Baptism of the Holy Ghost

By Rev. Asa Mahan

Part 1

Chapter 2


"For He whom God hath sent speaketh the words of God: for God giveth not the Spirit by measure unto him."—John iii. 34.

In Christ there were two forms of manifestation equally conspicuous— viz.: Deity "in the brightness of His glory," and "the express image of His person;" and humanity in absolute beauty and perfection. In the former relation He is "the Lord our righteousness." In the latter, He is our divine-human Exemplar, teaching us not only what we should do and become, but how to do and become all that is required of us.

Here arises a new question, which, to our knowledge, has not been put before. The question is this: Did the development or manifestation of the spiritual life in Christ depend upon the baptism, the indwelling, and the influence of the Holy Spirit, the same in all essential particulars as in us? Did He seek and secure this Divine anointing as the necessary conditions and means of "finishing the work which the Father had given Him to do"—just as we are necessitated to seek and secure the same "enduement of power from on high," as the means and condition of our finishing the work which Christ has given us to do?

A reference to prophecy furnishes a definite answer to all such questions: "And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots, and the Spirit of the Lord shall be upon Him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord; and shall make Him of quick understanding in the fear of the Lord." Isa. xi. 1-3. Here we are positively taught that the Divine manifestations which shone through Christ were the result of the power of the Spirit which rested upon Him.

The same truth is taught in Isa. xlii. 1: "Behold My servant, whom I uphold! Mine elect, in whom My soul delighteth; I have put My Spirit upon Him; He shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles." In Isa. lxi. 1, Christ thus speaks of Himself in the first person: "The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me; because He hath anointed Me to preach good tidings unto the meek, He hath sent Me to bind up the heart-broken, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound." The fact that Christ was thus baptized of the Spirit implies that He needed that baptism, and that without it, in the relations in which He then was, He could not have "finished the work which the Father had given Him to do." In seeking, and obtaining, and acting under that baptism, Christ is our Exemplar in respect to the spiritual and divine life which is required of us.

We find the same truth set forth with equal clearness in the New Testament. In John iii. 34, we are told, for example, that the reason why Christ spake as He did, and what He did, was owing to the measureless effusion and power of the Spirit which was vouchsafed to Him: "For He whom God hath sent speaketh the words of God; for God giveth not the Spirit by measure unto Him." God does not bestow gifts or influences where and when they are not needed. Christ received this measureless effusion of the Spirit at the beginning and during the progress of His mission, because it was a necessity to Him—just as similar baptisms are a necessity to us in our life mission.

We have here, no doubt, one reason for the fact, that our Saviour spent so much time alone with God and in prayer to Him. Christ teaches us that God gives the Holy Spirit to those who ask, and seek, and knock at the door of mercy for this anointing. In this respect, also, God has made Christ our Exemplar, giving the Spirit to Him when he consciously needed His special Divine influence and sought for it, just as He gives us the Spirit as we consciously need and seek Him at His hands.

Not to be misled here, we must carefully distinguish between the state of Christ when, as the eternal Word, He dwelt with the Father, and when, as the same Word, He "was made flesh and dwelt among us." In the former state, He had infinite all-sufficiency in Himself; in the latter, He "was in all respects made like unto His brethren," and had the same need of the baptism of the Spirit that we have, and obtained "power from high" on the conditions on which the same blessing is promised to us.

We now turn to the recorded facts of the public life of our Saviour which bear upon our present inquiries. At the time of His baptism by John, the Spirit descended upon Him in answer to special prayer on His part: "Jesus also being baptized, and praying, the heaven was opened, and the Holy Ghost descended in a bodily shape like a dove upon Him." This was His first special baptism.

At the close of the temptation in the wilderness, after Satan had fled discomfited from His presence, and angels had descended and ministered unto Him, the final and great baptism appears to have been given, and "Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit into Galilee." Then under this special Divine influence is thus presented by the sacred historian: "And there went out a fame of Him through all the region round about. And He taught in their synagogues, being glorified of all." But the effect of this baptism is still more manifest in the account which follows of His visit to Nazareth. We give the account in full:

"And He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up; and, as His custom was, He went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stood up for to read. And there was delivered unto Him the book of the prophet Esaias. And when He had opened the book, He found the place where it was written, The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He hath anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor: He hath sent Me to heal the broken-hearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised; to preach the acceptable year of the Lord. And He closed the book, and gave it again to the minister, and sat down. And the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were fastened on Him. And He began to say unto them, This day is this Scripture fulfilled in your ears. And all bare Him witness, and wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of His mouth."

Our Saviour was here among the people, who had known Him from childhood up. Hitherto He took no part in their worship but what was ordinary. Nor does it seem that His prior reading or discourses had been marked by peculiarities which excited very special observation, much less the envy of any. But now there was a mysterious something even about His reading, which fixed the eyes of all present upon Him. But their surprise and wonder reached their consummation when they listened to "the gracious words which proceeded out of His mouth."

In His intellectual, moral, and spiritual manifestations He stood before them as completely transformed as He was physically to the eyes of the disciples on the Mount of Transfiguration. Now this wonderful transformation Christ attributes, in fact and form, to the baptism of the Spirit which He had just before received. One of the main objects of reading that passage unquestionably was to explain to that people the cause of that transformation—a transformation so great as to excite their envy. We are in no danger of being misunderstood here. The life and character of our Saviour, prior to that event, were as absolutely pure as now. He was no less then than now, "God manifest in the flesh." Yet He had, through that baptism of love, knowledge, and power, ascended from some forms of perfect human and perfect Divine manifestations, to others far higher and more impressive.

The great truth which we would impress upon all minds through this revealed fact is this: If Christ the pure and spotless One, Christ the Eternal Word, was thus transformed through "the baptism of the Holy Ghost," what must be the transformation in believers when they for their life work shall be "endued with power from on high." This is the transformation which Christ is ready to effect in all His people. "He shall baptize you," says John Baptist, "with the Holy Ghost." On another occasion, when John saw Jesus coming unto him he gave utterance to these memorable words: "Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world! This is He of whom I said, After me cometh a man which is preferred before me: for He was before me. And I knew Him not: but that He should be made manifest to Israel, therefore am I come baptizing with water. And John bare record, saying, I saw the Spirit descending from Heaven like a dove, and it abode upon Him, and I knew Him not: but He that sent me to baptize with water, the same said unto Me: Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and remaining on Him, the same is He which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost. And I saw, and bare record that this is the Son of God."

We, then, are to look to Christ for the gift of the Spirit, just as He looked to the Father for the same baptism of power. As Christ spent forty days and forty nights in fasting and prayer preparatory to the reception of a full and final baptism, we should not think it strange if a considerable time should pass before such preparation in us is consummated.

Let this truth, however, be continually in our minds. The power of the Spirit was a necessity even to Christ for the full accomplishment of His life mission. How much more so to us if we would accomplish our life work. Christ would not enter upon His mission until He could "go forth in the power of the Spirit." Would it not be presumption in us to enter upon ours without tarrying before God "until we be endued with power from on high?"

We have now arrived at the main object of the present chapter—viz., what Christ Himself said and taught in regard to the Holy Spirit and His mission. On this part of our subject we would present the following facts and considerations:—

1. He taught expressly that all believers may seek and obtain this unspeakable gift, and upon the same conditions on which He obtained it. In Luke xi. 4-13, we have specific instructions on this subject. Read the whole passage: "And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. For everyone that asketh, receiveth; and he that seeketh, findeth; and to him that knocketh, it shall be opened. If a son ask bread of any of you that is a father, will he give him a stone? or if he ask a fish, will he for a fish give him a serpent or if he shall ask an egg will he offer him a scorpion? If ye, then, being evil know how to give good gifts unto your children how much more your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask Him!"

All, then, are without excuse who go forth to the mission of life without doing so under "the power of the Spirit as Christ went out from the wilderness. The heart of God, only in greater strength, is towards us, in respect to this gift, as the parental heart is toward the child in respect to needed food: "How much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask Him!"

2. The Holy Spirit, when given and not subsequently grieved or quenched, remains with us, not as a mere divine influence, but as an abiding personal presence. Everywhere our Saviour speaks of the Spirit, not as an influence, but as a Person. As a Person He is sent—comes, speaks, teaches, shows things to the mind, and abides with believers, as Christ "dwelt among us." He requires the ordinance of baptism to be administered in "the name of the Father and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost." No such language is applicable to mere influence in any form.

The Spirit, also, when He comes to us, comes to abide with us as a permanent personal presence. Christ "came forth from the Father," came into the world, and "dwelt among us" for a little season. Then He "left the world, and returned to the Father." The Spirit comes to the believer to "abide with him forever." As a consequence, "all our work should be wrought in God," and all our activities should be under His immediate control. "I will pray the Father for you, and He shall give you another Comforter, that He may abide with you forever." "Ye know Him, for He dwelleth with you, and shall be in you."

3. Another truth of great moment taught by our Saviour on this subject, is this:—The benefits which we may all receive through the Spirit dwelling in us are far greater than His disciples did derive, or could have derived, from Christ's personal presence, teachings, and influence, when He was upon earth, and Himself under "the power of the Spirit." This we could hardly believe but upon the express testimony of our Saviour Himself. Until after "Christ was glorified," the Holy Ghost could not be given, even to believers. Hence the highest good of His disciples demanded that He should return to the Father, that the abiding presence of the Spirit might be vouchsafed to them: "Nevertheless, I tell you the truth; it is expedient for you that I go away; for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send Him unto you." Christ did not undervalue the light and privileges enjoyed by His disciples under His ministrations. On this subject He thus speaks: "And He turned Him unto His disciples, and said privately, Blessed are the eyes which see the things that ye see; for I tell you that many prophets and kings have desired to see those things which ye see, and have not seen them; to hear those things which ye hear, and have not heard them." But what they thus saw and heard was only preparatory for the higher light and glory and blessedness which they were to receive and enjoy after Christ was glorified and the Holy Ghost was given unto them. Of the present privileges of all believers in common, our Saviour thus speaks: "He that believeth on Me, as the Scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water." "But this," the apostle adds, "He spake of the Spirit, which they that believe on Him should receive; for the Holy Ghost was not yet given, because that Jesus was not yet glorified."

None, we are taught here, could have had this blessedness consummated in their experience before "Jesus was glorified." No prophet, or king, or disciple ever did enjoy, or could have enjoyed, prior to the time when the Holy Ghost was given, the light, privileges, and blessedness which all believers may now enjoy under the dispensation of the Spirit.

Such are the express teachings of our Saviour upon this subject. According to the equally express teachings of prophecy also, "He that is feeble among you at that day shall be as David, while the house of David shall be as God, as the angel of the Lord before Him." Those things, also, after which "the prophets inquired and searched diligently," were not the sayings or works of our Saviour prior to His crucifixion, but "the sufferings of Christ and the glory that should follow"—follow after "the Holy Ghost was given." The most important utterances of our Saviour were like enigmas, even to the disciples, until after "the Spirit took of the things of Christ and showed them unto them."

4. The special mission of the Spirit, as revealed by our Saviour Himself, next claims our attention. His mission is set forth in such words as the following: "He shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance whatsoever I have said unto you;" "He shall glorify Me; for He shall receive of Mine and shall show it unto you;" "He will guide you into all truth;" "He shall testify of Me;" "I by the Spirit will show you plainly of the Father;" "He will reprove the world of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment;" "He shall not speak of Himself, but whatsoever He shall hear, that shall He speak; and He will show you things to come;" "And they shall all be taught of God."

The mission of the Spirit, then, is to put the mind in full possession of that "eternal life," which consists in "knowing the only living and true God, and Jesus Christ whom He hath sent." It is one thing to study the Word of God with human helps; it is quite another thing to have in addition to these the Spirit of God, first to strengthen His truth in "the inner man," and then to open it to our vision, especially "the image of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ." The Church, under the power of the Spirit's indwelling and teaching, is "the light of the world." While the Church is laboring for the salvation of the race, the Spirit is in the world to convince men of sin and lead them to Christ. After they have repented and believed in Him, He sends the Comforter to enlighten, teach, help, guide, and dwell with them forever.

Prior to conversion the Spirit comes to men without being sought, and convinces them of sin, even against their will. After repentance and faith in Christ, believers receive "power from on high," "the power of the Spirit," by asking, seeking, knocking, and waiting for His coming upon them as the disciples did at the Pentecost, and as Christ did in the wilderness and in mountain solitudes.

The Spirit in Christ, in the prophets and in the apostles, gives us the whole circle and volume of revealed truth. The Spirit in the world acts as a convicting and persuading power to lead men to Christ. The Spirit in the Church abides in the hearts of all believers who seek and obtain Him, as a transforming, all-illuminating, and personal presence, through which we apprehend the things of Christ, and all truth requisite "to life and godliness," through which, as stated by the apostle, "we behold with open face the glory of God," are "changed into the same image from glory to glory," and "are filled with all the fulness of God." Such is the mission of the Spirit, as set forth by our Saviour Himself.

5. What has Christ authorized us to expect, through the abiding presence and power of the Spirit? This is the question which should next engage our attention. We have already spoken of the forms of Divine illumination promised by our Saviour, and which are to be received through the Spirit.

Let us now contemplate other forms of blessedness, which are pledged to us, and which are to descend to us under His ministration: "And in that day ye shall ask Me nothing. Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in My name, He will give it you. Hitherto ye have asked nothing in My name: ask and receive, that your joy may be full." "At that day ye shall know that I am in My Father, and ye in Me, and I in you. He that hath My commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth Me; and he that loveth Me shall be loved of My Father, and I will love him, and will manifest Myself to him. Judas, not Iscariot, saith to Him, Lord, how is it that Thou wilt manifest Thyself to us, and not to the world? Jesus answered and said to him, If a man love Me, he will keep My words: and My Father will love him, and We will come to him, and make Our abode with him."

All this is Spoken with direct reference to the results which were to attend the mission of the Spirit. After speaking of the illumination which believers are to receive under the teachings of the Spirit, our Saviour thus speaks of their blessedness through the Spirit's indwelling presence: "Peace I leave with you, My peace [the peace which I Myself enjoy] I give unto you." In His intercessory prayer, He thus speaks upon the same subject. "And now come I to Thee; and these things I speak in the world, that they might have My joy fulfilled in themselves." Again He adds, "And the glory which Thou hast given Me, I have given them; that they may be one, even as We are one. I in them and Thou in Me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that Thou hast sent Me, and hast loved them, as Thou hast loved Me."

The power of the gospel in the hands of Christians, when they go forth "under the power of the Spirit," our Saviour thus describes: "Verily, verily, I say unto you, he that believeth on Me, the works that I do shall He do also; and greater works than these shall he do: because I go unto My Father." The Saviour is not here speaking of His miraculous deeds, but of the power of the gospel under His immediate ministration, as compared with the glory which was to follow His Sufferings, and follow through the agency of believers when under "the power of the Spirit."

Of two individuals aiming at the same general results, one may move in a far wider sphere, and may touch a far greater number of minds, and in this sense exert a far greater influence than the other; while the influence of the latter within his narrow sphere may be in itself more efficient than that of the former. This is the great truth set before us in this memorable utterance of Christ. Each believer, the least as well as the greatest, has received from Christ a life mission and work, and has, under the power of the Spirit, an influence in itself more efficient than Christ wielded during His public ministry.

The following, then, are some of the high and glorious privileges which Christ has absolutely promised to us, provided we receive the Holy Ghost after we believe:—

1. Not only a perfect union with Him, and with the Father in Him, "the Father in Him, and He in us, and we in Him" but we are to know that this union between us and the adorable Trinity does exist.

2. Not only is the Spirit to "abide with us forever," but Christ and the Father will "come to us and make their abode with us;" "our fellowship," in the language of the Apostle John, "being with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ."

3. We are to enjoy a similar access to the throne of grace, and have the same power in prayer in our life mission and work, that Christ possessed while prosecuting His mission and work—we "asking in His name," and asking and receiving until "our joy," as His was, "is full."

4. Under the power of the Spirit we are to "bring forth much fruit" to the glory of God, and to the honor of Him that "loved us, and gave Himself for us," and thus to share in full measure the glory which the Father has given to Christ.

5. In the prosecution of our life mission and work, we, abiding and walking in the Spirit, are to be possessed of a full fruition of that peace in God, and fulness of joy, which Christ Himself possessed, while "finishing the work which the Father had given Him to do." We should not dare to write such thoughts, did not the express words of Christ to that effect lie out in distinct utterances before our minds.

We notice, in the next place, the plan of our Saviour, as far as the agency of the Church is concerned in the work, of saving lost men, and bringing the world back to God. This plan may be thus stated:—

1. To organize the entire membership into one divinely-anointed sacramental host, all of whom, in their individual and social relations, are to labor with supreme devotion for this great end.

2. To impart to each and everyone, through the Spirit, such a full and special baptism of power, as will perfectly qualify for, and adapt him to, the peculiar and special mission and work appointed him. Each individual is to be so "endued with power from on high," and so "filled with all the fulness of God," that there shall not be "a sickly or feeble one in all that host;" "the feeble among them being as David, and the house of David" (the leaders under the Great Captain of our salvation), "as the Lord, as the angel of the Lord before Him."

3. Through the abiding presence of the Spirit, and through Him of Christ and the Father in each heart, there shall exist such a visible unity of spirit, purpose, and mutual love among all the sanctified family, that the world shall believe in the divinity of our Saviour's mission.

4. To secure in all such peace, assurance, and fullness of joy, that "the Gentiles shall come to the light of the Church, and kings to the brightness of her rising."

Such is the plan, as no one will deny. What did Christ do and teach to render this plan real in the experience of the Church? In His relations as our atoning God and Saviour, He has made full provision for the complete sanctification, adequacy for every good word and work, and fullness of joy in every believer. He has purchased for each and all "the promise of the Spirit," through Whom God can do for everyone "exceeding abundantly above all that we can ask or think."

He has, by His own example, shown us how we may obtain the "sealing and earnest of the Spirit;" and how we must live and act when we go forth to our life-work under His power. He has said everything that could have been said to induce in us, first of all, supreme consecration to our life-work, and then a waiting upon God, as Christ waited before the Father, for that "enduement of power from on high" which is the immutable condition of accomplishing our divinely-appointed mission. Among His earliest instructions we are absolutely assured of God's willingness and desire to bestow upon us this anointing when we seek and pray for it as required. We are also assured that when this baptism shall come upon us, "the days of our mourning shall be ended," and we may rejoice evermore.

Then as the time of His departure approached, His last discourse and prayer with His disciples seem to have but one leading end and aim, viz., to prepare their hearts for the reception of the Comforter, and to fix their desires and expectations upon "the glory which was to follow His sufferings."

On His first meeting with them after His resurrection, His first act, after His peace salutation, was to breathe upon them, saying, "Receive ye the Holy Ghost." After being seen of them forty days and speaking to them of the things pertaining to the "kingdom of God," after admonishing them not to "depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father," and assuring them that they should "be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence," He finally led them out of the city as far as Bethany. There having delivered to them His final commission, "Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature," and His last command, "But tarry ye in Jerusalem until ye be endued with power from on high," He "lifted up His hands and blessed them," and then ascended upward and took His place at "the right hand of God," "leading captivity captive, and giving gifts unto men."

Now, reader, from beneath those sacred hands uplifted to bless us as well as them, those never-to-be-forgotten words, "Go," but "Tarry," come directly and personally to you and to me. Eternity is lost to us if we go not as bidden, and barrenness and spiritual blight will rest upon us if we tarry not as required. But the light of God shall attend us, and glory infinite shall encircle us at last if we do go forth as bidden on the one hand, and tarry as required on the other.