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WHO RECEIVES THE HOLY SPIRIT?

by R H Boll

Robert H. Boll (1875-1956)

(Part 2 of 3 Part Series)

(Reprint from the May 1927 Word & Work)

The present article is concerned with the Holy Spirit’s indwelling in the children of God. There were extraordinary and outwardly miraculous manifestations of the Spirit which are to be distinguished from the indwelling of the Holy Spirit which is common to all Christians always and which is therefore also to us the most important and practical aspect of the Holy Spirit’s work.

     Of the “baptism of the Spirit,” which came down directly from heaven without the agency or mediation of man, there were two instances: the first on the day of Pentecost, the other in the case of the first Gentiles, the household of Cornelius (Acts 2 and 10). That manifestation of the Spirit was never again repeated though the benefits of it have remained forever with the church.

     The miraculous “gifts” (1 Cor. 12)— distinguished from those which came in the original baptism— were bestowed by the laying on of the apostles’ hands, and so far as the record shows always and only in this manner (unless Acts 9 :17 were an exception, which is doubtful).

     The “inspiration” of prophets and apostles was that special function of the Holy Spirit by which the Divine truths of the gospel were revealed to them (Eph. 3 :5) and they were enabled to utter them in Spirit-chosen words (1 Cor. 2 :1 3 ). That of course ceased when the Message was completed, and “the faith” had been “once for all delivered to the saints.” (Jude 3).

      The “filling” with the Spirit (Eph. 5:18) is purely a phase of the indwelling, also the “sealing,” “anointing,” “earnest,” the “witness,” “the fruit” and the “intercession” of the Holy Spirit, are to be reckoned as effect of the Indwelling.

     This list exhausts, so far as I now’ know, the various offices and functions of the Spirit in regard to Christians. But the peculiar and characteristic distinction of this dispensation lies chiefly in the indwelling of the Spirit in Christ’s people: “He shall be in you.” (John 14:17). That this was fulfilled to all Christians, was shown from the instance of the church at Corinth. (1 Cor. 3 :1 6 ; 6 :19). We will inquire into this all important fact. What we want to know is who receives the indwelling Spirit and how; and later, we shall inquire whether a man may know whether the Spirit dwells in him. We shall also see what the effect of this indwelling is; and whether it can be lost or regained.

WHO RECEIVES THE SPIRIT AND HOW.

     In the first-quoted promise to His disciples, John 14:15-17, the Lord Jesus says He will pray the Father, and that He will send them (to Christ’s disciples) another Comforter, “whom the world cannot receive.” That, at once, excludes the world as such. The Lord gives the reason why the world cannot receive the Comforter: “it beholdeth him not neither knoweth him.” Now if any man of the world could or would behold Him and so could come to know Him, of course that hindrance would be removed in his case, and he would thus come in line to receive the Comforter. The disciples already knew the Comforter. “Ye know him for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.” That could only have been through their acquaintance with Jesus. Therefore— to hear of Jesus, to learn of Jesus, to believe in Jesus, to come to Jesus— this fits men for the reception of the Holy Spirit. This is the teaching throughout the New Testament. No one ever receives the Holy Spirit before he has heard and  learned of Jesus, and has believed in Him.

     “In whom [Christ] ye also, having heard the word of the truth, the gospel of your salvation— in whom, having also believed, ye were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise.” Eph. 1:13. “This only would I learn from you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law or by the hearing of faith?” Gal. 3:2. (The connection shows that it was by the latter). “If any man thirst let him come unto me and drink. He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, from within him shall flow rivers of living water. But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believed on him were to receive; for the Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.” John 7:37-39.

     7-39. It is not then by a direct seeking after the Spirit Himself, but by the hearing of, and believing in, and coming to, the Lord Jesus Christ that the Holy Spirit comes to us. Jesus is the Bestower of the Spirit. There is no example in the New Testament of any agonizing and striving in order to obtain the Spirit: but where Jesus was received as Lord and Savior there the Spirit was received also.

     The faith which obtains the promise of the Spirit is in every case an obedient faith, that is a faith which responds to the Lord’s invitation in the God-appointed way. God “giveth his Holy Spirit to them th at obey him.” Acts 5:32. “If ye love me ye will keep my commandments. And I will pray the Father and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may be with you for ever, even the Spirit of truth.” John 14:15, 16. And again, “If any man love me he will keep my word; and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him and make our abode with him.” Verse 23. Where the Spirit comes, there the Father and the Son are also. If the Spirit dwells in you, God dwelleth in you and Christ is in you. For the Spirit makes the contact for us with the Father and the Son. “Through him [Christ] we both have our access in one Spirit unto the Father.” Eph. 2 :18.

     This obedience—the “obedience of faith”— is more fully specified in Acts 2 :38, 39. “Repent ye and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ unto the remission of your sins; and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For to you is the promise (of the Holy Spirit) and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call unto him.”

     It has been asserted that not the Holy Spirit Himself, but the gift of the Holy Spirit is here promised. They who take this position hold that the Spirit bestows some special thing which is called “the gift of the Holy Spirit;” and not that the Spirit Himself is given. But the word of God affirms over and over that the Holy Spirit Himself is given to us. “The Holy Spirit whom God hath given to them that obey him.” Acts 5 :32. Here the Holy Spirit is certainly the gift. Again, “The love of God hath been shed abroad in our hearts through the Holy Spirit which was given unto us.” Rom. 5: 5. Manifestly the Holy Spirit was given to these brethren at Rome. “Or know ye not that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit which is in you, which ye have from God?” (1 Cor. 6 :1 9 ). “’God, who giveth his Holy Spirit unto you.” (1 Thess. 4 :8 ).

     It was by this faith, responsive in obedience to the gospel, that the Galatian brethren had received the Spirit, “Ye are all sons of God by faith in Christ Jesus; FOR as many o f you as were baptized into Jesus Christ have put on Christ.” “And because ye are sons God sent forth the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, Abba Father.” Gal. 3:26, 27 and 4:6. The gift of the Spirit is bestowed upon those who in this manner become “sons of God.”

     This much then we may accept in perfect assurance: to those who by faith in Jesus repent and are baptized in His Name, to them is the Holy Spirit given. Neither is there any other way of receiving the Spirit revealed to us. However many may testify of feelings and visions, or who may claim that by some experience they know, that they have received the Spirit apart from the simple obedience of faith—those who are wise will still stand by the word of God in this as in all other matters, and will not be swayed by appearances. We may not let man’s “experience” teach the Scriptures, but the “experience” must itself come under the test and verdict of the Scriptures.

     We are further taught that the Spirit is in the Church. As, by analogy, the human spirit dwells in the body, so the Spirit dwells in the Body. In fact the Spirit is that unifying factor which joins the individuals into one living whole, namely, the Body, which is the Church, over which Jesus Christ is Head (Col. 1 :1 8 ). For “in one Spirit were we all baptized into one body . . . and were all made to drink of one Spirit.” (1 Cor. 12:13).

     This latter passage has been of some difficulty. Some have thought that it has reference to “the baptism of the Holy Spirit.” Others who rightly hold that upon the obedience of faith in water-b aptism the Lord adds us to the Church (which is His Body), Acts 2:41, 47, thought that that is the fact referred to here. If it is meant that in the original baptism of the Spirit (Acts 2 and 10), at Pentecost and in Cornelius’ case, Jew and Gentile were baptized into one Body, and that this unifying force continues until yet, it is well enough. But the passage has probably no reference to either the baptism of the Spirit nor the baptism of w ater; but the idea is rather that upon our Being .added to the Church we are all merged together in one Spirit and are all made to drink of one Spirit— i. e., we are thenceforth “in the Spirit,” and the Spirit in us. Thus is effected that “unity of the Spirit,” which we are exhorted to keep diligently, in the bond of peace. (Eph. 4 :3 ).

     Where the Church is represented under the symbol of a building, the same fact is again set forth. We are “a spiritual house” says Peter, built up of “living stones.” (1 Pet. 2 :5 ). This house is none other than “the house of God, which is the church of God” (1 Tim. 3:15) and as such is His temple and dwelling place, “a habitation of God in the Spirit (Eph. 2:20-22) —that is God, in the person of the Holy Spirit, dwells therein. “For we are a temple of the living God; even as God said, I will dwell in them and walk in them . . .” (2 Cor. 6 :1 6 ). “Know ye not that ye are a temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? If any man destroyeth the temple of God, him shall God destroy, for the temple of God is holy, and such are ye.” (1 Cor. 3:16, 17).

     But this is not only true of the whole church collectively— each single stone of the temple also is a sanctuary, a little temple, for in each one individually does the Spirit dwell. “Or know you not that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit which is in you, which ye have from God? and ye are not your own; for ye were bought with a price: glorify God therefore in your body.” (1 Cor. 6:19, 20). The connection shows that the Christian’s individual body is meant. The price paid for each stone of this material of which this great Temple is built, is far more than that which was paid for Solomon’s wondrous edifice, though the cost of the latter ran into billions of dollars. “Ye were bought with a price.” What was the price? The church of the Lord was “bought with his own blood.” (Acts 20:28). Such is the preciousness of the marvellous sanctuary in which the Holy Spirit dwells and whence according to God’s will and plan were to go forth streams of water to refresh the weary world.

     As every other feature and item of our salvation, so also is the Holy Spirit given by grace, that is as a free gift from God. We do not merit· it. We receive it by faith— and “it is by faith that it may be by grace to the end that the promise may be obtainable by all (Gal. 3 :1 4 ; Rom. 4 :1 6 ). “If any man thirst let him come unto me and drink,’’ said the Lord Jesus; and, “this spake He of the Spirit which they that believe on him were to receive.” (John 7:37-39). So the gift is universal to those who come, drink, believe; that is, to all who will take it, and to all God’s children, the weak and the strong. They receive it in the same way and upon the same basis as they obtain forgiveness and justification and all that is comprised in our salvation. “Not by works done in righteousness, which we did ourselves, but according to his mercy he saved us through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit which he poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior; that being justified by his grace we might be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” (Tit. 3 :5-7). It follows from this that all that are saved have the Spirit; For “if any man have not the Spirit of Christ he is none of his.” (Rom. 8 :9 ). It is to be noted that the “Spirit of Christ” here does not mean merely a Christlike disposition on our part, but, as the context shows, the Spirit of God Himself dwelleth in us. The fruit of Christlikeness, of course, will be sooner or later manifest in those who have the Spirit; but we are not to confuse the effect with the cause.

     We have seen then that the Holy Spirit is God’s gracious gift (the gift of all gifts!) to all who will come to Jesus, who believe in Him, who, having repented and having been baptized in the Name of Jesus Christ, received the remission of their sins, and were by the Lord added to His church, members of His Body, living stones of His spiritual temple. These things are clearly and definitely told us in God’s word, and thereby we abide.




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Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.

2 corinthians 1:3-4