"How much more shall your Heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask Him?" (Luke xi.13.) This promise is given to God's children. It is the dearest wish of the great Father-heart of God that His children should be filled with His Spirit. Who has a fathoming line long enough to sound the depths of that "how much more"? You "ask;" Father "gives." What is the next step? Why, of course, you "receive!" else all Father's "giving" will be of no avail.
"When they had prayed ... they were all filled with the Holy Ghost" (Acts iv.31).
"Prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost" (Acts viii.15).
"Tarry" (Luke xxiv.49). "Wait" (Acts i.4) -- not idling, but praying, pleading the promise. "These all with one accord continued steadfastly in prayer" (Acts i.14).
"They were all with one accord in one place, and suddenly" the answer came! (Acts ii.1.) So in obtaining the blessing of the Fullness, prayer has its place.
2. Laying on of hands.
"Then laid they their hands on them and they (Samaritan converts) received the Holy Ghost" (Acts viii.17).
"Then when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away" (Acts xiii.3). Barnabas and Saul were men who were already full of the Holy Ghost, but by the laying on of hands (it is probable that hands had been laid on these men before this) they received a fresh anointing of the Holy Ghost, a fresh equipment for special service, and thus they were set apart for the work to which the Holy Ghost was calling them.
"And when Paul had laid his hands upon them (the men of Ephesus), the Holy Ghost came on them" (Acts xix.6).
"They laid their hands on them" (the deacons) (Acts vi.6).
"Neglect not the gift that is in thee, which was given thee by prophecy, with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery" (1 Tim. iv.14).
"Stir up the gift of God, which is in thee through the laying on of my hands" (2 Tim. i.6). It is quite evident that laying on of hands was no meaningless ceremonial in the primitive Church. Is there any reason why it should ever be an empty, barren form in our own day?
We come now to examine the answer given to the question -- How is the Fullness of the Spirit to be obtained? -- viz., "Claim it." It must be borne clearly in mind that we are dealing now with a cleansed and consecrated soul. If you are not "cleansed," attend first to the cleansing. If you are not consecrated, attend at once to the consecrating, and then (but not till then) will you be able to profit by what will be said about the claiming of the blessing. Do we appreciate the immense difference between "claiming" and "asking"? I "claim" that which is mine own; I "ask" for a favor. For instance, if a man has a credit balance of [USD]250 in his current banking account, and draws a check for [USD]50, he does not require to go to the manager and "ask" for [USD]50; he presents his check and "claims" it, for it is his own. But supposing that same man is in need of an advance of [USD]500; he goes into the manager's room, and "asks" for the favor of a loan. No "claiming" now! So it is often with the Christian and his God. When God gives him a definite promise for some definite blessing, it is the Christian's privilege to "claim," to "receive" by faith the thing promised. If God tells him a certain blessing is his by virtue of his sonship, it is his to "claim," to "receive" what through grace has been made his own. There is no "asking" needed here, that is "asking" in the sense of saying -- "Lord, if it be Thine holy will, give me this." Where is the room for an "if"? Has not God told him it is His will? -- has He not promised it? -- has He not given it to him? Why, then, should he mock his Lord by saying, "If it be Thy will"? But supposing, on the other hand, that that man wants something which God has not expressly promised to give, something in reference to which He has not revealed His will; all the Christian can do in this case is to "ask"; he cannot "claim;" and God may give him what he asks, or He may see that it will be for the best to refuse His child's request. A Christian may want [USD]250, and may "ask" his Father to send it to him, and God may give or withhold. But if a Christian man wants to be filled with the Holy Ghost, he need be in no doubt as to the issue here, he may "claim" the Fullness, for has not God promised it? Is not this blessing his very own? His birthright by virtue of his new birth? Let us learn then clearly to distinguish between "claiming" as an act of faith based on an express promise in the Word, and "asking" as a request in prayer. That the Fullness of the Holy Ghost is one of the blessings which it is our privilege to "claim," to "receive" by a simple act of faith, is abundantly clear from the Book of God. "Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us; for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree: that the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the spirit through faith" (Gal. iii.13, 14). The double purpose of Christ's redeeming work, of His being made a curse for us, is here plainly stated. He was "cursed" that we might be blessed with a double blessing -- (1) with "the blessing of Abraham," that is, righteousness, justification; and (2) with "the promise of the Spirit." How many of God's children forget the second blessing! -- they think that if they are saved from wrath and justified, that that is all! -- but that is only half salvation; full salvation consists in receiving the promise of the Spirit in addition to being justified. Have we overlooked this fact? Have we been stopping short at half salvation? Those who are not living the "Spirit-filled life" are making void to a most alarming extent, as far as they are concerned, the work Christ accomplished on the tree. Christ died that we might be made the righteousness of God, and that we might be filled with God. As God holds the sinner guilty who neglects so great salvation, and rejects the offered righteousness, so He holds the justified believer guilty who neglects the second blessing which Christ purchased with His Blood, viz., the offered "promise of the Spirit."
But note well how Paul tells us this latter blessing is to be made ours; it becomes ours "by faith." No one doubts how we receive the blessing of Abraham (righteousness, justification); all are agreed that it is "by faith." "Being justified by faith" (Rom. v.1). But how blind we are to see, how slow to take it in, in spite of the plain declarations of Scripture, that "the promise of the Spirit" is in like manner received "by faith!" The Holy Ghost is the "gift" of the Father, and of the Son (Luke xi.13). This "gift" is received "by faith." There is the whole matter in a nutshell. Of all the sublime things in God's sublime Book there is surely not a sublimer than this, that a cleansed and consecrated believer may by simple faith here and now claim and receive the Fullness of the Spirit -- the greatest gift that even the exalted Christ has in His power to bestow upon His people. "Be filled with the Spirit," saith the Holy Ghost. Note that the command is in the passive voice, "Be filled," that is, "Let yourself be filled." The Fullness is pressing in upon you, only let it in! Receive it, and it is yours! Have you got it? If not, deal with the Lord about it at once, somewhat after this manner, "Lord Jesus, Thou dost command me to be filled with the Spirit. I take Thy command and make it my prayer, 'Lord, fill me with Thy Spirit.' Thou hast told me that 'all things whatsoever ye pray and ask for, believe that ye have received them, and ye shall have them' (Mark xi.24). It is Thy desire to fill me; it is my desire to be filled. I have made, 'Lord, fill me,' the prayer of my heart. I claim the Fullness. I believe for it. I receive it now by faith. I have received it. I have it. It is mine. Lord, I thank Thee for filling me, even me, with Thine Holy Spirit." And the blessed business is done! It is yours to believe, to receive. It is His to fill. Go on your way now, reckoning that you are filled, and God will make the reckoning good. It is yours to keep believing. It is God's to keep you filled. Stagger not at the promise of God through unbelief, but be made strong in faith, giving glory to God. Some object to this quick, almost instantaneous, and easy way of receiving this greatest of the New Testament blessings. But every objection urged against receiving the Fullness of the Spirit in this way, applies with equal, if not greater force to a sinner receiving the pardon of his sins when he comes to God at the first. It is always in grace that God deals with the sinner, and justifies him the instant he believes in Jesus. It is always in grace that God deals with the justified one, and fills him with the Holy Ghost the moment he receives the Fullness by faith. Eternal life is the gift of God, and all the sinner has to do is to take it. The Holy Ghost is a gift, and all God's child has to do is to take it. But some will still object, and say that it is necessary to spend some time "waiting" on God for the Fullness before we can get it. A night of prayer, or a half night at least, a more or less protracted season must thus be spent before we can hope to receive the blessing we desire. Of course not one word can be uttered against spending seasons of prayer by day or by night in waiting upon God. We have the example of the Man of Prayer Himself before us in this. But this much must be said, that many a one has spent whole days and nights and weeks in earnest crying to God for the infilling of the Holy Ghost, and all in vain. All in vain? Why? How? Because of unbelief. If you want to fill a corked bottle with water, and take it to a running tap, but neglect to remove the cork, how long will you have to wait holding it under the tap before it is filled? Remove the cork, and the bottle is running over in a few seconds! Many a one has cried and waited, and waited and cried for the Fullness of the Spirit, but the stopper of unbelief has been in their empty hearts, and so no wonder that they did not get what they wanted! Of what avail will all God's "giving" be if a man does not "receive"? God cannot give and receive too! But some one may still object, and, in proof of his contention that we must "wait" for the filling of the Holy Ghost, point to the case of the disciples, who continued in prayer for ten days, waiting for the promise of the Father. Quite true that they "waited;" but it must be remembered that that prayer meeting was ante-pentecostal; we live in post-pentecostal days; they were waiting for the Spirit to come from Heaven. "The Spirit was not yet given." We have not so to wait. He has come, He has been given, and all we have to do is to receive Him. We have read of Christ's coming into the world and of His leaving it. We have read of the Spirit's descent, but we do not read of His ascension. A Christian man came to me once and said -- expecting a word of encouragement and approval -- "I have been seeking that blessing for over thirty years." "Brother, it's nearly time you got it then!" was the swift rejoinder. For all these years during which the man was crying, "Give, give, give!" God was saying, "Take, take, take! Receive, receive! for I do give!" If I heard my little girl of three years old crying piteously for a piece of bread, knowing that she must be very hungry, and having the bread by me would I tell her to cry on for another hour and that then I might attend to her wants? "How much more," oh! "How much more will your Heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask Him?" But what if, in spite of her crying and of my offering, she would not take the bread I offered, but still went on with her crying, "Father! oh, father! do give me a piece of bread, I am so hungry!" You silly child! Oh, how many silly children has the Father in His family, crying year in and year out, "Give, give!" and Father all the while yearning over them and saying, "Take, take, My child!" Let some of us give over crying and set to work "receiving." Take and thank! Receive and thank! "That we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith."