At the time of Christ’s first advent, evil had been accumulating and increasing in strength for centuries. It presented a challenge to the preaching of the gospel that could not be met and overcome by ordinary means. To meet this challenge, when He had ascended from this earth, Christ gave His representative, the third person of the Godhead, to those who had believed on Him. At the close of His ministry, standing within the shadow of the cross, and with the full realization of what He was soon to experience, Christ gave His disciples the promise of His Spirit. See John 16. This was a gift that could not be excelled. This is not to say that the Holy Spirit had not been at work before this time, for from the beginning, God has been working by His Spirit. Of the church in the wilderness in the time of Moses, God gave His “good Spirit to instruct them.” Nehemiah 9:20. At Pentecost, however, the Spirit came with a power not hitherto experienced.
1. What did Jesus say had been the result of His life here?
2. How did Jesus indicate we reveal our relationship to Him?
Note: Inseparably bound up with love for Jesus is loyalty to His law. In describing the office and work of the Holy Spirit, Jesus not only revealed the work that the Spirit was to do, but laid out the truth regarding obedience: the Spirit was only to be given to the obedient.
3. To whom did the apostles say God gives His Spirit?
4. What did Jesus tell His disciples the Holy Spirit would do for them?
5. As a part of this teaching, of what would the Spirit reprove men?
6. What is sin?
Note: The Holy Spirit and the committing of known sin cannot exist together. They are mutually exclusive and incompatible. Obviously, God’s Spirit cannot dwell in Its fullest degree in a person who is wanting in a practical understanding of the truth. God cannot minister to sin. He cannot co-operate with anyone who is not a doer of His Word. We must co-operate with God in every sense, or God cannot co-operate with us.
7. Are miracles necessarily an indication of the working of God’s Spirit?
8. What is the factor that is the dividing line between those whom Christ will recognize as His, and those He will not?
Note: There will be those who profess to belong to Christ, who can even point to miracles they have done as evidence of this relationship, but whom He will refuse to acknowledge as His, or recognize the great works as being done by His Spirit. Instead, He addresses them as workers of unrighteousness.
9. How do we receive the Holy Spirit?
10. What is faith?
Note: Many feel that an outward evidence is necessary to show that one has truly received the Holy Spirit. Clearly, however, when we have outward evidence for a thing, it is no longer a matter of faith, but of evidence. To require an outward evidence that God has done what He has promised reveals a distrust and lack of faith, thereby voiding the basis on which the promise is to be received. “For whatsoever is not of faith is sin.” Romans 14:23. If, as with other gifts, the gifts of the Spirit are to be received by faith, then feelings have no place in determining whether or not we have received the Spirit.
11. What did Christ say of those who require a sign before believing?
12. How many gifts did the apostle enumerate?
13. Who determines which gift a person will receive?
Note: Many currently believe that the gift of speaking in tongues is a “sign” or “token” of having received the baptism of the Spirit. More is said about speaking in tongues in Paul’s first letter to the church at Corinth than in any other place. From the context, it is apparent that, at the time Paul wrote this letter, he was addressing a church that was abusing the gift. In addressing them, Paul sought to point out to them that in making this gift of such signal importance they were reversing the gospel order, placing emphasis where God had not placed it. Consequently, after counseling them in the matter, he urged them to seek after the better gifts, most particularly the gift of prophecy.
14. For what purpose did Christ say His Spirit would come?
Note: There is no intimation that the coming of the Holy Spirit was for the purpose of giving them an unusual experience, or as a sign of their acceptance and salvation, or for any personal benefit to them as individuals. Rather, they were to receive this promised blessing as an aid to them in giving their witness.
15. What was the result of the apostles speaking in tongues at Pentecost?
16. What was the result of their preaching that day?
17. What took place while Peter was speaking to Cornelius and his family?
Note: From the experience the apostle had just before his call to go preach to them (see Acts 10:1–20), and from the attitude of the Jewish brethren in Jerusalem, it is clear that they as yet poorly understood their responsibility to the Gentile world. It was only because of this marked evidence of acceptance by the Holy Spirit that Peter felt clear in baptizing them. This fact is evident from Peter’s explanation before the church council some time later. See Acts 11:15–18.
18. How many character traits does Paul identify as being present in the life of a person who is truly Spirit-filled?
19. How do we bring forth this fruit?
Note: In many minds there arises a confusion between the gifts of the Spirit and the fruit of the Spirit. These are two distinct manifestations of the Spirit. The fruit is brought forth in the life of the believer as the result of the work of the Spirit in his heart. These character traits develop as the result of a connection with Jesus and the surrender of the life to Him. This transformation of character is evidence of the work of the Spirit in the life and results in salvation.
The purpose of the gifts is altogether different. It is not their purpose to work a change in the person’s life. They are rather, the work of the Spirit through him for the instruction and salvation of others. They provide power for witnessing. But for God to give His Spirit to any but those who first have the fruit of the Spirit in their lives, would be to place His approval on sin.
It is not conclusive evidence that a man is a Christian because he manifests spiritual ecstasy under extraordinary circumstances. Holiness is not rapture: it is an entire surrender of the will to God; it is living by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God, resulting in our doing His will.
The passage of time has not lessened the strength of the Saviour’s promise to send His Spirit. With the dedicated Christian in whatever place he may be, the Holy Spirit abides.