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—ACTS 2:1-11.—JANUARY 10.—
Golden Text:—"I will pray the Father, and he shall
give you another comforter, that he may abide with
you forever; even the Spirit of Truth."—John 14:17 .
OUR Lord's message to his disciples when leaving them was, that they should return from the Mount of Olives to Jerusalem and tarry there until endued with power from on high. To many the ten days of tarrying would be considered a serious waste of valuable time. Think of it! One hundred and twenty of the Lord's consecrated people idle for ten days—not preaching, nor healing, nor engaging in any special religious work—neglecting business and money-making, and all earthly interests as well. What were they doing? The record implies that their special employment during those ten days was prayer and supplication to God. What did they want? They already were in relationship to God through faith, and permitted to pray to him as their Father. They already knew of Jesus and had already been blessed by him in various ways, some of them having been his mouthpieces. Why tarry? Why pray? Why not go out at once into the Vineyard and labor? If they had been left to guide their own steps, doubtless they would have been at work, but they were following their Master's Word, remembering the testimony, "Obedience is better than sacrifice." They knew not what qualifications they needed for their future service. They were merely trusting all to their Lord and obediently waiting for the promised blessing and preparation.
(2) They could not receive the blessed anointing until first the Redeemer has ascended into heaven, "There to appear in the presence of God on our behalf," on behalf of believers. Members of the fallen race, they had already been privileged, like their father Abraham, to return to favor with God as his friends, being "Justified by faith." They could, as justified ones, address him in prayer, "Our Father, which art in heaven." They were not enemies at heart, but loyal, even though, to use the Apostle's language, they had been "enemies through wicked works," through inability to keep perfectly the divine law. They were not rebels needing a Mediator, but loyal, though imperfect, friends who needed a Redeemer and Advocate. Their Redeemer testified, "The Father himself loveth you." And again, in prayer to the Father respecting them, he said, "Thine they were, and thou gavest them me." Still, before divine justice could accept them as living sacrifices upon the Lord's altar, it was necessary that their ransom price should be definitely set over to justice by the Redeemer. This was done during the ten days of their "waiting for power from on high." The outpouring of the holy Spirit evidenced the presentation and divine acceptance of the merit of Christ's sacrifice on their behalf. This permitted their recognition as New Creatures, their begettal to the new spirit nature as sons of God, their anointing of the spirit as members of the Royal Priesthood.
(3) These ten days of prayer were necessary also to fit and prepare the Lord's disciples for the reception of the holy Spirit. The human mind resembles a room, the door of which must be opened before treasures can be put therein. The door in this picture would symbolize the will, which must first give consent to whatever enters the mind, the heart, the life. Furthermore a room that is already stocked and overcrowded has little space wherein to place new valuables—the old must be removed that place may be found for the new. Our hearts need to be emptied of their earthly hopes, aims and ambitions in order to make place for the new riches of God's grace. The ten days were probably none too long for the testing of the faith and loving obedience and zeal for the Lord and his cause, which they had undertaken to serve. As they prayed and fasted and waited expectantly for the promised blessing from on high, doubtless worldly ambitions, hopes and aims dissolved and vanished from their hearts, leaving them ready for the blessing the Lord intended, and which he poured out.
We are not to understand that a mighty wind blew upon the praying and waiting company on Pentecost Day, but there was merely a sound which resembled that of a mighty wind. It was the more miraculous that there was no wind. From the reading of the Greek it is inferable that the tongues of fire or blaze of light which appeared over the head of each were not split or cloven flames, but that the expression, "Cloven tongues of fire," implies that a larger flame was first manifest, which was cloven or split or divided into these smaller flames, which appeared over the head of each. But no matter what the particular form of manifestation, its object was quickly discerned. It was the promised blessing from on high, from the Father's throne, through the Son; as St. Peter explained, "As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another." (I Pet. 4:10.) We are not to understand that the multitude, being of one mind, produced this manifestation, but rather that the Lord, by his providence, brought them into the condition of full accord, preparatory to the giving of this blessing. Similarly he says that special blessings may be expected when two or three unite in their petition—not that their uniting effects anything, but that the Lord is pleased to reward the united efforts of his people, and thus to encourage them to forsake not the assembling of themselves.
The entire house was filled with a wonderful power, and every believer was apparently, as it were, electrified, vivified, and they were all filled with this holy Spirit, this hallowed influence, and began to speak in [R4306 : page 8] foreign tongues under the influence that had come upon them. We are not sure now, but it is our opinion that this special manifestation was to the eleven apostles only, because the subsequent record is that Peter and the others of the eleven apostles addressed the multitude in these foreign tongues. We know no evidence that others of the one hundred and twenty preached in the unknown tongues on the occasion, nor that they had the power to do so.
For centuries the Lord's people have been more or less in strife respecting the holy Spirit—what it is, etc. We will not attempt here an elaboration of the subject, but refer our readers to DAWN-STUDIES, Vol. V., Chapters 8-11, where the subject is treated in great detail. Incidentally we merely notice that the holy Spirit is not a person, but the spirit, the will, mind, energy, power or disposition of a person. It is the Spirit of the Father. It is the Spirit of the Son. And it is the spirit of all who are in full harmony with these. The masculine pronoun is used because our Father and our Lord Jesus are both spoken of in the masculine gender and their spirit would properly be so referred to. Nothing has much more confused the mind of Christendom than the unscriptural theory that the holy Spirit is one of three gods, equal in power and glory. It is one of the manifestations of the one living and true God. He manifested himself in Jesus, who was "God manifest in the flesh." He manifested himself in this holy influence or power at Pentecost and since to those who received the begetting or anointing of that holy Spirit, the spirit of the Truth, and indirectly to those of the world who discerned its operation in the children of Light, and who were reproved and rebuked because of being out of harmony with the divine will.
As some erred in speaking of the holy Spirit as a "third person," so others err in the opposite direction in claiming that there is nothing of the holy Spirit except a spirit of the truth. The proper thought, we hold, is that the term holy Spirit stands for the divine will and divine power and divine truth, exercised how and when and where the divine will purposes. The power which came upon the waiting disciples was not merely a field for the Truth, nor merely a knowledge of the truth, nor was it a person that fell upon them, nor could we think of a person being divided up and inhabiting either eleven apostles or one hundred and twenty brethren, or thousands and tens of thousands of the Lord's people in all parts of the world.
Our Golden Text represents the matter in clear light and in harmony with all the other Scriptures on the subject when it declares that the holy Spirit must come from the Father, not from the Son; when it declares that the Son would petition the Father to send the Spirit; when it declares that this special power or spirit of the Father would be another Comforter, instead of our Lord Jesus himself, whose going away was necessary and expedient. Had our Lord remained as a person in the flesh, he would have been hampered by the fleshly and earthly conditions, much as we are, because he could not be everywhere at once. It was preferable or expedient, therefore, that he should personally leave his disciples and appear before the Father as their Advocate, and thus secure to them the holy Spirit, which would not only represent the Father and himself, but would also represent all Truth, all righteousness, and be a channel for every one that needed blessing.
Following the miraculous sound and the electrical influences pervading the room and the manifestation of the lights upon their heads, we may be sure a considerable degree of holy joy and excitement manifested themselves amongst the believers, and this soon spread abroad and attracted a large concourse of people through curiosity, because it was stated that they were "Continually in the temple."—Luke 24:53; Acts 2:46.
It has been surmised by some that the large upper room occupied on this occasion was one of the numerous apartments connected with the temple, and that the quick gathering of 3,000 people might thus be accounted for. It was one of the annual festivals which drew the devout Jews, not only from all parts of Palestine, but also from neighboring countries. Most of them were Jews by birth, but some of them were proselytes or converts to Judaism. At first these heard various languages spoken and hastily concluded that the speakers were intoxicated, but later they discerned that the various tongues spoken represented the dialects of various people in the vast throng, so that each might hear in his own native tongue the message that was being circulated respecting Jesus, his death, resurrection, ascension, and now this miraculous outpouring of the Father's blessing at his hands, to qualify his service, to declare his message.
The day itself is an important one. According to Jewish tradition it was the anniversary of the Law Covenant at Mt. Sinai. It therefore by contrast would be a reminder of how Christ makes free from the Law and admits to the benefits of the original Covenant all who approach the Father through him. It was a day of free giving to all in need, "According as the Lord thy God hath blessed thee." (Deut. 16:10.) Thus the Lord's followers dispensed to all who were in readiness to receive the blessings granted to them through Jesus.
The flames of fire beautifully symbolize the light of Truth, the enlightenment of the mind, which comes through the begetting of the holy Spirit. This power divine was remarkably manifested in the eleven apostles, for while the multitude still recognized them as "ignorant and unlearned men," nevertheless they took knowledge of them that they had been with Jesus and learned of him; that they had a certain kind of enlightenment of mind and heart, which could come from no other quarter. And is not this same true of all those who have been begotten of the holy Spirit? Only a few days ago, in talking to one of the dear friends, a carpenter, in respect to the knowledge of the Truth enlightening his mind and refreshing his heart, he added, "Yes, Brother Russell, and that is not all! Not only are my head and heart refreshed with respect to spiritual things, but without boasting I can say that the Truth has made me brighter and more proficient in every way. It gives me a better balance of mind and soundness of judgment, even in my trade as a carpenter." We believe that this is true in general. Those appealed to by the Truth are not more than ordinarily bright naturally. Indeed, according to the Scriptures, we might infer that they would be below the average, for the Apostle declares that not many wise, rich, great or learned hath God chosen, but chiefly the mean things of this world. Nevertheless it is noticeable that those who are deeply interested in Present Truth, who study it, who love it, under the guidance and instruction of the Lord's Spirit and the various helps which God hath provided for our time, are far above the average of their fellow-laborers in general intelligence. Indeed, whoever has a knowledge of the Truth has an education, [R4307 : page 9] whether he has ever taken a college course or not. On the contrary, it has recently been noticed that a large number of those who enjoy special earthly advantages of education gain comparatively little therefrom. For instance, note the following clipping from the New York World a few days ago. Evangelist E. C. Mercer, himself a reformed drunkard, addressing the students of the Northwestern University, said:—
"During the last few years I have been working in the Water Street Mission in New York, and I have learned that one-third of the men that came there ragged and dirty and begging for food were college-bred. I have found them on the Bowery making up beds or waiting on tables, and I have even met them in the street-cleaning brigades. During February of last year more than 400 of them stood in the 'bread line' at our mission. Seventy-five per cent. of the prisoners at Sing Sing Prison are college-bred men."
Beyond question "the wisdom that cometh from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits," and is, as the Apostle declares, the "spirit of a sound mind."—Jas. 3:17; 2 Tim. 1:7.
Although we cannot agree with those who teach that repeated Pentecosts and spirit baptisms are to be expected and prayed for, we do believe that the Lord's people need to come into a similar attitude to that of the brethren who were blessed on Pentecost Day, in order to enter the favors and privileges which are ours through Christ. There was to be but one Pentecost. There never will be another, so far as the Church is concerned. The holy Spirit which there came to the Church has abode with us still, and its blessing is the privilege of those consecrated ones whom the Lord accepts and adopts into his family. But before anyone is prepared to get a proper blessing of the Lord's Spirit, he must first have the justification by faith and a heart free from the love of sin, and must present his solemn resolution to be, to do, to serve the Lord, the Truth, the brethren—his vows before he could be in the right attitude to receive a blessing and the enlightenment, the comfort, the fellowship of God's holy Spirit. Even though he be inflamed with desire to serve the Lord, the Truth and the brethren, he will do wisely to follow the course of the early Church and tarry and study and pray—that he may himself be filled with the Spirit, before he attempts to act as God's ambassador to others. Indeed, no one is authorized, from the Scriptural standpoint, to preach the Gospel much or little, except first he have received this anointing and authorization of the Spirit from above. "The Lord hath anointed me to preach the good tidings unto the meek."—Isa. 61:1.
While opposing the unscriptural view with respect to praying for New Pentecosts, let us not lose sight of the important fact that until we have received our share of the blessing of that first Pentecost, we cannot have the perfect peace of God, nor be properly and actively and successfully his servants and ambassadors. Would that, at the opening of the New Year, all of the Lord's people would seek earnestly a larger measure of the holy Spirit—watching and praying thereunto, watching their words, their thoughts and deeds, the leadings of the Lord's providence, the opportunities for his service, and praying, "Abandon us not in temptation, but deliver us from the evil one." And let us ask him to grant us more and more the emptying of worldly ambitions, desires, and filling more and more with the mind of Christ, the disposition of Christ. Many are finding "the VOW" very helpful along these lines, and we still commend it to all of the sacrificers in Christ Jesus, as a helping hand to keep us watchful and nearer to the Lord—under the shadow of the Almighty.