Joel 2:28, 29
And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit on all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy…
These words were to have their fulfilment after the purpose expressed in the twenty-third verse had been accomplished. The marginal translation there is the more correct. Joel called upon the children of Zion to rejoice in the Lord, because he was about to send "a Teacher of righteousness." This was he of whom Nicodemus, the ruler of the Jews, said, "We know that thou art a Teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles which thou doest, except God be with him." We must look, therefore, for the fulfilment of the prophecy in our text after the advent of our Lord Jesus Christ. Peter was right in recognizing it in the descent of the Holy Spirit on the Church at Pentecost (Acts 2:16-21). But the baptism of the Spirit is recurrent. The Church has known many a Pentecost. It is within our reach now, and we all sorely need it.
I. THE EFFECTS OF THE EFFUSION OF THE HOLY GHOST may be briefly suggested, so far as they are alluded to in our text. Amongst them may be mentioned the following.
1. Belief in the supernatural. "Visions" and "dreams" were the means of Divine revelation. We read of them in the history of Joseph, Daniel, Ezekiel, and others, mentioned in the Old Testament. Under the new dispensation Peter had visions of angels; Paul saw the angel of the Lord more than once; Stephen beheld Jesus standing at the right hand of God; John gazed on the glories of the New Jerusalem, and rejoiced in visions of his Lord. If such special manifestations are no longer given, spiritual realities around us are not the less confidently believed in by men baptized with the Holy Ghost. What are laughed at by the world as dreams and visions are actual truths and obvious phenomena in Christian experience. Spiritual truths are spiritually discerned.
2. Fearless enunciation of Divine truth. "Prophecy" is used in two senses in Scripture. As the faculty of foretelling future events, it was prevalent in the Christian Church. Agabus, and the daughters of Philip the evangelist, were not alone in their gifts. Even now coming events cast their shadows before on the sensitive souls of believers, whose answered prayers are the beginnings of the Divine purposes. But if we take the phrase in its more ordinary acceptation, there can be no doubt that the baptism of the Spirit gives courage and power for utterance of Divine truth. This the apostles realized. Feeble and trembling before Pentecost, they shook the world by their bold preaching after it.
3. The extension of the covenant. "I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh can only mean the inclusion of the Gentiles in the covenant blessings. And it was the fact that to them also was given the Holy Ghost, which broke down the prejudices of the apostles and led them to the inclusion of these in the Christian Church. God put no difference between Jew and Gentile, nor does he now.
4. The exaltation of the lowliest. The servants" and the "handmaids," in other words, the male and female slaves, were not to be excluded. God was no respecter of persons. Onesimus, the fugitive slave, was as true a convert as his master, Philemon.
II. THE ATTITUDE OF SOUL NECESSARY TO THE RECEPTION OF THIS BLESSING, This we may learn from a comparison of the passage with the actual experience of the apostles.
1. The Church should feel profoundly convinced of her weakness. As afflictions brought down the Jews, so the departure of their Lord saddened and disheartened the apostles. They had no strength, and they knew it. Therefore they could only tarry in Jerusalem until they were endued with power from on high. "He that humbleth himself shall be exalted." "My strength is made perfect in weakness."
2. The Church should cherish strong confidence in the power of God. All that puts natural causes in the place of the Divine energy which is in them, weakens this faith. As the earth is dependent on the rains, and "lives because heaven weeps over it," so is the Church dependent on the outpouring of the Spirit from on high. According to our faith so it will be unto us.
3. The Church must bestir herself to believing and importunate prayer. Compare the Lord's parable of the importunate widow. Recall the promise, "Ask, and ye shall receive," etc. Above all, trust to this explicit declaration, "If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?' - A.R.
Parallel VersesKJV: 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: