Church Education Trust

Christian Belief



 The Dispensation of the Holy Spirit.

Pentecost marks a new dispensation of grace, the commencement of a new economy. This new economy does not in any sense supersede the work of Christ; it rather ministers to it and completes it. As the Son revealed the Father, so the Holy Spirit reveals the Son and glorifies Him.

This is His purpose for "No man can say that Jesus is the Lord but by the Holy Ghost."    (1 Cor.12:3). The Holy Spirit is the representative of Christ on earth. "He is the Agent of Christ, representing Him in the salvation of the individual soul, in the formation of the church, and in the witnessing power of the church in the world. But He is not the representative of an absentee Saviour.

He is Our Lord's ever present other Self." (Wiley). This is shown by the words, "I will not leave you comfortless (Greek -'bereft', 'orphans'); I will come to you.'' (John 14:18). For this reason Christ also said, "It is expedient for you that I go away; for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you. (John 16:7).

Dr. Pope, in speaking of Pentecost as introducing a new economy, that of the Holy Spirit, says, "The Church is 'the habitation of God through the Spirit'. From that day forward the Holy Ghost is essential to every exhibition of God as revealed among men."

a. The Inaugural Signs

As in the case of the incarnation so here on the Day of Pentecost there were miraculous signs indicative of the nature and purpose of the One Who had come. The signs were three.

1.The rushing mighty wind. (Acts 2:2).

It is said to have filled all the house where they were, to have come suddenly and reached its height immediately. The R.V. rendering also makes it clear that the sound was heard far beyond the upper room, "When the sound was heard the multitude came together" (Acts 2:6 R.V.). "The sign is indicative of the inner, mysterious, spiritual power of the Holy Spirit which was to characterize His administration in the Church and in the world." Wiley mentions another rendering, "the sound of a mighty wind rushing along", conveying the idea of intense eagerness to carry the Gospel everywhere.

2.Cloven Tongues like as of fire.

It was "like fire" and obviously equivalent to the Shekinah glory, the pillar of fire, over the Israelites in the Old Testament. A forked tongue seemingly sat on each, and the sign would also recall the descending of the Lord in fire on Mount Sinai. The sign signifies, to use Wiley's words again, "the purifying, penetrating, energisng and transforming effect of the Spirit's administration".

3.The speaking in other tongues.

This sign is unique and because of similar references later in the New Testament has caused much discussion. The words which describe this particular sign are as follows, "And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance." (Acts 2:4)

The word used is the normal word for the physical tongue or for a language and is normally used of rational expression. It is clear from the context that, whatever interpretation may be put on future occurences of this sign, in this instance it consisted of the speaking in actual foreign languages which the users of them could understand.

The sign signifies the actual beginning of the Spirit's operations. This is the only place in the New Testament where the expression "other tongues" occurs.

b. The Operations of the Spirit.

The Holy Spirit is both the Gift and the Giver. He is God's gift to the Church and the believer and at the same time He Himself gives to the Church and the believer all that is needed for the fulfilling of God's will.

He is the Executive of the Godhead and the Administrator of Redemption and as such His operations are wide and in three spheres, the believer, the Church and the world.

1.Operations in the Believer.

1a.The Fruit of the Spirit.

In communicating the divine nature to the believer in the new birth, the Holy Spirit imparts with it the graces and characteristics which flow from that nature. Paul lists these graces for us in Galatians 5 and is undoubtedly thinking of Christ's analogy in John 15.

The list contains nine graces, three relating to God,

  •  Love.
  •  Joy.
  •  Peace.

Three to our neighbour.

  1. Longsuffering.
  2. Gentleness.
  3. Goodness.

Three to ourselves.

  1. Faithfulness.
  2. Meekness.
  3. Temperance or self-control.

As the life of the vine flows into the branches, so the Spirit produces these graces in the life of the believer who abides in Christ.

1b.The Gifts of the Spirit.

The Greek word for the gifts of the Spirit is "charismata" which signifies gifts freely given from the grace of God. There must be a close connection between the gifts of the Spirit and His graces, but the gifts have a peculiar purpose of their own.

They are given to enable the Church to fulfil its function in the world and carry out the plan of God. The gifts are listed in three passages in Paul's writings, 1 Cor.12:4-11; Eph.4:11 and Romans.12:6-8, and there seem to be more than the nine usually considered as the gifts of the Spirit.

  1. "The strength of the Church is not in the sanctified hearts of its members, but in Him who dwells in the hearts of the sanctified." (Wiley II p.319). While a full discussion of the gifts is not possible, the following should be noted.
  2. While there is a very close connection between the natural gifts and the gifts of the Spirit, the gifts of the Spirit are not merely natural gifts and are on a different plane altogether.
  3. There is a diversity of gifts according as they are required. Some have certain gifts, others different ones.
  4. The New Testament seems to make it quite clear that gifts are not to be sought. The Holy Spirit divides them severally to every man as ie will.
  5. The gifts are given to be exercised in conjunction with the Church and not on their own. There should be a united witness in the Church concerning the gifts of its members.

It was mentioned above that there are three passages which list the gifts of the Spirit, but there are some who hold that the Ephesian passage refers, not to the gifts of the Spirit, but to the gifts of the risen Lord to His Church. They would maintain that the gifts of the Spirit are definitely only nine in number as given in 1 Cor.12:4-11, and that these are different from the gifts of the risen Lord to His Church.

1c.The Saving Work of the Spirit.

This side of the operations of the Spirit will be dealt with more fully under the various experiences of grace in the believer and only a brief mention will therefore be made here. There are two main forms which this operation of the Spirit takes.

  1. He is the "Giver of Life".
  2. He is also a "Sanctifying Prescence".

In the new birth He imparts the life of God to the soul; the soul is born from above. This is the birth of the Spirit. While, however, the believer possesses life in Christ, there still remains in him the carnal mind which is enmity against God.

While also there is a certain sanctifying presence of the Spirit even at the new birth, His full sanctifying presence does not come till the baptism of the Spirit when the heart is cleansed from all sin. This sanctifying baptism of the Spirit can be viewed in a threefold way or perhaps it would be more true to say that it was a threefold operation.

  1. There is first the baptism which in its restricted sense refers to the act of purifying; it is the divine side of the crucifixion of the flesh and the administration of the efficacy of the cross to the human heart. This signification of baptism of the Spirit is borne out by the fact that Jesus is never said to have been baptised with the Spirit but only anointed; He had no sin from which to be cleansed.
  2. Secondly there is the anointing: this signifies the indwelling Spirit in his work of empowering for service.
  3. Thirdly, there is the sealing; this is both the stamp of ownership and the earnest of future inheritance and also the seal of God's approval on the believer's witness and work.

Some would say that the Baptism of the Holy Spirit is synonymous with the New Birth and that the experience mentioned above is being "filled with the Spirit". Our reasons for believing that the above teaching is more true to Scripture will be given later, when dealing with the experience of Entire Sanctification.

ii. Operations in the Church.

Pentecost was the birthday of the Christian Church as a Spirit controlled organism. He is the One who imparts life and who is the common life of Christ in all the members of the Church which is the spiritual body of Christ, and Christ is its Head.

This Church is a "chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people (or a people for God's own possession)" (1 Pet,2:9). The purpose of the Church is revealed in the same passage, "to show forth the praises (or excellencies) of Him Who hath called you out of darkness into His marvellous light."

The Holy Spirit is the common bond which unites the members of the real Church into true unity and makes them one also with their living Head. The Holy Spirit anoints and empowers certain people to fulfil certain offices which the New Testament has named, e.g. Pastors, Evangelists, Prophets, Apostles, Teachers, Elders, Deacons.

Only as these offices are filled by men and women filled with the Holy Spirit and only as the Church is directed and controlled and empowered by the Holy Spirit can it fulfil the purpose of God. The New Testament standard, both at home and in missionary work
abroad, is the leadership, direction and powerful working of the Holy Spirit.

iii. Operations in the World.

The main operations of the Holy Spirit are in and through the Church. He is at work, however, among the ungodly and in the world. Our Lord states the nature of His work in this connection in John 15:8-11. In His relationship to the world, He is primarily the Spirit of truth and He uses the Word of God. He is in the world to convict of sin and reveal the need of Christ as Saviour.

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