Today the church celebrates one of the greatest blessings that she has ever received–the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost.
Fifty days after Jesus Christ arose from the dead, and ten days after He ascended up into heaven, Christ, according to His own word of promise, poured out His Spirit upon the hundred and twenty believers in Jerusalem.
This was one of the great promises that God had made to His people already in the Old Testament. For instance, He had spoken by Ezekiel in chapter 36:26, 27 that He would put within His people a new heart and a new spirit. He would take out from us the stony heart. And He would put His Spirit within us. Nothing less was promised than the Holy Spirit of God Himself to dwell in a new heart which would be the power to cause a person to walk in holiness and to delight to do the commandments of God.
Even more striking it is when we read in Ezekiel 36 of the reason that God will do this. He says, I will do this for your sakes. For He is speaking to a people who had forfeited every right to expect the least good from God. But He says, I will do this for My holy name’s sake. That is, purely out of grace. God would so bless His children, even to this extent: I will put My Spirit within you. It is the promise of the gracious indwelling of the Holy Spirit so that each believer will be constituted the temple of the living God.
That the Holy Spirit of God is given to be in the believer is taken to be common knowledge among the people of God. In I Corinthians 6:19 the apostle asks this question: “What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?” Paul is astounded at the cavalier attitude of the Corinthian believers toward fornication, toward sexual uncleanness in their bodies. They do not view fornication as a deadly enemy, believing that it was simply something of the flesh, something inconsequential, really, that they could be joined to that type of sin and it really did not matter. “What?” says the apostle. “What? Don’t you realize that the Holy Spirit is in you?” Do you?
Child of God, do you realize this? You spoke in anger and in hatred? You spoke words which were intended to cut and to tear and to defend yourself? Did you do that? You found pleasure this past week in sin? You gossiped? You were unwilling to forgive? You were unkind, selfish? You used your body simply as a pleasure of sinful immorality? What? Know ye not that the Spirit of Christ has been given to you to dwell within you as a believer?
Perhaps you fell down in despair and in depression and in gloom over yourself. What? Know ye not that the Spirit of Christ dwells within you? He is your comfort and your strength.
Perhaps you listened to music which gyrates and bellows sexual filth, letting it come into your soul through the door of your ear. What? Know ye not that the Holy Spirit of Christ dwells within the believer? God has placed the Holy Spirit within each believer as the power for holiness and as the power to comfort the believer unto life eternal.
This is the great blessing of Christianity. It was for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit that everything else was. God created us; Christ died and arose and ascended for His children; Christ obtained righteousness and eternal life-all in order that the Holy Spirit might now come into the believer and work these blessings within our hearts. Without the Holy Spirit there would be no Christians. John 3:8 tells us that we must be born of the Spirit. If the Holy Spirit does not dwell in you, you are not one of Christ’s. “Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his” (Rom. 8:9). Without the Spirit there can be no understanding of spiritual things (I Cor. 2:12-14). Apart from the Holy Spirit one cannot understand the things of God-there is no illumination in the heart concerning spiritual matters. You could learn the Bible from cover to cover. But the Scriptures can be woven into the fabric of your heart only by the Holy Spirit. There is no preservation of the saints, that is, no keeping in the faith of Jesus Christ, apart from the Holy Spirit, for He is the one (Eph. 1:13) who seals the believer unto the day of redemption. There is no calling upon the name of the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation unless the Holy Spirit first works within the heart. “No man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost” (I Cor. 12:3). There could be no comfort, no holiness, no peace, no prayer, no sorrow for sin, no love or joy, no faith, no goodness, no self-control. None of these things can exist in a person without the power of the Holy Spirit.
A Christian is what he is because the Holy Spirit has graciously been given to him. A Christian is what he is, not because of his own will, his own insight, or something in him which makes him different from the rest of mankind. No! That is not the Bible. It is all due to the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Christ has promised, then, His Spirit to be within us. That is the day of Pentecost, that is the great blessing.
A fundamental truth of the Holy Spirit’s work within the believer is this: The Holy Spirit does not call attention to Himself. He works silently and without ado. That is a principle that you and I have to understand clearly from the Word of God. Jesus said, in John 16:13, 14, concerning the Spirit: “He shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come. He shall glorify me.” It’s as if Jesus said: “You will find the Holy Spirit very reticent, very reluctant to talk about Himself. He will not call attention to Himself. He will not tell you a lot about Himself. His work is otherwise. He changes the subject and always points to Me and to My Word.” We call this the “self-effacement” of the Holy Spirit. That is, this truth of Scripture means that the Holy Spirit puts Himself in the background, so to speak. He does not wish to occupy the center stage. Now you must bear that in mind, especially against all the tides of teaching which are contrary to what the Bible teaches, namely, that the Spirit-filled life is something in which a person will rock and roll in the demonstration of the Holy Spirit coming upon them. Such an emphasis is contrary to the very nature of the Holy Spirit Himself, who will not testify of Himself, but of Me, said Jesus.
The Scriptures compare the work of the Holy Spirit to dew. Hosea 14:5, “I will be as dew unto Israel.” The dew does its work unseen and unheard. It is not as the thunderstorm which comes in the commotion of thunder and lightning. But dew comes silently during the night to bless the earth, unheard and unseen. So the work of the Holy Spirit is not a work of confusion and commotion. It is not a work of earthquake, fire, and wind. Do you remember Elijah in I Kings 19? He thought that God worked only through earthquake, fire, and wind. And when those things did not “do the trick,” and Israel still worshipped Baal, Elijah was utterly discouraged. But God had to tell him in that chapter that He works with the silent word, that is, with the word that the Spirit brings, the word of Christ pressed into the heart in deepest conviction and repentance and sorrow.
You say to me, yes, but when the Holy Spirit was poured out ( Acts 2 especially, but other times also in Acts), there was a great display of power. There were sounds, there were cloven tongues of fire, there was the speaking in different languages the mighty works of God. Yes. The Spirit was poured out. And that Spirit, when He was poured out in the book of Acts upon the church, is compared to gushing, foaming waters of the mountain. But as that water descends into the valley of the church, like a mountain stream it begins to flow as a smooth, steady current, refreshing the valley below. The current of the Holy Spirit in the church is the soothing, luxurious flow of abundant water.
We must remember this. That does not mean that the Holy Spirit works unnoticeably. We know that we have the Spirit of Christ ( Rom. 8), for He testifies to our spirit, He brings a witness, He swears an oath, He testifies that we are the children of God. Oh, the work of the Holy Spirit is stirring, it is tremendous! But it is not in ways of superficial, drummed up, momentary working, visible to the human eye. But it is a work that is profoundly in the depths of the heart. He tears down the bondage of the devil and sin. He washes what is inwardly vile and filthy. He constructs the life of Christ within us. He works a new heart which can serve God and become the temple of God within us. Then He sits down calmly and teaches us. Even as the demoniac in Mark 5, after he was healed by Jesus Christ and was in his right mind, sat down before Christ calmly to be instructed, so must we sit down calmly in order that the Spirit may instruct us in the things of God from the Scriptures. He sets up a school in our hearts. Then He takes the flashlight of the knowledge of God and shines it around into the deepest, hidden recesses of our hearts to expose our sin and to apply the balm of Jesus Christ. He opens our minds to understand, our eyes to see, our hearts to embrace the gospel of Christ. And He brings to our remembrance everything that Jesus Christ has spoken. He is the silent worker. And that work means that He convicts and assures us.
Is the Spirit of God, of Christ, given to you?
The Spirit has been poured out, the Spirit of the risen Lord Jesus Christ. Is that Spirit in you? Do not answer that question by pointing me to overpowering emotional experiences. Because I must tell you from the Word of God that the devil can also produce those things. Jesus said that the devil can appear as an angel of light. And it is characteristic of the worship of false gods that their worship is with all types of uncontrolled frenzy (I Kings 18-the worshipers of Baal danced, cut themselves, and screamed to the heaven hours on end for their god to hear them). Do not point to that!
Nor should you simply point to how much you know of the Bible, how may verses you can quote and apply to other people’s lives. No. And do not point simply to some type of belief whereby you say, “I believe it and I claim it in the gospel of Jesus Christ,” or “the hands have been laid upon me.” Oh, no.
Look to the work of the Holy Spirit in this: Are you convicted, convicted in your heart, of the truth of the Word of God in Jesus Christ? Are you pricked in your heart? The outpouring of the Holy Spirit in Acts 2 resulted in this, that men in the audience who heard Peter preach said: “Men and brethren, what must we do?” The word of Christ comes as an arrow which pierces into you and lays open your heart, penetrates into your heart, and slays you in sorrow over your sin. And it brings you a joy, an unspeakable joy, in that you hear Jesus Christ saying, “Your sins are forgiven you.” Through the Spirit Christ assures you that all of your hope is in Him and in His work for you. That is the work of the Holy Spirit.
Then the Holy Spirit brings to us the greatest treasures of Jesus Christ. He makes me a partaker of Christ and all of His benefits. There is an exhaustless list of benefits that are to be found in Jesus Christ. It is the work of the Holy Spirit to take these things of Christ and to show them unto us. The great blessing of the Holy Spirit is, first of all, Christ Himself. First Christ, then all of His benefits. By a gift of true faith the Holy Spirit unites me to the risen Lord Jesus Christ. When the Holy Spirit works in me, then all the emphasis in my life is upon Christ and what He has done for me, and obedience and living unto Him.
The work of the Holy Spirit is, first of all, to give to you Christ so that Christ lives within you. That is the first thing.
A husband may say to his wife, “Now here is all that I leave you: stocks, title to the home, insurance, and monthly income, car. I am going to leave you. But I have seen that you will have enough benefits to keep you in your state of living month after month.” But then, if she loves him, she will say, “I don’t want your benefits. I want you. I am willing to live in poverty. I am willing to do with a whole lot less. It’s you I want. I want you to be home. I want you to be with me and the children.” You see, love is concerned with the person first, not with the benefits first.
So the Holy Spirit establishes, first of all, the bond between the believer and Christ. He brings Christ to me, personally, and then all the blessings that are to be found in Jesus Christ.
What are those blessings? They are, according to the Bible, these. Righteousness before God in my conscience, even the forgiveness of sins. Holiness, the power of Christ to turn from sin and to live according to the commandments of God. Preservation, the power of Christ to keep me in temptation and to shield my heart. A love of Christ which will never let me go. It is as if the Holy Spirit comes to us with the treasuries of Jesus Christ and opens our eyes to them and stores them in our hearts.
Now, the Holy Spirit does this in the church. For the Holy Spirit is given, not only to the individual believer, but to the church. That is important to remember. Each believer does not stand alone, shut off from all other believers, off in a corner by himself. But the work of the Holy Spirit is also in the church of Jesus Christ-bringing Christ to each believer, but then joining these believers into one body which is the church. He joins you, as a believer, to the church. If you confess to be a Christian and to have the Holy Spirit within you, then you may not be living off by yourself away from a body of believers, the church of Jesus Christ, home by yourself on the Lord’s day. No, the Holy Spirit’s work is to unite you to the body of Christ, which is His church. Read I Corinthians 12:13. There the Word of God, speaking to the Corinthian church which was divided and standing apart in proud isolation from each other, each one claiming that he had the Spirit and he did not need anyone else; Paul writes to them, “For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body.” In the church the Holy Spirit does His work.
And the Holy Spirit does His work through the truth, the truth of God’s Word. Jesus said, “The Holy Spirit shall guide you into all the truth” ( John 16). He called Him the “Spirit of truth, who shall teach you all things.” That is to say, through the Holy Spirit, as the church is led throughout the ages by the Spirit, the church is led into the truth. The Holy Spirit does His work through the Bible. The Holy Spirit does not make a Christian careless about truth. He does not make you say to the truth, “Well, let us not worry so much about the doctrines of the Word of God. Let’s just get on with it.” Oh, no. That is not the work of the Spirit. He works through the truth of God’s Word. He brings you to the Word of God. He gives you to understand that Word of God, and He binds that Word of God to your conscience. You see, a Spirit-indwelt person is a person of conviction. He is a person who is captive to the Word of God, the Word of Christ, the holy Scriptures. And he receives all that is revealed to him in the holy Scripture as the truth, and as the truth for himself.
What a wonderful comfort it is to have the Spirit of Christ within us, the Spirit of Christ who will seal us unto the day of redemption (Eph. 1:13), the Spirit whom Jesus called “the Comforter,” the One who would whisper the Word of God to our hearts, the One who would hold us up with everlasting encouragement, the One who would keep us in the faith of Christ.
“I will put My Spirit within you.” That is the promise of God. Oh, let us praise God for such mercy and such grace. Let us not grieve the Holy Spirit. Let us be led by the Spirit. Let us walk in the Spirit, and then let us live in the comfort that no matter how dark our way may become, how insurmountable the obstacles, and how sinful we often see ourselves to be, never will God remove the Holy Spirit from those whom Christ has given the Spirit. He will abide in you. He will bring Christ to you.
And one day He will bring you to Christ in exceeding joy.
Let us pray.
Father, we thank Thee for Thy Word. Wilt Thou open our hearts to believe and keep it. Amen.