Baptism of the Holy Ghost

By Rev. Asa Mahan

Part 1

Chapter 4


"And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions: "And also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out my spirit."—Joel ii. 28-29.

"But this spake he 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." John vii. 39.

AT "sundry times" of the Old Testament Dispensation, we have accounts of baptisms of the Spirit analogous to those which occurred after "Christ was glorified." Yet we are told that until after this event "the Holy Ghost was not yet given." There must be something very peculiar about this last baptism. To show the nature of this peculiarity is the object of this chapter. In doing so, we will first of all give the historic facts as they occur in the Scriptures.

Of Enoch we read that for three hundred years he "walked with God." To have done this he must have enjoyed certain forms and degrees of "the communion and fellowship of the Spirit."

When Abraham (Gen. xv. 7) was made distinctly conscious that God was "his shield and exceeding great reward," he must have entered into a new form of spiritual life in God. This was to him a special baptism of the Spirit; and he had others equally memorable during the progress of his natural life.

Jacob also received a baptism of the Spirit, such as was given under the Old Testament Dispensation. During his sojourn at Bethel, he obtained a baptism which gave an entirely new direction to his inward experience and outward conduct. It was through this baptism that afterwards, "as a Prince, he had power with God and with man, and prevailed."

One of the most memorable instances of an Old Testament baptism of the Spirit is recorded of Moses in Exodus xxxiii. and xxxiv. After informing us that "The Lord spake unto Moses face to face, as a man speaketh unto his friend," we have the following remarkable statements:—"And Moses said unto the Lord, See, Thou sayest unto me, Bring up this people: and Thou hast not let me know whom Thou wilt send with me. Yet Thou hast said, I know thee by name, and thou hast also found grace in My sight. Now therefore, I pray Thee, if I have found grace in Thy sight, show me now Thy way, that I may know Thee, that I may find grace in Thy sight: and consider that this nation is Thy people. And He said, My presence shall go with thee, and I will give thee rest. And he said unto Him, If Thy presence go not with me, carry us not up hence. For wherein shall it be known here that I and Thy people have found grace in Thy sight? Is it not in that Thou goest with us? So shall we be separated, I and Thy people, from all the people that are upon the face of the earth. And the Lord said unto Moses, I will do this thing also that thou hast spoken; for thou hast found grace in My sight, and I know thee by name. And he said, I beseech Thee, show me Thy glory. And he said, I will make all My goodness pass before thee, and I will proclaim the name of the Lord before thee; and will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. And He said, Thou canst not see My face: for there shall no man see Me, and live. And the Lord said, Behold, there is a place by Me, and Thou shalt stand upon a rock: and it shall come to pass, while My glory passeth by, that I will put thee in a cleft of the rock, and will cover thee with My hand while I pass by; and I will take away Mine hand, and thou shalt see My back parts; but My face shall not be seen."

Here, then, we have the waiting and supplication of Moses, with the express promise of Jehovah to him. Let us now see the baptism itself, in which the Divine promise was fulfilled (Exodus xxxiv):—"And the Lord descended in the cloud, and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the Lord. And the Lord passed by before him, and proclaimed, The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children's children, unto the third and to the fourth generation. And Moses made haste, and bowed his head towards the earth, and worshipped."

From that moment onward Moses was a new man. He felt, spoke, and acted as it was impossible for him to have done before. Prior to this he had known God as the Creator and universal Lawgiver, and had received from Him the power of working miracles, together with the Spirit of revelation. Yet he had never, in the true and proper sense, "known God" or "understood His way;" and more especially was he ignorant of what constituted the essential glory of the Divine character. Thenceforth the glory of God was the everlasting light of his soul.

We would now direct attention to Num. xi. 24-30, where we have an account of the baptism given to the seventy elders, who were selected to aid Moses in ruling and teaching the people. The prophetic spirit here vouchsafed was not that of foretelling future events, but of speaking Divine truth under special Divine influences. Let us read the passage attentively:—"And Moses went out, and told the people the words of the Lord, and gathered the seventy men of the elders of the people, and set them round about the tabernacle. And the Lord came down in a cloud, and spake unto him, and took of the spirit that was upon him, and gave it unto the seventy elders: and it came to pass, that, when the spirit rested upon them, they prophesied, and did not cease. But there remained two of the men in the camp, the name of the one was Eldad, and the name of the other Medad: and the Spirit rested upon them; and they were of them that were written, but went not out unto the tabernacle: and they prophesied in the camp. And there ran a young man, and told Moses, and said, Eldad and Medad do prophesy in the camp. And Joshua the son of Nun, the servant of Moses, one of his young men, answered and said, My lord Moses, forbid them. And Moses said unto him, Enviest thou for my sake? Would God that all the Lord's people were prophets, and that the Lord would put His Spirit upon them! And Moses gat him into the camp, he and the elders of Israel."

We learn from this passage that none do or can prophesy, as God's servants, who have not this baptism, and that all who do receive it are so filled with Divine truth and power that they must speak forth "the wondrous works of God," and "magnify the Lord." Truth apprehended through the illumination of the Spirit is "as a fire shut up in the bones." All such must speak of their views and feelings of God, of the love of Christ, and of the glories of redemption.

The next case to which we would call attention is the baptism given to Saul, after Samuel had anointed him king (1 Sam. x. 9-13):— "And it was so, that when he had turned his back to go from Samuel, God gave him another heart: and all those signs came to pass that day. And when they came hither to the hill, behold, a company of prophets met him; and the Spirit of God came upon him, and he prophesied among them. And it came to pass, when all that knew him beforetime saw that, behold, he prophesied among the prophets, then the people said one to another, What is this that is come unto the son of Kish? Is Saul also among the prophets? And one of the same place answered and said, But who is their father? Therefore it became a proverb, Is Saul also among the prophets? And when he had made an end of prophesying, he came to the high place."

The new heart given to Saul was not, we suppose, a holy but kingly state of mind, by which he was fully qualified for his new office. The prophetic Spirit, of which he became at the time possessed, was the common result of a temporary or permanent baptism of the Spirit. One great truth is presented in this passage in regard to the Divine anointing. It always imparts special qualifications for specific spheres of usefulness. In 1 Sam. xix. 18-23, we have a striking instance in which temporary baptisms come upon wicked men:— "So David fled, and escaped, and came to Samuel to Ramah, and told him all that Saul had done to him. And he and Samuel went and dwelt in Naioth. And it was told Saul, saying, Behold, David is at Naioth in Ramah. And Saul sent messengers to take David: and when they saw the company of the prophets prophesying, and Samuel standing as appointed over them, the Spirit of God was upon the messengers of Saul, and they also prophesied. And when it was told Saul, he sent other messengers, and they prophesied likewise. And Saul sent messengers again the third time, and they prophesied also. Then went he also to Ramah, and came to a great well that is in Sechu: and he asked and said, Where are Samuel and David? And one said, Behold, they be at Naioth in Ramah. And he went thither to Naioth in Ramah: and the Spirit of God was upon him also, and he went on, and prophesied, until he came to Naioth in Ramah."

A similar spirit, we are told, came upon Balaam, under which he uttered, for the time, just such truths as God dictated.

In 2 Kings ii. 9-15 we have an account of the special baptism which Elisha received, and by which he was prepared for the prophetic office:—"And it came to pass, when they were gone over, that Elijah said unto Elisha, Ask what I shall do for thee, before I be taken away from thee. And Elisha said, I pray thee, let a double portion of thy spirit be upon me. And he said, Thou hast asked a hard thing: nevertheless, if thou see me when I am taken from thee, it shall be so unto thee; but if not, it shall not be so. And it came to pass, as they still went on, and talked, that, behold, there appeared a chariot of fire, and horses of fire, and parted them both asunder; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into Heaven. And Elisha saw it, and he cried, My father, my father, the chariot of Israel, and the horsemen thereof. And he saw him no more: and he took hold of his own clothes, and rent them in two pieces. He took up also the mantle of Elijah that fell from him, and went back, and stood by the bank of Jordan; and he took the mantle of Elijah that fell from him, and smote the waters, and said, Where is the Lord God of Elijah? And when he also had smitten the waters, they parted hither and thither: and Elisha went over. And when the sons of the prophets which were to view at Jericho saw him, they said, The spirit of Elijah doth rest on Elisha. And they came to meet him, and bowed themselves to the ground before him."

From the moment the spirit of Elijah fell upon Elisha his prophetic life commenced. Under the baptism then received, and which was perpetuated, he became the most wonderful man of his age and country.

The preceding account is of considerable importance, as indicating the state of mind in which this baptism is obtained. Elisha was fully impressed with the conviction that he was to succeed Elijah as the prophet of the Lord. Hence his firm determination not to be separated from him until through him he had received the requisite "enduement of power from on high." So when we regard ourselves as "called of God to be saints," and as such also called to fill some sphere of usefulness in "God's kingdom," then under a deep impression that "we are not sufficient of ourselves to think anything as of ourselves, but that our sufficiency is of God," we resolvedly fix our hearts, as Elisha did, upon "the promise of the Spirit, the baptism of fire is near at hand."

Let us now glance at those instances of special baptisms of the Spirit which are recorded in the New Testament, and which occurred before the time when Christ was glorified. In Luke i. 67-79, after the circumcision of John, we have the following account of the baptism received by his father Zacharias:—"And his father Zacharias was filled with the Holy Ghost, and prophesied, saying, Blessed be the Lord God of Israel; for He hath visited and redeemed His people, and hath raised up an horn of salvation for us in the house of His servant David; as He spake by the mouth of His holy prophets, which have been since the world began: that we should be saved from our enemies, and from the hand of all that hate us; to perform the mercy promised to our fathers, and to remember His holy covenant; the oath which He sware to our father Abraham, that He would grant unto us, that we being delivered out of the hand of our enemies might serve Him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before Him, all the days of our life. And thou, child, shalt be called the prophet of the Highest: for thou shalt go before the face of the Lord to prepare His ways; to give knowledge of salvation unto His people by the remission of their sins, though the tender mercy of our God, whereby the dayspring from on high hath visited us, to give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace." The following (Luke i. 39-55) is an account of the baptism and its results which came upon Elizabeth and Mary when they met in the house of the former:—"And Mary arose in those days, and went into the hill country with haste, into a city of Juda; and entered into the house of Zacharias, and saluted Elizabeth. And it came to pass, that, when Elizabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost: and she spake out with a loud voice, and said, Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb. And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For, lo, as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in mine ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy. And blessed is she that believed: for there shall be a performance of those things which were told her from the Lord. And Mary said, My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour. For He hath regarded the low estate of His handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed. For He that is mighty hath done to me great things: and holy is His name. And His mercy is on them that fear Him from generation to generation. He hath showed strength with His arm; He hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts. He hath put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree. He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich He hath sent empty away. He hath holpen His servant Israel, in remembrance of His mercy; as He spake to our fathers, to Abraham, and to his seed forever."

How similar are the results stated in the above cases to those which followed the gift of the Holy Spirit after "Christ was glorified"! "They heard them speak with tongues and magnify God." "And they spake with tongues, and prophesied." "And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Ghost." "Out of his belly shall flow rivers of living waters." Also the leading idea included in the term "prophesy," as that term is used in both Testaments, is brought out in the passages above quoted. It is not revealing future events, though this often attended this baptism, but an uttering divine truths under the immediate influence of the Holy Spirit, and, as Paul says, speaking unto men to "edification, and exhortation, and comfort." (1 Cor. xiv. 3.) Neither does this gift necessarily include any miraculous endowment, though this has sometimes accompanied it; but it is that inward divine illumination and manifestation in which "God becomes our everlasting light, and the days of our mourning are ended."

But while "the baptisms of the Spirit" under the two dispensations were thus similar, we shall find an essential difference between them if we consider what is said upon the subject in the New Testament. The following is Peter's statement:—"Of which salvation the prophets have inquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you; searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow. Unto whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto us they did minister the things, which are now reported unto you by them that have preached the gospel unto you with the Holy Ghost sent down from Heaven, which things the angels desire to look into." (1 Pet. i.10-12.)

Paul informs us that God has reserved better things for us than the ancient saints enjoyed, and that it was only by anticipating and believing in what we have received that they were rendered perfect:— "And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise: God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect." (Heb. xi. 39,40.)

John, in his gospel (vii. 39), teaches us that the Holy Ghost, as promised under the New, was not given under the Old Dispensation.

We may now glance definitely at the difference between these two forms of baptism, and show in what sense the Holy Ghost was not given until after Christ was glorified. As preparatory to this, let us read that special prophecy, of the fulfillment of which the baptism at the Pentecost was the commencement.

Acts ii. 14-18:—"But Peter, standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice, and said unto them, Ye men of Judaea, 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."

These two forms of baptism differ essentially from each other in the following particulars:—

1. In extent. Under the Old Dispensation such special anointings were granted only to a few individuals; but under the New this gift is universal as a privilege to be enjoyed by all Christ's people. What Moses desired might be universal then becomes universal now; "Would God that all the Lord's people were prophets, and that the Lord would pour His Spirit upon them." "The promise of the Spirit" now hangs over "all flesh." All God's people under the gospel are privileged, and require to become "the Lord's prophets;" and being all in common "filled with the Spirit," to "speak unto men to edification, and exhortation, and comfort." In this important form the Holy Ghost had never before been promised or given.

2. There is another distinction equally important. We refer to that of permanency. Under the Old Dispensation the prophetic baptisms were "like angels' visits, few and far between." For long periods, we are informed, the Church had no prophets and "no teaching priests." Under the New Dispensation the Spirit is to be in the Church as a perpetually abiding presence to the end of time; "I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter, that He may abide with you forever."

The essential design of God, in this dispensation, is that the prophetic office, as we have defined it, shall never cease, and that it shall be as extensive as the real membership of the church. What an important difference we have here between these two dispensations!

3. But the great peculiarity which distinguishes these two dispensations is the relative power of the Spirit's manifestations in each.

Under the Old Dispensation, the glory of God was only partially revealed. Hence the power which the Spirit could use for these ends was comparatively feeble. Under the present Dispensation, through the revelation of "the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ," all of God that can be revealed to creatures in our circumstances has been made manifest: "Life and immortality have been brought to light through the gospel." "No man hath seen God at any time." "The only begotten Son who is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him."

When, therefore, "the Spirit takes of the things of Christ and shows them unto us," so that we "behold, with open face, the glory of the Lord;" when He brings us into "fellowship with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ," and God and Christ, through the Spirit, come to us, and make their abode with us;" when He unveils to our vision "the New Jerusalem coming down from God out of Heaven;" when He enables us to comprehend the breadth, and length, and depth, and height, and to "know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge," and "fills us with all the fulness of God"—then the communion and fellowship," "the sealing and earnest," and all "the manifestations of the Spirit," are so new, so removed from, and so infinitely superior to anything known in the Church before, that it may truly and properly be said, that until after Christ was glorified, "the Holy Ghost had not yet been given." After this event we have a New Dispensation, and, as a consequence, a new mission of the Spirit.

We now clearly see why it is that many Christians magnify the privileges of Old Testament saints, and especially those of the apostles prior to the death of Christ, and speak of these as even more highly privileged than we now are. The former were witnesses of wondrous miracles, listened to the prophets, and sometimes even to angels; while the latter heard Christ Himself, and were eyewitnesses of His mighty works. No wonder that they were "holy men of God."

No Christian who "has received the Holy Ghost since he believed" ever entertained such a thought as that. The means of sanctification, consolation, and "fulness of joy" within the sphere of our faith and use, were wholly unknown to them; nor had the chiefest apostle, after Christ was glorified, any advantage in these respects beyond the least of all the saints now. The high and holy blessings of this Dispensation are not obtained and enjoyed through "mighty signs and wonders," talking with prophets, or through "angels' visits," but "by the power of the Holy Ghost;" and this all-sanctifying power God is ready to pour out upon us, in all the fullness that He did upon the apostles. "If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth."

We may now judge of the degree of spiritual power which was expected under the Old, and is expected under the New Dispensation. The lowest that may now be expected is equal to the highest then; while the highest may make us like the sons of God before the throne. "He that is feeble among them at that day shall be as David, and the house of David shall be as God, as the angel of the Lord before Him."

What, then, is the main cause of the present feebleness of our churches? It is because this great truth is not sufficiently recognized and believed, and still more, because its experience is so little sought, and much less enjoyed. What meaning do most Christians now attach to the question: "Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed?" Almost as little as if they "had never heard whether there be any Holy Ghost."

We notice, also, the difference between the experience of the primitive and the modern Church, and the cause of that difference. The leading theme of the former was the doctrine we are now considering. Hence the disciples were then "filled with joy and the Holy Ghost." Now this doctrine has gone into a deep and dark eclipse. As a consequence, many believers "walk in dark and have no light," sigh after their first love, weep in sorrowful widowhood under the bondage of sin, and know almost nothing of the hidden life in the soul, but "an aching void."

When the primitive Church was scattered abroad, all its members "went everywhere preaching the Word;" now, when our members emigrate to another land, or even change the locality of their residence in their own country, many of them leave not only their religion, but their profession behind them—some of them carrying not the love of Christ, but of gold, in their hearts. This state of things will continue until this glorious doctrine of the Spirit is everywhere understood, preached, and realized in the Church. But this condition of the Church shall not continue. In answer to the waiting, the praying; and the believing of His faithful people, God will baptize His Church with the Holy Ghost, and she will make in these last days rapid strides towards the millennium. Then shall the glory of the Lord cover the nations. "Conceive," says Mr. Barnes, "of the brightest form of experience known to the best Christian in his best hours now. Conceive of this state as increased to the full extent of the soul's capacities, and then conceive of this as the common and perpetual experience of all the Church, and then you may have some feeble conception of the coining millennium." We will only add, "Even so come, Lord Jesus, come quickly. Amen."

We add but one thought more. We refer to "the power of the Spirit," for sanctification, consolation, and fullness of joy, now, and in apostolic times. That power, instead of being less, is much greater now than it was then. All that they had, we have, together with all of "our God and His Christ" that has been made manifest through the word and providence of God since that time. The power of the Spirit, as represented in prophecy, is a perpetually accumulating power. This, great central truth of the present dispensation is specifically set forth in the 47th chapter of Ezekiel by means of the emblem of "a pure river of the water of life," issuing from the threshold of the house of God; a river flowing eastward, with perpetual accumulations, filled with life and food for man, fertilizing the whole country through which it flows, and healing even the waters of the Dead Sea. We cite a few verses from this wonderful chapter:—

"Afterward he brought me again unto the door of the house; and, behold, waters issued out from under the threshold of the house eastward: for the forefront of the house stood toward the east, and the waters came down from under, from the right side of the house, at the south side of the altar. Then brought he me out of the way of the gate northward, and led me about the way without unto the outer gate by the way that looketh eastward; and, behold, there ran out waters on the right side. And when the man that had the line in his hand went forth eastward, he measured a thousand cubits, and he brought me through the waters; the waters were to the ankles. Again he measured a thousand, and brought me through the waters; the waters were to the knees. Again he measured a thousand, and brought me through; the waters were to the loins. Afterward he measured a thousand; and it was a river that I could not pass over: for the waters were risen, waters to swim in, a river that could not be passed over." "The golden age" of the Church is not in the past, but in the future. There should be no sickly nor imbecile believers now. Everyone should be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might—should be able to do all things through Christ who strengtheneth him. May this all-empowering baptism come down upon every believer in the Lord Jesus!