The Holy Spirit

[1 Cor. 12:7]---'The manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal.'

When the outpouring of the Spirit was given at Pentecost there were transient elements in it, but in essence it was permanent. The rushing mighty wind and the cloven tongues of fire and the strange speech in many languages were all equally transient. But that which these things symbolized is permanent. And if churches and individuals have not the gift of the Spirit it is not because it has not been bestowed, but because it has not been accepted. God's Holy Spirit is not confined to select individuals or to exceptional attainments, but is the heritage of the whole Christian Church. 'Know ye not that ye are the temple of the Holy Ghost?' Wherever there is faith, there the Spirit of God is bestowed, and bestowed in the measure in which faith is exercised.

The question is sometimes asked, Did a new power come into the world at Pentecost? Was not the Spirit at work before the coming of Christ, teaching and inspiring men? Certainly the Spirit was acting before Christ came. He gave to the heathen poets and philosophers whatever noble thoughts they had. Everywhere He was touching the hearts and consciences of men. But He was able to work with much more power after Christ came, because, as it were, He had more material to work with. He had the fact of Christ to interpret and all its richness to explain and bring home to the world. You could teach botany out of books to some one in a desert where there were no flowers and your pupil would learn much. But he would learn more, and would grasp the truth much more vividly, if you could show him the actual flower living and growing. You would as a teacher have much more material at hand for the instruction of your pupil. You would have the living rose instead of the diagram of the rose in the text-book. You would see the bud unfolding before you, instead of seeing a series of pictures on a printed page. In something of the same manner God could make His education of men much more real and effective when Christ had come in the flesh, had lived and died and risen and ascended. He could fill men with fresh energies just because all that God meant had been made living and concrete when Jesus moved among the crowds in Palestine, and showed them the true significance of the Divine Love.

The Spirit, then, is the living Interpreter of Jesus. His work is continuous, and is going on now. Let us see what this implies. It implies, first of all, that God is in active communication with the world which He has made. God is not distant, away in some remote heaven, but near at hand. His Spirit is ever educating men, leading them on into new truth, inspiring, controlling, working in human hearts. A living God, near at hand---that is the God of Christianity. Yet how many there are who virtually worship a dead God! They think of God as remote. They wonder if on His distant throne He hears their prayers. They never seem to grasp what is meant by a God 'in whom we live, and move, and have our being.' And so their religion is a lifeless thing, which brings no stirring of the blood, no glad enthusiasms, no sense of a Divine Presence all about them. They have never understood this doctrine of the Holy Spirit, or seen the richness of it. They have to lay again the foundations of their faith, and to come face to face with this central truth of a Living God near at hand and working continually in the hearts of men. Then fresh life will come to their beliefs, and their religion will become something very different from what it was before, not a matter of dead dogmas and forms and ceremonies, but the communion of their spirits with the Spirit of God.

But the doctrine of the Holy Spirit means more than this. For, as we have seen, the special work of the Spirit is to be the Interpreter of Christ. Christ is a Person, and we never learn to know a person in the same way in which we learn a fact about past history. To know a person you must enter into his mind; you must share his interests; you must have sympathy with him. Between you there must be common aims, common standards of feeling and thought. Acquaintanceship is one thing; true friendship is another. And acquaintanceship with Christ is not enough. Now the work of the Holy Spirit is to turn acquaintanceship with Christ into a real, living friendship. The Spirit if we will let Him do so, can place Christ and ourselves in close living union, so that Christ becomes for us no more a mere external historical Figure, but a present Companion whose interests and purposes we share.

Why do we need such an Interpreter? Christ makes the demand, as He stands over our lives, that we shall live by His standards. What are His standards? Holiness and service. Christ calls on us to be holy, and to lose our lives in the service of God and humanity. His was the sinless life of service for others, and He came to show men the kind of life which God wished them to lead. His work of redemption, the very purpose of which is to lift our lives out of the sin and selfishness which drag them down, up to a new level of goodness. Who is there who does not know the power of sin? Who is there who does not feel the need of some greater aid to enable him to overcome the temptations which beset him? Could we hope to make Christ our example unless we had a supply of Divine strength on which to draw? The Spirit is given us just in order that it may be possible for us to make Christ's standards our own. He is the Spirit of holiness, and holiness is our chief need. To those who will admit Him into their hearts the Spirit reveals the beauty of Christ's life and character, and inspires them to desire to be like Him.

We cannot prove the things of the Spirit as we can prove a scientific truth by demonstration in the laboratory. But we have to find some explanation of the continuous and persistent testimony of the Christian Church. We cannot see the wind, but we can see its effects---the moving branches, the whirling leaves. And we can see the effects of the Spirit, in converted lives---in the drunkard made sober, in the self-sacrifice of the worker in the slum, in all the splendid heroism of the mission field; no, in our own lives, in those hours when we were enabled to conquer temptation through a power not our own. We need no more proof. We have the very best proof possible, the proof of life, of facts, of results achieved. This Divine Interpreter of Christ exists. God is in living touch with the souls of men. There exists this great reservoir of power on which we may draw. This is the truth which stands at the heart of our religion, and makes it a religion of life and power, a growing, conquering religion, which has within it the very energy of God Himself.

In Christ, timothy.


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