"Oh, I could not do so and so -- I have not the courage," is a reply frequently made by Christian people when asked to undertake some piece of service or other for the Master. The first point to be settled is, "Is that the Master's will for me?" If so, lack of courage is a confession to the lack of the "Fullness of the Holy Ghost." The Spirit-filled man knows the fear of God and knows no other fear.
Acts ii.14, "Peter, standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice and spake forth." No fear of servant maids now! But can this be the man who quailed before the look of the waiting-maid who charged him with being "with the Nazarene"? Can this be the man that "began to curse and to swear, I know not this man of whom ye speak"? The very same, and yet not the same; for the Baptism of the Holy Ghost has changed Peter the craven-hearted into Peter the lion-hearted, so that he can stand before that surging multitude, their hands dyed crimson in his Master's blood, and without a tremor charge home upon them the awful crime, "Him ye did crucify and slay."
Ch. iv.13: "They beheld the boldness of Peter and John."
Ch. iv.31: "They spake the word of God with boldness."
Ch. v.20: "Go ye and stand and speak in the temple." Taken out of prison, and ordered to go and do again the very thing for which they had been imprisoned! But they were Spirit-filled men, and so we read in the next verse, "they entered into the temple."
Ch. v.29: "We must obey God rather than men."
Ch. v.40-42: "Beaten ... departed rejoicing ... ceased not to teach."
Ch. xxi.13: "I am ready not to be bound only, but also to die at Jerusalem, for the name of the Lord Jesus." Courage-filled because Spirit-filled!
2. The fruit of the Spirit.
The fruit of the Spirit will be manifest in the life: Love, Joy, Peace, etc. (Gal. v.22, 23). How can one's life be filled with the fruit of the Spirit, unless one's heart is first filled with the Spirit Himself? In the primitive Church the men and women were filled with the Holy Ghost; that was the rule; now, alas! it has come to be the exception -- and as a consequence we see how their lives were enriched by the fruit of the Spirit.
Love: Acts iv.32, "Were of one heart and soul ... had all things common." This may be poor political economy, but it is good spiritual economy, a simple Bible illustration of the Bible precept, "Lay up for yourselves treasure in heaven" (Matt. vi.20). If brotherly love were abroad to-day, how soon the present distress would disappear! As the best available commentary on this heavenly word "Love," study on your knees the whole of 1 Cor. xiii.
Joy: Acts ii.46, "They did take their food with gladness and singleness of heart, praising God." Every meal was a sacrament. The same cause would produce the same result to-day.
Ch. v.41: "Rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the Name," when some of us would have been bemoaning ourselves and complaining of the hardness of our lot!
Ch. xiii.50-52: "Stirred up a persecution ... and the disciples were (being) filled with joy."
Ch. xvi.25: "Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns unto God." The heavier the tribulation the more their joy seemed to "overflow" (2 Cor. vii.4), and of course the heavier the tribulation the more joy they needed to sustain them. "For the joy of the Lord is your strength" (Neh. viii.10).
Peace: Acts vi.15, "Saw his (Stephen's) face as it had been the face of an angel."
Ch. vii.59, 60: "They stoned Stephen, calling upon the Lord, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my Spirit, and he kneeled down, and ... fell asleep."
2 Cor, iv.8, 9: "Troubled on every side, yet not distressed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed."
Thus we might go through the heavenly list -- long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance -- and see how richly in Bible times the fruit flourished in the lives of those who were Spirit-filled. Before passing on let us notice where it is that Joy grows. It grows between Love and Peace. It is, as some one has well called it, a sheltered fruit. If Love withers, Joy is exposed on that side, and it too will fade. If Peace is interfered with, even though Love is vigorous, Joy is exposed on that side now, and it will fade away and die. The only way to preserve Joy in vigorous growth is to see that its sheltering fruits, Love and Peace, are kept free from blight, and vigorous too.
In his letter to the Ephesian Church, to whom he addressed the command, "Be filled with the Spirit," Paul points out very clearly what the results of the Fullness will be.
(1) A singing heart (Eph. v.19). This is what would bring us and our lives up to concert pitch. We would no more go "flat." This would drive away the leaden dullness.
(2) A thankful heart (ver.20). Such a heart would not be finding fault with Christ's government; will "find none occasion of stumbling in" Jesus (Matt. xi.6); will not be offended at Him, no matter how He may test and try it. "Blessed is he" that has such a heart in his bosom!
(3) A submissive heart (Eph. v.21), "in lowliness of mind each counting other better than himself" (Phil. ii.3). "The thing (once) impossible shall be."
(4) Spirit-filled wives will be in subjection to their own husbands (Eph. v.22).
(5) Spirit-filled husbands will love their wives as Christ loved the Church (ver.25).
(6) Spirit-filled children will obey their parents (Eph. vi.1).
(7) Spirit-filled fathers will not provoke their children to wrath (ver.4).
(8) Spirit-filled servants (bond-slaves) will be obedient to their masters (ver.5).
(9) Spirit-filled masters will treat their servants as they (the masters) would wish to be treated by their Master (ver.9).
Would not results (8) and (9) be the best possible solution of the constantly recurring Labor and Capital difficulty, and render a labor war impossible, because unnecessary?
(10) Spirit-filled men will be strong in the Lord, spiritual giants, not sickly, hunchbacked dwarfs (ver.10).
(11) Spirit-filled men will be warriors, clad in the whole armor of God; if not Spirit-filled they could not carry it (ver.11).
(12) Spirit-filled soldiers will not be warring against flesh and blood; internal foes having all been subdued, the civil war has ceased; their enemies are now external, and they are free to concentrate all their attention and God-inspired energies on them. Their enemies are (1) in the world -- principalities and world-rulers, and (2) in the heavenlies -- powers and spiritual hosts of wickedness (ver.12).
(13) Spirit-filled men will be praying always in the Spirit (ver.18). In order to this vigilance is necessary "watching thereunto."
Such are some of the results, on the positive side, of being filled with the Spirit. The effects on the negative side are manifest in Gal. v.16, 17, "Walk in (by) the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are contrary the one to the other: that ye (walking by the Spirit) may not do the things that ye would" (if ye were walking by the flesh). (See Gal. v.19-21.)
3. Reaching the masses.
Another effect of a Spirit-baptized Church would be that the masses would be reached. See how the early Church -- which was a Spirit-baptized Church, and persistently kept that truth in the foreground -- reached the masses, and with what blessed results! They were not amused or entertained, but they were converted, saved, turned to the Lord.
"There were added unto them in that day about three thousand souls." Acts ii.41.
"The number of the men came to be about five thousand." Acts iv.4.
"Added to the Lord multitudes both of men and women." Acts v.14.
"The number of the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem exceedingly, and a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith." Acts vi.7.
"The multitudes (in Samaria) gave heed with one accord unto the things that were spoken." Acts viii.6.
"And all that dwelt at Lydda and in Sharon saw him, and they turned to the Lord." Acts ix.35.
"It became known throughout all Joppa; and many believed on the Lord." Acts ix.42.
"While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word." Acts x.44.
"And the hand of the Lord was with them: and a great number that believed, turned unto the Lord." Acts xi.21.
"And the next Sabbath almost the whole city was gathered together to hear the word of God." Acts xiii.44.
"And so spake that a great multitude both of Jews and of Greeks believed." Acts xiv.1.
"And when they had preached the gospel to that city, and had made many disciples." Acts xiv.21.
"The churches ... increased in number daily." Acts xvi.5.
"These that have turned the world upside down are come hither also." Acts xvii.6.
"Crispus ... believed ... and many of the Corinthians hearing believed." Acts xviii.8.
"So mightily grew the word of the Lord and prevailed." Acts xix.18-20.
We often hear of discussions on the "lapsed masses." "Why have the masses of the people lapsed from the Churches?" Perhaps the more correct way of putting it would be, Why have the Churches lapsed from the masses? The answer is not far to seek -- because they have lost the driving power which alone could keep them abreast of the masses, even the Baptism of the Holy Ghost. The conditions were just as unfavorable in the first century as in the nineteenth, and yet we read, "So mightily grew the word of the Lord and prevailed." It is positively painful to see the substitutes that are being tried to-day for the power of the Holy Ghost. Miserable substitutes are they all! One Church is trying this plan, another that, and not one of them has found a new plan that is a permanent success. They are floundering, and some of them are foundering, and no wonder. It will be no loss to the kingdom of God if Churches which ignore the Holy Ghost should founder. Let us get back to Pentecostal methods. The trouble is that the Churches have lost their way to that "upper room." Let a Church only find her way back there and obtain her Pentecost; let pulpit and pew be baptized with the Holy Ghost and with fire, and the people will come running in to see the burning. That Church will not need to cater for amusements as a bait to catch the masses, but the people will come crowding into her pews, climbing into them as Zacchaeus climbed into the branches of that sycamore tree when he wanted to see the Lord; for the people still want "to see Jesus," and they have heard that He is "to pass that way." We cannot improve on Pentecost's methods for reaching the masses.
Yet another effect of the Fullness of the Spirit must be mentioned, viz., Persecution.
"Others mocking said, They are filled with new wine." Acts ii.13.
"They laid hands on them and put them in ward." Acts iv.3.
"Let us threaten them." Acts iv.17.
"They laid hands on the apostles and put them in public ward." Acts v.18.
"And were minded to slay them." Acts v.33.
"They beat them and charged them not to speak." Acts v.40.
"And seized him and brought him into the council." Acts vi.12.
"And they stoned Stephen." Acts vii.59.
"And there arose on that day a great persecution." Acts viii.1.
"Haling men and women committed them to prison." Acts viii.3.
"Saul, yet breathing threatening and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord." Acts ix.1.
"Took counsel together to kill him." Acts ix.23.
"They went about to kill him." Acts ix.29.
"Killed James the brother of John with the sword." Acts xii.2.
"He put him (Peter) in prison." Acts xii.4.
"Stirred up a persecution against Paul and Barnabas." Acts xiii.50.
"Made them evil affected against the brethren." Acts xiv.2.
"To treat them shamefully and to stone them." Acts xiv.5.
"They stoned Paul." Acts xiv.19.
"Commanded to beat them (Paul and Silas) with rods." Acts xvi.22.
"Cast them into prison, ... and made their feet fast in the stocks." Acts xvi.23, 24.
"Set the city on an uproar." Acts xvii.5.
"Stirring up and troubling the multitudes." Acts xvii.13.
"Opposed themselves and blasphemed." Acts xviii.6.
"Rose up against Paul, and brought him before the judgment seat." Acts xviii.12.
"Speaking evil of the way." Acts xix.9.
"Filled with wrath." Acts xix.28.
"No small stir concerning the way." Acts xix.23.
"A plot was laid against him by the Jews." Acts xx.3.
"So shall the Jews at Jerusalem bind the man that owneth this girdle, and shall deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles." Acts xxi.11.
"And laid hands on him." (Paul was never free after this.) Acts xxi.27.
"As they were seeking to kill him." Acts xxi.31.
"Beating Paul ... bound with two chains ... into the castle." Acts xxi.32, 33, 34.
"It is not fit that he should live." Acts, xxii.22.
"Bound themselves under a curse, saying that they would neither eat nor drink till they had killed Paul." Acts xxiii.12.
"They delivered Paul ... to a centurion." Acts xxvii.1.
"From henceforth let no man trouble me: for I bear branded on my body the marks of Jesus." Gal. vi.17.
All this makes lively reading in this peaceful, easy-going day of ours; and yet the world has not changed in its attitude or feeling towards God and the things of God. But a most palpable change has taken place somewhere. The change, alas! is in us, in the people of God; a change that is not for the better. We have lost that which brought these men into direct collision with the world, and with its ways, even the Fullness of the Spirit. Only let a man in our day seek and obtain the blessing that made these men mighty for God, and he will soon find that the world has not changed, and that the "Pharisees" have not changed either; the Fullness of the Holy Ghost makes a man the uncompromising friend of God, and that certainly involves the enmity of the world. "Therefore the world hateth you" (John xv.19). It behooves those who are seeking the "Fullness of the Spirit" to remember these facts, and to count the cost, for the persecution may come from the most unlikely, unlooked-for quarters. To be forewarned is to be forearmed. "In the world ye have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world" (John xvi.33).