You must come to realize that there is a vital difference between the knowledge of the truth, and the appropriation, the getting hold of, the power of the truth.
‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me’
I would assume that at one time or another, we have all either heard or possibly even said ourselves, that we sense that the Spirit of the Lord is upon us, that we are keenly aware, more than usual, of His very presence and we thereby act accordingly. To make such a statement is indeed one of great solemnity and honor for in so saying we are declaring that we are knowingly being influenced by something, or in this case, someone, outside ourselves, an influence apart from and external to our very being. When we speak thusly, we are placing ourselves in memorable company, for we know that the Spirit of the LORD came upon Gideon, and he blew the trumpet to victory, we know that when the Spirit of the LORD fell upon the prophets Ezekiel and Isaiah they were given great visions; we have read that Moses said “I wish that all the LORD’S people were prophets, and that the LORD would put His spirit upon them,’ and we remember Samuel taking the horn of oil, and anointing David in the midst of his brethren: and the Spirit of the LORD coming upon him from that day forward; we remember how Joshua was full of the spirit of wisdom; for Moses had laid his hands upon him and we recall how the Spirit of the LORD came upon Samson in power so much so that he tore a lion apart with his bare hands.
We readily acknowledge the influence of God’s Holy Spirit upon His servants at various times throughout the Biblical narrative, but we tend to overlook these identical words having been spoken by Jesus Himself as we heard in our Gospel reading today. Initially, they were words spoken by the prophet Isaiah as the Babylonian captivity of Israel was nearing its end. But here, we learn of Jesus, after He had finished speaking these words from the book of Isaiah, sitting down, and as all those in the synagogue who were listening to him had their eyes fastened upon Him, heard Him say without any elaboration, ‘This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears.’
Now, it is one thing for mortal man or woman to claim that the Spirit of the Lord has come upon them, inspiring and strengthening them to the performance of certain feats of faith and daring, but for the Lord of Lords, the King of Kings, the incarnate Son of the Living God, the Second Person of the Godhead to claim that the Spirit of the Lord is upon Him, may cause us to take pause. Possibly you’ve never stopped to give it much thought, but consider the inherent implications when Jesus Himself claims that there are specific times when He too is under the influence of the Holy Ghost. Be assured, this is no trivial, insignificant, or inconsequential issue; something that we can ignore or file away for consideration at a later date for it concerns the very rock-bottom, foundational basis of our salvation. It is not just a question of theology; it is the essence of our very faith. It is imperative that you understand the work of the Holy Spirit upon the person of our Lord Jesus Christ, the new man, the Last Adam, for if you do not, then I fear you may not have truly comprehended the Gospel message, the good tidings that Jesus proclaims.
We all acknowledge the Holy Ghost mysteriously and wondrously operating in the formation and birth of the holy child Jesus, for Scriptures tell us that by the overshadowing of the Holy Ghost was that Holy thing born of the Virgin Mary and called the Son of God. We are further told that ‘the child grew, waxing strong in spirit, filled with wisdom; and that the grace of God was upon Him’. The activity of the Holy Spirit towards Jesus was openly manifested for all to see when He came out of the waters of the Jordan after His baptism, and the Holy Spirit descended like a dove and rested upon Him. We know that the Spirit immediately thrust Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted of Satan. We are aware of the Spirit with Him in His performance of innumerable miracles and in the demonstration and power which accompanied His words, so that all recognized that He spoke as one having authority, and not as the Scribes. Verily, throughout His entire ministry, in the Garden of Gethsemane and right up to that momentous event at Calvary, Jesus was led of the Spirit and inspired and strengthened by His divine energy.
And then, upon the cross, Jesus cried with a loud voice, ‘Father, into Thy Hands I commend my Spirit’. Hebrews, chapter 9 tells us that we are purged by the blood of Christ, ‘who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God.’ Thus, the Holy Spirit was intimately active also in the resurrection of Christ, for Jesus was “declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the Spirit of Holiness by the resurrection from the dead.” The Sacred Word says that He was “put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit.” And it is that same Spirit who Christ has received of the Father when He ascended up on high, when He led captivity captive and by the right hand of God has been exalted, yes it is that self-same Holy Spirit which Christ, as a reward for His redemptive acts, has given to the church, His body. Do not doubt for a moment that Jesus has paid the price to the fullest and that He is the propitiation for our sins, our Redeemer, but it is the Holy Spirit who makes effective and obtains for us all that Christ has accomplished.
Christ, the eternal Son, willingly became man, submitting Himself in all things to the will of the Father, and offered Himself as the sacrificial lamb, the suffering servant, to become the mediator, the only means of true relational communion between man and God – but it is only by the activity and the anointing of the Holy Spirit that His great sacrificial offering, all that He has accomplished as man, becomes of any eternal worth to us. You may believe that Jesus is indeed God, the only begotten Son of the Father, the lamb slain from before the foundation of the world for our sins, but that knowledge, that understanding, even faith in that truth, in and of itself, will no more save your immortal soul than will believing that the earth is round. Even the devils believe Jesus is who He claims to be and beg for His mercy. You must come to realize that there is a vital difference between the knowledge of the truth, and the appropriation, the getting hold of, the power of the truth. Spiritual things can be known only by the Spirit. This is why we are told that except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God; and why if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His. We must receive the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. If the Spirit of Him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, He that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by His Spirit that dwelleth in you. For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, the mystical body of Christ.
But the Holy Spirit never, ever, glorifies Himself, only Christ, and it is in that connection alone that you will know Him, and in no other. Jesus said that He was anointed by the Spirit to preach good tidings. The main object of the anointing of the Holy Spirit upon Jesus was to proclaim and fulfill the Gospel. Christ told those who were listening that day in the Synagogue that the Holy Spirit had anointed Him to preach the gospel to the poor, that the Holy Spirit had sent Him to heal the brokenhearted, that the Holy Spirit had anointed Him to preach deliverance to the captives, to recover the sight of the blind, to set at liberty those that are bruised and to preach the acceptable year of the Lord. And what is the Gospel message, the good tidings? It is more than that the Son of God became man, died on a cross, paid the price for our sins by that sacrifice, the shedding of His precious blood, and ascended back to heaven to prepare a place in eternity for us when we pass from this life into the next. Oh yes, that is the glorious truth, the uncompromising reality of what God has done for us, and it is the basis of our blessed hope and faith and peace, but it is an incomplete truth if there were not more – for all that Christ has accomplished is of no benefit whatsoever to you personally, should it remain an external, peripheral, abstract achievement. The Gospel message extends beyond the ascension of Christ to the right hand of the Father, for it is from there that He sends forth the Holy Spirit, baptizing those whom He has redeemed, bestowed upon His members incorporate, His mystical body, for it is by one Spirit that we are baptized into one body. That is why the Spirit is referred to in the New Testament, by the Apostles, as the Spirit of Christ.
Our Lord Jesus Christ became the Bearer of the Spirit, in order to be the Bestower of the Spirit. His Spirit. This is the full message of the good tidings, the Gospel – that the Spirit of the Ascended Christ, dwells with you and will be in you. Pentecost must not be seen as a separate event from Calvary and the Resurrection. Rather, it is the completion, the outworking of their significance. Jesus has received and borne the Spirit for His people that He might give His own Spirit to His people that they may then become fit to be received into that for which He has prepared for them throughout eternity.
Our new life in Christ is just that, A New life, it is not a development of our old nature.
2nd chapter of Ephesians
I want to draw your attention today to the interrelationship of two of the verses from our reading, verses 10 and 22. ‘For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus … in Whom ye are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.’ Have you ever stopped to consider the implications of that statement – we are His workmanship in Christ. God has accomplished it; He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, created us for good works, which He has foreordained, which He has prepared for us to walk in. No place here for patting ourselves on our back, for praising ourselves for our own works, our good deeds, our reformed temperaments, our charitable acts, our moral transformation – for it is all of Him. That is why it is referred to as a new creation – something that never existed before. Our new life in Christ is just that, a new life, it is not a development of our old nature. Good works are not the cause of salvation; they are the result of it, and if not seen as such, they actually become a hindrance, a stumbling block and impediment to the display of His grace that is at work within us.
We are His workmanship, in Christ – and we have been so from the very outset of our spiritual journey. It was He who first taught us our need of a Savior, who awoke our sense of sin and our desires for Him, for no man can come unto Christ except the Father which has sent His only begotten Son, draw him. And we remain His workmanship. ‘For He that has begun a good work in us will perform it unto the day of Christ.’ We can surely add nothing to it, but oh so often do we impede, distract or mar that which He is doing in us. He is both the author and finisher of our faith. He is the divine sculptor. He has taken each one of us, rough stones that we are, has removed us from the quarry of this earthly life wherein He found us, from our natural sin-laden existence, from the course of this world as St. Paul describes it, just lying there, as it were, spiritually dead stones – removed us in order to build us together for an habitation of Himself through the Spirit. We are told that “It does not yet appear what we shall be”, and yet, how many of us, though we don’t even know what we are to be, even though we but see through a glass darkly, even though we are His workmanship, how many of us, rather than living by the faith He has graciously bestowed upon us, instead, interfere with His work, taking, as it were, the chisel from His hand and attempting to complete His design ourselves. ‘Oh foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you? Are ye so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?’
And what is God’s grand design, why has the eternal God who inhabits eternity offered Himself up as a bloody sacrifice to bring about our salvation – what exactly are we being formed into in Christ? What is the mystery which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, according to the eternal purpose which He purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord? Surely it is not simply for us to gather together once a week for an hour or two and then blend back into everyday society, one which acknowledges not God’s existence, nor to squander our time pursuing common everyday affairs as others do, pursuits that have no eternal worth nor glorify Him not. Did the invisible become visible, the eternal Word become flesh and allow Himself to be tortured, dishonored, violated and crucified on a Roman cross so we could keep the Golden Rule, be moral, be nice people? Is the eternal purpose of the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy, create us anew in Christ Jesus so that we may approach Him in prayer, when we feel like it, just to plead for His assistance in helping us cope with this passing, finite, world, a world to which supposedly our Baptism attests that we are already dead to? No, no, a thousand times, no. Our salvation is, as Scripture tells us, to the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be made known by the church the manifold wisdom of God. We are God’s Church, His very members incorporate, the bride of His beloved Son – that magnificent entity which should be revealing, expressing, living, and making known God’s divine wisdom of the cross, of His bringing man into union with Himself through the Eternal Son, Jesus Christ. How is it that we so easily allow ourselves to be satisfied with the empty, temporal, seductive offerings of this passing world once we realize that we have been preordained for higher things, for eternal life in the Father’s mansions in Christ.
We have been told that we are His holy temple, a habitation of God through the Spirit, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone. We are told that our body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in us. We know that “God who made the world and all things therein, seeing that He is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands.” We know that God does not dwell in bricks and mortar, that His Holy Spirit does not inhabit stained glass, that no building of man is sanctified, nor moral, nor godly. We know these things, we attest to the validity of them, we know that the hour has come when neither in this mountain, nor that mountain, nor at Jerusalem is the Father worshipped, for God is a Spirit, and must be worshipped in spirit and in truth – we know these things and yet we still allow ourselves to believe that He can only be found, only be worshipped, only be encountered, only be glorified in a building made by the hands of men. Oh yes, there is such a thing as the house of God, He will have His habitation, His dwelling place; but it is not an inanimate structure, the handiwork of skilled architects and designers – it is so much more for it is a living and spiritual temple, in whom, that is Christ, we are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit. Let us do away with, once and for all, the childish notion of holiness being connected with anything except with a living, eternal, God; let us be rid of the superstitious concepts we embrace with regard to a place, to a physical edifice. The house of the living God, the church, is built with the living stones of converted, born-again men and women. The church of God, His bride, that which Christ hath died for and purchased with His precious blood – this is the Divine Edifice, the structure wherein God dwelleth. He alone created it by His death and resurrection and is now building it stone by stone. It is His church, it belongs to none of us, and we dare not act as though it does. It consists of those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life, who were purchased by Christ, hanging upon that tree, of the men and women who are called of God by His Holy Spirit, filled with His Holy Spirit and are being quickened by that same Spirit to partake of the life of Christ, who are members in particular, and partakers of His body and blood.
And never forget that God’s church is not just a heap of living stones, randomly piled together without purpose or design – for the divine Creator is her Architect. He has appointed her very length and breadth and has left nothing to chance. He has determined the eternal position every living stone shall occupy. And He has set Jesus Christ Himself as the cornerstone, the foundation stone that will support all the weight of the building, for on that stone every other one must lean. And it was necessary that He, the foundation stone of the church, be taken out of the same quarry as the rest of the stones, be made like them. And so, God became man, very man, of the same substance as the other stones of the temple, yet He is also God and able to bear all the weight of this mighty structure throughout eternity.
The 57th chapter of Isaiah reminds us that God inhabits eternity, that is, He dwells in perpetuity, lives eternally, without beginning or end, moves freely within it, that any period of time is accessible to Him. He made it and has power over it and thereby He works out His divine design, His mystery, His eternal plan of redemption, over the whole expanse of time. From the most remote past He has planned, created and is fulfilling each step of His purpose to bring about His ultimate goal, the building of His spiritual temple, that in the dispensation of the fullness of times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in Him, in whom also we have obtained an inheritance.
I asked you at the outset, and I pray that you continually consider the implications, the magnificence of this truth that you are His workmanship in Christ Jesus.