And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting.…
(text and ver. 17; and 1 John 2:20): — Wind, fire, water, oil — these four are constant Scriptural symbols for the Spirit of God. In our texts we have the breath, the fire, the water, and the anointing oil of the Spirit to all Christian souls.
I. "A RUSHING MIGHTY WIND." Spirit is breath. Wind is but air in motion. Breath is the synonym for life. Spirit and life are two words for one thing. So in the "rushing mighty wind," we have the highest work of the Spirit — the communication of a new and supernatural life.
1. We are carried back to the vision of the valley of dry bones. It is the Spirit that quickeneth. The Scripture treats us all as dead, being separated from God. "They which believe on Christ receive" the Spirit, and thereby receive the life which He gives, or are "born of the Spirit," who is the Spirit of life.
2. Remember, "that which is born of the Spirit is spirit." If there be life given it must be kindred with the life which is its source.
(1) "The wind bloweth where it listeth." That spiritual life, both in the Divine source and in the human recipient, is its own law. The wind has its laws, but these are so complicated and undiscovered that it has always been the symbol of freedom, and poets have spoken of the winds as "chartered libertines"; and "free as the air" has become a proverb. So that Divine Spirit is limited by no human conditions or laws. Just as the lower gift of "genius" is above all limits of culture or position, and falls on a wool-stapler in Stratford-on-Avon, or on a ploughman in Ayrshire, so the Spirit follows no lines that churches or institutions draw. It falls upon an Augustinian monk in a convent, and he shakes Europe. It falls upon a tinker in Bedford gaol, and he writes "Pilgrim's Progress." It falls upon a cobbler in Kettering, and he founds modern Christian missions. And so the life that is derived from the Spirit is its own law. The Christian conscience, touched by the Spirit of God, owes allegiance to no regulations or external commandments laid down by man. Under the impulse of the Divine Spirit, the human spirit "listeth" what is right, and is bound to follow the promptings of its highest desires. Those men only are free as the air who are vitalised by the Spirit of the Lord, for where the Spirit of the Lord is, there, and there alone, is liberty.
(2) In this symbol there lies also the idea of power. The wind was not only mighty but "borne onward" — fitting type of the strong impulse by which "holy men spake as they were 'borne onward' (the word is the same) by the Holy Ghost." There are diversities of operations, but it is the same breath which sometimes blows in the softest pianissimo that scarcely rustles the summer woods in the leafy month of June, and sometimes storms in wild tempest that dashes the seas against the rocks. The history of the world since has been a commentary upon these words. With viewless, impalpable energy the mighty breath of God swept across the ancient world and laid paganism low. A breath passed over the whole civilised world, like the breath of the west wind upon the glaciers in the spring, melting the thick-ribbed ice, and wooing forth the flowers, and the world was made over again. In our own hearts and lives this is the one power that will make us strong and good. "As many as are impelled by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God." Is that the breath that swells all the sails of your lives, and drives you upon your course? If it be, you are Christians; if it is not you are not.
II. "CLOVEN TONGUES AS OF FIRE." The Baptist contrasted the cold negative efficiency of his baptism with the quickening power of Christ's baptism of fire. Our Lord Himself employs the same metaphor when He speaks about His coming to bring fire on the earth. In this connection, the fire is a symbol of a quick, triumphant energy, which will transform us into its own likeness. There are two sides to that emblem, one destruction, one creative; one wrathful, one loving. There are the fire of love, and the fire of anger; the fire of the sunshine which is the condition of life, and the fire of the lightning which burns and consumes.
1. Fire is selected to express the work of the Spirit by reason of its leaping, triumphant, transforming energy. See how, when you kindle a pile of dead wood, the tongues of fire spring from point to point until they bare conquered the whole mass, and turned it all into a ruddy likeness of the parent flame. And so this fire of God, if it falls upon you, will burn up all your coldness, and make you glow with enthusiasm, working your intellectual convictions in fire, not in frost, making your creed a living power in your lives, and kindling you into a flame of earnest consecration. The same idea is expressed by the common phrases of every language. We talk about the fervour of love, the warmth of affection, the blaze of enthusiasm, the fire of emotion, the coldness of indifference. One of the chief wants of the Church is more of the fire of God! We are all icebergs compared with what we ought to be. Look at yourselves; never mind about your brethren. Is our religion flame or ice? Listen to that solemn old warning: "Because thou art neither cold nor hot I will spue thee out of My mouth." We ought to be like the seraphim, the spirits that blaze and serve; like God Himself, all aflame with love.
2. The metaphor suggests also — purifying. "The Spirit of burning" will burn the filth out of us. No washing or rubbing will ever clear sin. Get the fire of the Divine Spirit into your spirits to melt you down, and then the scum and the dross will come to the top, and you can skim them off. Two things conquer my sin; the one is the blood of Jesus Christ, which washes me from all the guilt of the past; the other is the fiery influence of that Divine Spirit which makes me pure and clean for all the time to come.
III. "I WILL POUR OUT OF MY SPIRIT." — Cf. such texts as "Except a man be born of water," etc. "He that believeth on Me, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water," "A river of water of life proceeding from the throne," and the expressions, "pouring out" and "shedding forth." The significance of this is that the Spirit is —
2. Refreshing, and satisfying. There is only one thing that will slake the immortal thirst in your souls. The world will never do it; love or ambition gratified and wealth possessed, will never do it. You will be as thirsty after you have drunk of these streams as ever you were before. There is one spring "of which if a man drink, he shall never thirst" with unsatisfied, painful longings, but shall never cease to thirst with the longing which is blessedness, because it is fruition. The Spirit of God, drunk in by my spirit, will still and satisfy my whole nature, and with it I shall be glad. "Ho! every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters!"
3. Productive and fertilising. In Eastern lands a rill of water is all that is needed to make the wilderness rejoice. Turn that stream on to the barrenness of your hearts, and fair flowers will grow that would never grow without it.
IV. "YE HAVE AN UNCTION FROM THE HOLY ONE." In the old system, prophets, priests, and kings were anointed with consecrating oil, as a symbol of their calling, and of their fitness for their special offices. The reason for the use of such a symbol would lie in the invigorating and health-giving effect of the use of oil in those climates, and the meaning of the act was plain.
1. It was a preparation for a specific and distinct service.
(1) You are anointed to be prophets that you may make known Him who has loved and saved you.
(2) That anointing calls and fits you to be priests, mediators between God and man; bringing God to men, and by pleading and persuasion, and the presentation of the truth, drawing men to God.
(3) That unction calls and fits you to be kings, exercising authority over the little monarchy of your own natures, and over the men round you, who will bow in submission whenever they come in contact with a man all evidently aflame with the love of Jesus Christ, and filled with His Spirit.
2. And then do not forget also that when the Scriptures speak about Christian men as being anointed, it really speaks of them as being Messiahs. "Christ" "Messiah" means anointed. And when we read "Ye have an unction from the Holy One," we cannot but feel that the words are equivalent to "As My Father hath sent Me, even so send I you." By derived authority, and in a subordinate and secondary sense, we are Messiahs, anointed with that Spirit which was given to Him not by measure, and which has passed from Him to us. "If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His."
(A. Maclaren, D. D)
Parallel VersesKJV: And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting.