Ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you.
A MINISTER of the gospel, after listening to an eminent servant of God preaching on entire sanctification through the baptism with the Spirit, wrote to him, saying: ' I like your teaching on the baptism with the Holy Ghost. I need it and am seeking it; but I do not care much for entire sanctification or heart-cleansing. Pray for me that I may be filled with the Holy Ghost.'
The brother knew him well, and immediately replied: 'I am so glad you believe in the baptism with the Holy Ghost, and are so earnestly seeking it. I join my prayer with yours that you may receive that gift. But let me say to you, that if you get the gift of the Holy Ghost, you will have to take entire sanctification with it, for the first thing the baptism with the Holy Ghost does is to cleanse the heart from all sin.'
Thank God, he humbled himself, permitted the Lord to sanctify him, and he was filled with the Holy Spirit and mightily empowered to work for God.
Many have looked at the promise of power when the Holy Ghost is come, the energy of Peter's preaching on the day of Pentecost, and the marvellous results which followed; and they have hastily and erroneously jumped to the conclusion that the baptism with the Holy Ghost is for work and service only.
It does bring power-the power of God-and it does fit for service, probably the most important service to which any created beings are commissioned, the proclamation of salvation and the conditions of peace to a lost world; but not that alone, nor primarily. The primary, the basal work of the baptism, is that of cleansing.
You may turn a flood into your millrace, but until it sweeps away the logs and brushwood and dirt that obstruct the course, you cannot get power to turn the wheels of your mill. The flood first washes out the obstructions, and then you have power.
The great hindrance in the hearts of God's children to the power of the Holy Ghost is inbred sin-that dark, defiant, evil something within that struggles for the mastery of the soul, and will not submit to be meek and lowly, patient, forbearing and holy, as was Jesus; and when the Holy Spirit comes, His first work is to sweep away that something, that carnal principle, and make free and clean all the channels of the soul.
Peter was filled with power on the day of Pentecost; but evidently the purifying effect of the baptism made a deeper and more lasting impression upon his mind than the empowering effect; for years after, in the Council in Jerusalem, recorded in the fifteenth chapter of Acts, he stood up and told about the spiritual baptism of Cornelius, the Roman centurion, and his household, and said: 'And God, which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as He did unto us; And put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith' (verses 8, 9). Here he calls attention not to power, but to purity, as the effect of the baptism. When the Holy Ghost comes in to abide the old man' goes out. Praise the Lord!
This destruction of inbred sin is made perfectly plain in that wonderful Old Testament type of the baptism with the Holy Ghost and fire recorded in the sixth chapter of Isaiah. The prophet was a most earnest preacher of righteousness (see Isa. i. I o-2o), yet he was not sanctified wholly. But he had a vision of the Lord upon His throne, and the seraphims crying one to another: ' Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts: the whole earth is full of His glory.' And the very posts of the door moved at the voice of him that cried and how much more should the heart of the prophet be moved! And so it was; and he cried out: 'Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.'
When unsanctified men have a vision of God, it is not their lack of power, but their lack of purity, their unlikeness to Christ, the Holy One, that troubles them. And so it was with the prophet. But he adds: ' Then flew one of the seraphims unto me, having a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with the tongs from off the altar: And he laid it upon my mouth, and said, Lo, this hath touched thy lips; and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged' (verses 6, 7). Here again, it is purity rather than power to which our attention is directed.
Again, in the thirty-sixth chapter of Ezekiel, we have another type of this spiritual baptism. In Isaiah the type was that of fire, but here it is that of water; for water and oil, and the wind and rain and dew, are all used as types of the Holy Spirit.
The Lord says, through Ezekiel: 'Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put My Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in My statutes, and ye shall keep My judgments, and do them.'
Here again, the incoming of the Holy Spirit means the outgoing of all sin, of ' all your filthiness, and from all your idols'. How plainly it is taught! And yet, many of God's dear children do not believe it is their privilege to be free from sin and pure in heart in this life. But, may we not? Let us consider this.
I. It is certainly desirable. Every sincere Christian and none can be a Christian who is not sincere-wants to be free from sin, to be pure in heart, to be like Christ. Sin is hateful to every true child of God. The Spirit within him cries out against the sin, the wrong temper, the pride, the lust, the selfishness, the evil that lurks within the heart. Surely, it is desirable to be free from sin. He wills that I should holy be; That holiness I long to feel, That full divine conformity To all my Saviour's righteous will.
2. It is necessary, for without holiness' no man shall see the Lord'. Sometime, somehow, somewhere, sin must go out of our hearts-all sin-or we cannot go into Heaven. Sin would spoil Heaven just as it spoils earth; just as it spoils the peace of hearts and homes, of families and neighbourhoods and nations here. Why God in His wisdom allows sin in the world, I do not know, I cannot understand. But this I understand: that He has one world into which He will not let sin enter. He has notified us in advance that no sin, nothing that defiles, can enter Heaven, can mar the blessedness of that holy place. ' Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord? or who shall stand in His holy place? He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart; who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully ' (Ps. xxiv.3, 4). We must get rid of sin to get into Heaven, to enjoy the full favour of God. It is necessary.
Choose I must, and soon must choose
Holiness, or Heaven lose.
lf what Heaven loves I hate,
Shut for me is Heaven's gate.
Endless sin means endless woe;
Into endless sin I go
If my soul, from reason rent,
Takes from sin its final bent.
As the stream its channel grooves,
And within that channel moves;
So does habit's deepest tide
Groove its bed and there abide.
Light obeyed increaseth light;
Light resisted bringeth night;
Who shall give me will to choose
If the love of light I lose?
Speed, my soul, this instant yield;
Let the light its sceptre wield.
While thy God prolongs His grace,
Haste thee to His holy face.
3. This purification from sin is promised. Nothing can be plainer than the promise of God on this point. ' Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you.' When all is removed, nothing remains. When all filthiness and all idols are taken away, none are left.
'But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound: That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord' (Rom. V. 2 0, 2 1), Grace reigns, not through sin, but ' through righteousness ' which has expelled sin. Grace brings in righteousness and sin goes out.
' If we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin' (I John i. 7). Hallelujah!
'Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness ' (Rom. vi. 18).
These are sample promises and assurances any one of which is sufficient to encourage us to believe that our heavenly Father will save us from all sin, if we meet His conditions.
4. Deliverance is possible. It was for this that Jesus Christ, the Father's Son, came into the world, and suffered and died, that He might ' save His people from their sins ' (Matt. i. 2 1). It was for this that He shed His precious Blood to ' cleanse us from all sin'. It was for this that the word of God, with its wonderful promises, was given, ' that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust' (2 Pet- i. 4); by which is meant escape from inbred sin. It was for this that ministers of the gospel-Salvation Army officers-are given, ' for the perfecting of the saints ' (Eph. iv.12), for the saving and sanctifying of men (Acts xxvi. 18). It is primarily for this that the Holy Ghost comes as a baptism of fire: that sin might be consumed out of us, so that we might be made meet for ' the inheritance of the saints in light' (Col. 1. 12); that so we might be ready without a moment's warning to go into the midst of the heavenly hosts in white garments, 'washed in the Blood of the Lamb '. Glory be to God for ever and ever!
And shall all these mighty agents and this heavenly provision, and these gracious purposes of God, fail to destroy sin out of any obedient, believing heart? Is sin omnipotent? No!
If you, my brother, my sister, will look unto Jesus just now, trusting the merits of His Blood, and receive the Holy Spirit into your heart, you shall be ' made free from sin '; it ' shall not have dominion over you'. Hallelujah! Under the fiery touch of His holy presence, your iniquity shall be taken away, and your sin shall be purged. And you yourself shall burn as did the bush on the mount of God which Moses saw; yet you, like the bush, shall not be consumed; and by this holy fire, this flame of love, that consumes sin, you shall be made proof against that unquenchable fire that consumes sinners.
Come, Holy Ghost, Thy mighty aid bestowing!
Destroy the works of sin, the self, the pride;
Burn, burn in me, my idols overthrowing;
Prepare my heart for Him, for my Lord crucified.
'HAVE YE RECEIVED THE HOLY GHOST SINCE YE BELIEVED? '
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