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Saturday, December 20, 2014

Fundamental Questions of the Christian Life # 11

Initial Reception of the Holy Spirit (continued)

b. What the Passage Teaches

The first aspect of the significance of our passage, then, is the church itself and the ministries that were fulfilled in it. Let us now come to the second aspect - namely, that which the passage teaches. You notice that it can be divided into three sections. The middle section  is the Holy Spirit: that is central, that is the focal point of everything. Then on the one side of that you have a section circling around the word "disciples" - "Paul ... found certain disciples" - and on the other side a section circling around the word 'baptism.' You have the Holy Spirit in the center: then, on the one side disciples, on the other side baptism.

1. The Work of the Holy Spirit

We must recognize, first of all, that Paul's question concerning the Holy Spirit must have had a good reason. I do not think it was just a casual or formal question - that Paul arrived there and in a quite casual way, without any special point or object, put this question to these people: "Did ye receive the Holy Spirit when ye believed?" We are bound to believe that Paul had a reason, and a very good reason, for asking the question. We are left, of course, to surmise, to conjecture, but the issue of the question shows that Paul had discerned something. He had detected in these disciples some lack. And his discernment enabled him to put his finger right on the spot, as we say.

Now, when Paul puts a question like that, we have to bring to it all that Paul would have brought concerning the Holy Spirit. We should need to go to all his writings, and to his own personal experience, and gather up, if we could, all that Paul knew and all that Paul had experienced as to the place, the work and the importance of the Holy Spirit. And that was no small thing! Paul has set forth what he knew about the Holy Spirit from many different aspects.

a. Union with Christ

To begin with, Paul has made it clear that without the Holy Spirit there is no union with Christ. Union with Christ is the very heart of Christianity: it is the great, great theme of Paul; and union with Christ is the work of the Holy Spirit. To quote one his own fragments: "He that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit" (1 Corinthians 6:17). All that Paul knew and had experienced about the Holy Spirit focused upon this great matter of union with Christ, and he brought all that into his question. The question could have been put in other ways. Paul could have raised directly the fundamental question of union with Christ. Or he could have spoken of the new creation: Paul has a good deal to say, both directly and by inference, as to a new creation in Christ Jesus. And from these and many other suggestions and indications, we see that Paul thought of the Christian life as a kind of spiritual counterpart to the material creation. He said: "God, that said, Light shall shine out of darkness ... shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ" (2 Corinthians 4:6). He saw this as the counterpart of the creational act, or Divine fiat, "Let there be light." The spiritual counterpart has taken place in us. In another place you will find that Paul brings in the Holy Spirit in that connection. He changes his metaphor, but keeps to his truth: God has written in our hearts, not with pen and ink, but by the Spirit of the living God (2 Corinthians 3:3)

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 12 - (b. Order and Fruitfulness)

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