And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.
I. A GREAT EPOCH in human history. World filled with many things - thoughts, speculations, strivings, powers; capable of much, but the great want the Spirit. Truth, love, life, for a false world - a world at enmity with itself, fall of disorder; a dying world, needing to be renewed and restored.
II. A GREAT GIFT of God to man. "Suddenly bestowed; freely, apart from man's claims and merits; upon all, without respect of persons, for the selection of the few believing Jews, with a view to the abolition of Judaism and of all restrictions; abundantly - all filled," to their own astonishment, with supernatural powers. Spiritual gifts above all other gifts. Even science points to a continuous ascent of man. He is only highest when he is filled with the Spirit of God.
III. A GREAT CHANGE in individuals and in the community. We may anticipate a similar baptism of the Holy Ghost, not with the same external manifestation, but with substantially the same elevation of faith and life. Instances of such a baptism in great preachers and workers, in lowly men and women, in periods of the Church's history. Suddenly the fact may appear, but, like the first Christians, our duty is to be ready for it, waiting, expecting, with one accord, often in one place. Revival of the Church, conversion of the world, should be viewed in their relation to this stupendous change, and what came out of it. Baptism is consecration. The Holy Ghost is not given for signs and wonders, but to endow the Church for its mission to the world. The power of utterance is the great test of Divine endowment, not in the sense of human eloquence, but in the fulfillment of the Spirit's work, to "convince the world of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment" (John 16:8-10). And so -
IV. A GREAT OPENING HEAVEN. The one fact of Pentecost is the pledge of the future. It is the gate through which we can see endless glory: "angels of God ascending and descending." "All the families of the earth" blessed in the true children of Abraham. We must admit of no compromise in the proclamation of such a message. If Christianity is no more than a moral doctrine, then Pentecost is lost in the background of a primitive antiquity; if it is "life from the dead," then we must ceaselessly repeat the watchword, "This is he that baptizeth with the Holy Ghost." We can do nothing without a Divine Christ, a Divine Spirit, the promise of the Father, a new creation. To this opened heaven all are alike invited. The conditions of such a baptism were proclaimed by Jesus himself on the mount, through all his ministry. "Come unto me;" "Ask, and it shall be given unto you;" "Walk in the light, and be children of light." - R.
And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost.
1. When we go back towards the origin of things, we are dissatisfied with all mere critical terms, and yearn for something for which we cannot hit the exact word. Then is suggested the Biblical word, Father, and with it comes a promise of satisfaction in spite of all its difficulties.
2. But fatherhood is an inclusive term, suggesting the idea of childhood, and childhood is realised most impressively in the sonship of Christ; but sonship such as this, involving visible expression, is beset with peculiar risks. So He withdrew Himself immediately that He had secured for His personality an unquestioned place in history, as there was nothing more to be gained by His visible continuance on earth.
3. But what of the future of His work? Then, according to Christian teaching, was to come manifestation without visibility; instead of bodily presence, there was to be a new experience of life and spirituality. In one word, the holy Man was to be followed by the Holy Ghost. This idea of a philosophical rather than a merely arbitrary succession is strictly consistent with the fact that the whole movement of history, in all that is vital and permanent, is a movement from the outward and visible to the inward and spiritual.
I. The order of CREATION. The succession runs thus: Light, firmament, dry land, seas, the fruit-tree yielding fruit, sun, moon, and stars, the moving creature that hath life, and fowl flying in the open firmament of heaven, cattle, creeping thing, and beast of the earth; if we pause here we shall be dissatisfied, because of a sense of incompleteness; but to crown the whole "God said, Let us make man in our image and in our likeness."
II. The order of HUMAN RECOVERY. Beginning with the Levitical ritual, what could be more objective? The sin-offering, the trespass-offering, the incenses, etc., represent the most sensuous and exhausting system of mediation? Could aught be farther from the point of spirituality? In moving forward to the incarnation, we take an immense step along the line whose final point is spirituality, yet even there we are still distinctly upon the carnal line. The final representative of sensuous worship must Himself be the revealer of spiritual life. Jesus Christ ascended, and henceforth we know not even Him "after the flesh," for the fleshly Christ has Himself placed mankind under the tuition of a spiritual monitor.
III. The order of WRITTEN TESTIMONY. From picture and symbol we pass to spiritual meanings; through the noise and fury of war we pass into the quietness and security of moral civilisation; through the porch of miracles and mighty signs and wonders we enter the holy place of truth and love. The quality of John's Gospel requires the very place that has been assigned to it in the New Testament. John seems to say, "You have heard what the Evangelists have had to tell, and have seen the wonderful things of their Master's ministry; now let me explain the deep meaning of the whole." From Malachi to Matthew is but a step; but to get from Malachi to John, you have to cross the universe. Matthew shows the fact; John reveals the truth; Matthew pourtrays on canvas; John puts his word into the heart.
IV. The whole LAW. From the minuteness of microscopic bye-laws men have passed to a spiritual sense of moral distinctions. Every moment of the Jew's time, and every act of his life, was guarded by a regulation. Amidst our spiritual light, such regulations could not be re-established without awakening the keenest resentment. The great tables of bye-laws have been taken down, because the spirit of order and of truth has been given. What is true of law is equally true of all institutionalism.
V. Precisely the same movement takes place in the experience of EVERY PROGRESSIVE LIFE. Every man can test this doctrine for himself — the doctrine, namely, that the growth of manhood is towards spirituality. The child grows towards contempt of its first toys; the youth reviews the narrow satisfactions of his childhood with pity; the middle-aged man smiles, half-sneeringly, as he recalls the conceits of his youth; and the hoary-haired thinker lives already amid the peace and joy of invisible scenes, or if he go back, living in memory rather than in expectation, it is so ideally as to divest his recollections of all that was transient and unlovely. The spiritual world of the wise man increases every day. These suggestions point to the conclusion that the Holy Ghost is the reasonable completion of revelation, and as such His ministry is an impregnable proof of the reasonableness of Christianity. In the person of Jesus Christ truth was outward, visible, and most beautiful; in the person of the Holy Ghost truth is inward, spiritual, all-transfiguring. By the very necessity of the case the bodily Christ could be but a passing figure; but by a gracious mystery He caused Himself to be succeeded by an eternal Presence, "even the Spirit of Truth, which abideth for ever." It is claimed, then, on behalf of Christianity, that there is a Holy Ghost, and to this doctrine is invited not only the homage of the heart but the full assent of the most robust and dispassionate understanding.
(J. Parker, D. D.)I. They were filled WITH THE SPIRIT.
1. Men may be filled but not with the Spirit (ver. 13). The audience confessed they were full, but with wine, a liquor though full of spirit, yet no spirit. It was false, yet if the Spirit may be taken for a humour, why not a humour for a spirit. Isaiah says (Isaiah 29:9) that men may be drunk but not with wine. A hot humour is taken for this fire and termed, though untruly, a spirit of zeal, and men imbued with it are ever mending churches, states, superiors, and all save themselves.
2. Not every spirit. "There is a spirit in man," i.e. our own spirit, and many there be who follow their own ghost, and not the Holy Ghost; for even that ghost taketh upon it to inspire, and we know its revelations (Matthew 16:17).
3. blot the world's spirit (1 Corinthians 2:12).
4. But the Holy Spirit, i.e. His gifts and graces. And because these be of many points they are all included under these two —(l) Under the wind is represented saving graces; as necessary to our spiritual life as breath is to our natural. This is meant for us personally. Of this Spirit there are nine points (Galatians 5:22).(2) Under the tongues are set forth the grace meant for the benefit of others. Tongues serve to teach and fire to warm; and of this spirit the points are reckoned up in 1 Corinthians 12:7, etc.
II. THEY WERE FILLED with the Spirit.
1. It was not a wind that blew through them, as it does through many of us, but that filled them.
2. Not that they were devoid of the Spirit before. Christ had not breathed upon them (John 20:22) in vain. This shows us that there are diverse measures of the Spirit, some single, some double portions (1 Kings 2:9). As there are degrees in the wind — a breath, a blast, a gale, so there are in the Spirit. It is one thing to receive the Spirit as at Easter and to be filled with Him as at Whitsuntide. Then but a breath; now a mighty wind; then but sprinkled as with a few drops (Ezekiel 20:46), now baptized with that which was plenteously poured out (Joel 2:20).
III. IN SIGN THAT THEY WERE FILLED THEY RAN OVER. The fire was kindled in them by this wind, and in sign thereof they spoke with their tongue (Psalm 39:3). The wind would have served them as Christians, but as apostles, i.e. ambassadors, they must have tongues.
1. They were filled and then they began to speak. Some speak, I will not say before they are full, or half full, but while they are little better than empty, if not empty quite.
2. This beginning to speak argues courage. Any man might see that there was a new spirit come into them. Before they were tongue-tied. A damsel did but ask Peter a question, and he faltered. But after this mighty wind blew up the fire, and they were warmed with it, then they were not afraid to testify before magistrates and kings.
I. SPIRITUAL MINDEDNESS.
1. This does not mean that our thoughts should be perpetually running on the future, that we should ever be debating theological questions, but that we shall have the power to appreciate those great and eternal realities that are about us.
2. This spiritual mindedness will reveal itself —(1) In the estimate we form of our fellow men.(2) In our appreciation of the great spiritual end we ought ever to be seeking in order to do Christian work.(3) In our appreciation of Christian doctrine caring more about the spiritual substance than the particular form or fashion by which the truth may have been expressed. For instance —(a) In all our thought about the death and atonement of Christ, the imagination will not dwell on the physical blood that was shed, or upon the physical agony that was endured, but upon the majesty of God's righteousness, the wonder of God's love, the mystery of that great sacrifice on the Cross, and the awfulness of the sin which made that sacrifice necessary.(b) When we think about the second coming of Christ, our thoughts will not be taken up with the external circumstances of pomp and splendour, but rather with the triumph' of good over evil, and truth over falsehood, which is the consummation to which all devout souls must ever be looking.(c) In thinking about inspiration we shall not trouble ourselves about theories of it, or about the mere letter, but our care will be mostly for the Divine truth itself, which will lift us up in our despondency, and guide us in our perplexity when we come to the sacred page.
II. AN ACCESS OF POWER BY WHICH THE NATURALLY TIMID WILL BE ENABLED TO DO THINGS WHICH WOULD BE OTHERWISE IMPOSSIBLE TO THE STRONGEST; in regard to —
1. Testimony for Christ.
2. Endurance of suffering.
3. Philanthropic work.
III. A CHANGE OF DISPOSITION.
1. The cessation of "jealousies, strifes, and divisions," which Paul includes amongst the "works of the flesh."
2. The prevalence of a spirit of mercy and kindness towards others.(1) To those who in our midst are compelled to live very hard lives.(2) For those multitudes all over the world who are without the knowledge of God as revealed in Christ.
IV. AN ENTHUSIASM OF HOLY FERVOUR IN ALL WORK.
1. In worship.
2. In Church life.
3. In evangelism.
(H. Arnold Thomas, M. A.)I. THE FULNESS. There was no part of the complex nature of man that was not pervaded by the Spirit.
1. The intellect was illumined to know the truths of the Spirit.
2. The affections were purified and inflamed with desires after heavenly things.
3. The will was strengthened to obey the motions of the Spirit.
II. ITS MANIFESTATION. Those who are so filled give out only the language of the life-giving Spirit. Even when they speak of earthly things it is with a tongue reminding men of the wisdom and simplicity of the children of God. When they do aught in the common business of life, their example recalls the thought of a higher life. All they say or do is to edifying.
(Cornelius a Lapide.)
(W. Arthur, M. A.)
(W. Arthur, M. A.)I. WE ARE APT TO FIX OUR THOUGHTS AND DESIRES ON SUBORDINATE INSTRUMENTALITIES.
1. Good organisation. Many are chiefly anxious to perfect the ecclesiastical apparatus of the Church; but without speaking disparagingly of this, yet perfect machinery is useless without motive power, a Church may be organised to death, and may be only like a stately tomb. The Church's finest triumphs were gained in days when it had no elaborate organisation.
2. Orthodoxy. Many are distressed by the present unsettlement of theological opinion, and regard uniformity of belief as the great desideratum. Correct thinking is much to be desired, and in proportion as any Church departs from fundamental Christian truth it emasculates its moral force. But an orthodox Church may be a scene of mental and spiritual stagnation. It may have a perfect creed and yet be loveless, lifeless, helpless.
3. Intellectual equipment. Of scholarship and disciplined thought it is impossible for a Church to have too much, but a Church that prides itself on its culture may be as cold as an iceberg and exclusive as a coterie. It may virtually say to any candidate who cannot be classed among its "thoughtful," or who does not rise to a certain standard of wealth and social status, what a deacon is reported to have said to an unwelcome applicant, "There is no vacancy in our church just now."
4. Liberty, fearless independence of thought and expression. But liberty may degenerate into license quite as easily as zeal for truth may pass into bigotry, and in its sacred name deadly errors and worthless speculations and conceits may be passed off as current coin of the realm of truth.
II. WHAT WE WANT SUPREMELY IS THE FULNESS OF THE SPIRIT.
1. Organisation, etc., are good things, but there is something more essential. Might not the Master say to-day as He did of old, "Ye are careful about many things, but one thing is needful." With the fulness of the Spirit our organisation will be filled with power, our orthodoxy pulsate with love, our culture have in it no Phariseeism, and our liberty always serve the interests of truth and godliness.
2. "Filled with the Spirit."(1) The Church will be guided into all truth, for a fuller tide of the Spirit means finer spiritual discernment and discrimination, and deeper insight into eternal verities.(2) The Church will be "glorious in holiness," for wherever the Spirit of God dwells He is as the refiner's fire.(3) The peace and harmony of the Church will be insured, for brotherly love will reign supreme, and fidelity to truth will carry no bitterness with it.(4) The Church will be preserved from selfishness, and made missionary and philanthropic.(5) The Church will not descend to carnal and unworthy methods of spreading the kingdom of God. It will cease to bow at the shrine of mammon, disdain the expedients of worldly wisdom, and not measure its success by statistical tables or worldly standards.(6) The Church will have an attractive power. We look too much to the mere accessories of religion — to music and ritual, intellectual brilliance and sensational services, forgetful of the fact that the magnetic spell of the Church is the beauty, intensity, and fulness of its spiritual life. When the fruits of the Spirit abound men will be drawn as bees to the apple blossom, or steel filings to the magnet.(7) The Church will exert a mighty power to perform greater miracles than those of Christ, and in their presence the voice of the caviller will be silenced. Preaching will be "in the demonstration of the Spirit and power," and we shall rejoice in constant accessions.
III. How SHALL WE OBTAIN THIS FULNESS OF THE SPIRIT? There have been seasons when the Spirit has swept in mighty tides, and we are tempted to think that the supply of the Spirit is according to some capricious or arbitrary arrangement. But the supernatural has its laws as well as the natural.
1. Everything that grieves the Spirit must be put away, "all malice and all guile and hypocrisies," etc., and "all unbelief, worldly-mindedness, pride, selfishness"; everything opposed to the simplicity, the charity and purity of Christ, or there will be fatal hindrances.
2. Earnest, importunate prayer — prayer that is not a mere repetition of conventional phrases, that has in it the utmost intensity of desire, that links together the whole communion of the faithful, and knows no cessation till the answer comes. The experience of the disciples before Pentecost, and in Acts 4:31, is a lesson for all ages.
3. There must be avenues for the Spirit's entrance, a large measure of receptivity, sensitiveness to His influence, fidelity to the truth. He requires cheerful response as He calls to duty or sacrifice, and an implicit obedience to His commands. Luther once said that people cried, "Spirit, Spirit, Spirit!" and then struck down all the bridges by which the Spirit might enter. At the moment of his ordination Whitefield says, "I offered up my whole spirit, soul and body, to the service of God's sanctuary," and the result we know. If the sacrifice be upon the altar, the fire from heaven will come down.
(T. G. Tarn.)
(W. Arthur, M. A.)
(Bp. Phillips Brooks.)
And began to speak with other tonguesI. WHEREIN IT CONSISTS.
1. Not in a miraculous gift of languages.
2. Nor in a formal repetition of pious expressions.
3. But in a heart and mouth opened to thankful praise of Divine grace and joyful confession of the Lord.
II. WHENCE IT PROCEEDS.
1. Not from our natural state.
2. Nor from the arts and sciences.
3. But from above, from the Spirit of God, who touches heart and lips with fire from heaven.
III. WHAT PURPOSE IT SERVES. Not to vain self-glorification or worldly delectation, but to the praise of God and to the message of salvation to the world.
As the Spirit gave them utterance
I. WISELY, as the Spirit of wisdom moved them.
II. POWERFULLY, as the Spirit of power strengthened them.
III. PURELY, as the Spirit of holiness sanctified them.
(Cornelius a Lapide.)
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