The Holy Spirit

Notes of 5 Addresses in London 1985


Title Page

1. Blessings and Responsibilities (being comments on the Holy Spirit in Ephesians) 2

2. The Holy Spirit’s Voice 10

3. The Outpouring of the Holy Spirit 19

4. The Deity of the Holy Spirit 24

5. The Spirit, The Flesh 34

1. Blessings and Responsibilities (being comments on the Holy Spirit in Ephesians)

The Holy Spirit in the Epistle to the Ephesians

The normal presentation of teaching in the New Testament is that once we are blessed by God in whatever way we are blessed there should be a corresponding walk. This is true in all dispensations. The nation of Israel, for example, was taken up by God and blessed in a special way, and God demanded of that nation a higher form of conduct that He expected from the Gentile nations, because they were not blessed in the same way as Israel was. This principle is true when we come to the New Testament, blessings are given to us and then following that there is a call upon us to walk worthy of these blessings. Sometimes this call is expressed “worthy of God” (1 Thess. 2:12), sometimes “worthy of the Lord” (Col. 1:10), sometimes “worthy of the vocation to which you are called” (Eph. 4:1). The context of each would determine the kind of response in the heart of the believer. In the epistle to the Ephesians we have an unfolding of the truth concerning the Holy Spirit and His blessings to us and also the responsibilities that flow from it that perhaps we have not in any of the other epistles, with perhaps the exception of the Roman epistle. So I want to say a few words tonight about these exhortations that we have from Paul in chapters 4, 5 and 6 of the epistle to the Ephesians and to state briefly at the beginning the very wonderful things that are mentioned in the three previous chapters.

Chapter 1

After that you believed, you were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise, who is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory.” (vv. 13b-14)

In these verses we have a cluster of wonderful blessings. First of all, what a wonderful thing it is to be led to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, to receive the forgiveness of our sins and then to be sealed with the Holy Spirit. In so doing God places His mark upon us, indicating that we belong to Him, indicating that we are the authentic article. God puts His stamp upon us, we belong to Him, and He delights to have us.

Then we are told that the Spirit is “the earnest of our inheritance”, that is, that He can give us a foretaste now of what shall be our eternal employment. This is a very wonderful thing. Before ever we reach glory, the Holy Spirit can produce in our hearts an enjoyment of things that we are going on to. Two simple illustrations help us in this. Firstly, in Genesis 24, when Rebekah was secured as a wife for Isaac, the servant brought forth articles of silver and gold and presented them to her and said, ‘This is what you can expect when you are the wife of my master. All that my master Abraham has he has given to his son Isaac, and whatever he has is available for you once you become his wife’. This is a very beautiful picture of what the Holy Spirit is doing for us today, before we get to glory He enables us to enjoy all the wonderful things that are in the life of Christ. Then secondly, before the Israelites went into the land of Israel to possess it, the spies brought back that beautiful bunch of grapes from Eschol (Num. 13:23). That was a foretaste of what they would enjoy once they possessed the land. Again, we believe, this is a picture of the earnest of the Spirit helping us to enjoy things now before we actually possess them for all eternity. Oh, how wonderful to realise that we are sealed now, He is the earnest of the inheritance now “until the redemption of the purchased possession”.

In the widest possible sense, we think of the possession as belonging to Christ, and it will be redeemed for Him. It will be liberated that He might have full sway over it. This will involve for us the change of our bodies to glorified bodies to enjoy that inheritance along with Christ. These are marvellous things, far above anything that this world can possibly offer. These are the very best things that God has prepared for us. Oh, how easily we forget the wonderful things that have been given to us, and the wonderful things that are in store for us, and occupied with difficulties we grovel in the things of earth and time and sense. What a wonderful thing it is to be a Christian! The fact that we are sealed with the Holy Spirit is the divine guarantee that everything that has been promised will eventually be ours in every detail that God has planned.

Chapter 2

For through him (the Lord Jesus Christ) we both (Jew and Gentile) have access by one Spirit unto the Father.” (v. 18)

In the old dispensation, in the Tabernacle or the Temple, the veil was present, indicating that there was not free access into the presence of God. Only a privileged elite, the priests, could go in and worship God, all others were barred. The Gentile was even barred from the court. There was not free access. But now for every believer in Christ, in the power of the Spirit, and through Christ, there is access into the Father’s presence. We might think it is a routine thing when we bend our knees and pray to the Father, but really what we are doing is taking advantage of what has been secured for us in Christ, the Spirit making it available for us, and it is a tremendous blessing. We might become very formal and just do it as a matter of course, but for believers today, to enter into the Father’s presence knowingly, intelligently, and take advantage of it is a tremendous blessing; and it is available for all, every true believer in Christ, brother and sister alike. The reference to the one Spirit is a reminder that what was really the privilege of Israel through their priesthood is now available to the Gentiles also, the one Spirit for the Jew, the one Spirit for the Gentile. There is no privileged company, no privileged nation today, all believers in Christ have free access to the Father. Surely this delightful name for God to have, the Father, gives a sense of the nearness and the relationship and gives us encouragement. He is not a God that is far off, He is not an austere God that has to be appeased by sacrifices of one kind or another, we can approach freely, intelligently and happily into the presence of the Father and take advantage of it.

In whom (the Lord Jesus Christ) you also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.” (v. 22).

Unfortunately, as we look at the condition of Christendom, we see its multiple divisions, its weakness, the sad departure from the Scriptures and we get upset. We should be affected by it; we should be concerned about it. It is not a light thing to see the church of God divided as it is, with all the sorrows that beset it at this moment; but it is good to see what is in the divine mind and what is actually taking place. Paul says that every believer is “built together for an habitation of God through the Spirit” and God is dwelling in the midst of His people in the Spirit’s power. This may be such a complex matter, such a tremendously exalted matter that we are unable to properly apprehend it, but nevertheless, the statements of Scripture is that there is a dwelling place of God upon earth and that He does dwell in the midst of the people—the Spirit’s presence and power assures us of this. What a wonderful blessing indeed. That does not belong to any single particular company of believers, it is the blessing of all believers. All believers are built together for an habitation of God in the Spirit.

Chapter 3

By revelation he (the Lord Jesus Christ) made known unto me the mystery… by the Spirit.” (vv. 3, 5)

When we come to chapter 3 we read about the power that is working in us, we read of the revelation of the mystery, the highest truths that ever could be given to man revealed in the power of the Spirit to the Lord’s servant Paul, this wonderful strength that the Spirit gives in the inner man. These are wonderful blessings indeed, and they belong to every believer. Oh, that we were in the enjoyment of them more and more so that we could answer to these exhortations that we receive in the last three chapters.

Chapter 4

Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers. And grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, whereby you are sealed unto the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: and be ye kind one to another, tender-hearted, even as God for Christ’s sake has forgiven you.” (vv. 29-32)

To help us to understand this expression “grieving the Spirit of God” I want you to turn with me to Mark 3. “And he entered again into the synagogue; and there was a man there which had a withered hand. And they watched him, whether he would heal him on the sabbath day; that they might accuse him. And he saith unto the man who had the withered hand, Stand forth. And he saith unto them, Is it lawful to do good on the sabbath days, or to do evil? to save life, or to kill? But they held their peace. And when he had looked round about on them with anger, being grieved for the hardness of their hearts, he saith unto the man, Stretch forth thine hand. And he stretched it out: and his hand was restored whole as the other” (vv. 1-5). This ‘grieved’ is a strengthened word there, a little different from the word we find in verse 30, “grieve not the Holy Spirit of God”, although coming from the same root. This passage seems to me to indicate how the Holy Spirit is grieved, that is, if our hearts are hardened, we have not compassion, we have not care for each other, we are not concerned about each other’s well being. The Father, Son and Holy Spirit are coequal in Person and glory, and what grieved the Lord very obviously will grieve the Holy Spirit.

It seems to me that what follows in Ephesians 4, bitterness, wrath, anger, clamour, evil speaking and malice are all the things that come from a hard heart, and indicate a wrong attitude towards each other, something that ought not to be there at all in a Christian company. The kind of persons that you feel the Holy Spirit will support, encourage and stimulate in all the power that belongs to Him, are the ones which are “kind to one another, tender-hearted, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you”. This is the indication of a true, tender heart. It is a tremendous blessing to take account of, that the Holy Spirit indwells us, and this has been burdened upon me recently in view of these meetings. Just think of that! The Holy Spirit, a divine Person, indwells each believer. This is a distinctive blessing that belongs to the Christian era. We used to express the sentiments in the children’s hymn ‘We would have liked to have been here at the time when the Lord was upon earth to have seen His deeds of kindness and have heard His words of power’, but how marvellous today that a divine Person, coequal with the Son, is here indwelling us! This was not true then, but is now. Oh, how important that we should not grieve Him! What a sad thing it is to grieve the Holy Spirit!

There are other similar passages in the Bible, for instance, Ananias and Sapphira sinned against, lied to, the Holy Spirit (Acts 5). We are also warned not to quench the Spirit (1 Thess. 5:19). He is a divine Person, He is not someone that we can treat in a very ordinary way. He is infinitely glorious and infinitely greater than us, and yet He deigns to indwell us and to abide with us forever. He is holy—that is His characteristic name, and it seems that anything that is unholy will cause Him grief. If the Lord Jesus were here, we would never dream of inviting Him to some place of evil repute, we would never dream of taking Him to some place where His name was dishonoured, it would never cross our minds, and yet we may do that when we go to such places without thought and we have the Holy Spirit indwelling us. How He must be grieved if He sees anything of an unholy character in our lives, in our thoughts, in our ways. We are to “Grieve not the Holy Spirit of God whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.” It seems to me that the day of redemption looms before every believer as this tremendous blessing, when set free from every hindering element, he is going to enjoy all that God has purposed for him, and in the meantime there is to be no grieving the Holy Spirit by our demeanour or by our ways. Again I say, we want to do the things that please the Holy Spirit, “be kind to one another, be tender-hearted, forgive one another even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you”. We can all answer to this as we are helped by the Lord to do the things that please Him and we are sure that when we do this we will have the unqualified support of the Lord Jesus Christ and of the Holy Spirit, not grieving Him but doing the things that are consistent with the blessing that we have.

Chapter 5

Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is. And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit; speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord: giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ: submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.” (vv. 17-21)

It seems to me that all that follows in this passage rests upon the first verse, that we are intelligent as to what the will of the Lord is for us. Once we are intelligent to that, then the rest will follow. We will not be intoxicated by anything that belongs to this world, and not necessarily wine, for we might be intoxicated with ambition, we might also be intoxicated with desires that are perfectly permissible amongst men, not necessarily gross evil, but things that will take us away from the will of the Lord. Now the apostle says ‘Do not be marked by that feature. Be filled with the Spirit’.

Some time ago I read a little book that changed my thinking about being filled with the Spirit. Naturally, in our usage of the language we would speak about filling up a bottle. It is something from the outside that fills the bottle, but this brother pointed out that this is not the way we think of it in the Christian life. The Holy Spirit is indwelling us already. It is not that some part of the Spirit comes into us and then another part and then another part until we are filled up; this is not the idea. He is already indwelling us. To be filled means to be taken over completely by His control and power, and means the exclusion of anything that is preventing that power from operating in our lives. It seems to me that that is a reasonable way to view the matter. To be filled with the Spirit means to exclude everything that hinders the Spirit’s power. It is not to be 90% of the Spirit’s will and 10% my own will. For every Christian there should be a one hundred percent acceptance of the will of the Lord. There is to be no reserve, no reluctance, no dark patches, the whole life is to be given over to the will of the Lord, and when that is so, the Holy Spirit is free to operate in us and promote in us the things that are precious and abiding.

Incidentally, when we are talking about being filled with the Spirit, the family of John the Baptist must be the most marvellous family in the Bible. Zacharias was filled with the Spirit (Luke 1:67), Elizabeth was filled with the Spirit (Luke 1:41), and John the Baptist was filled with the Spirit from the day of his birth (Luke 1:15); what a happy family that must have been. It did not mean that Zacharias did not make a mistake, he did, but what a happy family it must have been, all the thinking, all the behaviour guided by the Spirit. Oh, what a wonderful thing is held out for each one of us, to be filled with the Spirit! This is the only exhortation that I know of in this respect, to be filled with the Spirit. This is a glorious possibility for you, for me, and for every believer.

Verses 18-21 follows from being filled with the Spirit. I suggest that there are three features that will inevitably follow if the Holy Spirit really is controlling our lives, if we are filled with the Spirit. Firstly, this attitude of joy and singing. In past years, did we not get a great deal of joy in standing round a piano and singing these wonderful hymns, what a comfort it was. Did it not bind the saints together? The enemy knows that music binds people together. Was there ever such a time when music played such a part in ideologies in this world? It did so in Nebuchadnezzar’s day when he set up his great image on the plane of Dura (Dan. 3). All the music that was there was to bind these different nations together with one object, to induce them to bow down and worship the image. So it is in that great city that is in opposition to the things of the Lord in the book of Revelation, all the music that we find in it is all to draw souls away with its sensual power (18:22). Oh, what an evil thing it is. But oh how wonderful that when the saint is set free, when the saint is filled with the Spirit, it produces this happy singing of psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, compositions that make much of God, that make much of Christ, that make much of the Holy Spirit and all the divine blessings that we have. These compositions are really teaching compositions, joyous compositions, comforting compositions, and, thank God, we have many of them.

These psalms are not the Old Testament psalms, they are not the psalms of David. We could not possibly sing them all as a Christian. Some we can sing, but we could not possibly sing about wishing vengeance upon our enemies, we could not sing to the Lord today to come down and deal with our enemies in a very summary fashion; that would be contrary to what we have already spoken about, being tender hearted. No, the psalms of Ephesians 5 are New Testament psalms, New Testament compositions. Those that know something of the language tell us that in Paul’s second epistle to Timothy we have one of those psalms. We can sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs, whenever they were composed, as long as they are truthful. Again, we cannot sing them all. Some are sentimental, some are not true, some do not bear the light of Scripture. We should not retain them in our hymn book simply because we like the tune or the lyrics, no, it is truth that matters in a psalm, in a hymn and in a spiritual song that we can sing to make merry before the Lord.

Then we come to “giving thanks”. Oh, dear brethren, what a wonderful Christian attitude this is. It is easy to moan and think that we could be better off than we are. It is easy to complain about things that come across our pathway, and in one way or another we are all guilty of it. It is easy to get upset. When we sit down and take account of all that God has done for us, when we take account of the blessings that we have in spite of the difficulties, oh, we have abundant reasons for giving thanks. This is surely the proper attitude of a Christian. If we are a little less than being filled with the Spirit it is that little bit that will produce the niggling, the moaning and the complaining, it is that little bit that will bring us down below the standard that God wants us to maintain. So it is so necessary for us to be filled with the Holy Spirit.

Finally, we are told to submit to each other “in the fear of God”, that is, there is to be no standing aloof from each other, but we are to be happy to be submitting to each other. If you think something, I am happy to go on with it, provided it is the truth of course. We are willing to help, willing to share the exercise, willing to take a low place, willing to think others better than ourselves. It is so easy to say these things, but if we are filled with the Spirit they will be living realities. The Spirit will produce them in our hearts.

Chapter 6

Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand… and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God: praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints; and for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in bonds: that therein I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.” (vv. 13, 17-20).

In chapter 6 we have this well-known reference to the whole armour of God that enables us to “withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand”. Perhaps it is important to remind each one of us here that this armour is not to be put on against men and women in the flesh, this is to be put on against “spiritual wickedness in high places” (v. 12), this is a power of evil controlled by Satan himself, and it is a very, very powerful influence. We are all affected by it every day of our lives, and more so now as we come nearer to the end when, even in this so-called ‘Christian country’, Satanic forces are operating on a scale they have never done before. This is a very solemn thing. We have idolatry in this country, we have Satanic worship in this country, we have all forms of wickedness and evil of a spiritual character, and the Christian is exposed to its power and its influence, and so he requires the whole armour of God. There are unseen influences around that would cause us to deviate from the Christian pathway and so we need every part of this armour. We cannot miss one part out because that would be an opportunity for Satan’s power to operate through that omission.

I am not going to consider them all, but I am going to refer to verse 17, “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God”. I suppose you have heard the story of the brother who, having forgotten to take His Bible, said he had forgotten his sword, and he was reminded that it was not his sword, it was the Spirit’s sword. If it were our sword it would have been blunted a long time ago, perhaps broken and cast away, but it is the Spirit’s sword, it is the sword that He can use effectively in dealing with this tremendous evil power. When we speak about this we remember the time when our Master, the Lord Jesus, confronted Satan for a period of forty days and forty nights and incessantly He was attacked by Satan, tempted by every conceivable form of temptation. Three temptations are recorded for us and they are sufficient to show us that Satan was defeated by the Lord Jesus quoting the word of God. What an important thing it is, not only to read the word of God but to have it memorised so that, at the appropriate moment, we can quote it to defeat those evil insinuations that are put into our minds.

We are also to “take the helmet of salvation”. We require to have our minds guarded against the evil insinuations that Satan would place there (and they do come into our minds), and once they are there, I am sure you will acknowledge that, it is the word of God that can put them out. The word of God is a very, very effective weapon indeed. In 2 Corinthians Paul says, “the weapons of our warfare are not carnal” (10:4). He says we might walk after the flesh, but we do not war after the flesh, the weapons that we use are “mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds” (2 Cor. 10:4), that is, every high thing that sets itself up in exaltation against God. The weapon a Christian uses is the sword of the Spirit. When the opposers came to the Lord Jesus and questioned Him, He said, “Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God” (Matt. 22:29). That is how He defeated them, by quoting the word of God. I encourage young believers, and for older believers too, that in conversation with people who are extremely intellectual and clever it is no use trying to defeat them by argument, they can perhaps defeat us quite easily, the important thing for us is to quote the word of God. When we quote the word of God, let me say it reverently, we give the Holy Spirit the opportunity to use the sword effectively against those who oppose the truth. He can use it in a better way than we can. How valuable it is to quote the word of God.

When Geoffrey Bull was captured by the communists in Tibet and placed in solitary confinement, there were loud speakers blaring into his solitary confinement communist propaganda 24 hours a day. What was it that kept him from going mad? It was the fact that he had memorised the word of God. Being able to quote the word of God for his own comfort was enough to defeat the power of Satan in this insidious propaganda. We are also exposed to this kind of thing today through the media and through conversation with people, and things become common place. They are so easily taken on that before we know where we are we are being taken away from the pathway of the will of God; but the word of God, the divine guide that has been placed in our hands, is the power that the Spirit of God can use to defeat Satan’s ends and so rid us of this terrible influence. Dear believers, it is a powerful influence. It will come in very subtly but very powerfully and we must be on our guard against it. The helmet of salvation guards the minds against these insidious thoughts that Satan places there, seeds of doubt, seeds of fear and distrust. Oh, how easily he can do this and so our resistance is lowered and lowered and before long the time comes when it is so easy to slip away, the enemy has frittered away our resources, our defences, and then he can come along with a blatant and open invitation to evil and to neglect the Lord Jesus and off we go. How often this has been done. The helmet of salvation, the sword of the Spirit, these are the guides, the helps that the believer has to withstand those evil influences.

Lastly, in verse 18, “praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints”. Is it not true that all prayers are in the Spirit? Are they? Does Scripture help us to understand that all prayers are in the Spirit? For instance, we think of the story the Lord Jesus told of the two men who went up to the Temple to pray in Luke 18. The Pharisee prayed within himself; was that a prayer in the Spirit? If it did reach the ear of God it certainly was of no power whatsoever. It was a prayer in himself, for himself, an exaltation of himself, only concerned about himself, no feeling for his fellow man, it was all about himself and selfishness. The other man prayed in a spirit of self-judgment, with a contrite heart, and that was a prayer in the Spirit. That was a prayer that the Holy Spirit could lend His power to, and give effect to. So there are many prayers in Scripture that indicate what it is to pray in the Spirit, but there are other prayers that indicate otherwise.

When Daniel read the book of Jeremiah and saw that the seventy years had a short time to run (perhaps another two years), he began to pray to God in relation to the promise that God had made, that after seventy years had expired He would take a remnant of the people out from Babylon and bring them back to the land of promise (Dan. 9:2). So Daniel began to pray, and he prayed intelligently, he prayed about the city, he prayed about the land, he prayed about the people. Here was a prayer in the Spirit. It was an intelligent prayer, it was not about himself (except confessing his failures), but he was praying for God’s interests in God’s land, in God’s city and for God’s people. Oh, that was an intelligent prayer, a prayer in the Spirit. When Hannah prayed she made the promise that if she got what she asked for she would hand it over to God (1 Sam. 1). This was also a prayer in the Spirit, a prayer of genuine desire that was for the Lord’s glory. It was to be for her blessing too, but eventually for God’s glory; and what a man God gave to her—Samuel, who became the link between the decadent period of Israel’s history and its restoration under David and Solomon. So we could go on. Jabez’s prayer was a prayer in the Spirit (1 Chr. 3:10), a prayer for spiritual enlargement, that sin might not grieve him. We could have connected that with grieving the Holy Spirit. He says ‘I do not want to be grieved by sin.’ How much more ought we to be concerned that we do not grieve the Holy Spirit by sin. But Jabez prayed intensely that God would enlarge his coasts, bless him and help him and make him an honoured person, and God gave to him his request because it was a prayer in the Spirit.

When we come to Paul’s prayers in this epistle, what marvellous prayers they are! He is not asking for himself, he is not asking for improved conditions (he was in prison), no, he was concerned about God’s interests, about Christ’s interests. This should characterise our prayer meetings, the interests of the Lord and His people in their growth, in their enlargement and in their spiritual apprehension. So we are to pray in the Spirit. Not praying to the brethren, not giving them a lecture, not reminding some of the brethren of their faults, that is not praying in the Spirit. Praying in the Spirit it to pray earnestly, feelingly and intelligently as to what is proper in the sight of the Lord and praying for its prosperity. It is a wonderful thing to be in line with the Spirit’s mind, to pray in such a way that He can support us and help us and encourage us in those prayers, not praying in the flesh, not listening to how many ‘Amens’ are said to our prayers indicating universal consent, but rather being concerned about how heaven views our prayers; that is more important than anything else.

So Paul says, “praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints”. It is a good thing to have an enlarged view of the requirements of the Lord’s people. There are various magazines or sources of information available, and when we read them we learn what the Lord is doing in other parts of the world, and we see the Lord’s servants asking for prayer, just as Paul did here. Paul says, “Pray for me”, pray “that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel” (6:19). So these dear servants in many parts of the world today are asking for our prayers. We may not be preachers or expositors, we may not be doing some prominent work for the Lord but what a wonderful thing it is to be a prayer partner, to be a help for those who really require it in the situations that they are facing, dangerous situations, trying situations, not very congenial situations, disappointment too as persons are obviously making progress and then suddenly they fall away. What sadness there is in the hearts of the Lord’s servants as they see this. Oh how wonderful it is when we feel there are people who are praying for us, this is a very powerful service. They are praying in the Spirit. One of the most important things about prayer is to pray intelligently. We should know what we are praying for and we should pray specifically for it. We should not make enlarged prayers that when really boiled down we do not know what is being prayed for, but we are to pray for specific things that the Lord has placed upon our hearts and the Holy Spirit supporting it.


These are only a few remarks about these very important features that are connected with the gift of the Holy Spirit. It is a very valuable exercise to be in line with these things in view of the wondrous place that God has given to us in Christ and the wondrous blessing that we are indwelt by the Spirit, never to be taken from us, to abide with us forever. What a glorious possession we have, what a wonderful thing it is! Thank God, we all experience it in one way or another. There is the evidence of the Spirit’s help when we pray to the Lord, or pray to the Father, this help that we get day by day, a power not of our own. ‘What a power that worketh in us!’ says Paul, ‘This is going to secure for God a really wide, intelligent and established response, not only in time, but for all eternity.’ May we be encouraged for His name’s sake.

2. The Outpouring of the Holy Spirit

The Pouring out of the Lord’s Blood

I want to say a word tonight about a very important truth, the pouring out of the Holy Spirit. However, before I do so, I want to speak for a moment about another pouring out, the Lord Jesus pouring out His precious blood. When He inaugurated the supper and directed the disciples as to how they were to remember Him in His absence, He partook of the cup with them and said “This is my blood which is poured out for you”. What a wonderful thing this is for our souls to consider. If I understand the expression correctly, it means that there is no reluctance, no restraint, no holding back, the pouring out is the evidence of the love that lies behind it. When we think of expressions like this in relation to the Lord Jesus we understand the greatness and the power of His love. In Psalm 22 it was said of Him prophetically “I am poured out like water” (v. 14), and in Isaiah 53 we read “he has poured out his soul unto death” (v. 12). We get the impression of one who gives Himself over completely to this great task in hand, to give His life, there is no holding back, no restraint. His love is so great and powerful that He is prepared to go the full distance and express His love in this wonderful way. We can say this without any question, dear brethren, that if there had been no pouring out of that wonderful life of the Lord Jesus there would have been no pouring out of the Holy Spirit. The portion that we have read together in Acts 2 clearly demonstrates this. Peter standing up in the power of the Holy Spirit, was able to minister in such a wonderful way concerning the life, the death, the resurrection and the ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ, the essentials of the Christian faith. Marvellous truth for our souls to consider!

The Outpouring of the Holy Spirit Foretold in the Old Testament

The pouring out of oil was a very significant thing in the Old Testament. Twice in the history of Jacob we find him pouring oil upon the pillars that he erected (Gen. 28:18 and 35:14). This pouring out of the oil is an indication of what comes in all its fullness on the day of Pentecost, and, thank God, we are in the gain of it today. We find the pouring out of the oil upon the head of Aaron the high priest (Ex. 29:7), also upon Saul the first king of Israel (1 Sam. 10:1), and Jehu, when Elisha anointed him (2 Ki. 9:6), and there are many other references. They all typify this great event that we find in the history of the beginning of the church in Acts 2. All these indicate the fullness of the coming of the Holy Spirit. What a thing for our souls to take account of!

It is very profitable to take account of the prophecies that God gives in the books of Isaiah and Ezekiel concerning what He will do in the future when He pours out His Spirit upon the nation of Israel (e.g. Isa. 44:3). The nation of Israel will be regathered from the four corners of the earth, they will multiply, they will grow, they will have liberty and they will dwell in safe and secure places, and all this is consequent upon the pouring out of God’s Spirit upon them.

The Outpouring of the Holy Spirit: A Challenge Today

My concern, dear brethren, is, Are we fully aware (I am speaking for myself) that that outpouring in all its value and power is still with us? It is not that it began to be poured out in that day and then gradually the pouring out diminished until there is only a drip here or there, that is not the idea at all; the outpouring of the Spirit is that the fullness of the Spirit’s power and presence and Person was found at Pentecost and has never been withdrawn. If we see definite features in that early day secured by the Holy Spirit, is it too much to expect that we should find those same features today? The Spirit is still here, there is no diminishing of His power or His influence. His greatness and presence are with us and all the help and encouragement that He can give is open for those who are ready to lay themselves out to receive it.

The Outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost

And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. 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, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.” (Acts 2:1-4)

What a moment there was in that upper room; 120 people gathered together, 120 individual names all known to heaven, gathered there and praying. They were obedient to the Lord’s directions, “Tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high” (Luke 24:49). What a wonderful way to spend the time while waiting for the promise of the Father.

When it did come what a mighty thing it was. We speak a great deal about the incarnation, and thank God for that great event, we do not want to minimise or forget it, what a tremendous thing it was for the Son of God to come into this world, but the coming of the Holy Spirit into the world is of equal importance with that great descent from glory when the Son of God became a little babe. The descent of the Holy Spirit, who is coequal with the Father and the Son, into this world is an event of the greatest possible magnitude. When He came into that upper room it was as “a mighty rushing noise”. It was known by all and it filled the whole room. What a tremendous presence that must have been! Then the tongues of fire sat upon each one, each one was blessed by the incoming of the Spirit, they were indwelt by the Spirit. Wonderful event! And we see from further teaching that we find in the epistles that at that moment the body of Christ was formed according 1 Corinthians 12, “For by one Spirit are we all baptised into one body” (v. 13). This was an event that took place then that never needs to be repeated, the body was formed and is always looked upon in Scripture as a complete thing at any given time upon earth. The Holy Spirit formed it, the Holy Spirit maintains it. This is something that is infinitely beyond our understanding, how Christians in all different sects, denominations and companies form one body in spite of the weakness that we see because this is maintained in the presence and power of the Holy Spirit; thank God for that. On the day of Pentecost the body of Christ, the house of God, the family of the Father was formed. All these wonderful things were formed because Christ had done the work and the Spirit had come and indwelt all those believers at that particular moment.

Peter’s Address Concerning the Outpouring of the Holy Spirit

Peter, standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice, and said unto them, Ye men of Judea, and all ye that dwell at Jerusalem, be this known unto you, and hearken to my words: for these are not drunken, as ye suppose, seeing it is but the third hour of the day. But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel; and it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; and on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy: and I will show wonders in heaven above, and signs in the earth beneath: blood, and fire, and vapours of smoke: the sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before that great and notable day of the Lord come: and it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” (Acts 2:14-21)

After the descent of the Holy Spirit we find Peter refuting the charges that they were drunk. ‘Oh no,’ he said, ‘We have a greater power than that.’ He was speaking under the power of the Spirit and He emphasised this, saying, ‘What we are doing now is in keeping with the prophecy of Joel’. It was only a partial fulfilment. Mr Darby, in his translation, has a footnote on Matthew 2:23 explaining the different prophecies that are mentioned in the New Testament, particularly in Matthew, how there is a literal fulfilment, or a partial fulfilment, or the prophecy came within the scope of interpretation; these are very interesting comments. We find a partial fulfilment of this prophecy of Joel on the day of Pentecost. In Acts 2 we do not see the moon changing, we do not see all the signs that Joel spoke about, neither do we find salvation in Jerusalem and in Zion in the way that Joel prophesied; this all lies in the future. But within the scope of that prophecy Peter could say ‘This is not anything connected with earth, this is something that has come from heaven, this is the descent of the Holy Spirit. This is what you are seeing now, an outpouring of the Holy Spirit with definite signs following it’ (these signs being the giving of the gift of tongues {lit. languages} and those things being spoken to all the different people that were gathered in Jerusalem), and in the power of that Spirit he presented the greatness of Christ.

This surely must always be the evidence of the Spirit’s control and power amongst us. In any company of believers, if there is not the presentation of the greatness and glory of Christ it is a clear indication that the Spirit is not getting His way amongst them. This is the prime activity of the Holy Spirit. The Lord Jesus said, “He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall show it unto you” (John 16:14). This was not an assembly gathering, but a public preaching. However, it was still the Spirit’s power that was magnifying Christ through Peter. We can say clearly on the authority of Scripture that Christ being glorified is one of the most evident signs that the Holy Spirit is acting amongst believers. If He is pushed into the background and service is occupying the mind, or even if the Holy Spirit is more prominent in the teaching than the Lord Jesus, we could say, very definitely, that there is something wrong, because the Lord said “He shall not speak of himself… he shall glorify me: he shall receive of mine, and shall show it unto you”. So this is the first thing that we should look for in our gatherings, the presence of a ministry of Christ, His glory, His greatness, His power, all that He is. What a varied presentation there is of our Lord Jesus Christ. We are deeply thankful for that.

Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, he hath shed forth this, (or, ‘poured it forth’) which ye now see and hear.” (2:33)

Having refuted the charge of being drunk, Peter then presented this word to the consciences of those who were listening. I remember the first time I heard what I am now going to say, it made me prick up my ears and made me wonder if I had heard correctly. The statement was ‘The Lord Jesus received the Holy Spirit for the second time’. I had never heard that before and I questioned it, I began to inquire about it, and then I began to see how right it was. I discovered also that Mr. Darby and Dr. Wolston and other ministers of the truth had said this many, many years ago, it was not anything new, but perhaps it was something that had been lost sight of. The Lord Jesus, as the Messiah, was anointed with the Holy Spirit for His own service here in this world, all that He did and all that He said was in the power of the Spirit, but now the Lord Jesus is receiving the Spirit from the Father. He received the Holy Spirit from the Father a second time, not now for Himself, but to bestow upon those who were upon earth that their service might not be in their own power, however intelligent or great they may have been, but that it was to be conducted upon earth in the power of the Holy Spirit. So He received the Holy Spirit from His Father, conveyed Him to His own upon earth and here was Peter speaking in that power, and oh what power it was when we find that 3,000 souls were converted! That was a marvellous day.

Dear brethren, I know we are all concerned about how few souls are converted in our halls. One of the reasons is how few unconverted souls ever come into our halls, but in the past, some have been and they have not been converted. Why? I cannot answer that; but I am sure it should cause us to search our hearts. Conversion is an evidence of the Spirit’s power; it is the Spirit who convicts, it is the Spirit who draws to Christ. The Holy Ghost accompanies those who preach the gospel. His power, His service and His drawing leads souls to accept the Lord Jesus. Oh, that we might pray more and more that when unconverted people are in the presence of the gospel that is preached in our halls that they will be converted, that the Holy Spirit will lead them to the Lord Jesus. We should say that in the New Testament there is not any indication that the main means of converting souls should be in halls. We have to face the fact that every believer is an evangelist in his own right, not perhaps in the strict sense that Scripture speaks about an evangelist, but every believer has the opportunity at some time or other to say a word for the Lord or to pass on a tract to someone. That certainly is something that the Holy Spirit can use. Evangelists are distinct gifts, raised up and empowered by the Lord, and the mark of the evangelist is not that he is a grand preacher, the mark of an evangelist is that he gets souls, he brings them to the Lord Jesus. So here was one of the first evidences of the Holy Spirit’s presence, along with the presentation of the glory of Christ, the salvation of precious souls.

The Conviction of the Hearers by the Holy Spirit

Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptised every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. For the promise is unto you and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call. And with many other words did he testify and exhort, saying, Save yourselves from this untoward generation.” (Acts 2:37-40)

That preaching was wonderful, but what happened afterwards? The hearers repented, they accepted the Lord Jesus Christ as their Saviour, and they received the gift of the Holy Spirit. That is what Peter promised them. Then it says that they were baptised. I remember that when I professed to love the Lord and accepted Him as my Saviour, it was more than a year before I was baptised. Maybe some delays are longer, maybe some are a lot shorter, but here we find that those people seemed to understand instantly what was required of them, that, having accepted the Lord Jesus Christ, they immediately got baptised. They immediately cut themselves off from all that they were formerly connected with and said virtually ‘We are going to live for Christ’. This is an amazing thing. It is a further evidence of the power of the Spirit indicating to those people who had trusted the Lord that this was the right thing for them to do. They believed, they were baptised and then they continued to walk in a way that was very powerful indeed, they continued to walk in the teaching, and fellowship of the apostles, and in the breaking of bread and in prayers. My, they were quick learners! This was the beginning of the church’s period upon earth, and oh, what power there was! There were no hindrances, there were no divisions, there were no heresies, there was power in this tremendous event.

The Marks of the Holy Spirit in the Company

And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.” (Acts 2:42)

Immediately there was the power of the Spirit directing those souls as to what to do, and so they continued, or, a stronger word as we have in Mr Darby’s translation, they ‘persevered’ in the teaching, first of all, of the apostles, then the fellowship of the apostles, and then the breaking of bread and prayers. We want to say a little about each of these things.

i) The Apostles’ Doctrine

The teaching of the apostles would be all that they learned in company with the Lord Jesus, all the wonderful discourses that we have written for us in our Bibles and perhaps many other things that are not recorded for us, these things would be handed on to those new converts. They would tell them, ‘This is what the Lord demanded of us, this is what He demands of you. It is the Lord who is doing it, we are only His servants in conveying these things to you’. What faithfulness is required then in handing on the truth to those who are newly converted; not letting them grow themselves (if they are left to themselves they will not grow). This was impressed upon us recently, the necessity for shepherding, and this is one of the prime concerns of the shepherd, to see that his sheep are properly fed, to see that the lambs are properly cared for. Peter and the apostles would have seen to it that these new converts were instructed as to the truths that the Lord had imparted to them. It was their responsibility and they fulfilled it, and when these new converts learned they persevered in these things. They did not stop and say that they would have a discussion on them. Discussions do not get us very far because you can only go to the level of the knowledge that is there, so it is very important that there is proper teaching and acceptance of it, like the Bereans, who were “more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those these things were so” (Acts 17:11). They did not examine them to see that they were not so, as we find so often today, the Bereans were noble in accepting what was presented to them, so these early converts made rapid progress because, I believe, first of all, they accepted the teaching that was given to them by the apostles.

ii) The Apostles’ Fellowship

Then the fellowship. Ah, that is a precious thing. When the Lord Jesus chose the twelve (from many, many disciples if you read the account in the Gospels) they were of different temperaments. They would never have desired to be together apart from the Lord calling them to Himself, there was fellowship only because He was the centre of it. He called them, He held them together, He blessed them and He provided everything that was necessary for them. These new converts were brought into this fellowship. The only fellowship that is owned upon earth at this present moment is the fellowship of God’s Son. I know that in localities we make little gatherings and say, ‘This is the fellowship for the young people’. We have no quarrel about that sort of thing. It is a simple idea, it is a term to indicate we are coming together. The only fellowship the Holy Spirit gives unqualified support to is the fellowship of God’s Son; there is no other fellowship. Any other fellowship that is arranged by man has its origin in man; this fellowship has its origin in heaven. Christ is the centre of this fellowship and everyone brought to Him is part of it. All believers are in all the dignity of it and as the Corinthian epistle teaches, they are responsible to act truly in the light of it. These believers persevered in it, they did not go a little while and then give up, they kept at it. Perhaps that is one of the reasons for the declension that we see today, that so many have given up, the pathway has perhaps been too demanding, too much demand upon our time, on what we are and what we desire, and so we have given up, but these people kept at it. I believe, dear brethren, praise God, the Holy Spirit is here today to teach us too, and also to help us persevere in this wonderful fellowship into which we have been brought.

iii) Breaking of Bread

The breaking of bread was a special event. It was the outward expression of this fellowship into which they had been brought. Every time they broke the bread they remembered, first of all the greatness of the body of Christ, His own personal body in which He suffered upon the cross in order to bring us into blessing (1 Cor. 11:23-26) and, secondly, the bread that was broken spoke about the one body of believers, the ‘mystical body’ of Christ upon earth (1 Cor. 10:16-17). Every time that bread was broken there was a public expression of this wonderful fellowship, and they continued in this.

It was the old idea in the Church of Scotland that if you broke bread too often it might be a commonplace thing, so they only had it four times a year, maybe less in some places. ‘We do not want to do this too often’, they thought, ‘it will reduce this wonderful feast to a commonplace thing’. How wrong they were. Have we ever found it common, gathering together on Lord’s day morning after Lord’s day morning? Why, it is one thing that we always enjoy, it never grows old, whether there are half a dozen of us or six hundred, it does not matter, we are remembering the Lord, He is pre-eminently before us. The Holy Spirit occupies us with Him, focuses our attention on Him, what He did on the cross, what He is doing now, what He is Himself. These early believers persevered in the breaking of bread. What a sad day it would be for us if we felt we were too busy in Christian service to gather together to the Lord’s name to remember Him—we would be busier than the Lord intends us to be. Oh, how we should persevere, and I am sure we are glad to persevere in this great matter of breaking bread and remembering the Lord.

iv) Prayers

It might be a small gathering, it might be a large gathering, but thank God for those who pray. What is emphasised here are assembly prayers, collective prayers, when Christians gather together to pray. What a sad neglect there has been of that important meeting. Those of you who have read Mr. Mackintosh’s little book on prayer1 will find that he bemoaned the fact that in his day people were neglecting prayer, and that was perhaps when brethren were very much stronger and more united than they are now. Oh, how we need to maintain prayer collectively and individually! They persevered in it. We are reminded that the Holy Spirit has been poured out, He is here today in all His fullness just as He was on the day of Pentecost and, if there are difficulties in our lives and in our meetings, He is there to help, to support, to lead and to guide.

And all that believed were together, and had all things common: and sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need.” (Acts 2:44-45)

They were also all together, unified in care for each other. Here is this matter of shepherding that we have already spoken of. They were ready to bestow what they had for the benefit of those who were in need. In this affluent, materialistic society that we live in today there is not so much need as there used to be, people are better off than ever they were, and so there are not the same opportunities for this kind of service. But the Lord will lead us to cases where there is need and we should be alive to any opportunity to show kindness, and it certainly would be one of the marks of the Holy Spirit to show care and concern for the saints. There may not be financial need, but there are always other needs. There are lonely saints who need a visit, a card, a letter, and when the opportunity arises, a kind word. There is plenty of spiritual need, plenty of weakness and depression and physical need amongst the saints of God, and amongst the unconverted too. This is the evidence of the Holy Spirit. He is the Spirit of grace, He is the One who empowers us to go with the right kind of influence, not with a patronising air, but in the same compassionate way that the Lord went and visited people and helped and encouraged them.

And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, praising God, and having favour with all the people.” (Acts 2:46-47a)

Here is another evidence of the Holy Spirit’s presence and power, an outflowing of the heart to God in praise and in worship. Is that amongst us here? We are thankful where it is found in any company of Christians, praise and worship ascending to God in the power of the Holy Spirit. Ah, you say, my heart is sometimes so cold—well so is mine. When it gets cold I have to get down on my knees and ask help from the Lord to be warmed up, and as we get into His presence He helps us, empowering us by His Spirit so that we can praise God. But if we succumb to the coldness and do not get into the Lord’s presence, we get colder and colder until we are frozen, and then we cannot praise. So we have got to get into the Lord’s presence, get rid of the hindering elements (whatever they might be), have our hearts warmed by His own touch of love and kindness and then we are able to praise.

People round about took account of them, they saw the kind of people that they were, there was a change in those people, they now had a good report. Formerly they had been occupied with rites and ceremonies in the Judaistic faith, now all this was changed, and they were showing love to each other, they were showing features of Christ in their daily walk. Oh, what a change there was! People saw it, took account of it, and it caused them to be concerned. Do people see that in me? Do they see it in you? Is there something in our lives that they can take account of and say, ‘These people have something that is really worthwhile.’ Thank God, we have heard that expression. Oh, that we might see it more and more! Here is further evidence of the pouring out of the Spirit in those early days.

They continued daily; it was not a ‘Sunday business’, it was a daily business. Daily they were in the Temple praising the Lord and having good report amongst the people. It was a daily matter, day by day, the daily practice of Christian virtues in the power of the Holy Spirit was seen in their lives. Where would we have been if we had not had the indwelling Spirit? Surely the fact that we are still going on, whether we are young or old with a desire to be true to Christ, I believe, is the evidence of the Spirit’s direction and control. This was a wonderful evidence that these people had the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit. This pouring out exists to the present moment, it has not been diminished. Wherever there is a desire to follow in the same way as those early believers did, the Holy Spirit will encourage, help and support.

The Outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the Gentiles

While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word.” (Acts 10:44)

In some measure this is a replica of what happened upon the day of Pentecost. The Lord said to Peter that He would give him the keys to the kingdom (Matt. 16:19), and Peter used those keys. He used the first one when he opened the doors to the Jews upon the day of Pentecost, and the second one when he opened the door to the Gentiles in the house of Cornelius. We find the same features that happened at Pentecost happened in the home of Cornelius when there was a presentation of Christ by the Lord’s servant in the power of the Spirit, there was a ready acceptance of that word, and all those people were converted. There was not the presentation of something novel, not a gimmick, not something of man’s idea and imagination to attract people, but simply the presentation of Christ, a clear and distinct presentation of the Man who went about doing good, who died on the cross, who rose out from amongst the dead and who is now seated at God’s right hand. They believed it and immediately they were sealed with the Holy Spirit. They were able to speak with tongues just as they did on the day of Pentecost and then they were baptised.

This was a most remarkable happening in the house of this Gentile, but there was a reason for this. Because the Gentiles received the Spirit in exactly the same way as these Jews did, the Jews could not say, ‘Ah, those at Jerusalem, the old divine centre, have received the Spirit in a better way than the Gentiles.’ The Lord saw to it that that sort of claim could not be justified because, in the next chapter when there is some discussion about this, the ‘Jewish’ believers at Jerusalem had to admit that the Gentiles had been blessed in exactly the same way as the Jewish believers. This was all preparing the ground for the ministry by Paul as we find it in the epistle to the Ephesians where he demonstrates so clearly that the great barrier between Jew and Gentile had been broken down forever, and now through one Spirit they both had access unto the Father; God had been revealed as Father, and Jew and Gentile were privileged to draw near to Him. This was not seen as yet, that still had to come in the development of the truth by the Spirit, but here we see it unfolding in actual practice before the truth of it was revealed to them. What a wonderful moment! It was not that the Holy Spirit came again a second time, it was the activity of the Holy Spirit demonstrating His power and service in this wonderful way, and it produced the same kind of results. Cornelius and his household, and his friends were converted, they received the word of salvation, they were baptised and without any doubt they would continue in the same way as those did on the day of Pentecost.

The Shedding Forth of the Spirit in our Hearts

But after that our kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour.” (Tit. 3:6)

I ought to have said this at the beginning. In Romans 5 our Authorised version says “The love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit which is given unto us” (v. 5). That word there is exactly the same as we have been emphasising. Here we find it in the Authorised again, “which he shed on us (or ‘poured forth’) abundantly (or, ‘richly’) through Jesus Christ our Saviour”. Paul goes on to speak in Titus 3 about our justification, the fact that we are heirs, and of our hope of eternal life (v. 7). What wonderful things have come to light since the Spirit of God has come. It is a wonderful thing to be saved, a wonderful thing to know that our sins have gone, but the Spirit wants us to understand that we have been justified, we have a standing before God in righteousness, a standing that no-one can destroy, being founded upon the Person and the work of our Lord Jesus Christ. The Spirit wants us to understand too that we are heirs, wants us to know how rich we are, that we have wonderful possessions. We may not have a great deal as far as this world is concerned, but we certainly have a marvellous inheritance as far as the next one is concerned, and the nations after the rapture will experience a period of untold sorrow in this world when they will reap the consequences of their maladministration and their folly and sin and opposition to God, and after having dealt with this the Lord Jesus in His power and glory will He come to set up His kingdom publicly in this world, as so many scriptures demonstrate. The nations and the world belong to Him. Thank God that those who suffer with Him now shall reign with Him then, they shall be heirs, that is, they are joint heirs with Christ and they shall share in that administration. What a wonderful recompense that will be for those who have shared in the reproach of Christ at the present moment.

Perhaps we do not know a great deal about the reproach in this country, maybe this is another reason why there has been such a declension. When people have to fight for what they possess, when they have to sacrifice and suffer for it, then they value it. If we get it easily then we do not value it, and it is so easy to give it up. Many, many saints have had to fight for what they possess. I do not mean literally fighting with human arms, but contending for what they believe, having to contend and sacrifice and suffer reproach, and then they were able to appreciate and value the divine things that they had secured. Many have done this down through the ages of the Christian testimony. It may be yet, who knows, that more difficult times are to come upon lands that have seen comparative peace and quietness. This country has seen the most awful persecutions against real believers; who knows, it may return again. Paul says “All that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution” (2 Tim. 3:12). At the moment we do not see much of it in this country. I would not like to pray for persecution, I do not know how I might stand in the face of it. I would like to be faithful, I would like to be loyal and true and to stand, but I do not know; I am so weak naturally. But thank God that when the time comes, if any are called to stand for Christ in a dark day, they will receive help and power. The Holy Spirit will empower them. Thank God, the Spirit here is looking on to the future.

We are heirs according to the hope of eternal life. What does Paul mean, the hope of eternal life? Why, I though we had eternal life now! Thank God, we have. John presents eternal life as a present possession, those who “believe on the name of the Son of God… have eternal life” (1 John 5:13). Paul presents it in its finality, when, in the presence of Christ, beyond the sphere of reproach and opposition and limitation, eternal life is enjoyed in all its fullness. There is no discrepancy between the teaching of John and Paul. No wonder Paul says “He has shed forth it abundantly”, or “richly” (J.N.D.). Here is an added word, not only poured forth, but poured forth richly in all its fullness and value with all the blessings it has brought. Praise God that after nearly two thousand years that richness has not diminished, those blessings are still here, they are all bound up in the Person of Christ at God’s right hand. They are all available for us through the Holy Spirit now. May we be encouraged to lay hold of them more and more and not forget this tremendous blessing of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in the church of God. The Holy Spirit is here, a divine Person in all His glory and greatness, coequal with the Father and the Son. He is here, He is indwelling each one of us, and is the power for every Christian responsibility and the power for every Christian privilege. May we be encouraged for His name’s sake.

3. The Holy Spirit’s Voice

I want to say a word about the Spirit speaking. The Spirit makes His voice to be heard and His words are authoritative. When we remember that the Father, the Son and the Spirit are coequal in Person and glory and might and will and power we can understand that the speaking of the Spirit is as authoritative as the speaking of the Lord Jesus and as the speaking of the Father. The passages we have read in different contexts present different features of truth, but they are all the voice of the Holy Spirit and we shall consider each in turn.

I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will show you things to come. He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall show it unto you. All things that the Father hath are mine: therefore said I, that he shall take of mine, and shall show it unto you.” (John 16:12-15)

In John 16 the Lord was instructing His disciples as to what the Spirit would be to them after He (the Lord Jesus) went back to glory. He had many things to say to them but they could not bear them then. It was not that they were lacking in intelligence, but they could not possibly bear or understand the truths that He wanted to tell them because they had not yet received the gift of the Holy Spirit, the Holy Spirit could not come down and indwell every believer in Christ until the work of Christ had been accomplished and the Lord Jesus gone back to glory. Only after He had come could every believer then have the power and the potential to understand every truth that was presented to them. No Christian should be ignorant as to the mind of the Lord, it is not a question of natural ability, it is a question of being in a moral condition with a teachable mind and having a desire to learn, then the indwelling Spirit gives the power to understand and learn the truth of God. So when the Lord Jesus said “ye cannot bear them now” it was not because there was anything lacking in them, naturally speaking, in fact they had been very well taught by the Lord Himself, but there were many, many wonderful things He wanted to tell them but spiritually they were not competent to take them in.

In Corinth it was another story, Paul wanted to tell the believers there the most wonderful things that were in his heart but he had to refrain (3:1-2), not because they had not the Holy Spirit (they had, 2:12), nor were they lacking in intelligence (2:16), but rather, their moral condition was bad, there were divisions (2:11-12), there was evil practice (5:1) and evil doctrine (15:12) was being tolerated in their midst. These things in the Corinthian assembly prevented the apostle from opening up his heart to unveil to them the great things of God. The same thing is said in the Epistle to the Hebrews, the Hebrew Christians ought to have been teachers, instead of that the apostle had to feed them with milk, they were just like babes because they were not following the teaching correctly, they were getting mixed up with Judaistic thoughts and this prevented the apostle unfolding to them the things of God.

These are warnings to us not to depend upon our natural ability to understand the truth of God. We have the Holy Spirit to teach us, He is the power by which every Christian understands the truth of God; there is no other way of understanding. Mental acquisition of the word and spiritual appropriation of the word are two entirely different things (1 Cor. 2). We could memorise the Bible from cover to cover and we could understand all the stories and the teachings but if this is done through mental acquisition it would have no power in forming us after Christ, but if we spiritually apprehend, appropriate and obey the word then we find that spiritual formation takes place.

Secondly, we have to pay attention to our moral condition. We cannot go on with sin or things that are dishonouring to the Lord and expect the unqualified power of the Spirit in teaching us, it just does not work. You can go to university and be the most debauched person there, you can apply yourselves to the teaching, listen to the lecturers and study, then you can acquire a good qualification, get your degree with honours, your moral condition does not really matter, but that does not work in divine things. There is no progress if there is any flirting with the world, any sin in the life, anything that is dishonouring to the Lord Jesus, you cannot acquire the truth of God in its formative character unless there is a moral condition befitting you. The characteristic name of the Spirit is the Holy Spirit, and He cannot walk alongside anything that is dishonouring to the Lord Jesus Christ or inconsistent with Himself. We often talk about the causes of declension, and perhaps here is one of them, we fail to recognise the tremendous greatness of the Person of the Holy Spirit and the part that He has in our teaching and the forming of us after Christ.

The Holy Spirit is here described as the Spirit of truth. One likes to think of this description of the Holy Spirit as combating the error that was then, and now has multiplied in many, many forms. What a tremendous amount of error there is in this world. There are sects and parties and man’s ideas, with all kinds of traditions, and they are all combating the truth, but the Spirit of truth is the great barrier against that. We should be thankful that the Holy Spirit’s presence in the world at the present moment in and with the saints is the great barrier against error overcoming the saints and completely destroying the testimony of Christianity. The presence and power of the Holy Spirit is the divine guarantee that truth will be maintained right to the end. When you come to a position where someone says, ‘This is my apprehension of the truth’, and another one says, ‘Well, this is my apprehension of the truth’, and they are diametrically opposed to each other then one or both must be wrong, but you can be sure that if there is a waiting upon the Holy Spirit the truth will eventually be arrived at where there is a teachable, obedient spirit. How thankful we should be that, in spite of the dark ages that the church has gone through, that now nearing the end of the church period there is a tremendous amount of truth available for the saints of God. We owe that to the Holy Spirit and to the Lord Jesus Christ who personally is the truth (John 14:6), and we see it exemplified in His Person when He was here below (John 1:17). The Spirit is the truth subjectively, He forms that in us, so that we are consistent with what has been set out perfectly in our Lord Jesus Christ.

Further, the Holy Spirit “will guide you into all truth”. There is a danger, and we are all prone to it, that we reach a certain stage and we become content, our sins are gone through belief in Christ, we know a little about justification and some other forms of truth and we are quite content, ‘But,’ says the Lord, “He will guide you into all truth”, there is the possibility of us entering into all truth, the whole tremendous scope of Christian teaching. Now, having said that, that does not mean that it is possible for any one of us to arrive at this in perfection. What a tremendous amount of teaching there is in the New Testament, in the personal teaching of Christ and in the teaching of the apostles. There are fine distinctions of meaning, deep presentations of prophecy, the presentation of the Person of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, the greatness of the church, the greatness of the blessings that we have in Christ, all the different names of the Lord Jesus and their meanings, oh what a scope of truth there is! It would be a sad, sad day if we thought that we had arrived at a full knowledge of the truth, it certainly would not be the divine standard of knowledge because that is so extensive and so profound, and yet it is open for us all in the power and service of the Holy Spirit.

We should be profoundly thankful for the tremendous amount of knowledge we have circulating in our meetings. We have been reminded recently of people who have been in ‘a church’ for forty or fifty years and they come along to the little meetings that we have and they have said they were hearing things that they have never heard before. How sad it is that in some companies, professedly gathering to the name of the Lord, Christian companies, the very fundamentals, the very simplest things of Christianity are practically unknown. That is not true everywhere, there are many exceptions, and how thankful we should be for these exceptions, yet sometimes how careless and casual and unthankful we can be for the wonderful things that we hear ministered to us. Perhaps this is because we have heard them so often that they become commonplace to us. Let us never forget that most, if not all, of these truths were secured by brothers applying and sacrificing themselves to get them for us. Thank God that, in some measure, these precious truths are in circulation in our little meetings. Oh, let us value the whole scope of truth that is available to us.

“He will guide you into all truth for he shall not speak of (or ‘from’) himself…”. It is not that the Spirit is speaking as an individual as separate from the Father and the Son, He gives the truth in accord with the Father and the Son, They are divine, They work together, They have one will and purpose. So, if the Spirit is speaking, He is speaking all that is true of the Father and all that is true of the Son. This is ‘the Spirit’s day’, the Lord is in glory having completed the work of the cross, and what is going on on earth, although coming through the Lord Jesus, is in the power and service of the Holy Spirit.

“He shall not speak of (or ‘from’) himself but whatsoever he shall hear that shall he speak”. The Holy Spirit hears these great distinctive truths that belong to the Christian era, He hears them and, as come to earth with the church and indwelling every believer, He speaks what He has heard, just like the Lord Jesus, of whom it is said, “morning by morning he openeth my ear that I may be able to speak a word to those that are weary”, and “the words which I speak to you I do not speak from myself; but the Father who abides in me, he does the works” (John 14:10), He received words from His Father, He spoke them and people were blessed by them. The Spirit takes the same place of service, He hears the words, conveys them to those who are listening and divine formation takes place.

“He will show you things to come”. Whether this is the truth of the church and all the great and glorious things connected with it in the Christian realm, or whether we are looking into the future, the unfolding of the great prophetic teachings, I would not be free to say dogmatically, it may involve both. That the Spirit has made known the things that are to come in the future is abundantly clear as we read the New Testament. Men and women of this world are very uneasy at the present moment, what does the future hold for them? The future is very dark and foreboding and uncertain and we can understand the fears of men and women, but the Christian should never be governed by these things because the future is not uncertain for the Christian. Whatever might happen before the church is gone is another matter, indeed that is uncertain, no one knows what a day will bring forth, but the eventual future is plainly stated in the word of God by the Spirit for our understanding. I do not know how long the church will be here, but eventually it will be caught up to be with Christ in glory, after that there will be a comparatively short time when various judgments will take place upon earth and then there will be that glorious reign of a thousand years, after that is completed comes eternity, the day of God. Things are not uncertain for the believer, the Spirit has shown us things to come. If you want an excellent book to read and help you in understanding some of these things there is a helpful book called “Things to Come” by Dwight Pentecost. It is a good investment. There again, as you read such a book you require the help and guidance of the Holy Spirit to make it your own and to make it profitable to your heart and mind.

“He shall glorify me”. This is the distinctive service of the Holy Spirit. Oh, how thankful we are for that, the tremendous, deep and rich ministry that we have had for so many years regarding the Person of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God. For all the darkness and speculation in the world as to Him we are thankful for at least some clear understanding as to how infinitely great He is, the Creator and Upholder of the universe, Head of the church and all the other glories that belong to Him. We are indebted to the Holy Spirit for making these things known to us.

I remember speaking to a well-known brother about a man well-known in the Christian realm as a textual critic, and this brother said to me, ‘I would not have any hesitation in writing to this man to ask him the meaning of some word in the ancient languages because he is thoroughly competent to pass an opinion, but I would not dream of asking him for a spiritual understanding of a passage, that is another matter altogether’. We might know Greek and Hebrew perfectly but that is no guarantee that we would have a spiritual understanding of the word of God, we require the teaching of the Spirit for that. Thank God, He has glorified Christ for so many centuries and when we gather together to remember the Lord Jesus it is as One that is known. We have learnt to love Him, to respect Him, and to praise and worship Him, and we do this because the Spirit has made Him precious to every heart. Indeed, when we come to this realm of divine Persons we see the unjealous, unenvious character that marks Them. The Father reveals the Son, the Son reveals the Father, the Lord Jesus reveals the Holy Spirit, and so on. In John the Lord Jesus says more about the Holy Spirit than in any other portion in the word of God, He reveals Him in His greatness, in His glory and in His distinctiveness. Here the Holy Spirit’s distinctive service is to glorify Christ, and, dear brethren, if we know anything about the Lord Jesus, if we appreciate and love Him, it is because the Spirit has done this, He has revealed Him to our hearts and we can see a clear distinct picture of Him that draws out our hearts towards Him.

“He shall receive of mine, and shall show it unto you. All things that the Father hath are mine: therefore said I, that he shall take of mine, and shall show it unto you”. This makes me think of Abraham’s servant who, when he went to find Isaac a wife, took with him articles of silver and gold and he revealed all that his master had given to his son and when the wife eventually came through the wilderness to be with her husband she would enjoy all these wonderful things that were in store for her. This is what we find here, the Spirit is taking of the things of Christ, the things that have been given to Him by the Father and He makes them known to us today, how else could we possibly understand the deep things of God? There is no other way, it is the Holy Spirit who reveals them to us, and we will see in a moment the different ways in which the Holy Spirit speaks, but here the Lord Jesus says clearly that the Holy Spirit is the One by whom divine things are made known to us.

How is this done? The Holy Spirit implants these truths into our minds so that they become part of us. Various things have been handed down through the centuries, but they have not stood the test, they have been adulterated, they have been modified, they have been enlarged or they have been lessened. The trial of centuries produces a change, but it is not so in divine things. Oh, how wonderful that after nearly two thousand years we are still enjoying in simplicity and clearness the things that the apostles themselves learned at the very outset of the Christian age. The moment we step outside the word of God we step into the realm of speculation and imagination and mysticism. It is man’s mind, and man’s mind is his own controller, whatever he says, that is it, there is no way to check, it governs all, there is no way to understand, but when we are dealing with the Spirit speaking it is mostly connected with the revealed word of God. This is a check against mysticism or speculation or imagination. The Holy Spirit uses the word of God to bring before us in clear, unmistakable terms the truth that the Lord wants us to appropriate.

There are three ways in which the Holy Spirit can speak. The first one is, as I have already mentioned, through the word of God. In whatever way the word of God has been inspired, then the Holy Spirit can use that to speak directly to our hearts and consciences. We just need to read 1 Corinthians 2 to find that explained to us. The Holy Spirit communicates the things of God by spiritual means and uses words whereby that knowledge is made known to us. There we have what we call ‘verbal inspiration’, the Holy Spirit has used very precise words to convey, in concise terms, the truth that God wants us to understand. How thankful we should be for the word of God in our hands by which the Holy Spirit can teach us.

Then, as we find in many passages, the Spirit can speak to us through a servant. We find him speaking in the pages of Scripture through different people, Peter was filled with the Spirit, Stephen, Zacharias, Elizabeth and John the Baptist to mention but a few. They were able to convey the mind of the Lord because they were filled with the Spirit. The Spirit spoke through agents.

Thirdly, as we can see in Acts 8 and 10, He can speak intuitively, that without hearing a voice or using the word of God the Spirit can make His mind known to a believer to do a certain service, to go in a certain direction or to have certain guidance. I want to guard here against any mystical idea. I am not saying that voices are heard through the air or visions seen, I am not in favour of that, I feel that kind of thing opens the door to a great deal of speculation and imagination, but I am thoroughly convinced that the Spirit can impress me with a certain course of action if I am near enough to the Lord to know something about His direction and guidance. In our area there was a fisherman who was a very able gospel preacher, he was fishing with his colleagues when he felt that the Holy Spirit was speaking to him, telling him to leave his employment to go to a certain town in Scotland and to preach the gospel there. He had never been there in his life, did not know a soul in the place, but in obedience he told his colleagues that he would not be fishing with them in the future, he came home, his wife packed his bag, and he went by train to this particular town. When he got off the station there was a little boy waiting who said, ‘Sir, are you the preacher?’ He said, ‘Yes, I am a preacher’. The boy took him to a hall where people were gathered together and souls were converted when he preached. This man is long since with the Lord. I do not know how many experiences he had like this, but there was a man who was spoken to in an unmistakable way. There was nothing mystical about it, he knew what he had to do, he knew where to go, he obeyed and the Lord blessed his service. It seems to me we have something like this in Acts 8 and 10.

Then the Spirit said unto Philip, Go near, and join thyself to this chariot. And Philip ran thither to him, and heard him read the prophet Isaiah, and said, Understandest thou what thou readest? And he said, How can I, except some man should guide me? And he desired Philip that he would come up and sit with him. The place of the scripture which he read was this, He was led as a sheep to the slaughter; and like a lamb dumb before his shearer, so opened he not his mouth: In his humiliation his judgment was taken away: and who shall declare his generation? for his life is taken from the earth.” (Acts 8:29-33)

Philip was very active in Samaria and souls were being converted (Acts 8:5-8) but then he was told to go into the desert. There he was told to join himself to a chariot. There was no intermediary, there was no human voice telling Philip to do this, it was the Spirit’s voice, it came clearly and distinctly to him and it is to his credit that he obeyed.

I want to ask you if you have ever experienced anything like this when you felt an urge to do something for the Lord? It may have been just a visitation or to write a letter and you did not do it, and afterwards there was a tremendous regret, an opportunity had been missed. There is nothing mystical about this. One Scripture that appeals to me very much in this respect is Romans 8:16, “The Spirit himself witnesses with our spirit”. There is a clear indication that the Holy Spirit and our spirit are in close affinity and whether it is witnessing to the truth or whether it is direction and guidance here is something that is open for every Christian, here is a clear way in which the Spirit speaks to us in order to help us to do something to guide us into the pathway of the will of the Lord. So Philip obeyed, the Ethiopian Eunuch was converted, went back to Ethiopia, and as far as I am aware, the Christian testimony has continued in Ethiopia right up to the present day because Philip obeyed the voice that he heard, the urging of the Holy Spirit.

While Peter thought on the vision, the Spirit said unto him, Behold, three men seek thee. Rise therefore, and get thee down, and go with them, doubting nothing: for I have sent them.” (Acts 10:19-20)

Peter was not serving as Philip was, but praying, and that was a good condition to be in for the Spirit’s voice to be heard. The Spirit said, ‘Go, do not doubt’. How often we find an exercise brought before us and our minds starts to think, to reason, and before we know where we are we have a thousand reasons not to do the thing pressed upon us. The Spirit said to Peter, ‘Do not doubt, you go. I have sent the three men’. He sent the three men and then He awakened Peter. The whole thing was synchronised, they went down to the house of Cornelius and there was great blessing for the Gentiles. So here is another clear case of the Spirit speaking without any human intervention or agency, there was obedience and, thank God, blessing was the result.

Now we can experience this today, the outpouring of the Spirit is as powerful today as it was in the day of Pentecost in the sense that there is the potentiality there for every believer to be under His power and direct control, that is for you and for me too.

Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron; forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth. For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving: for it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer. If thou put the brethren in remembrance of these things, thou shalt be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished up in the words of faith and of good doctrine, whereunto thou hast attained. But refuse profane and old wives’ fables, and exercise thyself rather unto godliness. For bodily exercise profiteth little: but godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come.” (1 Tim. 4:1-8)

When Paul wrote this letter to Timothy he was describing the house of God and the things proper to it. The Holy Spirit spoke expressly regarding the latter days of the house. In this context He was not glorifying Christ or instructing the Lord’s servants, He was warning the believers of the awful conditions that would prevail on earth even in the Christian testimony. These people that we read of are within the bosom of the Christian testimony. It says, “some shall depart from the faith. The antidote to all these things is seen in the phrase “them who believe and know the truth”. If there are such persons there will be no possibility of apostatising or giving heed to seducing spirits or the awful things that are foreign to the Holy Spirit’s Person and service. Lies and hypocrisy are not the fruit of the Holy Spirit’s service. Here is Satanic influence operating in the last days to destroy the Christian testimony. Now the Spirit is warning us, and I believe, dear brethren, we must not fall into the snare of judging things by the standard that is prevalent in the world, we have to come to the divine standard of judgment, that is the word of God. What we see around us must not be allowed to enter into our minds and reduce the greatness of the truth that has been revealed, when we see evil things around they must be declared to be evil, there must not be any lessening of them in our minds, our consciences must not be seared. A conscience that is seared is a conscience that no longer operates. A tender conscience that is enlightened and governed by the truth is able to form a proper judgment in relation to what is opposed to the Son of God and to the work of the Holy Spirit. I felt it right that we should read this chapter, because it shows there is a continual speaking of the Spirit, reminding us of evil and how to combat it and how to avoid it, so that what is proper to the Son of God should be maintained.

He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.” (Rev. 3:13)

In chapters 2 and 3 of the book of Revelation we have seven letters written to seven churches in Asia Minor. Each one is written with a particular object in mind. In itself it provides an excellent example for us of how ministry should be effective. The Lord Jesus did not send John with a message to Ephesus and say, ‘The same message will do for the other six also’, that might be a danger that some of us who minister the word might fall into as we travel up and down the country, we may have favourite portions of the Bible to minister on, certain portions that we think we can speak effectively on, but that is not the way the Spirit works. Each assembly had different problems, each assembly required specific encouragement, and so the Lord gave seven distinct messages with each message calculated to suit the condition of the particular assembly. Here we find the Spirit’s voice is closely connected with the voice of the Lord Jesus, each assembly being addressed by the Lord Jesus personally, and each told to listen to what the Spirit is saying to them. The speaking of the Lord Jesus and the speaking of the Holy Spirit coalesce so that there might be a united impression made upon those who were listening.

“He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches”. Does that mean that we just sit mechanically and listen to what is being said and nothing more? That is not the meaning of the word ‘hearing’ in Scripture. The word ‘hearing’ in Scripture means the ear that hears and obeys. This is always so. Let me quote one scripture to prove it. In Matthew 18 if a brother has a fault against another then he has to go and see the brother concerned and, “If he hears thee thou hast gained thy brother”. Now surely that does not mean that you go and tell him what the matter is and by hearing it only the matter is settled, no, the brother hears, he does not close his ear to what is presented to him, he listens, he sees the truth of it, he obeys it, and then the brother is gained. That is what is involved in the Spirit speaking to the churches, ‘He that has an obedient ear, an ear that takes in the truth, that obeys and appropriates the message of the Spirit’. This is the kind of attitude that produces blessing and progress.

I do not know how long you have been sitting listening to ministry over the years, I can look back for over fifty years. There are some here who can say longer than that; we should be wonderful people if we have listened to the word of God for fifty years, but have we obeyed it, have we appropriated it? That is another matter. Sometimes we hear it said, ‘Oh give me Samuel’s ear’, but not only do we need Samuel’s ear we need his obedience and his willingness to be instructed. Samuel was formed by what he heard, there was someone older there to instruct him, he obeyed and what rapid progress he made. This is involved, “He that hath an obedient ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches”.

Now we have been taught, and rightly so, that these seven churches give a panoramic view of the assembly from its formation in apostolic times right down to the very end, passing through different phases in a historical sense. If that is so the Spirit’s voice has always been heard, thank God for that. The Spirit’s voice is not quietened today, the Spirit’s voice is clear and distinct, and it is connected with the Person and work of our Lord Jesus Christ. That is a very wonderful thing. There are so many things in Christianity that are wonderful, they might so often appear commonplace to us because we have heard them again and again and again, but oh, never let the wonder of them be lessened in our hearts. Some time ago I was going through Mark’s Gospel and I noticed the often repeated statement “amazement”, people were amazed by what they saw and heard in connection with Christ. Oh, we desire that something of that amazement might be in our own souls as we consider the greatness of Christian truth.

I Jesus have sent mine angel to testify unto you these things in the churches. I am the root and the offspring of David, and the bright and morning star. And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.” (Rev. 22:16-17)

We come now to the end, and what a wonderful end, to find the Holy Spirit’s voice in proper affinity with the church’s voiceor should I put it the other way, that the church’s voice is in proper affinity with the Spirit’s voice, and such affinity that they both cry “Come”. Think of the Spirit crying to the Lord Jesus, “Come”, and this voice being heard from the church! What a wonderful moment this will be when it takes place, both crying that the Lord Jesus might return. I am sure the Lord will pay attention to both these voices, the voice of the Spirit, One who is coequal with Him, One who is deeply involved in the unfolding of divine things, and then to think of persons who form the church, the bride upon earth, that company is also calling, “Come”. Oh, would to God that that voice was heard from all our hearts and from all Christians. I am sure it is a voice that will be answered readily, “I come quickly”.

These are just a few remarks, dear brethren, as to the greatness of the Spirit’s voice. Again I say, we want to guard against anything mystical, anything imaginative, we want to be governed by what the word of God says, this is the safe ground for us. When we read the word of God we can be sure the Spirit of God will use it for our present and eternal blessing. May we be open to the word of God speaking to us more and more, for His name’s sake.

4. The Deity of the Holy Spirit

My desire tonight is to say a little word about the deity of the Holy Spirit, a very important subject. Some people might think of Him as an influence, but Scripture indicates that He is a distinct Person of the Godhead, coequal with the Father and the Son, glorious in power and majesty, wonderful in all His workings.

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth…” (Gen. 1:1)

In Hebrew nouns can be singular (one), dual (two) or plural (three or more). Here the name for God is plural, the three Persons of the Godhead being revealed to us in the New Testament as the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

I want now to speak a little on six passages, in each of which each Person of the Godhead is mentioned, not always as the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, sometimes the Son is referred to as Lord or as Christ, sometimes the Father as God, the Holy Spirit is always referred to as such, but indisputably the three Persons are mentioned in each passage.

How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?” (Heb. 9:14)

The mention of the eternal Spirit is, in itself, sufficient to indicate to us His deity. He is infinitely great and glorious, infinitely greater than our minds can conceive. Throughout the New Testament there are numerous passages where the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are linked together, that is another clear indication of the triune God; one God with one purpose, one will, one operation, all working together to one great end to effect Their will for Their glory and for the blessing of all concerned. What a consideration this is for our hearts! In such considerations we are away from our poverty, our weakness, our failures and the declension and we are occupied with that which is perfect and eternal, the things being done by Them that can never break down, things being purposed by Them that will be fulfilled in every detail. How wonderful to be occupied with such things!

For our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance; as ye know what manner of men we were among you for your sake. And ye became followers of us, and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Ghost: so that ye were ensamples to all that believe in Macedonia and Achaia. For from you sounded out the word of the Lord not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place your faith to Godward is spread abroad; so that we need not to speak any thing. For they themselves show of us what manner of entering in we had unto you, and how ye turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God; and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come.” (1 Thess. 1:5-10)

There are many groups of three in this epistle. We can speak about Paul and Silvanus and Timotheus (1:1), honoured servants of the Lord, tremendous men in the Christian testimony, but they pale into insignificance compared with the most important grouping of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. The gospel went into Thessalonica and achieved a wonderful success, overcoming the power of idolatry and bringing into being an assembly of believers. All this was the result of the operations of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. While the servants were successful, it was God who purposed it. God sent the servants, the Holy Spirit empowered them and Christ provided the basis upon which they operated, all came to pass because the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit were working together. If this entered more and more into our gospel preaching what a difference it would make if we were really led by God, if we were really under the power and direction of the Holy Spirit. If the knowledge and joy of all that is centred in Christ was really in our hearts and minds it certainly would empower all our messages, they would not be academic expressions, they would be living expressions of the truth of Christianity, all centred in the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

What a transformation occurred in the lives of those people in Thessalonica. Before the gospel came they were bound up in idolatry. This was an awful thing in the ancient world, licentiousness, wicked depraved things went on in the worshipping of demons and idols, but they were delivered from them by the preaching of the simple gospel. Perhaps I should not say that, for there is nothing simple about the gospel, it may be conveyed in simple terms but it is not simple by any means. It achieved this tremendous success in the lives of those in Thessalonica, who were turned to God from idols in the power of the Holy Spirit to wait for God’s Son from heaven.

I have often felt that we are not sufficiently aware of what idolatry meant in those ancient times and what it means today. Walter Scott in his handbook2 gives a list of the idols mentioned in the Bible. He also has a long list of Greek and Roman idols of the ancient world and it is by no means an exclusive list. When the Romans conquered any tribe they were not in the least bit concerned about that tribe carrying on with its worship, it was only another idol to incorporate into the many religions that existed in the Roman world. It did not matter as long as it did not interfere with their worship, but this is exactly what happened when a person became converted. When a person got the knowledge of the true God he could not worship or offer incense to any idol, nor could he worship the emperor who was worshipped as a deity, and this was very serious for him because it meant that he would come into conflict with the authorities. That is why the Christians were persecuted. It was all right for someone to worship the ‘Christian god’ as one being incorporated into the many gods, accepting them all, it would be their particular god only, but when the Christians said the others were not gods, and that their God was the only God, that was another matter. Yet they had to say that, the Christian faith is the knowledge of the one true and living God. There are no other gods, all the idols are really the worshipping of demons. So when we read here that the Thessalonians turned to God from idols, it meant that they turned away from those idols and said they were not gods at all, they were but the work of men’s hands, the worship of Satan was behind it and they wanted nothing at all to do with it.

I have a little cutting from a book which tells of the torturing of a Christian, and at every point in the torture he said, ‘I am a Christian’, and when they asked him to offer incense to the idol he said, ‘No, I am a Christian, I believe in the one true God, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit’, and they tortured him more and more and again and again he replied the same words, and eventually his life was taken from him. What a test that would be for everybody who confesses himself to be a Christian to face this tremendous persecution and bodily pain and reproach and all the taunting of the enemy. That is exactly what those Thessalonians had to face, they turned to God from idols, the break was compete and total, there was no turning back. Perhaps when we read the passage we are not sufficiently instructed as to what idolatry means in all its evil.

What accomplished this change? What enabled those people to stand firm? It was because the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit were right behind them, that having accepted Christ as their Saviour, having received the gift of the Holy Spirit they were now brought into contact with the one true and living God and were thus empowered to stand. Paul was so concerned about the persecution that had arisen against the Thessalonian assembly that he wrote a second letter to them very soon after he wrote the first, he did not want them to be upset and turned aside and so with all the love that was in his heart he wrote to them for their encouragement. What a triumph! Thank God this is happening today in materialistic and affluent Britain, thank God there are people turning away from the modern idols of covetousness and self-will (Col. 3:5, 1 Sam. 15:23), and accepting the Lord Jesus as their Saviour, cutting themselves off from these things and desiring to live for Christ and for God in the power that the Holy Spirit gives. That is a triumph for God. We see in this chapter how They were all working together in Their own particular way with one will, one purpose, different manifestations, but producing a great result, souls being converted, an assembly being formed, there was praise and testimony to God and then they waited for the Son from heaven. Thank God this is not just in history in the first chapter of 1 Thessalonians, praise God that this is true today. Thank God, we too are waiting for the Son from heaven. What a tremendous thing it would be if we heard that voice tonight, a voice that every believer in the world will understand, there will not be any language barrier when that shout is heard. What a wonderful moment that will be.

Verse 10 is a verse to prove that the church will not go through the tribulation, the “wrath to come” is not the eternal doom of those who disbelieve God in all generations, it is not the lake of fire, the wrath of God is the wrath that will sweep across this scene after the church is gone, coming to its finality when Christ sets up His kingdom. All Scripture points to this, the wrath of God in the Old Testament and also in the New is the wrath that will be poured out upon this earth because of man’s disobedience. Now, says the Bible, all those who believe in Christ will never come under that awful wrath, the church will be raptured to heaven as Paul expresses in chapter 4 and thank God that every true believer in Christ will be with Him, the church will be there safe and complete in heaven for the pleasure of Christ and for the glory of God through never-ending ages. This is a wonderful truth. Having these things in our hearts will save us from worry and doubt and fear and concern. These are soul establishing truths because they are certainties.

Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, into a mountain where Jesus had appointed them. And when they saw him, they worshipped him: but some doubted. And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.” (Matt. 28:16-20)

Matthew’s Gospel presents the Lord Jesus Christ as King, the Messiah, born to rule over Israel. In the opening chapters this is set before us in plain unmistakable language, the genealogy of Jesus of Nazareth is the genealogy of the king, His descent is traced back to Abraham through David. All the promises made to Abraham and the covenant made with David are going to be fulfilled in this glorious Person, Jesus of Nazareth, Immanuel (God with us), Messiah, the Christ. But we do not go very far in the Gospel before we realise that this King is going to be under attack, Herod the king seeks to destroy Him and the babe has to be taken down into Egypt. Later, when the Lord Jesus begins to minister, in the sermon on the mount, He tells His subjects that they are going to be persecuted and they would suffer (5:11-12). This indicates that this kingdom is going to be under attack. This is a bit different from many prophecies in the Old Testament regarding the kingdom where everything is glorious, all the enemies are destroyed and each man is under his own vine and under his own fig tree dwelling in peace. Why does the Lord at the very outset of His ministry in Matthew indicate that His subjects are going to be under persecution? Well, He knew that He Himself would be rejected and that His kingdom would come under attack. When we move on we discover that the earthly hopes of Israel were being set aside for the moment and the Lord Jesus was bringing in something new. He said, “I will build my church” (16:18), it was something distinct from what had gone before. The Lord also indicated that the church would be under attack, “the gates of hell shall not prevail against it”. It does not say that evil powers would not operate against it, they do, but they will never prevail against it. At the very outset the Lord Jesus indicated that this great, new thing that He was to build would withstand all the attacks of the enemy and come through inviolate.

He was then taken by wicked hands and slain and placed in the tomb; thank God, He rose up from it, a glorious Saviour and gathered His disciples together. There were not twelve then, one had defected and committed suicide, Judas Iscariot, and so at the very outset before the Christian testimony began there was breakdown as far as man was concerned, but the Lord encouraged His own, saying ‘all power is resident in Me’—this was where the power lay. The company was broken, defection had taken place, but all power was and is still in the hands of Christ. That power is operative right to the very end to complete the Christian testimony. But before that takes place there was work for them to do, ‘Make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit’. What a change from chapter 10! When He chose His disciples to work there He said, “Go not into the way of the Gentiles… go, rather, to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (10:5-6), but now He says, ‘go into all the world and preach the gospel’. The message of Christianity is to go far and wide, Israel has lost its opportunity, it will get it again when God takes it up in power and glory, but in the meantime, there is work for the disciples to do and those that follow them, every believer is to be baptised to the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. This singular name qualifies and governs the three Persons—one name, three Persons—Father, Son and Holy Spirit are together. When we are talking about the Godhead we can distinguish between the Persons of the Father, the Son and the Spirit, but we cannot divide, they are together as one, one will, one purpose and one great object in view.

I trust that we have all been baptised. What a dignity being baptised to the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit confers upon us! Do not let us think of it as something ceremonial that has to be said and done as if it were a casual matter. Dear brethren, what a tremendous thing it is to be baptised to this glorious name, the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. When we come to actual baptisms in the Acts of the Apostles this formula is never used, the believers in Cornelius’ house were baptised in the name of the Lord (10:48), the Samaritans were baptised in the name of the Lord Jesus (8:16) as were and those at Ephesus (19:5). Why then is the formula not used? I do not know. Some have said that this is a dispensational matter and has to do pre-eminently with what will take place after the church has gone. Mr. Darby, when he was questioned about it, said that when he baptised he always used both, he baptised people to the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit and also to the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. It seems to me that that is a fair thing to do. Forget all about the query as to what is the proper formula to use, and think of the tremendous dignity that is involved and is placed upon anyone who gets baptised to the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. What does it mean? It means that those persons who do this cut themselves off from Judaism, they cut themselves off from Paganism, they cut themselves off from everything that belongs to this cruel sad world that is under the stamp of the curse and they devote themselves in practice and in heart to the Father, to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. What a tremendous thing! The Jehovah of the Old Testament has been superseded by a greater revelation. We are certainly not to be occupied with things that are found in this poor sad world, we are to be occupied with the very precious name of the Father and the Son, the greatest revelation of God. All that has been revealed in Him, the Holy Spirit, His power, His wisdom, His direction and His guidance. We are baptised to all that.

Again, we have the three Persons brought together in this tremendous way indicating how united they are, and the greatness of the Christian revelation. We have moved a long way from chapter 3 when the Father’s voice was heard and the Holy Spirit came down as a dove and rested upon the Lord Jesus, the Messiah. We have moved a long way through the chapters in Matthew and have come in our consideration of chapter twenty-eight to the benefits of the revelation of the Trinity, all those who accept the Lord Jesus as their Saviour are baptised to the name (singular) of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus… For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” (Rom. 8:1-4)

If we take nothing else away from this meeting tonight let us get this opening statement in Romans 8 into our hearts. What a tremendous statement it is. God has put us “in Christ Jesus”, we cannot get into this position ourselves, it is a position that Christ, the glorified Man at God’s right hand, has in glory. Searching the Gospels we never find the name Christ Jesus, nor do we find it in the Acts of the Apostles, we have to wait until we come to the writings of the apostle Paul, where again and again he uses this name which indicates that all the Christian’s blessings are centred in Him. Indeed, this is the distinctive Christian position. Why did Paul use it? He never knew the Lord Jesus here on earth, all that Paul knew of Christ was in glory. He met Him on the Damascus road and he received all his teaching from the Man who was in the presence of God. So when Paul uses the term “in Christ Jesus” he is speaking of the Man who is at God’s hand in whom are all our blessings. We cannot put ourselves “in Him”, God does that, and because of this we are safe in Him, beyond the power of Satan and man. No-one can touch Christ where He is, and so no-one can interfere with the blessings that are centred in Him.

All those who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ as Saviour have received the gift of the Holy Spirit and are in Christ Jesus. There is not a single power in the universe that can raise a finger against them. This is a difficult thing to explain but perhaps the example of Aaron helps. When Aaron went into the most holy place he bore on his shoulders two stones upon which were engraved the names of the children of Israel, six on each, and on his breastplate he had twelve stones and on each stone the name of a tribe of Israel. So when Aaron went into the holy place representing the whole nation. He bore in himself the names of each tribe and all the people belonging to that tribe all individually represented in him. When we think of our Lord Jesus Christ at the right hand of God the whole church of God is represented in Him; and that is a stupendous thing. Think of the millions of people who have trusted Him since Pentecost and the millions who have trusted Him who are on earth at the present moment, they are all represented in Christ, that is their position before God, and there is no condemnation for them, no one can raise a finger against them.

The statement, “who walk not after the flesh but after the spirit” in verse 1 is not there in the original text, its proper place is at the end of verse 4, but before I come to that we want to mention verse 2, “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death”. It is sadly a common thought that the liberty that we possess in Christianity is also a license to please ourselves, but that is not true. The law, the rule of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus, is the life that we have in Christ Jesus. The Mosaic law coming from the hand of God was perfect, it was just and holy and good, if man wanted eternal life he could obtain it by keeping the law. Scriptures said so, the Lord Jesus said so, if life was obtainable it was obtainable through keeping the law, but instead of bringing life it produced death, it brought sin to light in a powerful way. Now, says the apostle, there is a new rule of life, and this Spirit of life that is in Christ Jesus gives me the victory over the rule of sin and of death. This is not a license to please ourselves, Christians come under the power and direction and control of the Holy Spirit. This is a wonderful thing and thank God that in our lives we experience it in some way or another. Thank God we are not what we were when we were first converted, we have progressed a little I trust. Evil thoughts and habits and ways that once governed us have given way to purer things in our lives, a desire after holiness, a desire after our Lord Jesus, a yearning for more purity and a closer walk with Christ, this is the result of having the Holy Spirit indwelling us and the life that we have in Christ Jesus. It would be an awful thing in a Christian’s life if he was not yearning after these things, if he was abandoned to thinking and doing evil. Here Paul says that the Spirit had set him free from the law of sin and of death.

In verse 1 Paul makes the positive statement, “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus”. That involves every believer. But in verse 2 he is talking about himself, he says, “the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death”. Paul was speaking personally of his own experience, he was saying that, as far as he was concerned, possessing the Spirit had set him free from the law of sin and of death. Then in verse 4, “that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit”, he now includes himself with every other believer to declare this wonderful fact, that the righteousness of the Mosaic law can be fulfilled in those who walk not after the law, not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. It is important to notice the distinctions, them—every believer individually, me—Paul personally, us—Paul identifying himself with all believers.

Here again we are bound up in this wonderful truth, the operations of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. We are in Christ Jesus, the Man at God’s right hand; God sent His own Son, that He might become a sacrifice, a sin offering, to deal with the matter of sin and to bring us into this realm of liberty where we walk after the Spirit. This is the rule of life for the Christian. The law is never presented in the New Testament as a rule for the Christian, the guidelines for the Christian are the Holy Spirit as the power and the Lord Jesus Christ as the example.

For through [Christ Jesus] we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father.” (Eph. 2:18)

The second chapter of Ephesians is a wonderful chapter. In the first three chapters of this epistle Paul labours under the Spirit’s guidance to show and emphasise that all barriers and distinctions upon earth have been removed so far as the Christian company is concerned. There is no Jew, there is no Gentile, this distinction has been removed, the middle wall of partition has been taken down, and both Jew and Gentile have free access into the Father’s presence in the power of the Holy Spirit. This is the emphasis upon one Spirit. It must always be true that it is through Christ that every Christian can approach God. We could never presume to enter into the Father’s presence without the help of our Lord Jesus Christ, we approach the Father through His name. This is the way that has been opened up to us in a different setting in Hebrews where as priests we enter into the holy place to worship God, but again it is by Him, being “through His blood”. So it is through Him that we, both Jew and Gentile, have free entry by one Spirit to the Father. The Spirit empowers the Jew and the Gentile alike to do this. What a change this is in God’s dealings with man! The Jew was confronted by the veil, only the high priest was privileged once a year to go into the most holy place. A great barrier stood between them and the presence of God, whilst the Pagan knew nothing at all about God, he was shut up to idolatry, but all that was swept away in the revelation of Christianity. The Jew now had free access, not because he was a Jew but because he was now a child of God and could enter into his Father’s presence at all times, either individually or collectively he could bow down, invoke the Father’s name and enjoy his presence. The Pagan could then know something he had never known before. Pagan idolatry was governed by fear, the idea of propitiation in the Pagan world was that God must be appeased by bringing an offering, because He was wrathful and He would punish or destroy them. The Pagan never knew anything about joy and liberty in such a system of idolatry, but that was swept away, and now Jew and Gentile together were brought into the revelation of the Father who wanted them in His presence, and through Christ and in the power of the Spirit we can enter into the worship of a God who is a Father and we can enjoy all the Father’s presence and love. What a wonderful thing! Yet we have heard it so often that there is a danger that we might treat it as commonplace, but it is not commonplace, it is wonderful, it is majestic, perhaps the greatest thing in the Christian faith is that we have free access into the Father’s presence at all times and in all places to worship Him. We can speak to Him unhinderedly in simple, maybe stammering, terms, but the reality of drawing near to the Father is a marvel of Christianity. Again we find that Father, Son and Holy Spirit are bound up together to let you, me and every believer have free access into the Father’s presence. Oh, may we enjoy it more and more in these last closing days!

Meats for the belly, and the belly for meats: but God shall destroy both it and them. Now the body is not for fornication, but for the Lord; and the Lord for the body. And God hath both raised up the Lord, and will also raise up us by his own power. Know ye not that your bodies are the members of Christ? shall I then take the members of Christ, and make them the members of an harlot? God forbid. What? know ye not that he which is joined to an harlot is one body? for two, saith he, shall be one flesh. But he that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit. Flee fornication. Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body. 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? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.” (1 Cor. 6:13-20)

Lastly let us consider a very solemn and sobering passage where our physical bodies are said to belong to the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit and so they must not be connected with evil in any shape or form. Our bodies belong to the Lord, they are the temple of the Holy Spirit and we are to glorify God in them. If we are connected with evil we dishonour the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit and the best thing we can do is to confess it and get right with God, get communion restored and seek help that in the future we may not do the same thing again but be free from every form of evil. This is a sobering passage and yet it raises our bodies to a very high level indeed. Our physical bodies belong to the Lord, He has purchased them for Himself, buying them with His blood, and subject to weakness and limitation, they are indwelt by the Holy Spirit, each one is His and we are to glorify God in them. What a dignity this gives to the human body that in it there might be expressed things that are pleasing to the Lord, things that are pleasing to the Spirit and things that are pleasing to God. How wonderful! Things that we say or do, or places we go to, if we do them in the name of the Lord, empowered by the Spirit in order to glorify God then something has been achieved for God’s glory and praise in our bodies. It is a wonderful dignity and privilege that every believer has.

As I close let me say again that in all these passages the three Persons of the Godhead are mentioned, they are not disunited, not separated but distinguished in the various ways that They operate for Their own glory and for our blessing. There is much more that could be said, but I am sure that as you pursue the passages for yourselves you will see the glory of these things and the distinctive blessings that belong to them. May we be encouraged for His name’s sake.

5. The Spirit, The Flesh

It is a wonderful liberty into which we have been brought, we are set free from the fear, the curse and the claims of the law, from the power of sin, and from the world. Tonight, I want to talk about how we can be set free from the flesh. These liberties are all wonderful blessings. Thank God that for many years we have had the truth ministered to us for our encouragement in these last days that we might be here at the end in faithfulness to our absent Lord. We were reminded this afternoon that because of the death, resurrection and ascension of Christ and the descent of the Holy Spirit we are brought into this liberty, and praise God nothing can destroy it. This liberty belongs to us because it is the fruit of the work of Christ. It is secure in Him for all His people at all times for their encouragement and blessing. Thank God that when we are set free from all the limitations of earth we will enter into that liberty in a fuller and greater way. Now my exercise tonight is to occupy our minds with this great opposition to us, that is, the flesh, and to see that there is a greater power to overcome all the features of the flesh and produce in us that which is pleasing to our Lord Jesus Christ, that is, the power of the Holy Spirit.

Before I go any further I want to say one word on a matter of translation. In our Authorised Version Galatians 5:17 reads, “so that ye cannot do the things that ye would”. Now that is a faulty translation. If that were true then we might as well throw up our hands in despair and say, ‘There is no use going on!’ But the right translation is “that we should not do the things that we would”. The flesh desires that we should not do the works of the Spirit, and the Spirit desires that we should not do the works of the flesh. Who is going to win? This is where our practical obedience comes in, that we throw ourselves unreservedly into the hands of the Lord and cry to Him to help us by His Spirit that we might refuse every feature of the flesh and express the fruit of the Spirit; what a triumph there then is.

We start with Galatians 5:13, “For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another” and end with verse 26, “Let us not be desirous of vainglory, provoking one another, envying one another”, and all that comes in between these two statements indicates to us how we can operate or live with each other and set forth the fruit of the Spirit. I know that in verses 22 and 23 some have suggested three different areas, what we are to God, what we are to others, what we are in ourselves. Now first of all I am going to say that the Scripture does not say that, Scripture just mentions a nine-fold fruit of the Spirit, and I am going to suggest to you that the main force of the Scripture is that these features of the fruit of the Spirit in you, in me and in every believer promote this internal joy and blessing that belongs to the liberty of the position we have been brought into. Oh, how wonderful it is when we view the thing objectively in Christ, how wonderful to see what He has secured! There is nothing wrong with what He has secured, it is perfect, but when we come to the maintenance of this liberty in the Christian company that leaves much to be desired.

In the 1830’s a good number of devoted saints, at great sacrifice to themselves, separated from many things that shackled them as to the liberty of the Holy Spirit. It cost them a great deal, it was not easy. They broke away from long entrenched traditions and brought upon themselves a great deal of reproach. To get away from the organisations of men and all that was centred in their minds they came into the liberty of the Holy Spirit by gathering to the name of the Lord Jesus Christ in simplicity and humility. The free activity of the Spirit in their midst brought them into and maintained the things of God. Do not let us give it up. Do not let circumstances govern us, let the truth govern us. This is what we require in these last closing days, to hold on to the truth that has been ministered to us for so many years in the simplicity that is in Christ and in obedience to this word that has been set before us.

Having been liberated from the shackles that existed in men’s organisations, it is to our shame that in the maintenance of this liberty in a practical way amongst us we have, to a certain degree, failed. I suggest to you that one of the reasons is that the flesh has found too much place in our meetings, and in our lives individually, and this has resulted in the divisions and sorrow and strife that we find amongst those called ‘brethren’. Oh, it is sad. I am sure we all feel it, and I am sure you would desire to see it all rectified and the saints of God walking together shoulder to shoulder as this word says here, “walk in the Spirit” (v. 25), and that particular word at the end of the chapter means ‘walking in order’ or ‘walking all in a line, in the same way’, governed by the Holy Spirit.

For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another.” (Gal. 5:13)

I remember reading a book about the French revolution and there was a picture in the book of a Madame Roland who was about to be guillotined and she is pointing her finger to the statue of liberty, and the caption in the picture was, ‘Oh, liberty! What crimes are committed in thy name!’ Now it seems to me that this underlines what we are saying here. The liberty that we read of earlier at the end of chapter 2 is in Christ Jesus and no one can take that from us, but, Oh, what crimes have been committed in the name of liberty—liberty to express myself in any way that I wish, liberty to go where I like, do what I like, say what I like, liberty to say, ‘I am free from the shackles of man’s organisations and so I can please myself’. No, Paul’s wrings do not present that to us at all. Romans 8:2 says, “The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death”. Thank God for liberty from the law of sin and death, but we come under another law, “the law of the Spirit”, the Spirit of life which is in Christ Jesus. It seems to me, dear brethren, there is a great deal lacking in the expression of this kind of life individually and collectively.

We are to serve one another by love. This service is the service of bondsmanship, just as the Lord Jesus Christ served, and what an example this is for us! You remember in Philippians 2 it says clearly that He took a bondman’s form, serving the will of God. Now here as bondmen we are to serve each other, and we have the example that the Lord Jesus Christ set as He served His God, as He did His Father’s will. It is not a case of setting my will against your will or you setting your will against my will, but together we are to submit to each other in the fear of the Lord and seek to love each other in this way. Now I know that we say, ‘We cannot do this, there are all sorts of problems and difficulties and trials’, but we will see in a few moments, thank God, there is power to do this.

This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.” (v. 16)

The Spirit and the flesh are diametrically opposed to each other, there cannot be any mixing, and thank God, the Spirit is the greater. Now we want to state briefly what we understand by being “in the Spirit” and “in the flesh”. Firstly, “in the flesh” can be viewed as the physical body. We find that in relation to the Lord Jesus. It says of Him, “in the days of his flesh” (Heb. 5:7), meaning in His physical body, but then there are other verses where “in the flesh” refers, not to the Lord, but to our unconverted state. In this respect all people who are “in the flesh”, that is, in the fallen nature, are unconverted. In Ephesians 2:11 Paul says, “When ye were in the flesh”, that is when they pleased themselves in all the evil that they followed.

Now in Romans 8 we are told that we are “not in the flesh but in the Spirit” (v. 9). This speaks of our state before our God, and praise God for that! We are not “in the flesh”, we are “in the Spirit”. We sometimes speak about the dual nature that we have, but God does not view us in the dual nature, God only views us as “in Christ”. So far as God is concerned the evil nature that we all possess is gone in the death of Christ. Sin in the flesh is condemned once and for all, it is completely out of sight as far as God is concerned. Whereas in a practical sense we know this dual nature exists, God views us “in Christ Jesus”, and “in the Spirit”. Our position is “in Christ Jesus” at the right hand of God, and our state is “in the Spirit” here upon earth. The Holy Spirit indwells us, guides us, directs us, and blesses us.

I want to mention one or two Scriptures about the flesh. “They that are in the flesh cannot please God” (Rom. 8:8). There is nothing in the flesh that pleases God, there is no such thing as ‘cultured’ or ‘educated’ flesh, there is no such thing as ‘sanctified flesh’, the flesh in the sight of God is filthy, is sinful, and Paul’s reckoning in connection with it is, “In my flesh dwelleth no good thing” (Rom. 7:18). It cannot be justified, no flesh can be justified in the sight of God, and “no flesh [can] glory in his presence” (1 Cor. 1:29). As far as God is concerned it is finished, it is hateful in His sight and He ended it in the death of Christ. Surely our desire would be to be in consistency with God’s thoughts in relation to it. This will mean a lifelong struggle as far as we are concerned. Those of you who have read something of the life and service of Mr. Darby will remember that right at the end of His life, an ill man, there were those who visited him and they had a Bible reading and when at one point someone asked a question Mr. Darby replied very sharply, and then confessed that he had spoken “in the flesh”. This man of God, a servant with prodigious labours, at the end of his life confessed that he had spoken “in the flesh”. The flesh does not improve, right to the end of our days. Even if we are the most spiritual and the most godly of men this will not improve the flesh. Oh, how evil and wicked it is! Paul’s desire is that this liberty might not in any way be impaired in any practical way because of our failure, and so he says, “Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh”. There is the promise for you, for me, and for every believer.

For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary the one to the other, so that ye [should not] do the things that ye would.” (v. 17)

Oh, what an awful conflict this is! It never lets up, it never stops, there is never any armistice or truce here, it is a fight all the time. The flesh always intrudes and even in the moments where you feel nearest to the Lord how easy it is for something to intrude, some feature of the flesh, of self-will, some thought that comes into your mind, something that expresses itself, oh, what a hateful and an evil thing it is! The flesh is opposed to the Spirit. There is never any let up. This is a continuous thing in our lives and we want to get help from the word of God to see how we can oppose the flesh.

But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law.” (v. 18)

No unconverted person can ever be led by the Spirit. There may be the convicting work of the Spirit in bringing home to their conscience that they require salvation, that is a different matter, but to be positively led and guided by the Holy Spirit is something that belongs to every believer. You remember the Lord Jesus, the humble dependent Man, was led by the Spirit into the wilderness (Luke 4:1-13). Oh, what a moment that was for Him, and then, under the power of Satan in the temptings that were expressed towards Him He showed that He was “the holy one”, He showed that He was perfect in every detail. It was not a trial to reveal that there might be the possibility of Him failing, oh no, the trial was to express in a most wonderful way that the man who was there in the wilderness with Satan was a different kind of man altogether from the man who was in the garden of Eden. He was the holy One, and intrinsically so. None of the temptings of Satan could find an inlet into His life. Here Paul says that those who are led by the Spirit are not under the law. What an onerous, burdensome thing the law is. The law reveals how sinful we are. Whenever the law says, ‘Thou shalt not covet’ it immediately brings to our minds how covetous we are (Rom. 7:7-14), and so we are thankful that those who are led by the Spirit are led in power and liberty and led into the pathway that is pleasing to God and to Christ.

Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seduction, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.” (vv. 19-21)

Now we are not going to talk about all the different features of the flesh, they are awful. We know some of them. Thank God we have been delivered from the others. Thank God, we have not known the depths of them in our lives, those features of the flesh which are so grossly evil and so depraved, but if we go down the list we must confess that we know something of them.

But the fruit of the Spirit is…” (vv. 22-23)

I want to suggest to you that the fruit of the Spirit here is what is normal to those who are in the gain of the liberty that Christ has secured for them. These are the features that the Holy Spirit will delight to produce in us as we are gathered to the name of the Lord Jesus, as our wills are submissive to the Lord, and as our desire is to be led by the Spirit. I feel convinced, dear brethren, that if this were so there would be an expression towards each other of these nine features. And what a tremendous blessing that would be indeed! Now then, how is this going to be secured? Paul tells us, “by the Spirit”. But how does it work practically?

Before I can tell you the doctrine of the matter and say something about the practical way in which it works, I must experience this for myself and have proved that it works. If we take for a moment evil thoughts. That is a very, very prevalent thing. Oh, how often Satan puts into our minds the most evil suggestions. How are we going to overcome them? It is at this point, feeling our own weakness and our own inability to combat these things, that we cry to the Lord, we express our inability and we ask Him to help us by His Spirit to overcome these evil suggestions and to implant into our minds pure thoughts, thoughts that please Him. I say, thank God, it works. First of all, we have to express our utter weakness that in ourselves we cannot do these things no matter how hard we try. The flesh is so powerful, but the moment we do express our weakness and cry to the Lord to help us He does help through His Spirit. Oh, dear brethren, if we could only feel this at all times when we feel the workings of sin, the burdens of the flesh in our hearts and in our minds! Now I am going to comment on each different feature of the fruit and to speak a little on how this operates in the Christian company.

“… love…” (v. 22a)

In 1 Peter 1:22 Peter preaches the same kind of message that Paul has here for the saints to love each other, but he does not stop there, he says “love fervently”. That seems to me to be an excellent word, to love one another fervently. It is not the technical way of loving by fulfilling some obligations that we feel have to be fulfilled, a handshake and that kind of thing, it is to be a fervent love that overcomes any restraint or suspicion or distance, a fervent love that is ready to express itself in any given situation, a fervent love towards each other that is warm and encouraging and real and sincere and true. You remember when Judas came to the Lord Jesus it says he “covered him with kisses” (Matt. 26:49), the same kind of kisses that the father gave to the prodigal son when he returned from the far country in Luke 15. What a hypocrite Judas was! There was no love or warmth behind those kisses, it was all outward, external, show. We do not want that kind of love amongst us, dear brethren, but rather love that the Spirit produces. In Peter’s epistle it is the love that springs from the new nature, and because we are born again, this fervent love can be expressed. This is where the difficulty comes in. We may think, ‘I cannot love that brother or sister—they are awkward. I am frustrated by my attempts to love them, they keep me at arms length. I have tried so hard but I am always rebuffed’, and it is so easy to give up. Well, the fruit of the Spirit is love, the activity of the flesh is to be overcome. Oh, how wonderful that in the Spirit we have the power to love in the way that Paul desires that we should love, in the way that Peter desires that we should love, in the way that John desires that we should love, all these dear servants of the Lord united in pressing the matter as the Lord Himself commanded—“love one another” (John 15:12, 17).

Would there have been so many divisions amongst the saints of God if love had been shown? Would not many of the problems that have existed amongst the saints have been overcome if love had been in operation? Not love at the expense of truth, but love bolstered up by truth. John says, “I rejoiced greatly that I found of thy children walking in truth, as we have received a commandment from the Father. And now I beseech thee, lady, not as though I wrote a new commandment unto thee, but that which we had from the beginning, that we love one another” (2 John 4-5). Oh, how he spoke of love. It must be a pure love without any ulterior motive, love in the power of the Holy Spirit, without any thought of gain attaching to the one who loves but rather desiring the blessing of the one who is loved. “The fruit of the spirit is love”. Oh, how prominent it is in all the writings of the New Testament! It is not a sentimental, floppy kind of thing, it is a very solid kind of love, the love that is expressed in 1 Corinthians 13 is a love that can stand any test, it “never fails” (v. 8), a very reliable kind of love. Love can be produced in you and in me in the power of the Holy Spirit. Thank God for that. It is not something that belongs to those who are extremely spiritual or extremely knowledgeable, it is a love that can be produced in every believer because every believer has the indwelling Spirit. Potentially they can love. Oh how wonderful that is! No one can opt out of this, no one can say they will take the soft option, no one can do that, when they have the power of the Holy Spirit to help them to do that which is right in the sight of God, in the sight of Christ.

“… joy…” (v. 22b)

In this connection I am going to refer you to 1 Corinthians 12, and it is in connection with the body. Paul says, ‘If one member suffers every member suffers, but if one member rejoices all the members rejoice’ (v. 26). That is a very testing thing indeed. I do not think there is another company of believers that talks so much about the body of Christ as ‘brethren’. It is always in their mouths, “we gather on the ground of the one body” we say, we are always referring to the truth of the one body, indeed this was the great truth that those known as ‘brethren’ set out to demonstrate at the very beginning in the 1830’s, not to create the truth of the one body, but in some measure to work it out in practice. Oh, how sadly it has failed! But nevertheless the truth is still there. That is a very challenging matter in chapter 12. It might be comparatively easy to suffer with each other, our compassions, our feelings, and our hearts go out to those who suffer in whatever way the suffering is known, but it is a different matter to rejoice with each other. When someone is advancing, when someone is being blessed, when it is very obvious that the Lord has laid His hand on someone and He is progressing spiritually, oh how easy it is for the seeds of envy to be in the heart and in the mind. ‘But,’ says Paul, ‘we are to rejoice with each other.’ Can I do that? Yes, we can all do it in the Spirit’s power. It is the fruit of the Spirit. The Spirit is always true to Himself in producing the features that are pleasurable to God and to Christ; sometimes we are not. This rejoicing with each other is a very great matter indeed.

You remember the story of Mordecai and Haman in the book of Esther. Oh, it was a sad, sad thing in Haman’s life whenever he passed Mordecai. In all his exhortation, in all his prominence, in all his greatness, there was this niggling thing that frustrated him, this man would never bow (3:5). Now Mordecai could not bow to Haman for the simple reason that he knew the evil that was behind that man. The time came when the position was reversed and instead of Haman being exalted Mordecai was exalted and my, there was rejoicing in Israel then (8:15-17). There were no envious hearts of those in Israel because Mordecai had got this place of supremacy. So it was with Joseph when he was exalted, there was no envy in the hearts of his brethren when they saw him in the place of exaltation. This is one of the body features that we can express in the power of the Spirit, to rejoice with each other when we see each other’s prosperity, this joy produced by the Spirit that someone is being blessed, someone is moving forward in the pathway that is pleasing to our Lord Jesus Christ. What a wonderful thing it is. It is so easy when we see a Christian connected with another company and being blessed by the Lord to cast some doubts upon the blessing, to be a bit sceptical as to the truth of the reports that we hear. That is not the feature of the body. We were mentioning this morning about one of the early incidents amongst the dear brethren when in a prayer meeting the floor of the room was wet with tears because a Christian in another part of the town, not connected with brethren, had failed in his testimony. They did not say, ‘Well, what can you expect of those people’, they did not talk like that, they were concerned about the glory of the Lord. Here was a Christian who had failed in his testimony and so they wept. Here was true body feelings. It was not exactly suffering on the man’s part, it was he that had failed, but they felt it so much as it stood related to the Lord that they were crying about it. They were not disparaging the person, they were concerned about what had happened. Oh, how easy it is for us to say, ‘Oh it is only those people, what can you expect of them?’ I am sure you have heard that, but this is not the feeling that is proper to the body of Christ. So joy is something that can be produced in the power of the Holy Spirit.

“… peace…” (v. 22c)

I love the portion at the end of Romans 14. It is one of the finest chapters to read to help us to get on with one another, and to express true brotherly relationships. It is a wonderful chapter. Paul says, ‘Now do not destroy each other over trivial matters, do not get at each other’s throats because of these things, the kingdom of God does not exist in those things, it exists in righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit’, and he goes on to say, ‘pursue the things that make for peace and things whereby you shall edify each other’. There are excellent exhortations for us all. We are not to have the political compromise, that is not the principle in the Bible at all, true peace in the Bible is always based upon righteousness. The Lord Jesus Christ died to establish righteousness and the effect of that is peace. Praise God that in the affairs of believers this is exactly the same, ‘Pursue the things that make for peace and when there is peace, thank God, there is building up’. There is no building up, no progress when there is discord amongst the saints of God, only sleepless nights and endless talking, but no progress. But when there is peace and tranquillity, the sense that things are ordered according to the mind of the Lord, then there is edification, building up, there is strengthening instead of scattering or demolishing. Peace established in righteousness leads to building up for God.

Oh, dear brethren, you can pursue the things that make for peace, so could I. The fruit of the Spirit is peace. If we feel a tendency in us to create trouble, and that is possible in each of us, it is the easiest thing in the world, then let us cry to the Lord to overcome that tendency and to produce instead the things that make for peace amongst the saints of God. One of the best ways to do this is to act in forgiveness when it is a question of personal affront, things that affect one personally. It is a good thing to practice forgiveness. If it is something about me personally let it go, it does not matter; but if it is a matter about the Lord Jesus, His honour, His glory, some vital matter of truth then fight for it tooth and nail, but if it is about yourself, let it go. Moses was the “meekest man in all the earth” (Num. 12:3), that is, in relation to himself, but when it came to the things of God, my, he was as bold as a lion! He could speak and act in a way that was very, very severe indeed when it was in relation to God, but not in relation to himself. So this matter of peace is a very wonderful thing to pursue amongst the people of God.

“… long-suffering…” (v. 22d)

I understand that the word translated ‘long-suffering’ here has to do with each other, with persons. Those of you who have Mr. Darby’s translation will find in it a footnote in the epistle to James showing how he describes the two words ‘long-suffering’ and ‘patience’ (or ‘endurance’). This word long-suffering that we have here has to do with persons, that is, we are long-suffering towards each other. Well, that is a very, very good trait to have indeed. It is so easy to give the cold shoulder, so easy to turn aside and say, ‘What is the use’. But we are to be long-suffering and remember this is a feature of God himself, “the long-suffering of our Lord is salvation” (2 Pet. 3:15). We continue in the spirit of love and peace and grace and kindness towards each other. Well, we may be sorely tried in our spirits (not forgetting we may try others too), but this long-suffering is to be active all the time towards each other, we are not to make hasty decisions, not to rush into conflict, but we are to be long-suffering towards each other, praying and helping and considering each other; and it does produce results, thank God. We have seen that in the past, too hasty a confrontation brings sorrow, but patience and praying and waiting often secures the desired result and the Spirit’s fruit is in us when we are long-suffering. It is something that can be maintained and promoted in us by the Spirit of God. As we said at the outset, no one can say, ‘This is impossible as far as I am concerned!’ If you say that it is tantamount to saying that the Holy Spirit is not powerful enough to produce this in you. So we humbly wait and act in long-suffering towards each other.

What an object lesson Moses is for us in this respect. For forty years he led the complaining, groaning and opposing nation of Israel. What a trial that man had in his life, but the Lord helped him, the Spirit helped him to lead the nation right up to the borders of the promised land and how successful he was in his service towards them. But then he was just acting like God, God bore with their manners forty years, He was long-suffering towards them, He bore with them that He might help them, and He did help them and bless them. So long-suffering is a possibility for you and for me in the Christian circle.

“… gentleness [or, ‘kindness’, J.N.D. ]…” (v. 22e)

Now in this connection I want to refer you to Colossians 3:12-13. Kindness is nicely situated here with three beautiful features before it and three beautiful features after it. I suggest that here is a cluster of features that are so wonderful in the Christian realm. The saints are described as holy, beloved and full of compassion and then they are described as having lowliness and meekness and long-suffering. So there are three features before, kindness in the centre, and the three features afterwards, and it seems to me that that is a very good sandwich. What a wonderful feature kindness is. You remember the kindness that David showed to the household of Saul when he blessed Mephibosheth, and if anybody was entitled to show the opposite it was David. He always remembered how he was hunted because his psalms express it, if you read some of the headings of the psalms when David was chased “as a partridge in the mountains” (1 Sam. 26:20), and in many of those psalms he expresses how he felt. But his heart was moved towards the house of Saul to show kindness to them. He had been injured and yet he desired to show kindness. Oh, how easy it is for us to act in a spirit of injured feelings. We say ‘They have said something wrong about me, they have done something wrong to me’, and so I cannot express kindness’, but this is another way of saying ‘I want to do the very opposite of what the Lord says’. The Lord said, ‘Show kindness to your enemies. If you show kindness to them that show you kindness you are just a Pharisee’ (Matt. 5:47). Oh, thank God in the Spirit’s power we can show kindness to each other. Thank God for that; kindness is a wonderful Christian virtue. It is connected with all these different features, compassion, care and concern. If we want to indicate that we are concerned about someone, that we feel for them, then our kindness goes out towards them. And, thank God, it can be done in the power of the Holy Spirit.

“… faith…” (v. 22f)

How can we operate in faith towards each other? I want to suggest to you that this is a very, very important thing in any company of believers. In 1 Corinthians 12 there are many gifts mentioned which are given by the Holy Spirit, and the gift of faith is one of them. Now it might be that the brethren gather together and they are concerned about some spiritual matter in relation to the assembly, and there are problems. What can be done? How can they approach this matter? It is a distinct possibility for the Spirit to give someone a particular gift of faith to indicate how to move forward governed by the truth to deal with this particular matter. I remember many years ago an assembly in Scotland required a new hall, and it was going to cost a great deal of money. Various ideas were brought forward as to how this money could be acquired, but were all discarded as unworkable and so they all came to a stop. What was to be done? One brother said, ‘Brethren, when we gather together on Lord’s day morning let us have a collection and see how we get on’, and they all agreed and the next morning they got everything they needed. Now that brother was governed by faith. He indicated the way ahead. Oh what a wonderful thing it is when someone acts in faith! Thank God for men of vision in the past who could indicate the way ahead. God has given to them the gift of faith. They can direct the local company as to what should be done, and that is a very, very wonderful thing indeed, and specifically in 1 Corinthians 12 it says, “to another, [the gift of] faith by the same Spirit” (v. 9). Here is the Spirit of God empowering someone in faith to act in relation to the local company.

“… meekness…” (v. 23a)

I have two references in connection with meekness and they are both linked with restoration. Oh, what an important matter this is. A few weeks ago, some brethren were gathered together in Newcastle and they were very, very much concerned about the great matter of shepherding amongst the saints of God. I trust those who were there will hold this in their minds and affections that it might not be lost, that it might not only have been a nice meeting where good things were said, but that it might also be something that will be carried out in exercise in all the different companies concerned. What a concern! Oh, how many dear saints have been lost to the meetings, they have slipped away and no one has been concerned about restoration. Even in matters where gross evil has come in, they have been allowed to go as if there was no forgiveness for gross evil, as if they were beyond redemption, and it was better to get rid of them. No, that is not the spirit that we find in the New Testament.

In Galatians 6:1 we find that those that are spiritual are to restore those who are overcome. Do not think for a moment that that being overcome by a fault is something trivial, it does not mean that at all; it is a very serious thing indeed. A person has been overcome by a sudden temptation, and those who are spiritual are to go, but how are they to go? They are to go in the spirit of meekness lest they themselves are tempted. Oh, dear brethren, what a delightful spirit to go to someone who needs help, the spirit of meekness, not to abrade, nor in any way to condone a compromise, but in a spirit of meekness to help and encourage. Oh, dear brethren, what a need there is for this kind of action amongst the people of God, this real concern that there might be restoration. Ezekiel 34 was referred to in the meeting in Newcastle and just read it for yourself what the evil shepherds did not do. So twist it round, and the good shepherds should do the things that the evil shepherds did not do, searching, binding up, feeding, helping, caring, all the different things that were necessary. This is real restoration. What a wonderful thing.

The same thing is mentioned in 2 Timothy 2 where there is to be the spirit of meekness in helping those that have gone aside in relation to the truth. Oh, dear brethren, I say again, what a wonderful feature this is to be operating amongst the saints of God, the spirit of meekness and trying to help each other, and who has not gone astray in mind or in practice? Who has not needed help at one time or another? We all have, and I trust that in the days ahead, having been restored, we might be a help to those who require restoration.

“… temperance…” (v. 23b)

Some of us might be a little hasty in spirit. Thank God we have a greater Spirit than our spirit, the Holy Spirit, and He can help us to check that quick retort that might come to the lips when anger and feelings rise. I find this linked with knowledge. It is one thing to have knowledge it is another thing to apply it. Mr Darby once said that spiritual things in the hands of an unspiritual man is like a ‘sword in the hands of a child or of a drunken man’3. Well, you know the damage that could be done by a drunken man if he had a sword; he would be absolutely irresponsible, and what awful damage he could cause. So a great deal of knowledge of the Bible and of truths used in an uncontrolled way as far as one’s spirit is concerned can cause much damage amongst the saints. One such way is to impress upon the saints of one’s mind without any gracious consideration, but self-control will prevent this; it is a wonderful feature. There is to be no anger or a pressing in a self-asserting spirit in the application of this knowledge, but we are to use it in patience, in meekness, and under the control of the Spirit of God. What a wonderful thing that is. We hear a lot today, you will excuse the expression, of ‘blowing one’s top’, that is out as far as the Christian company is concerned. What a shameful thing when brethren express themselves in this way, when they gather together to talk about the things of God, things that we have been speaking about today, the liberty that we have in Christ Jesus and many, many other features of truth. Yet we sometimes think we can express ourselves in anger, in self-assertiveness in talking about divine things! It is surely a nauseous thing in the sight of heaven. Instead, how precious in His sight is the spirit of meekness, the control of the Holy Spirit, and self-control in dealing with these things.

“… against such there is no law. And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. Let us not be desirous of vainglory, provoking one another, envying one another.” (vv. 23c-26)

At the end of the portion Paul says, ‘They who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh’, that is, it has been done away with once and for all, they recognise that in the death of Christ the flesh was ended once and for all, a death that never needed to happen again, never needed to be repeated. The work of Christ was done once never to be repeated and those who belong to Christ recognise that and having recognised it they walk in the Spirit. Oh, dear brethren, whatever else we may forget, please remember this, that every true believer in Christ is indwelt by the Holy Spirit, and we can walk in the Spirit, the power is there, but have we the heart to forget ourselves or, shall we say, condemn ourselves, and walk in the spirit of self-judgment and let these nine-fold features of the fruit of the Spirit be expressed in us individually and collectively? May it be so for His name’s sake

1C. H. Mackintosh “Prayer and the prayer meeting”.

2Walter Scott, Bible Handbook (Old Testament), “Idols and Idol Worship”, p. 319-325.

3“A glance at various ecclesiastical principles and examination of the foundations on which the institutions of the church on earth are sought to be based. In reply to various writings.” J. N. Darby, Collected Writings Vol. 4, Ecclesiastical No. 2, p. 76.