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…
No gift of God is intended to remain a gift only. Gifts are means to serve other ends. The rain is a gift, but it is a means toward the harvest. The gift of the Spirit suggests a harvest for which that precious rain of God descended. The gifts are bestowed in anticipation of the hour when they will be needed. The responsibility is not the responsibility of possession merely, but the responsibility of anticipation. The hour comes when the tests of God will be applied. How very real the vision of the great conflict is in the prophet's eyes. It is as real and as vivid in its reality as the plague of locusts, He has no doubt that it will take place. He has no doubt about its issue. The power which makes certain the issue, and gives security to the combatants has been vouchsafed. The gift of the Spirit is the gift of safety. The principle of spiritual life is independent of time. There are things which we can prepare for better when we know the hour; but in the things of the Spirit it is better to prepare not knowing the day nor the hour; for the readiness is the readiness of a spiritual quality which cannot be attained in a moment, nor yet by a fixed hour. The spiritual principle in the words of the prophet is, that every gift of the Spirit must be followed by some decisive conflict — in which all the forces which are allied with the Spirit are thrown into antagonism with all that are hostile to the Spirit. Was it not so after the day of Pentecost? The gift of the Spirit was the revelation of the kingdom of the Spirit. But what war followed! It is thus that the order of God succeeds itself. His first gift is love. His second is illumination. His last is conflict. In the Gospels, the gift of earth's bounties comes first. Christ feeds the multitude. The gift of vision in the darkness follows. He reveals himself in the darkness on the sea. The third stage is achievement, or readiness to face the conflict. To the disciple ready to venture the raging waves He says, "Come." God never calls men to trial but He first prepares them by a gift of power and illumination. In other words, the fresh baptism of the Spirit is to prepare for the baptism of fire. Fire purges in the truest sense; water cleanses. Fire penetrates to the very heart of things; water may leave much that is corrupt to decay and to destroy. I am no friend of working through mere terrors, but we may remind ourselves that the questions which are stirring around us are just those which are calculated to test in the most complete and thorough way the foundations and structure of society as we now know it. Take the condition of Theology, the tenets of Socialism, the reconstructions demanded by evolutionary theories. But we know enough in current literature and current thought to satisfy ourselves that we need not be shaken in mind or troubled should some fiery trial try us. May we not say that the trial begins in the mind of every man who tries to apply the teaching of Christ his Lord in all loyal simplicity to the facts of life and duty? Who may abide? Who can come forth bright and purged from this flaming baptism that is in store for the men and women of this generation? Would not the answer be, he alone can sustain that ordeal who has been prepared in the fire for the fire; he alone can stand in the day when all things are shaken whose character and spirit are built up of those very things which cannot be shaken? Better fall into His consuming fire that in that flame all evil, self — all folly and weakness may be burned up, than wait unpurged for the day which shall burn like an oven. When He baptized us with the Holy Ghost and with fire, did He not baptize us to sacrifice, even the sacrifice of our bodies and souls, a living sacrifice to Him? He who, led by the Spirit, makes his life a sacrifice, and passes through the fire feeling it for very love's sake to be no fire — need not fear the day of the Lord, for on such the fire of the fierce trial of the world has no power.
(Bishop Boyd Carpenter.)
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: