-Ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you.
Just before His ascension, Jesus met His disciples for the last time, and repeated His command that they should ' not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father', and reiterated His promise that they should be ' baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence '.
Then' they asked of Him, saying, Lord, wilt Thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel? ' They were still eager for an earthly kingdom. But ' He said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in His own power', or authority. And then He added, 'But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you (Acts I - 4-8).
They wanted power, and He assured them that they should have it, but said nothing of its nature, or the work and activities into which it would thrust them, and for which it would equip them, beyond the fact that they should be witnesses unto Him 'in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth'. After that the Holy Ghost Himself was henceforth to be their Teacher.
And then Jesus left them. Earth lost its power to hold Him, and while they beheld Him He began to ascend; a cloud bent low from Heaven, receiving Him out of sight, and they were left alone, with His promise of power ringing in their ears, and His command to 'wait for the promise of the Father ' checking any impatience that might lead them to ' go a-fishing', as Peter had done some days before, or cause an undue haste to begin their life-work of witnessing for Him before God's appointed time.
For ten days they waited, not listlessly, but eagerly, as a maid for her mistress, or a servant for his master, who is expected to come at any moment; they forgot their personal ambitions; they ceased to judge and criticize one another, and in the sweet unity of brotherly love, ' with one accord ' they rejoiced, they prayed, they waited; and then on the day of Pentecost, at their early morning prayer meeting, when they were all present, the windows of Heaven were opened, and such a blessing as they could not contain was poured out upon them. 'And suddenly there came a sound from Heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost.'
This was the inaugural day of the Church of God (Acts ii. 2-4); the dawn of the dispensation of the Holy Spirit; the beginning of the days of power.
In the morning of that day there were only a few Christians in the world; the New Testament was not written, and it is doubtful if they had among them all a copy of the Old Testament; they had no church buildings, no colleges, no religious books and papers; they were poor and despised, unlearned and ignorant; but before night they had enrolled three thousand converts, and they had aroused and filled all Jerusalem with questionings and amazement.
What was the secret? Power. What was the secret? God the Holy Ghost. He had come, and this work was His work, and they were His instruments.
When Jesus came, a body was prepared for Him (Heb. x. 5), and through that body He wrought His wondrous works; but when the other Comforter comes, He takes possession of those bodies that are freely and fully presented to Him, and He touches their lips with grace; He shines peacefully and gloriously on their faces; He flashes beams of pity and compassion and heavenly affection from their eyes; He kindles a fire of love in their hearts, and lights the flame of truth in their minds. They become His temple, and their hearts are a holy of holies in which His blessed presence ever abides; and from that central citadel He works, enduing the man who has received Him with power.
If you ask how the Holy Spirit can dwell within us and work through us without destroying our personality, I cannot tell. How can electric impulses fill and transform a dead wire into a live one which you dare not touch? How can a magnetic current fill a piece of steel, and transform it into a mighty force which by its touch can raise tons of iron, as a child would lift a feather? How can fire dwell in a piece of iron until its very appearance is that of fire, and it becomes a firebrand? I cannot tell.
Now, what fire and electricity and magnetism do in iron and steel, the Holy Spirit does in the spirits of men who believe on Jesus, follow Him wholly and trust Him intelligently. He dwells in them and inspires them, till they are all alive with the very life of God.
The transformation wrought in men by the baptism with the Holy Ghost, and the power that fills them, are amazing beyond measure. The Holy Spirit gives:
I. Power over the world. They become Dead to the world and all its toys, Its idle pornp and fading joys.
The world masters and enslaves people who have not the Holy Spirit. To one man it offers money. He falls down and worships; he sells his conscience and character for gold. To another it offers power. He falls down and worships; he sacrifices his principles and Sears his conscience for power. To another it offers pleasure; to another learning; to another fame; they fall down and worship, and sell themselves for these things. But the man filled with the Holy Ghost is free. He can turn from these things without a pang, as he would from pebbles; or, he can take them and use them as his servants for the glory of God and the good of men.
What did Peter and James and John care for the great places in the kingdoms of this world after they were filled with the Holy Ghost.? They would not have exchanged places with Herod the king or with Caesar himself. For the gratification of any personal ambition these things were no more attractive to them now than the lordship over a tribe of ants on their tiny hill. They were now kings and priests unto God, and theirs was an everlasting Kingdom, and its glory exceeds the glory of the kingdoms of this world as the splendour of the sun exceeds that of the glow-worm.
The head of some great business enterprises was making many thousands of dollars every year; but when the Holy Spirit filled him money lost its power over him. He still retained his position, and made vast sums; but, as a steward of the Lord, he poured it into God's work and has been doing so for more than thirty years.
After Pentecost the disciples in Jerusalem held all their possessions in common, so completely were they freed from the power and love of money.
A rising young lawyer got filled with the Spirit, and the next day said to his client: ' I cannot plead your case. I have a retainer from the Lord Jesus '; and he became one of the mightiest preachers the world has ever seen.
A popular lad got the fiery baptism, and went to his baseball team and said: 'Boys, you swear, and I am now a Christian; I cannot play with you any more.' God made him the wonder of all his old friends, and a happy winner of souls.
A fashionable woman got the baptism, and God gave her power to break away from her worldly set and surroundings, live wholly for Him, and gave her an influence that girdled the globe.
Paul said: ' The world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world ' (Gal. vi. 14) - Men could whip and stone and imprison his body, and cut off his head, but his soul was free. It was enslaved and driven by no unholy or inordinate ambition, by no lust for gold, by no desire for power or fame, by no fear of man, by no shame of worldly censure or adverse public opinion. He had power over the world; and this same power is the birthright of every converted man, and the present possession of everyone who is wholly sanctified by the baptism with the Holy Ghost.
2. Power over the flesh. The body which God intended for a ' house beautiful' for the soul, and a temple holy unto Himself, is often reduced to a sty, where the imprisoned soul wallows in lusts and passions, and degrades itself below the level of beasts. But this baptism gives a man power over his body.
God has given to man such desires and passions as are necessary to secure his continued existence. Not one is in itself evil, but good and only good; and when controlled and used, but not abused, will help to develop and maintain the purest and highest manhood. The appetites for food and drink are necessary to life. Another desire is intended to secure the continuance of the human race. And so all the desires and appetites of the body have useful ends, and were given to us in love by our heavenly Father for high and essential purposes, and are necessary to us as human beings.
But the soul, cut off from fellowship with God by sin, seeks satisfaction in sensual excesses and the unlawful gratification of these appetites, and so sinks to depths of degradation to which no beast ever falls. Thus man becomes a slave; swollen and raging passion takes the place of innocent appetites and desires.
Now, when the Holy Spirit enters the heart and sanctifies the soul, He does not destroy these desires, but purifies and regulates them. He reinforces the soul with the fear and love of God, and gives it power, complete power, over the fleshly appetites. He restores it to its full fellowship with God and its kingship over the body.
But while these appetites and desires are not in themselves sinful, but are necessary for our welfare and our complete manhood, and while their diseased and abnormal power is cured when we are sanctified, they are still avenues through which we may be tempted. Therefore, they must be guarded with care and ruled in wisdom. Many people stumble at and reject the doctrine of entire sanctification because they do not understand these things. They mistake that which is natural and essential to a human being, for the diseased and abnormal propensity caused by sin, and so miss the blessed truth of full salvation.
I knew a doctor, who had used tobacco for over sixty years, delivered from the abnormal appetite instantly through sanctification of the Spirit. I knew an old man, who had been a drunkard for over fifty years, similarly delivered. I knew a young man, the slave of a vicious habit of the flesh, who was set free at once by the fiery baptism. The electric current cannot transform the dead wire into a live one quicker than the Holy Spirit can flood a soul with light and love, destroy the carnal mind, and fill a man with power over all sin.
3. Power over the devil. The indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit destroys all doubt as to the personality of the devil. He is discerned, and his malice is felt and known as never before.
In the dark a man may be so skilfully attacked that his enemy is not discovered, but not in the day. Many people in these days deny that there is any devil, only evil; but they are in the dark, so much in the dark that they not only say that there is no devil, but that there is no personal God, only good. But the day comes with the Holy Spirit's entrance, and then God is intimately known and the devil is discovered. And as he assailed Jesus after His baptism with the Spirit, so he does today all who receive the Holy Ghost. He comes as an angel of light to deceive, and as a roaring lion to devour and overcome with fear; but the soul filled with the Spirit outwits the devil and, clad in the whole armour of God, overcomes the old enemy.
Power ' over all the power of the enemy ' (Luke x. 19) is God's purpose for all His children. Power to do the will of God patiently and effectively, with naturalness and ease, or to suffer the will of God with patience and good cheer, comes with this blessed baptism. It is power for service or sacrifice, according to God's will. Have you this power? If not,it is for you. Yield yourself fully to Christ just now, and if you ask in faith you shall receive.
'HAVE YE RECEIVED THE HOLY GHOST SINCE YE BELIEVED? '
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