment, though those Revisors were themselves believers in Trinity.
*It was not until the beginning of the fourth century that the Trinitarian views began to be elaborated and formulated into a doctrine and an endeavor made to reconcile it "with the belief of the church in one GOD." "Out of the attempt to solve this problem sprang the doctrine of the "Trinity."...Trinity "is a very marked feature in Hindooism, and is discernible in Persian, Egyptian, Roman, Japanese, Indian and the most ancient Grecian Mythologies."—Abbott & Conant's Religious Dictionary, page 944.
Like some other doctrines received by Protestants through Papacy, this one is received and fully endorsed, though its adherents are aware that not a word of Scripture can be adduced in its support. Nay more, any one who will not affirm this unscriptural doctrine as his faith, is declared by the action of the Evangelical Alliance to be nonorthodox—a heretic.
However, it behooves us as truth seekers, to deal honestly with ourselves and with our Father's Word, which is able to make us truly wise. Therefore, ignoring the traditions and creeds of uninspired men and corrupt systems, let us hold fast the form of sound words received from our Lord and the Apostles. (2 Tim. 1:13.)
Let us inquire of these "standards" and "authorities" of the true church, what is truth on this subject. Paul answers clearly and forcibly—There is "one God and Father of all." (Eph. 4:6.) And again he says, (1 Cor. 8:5-6.) "There be gods many and lords many, but to US there is but one God, the Father, of whom are [or who created] all things, and we in him: and one Lord Jesus Christ by whom are all things, and we by Him." We believe this exactly: All things are of our Father; he is the first cause of all things; and all things are by our Lord Jesus. He "the beginning of the CREATION of God," (Rev. 3:14.) has been the agent of Jehovah in all that has since been done—"Without him was not anything made that was made." (John 1:3.) Jesus' testimony is the same; his claim was that he was "a Son," an obedient son, who did not do his own will, but the Father's who sent him—"Not my will but thine be done." Again Jesus said he could do nothing of himself—"The Father that dwelleth in me, He doeth the works." (John 5:19 and 14:10.) True he said, I and my Father are one, but he shows in what sense he meant they were one, by praying that just so His disciples all might be one. (John 10:30 and 17:11.) It is a oneness which results from having the same mind or spirit; it is the same oneness that should exist between a heart union of man and wife; they twain are one.
It is far from honoring the Master, as many appear to think they do, when they contradict his direct teachings, affirming that Father and Son are one and the same being, equal in all respects. No, says Jesus, "My Father is greater than I." (John 14:28.) And he also says, he is not only his Father but ours:—"I ascend to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God." (John 20:17.) A more correct translation of Phil. 2:6 settles the question of the Father's supremacy, in harmony with other scriptures, such as 1 Cor. 15:28 and John 14:28. The Emphatic Diaglott translation is, "Who though being in a form of God, yet did not meditate a usurpation, to be like God." The idea here, is the very opposite of equality, as conveyed in the King James translation: Jesus did not claim equality, nor aspire to a usurpation of God's authority. That was Satan's claim and effort. Isa. 14:12-14. He said, "I will exalt my throne above the stars of God...I will be like the Most High."
Jesus said: Ye call me Lord and Master and ye do well, for so I am; but call no man on earth Father, for one is your Father, which is in heaven. (Matt. 23:9.) Peter also carries the same thought, saying, "The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ hath begotten us." (1 Pet. 1:3 and Eph. 3:9-11, Gal. 1:3,4, Rom. 16:25-27.) How clear and harmonious are these words of our standards, and we could quote much more in perfect harmony.
Briefly stated then, we find the Scriptures to teach that there is but one Eternal God and Father—who is "from everlasting to everlasting" (Psa. 90:2 and Rom. 16:26,27.)—that [R370 : page 3] the beginning of his creation, since called Jesus, was inferior to the Father, but superior to all subsequent creations, in which work he was the active agent of Jehovah. A redeemer was needed for mankind. In harmony with the Father's wish, but not of compulsion, the first created Son of God had his life principal miraculously transferred to the womb of Mary, was born and grew to manhood—a perfect man. Hence his life principle was not derived from the human channels, and was not that forfeited by the sin of Adam.
He was a fully developed, perfect man, according to The Law, at the age of thirty years; and immediately consecrated himself as a man to the Father's will, offering himself a living sacrifice on our behalf—at baptism. The sacrifice was accepted, and he was imbued or filled with the holy Spirit of the Father. (Matt. 3:16,17.) The power of God came upon him there. (Acts 10:38) This power of God in him was that to which he continually referred. It was the same power that was afterward manifested through Peter, Paul and others, though in Jesus' case it was more marked, because he being a perfect man, could receive the spirit without measure, whereas all imperfect members of his church, may have a measure of the spirit only.
When Jesus' sacrificial ministry was over—ending at the cross,—he had finished his work. When he arose he was no longer a human being, but a "new creature" perfected. We understand that since his resurrection, Jesus is a partaker of the divine nature, hence he must be of the same essence as the Father.
This, the present highly exalted condition of Jesus, we understand Paul to teach, was given him as a reward of obedience to the Father's will. See Phil. 2:8,9.
This Scripture implies that Jesus' present glory is greater than that he possessed before becoming a man, otherwise it would not have been an exaltation. Now, having the divine immortal nature, he could not die.
He is immortal, and consequently could not die now, which proves that it is a higher plane than that our Lord occupied before he endured the cross, becoming obedient unto death. It was the risen Jesus, not the sacrificing one, that claimed power of his own, saying, "All power in heaven and in earth is given unto me."
How straightforward and simple is the scriptural statement, compared with human traditions. For instance, into what a muddle of contradictions do they find themselves, who say that Jesus and the Father are one person. This would involve the thought that Jesus acted the hypocrite, and only pretended to address the Father in heaven, when he himself was the same Father on earth. Such must conclude too, since we read that God tempted not, neither is tempted of any, that the temptation of the devil (Matt. 4.) was only a sham and a farce. So with the death of Jesus, if God is immortal he cannot die, and if Jesus was the Father, then he must only have pretended to die. Then all the statements of Jesus and the prophets and apostles relative to Jesus' death and resurrection are false, and they false witnesses in testifying that God raised Jesus from the dead, if he never died.
If they admit that Jesus really died, they take the other horn of the dilemma; for believing that their three Gods are one in person, when the person Jesus died, they must all have died. If they all died, who raised them to life? This, too, would conflict with the statement of Paul (1 Thes. 1:10.) that the Father raised up Jesus from death; for if the Father and Son are the same being, then the Father was dead.
Shall we thus contradict the Apostles and Prophets and Jesus himself, and ignore common sense and reason, in order to hold on to a dogma handed down to us from the Dark Ages by a corrupt church? I tell you nay. "To the law and to the testimony; if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them." (Isa. 8:20.) We thus see that Father and Son are two separate and distinct persons, though one in mind, purpose, aim, etc.
But next we inquire, What saith the Scriptures relative to the holy Spirit? The nominal church, both Papal and Protestant, affirm that the holy Spirit is a person, and in the same breath they also say that these three persons are at the same time one person—a great mystery. Yes, truly it is a mystery, such as is characteristic of that Babylon, confusion system. But to those who turn away from Babylon's traditions to the Word of God, all is clear and plain. We suggest, that whatever definition of the term holy Spirit will meet all known conditions and harmonize all passages of Scripture bearing thereon, may be understood to be the true meaning. We shall first give our definition and explanation of the term holy Spirit, and then glance at a number of Scriptures bearing on the subject, which are supposed by some to conflict with the views we entertain. These texts were sent to us for explanation by a Baptist minister of Philadelphia, and may reasonably be supposed to be pointed.
We understand the Scriptures to teach that the holy Spirit is not a separate and distinct person, but that it is the divine mind or influence—the motive power of Divinity exercised everywhere and for any purpose, at His pleasure. God exercises his spirit or energy in a great variety of ways, using various agencies, and accomplishing various results.
Whatever God does through agencies is as truly his work as though he were the direct Actor, since all those agencies are of his creation; just as a contractor for a building is said to build a house, though he may never have lifted a tool towards it. He does it with his materials and through his agents. Thus, when we read that Jehovah—God—created the heavens and the earth, (Gen. 2:4.) we are not to suppose that he personally handled it. He used various agencies—"He spake, and it was done; he commanded, and it stood fast. (Psa. 33:6-9.) It did not spring instantly into existence, for we read that time was used in creation—six days, which we think from other Scriptures, were each seven thousand years long, or in all, forty-two thousand years.
We are told plainly that all things are of, or from, the Father—by his energy or spirit; yet that energy was exercised through his Son. The Son of God, afterward called Jesus, was used in the creation of the world. (John 1:3; Heb. 1:8-12.) And when we turn to Genesis, we find it stated that the power which created was God's Spirit: "The Spirit of God brooded over the face of the waters." (Gen. 1:2.) Hence it is a reasonable inference that it was the spirit or mind of Jehovah, active through his Son—the plan of God, executed by the Son.
Another way in which God's Spirit was exercised was through the prophets; They "spoke as they were moved by the holy Spirit"—by the mind or power of God, (2 Pet. 1:21.) though generally they did not understand the import of the words they used. 1 Pet. 1:12. That is, God used them to express his mind, though his mind, his spirit, his thoughts, were not in them. Though they expressed it, they could not understand his mind. (1 Pet. 1:12.) God's spirit acted upon, but not in, them. In that servant age (Heb. 3:5, Gal. 4:4-7) the faithful servant carried the Lord's message as it was laid upon him; but the sons of God during this Gospel age are brought into fellowship with their Father and made acquainted with his plans, thus receiving of his mind or spirit. And having his mind, they become co-workers together with him in carrying out his plans. "The servant," though faithful, "knoweth not what his Lord doeth," but the confidential son is made acquainted with the plans and partakes of his spirit in the work.
The masculine pronoun he, is often applied to the holy Spirit, and properly, because God, whose spirit it is, is recognized as masculine—indicative of strength. It is called the holy Spirit, because God is holy, and because there are other spirits—powers, influences, similar in operation, which [R370 : page 4] are evil. God is true and righteous, hence the Spirit of God is called the "Spirit of truth." It is thus contrasted with the spirit of error, or the influence which error exerts. (1 John 4:6.) Satan is recognized as the chief or prince of evil during the present time, and his influence or spirit is exercised in his servants, in much the same way that the spirit of God works in his children. This is "the spirit which now worketh in the children of disobedience." (Eph. 2:2.) The number seven is often used to represent perfection or completeness. So we read of the seven spirits of God. (Rev. 1:4, and 3:1.) And in like manner we read of seven wicked spirits. (Matt. 12:45.) The spirit or influence of evil proceeds from the "father of lies"; and the spirit or influence of truth proceeds from the heavenly Father. (John 15:26.)
Man is to some extent independent of either of these influences. He has a mind or spirit of his own, (1 Cor. 2:11.) but he is so constituted as to be subject to influences from without, either good or evil. In the present time God permits evil to triumph to some extent, for the testing and development of the "body of Christ," and also for the discipline of mankind in general.
Now the spirit of evil oft transforms itself into an angel of light (truth), and what wonder if he puts forward the children of disobedience, in whom the spirit of error works, and palms them off for saints? (2 Cor. 11:14,15.) What wonder if, under the guise of greater honor to Jesus, he succeeds in deceiving many into unscriptural doctrines; thus beclouding the mind and covering many glorious truths. During this age, when the human mind is surrendered to God, it instantly, under the influence of his spirit of truth, begins to change into [R371 : page 4] a holy or God-like mind. Thus we are transformed (made new creatures) by the renewing of our mind by the holy Spirit of God. Thus we are changed from glory to glory, as by the Spirit of the Lord. (Rom. 12:2; and 2 Cor. 3:18.) This is termed the begetting of the spirit: that is, it is the beginning of the divine life. As in Jesus' case, the moment of consecration is the moment of the beginning of the divine life. Such, God says, he recognizes as sons. In surrendering the mind, the whole being is surrendered, since the mind is the controlling power.
Those who resign themselves are "led of God," "taught of God," and can "serve the Lord in newness of spirit." They will have a "spirit of meekness" and the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory can give unto them the "spirit of wisdom" and revelation in the knowledge of him, the eyes of their understanding being enlightened; that they may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints. (Eph. 1:17,18.)
By contrast too we can see that Satan is the adversary of God and his saints, and his plans to usward, his spirit—influence, would be exercised to oppose the church. He does not oppose openly, but under guise of the Spirit of God. As the "spirit of fear" he attacks many, and if they follow him, they never make progress, but become unfruitful in the knowledge and love of God. The spirit of fear says, it is a great mistake to think that Christ died for all, and it is presumption to believe that all will eventually be released from bondage to death. The same spirit of fear says, your own sins are not forgiven; you are still a miserable sinner. Thus does the spirit of "error," and "fear," and "bondage" give the lie to the statements of the spirit of truth, which says, "There is now, therefore, no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh but after the spirit. Rom. 8:1.
As the spirit or mind of God leads to peace, joy and faith in the promised glories, the spirit of error leads to faith in unpromised things, joy in earthly pleasures, and peace in slumber; as we read it is a "spirit of slumber," and alas, how many have been deluded into this condition. Because the influence of the spirit of error is exerted in this underhanded way, it is called a "seducing spirit;" and the Apostle assures us, that "The spirit [of truth] speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the [true] faith, giving heed to seducing spirits. (1 Tim. 4:1.) To what extent Satan has succeeded in seducing God's children, and supplanting truth with his spirit of error, all must judge by noting the testimonies of the word of truth. "The spirit of the World" is another name for the spirit of error, the world being largely under the control of the prince of this world: This spirit or influence works in the children of this world. And the spirit or influence of the world, is one of the mighty levers wherewith the prince of this world opposes the spirit of truth.
Alas, how great an influence and how strong, is exercised by these evil spirits or influences.—The spirit of bondage—of fear—of the world—of pride, of Anti (against) Christ. Hence the injunction, that we test or try, the spirits—prove them; not by their claims and outward appearances, but by the word of God. "Beloved believe not every spirit, [influence—doctrine] but try the spirits, whether they be of God"—and know "the spirit of truth" from "the spirit of error." (1 Jno. 4:1 and 6.)
Those having the mind or spirit of God, are said to be heavenly or spiritually minded, in contrast with those who have the spirit of the world—the worldly or carnally minded. The spiritually minded are so transformed, so entirely different from their former earthly minded condition, that they are called new creatures or new creations. However, the new mental creation, is still identified with the human body—the body of its humiliation. But when the earthly house is destroyed, we have a building of God—a new house—a glorious spiritual body, in harmony with, and fit for the indwelling of the new mind. (2 Cor. 5:1.) As in Jesus' case, the new body will be received in the resurrection; not by all, but by those now mentally or spiritually begotten of the spirit of truth.
The resurrection is the birth of the new creation. Jesus was the first born. (Rev. 1:5.) Thus we reach the perfect spiritual condition—spiritual beings, mind and body. Thus we shall be like unto the angels and like God. God is a spirit—a Heavenly Intelligence, or a spiritual being, with superior capacities and qualities. Such things as pertain to the heavenly condition and can be seen only by the eye of faith through God's word, we call spiritual things.
Now we are prepared to understand Paul's teaching in 1 Cor. 2:9-16. "Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man (the natural man) the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. But God hath revealed them unto us by His Spirit, for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God." That is, having the mind or spirit of God, that new mind prompts us to search into the deep things of God—to study that we may know and do his will, as obedient sons. Having the mind or spirit of our father, we will take heed to his word and plans, that we may work in harmony with him. "For what man knoweth the things [mind, plans] of a man, save the spirit [mind] of man which is in him? Even so, the things of God, knoweth no man, but the spirit of God."
"Now we have received the spirit [or mind] of God, that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God." But "the natural man receiveth not the things of the spirit of God, for they are foolishness unto him, neither can he know them because they are spiritually discerned." They are understood only by those who have the spirit or mind of God. These learn, not by comparing spiritual things with natural things as the natural man does, but by "comparing spiritual things with spiritual."
"He that is spiritual judgeth all things"; he is able to understand and properly estimate both human and spiritual things, and as a result of the comparison, he sacrifices the former, counting it but dross that he may win the latter. "Yet he himself is judged of no man." No natural man can understand or judge of the motives which prompt the spiritually minded "new creature" to sacrifice things valuable to the natural man. Hence we are counted as fools by the worldly minded. (1 Cor. 4:10.)
This mind or spirit of Christ is the same as the spirit of God, for Christ sacrificed his own spirit, and was filled with the spirit of God. "For even Christ pleased not himself." (Rom. 15:3.) Jesus said, "The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit and they are life." That is, they express the mind of God, in giving heed to which, is life. It is for this cause that Jesus said, "Search the Scriptures." We are not to merely read them as a duty, but, as a privilege. We must search them diligently, to the intent that we may know the spirit or mind of God. If we would be filled with the spirit of God we must drink deep of the fountain of truth—his Word. Our earthen vessels are very imperfect and leaky, and it is easy to let the spiritual things slip, (Heb. 2:1.) and very soon the spirit of the world, which is all around us, rushes in to fill the vacuum. Therefore, it behooves us to live very close to the fountain, lest the spirit of God be quenched, and we be filled with the spirit of the world.
But if constantly filled from the fountain of truth, we will not receive the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of [from] God. And it is thus that we may know the things which God hath in reservation for us—even the deep things of God. Thus, we see (vs. 16) that what the natural man could not know, we, receiving the mind, influence, or spirit of God, may know. Therefore, "Let the same mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus," for "if any man have not the spirit of Christ he is none of his." (Rom. 8:9.)
The holy Spirit or mind should not be confounded with the fruits of the spirit or the gifts of the spirit. Its possession always yields fruit—patience, meekness, charity, etc. In the beginning of this age its possession was often accompanied not only by fruit, but also by miraculous gifts of teaching, tongues, miracles, etc. (1 Cor. 12); but these have largely passed away, as well as their necessity—the gift of teaching being one of those remaining needful to the body.
Believing that the foregoing is a consistent and correct statement of the Bible teachings on this subject, which the scriptures quoted, we think, prove, we proceed to examine the texts supposed to conflict with this understanding; and we will see that they do not oppose, but sustain the above. It should be born in mind, however, that the translators of the Scriptures from Greek into English were trinitarians, and naturally translated as much in harmony with their belief as they could.
(a) "Quench not the spirit." (1 Thes. 5:19.) To quench signifies to extinguish, as to extinguish a fire or a light. The Greek word from which it is translated occurs eight times in the New Testament, and in every other text it refers to quenching fire or light. Carry the thought with you—By reason of having God's holy mind or spirit, we are called "the light of the world" (Matt. 5:14); but if we should be seduced into worldliness by the spirit of the world, our light would be quenched, or extinguished. "If the light that is in thee become darkness [be extinguished], how great is that darkness?" (Matt. 6:23.)
(b) "Grieve not the holy spirit of God whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption." (Eph. 4:30.) To seal, is to mark or to designate. The children of this world may be distinguished by certain marks, and so may the "new creatures." The mark of the one class is the spirit (mind) of the world; in the other class the seal or mark is the spirit (mind) of God. From the moment of true consecration to God, the evidence, or marks, or sealing, may be seen in words, thoughts, and actions. These marks grow more and more distinct daily, if we keep growing in grace, knowledge, and love. In other words, the spirit (mind) of God, becomes OUR mind or spirit, if the same mind be in us that was also in Christ Jesus our Lord. Hence, our new mind is a holy or God-directed mind.
(c) The spirit of truth—"shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, he shall speak, and he will show you things to come." (John 16:13.) The disciples, as Jews and natural men, had been looking at things from an earthly standpoint, expecting a human deliverer and a human kingdom. Jesus had talked of the kingdom, but not until now had he explained that he must die, and must then leave them to go into a far country to receive the kingdom and to return. (Luke 19:12.) Comforting them, he assures them of another who would lead them and teach them—a Comforter that the Father would send in his name, or as his representative for a time. They must not get the idea that the coming Comforter is to be another Messiah, or Leader, or a different Teacher; hence he says: "He shall not speak of himself"; that is, he shall not teach independently and out of harmony with my teaching. "But whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak. That is, the same things which I have taught, or which have been heard, he will elaborate and teach more fully—"He shall glorify me, for he shall [R372 : page 5] receive of mine, and shall show it unto you." "All things that the Father hath are mine (His plans and my plans are all one); therefore, said I, that he shall take of mine, and shall show it unto you." The new teacher will not turn your minds from me to himself—but all the teachings of the coming Comforter will be in harmony with my teachings—and to show you more fully that I am the Messiah. Neither might they doubt the truth of the Comforter's teachings, for it is the Spirit of truth, and proceeds from the Father. (John 15:26.) This Spirit of truth will be my messenger to communicate to you my matters, and shall show you things to come.
It has been so—the Spirit of truth has been showing to the church during this age more and more of the coming glory and glorious work of Christ, and the depth of the riches of God's plans to be fulfilled in him. Thus, he has been glorified in the Church.
Objection 1. "But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance whatsoever I have said unto you." (John 14:26.)
The fact that the Father sends the holy Spirit shows that it is under his authority, just as your powers are under your control. (See 1 Cor. 14:32.) Ghost is but another and bad translation of pneuma, generally rendered spirit. Only those who have followed in the footsteps of Jesus, sacrificing the human will and receiving the mind or spirit of God, can understand the import of these words of Jesus. To the natural man, an explanation of this text is impossible; but he who has the mind of Christ realizes that it is a comforter indeed. No matter how painful the crucifying of the flesh may be, we have learned to view it all from God's standpoint, and to esteem present afflictions as light, compared with the glory that shall be revealed in us.
The mind of Christ, or the new spirit, leads us to search the Scriptures, God's storehouse of truth: Thus the spirit of truth works in us. It also acts upon us by helping our infirmities and enabling us to comprehend his Word, that we through patience and comfort of the Scriptures, might have hope while enduring present afflictions. (Rom. 8:26 and 15:4.)
(2) "And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost [spirit] and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance." Acts 2:6. In this case, not only were the disciples filled with the Spirit or mind of God, which was God working in them, but God, or the Spirit of God acted upon them, conferring special gifts, for a special purpose. It must seem absurd to every one to talk about a person being in several hundred persons, but many feel compelled to say so, because of their unscriptural theory. In thinking of it, every intelligent thinker has to think of the power or influence of God in those men, no matter how stoutly they say that it was a person who was diffused into a number of persons.
(3) "But Peter said, Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart, to lie to the Holy Ghost, and to keep back part of the price of the land?" (Acts 5:3.) Satan had filled Ananias' heart with his spirit of covetousness. God had filled Peter with His spirit, and one of the gifts of God's spirit conferred upon Peter, was the gift of "discerning of spirits." (1 Cor. 12:10.)
In verse 3, the lying is said to be unto the Holy Ghost (spirit or mind of God), and in vs. 4, it is said to be unto God. The idea is the same and defines the term Holy Ghost or Holy Spirit to be the mind of God, whether in the Father, or in his representatives and agents.
(4) "Then Peter said unto her, How is it that ye have agreed together, to tempt the Spirit of the Lord." (Acts 5:9.) As with Ananias, so with his wife, their lying was reckoned to be not to Peter and the church as men, but to God whose agent and representative through the Spirit, Peter was.
(5) "But whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come." Matt. 12:32. Read context—Jesus had just exercised the power of God by casting out a devil. The Pharisees saw the miracle and could not deny it; but, to turn aside its force, they said that it was by the power of the devil that he had cast out the devil, and not by God's power. But in answer, Jesus claims that he cast out devils by the Spirit [influence or power] of God. (Vs. 28) Then he upbraids them for being so malicious—a generation of vipers, so set on the traditions of their church that their eyes were blinded against the simplest kind of reasoning. It was so plainly evident that the power which opposed and cast out evil must be good, that they were inexcusable in ascribing it to Satan. They might and would be freely forgiven for supposing him, as a man, an impostor, and hence blaspheming him; but they were wholly inexcusable for that gross prejudice which would ascribe such a good deed to the power of Satan. This, their sin, would not be among those forgiven. It must be punished; it will neither be forgiven in the present life, nor in the next—the Millennial Age; it indicates more than Adamic depravity, and must have stripes. (See "Food for Thinking Christians," page 50—The Unpardonable Sin.)
(6) "The Spirit said unto Philip, Go near and join thyself to this chariot." Acts 8:29. We fail to see in this anything demanding another God. We think that the influence or spirit of God could indicate this to Philip in a variety of ways. In what way he was influenced is not stated. It is immaterial to us.
(7) "The Spirit said unto him, Behold, three men seek thee." Acts 10:19. We would make the same criticism of this, as of the former objection. It is immaterial how the power or spirit of God addressed to Peter this information; possibly it came as an inspired thought into his mind—possibly guided by the men's voices and the three visions.
(8) "The Holy Ghost said, separate me, Barnabas and Saul, for the work whereunto I have called them." Acts 13:2. We are not told in what manner the holy Spirit said or indicated the setting apart specially of these two. It is probable however, that they were "called," and "set apart" by the holy Spirit in much the same manner that all true ministers of God are now called and set apart. All fully consecrated—begotten—children of God are called to preach; each according to his ability. The Spirit says to us all, "Why stand ye idle...go, ye, also into the vineyard." But, where special ability to teach or expound God's Word is possessed by any of the company, that special ability is recognized as a special call to the more public work of the ministry—as a call of the holy Spirit. In relating his call to the ministry, (Gal. 1:1.) Paul mentions his authority as from the Father and Son, but ignores the holy Spirit entirely; which would be inexcusable if the holy Spirit were a person, and, in fact, THE person actually appointing him. But it is consistent enough, when we regard the holy Spirit as the holy influence from the Father or the Son, or both conjointly, as their will and purposes are one. Gal. 1:1, says: "Paul, an apostle, not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised him from the dead."
(9) "For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost and to us," etc. Acts 15:28. The decision reached in the matter under consideration, seemed to be the judgment of the church and in harmony with God's will and plan.
James, the chief speaker at the counsel, gives the clue to how God's will or mind was ascertained then; and we find it the same method which we use to-day. He argues from Peter's statement of God's leadings in the matter of Cornelius; and from an unfulfilled prophecy which he quotes. The conclusion drawn from these, he and all the church accepted as the holy Spirit's teaching. (Read carefully vss. 13-18.)
(10) "And were forbidden of the Holy Ghost to preach the Word in Asia." Acts 16:6. Like the others, this text in no way indicates that the holy Spirit is a person. As to how God's power or influence was exercised to direct their course away from Asia we know not, but possibly by unfavorable circumstances, or a vision. No matter how, the lesson is, that God was guiding the apostles. An illustration of one of the Spirit's ways of leading them, is given in the context, vs. 9. "A vision appeared to Paul in the night. There stood a man of Macedonia, and prayed him, saying, "Come over into Macedonia, and help us"; and after he had seen the vision, immediately they endeavored to go into Macedonia assuredly gathering that the Lord had called them for to preach the gospel unto them." All these various dealings teach us that the methods by which God taught and led in those days were not so different from those now in use, as some seem to think.
(11) "Save that the Holy Ghost witnesseth in every city, saying, that bonds and afflictions abide me." Acts 20:23. Nothing here indicates personality. As an illustration of the agencies by which the holy power of God informed Paul, see Acts 21:4,11,14.
(12) "The flock over which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers to feed the church of God." Acts 20:28. Paul, addressing the church, not the world, says, "The manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man [in Christ] to profit withal"—"GOD hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers," etc.—"and there are diversities of operations, but it is the same GOD which worketh all—in all." (1 Cor. 12:6,7,28.) This explains how God, through his holy Spirit sets apart men to various offices which he deems needful to the church.
(13) "Thus saith the Holy Ghost," etc. Acts 21:11. See explanation number 11.
(14) "God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit, for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God."...(15) "Which things also we speak not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth." 1 Cor. 2:10-13. (Read context) This we have already found to prove that the holy Spirit or mind of God in us as His children, enables us to comprehend his plans, etc., even the deep things of God, by coming into full harmony with him through his Word. We have also noticed the context vs. 12, where Paul, in explaining the subject, tries to make it plain by comparing "the SPIRIT, which is of [from] God," in us, with "the SPIRIT of the world," which influences "the natural man." It is clear that the spirit of the world is not a person, but a worldly mind. The spirit or mind of God in his children, is no more a person than is the spirit of the world with which it is here contrasted.
(16) "But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness unto him; neither can he know them, for they are spiritually discerned." Vs. 14. This is a forcible statement of what we have already seen in numbers 14 and 15, viz. A man who is filled with the worldly spirit is unprepared to see the "deep" and glorious things of God—the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. This is a close test if applied. Have you the Spirit of God? Have you been taught by it [through the Word] any "deep things" which the natural, worldly man cannot appreciate?
Alas! how often we have felt the force of this distinction between natural and spiritual as we have talked with some of the professed teachers of to-day, the great majority of whom are blind leaders of the blind, when they confessed and sometimes boasted of their ignorance of "the things which God hath prepared for them that love him." Thereby they proclaim that they have not the mind of God, do not know his plans, have not much of his Spirit. The test here given of our possession of the Spirit is our knowledge of his plans and deep things which are hidden from the worldly—"God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit."
(17) "The Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered, and he that searcheth the hearts, knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit. Rom. 8:26,27.
How much this expression of our Father's loving care has been misunderstood by his children! Who has not wondered that if the holy Spirit is a person—a part of the infinite God, and, as the catechism states it, equal in power—why, if all powerful, should it be impossible for the holy Spirit to utter groans? Many a Christian brother has endeavored to make up for this supposed weakness or inability of the holy Spirit to express itself, by redoubled groanings.
But it would be equally strange if it be understood to mean that the holy Spirit, as the influence or power of the Almighty Jehovah, is unable to express itself. We know how, in past ages, this influence found abundant expression by words and deeds of prophets. We know how, in this age, the apostles all attest of its power over them. What can it mean, then—"The Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered"? The mistake is, in supposing that it is God's Spirit which supplicates. It is the spirit of the saints which supplicates and often cannot express itself.
Let us look at this text with its connections, and this will be evident. Paul has just been speaking of sin and death-burdened humanity groaning in its fetters. He assures us that they shall be given liberty from this bondage when the church is selected from the world, and as sons of God manifested in power; the great deliverer whom Jehovah raises up to bless all the families of the earth. (Vss. 19-21.) He then passes from the groaning of the world to the present condition of the church, in which we groan: "Ourselves also, which have the first fruits of the spirit, even we groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption." (Vs. 23.)
Our renewed, transformed mind or spirit, once worldly, is now spiritual and holy; but our bodies are still human, and have the Adamic imperfections. Hence, we, as new creatures, are burdened by the flesh, and groan for the deliverance into Christ's likeness. Paul explains how we may, by faith, reckon the earthly body dead, and think of ourselves as new creatures perfected, and thus realize ourselves saved now—"Saved by HOPE. (Vs. 24.) Then, having seen how we may view ourselves, he tells us how the matter is viewed from God's standpoint—God reckons us "new" and "holy"—"spiritual" beings—and he recognizes only those deeds of the flesh as ours, to which our minds consent. God knows when your holy spirit (new mind) is willing and your flesh weak.
As the receiving of the new mind brought us into a new relationship to God, and into new hopes, so "likewise the spirit (our new holy mind) also helpeth [maketh up for] our [bodily] infirmities. For we know not [even] what we should pray for as we ought; [much less are we able to do] but the spirit itself [our holy mind] maketh intercession [for us—omit] with groanings which cannot be uttered. And he that searcheth the hearts [God], knoweth what is the mind [Gr. phronema—inclination] of the [our] spirit; because he [it] maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God." It is God's will that the heart-desires of his children shall be accepted, both in prayer and service, and not the imperfections of their earthen vessels.
O, how comforting is this thought! How often you have experienced it. You were perhaps overtaken in a fault, entrapped by the weakness of the human nature, or trouble, and almost disheartened, you went to your Father in prayer. You had no words for utterance, but you groaned in spirit to God—"being burdened." God heard you and blessed you, answering your unuttered prayer and giving strength. Paul's conclusion is ours; we have every cause for rejoicing. What shall we say then? "If God be for us, who can be against us?" (Vs. 31.)
(18) "The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit that we are the children of God." Rom. 8:16.
Nothing in this text teaches that the holy Spirit is a person, but the contrary; it indicates that as each man has a spirit or mind, so God has a spirit. Read this text in the light of 1 Cor. 2:11,12, thus comparing Scripture with Scripture, and it is easily seen that it does not teach a personal holy Spirit. But, though not pertinent to the subject, it may be of interest and profit, for us to see how the Spirit beareth witness with our spirits on this important subject of our being God's children. On few subjects have Christians in general, felt more disturbed. Thus, the Calvinist, repudiating the idea of positive knowledge of sonship, sings:
This comes from a misapprehension of the doctrine of Election. Other Christians, equally misunderstanding the Scriptures, lay hold of this text relative to the witness of the Spirit, and claim that when they feel good, they have the witness of sonship. Because the Scriptures say, "Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee," they judge of their sonship solely by their peace, and often by their prosperity. They lose sight of the words of Jesus—"In the world ye shall have tribulation, but in me ye shall have peace."
When things move smoothly they feel good, and consider this the witness of the Spirit. But when they look at the heathen and at the worldly, and see them have peace of mind too, their supposed witness proves insufficient. Then the dark hour comes—a Gethsemane—and they say, How easy a matter to be deceived, and sing—
They are in torment lest they have grieved the Spirit—for "fear hath torment." This is all because of the unscriptural view taken of the Spirit and its dealings and witnessings. Let us take the Bible view of the witness of the Spirit (mind) of God, with our spirit (mind), and we can sing—
As we would know of a man's mind or spirit, by his words and dealings, so we are to know of God's mind by his words and dealings. God's word is, that whosoever [consecrates] cometh unto God by Jesus is accepted. (Heb. 7:25.) Then, the first question to ask yourself is, Did I ever fully consecrate myself to God—my life, my time, talents, influence,—all? If you can candidly answer before God—Yes, I gave myself wholly to him; then I assure you on the authority, not of your feelings, but of God's Word, which, unlike your feelings, is unchangeable, that you then and there instantly became a child of God—a member, a branch of the true vine. (John 15:1.) This is an evidence, or witness that you have joined the true church, which is Christ's body.
Whether you are abiding in him now, depends on whether you have grown as a branch, and are bearing fruit: "Every branch in me that beareth not fruit, he taketh away, and every branch that beareth fruit he purgeth [pruneth] it, that it may bring forth more fruit." Here is stated the rule in our Father's family—chastisements, pruning, taking away of dross, and a development of fruit-bearing qualities. If you lack these indications of parental care, and personal growth in grace, you lack one evidence that you are a child. "Whom the Lord loveth, he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. If ye be without chastisement, then are ye bastards and not sons." (Heb. 12:8.) Afflictions and troubles come upon the world as well as upon the Lord's saints, but are not marks of sonship except to those who have fully consecrated to his service. Nor is the pruning and chastising in the Divine family always the same. As with earthly children, so with God's children; to some, a look of disapproval, to others a word of rebuke is an all-sufficient reproof. Others must be scourged repeatedly. An earthly parent rejoices most in the child so obedient and submissive that a look or word is sufficient to prune off evil; and so does our Father in heaven. Such are those who judge themselves, and therefore need less of the chastening of the Lord. (1 Cor. 11:31.) To be of this class, requires a full consecration; and these are the overcomers deemed worthy of being joint heirs with Jesus Christ their Lord, whose footsteps they thus follow.
Here is one testimony of the Spirit then—that every true child or branch needs, and will have continual pruning. Are you being pruned? If so, that is an evidence of your being a branch; in this, the Spirit of truth bears witness with your spirit that you are a child.
Again the Spirit witnesseth that "whosoever is born [begotten] of God sinneth not." (1 John 5:18.) Such may be overtaken in a fault, may err in judgment, be overpowered by the old nature not yet under control, but will never sin wilfully—will never willingly transgress God's will. Now can your mind answer that you delight to do God's will, and would not willingly violate or oppose it? If so, the witness of your spirit, or mind, agrees with the spirit of truth, indicating that you are a child of God.
The witness of the Spirit is that the true branches of the vine, like the vine, Christ Jesus are not of the world—"If ye were of the world, the world would love his own, but because ye are not of the world...therefore the world hateth you." "Yea, and all that will live Godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution." (2 Tim. 3:12.) Does your mind testify that it is so in your experience? If so, then the Spirit of God again witnesseth with yours, that you are a child. Remember that the world spoken of by Jesus, included all worldly-minded ones, all in whom the spirit of the world has a footing. In Jesus' day, this was true of the nominal Jewish Church. In fact nine-tenths of his persecution came from professors of religion. Marvel not if you should have a similar experience. It was the chief religionists of his day, that called Jesus Beelzebub—a prince of devils; and he tells us, "If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub how much more shall they call them of his household." (Matt. 10:25.) If Jesus had joined hands in their Pharisaism he would have had no "hate" nor "persecution." Even had he kept quiet and let their hypocrisies, shams, long prayers and false teachings alone, he would have been let alone and would not have suffered. So with us.
The Spirit witnesses that whosoever is ashamed of Jesus and his words, of him shall he be ashamed. (Mark 8:38.) Does your spirit witness that you are one whom he will confess? If so, rejoice; you are a child and an heir.
The Spirit witnesseth that "Whosoever is born [begotten] of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith." (1 John 5:4.) Is this your experience? To overcome indicates that you are not in harmony with the world, its spirit, and its methods. Have you this witness that you are overcoming the world? Wait a moment—you are not to overcome the world by flattery, nor by joining in its follies, nor are you to overcome the world by teaching a Sunday class, or joining a sectarian church—no; but by your faith. If an overcomer, you must walk by faith, not by sight. Looking not at the things that are seen—popularity, worldly show, numbers, denominational greatness, etc.; but looking at the things which are not seen—the crown, the throne, the church whose names are written in heaven—the eternal things. (2 Cor. 4:18.)
Again, the Spirit witnesseth that if you are a child of God, you will not be ignorant of his Word, and will not only be in the light as to present truth, but should know something about "things to come." The maturing child will grow in grace, knowledge, and love, adding daily the graces of the Spirit—faith, virtue, knowledge, charity, etc. And "if these things be in you and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But he that lacketh these things is blind and cannot see afar off, etc...for if ye do these things ye shall never fall, for so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly, into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ." (2 Pet. 1:5-11; compare John 16:12-15.) Ask yourself whether you have this witness of progress—growth, and this sort of fruit mentioned. Remember too, that you cannot grow in love faster than you grow in knowledge; and you cannot grow in favor, except by complying with God's instructions. This instruction, this knowledge, is found in his Word. Hence, "search the Scriptures," that you may be thoroughly furnished unto every good word and work. (2 Tim. 3:17.)
This is the witness of the Spirit by which we may know perfectly just how we stand. You may be a young sprout in the vine; then, of course, God does not expect much fruit instantly; but there should be the budding at once, and soon the fruits. And if you are a developed and advanced Christian, every testimony of the Spirit above cited should witness with your spirit—mind. If in any of these testimonies of the Spirit, you find yourself lacking, give diligence, give earnest heed, that you may possess every experience described. Then you will no longer sing—
"Ye are washed—sanctified—justified, in the name of our Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God." 1 Cor. 6:11.
Sanctification means a setting apart or separating. Those who are sanctified, or set apart to God—fully consecrated—must first be justified or cleansed from Adamic sin by accepting in faith the testimony of God, that "Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures." Being then justified by faith, we have peace with God, and can then approach him and begin to do works acceptable to God by Jesus Christ. The evidence which we have of acceptance is the testimony of the spirit of truth in the Word, and the "seal" and "witness" in ourselves—our transformed mind.
Sanctification is of two parts—first a consecration, and second the performance of that consecration in our daily life. The power which enables us to live up to our consecration vows is the Spirit or mind of our God [R375 : page 7] of which we receive—The Spirit of truth received by the study and obedience of our Father's words, gives needed strength for the overcoming of the human nature and the spirit of the world.
To this agree other Scriptures. Paul prayed: "The very God of peace sanctify you wholly"; Peter says, Ye are "elect...through sanctification [setting apart] of the Spirit, unto obedience." Again, that the sanctifying power, or spirit in us is the spirit of truth, is shown by Paul's statement, that Christ sanctifies and cleanses the church by the Word. Eph. 5:26. Jesus prayed: "Sanctify them through thy truth; thy Word is truth." (John 17:17.)
All thus sanctified are reckoned new creatures in Christ, and are addressed as "them that are sanctified in Christ." (1 Cor. 1:2.) That it is by reason of our sanctification of spirit that we are one, is shown by the statement: "Both he that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one; for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren." (Heb. 2:11.) Thus it is that we are "washed—sanctified—justified in the name of our Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God."
"When he ['the Spirit of truth'] is come he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment." (John 16:8-11.)
The spirit of God is not in the children of this world. Theirs is "the spirit of the world." The "spirit of the world," or "the carnal mind is enmity against God." The Spirit or mind of God is in believers only. Hence wherever we find it, it is a seal, or mark of sonship. "By whom also ye were sealed after that ye had believed, the Gospel of your salvation." (Eph. 1:13.) "If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his." The Spirit of God by means of its fruits, and its witness through the Word, is the evidence of our begetting to the family of God, it is "the spirit of adoption whereby we cry, Abba Father." (Rom. 8:15.) It must be evident to all then, that the Spirit in us, is not the spirit which is in the worldly.
Then the question arises, in what sense does the Spirit of God—the Spirit of truth—the Spirit of Christ—in us reprove the world? We reply that being in us, it constitutes us (the true church) the light of the world. It is the light which shines from the true christian, which reproves or condemns and opposes the darkness of this world. Jesus when anointed of the Spirit of God declared "I am the Light of the world." And again, "As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world." (John 8:12 and 9:5.) Addressing his church of this age, sanctified by the same holy Spirit, he says "Ye are the light of the world"—let your light shine before men. (Matt. 5:14-16.) Paul addressing the same body of Christ, says, Ye were once "darkness but now are ye light in the Lord; walk ye as children of light." (Eph. 5:8 and 1 Thes. 5:5.) "For God...[the spirit of God, the spirit of truth] hath shined in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God." (2 Cor. 4:6.)
Thus we see that it is the light of God's truth or mind shining in our hearts, which shines out upon the world—We are to "do all things without murmurings and disputings; that we may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God without rebuke in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world; holding forth the word of life." (Phil. 2:15.)
It is thus seen, that not directly but by a reflex light—through those who possess it, the spirit operates upon (but not in) the world: for the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God neither can he know them. (1 Cor. 2:14.) The Apostle thus explains the reproving of the world by the Spirit in the saints, saying, "Walk as children of light,...and have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness but rather reprove them...All things that are reproved are made manifest [shown to be wrong] by the light." Eph. 5:8-13.
The light which shines from a saint's sanctified life—sanctified through (not without) the truth, is the holy Spirit—the mind of Christ dwelling in you richly, and working out in harmony with, not in ignorance of, the plan of God. This light reproves the darkness of the world—convincing those who see it, as to what is sin, and showing what is righteousness, and they will reason of a coming judgment, when righteousness will receive some reward and sin some punishment.
But "if the light that is in thee [become] darkness, how great is that darkness?" This is the condition of the nominal systems of "Babylon." Because they have taken the creeds and traditions of men, they have the "spirit of fear" and of "bondage." Because they have neglected the words of the Lord—the word of truth, they have lost the "spirit of truth" and received the "spirit of error." Because they have lost the spirit of truth, they have lost that sanctifying (separating) power, and have become imbued with the "spirit of the world" and the spirit of error; hence the light to reprove the world no longer shines out from them. As a natural result, the worldly feel themselves very slightly reproved by the nominal church and superior to a large majority of nominal christians. Is it then any wonder that conversions have almost ceased?
The true church always has been a light in the world; but as with its head, the light has shined in the darkness; and though the darkness recognizes the reproof of its presence, it comprehends it not. Therefore they have always persecuted the lightbringers, because they knew not our Father, nor our Lord, nor his body (John 16:3.) It has always been its mission to shine out truth and reprove evil. And its reproof has always been chiefly to nominal systems and professors.
We believe that in most of these "bundles"—sects, (Matt. 13:30.) there are still some grains of wheat, some consecrated ones in whom the spirit of truth still has some residence. But such, should see that their influence for truth, and their light is hidden among the worldly mass. For such God is now raising up in every direction, a voice, saying, "Come out of her my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins and receive not of her plagues." (Rev. 18:4.) God's Spirit through His Word, has shown us as a people, that the reason this message is due now, and was not due before 1878, is, that we are now in the "HARVEST" which "is the end of the age:" and the time for executing the command—"Gather my saints together unto me, those that have made a covenant with me by (self) sacrifice—is now come. This has been clearly shown from the Prophecies to which we do well that we take heed as unto a light. These will be elaborated more fully in the forthcoming "Millennial Day Dawn."
A common error among God's children to-day, and one arising from an improper conception of the holy Spirit, is the supposed necessity for frequent baptisms of the Spirit. We are told, "Be ye filled with the Spirit": and we would urge the necessity of constantly receiving supplies of grace to help our infirmities. We need constantly to go to the fountain to replenish, because our "earthen vessels" are very defective, and the spirit of Christ easily slips out, being under constant pressure from the spirit of the world. But to be filled with the Spirit is something totally different from the Baptism of the Spirit.
So far as we are informed, there have been but three baptisms of the Spirit in all: First, Jesus was so baptized; second, the disciples at Pentecost were similarly baptized; third, Cornelius and his family were so baptized. These three baptisms were in reality but one, as already shown from the Levitical type. The holy anointing oil was poured upon the head and ran down over the body. The same Spirit given to our Head—Jesus—descended on the church at Pentecost, and has since been running down over and anointing all that are his. In these three cases, it was an outward manifestation which witnessed specially that God recognized such as his. To convince the natural man, the reception was accompanied by various "gifts." (1 Cor. 14:22.) To them, these gifts were the evidences of the possession of the Spirit and acceptance with God.
The Spirit, or mind, of God is now received without the gifts, and without outward manifestation. Those manifestations and gifts being now recorded in the Word of God, and not (or with few exceptions) in the persons and deeds of his children. Paul testified that he might have gifts, or be acted upon by the Spirit, and yet be almost destitute of the Spirit of love and sacrifice itself—and thus be but "a tinkling cymbal" (1 Cor. 13:1.) Thus we see that the gifts were not a mark of special favor toward those exercised by them. What we may have of the "witness" of the Spirit, is a far better criterion of our spiritual condition, than if possessed of the mountain-moving, tongue-speaking, and miracle-working power, without the internal witness of harmony with God's Word.
Since Cornelius, there have been no such baptisms or OUTWARD MANIFESTATIONS of God's favor; but instead, the inward unseen witness of the Spirit of truth with our spirit, that we are children and heirs.
Nor should we wonder at this: the church was like two rooms, hitherto unopened—locked up. The one room represents the Jewish believers in Jesus; the other the Gentile believers. Both were to be henceforth thrown open and used. There must be an opening and demonstration, after which, the doors standing open, needed no further re- opening. Peter unlocked or opened both of these doors. At Pentecost he did the opening work to the Jews who had believed. (Acts 2:14-41.) And when about three and one-half [R376 : page 7] years after, it became God's due time to receive the Gentile believers into the same privileges of sonship, Peter was again used to open that door—being sent to Cornelius, the first Gentile convert. (Acts 10.) Thus he used the "keys of the kingdom of heaven" (church), and opened the way as Jesus had foretold. (Matt. 16:19.) Keys represent power and authority. He needed more than one, because hitherto Jew and Gentile were totally distinct, and the Gentiles were not fellow heirs, and of the same body.
If this acceptance of Jewish born believers was indicated once for all at Pentecost, why should God repeat it to others now? If the acceptance of Gentile born believers was clearly shown in Cornelius' case, why should a repetition be asked? There is nothing in Scripture to indicate that such baptisms were ever repeated.
Some now meet and agonize and pray for a Pentecostal baptism of the holy Spirit. They look back to that with special longings, thinking that it was something not now possessed by the saints, whereas the things not now possessed are merely the gifts of the Spirit. This is wrong—it is looking from the standpoint of the natural mind. It is looking at the things that are seen, and not at the things unseen and eternal for a basis of faith. They were just coming out of the fleshly into the spiritual dispensation, and must needs have something which the natural man might recognize, to mark the new era. We repeat, the GIFTS were in the church not to convince the saints of their acceptance with God, but to convince the natural man. (See 1 Cor. 14:22.) The WITNESS of the Spirit was for the saints.
The church in general had the gifts, but they did not all receive those gifts at Pentecost, nor by a baptism of the Spirit. The eleven apostles, with Paul, the Lord's choice for the place of Judas, possessed the special power of communicating those gifts by laying on of hands (compare Acts 8:13,14,17-19); but those who received the gifts from their hands could not re-communicate it to others.
But, while it is entirely out of harmony with God's Word to pray for another baptism of the holy Spirit, it is right to pray to be kept filled with the holy Spirit. The Father in heaven is more willing to give the Spirit to those that ask him, than earthly parents are to give good gifts to their children. (Luke 11:13.) When we ask for anything, it implies that we want it, and if wholly consecrated, we should want to receive the holy Spirit in the way God wishes to give it. We pray for daily food, and properly, but if we do nothing more than pray, God might let us starve. He puts within our reach the needful means of procuring the food, and we say the food comes from him from whom cometh every good gift. When we pray for the Spirit, and desire to "be filled with the Spirit," it is well. God has already provided all the means necessary to the fulfillment of our request. The "Spirit of truth" stands ready to give us the filling we desire, but we must partake of—eat—the feast, or we will not be filled. He who will not eat of a full table will be empty and starve, as truly as though there were no food. Neither will the asking of a blessing on food fill you; you must eat it.
The Spirit of truth speaks to us (through the Word) and by obedience to those words, we shall be filled with the Spirit. It was Jesus himself who said "The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit and they are life." (John 6:63.) And of those who are filled with the Spirit it is true as spoken by the prophet, [R376 : page 8] "Thy words were found and I did eat them." (Jer. 15:16.) It is useless then, for us to pray, Lord, Lord, give us the Spirit, and neglect the Word of truth from whence that Spirit is to be supplied. It is for this reason that many who meet often and pray much for the holy Spirit, are "still but babes in Christ," and many seek the outward signs as proof of relationship, instead of the inward witness with the Word of truth.
It is because, as we have just seen, we have something to do if we would be filled with the Spirit, as surely as we have something to do if we would have natural food, that the Apostle addresses us—"Be ye filled with the Spirit" (Eph. 5:18.)—indicating that it rests ENTIRELY WITH US, since the doors were opened at Pentecost and at Cornelius' house.
"He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire." Matt. 3:10-12. These words were spoken to the Jews as a nation, and Jesus was the one who would do the baptizing. So many of that nation as received Jesus were baptized of the holy Spirit at Pentecost, and the remainder were baptized with fire—trouble. The time of trouble which finally, in A.D. 70, destroyed that nation, was the fiery baptism so oft foretold concerning them by the Prophets, and now repeated by John. The three verses here connected (10-12) refer to the same fire. The unfruitful tree cast into the fire, and the chaff burned, represent those of that nation who "knew not the time of their visitation."
There is to be another future outpouring of God's Spirit, accompanied by remarkable and demonstrating gifts. But this will not be the same as the previous outpouring in all respects. The baptisms and gifts at the beginning of this age were indications that those who received them were sons of God on the spiritual plane—new creatures. The next outpouring will be a sign of relationship to God as human sons, not as "new" or spiritual ones.
It has frequently been shown that God's design is, through Christ, in the coming age, to restore all of the human race who are willing, from the condition of human sinners, back to the condition of human sons—the position occupied by Adam before he sinned. (Luke 3:38.)—this is the great Restitution mentioned by Peter, Acts 3:21. But we have seen that before thus restoring the human sons to their proper position and glory, as such on earth, God is now taking out a number of sons who change their nature, and in the resurrection will become perfect spiritual beings, no longer earthly. Since both of these families are sons, it is proper that God should indicate his recognition of them in some way. Hence he has already at the beginning of our age indicated our acceptance, and so, or similarly, he will indicate the acceptance of the fleshly sons when their age is opening—and it should be indicated soon, we think.
The Prophet Joel mentions both of these outpourings of the Spirit and the gifts attendant. (Joel 2:28-32.) Peter recognized Pentecost as a fulfillment of this, and so it was. Most, and the chief part of the prophecy, was fulfilled there, but not all of it. There God poured out of his Spirit upon his servants and handmaidens; but did he pour it out upon all flesh? Certainly not; only on those who received Jesus and became sons of God by consecration.
Yet, like other things of God's Word, it is so written that the full import remained covered—hidden—until due time. The hiding consists in stating the first fulfillment last, and the last first. And such is God's custom: He gave the natural seed of Abraham and its promises first, and the spiritual and chief seed last; yet in the full completion of his plan, the spiritual seed must be glorified before the natural can have its promises fulfilled.
If we transpose the words of Joel we can see the two outpourings of gifts, etc., clearly—thus: "And also upon the servants and handmaids in those days will I pour out my Spirit." [This was fulfilled in the Lord's servants at Pentecost.] "And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophecy, [declare] and your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions." In the receiving of these earthly sons, Israel will be the first—"To the Jew first, and also the Gentile." And in harmony with this we read, that in that day—the day of the Lord—God will pour upon them the spirit of grace and supplication: and they shall look upon him whom they have pierced. (Zech. 12:10.)
It is eminently proper, that man should and must come again into harmony with the mind or Spirit of God. Man was created in the image [mental likeness] of God. Sin has marred it, until he is more the [mental] image of Satan. But in the incoming age, coming under the influence of truth and the rule of Christ, the hearts of stone shall become hearts of flesh [proper fleshly minds] (Ezek. 11:19.) and the likeness of Satan, will give place to the original likeness of God.
The Spirit will witness to them that the "marriage of the Lamb is come" (accomplished)—that the "little flock" selected to the spiritual plane of being, is complete, and is the power, which with its head Jesus, is blessing them. As the Spirit now witnesses to the new creatures that they are to suffer while the wicked flourish; it will witness to those of the next age, that the body of Christ has filled up the measure of suffering. Instead of witnessing to them as to us, that houses and lands must be forsaken to gain a heavenly inheritance; it will witness to them, that he that serveth God shall be blessed, and build houses and inherit them, plant vineyards and eat the fruit of them, and long enjoy the work of their hands, (Isa. 65:22) and that the righteous shall flourish and the wicked [wilful sinners] be cut off from life.
This change in the order of things after the body of Christ has been selected, will be due to the fact, that then the Christ will have taken his great power, and the reign of the kingdom of God will have begun. This is forcibly shown in Malachi 3:14-18. "Now we call the proud, happy, etc. [This causes perplexity until the reason is seen—but when the Jewels have been selected—then there will be a change.] Then shall ye return [things shall be changed] and ye shall discern between the righteous and wicked, etc." Then the whole order of things will be different; the proud will be debased, and the meek exalted; the wicked will be cut off from life, and in "His day the righteous shall flourish."