And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.
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.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.