By John F. Walvoord
The Work of the Holy Spirit in Salvation
(Continued from the July-September Number, 1941)
III. The Baptism of the Holy Spirit
Of the various works of the Holy Spirit related to the salvation of the believer, the work of baptism is most difficult to present. While in its nature it is far more simple than the work of efficacious grace, it has been given such divergent interpretation that its essential character is widely misunderstood. The difference of opinion which exists on this doctrine is often found among writers who are essentially agreed on the doctrine of the Holy Spirit as a whole, and at the same time, the attitude of any writer on the doctrine of the baptism of the Holy Spirit may well be considered a definite basis of classifying his whole position.
The confusion prevailing in the treatment of this doctrine has its rise in many factors. The principal cause of disagreement is found in the common failure to apprehend the distinctive nature of the Church. Many theologians regard the Church as a universal group of saints of all ages, some extending even these boundaries to include in the conception all who outwardly belong to it, even if not saved. If this concept of the nature of the Church is held, the baptism of the Holy Spirit has no relation to it. As this ministry is not found in the Old Testament and is not included in any prophecies regarding the millennium, it is peculiarly the work of the Holy Spirit for the present age, beginning with Pentecost and ending at the resurrection of the righteous when the living Church is raptured. If, however, the Church be defined as the saints of this age only, the work of the Holy Spirit in baptizing all true believers into the body of Christ takes on a new meaning. It becomes the distinguishing mark of the saints of the present age, the secret of the peculiar intimacy and relationship of Christians to the Lord Jesus Christ. It is, therefore, essential to a proper doctrine of the baptism of the Holy Spirit that it be recognized as the distinguishing characteristic of the Church, the body of Christ.
Other sources of confusion in this doctrine are manifold. Baptism is improperly linked with other ministries of the Spirit such as the indwelling of the Spirit or regeneration. These works are simultaneous in point of time with the work of baptism, but are to be distinguished sharply in their nature. Baptism is often identified with the filling of the Holy Spirit. Particularly older writers such as Pastor D. H. Dolman1 use the expression baptism as a synonym for filling. While their teaching may be most helpful as in the case of Pastor Dolman, the terminology is confusing and in the case of some writers results in the end in unscriptural teaching.
A serious departure from the truth is found in the attempt by some of the holiness movements to link the baptism of the Spirit with certain temporary spiritual gifts and their exercise. The special acts of revelation which occurred in the early Church, and the phenomenon of speaking in tongues are not to be confused with the baptism of the Holy Spirit. While these special ministrations of the Spirit occurred only to the saved, they are not to be expected as the usual signs accompanying baptism of the Holy Spirit. Particularly objectionable is the teaching that baptism is a work of the Spirit subsequent to salvation and involving special sanctification.
Because of the maze of conflicting opinions on the doctrine of the baptism of the Holy Spirit, the student of the subject must remain close to the Scriptures, particularly avoiding assumptions which the Scriptures do not warrant. The Scriptures present the doctrine in sufficient passages to permit the careful student to arrive at an accurate understanding of the truth. In all, there are eleven specific references to spiritual baptism in the New Testament (Matt 3:11; Mark 1:8; Luke 3:16; John 1:33; Acts 1:5; 11:16; Rom 6:1-4; 1 Cor 12:13; Gal 3:27; Eph 4:5; Col 2:12). All references prior to Pentecost are prophetic. All the references after Pentecost treat the baptism of the Holy Spirit as an existing reality. The major passage, which may be taken as the basis of interpretation of the other passages, is 1 Corinthians 12:13.
1. Baptism of the Holy Spirit Universal among Christians.
One of the prevailing misconceptions of the baptism of the Holy Spirit is the notion that it is a special ministration enjoyed by only a few Christians. On the contrary, the Scriptures make it plain that every Christian is baptized by the Holy Spirit at the moment of salvation. Salvation and baptism are therefore coextensive, and it is impossible to be saved without this work of the Holy Spirit. This is expressly stated in the central passage on the doctrine, “For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.”
It is evident from this passage that all Christians are baptized by the Holy Spirit, and that all who enter the number of the body of Christ do so because they are baptized by the Spirit. It may be noted that this passage is found in an epistle addressed to a church which is guilty of gross sins, of factions, and defection from the faith. Yet they are reminded that they are baptized by the Spirit. This work of the Spirit is not directed toward those who are free from guilt, nor is it held high as an objective or height to reach. It is rather stated to be the universal work of the Spirit in every believer. often mentioned (Acts 2:47; 1 Cor 6:15; 12:12-14; Eph 2:16; 4:4, 5, 16; 5:30-32; Col 1:24; 2:19). Christ is revealed as Head of His body (1 Cor 11:3; Eph 1:22, 23; 5:23, 24; Col 1:18). The work of Christ nurturing His body is mentioned in at least three passages (Eph 5:29; Phil 4:13; Col 2:19). The sanctification of the body of Christ is revealed in Ephesians 5:25-27, and indirectly is inferred in many other passages. Extended Scriptures are also found on the doctrine of the gifts of Christ to His body (Rom 12:3-8; 1 Cor 12:27, 28; Eph 4:7-16). The doctrine of the Church as the body of Christ is a major doctrine of the New Testament.
The work of baptism assures the unity of the various members of the body. Without regard as to race or culture, all true believers are united in a living union in the body of Christ. Frequent mention is made of this fact in Scripture, and its basis is the baptism of the Spirit. The union effected, however, is not one in which individuals are lost in the mass. It is rather a sovereign assignment of God, in which every believer is given his distinct place in the body of Christ. Every believer is essential to the harmony and perfection of the whole. The body is “fitly joined together” (Eph 4:16). An understanding of the basic doctrine of the baptism of the Holy Spirit is necessary, then, to comprehending not only the origin of the Church, but also its working and sovereign arrangement.
2. Baptism into Christ.
Intimately connected with the fact that baptism by the Spirit brings the believer into the body of Christ is the inseparable truth that baptism also places the believer in Christ Himself. This truth was anticipated by Christ when He pronounced the words, “At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you” (John 14:20). The “ye in me” relationship was accomplished through the baptism of the Spirit. The importance of this position and the extent of its implications can hardly be overemphasized. Before salvation, the individual was in Adam, partaking of Adam’s nature, sin, and destiny. In salvation, the believer is removed from his position in Adam, and he is placed in Christ. All the details of his salvation spring from this new position. His justification, sanctification, deliverance, access to God, inheritance, and glorification are actual and possible because of the believer’s position in Christ. Failure to recognize the importance and significance of this doctrine has issued in many false teachings and has denied to many Christians the joy of their salvation.
Baptism into Christ is primarily identification. The believer is identified with Christ in His righteousness, His death, His resurrection, and His glorification. The much disputed passage of Romans 6:1-4, if approached with these doctrines in mind, becomes a plain declaration of the identification of the believer with Christ in His supreme work of death and resurrection: “Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life” (Rom 6:3-4). Before water baptism could be administered to converts, the glorious reality of identification with Christ was already a fact, made real the moment of saving faith. Having been joined to Christ by the baptism of the Spirit, the believer is identified with the work of Christ on the cross and His triumph in resurrection. Water baptism is the symbol of the baptism of the Spirit which effected the identification, but it is not the portrayal of the result of this identification, nor of the process of salvation. It is a sad reflection on the church’s spiritual discernment to observe the historic emphasis upon the sacrament without the recognition of the baptism of the Holy Spirit which it should represent. In human hands the sacrament has become a divisive force in the church instead of the portrayal of the unity of the body of Christ and its identification with Christ. How important and how precious is the truth that the believer is in Christ Himself with all that this position entails.
A companion passage to Romans 6:3-4 is that of Colossians 2:12, “Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead.” The revelation in Colossians is complementary to that of Romans. Here is added the thought that we are identified with Christ in His burial. The aspect of burial is included in the essential Gospel (1 Cor 15:4). Its significance is that of finality. The burial of Christ makes clear the certainty of His death and the completion of His sacrifice. The believer goes with Christ to the grave and there becomes dead to sin and in resurrection becomes alive to God.
Baptism into Christ is not identification alone; it is also a union of life. Through regeneration the believer partakes of eternal life. He is united to Christ not alone by divine reckoning, but also in the reality of common life. It is the living unity of the Head and the body, sharing one vital and eternal life. From this reality spring many wonderful truths. It is the foundation of fellowship, fruit-bearing, strength for victory, and direction by the Head of the body. The two aspects of baptism into Christ are inseparable and blend into one entity. Christ becomes the sphere in which the believer lives. As Dr. Lewis Sperry Chafer has well written: “A sphere is that which surrounds an object on every side and may even penetrate that object. To be within a sphere is to partake of all that it is and all that it imparts. Thus the bird is in the air, and the air is in the bird; the fish is in the water and the water is in the fish; the iron is in the fire and the fire is in the iron. Likewise, in the spiritual realm, Christ is the sphere of the believer’s position. He encompasses, surrounds, encloses, and indwells the believer. The believer is in Christ, and Christ is in the believer. Through the baptism with the Spirit, the Christian has become as much an organic part of Christ as the branch is a part of the vine, or the member is a part of the body. Being thus conjoined to Christ, the Father sees the saved one only in Christ, or as a living part of His own Son, and loves him as He loves His Son (Eph 1:6; John 17:23).”2
3. Baptism of the Holy Spirit Only in This Dispensation.
Theologians generally have failed to realize the importance of the baptism of the Holy Spirit. This springs from many causes. The distinctive purpose of God for the Church is often not given its proper place. The contrasting spheres of law, grace, and kingdom are often confused. The work of the Holy Spirit in baptism, if properly understood, would do much to correct these errors. It is the one work of the Holy Spirit which is found only in the present dispensation. Other ministries are duplicated in either past or future ages. The work of baptism is, therefore, of great significance. By the act of the baptism of the Holy Spirit, the present age began at the day of Pentecost. By an act of the Holy Spirit, some future day the Church will receive its last addition, and Christ will come to receive her to Himself. These facts are made clear in the testimony of the Acts.
Only two references to baptism by the Holy Spirit are found in Acts (1:5; 11:16), and these passages are complementary. In Acts 1:5, Christ in His parting words to His disciples said, “For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence.” Two important facts appear in this statement: (1) Up to this time the Holy Spirit had not baptized them; (2) they would receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit in a few days-“not many days hence.” They were told to wait in Jerusalem until they were baptized by the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:4). The indications are unmistakable that this prophecy was fulfilled on the day of Pentecost. The power to witness, while not connected with the baptism of the Spirit, was present on the day of Pentecost, and the disciples immediately began the work Christ specified as their program in Acts 1:8, and they no longer felt any necessity of remaining in Jerusalem awaiting a work of the Spirit. According to Acts 2:4, on the day of Pentecost, the disciples were filled with the Holy Spirit. As this is a work limited to the saved in this age, and as all the saved are baptized by the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 12:13), it follows that the believers were baptized at the same instant the other important ministries of the Holy Spirit were begun in them.
The second passage in Acts (11:16) confirms the testimony of Acts 1:5. In reciting the incident of the conversion of Cornelius, Peter said, “And as I began to speak, the Holy Ghost fell on them, as on us at the beginning. Then remembered I the word of the Lord, how that he said, John indeed baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost. Forasmuch then as God gave them the like gift as he didunto us, who believed on the Lord Jesus Christ; what was I, that I could withstand God?” (Acts 11:15-17). In making this statement, Peter is clearly stating that Acts 1:5 had already been fulfilled “at the beginning,” no doubt a reference to Pentecost. The proof that Cornelius and his household had been baptized by the Holy Spirit is found in the fact that they spake with tongues (Acts 10:46). This has been misunderstood by many who have inferred from this fact that there is a direct relation between the baptism of the Holy Spirit and speaking with tongues. On the day of Pentecost a number of ministries of the Holy Spirit began simultaneously. No doubt the new converts in the house of Cornelius, like the converts of the day of Pentecost, including the apostles, were regenerated, indwelt, sealed, and filled with the Spirit at the same moment they were baptized with the Spirit. The evidence that any part of the work of salvation had been accomplished in an individual can be taken as evidence that the other universal ministries of the Spirit are also present. Accordingly, any outward sign of salvation can be taken as evidence of the baptism of the Holy Spirit, even though there is no direct connection. It is clear that only Christians spoke in tongues, and the presence of this phenomenon was sufficient to justify Peter in concluding that the house of Cornelius was saved and therefore baptized by the Spirit. It is significant that speaking in tongues is found in Acts particularly where strong assurance of the reality of salvation and the truth of the Gospel was needed. Thus, on the day of Pentecost, this phenomenon is present, and again in the case of Cornelius where the Gospel is extended freely to Gentiles. Speaking in tongues is numbered with the temporary spiritual gifts bestowed in the apostolic period. It sprang from the ministry of the Spirit in filling the believer, rather than from any of the universal ministries to the saved. There is actually no more connection between the baptism of the Spirit and speaking with tongues than there is between speaking in tongues and regeneration or justification. All are within the sphere of ministry to the saved.
From the two references to the baptism of the Holy Spirit in the Acts, it may be safely concluded that this ministry is never found before Pentecost and that it occurs simultaneously with the other ministries of the Spirit given to all who believe the moment they place saving faith in Christ. It is also clear that baptism did not occur once and for all on the day of Pentecost as some writers have inferred. James Gray, for instance, states in his introduction to Simple Talks on the Holy Spirit by D. H. Dolman, “In my opinion, the baptism of the Holy Ghost came upon the disciples on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2) once and forever, and it is of that baptism that all believers partake as soon as they come to Christ by faith.”3 It is true that the work of Christ was accomplished once and for all upon the cross, becoming effective for individuals when they become saved, even though the act of sacrifice was accomplished once and for all. The work of the Holy Spirit in baptism is different, however. It is the active joining of a soul to the body of Christ in a point of time. While it can be said that Christ died for all, even before they are saved, it cannot be said that individuals are baptized into the body of Christ until they come to the moment of saving faith. The work of baptism wrought in any individual is accomplished once and for all, however, and it is never repeated, involves no subsequent process in itself, and is never improved. The position and union effected are perfect from the moment of baptism. Throughout the present age, everyone who turns to Christ in faith is baptized by the Holy Spirit. No reference to this is ever found in the Old Testament. In the Gospels all references are prophetic. Again, in all prophecies of the future kingdom there is no reference to baptism by the Spirit. It may be concluded that it is, therefore, a work of the Holy Spirit found only in the present dispensation, a work peculiar to the Church, and constituting the work of the Spirit by which the Church is formed and joined to Christ forever.
4. Baptism is Not Experimental.
A careful study of the varied ministries of the Holy Spirit will reveal that only the work of the Holy Spirit in filling is experimental. The work of the Holy Spirit in regeneration, indwelling, sealing, and baptism, while the ground for the filling of the Spirit and all subsequent experience, is not experimental in itself. As no one ever experienced a process in regeneration, so no one ever experienced a process in the baptism of the Spirit. A number of considerations point to this conclusion.
Baptism is not experimental because of the fact that it is universal among Christians. It is not a question of spiritual maturity, yieldedness, or indoctrination. Every believer, while totally unconscious of the reality of the truth until taught, is baptized by the Spirit as soon as faith is placed in Christ. It is a patent fact that most Christians know little concerning the baptism of the Holy Spirit. The great realities of union with Christ and our position in Him are known only as they are taught by the Spirit in a heart yielded to Him. While experience may play its part in bringing assurance of salvation, and thereby confidence in the fact of baptism by the Spirit, the act of the Spirit in itself is not experienced.
Baptism is not experimental because it is positional truth. While our position in Christ is the ground of our experience when we are yielded to the Spirit, our position in itself does not produce experience. All Christians have the same position in Christ, but many have little spiritual experience. While experience may vary and be far from static in any individual, the position of the believer in Christ remains unalterably the same. It is particularly evident that the original act of the Spirit, placing us in Christ, produced no sensation. The new life which entered our souls may have brought a flood of the joy of salvation. The consciousness of forgiveness and justification may have relieved the heart under conviction. The act of being placed in the body of Christ, however, was not experienced in itself.
The very nature of the baptism of the Holy Spirit forbids that it be experimental. As an act of God, it is clearly instantaneous. There is no period of transition. The believer is brought from his position in Adam to his position in Christ instantly. In the nature of any instantaneous act, there can be no experience of process. Whatever may have been felt after the baptism of the Holy Spirit was complete, the act itself did not produce any experimental phenomena.
If the baptism of the Holy Spirit is properly seen in its character as an instantaneous act of God, it removes the doctrine from all its erroneous expositors who anticipate an unusual or phenomenal experience in connection with it. It becomes instead a sovereign act of God in which the soul is taken to Himself.
5. Baptism an Act of the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit has been recognized as the agent of baptism by most students of the doctrine. Objection is found sometimes, however, to this thought. A study of the various passages speaking of baptism by the Spirit reveals that the customary Greek preposition used is ἐν. From this it has been induced that we are baptized not by the Spirit, but in the Spirit. Christ is regarded as the actor, inasmuch as He is said to be the one baptizing, and the Holy Spirit is merely the sphere into which we come. A strict interpretation of the preposition would lead to this locative idea. The same preposition is used, however, in an instrumental sense with sufficient frequency in Scripture to free the translator from any artificial interpretation (cf. Matt 12:24; Luke 22:49; Heb 11:37; Rev 2:16; 6:8; 13:10). When the Pharisees said, “Thisfellow doth not cast out devils, but by Beelzebub the prince of the devils” (Matt 12:24), it is clear that they regarded the “prince of the devils” as the one performing the miracle. Likewise when the disciples asked, “Lord, shall we smite with the sword?” (Luke 22:49), they had in mind the use of the sword as the instrument even though held by a human hand. In the work of baptism by the Spirit, the preposition is probably used in a similar instrumental sense. It is clear, however, that the entire ministry of the Spirit is being accomplished for the believer at the will of Christ. The Spirit is His agent and doing His work. It can be said, therefore, that we are baptized by Christ in the sense that Christ sent the Spirit. Accordingly, references to baptism of the Spirit as performed by Christ can be interpreted in this light. As the act of the sword in the hands of a disciple (Luke 22:49) is at once the act of the sword and the act of the disciples, so the work of baptism while accomplished by the Holy Spirit is also a work by Christ.
The thought of being brought into the sphere of the ministry of the Spirit by baptism is not excluded by making the Holy Spirit the agent of baptism. The act of bringing the believer into the body of Christ, which is the proper conception of baptism, does by its very nature also bring the believer into the sphere of the ministry of the Spirit. Accordingly, 1 Corinthians 12:13 indicates that we “have been all made to drink into one Spirit.” It is probable that this refers to participation in the ministry of the Holy Spirit. The work of baptism, however, is just as much a work of the Holy Spirit as regeneration or conviction, and while there is an indissoluble unity in the operations of the Trinity, care must be taken in attributing to each Person the proper agency in the undertakings of God, if we are to avoid the errors of Unitarianism.
6. The Baptism of Fire.
The four Gospels bear the record of the testimony of John the Baptist to the coming baptism by the Holy Spirit (Matt 3:11; Mark 1:8; Luke 3:16; John 1:33). The testimony of the Synoptic Gospels forms a part of the message of John the Baptist in predicting the coming of Christ. The instance in John bears the additional revelation that Christ would be identified by the descent of the Spirit upon Him. All of the accounts give to Christ the special character of One who baptizes with the Holy Spirit, and all the accounts are prophetic in their nature.
A revelation of special interest is the statement in two of the Gospels that Christ would baptize with the Holy Spirit “and with fire” (Matt 3:11; Luke 3:16). Some expositors have pointed to Pentecost as a fulfillment, based on the fact that tongues like as of fire sat on each of them gathered in the upper room. Others have envisioned a possibility of this being a present experience, a second Pentecost. A careful examination of the references in the Gospels, however, would seem to rule out both of these interpretations. The context of the passages points to judgment, the character of which could be fulfilled only at the second coming of Christ and the establishment of the kingdom. While the Church age is introduced by the baptism of the Spirit, the kingdom age is to be introduced with a baptism of fire. No reference to baptism by fire is ever found in the epistles, and the use of fire typically is in reference to future judgment in most instances. While the passages on baptism by fire are not explained definitely in the Word of God, it is safe to conclude that there is no present application of baptism by fire, and that reference is made to the future judgment of the world by Christ Himself at His second coming. before. The new position of the Christian is a challenge and incentive to godly living and the ground of victory over sin.
7. A New Association.
Because of the new union and new position of the Christian, through the baptism of the Spirit, he is brought into many new associations. His association with the Trinity is infinitely wonderful, to be realized in full in future ages, but forming an important aspect of his present experience if filled with the Spirit. The Christian’s former association with the world is altered, and by grace the Christian may be delivered from the power of the world-system, though remaining in the world and being subject to its government. In this new association, the Christian is the object of attack by Satan in the special sense in which Satan is attacking God Himself and all that belongs to God. The Christian needs the delivering power of God as he faces this new enemy. The Scriptures trace many other aspects of the believer’s association. His relation to the organized church is stated. The relation of parents and children, husbands and wives, masters and servants, and other similar relationships are noted in Scripture. The particular duties of a Christian as living with other Christians are often mentioned, including the Christian’s relation to his sinning brother, to brothers weak in faith or practice, and to brothers who give rebuke or correction. Because of the new association of the Christian baptized by the Spirit, a new standard of conduct based on his position in grace is called for, in keeping with the rich provision of God. In brief, every aspect of the Chriatian’s life is changed because of the baptism of the Spirit. The importance of this doctrine, then, to the Christian and to the theologian cannot be overestimated.
IV. The Indwelling of the Holy Spirit
One of the distinctive features of the dispensation of grace in contrast to prior periods is the fact that the Holy Spirit indwells everyone who is regenerated. Only in the coming period of the kingdom on earth will there be such a display of divine blessing that everyone who is saved will be indwelt by the Holy Spirit. The doctrine of the indwelling Spirit is exceedingly important as the foundation of the many ministries of the Spirit to the saved in this age. The work of the Spirit in filling is made universally available to those yielded to God in virtue of the abiding presence of the Spirit in every heart. The fact of His presence is a rich doctrine in its wide significance.
1. Indwelling of the Holy Spirit Universal among Christians.
It is sometimes represented that the presence of the Holy Spirit in the life of the Christian is evidence of unusual powers or yieldedness. On the contrary, the Scriptures represent every Christian as possessing the Spirit. The fact of His indwelling is mentioned in many passages (John 7:37-39; Acts 11:17; Rom 5:5; 8:9, 11; 1 Cor 2:12; 6:19, 20; 12:13; 2 Cor 5:5; Gal 3:2; 4:6; 1 John 3:24; 4:13). On the day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit came to make the Church His residence, indwelling every believer. A number of considerations point to the doctrine that every Christian is indwelt by the Holy Spirit.
a. Absence of the Holy Spirit Proof of Unsaved Condition.
One of the positive evidences for universal indwelling among Christians is the plain statement of Romans 8:9, “If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.” Possession of the Spirit which has been sent by Christ Himself and given to every Christian is necessary in order to be saved and belong to Christ. Accordingly, the unsaved are described as “having not the Spirit” (Jude 19).
b. Sinning Christians Possess the Indwelling Spirit.
Never in the dispensation of grace are Christians warned that the loss of the Spirit will occur as a result of sin. On the contrary, in the notable case of the Corinthian church, they are exhorted to live a godly life and forsake sin because they are indwelt by the Spirit: “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?” (1 Cor 6:19). The inference is plain that the presence of the Spirit abides even in the hearts of Christians who are unyielded and living in sin. While yieldedness remains a condition for the filling of the Spirit, the indwelling of the Spirit is unconditional for genuine Christians.
c. The Holy Spirit a Gift.
The Holy Spirit is referred to in many instances as a gift” (John 7:37-39; Acts 11:17; Rom 5:5; 1 Cor 2:12; 2 Cor 5:5). A gift by its nature is bestowed without merit. The gift of the Holy Spirit is never referred to as a just reward; its only condition is that Christ be received as Savior. It follows, accordingly, that it is a universal gift among Christians.
d. The High Standard of Grace Requires Supernatural Enablement.
Further proof of the universality of the indwelling Spirit is found in the fact that His presence is presupposed in the high standard of life revealed in the epistles for Christians. Christ predicted that “rivers of living water” would flow from within the Christian (John 7:37-39). The flow of blessing and enablement comes from within the Christian rather than from an external influence. Christ intimated that apostolic teaching would be based upon it, and that the work of the Spirit would be within the Christian. From these several evidences, the Scriptural revelation is plain that the indwelling of the Holy Spirit is a blessing universally possessed by all Christians, just as all Christians are regenerated and baptized by the same Spirit.
2. Problem Passages.
The doctrine of the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit is comparatively simple in statement and in its principal content. The doctrine has been subject to much misapprehension, however, all of which yields to a careful study of every problem passage. A total of seven passages have been subject to serious misinterpretation (1 Sam 16:14; Ps 51:11; Luke 11:13; Acts 5:32; 8:14-20; 19:1-6; 1 John 2:20, 27).
a. Passages Dispensationally Misapplied.
The problem of three passages results from the false assumption that the work of the Holy Spirit is the same in every dispensation. The fact that the Holy Spirit departed from Saul proves only that this was possible in the Old Testament when the Holy Spirit did not indwell all the saints (1 Sam 16:14). David’s prayer (Ps 51:11) that the Holy Spirit be not taken away from him was in view of the possibility that this might occur as a result of sin, as in the case of Saul. David’s prayer is not fitting for the Christian to whom every assurance has been given that the Spirit is an abiding gift. Christ introduced the possibility, apparently limited to His immediate followers during His life on earth, that the Holy Spirit would be given to those who ask for Him (Luke 11:13). We have no record that the disciples ever acted on this promise, and in contrast we have the promise of Christ that the Spirit would indwell them after His departure, inferring that they were not indwelt when He gave them the promise. We may conclude that the context of these three passages forbids application to the doctrine of the Spirit indwelling Christians in the present age.
b. Acts 5:32.
Three passages of Scriptures are sometimes interpreted to mean that the indwelling of the Spirit is an experience subsequent to new birth, and that therefore it is not a feature of every believer’s possessions (Acts 5:32; 8:14-20; 19:1-6). The first of these passages, Acts 5:32, states, “And we are his witnesses of these things; and so is also the Holy Ghost, whom God hath given to them that obey him.” The inference is sometimes made that obedience or yieldedness to the will of God is a condition of receiving the indwelling Holy Spirit. The context of this passage, however, makes it clear that the obedience required is not in reference to moral commands or to a standard of life, but rather to obedience to the command to believe in Christ. It resolves itself into another statement that God gives the Holy Spirit to them who believe in Christ.
c. Acts 8:14-20.
The problem of Acts 8:14-20 no doubt presents the most serious difficulty in the support of the doctrine of universal indwelling. According to the record, the believers who had been baptized by Philip had not received the Holy Spirit. The passage reveals that when Peter arrived, they received the Holy Spirit as he laid his hands upon them. From this it has been falsely inferred that receiving the Holy Spirit is a work subsequent to salvation and requiring the laying on of hands.
The problem has a solution in at least three particulars. First, while the delay of the normal indwelling of the Spirit until the arrival of Peter may be admitted, it is clear that this phenomenon was never repeated. The early chapters of Acts are admittedly transitional. The normal operations of God for this age are only gradually assumed. There was good reason why the extension of the Gospel should be closely identified with the apostles themselves, and for this reason they were given unusual powers, and much blessing hinged on their presence. The full-orbed ministry of the Spirit among the Gentiles begins in Acts 10, when the Holy Spirit indwells at the moment of faith in the Gospel. It is made plain to Peter that working of the Spirit from this time on was not conditioned upon any special act on his part, but only on faith in Christ. This solution to the problem fully supports the doctrine of the universal indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
Two other solutions are possible, however. A second solution is found in the explanation that prior to Acts 10, the indwelling of the Spirit may have been limited to Gentiles ministered to by the apostles themselves, only Jews receiving the Spirit immediately. It is clear, at least, that each new extension of the Gospel was attended by the immediate agency of the apostles. A third solution is sometimes offered in which the expression “received the Holy Ghost” (Acts 8:17) is interpreted as the filling of the Spirit, an outward phenomenon rather than indwelling. It is doubtful whether the word “received” is ever used to express the filling of the Spirit. The first two solutions provide a sufficient explanation of the passage. In any event, the phenomenon of a delayed indwelling of the Holy Spirit is never repeated, and to reason from this one event that this is normal for the entire Church age is unwarranted.
d. Acts 19:1-6.
The problem of Acts 19:1-6 yields to a careful study of the context and an accurate translation of the text. From the context we gather that the disciples at Ephesus were followers of John the Baptist and had not come into contact with the Gospel of grace. Upon their baptism and confession of faith in Christ, the Holy Spirit came on them. It is indicated that Paul “laid his hands upon them” (Acts 19:6), either in the act of baptism or otherwise, and the presence of the Holy Spirit was manifested in that they spake with tongues. It is apparent from the narrative that the Spirit both indwelt and filled these disciples, the indwelling being known by the manifestation which accompanied the filling. It cannot be inferred, therefore, from this passage that the Spirit comes to indwell as a work subsequent to salvation.
The translation of Acts 19:2, “Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed?” should be translated, “Did ye receive the Holy Ghost when ye believed?” Instead of being in support of the supposed theory that only some Christians are indwelt, it is actually a refutation. In the fact that they had not received the Holy Spirit, Paul found proof of the lack of regeneration. The absence of the Holy Spirit indicated a lack of salvation. It may be concluded, therefore, that the events of this section of Scripture indicate no departure from the norm of the doctrine, that all Christians are indwelt at the moment of regeneration.
e. The Anointing of the Holy Spirit.
A further problem is introduced by the passages that refer to the anointing of the Holy Spirit. Some have inferred from these passages that this is a separate work of the Spirit in contrast to indwelling. A careful study of the seven passages with reference to the anointing of the Holy Spirit (Luke 4:18; Acts 4:27; 10:38; 2 Cor 1:21; 1 John 2:20, 27) will reveal that every use of anoint in relation to the Spirit may be safely interpreted as the initial act of indwelling. The word anoint is used in the sense of apply, and is especially appropriate in view of the fact that oil is used as a type of the Spirit. The presence of the Spirit is the result of the anointing, and every reference to anointing by the Spirit is used in this sense.
3. The Distinct Character of Indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
While the indwelling of the Holy Spirit begins at the same moment as other tremendous undertakings by God for the newly saved soul, a careful distinction must be maintained between these various works of God. Indwelling is not synonymous with regeneration. While the new life of the believer is divine and by its nature identified with God’s life, the possession of divine life and divine presence are distinct. The work of baptism by the Spirit is also to be distinguished from indwelling. Baptism occurs once and for all and relates to separation from the world and union with Christ. Indwelling, while beginning at the same moment as baptism, is continuous. As will be indicated in the ensuing material, the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit does have a most intimate relation to the sealing of the Holy Spirit, the presence of the Holy Spirit constituting the seal.
Probably the most difficult distinction is that of the indwelling and filling of the Spirit. The two doctrines are closely related, yet are not synonymous. Filling relates wholly to experience, while indwelling is not experimental, in itself. In the Old Testament period, a few saints were filled temporarily without being permanently indwelt by the Spirit. While filled with the Spirit, Old Testament saints could in one sense be considered also indwelt, but not in the permanent unchanging way revealed in the New Testament. In the Church age, it is impossible for anyone to be filled with the Spirit who is not indwelt. Indwelling is the abiding presence of the Spirit, while the filling of the Spirit indicates the ministry and extent of control of the Spirit over the individual. Indwelling is not active. All the ministry of the Spirit and experience related to fellowship and fruit issues from the filling of the Spirit. Hence, while we are never exhorted to be indwelt, we are urged to be filled with the Spirit (Eph 5:18).
4. The Importance of the Indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
The importance of the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit in the life of the Christian cannot be overestimated. It constitutes a significant proof of grace, and of divine purpose in fruitfulness and sanctification. The presence of the Holy Spirit is our “earnest” of the blessing ahead (2 Cor 1:22; 5:5; Eph 1:14). The presence of the Spirit not only brings all assurance of God’s constant care and ministry in this life, but the unfailing purpose of God to fulfill all His promises to us. The presence of the Holy Spirit makes the body of the believer a temple of God (1 Cor 6:19). It reveals the purpose of God that the Spirit be resident in the earth during the present age. To surrender this doctrine or to allow its certainty to be questioned strikes a major blow at the whole system of Christian doctrine. The blessed fact that God has made the earthly bodies of Christians His present earthly temple renders to life and service a power and significance which is at the heart of all Christian experience.
V. The Sealing of the Holy Spirit
Three passages of Scripture indicate a work of the Holy Spirit revealed under the symbol of “sealing” (2 Cor 1:22; Eph 1:13; 4:30). The context of these passages reveals that the sealing is by the Holy Spirit. Christ Himself was sealed by the Father, but it is not revealed whether the Holy Spirit is directly related to it (John 6:27).
All the passages make clear that the act of sealing is accomplished entirely by God. It is never given in the form of an exhortation, nor pictured as a goal to which Christians should strive. Rather it is a gracious act by God for those whom He saved.
1. The Holy Spirit is the Seal.
According to Ephesians 1:13 and 4:30, the believer is sealed by or in the Holy Spirit. No subsequent ministry is traced to this operation. From 2 Corinthians 1:22, it may be inferred that the seal is none other than the Holy Spirit Himself. God in mercy has provided in the presence of the Spirit a seal of greater significance than could be found in anyone or anything else. The figure is that of a finished transaction. That which assures the fulfillment of the contemplated objective is the seal, typical of ownership, authority or control, and responsibility. The seal is provided as the token of what will be brought to its conclusion at the day of redemption.
2. Sealing of the Holy Spirit Universal among Christians.
The ministry of the Holy Spirit in constituting the seal of redemption has been represented to be a work of grace subsequent to salvation, and therefore to be coveted and sought. Various experiences have been related to this ministry as constituting evidence that the individual has been sealed. A careful study of the three references in Scripture will demonstrate, however, that every Christian is sealed by the Holy Spirit. The Corinthians, in spite of their many failings, are said to be sealed (2 Cor 1:22). The possibility of some only possessing this blessing is contradicted.
Much of the misrepresentation of this doctrine has arisen from the faulty translation in the Authorized Version in Ephesians 1:13, where it is stated, “After that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise.” A proper translation would be, “When ye believed, ye were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise.” The phrase “when ye believed” is not significant of time but of cause. The sealing was immediate upon believing. It was “after that” only in the sense of cause and result.
The third passage, found in Ephesians 4:30, constitutes a reasonable proof that the sealing of the Spirit is universal among Christians. In this passage we are exhorted, “Grieve not the holy Spirit of God,” because we are sealed by Him unto the day of redemption. It is assumed that all are sealed, and because of this, all are exhorted not to grieve the Spirit. If the sealing of the Spirit was a reality only for the spiritual, it would not be necessary to exhort such to cease grieving the Spirit. Every reference to sealing, however, contemplates it as a finished act, dependent only upon saving faith. Every Christian, accordingly, can receive by faith the fact of the indwelling Spirit as God’s seal, setting him apart to eternal redemption.
3. The Sealing of the Spirit Not Experimental.
From the fact that all Christians are sealed by the Spirit, it is apparent that sealing is not an experience either at the moment of salvation or later. It occurs once and for all, as demonstrated by the fact that all who are sealed are sealed unto the day of redemption (Eph 4:30). The Christian therefore needs no unusual experience to confirm the sealing of the Spirit, nor should the Christian pray for the sealing of the Spirit. It is a great truth to be accepted by faith as a token of the unfailing purpose of God in salvation.
4. The Significance of the Sealing of the Holy Spirit.
The point of greatest significance in the sealing of the Holy Spirit is the eternal security of the believer. It is plainly stated that the seal is placed on the Christian with a view to keeping him safe unto the day of redemption-the time of complete deliverance from all sin. The matter is not left in human hands, but is dependent entirely on the power of God. The nature of the seal forbids any possibility of counterfeit or disallowing of the token. The Person of the Holy Spirit, possessing all the attributes of God, by His presence is a token of God’s abiding grace which could not be excelled. As God has promised that His Spirit will abide in the believer, so the Spirit Himself as the seal of our salvation brings all assurance to the believer’s heart.
(Series to be continued in the January-March Number, 1942)
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“Among the more important themes alike of theological and of practical interest the work of the Holy Spirit would perhaps be regarded as most in need of study. The settlement of this doctrine has been postponed because the time had not come when its settlement could be reached. The church gives herself to but one great subject at once, and takes centuries instead of years to arrive at a lasting decision.... No one then should be surprised to find John Wesley about half way from Luther’s day to ours, first making it understood that a new begetting by the Holy Spirit and a definite progress in the new life, together with the Spirit’s witness to his own work, are within reach at once. Up to Wesley’s time emphasis had been laid upon what the Holy Spirit does for the church, that he gives authority to her teachings and efficacy to her sacraments; Wesley preached the work of the Spirit in the individual. His contribution to the development of Christian doctrine was as timely as Luther’s, and left as much for further inquiry within the very range of truth which he took in hand to expound. It was a sense of guilt for past sins on which Tetzel traded, and which was fully satisfied in Luther’s doctrine of justification by faith. It was the spectacle of sin yet reigning in the church which inflamed the zeal of the young Methodists at Oxford, and which found its corrective in the offices of the Holy Spirit.-Bibliotheca Sacra, July, 1892.
1 Simple Talks on the Holy Spirit.
2 Grace, pp. 307, 308.
3 P. 6.
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