The following crossed my desk and although they are personal I think they along with the answers will prove helpful to our readers. Some might find the answers repulsive while they will serve as a delight to others. The questioner and congregation remain anonymous. (BO)
Brother Owens several of us in the congregation have been discussing some things about the Holy Spirit. During our last Gospel Meeting we talked to Brother…about some of these and he suggested that we write to you for the answers. 1. How are we to be filled with the Holy Spirit? 2. Explain the expression “no man can say that Jesus is the Lord but by the Holy Ghost.”
The above questions demonstrate that the subject of the Holy Ghost will not lie down, no matter how often it is addressed. There is a great deal of talking about the subject but very little reading what God says about it. Two things are obvious to me when I converse with people. First, the subject is approached with the mind already made up as to what is believed. They have a mind-set similar to people of the sectarian world on salvation. A few select passages are read to the exclusion of all others. It does not mater what the New Testament says this is the circumference of their belief and it cannot be pulled out with a log chain and a four wheel drive pick up truck. The same spirit occupies my brethren on the subject of the Holy Sprit they want what they want without regard to what is elsewhere revealed. For example, we are told “if any man have not the spirit of Christ, he is none of his. And if Christ be in you…”(Rom. 8:9-10). My brethren accept the fact that Christ does NOT dwell in us in person or personally, but representatively. Yet, when it comes to the Holy Spirit dwelling in us, they have no part of a kindred idea, say they, “He dwells in us personally.” The legs of the lame are not equal. Second, Passages that have to do with specific time and special persons are applied to all Christian people generally. There are many things that have to do with the age when the Apostles were filled with the Holy Spirit then laid their hands on others so that they would receive the gifts of the Spirit. Passages that have to do only with the days of inspiration are applied now. This mixing brings everlasting confusion. Having said that let me give some attention to the questions at hand.
Question one: “How are we filled with the Spirit?” “And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit.” (Eph. 5:18). There are two commandments here, one negative the other positive. Just as we are not to be filled with wine, we are to be filled with the Spirit. Each of these is under the control of a Christian. The Lord does not command us to do something that we cannot do. Therefore it is possible for us to be “filled with the Spirit.” More than that, if we fail to obey the command we are not pleasing in God’s sight. To be filled with the Spirit, means that Christians should exercise, put forth and work out in life and character, all the attributes and perfection’s of the Holy Spirit. These are found in the New Testament. When we believe them and put them into practice we are filling ourselves with the Spirit. Paul helps us in the Galatian letter with this. He supposes that the Galatian Church were influenced by the Spirit, through the truths which they believed; and that it was according to the reception which they gave to the truths of the gospel, that the influences of the Spirit affected them. He points out that Christ died that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith then asks this question, “This only would I learn of you. Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law (by obedience to the Mosaic institutions,) or by the hearing of faith (by what you heard and believed in the gospel)? So, the Holy Spirit dwells in our heart by faith—by what we believe; and this takes place according to the measure and quality of the measure of what is believed. This means God’s word (the gospel), is the vehicle used by the Spirit. There are two things we must be aware of:
- Once a truth is established it has application in all passages were the subject is broached even though it is not specifically mentioned. When Peter said that baptism is for the remission of sins Acts 2:38, we must understand that as the purpose of baptism whenever and wherever baptism is named and submitted to. We are not told the Gentiles in Acts 10:48 were baptized for the remission of sins, but we know it to be truth because that was already established. The church is said to be the body of Christ Eph. 1:22-23, we understand that whenever and wherever a church of Christ is named that it is the body of Christ. Now, when we are told, that the Spirit comes by the gospel we understand that in every passage that has to do with the manner of His coming to dwell in us.
- Faith is used in the objective form—what is presented for us to believe. It is also used in the subjective form—what we decide we are going to believe. Speaking of the gospel Paul writes, “For therein (the gospel) is the righteousness of God revealed from faith (objective,) to faith” (subjective,) (Rom. 1:17). When the faith (gospel) is preached and we believe it our spirit is changed. How? By the Holy Spirit who gave it. Faith is not passive, not even sluggish or indolent. “Faith works by love” it always works (Js. 2:17-18). It is then by works that our faith—that which is believed—is perfected, drawn forth, wrought out and completed. This is the gospel or faith or the Holy Spirit working in us, not dwelling in us personally, by the means he has chosen. Our spirit, attitude, demeanor or disposition is changed to be as God would have us be.
The effect of receiving the truth given by the Holy Spirit is seen in another commandment stated by Jesus. “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect” (Mt. 5:48), It can never be imagined that the Lord intended His followers to be as perfect as or equal to God in commensurate worth and glory. He intended that our character, attributes, works and disposition must be like those in our heavenly Father. This is both possible and practicable, otherwise it would not have been enjoined as a demand. Some who lay claim to analyzing the character of our Father declare it to be folly to try to imitate God. Yet we are expressly told, “be ye followers (ASV “imitators”), of God as dear children” (Eph. 5:1). Had Jesus thought that there were in the Father in heaven some attributes of whose character our mind is not susceptible, or some perfection whose features we can not imitate, He would not have raised such a high standard for our ambition. That Christians can exercise attributes and perfections like all the attributes and perfections of God is evident from the first formation of man, from the life of Christ, from the descriptions of Christians in the New Testament, and from the facts of the case. When we are told that God created man in His own image, which means that man has the capacity for exhibiting all the attributes of His character. Every attribute in God has in man an object corresponding with it, on which it can operate and exercise itself, and which it can affect and influence. While Jesus Christ was in the body, there was no Divine perfecting wanting or lacking in His character, or to put it another way “in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily” (Col. 2:9). Or to put it still another way, “for God giveth not the Spirit by measure unto him” (Jn. 3:34). As the Captain of our salvation Jesus was made perfect, not by becoming more holy or by increasing in Divine acquisitions, but by having the elements of His character fully worked out; He was made perfect because by His life and actions He was obedient in all things to the will of the heavenly Father. He unveiled in their full beauty every perfection that was already in Him. (Read carefully Hebrews 5). The New Testament describes Christians as “partakers of the Divine nature” (II Pet. 1:3-4), meaning that we have likeness but not identity, similitude but not sameness with our Father who is in heaven. When Christians are holy, just and good it is not by some communicated or transferred portion of the Infinite essence, rather, it is by exercising our own agency to be holy, just and good like those things in the Divine nature. It is God’s image and NOT His essence, it is His likeness and NOT His Deity that we receive and exhibit. We are not deified—a conclusion that must be accepted if the doctrine is believed as advocated by some of my brethren. We are not “godded” with God, when we obey scripture to be “filled with the Holy Spirit;” but the holy impressions on our worship and character are complete or perfected with all the variety and fullness of Divine influences. A holy soul is capable of representing the full image of the Holy Spirit, and can be perfect, as the Spirit is perfect. The soul is not omnipotent, but it can exercise a power, energy and a firmness that no power on earth can move. The soul is not omniscient, but there are no bounds to its capacities of knowledge. If it did comprehend all knowledge it would still seek to know more. A soul is not immutable, but it can exhibit a consistency, a fixedness and determinedness of purpose, which no coercion can change. The soul is not infinite but is not bounded by the limits of time. It is not self-sufficient, but it can be independent of all human resources and be satisfied. Conceive, if you will this noble intelligence putting forth the moral character and disposition of the Holy Spirit, this person will be like the Heavenly Comforter in spirituality, in life and activity, in holiness and purity, in truth and in knowledge, in power and energy, and in compassion and goodness. He will be the representative and living symbol of all the fullness of the Spirit of God, although the person of God the Father, person Christ, or person of the Holy Spirit DOES NOT DWELL IN HIM.
Question 2: “Explain the expression “no man can say that Jesus is the Lord but by the Holy Ghost.” These words are from I Cor. 12:3. In the context Paul is speaking about “spiritual gifts.” The Apostles were inspired and those on whom they laid their hands were also inspired, so they could demonstrate the truth that Jesus is Lord by “signs, wonders and divers gifts of the Holy Ghost.” Of course, we cannot do that, but the passage does have some application to us. First may I say, men without the Holy Spirit can say, Lord, Lord and call Jesus Lord. But no man without the revelation of the Holy Spirit could have discovered that Jesus is Lord; and without the data supplied by the Spirit, no man can reason out and demonstrate to others, that Jesus is Lord; and no man who denies the influences of the Spirit can maintain, against the passions and arguments of the world, that Jesus is Lord. Without the Holy Spirit we could know nothing of Christ; His office in the world is to reveal Christ and to make Him known. His motive for undertaking this official work is the glory of the person and character of Christ. The assumption of this office by the Holy Spirit was itself an honor to Christ. His mission is in the name of Christ, and for the purpose of promoting the interest of Christ, invested the character of our Lord with most distinguished glory. Read very carefully John chapters 14, 15, 16 and 17 with the idea that these promises were to the Apostles and not to mankind (us) in general. When they went forth preaching the word, the Holy Spirit filled them so that they did not have to think about what they were to say—it was given them. The “scriptures being given “by the inspiration of God” (the work of the Holy Spirit), is all that we have to prove to the world that Jesus is the Christ. Yes, the Word reveals in chastened splendor; the grandeur of the person of Christ; His consummate fitness to meet the sinner’s case; the claims of God—the transcendent of the atonement as the honorable ground of pardon—and His grace and power of intercession in heaven at God’s right hand. When brought into the presence of such dignity and excellence, the sinner becomes humbled in heart, his works appear worthless, his proud notions are abased, his sin looks hateful and revolting, and Christ alone is seen in glory, and, in Christ’s mediatorial arrangements he can find all that he needs for life and death, and the hope of possessing Him for a Friend, and Advocate, and Brother, as his heart is animated with the inspirations of love, honor and praise. The Holy Spirit glorifies Christ by unfolding the beauties of His character, bringing men to believe in Him, to submit to His authority, to worship and serve Him and to ascribe their salvation and happiness entirely to Him. He thus revealed Christ miraculously to the Apostles; He does so now by the gospel, displaying the doctrines, the facts, the promises and all the things of Christ to men. By the gospel the Holy Spirit brings men to indulge the most excellent, purest and exalted thoughts of the very person of Christ so that they surrender unreservedly to His service, and to employ all that they have to show forth His glory and to further His interests. My brethren who mock those of us who believe the Holy Spirit does NOT personally dwell in Christians, but does so representatively, and believe that the Holy Spirit converts the sinner only by the word and, guides us in living the Christian life only through the word, calling us “Word Only Brethren.” Let them put their hand to the plow and prove by their supposed personal in dwelling that Jesus is Lord. Even when an attempt is made they run to the word trying to marshal various passages to prove they have the Holy Spirit in themselves—why not prove it by the Holy Spirit only—rather than by the Word Only? (See I Cor. 2:7-11).
Barney Owens 1709
At The Church Of Christ (Sharonville, OH)
11560 Lippleman Road. September 27-October 1.
Meetings will be at 7:30 P. M. Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday
6:00 P.M. Saturday
Lord’s Day at 10:30 A. M. and 3:00 P.M.
Frank Brancato of Bakersfield, CA will be the preacher at each service