Brethren Archive

The Presence of the Holy Spirit

by Inglis Fleming


It has been said that there are four great pillars of Christianity.

1. The incarnation and death of the Son of God.

2. His resurrection in power and ascension to the right hand of God.

3. The Coming and abiding presence of the Holy Ghost.

4. The Coming again of the Lord for the church and to establish His kingdom in glory.

It is of the third pillar that I wish to say a little. In doing so let us limit ourselves mainly to the consideration of the various ways in which He is spoken of in the Epistle to the Ephesians—the great Church epistle. Turning then to the first chapter, we read, “Ye were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise, which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession unto the praise of His glory” (vv. 13-14).

THE SPIRIT OF POMISE

. . . is here. The promise of the Father has been fulfilled (Acts 1:4). On the day of Pentecost He was shed forth and came upon the assembled believers. He came to abide for ever with them (John 14:16). It would be unintelligent to ask Him to come for He is present. He seals those who believe the gospel of our salvation. He marks them out as distinct from the rest of men. They are set apart as belonging to God Himself, to be here for His glory and praise. The seal looks back upon the work of Christ for us. It is on the ground of that work that we are redeemed to God. The earnest looks forward to the redemption of the purchased possession, to the coming of the Lord Jesus to change our bodies of humiliation and to fashion them like to His body of glory. The earnest is a payment on account, the balance of which is to be received in the future. It is as a bond, a contract between two parties. So we are “sealed unto the day of redemption.” There is separation and security in the seal, and expectation of completion in the earnest.

It is interesting to notice that the first result of the presence of the Holy Spirit as brought before us in this epistle is towards God Himself, who has sealed us. Thus we read “For through Him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father.”

AS THE SPIRIT OF PRIVILEGE

. . . the Holy Spirit is seen in this verse (2:18). And let us observe that the whole of the Trinity of the Godhead, are in view “Through Him,” that is, through Christ whose precious blood is our sure title.

We both”—that is, Jewish and Gentile believers alike “have access.” We have privilege of approach “by one Spirit,” who forms the unity of “both” Jew and Gentile and is our power of enjoyment and of worship.

“Unto the Father.” Thus in the joy of our relationship as sons before His face we may bow in thankful adoration. Our servile fear has been dismissed. The knowledge of His love has cast out the dread which once filled our hearts. In filial reverence we bow before Him with our praises. “We have boldness and access with confidence by the faith of Him.” “Having therefore brethren boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus . . . let us draw near” (Heb. 10:19-22).

Our God and Father desires our heart’s love and adoration. He seeks worshippers in spirit and in truth. Our Lord Jesus sought and found by His atoning death, worshippers for the Father, and the Holy Spirit is the power by which we come before Him to magnify Him.

In chapter 3, we read the apostle’s prayer to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, on behalf of the saints to whom He has by the Spirit unfolded the truth. “That He would grant you according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might by His Spirit in the inner man.”

THE SPIRIT OF POWER

. . . is now in view. “The inner man” is the part of our renewed being which has to do with God in spiritual relationships. (“The outward men,” that in which we are in contact with the things of time and sense, perishes; the inward man is renewed day by day, as we walk in the Spirit.) To perceive the breadth and length and depth and height of the purposes of God and to know the love of Christ, He dwelling in our hearts by faith, we need the strengthening of the Holy Spirit. Human intelligence and wisdom are insufficient. The things which God hath prepared for them that love Him are unseen by the natural eye, unheard by the natural man, unknown by the natural heart. They are now “revealed unto us by God by His Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea the deep things of God . . . Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is of God, that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God.”

If the Spirit of God is unhindered He will lead us further and further into the understanding of the wealth of spiritual blessing which is ours. He will guide us “into all truth.” But He alone is our power for this. He is the Spirit of understanding, the anointing by which we apprehend—the unction by which we understand the things—the deep things of the riches of the glory of our God and Father. Hence the importance of walking in the Spirit, of being led by Him, day by day. There is a danger of our being content in having life in the Spirit—of being quickened by Him out of spiritual death. But “If we live in the Spirit let us also walk in the Spirit,” cries the apostle (Gal. 5:25).

THE SPIRIT OF PARTICIPATION

. . . is the aspect in which the Holy Spirit is seen in chapter 4:3. We are exhorted to “walk worthy of the vocation wherewith” we “are called.” Called out from among Jews and Gentiles and formed into one body—the church—we are to go on together. “By one Spirit are we all baptized into one body whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free: and have been all made to drink into one Spirit” (1 Cor. 12:13). To this calling to oneness we are to answer. For this we need “all lowliness and meekness, long-suffering, forbearance and love.” These the Holy Spirit will produce as fruit in our lives. They are the Christ likeness in which God delights. With these in manifestation we are to be found “endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” The unity has been formed by the Holy Spirit—we are to observe it earnestly, and to seek to avoid anything which will mar the peace among saints. This is the desire of our God and Father.

The word “together” marks the epistle. We are not only blessed as individuals. We have been formed into one organic whole. The enmity between Jew and Greek, and between man and man is removed in the cross of Christ. His death has broken down the barriers. Out of death we have been “quickened together with Christ,” have been “raised up together” and made to “sit together” in the heavenlies.

Thus we are called to go on together here in the common enjoyment of the rich provision made for our happiness in the grace of our God and Father.

Alas! that Christians should be separated by man-made barriers and that thus their testimony to the world should be hindered. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one for another,” said our gracious Lord (John 13:35). Let us seek to express the love to all His own as we are “taught of God to love one another” (1 Thess. 4:9). For this we need to obey the leading of the Holy Spirit—the Spirit of grace—“The love of the Spirit” that which He produces in our hearts is to be cultivated with diligence. Nothing is to be allowed in thought, word or deed which will hinder it.

THE SPIRIT OF PURITY

“Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers. And grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption” (4:29-30). There is no thought here of grieving Him away—He seals us “unto the day of redemption,” He abides with the saints for ever. But, this being the case, we are to exercise watchfulness lest in any way we act so as to pain Him who is our holy guest. Thought, word and deed are to be watched continuously that nothing is contrary to His wish. “All bitterness and wrath and anger and clamour and evil speaking” are to be “put away.” The evil is to be refused utterly. On the other hand the good is to be cultivated. “Be ye kind one to another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you. Be ye therefore followers [imitators] of God as dear children and walk in love as Christ also hath loved us” (4:31-5:2).

The old saying, “Evil for good is devil-like, evil for evil is manlike, good for evil is God-like,” may well be pondered by us.

And do we not forget at times the adjective “Holy” in this connection? All that is unholy is to be shunned by us so that Christ in His moral excellencies may be produced in us by the Spirit’s power.

The Holy Spirit as. . .

THE SPIRIT OF PRAISE

. . . is spoken of in 5:18-19.

“Be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess, but be filled with the Spirit; speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Never are we exhorted to be sealed by the Holy Spirit—never are we exhorted to have Him as the earnest or the anointing. These are God-given to all believers. But we are exhorted to “be filled with the Spirit.” To allow Him to have fullness of control, to act unhinderedly in our hearts. He has come to undertake for us, to take charge of us while here in this world, and to employ us in the worship of God and in witness for Him. For this we need to be “filled with the Spirit.” This filling is not “How much I can have of Him,” as “How much He can have of me,” as some one has said. He is “Not one to get hold of and use, but One to get hold of and use me.” To this we should give attention. The result of being filled with the Spirit will be jubilation in the presence of God. Praise will fill our hearts and flow from our lips as we make melody to the Lord. With the heart thus occupied with the goodness of God and of Christ, the world will lose its attractions—its geegaws and glitter will not appeal to us. “The joy of the Lord is our strength,” to refuse the best the world has to offer. “The full soul loatheth an honeycomb; but to the hungry soul every bitter thing is sweet” (Prov. 27:7). The heart will be “satisfied with favour and full with the blessing of the Lord” (Deut. 33:23), and so overflow in praise to God, and in seeking the help and blessing of those around us.

Turning to chapter 6 we find . . .

THE SPIRIT OF PRAYER

. . . in verse 18. “Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints.”

The saints have been called upon to “put on the whole armour of God,” so that they may “stand against” all the power and wiles of the devil. The loins girt with truth, the breastplate of righteousness worn, the shoes shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace, the shield of faith covering all, the helmet of salvation protecting the head, the Word of God—the sword of the Spirit wielded, all these are to be accompanied by prayer and supplication. These latter are the lines of communication with our base of operations. We are ever dependent upon our God and Father to be maintained in our spiritual warfare. No strength have we of our own, no reserve force in ourselves upon which we may draw, but we may “be strong in the Lord and in the might of His strength.” There is unlimited strength with Him. He is all-sufficient for our salvation and He is all-sufficient for our service. But we need to have the constant supply of His power. Thus we are called to unceasing dependence. “Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit.” We ever need to be supported by our God, and He is ever ready to supply all our need for walk and worship and warfare.

Thus we see how all-important is the presence and action of the Holy Spirit in us who believe, and how careful we should be lest in any way we oppose His operations in us and through us.

Wonderful is the privilege which is ours of being in this world for the glory and praise of our God and Father and of our Lord Jesus Christ. This we may be as we walk in the power of the Holy Spirit. May it be ours thus to be found until the coming of our Lord.

I.Fleming

S.T. 1935






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