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The Law Of Faith: 12. The Varied Teachings of the Fullness of the Spirit

By Norman P. Grubb

      DEFINITIONS of this deeper level of Christian experience, as well as the way of apprehending it, have sharply divided the most earnest seekers after Christ's fullness. Some say [1] as we have just pointed out, that the believer has all in Christ at regeneration; there is no second crisis. These then say that there is a gradual growth in Him, coextensive with an enlarging consecration and deepening faith: but that the two natures are always active in the believer, the old and the new, and the motions of the flesh are only counteracted by a sustained walk in the Spirit.

      Others [2] agree in the main with this, but go a step further in stressing a second crisis. They say that the believer is born of the Spirit, but also needs to be filled with the Spirit. For this, a further act of total consecration is needed, a presenting of the body to God as a living sacrifice. When this is done, the Holy Spirit automatically takes full possession, and the one who has made this transaction in sincerity of heart can arise from his knees in joyful certainty that Christ now dwells in his heart in all fullness by faith, even though he has no special inward assurance of the fact given him: the Christian life is now lived victoriously by the same principle as outlined above, by a continual abiding in Christ which will counteract the varied assaults of the old nature.

      Others [3] go further, and it is here that the breach grows manifestly wider. These say that this second work of grace in the heart, this crisis of sanctification, does a definite work in the believer, both negative and positive. Negatively, it purifies the heart, destroys the body of sin, crucifies the flesh, cleanses from all sin. Positively, it fills with the Spirit, perfects love, perfects holiness, sanctifies wholly; all the above being directly Scriptural expressions. Those who preach and believe it testify to the destruction of the old nature, the removal of carnality from the heart, the replacement of the heart of stone by the heart of flesh through the baptism of the Holy Ghost and fire. Yet at the same time, all who teach thus are most careful to stress that such an experience can be lost through disobedience or neglect; that the close walk with God must be maintained; and even that the believer can fall right away from grace and lose his very salvation. Such teaching is usually considered extreme by those who believe in one of the two previous standpoints; it is feared lest those who accept it will claim a kind of sinless perfection, and thereby throw a cloak of spurious justification over any kind of inconsistent behavior. That this has been so in Christian history is proved by the warnings of John's first epistle and by examples of extravagance in the Pietistic movements throughout the centuries, but an examination of the present-day movements that stress "entire sanctification," at least such as are known to the writer, show no ground whatever for such fears.

      Finally, there are those [4] who maintain the necessity for a second experience and say that, to be genuine, it must be accompanied by the same signs as at Pentecost, as in the centurion's household at Caesarea, and as at Ephesus - the baptism of the Spirit accompanied by speaking in other tongues. The claim to an experience of the fullness of the Spirit unaccompanied by this sign may certainly be a meeting of the seeking soul with God, they say, but cannot be the blessing for which the Savior told the first disciples to tarry at Jerusalem. Indeed, the exponents of this teaching (and they are many, for they claim over ten million converts during the twentieth century,) use the "tarrying" meeting as the special season in which seekers cry to God for "the Baptism" and keep seeking until they find. It is very seldom claimed that He "falls on" them in exactly the same manner as at Pentecost and enables any literally to speak in a foreign language, but rather that they speak in an "unknown" tongue, as in I Corinthians 14. To speak once thus is the longed for "sign". To be enabled to speak in an unknown tongue at will is the additional blessing of the gift. [5]

      Believers in and users of this "pentecostal" blessing have been practically outlawed from normal evangelical circles. Their claim to salvation is not doubted, but their emphasis on "tongues" is considered extravagant, dangerous, and even by many demoniacal. Extravagant examples are quoted of people supposed to be speaking in tongues, when missionaries present have recognized the language and heard with horror a stream of blasphemies poured forth. Examples are given of people rolling on the floor at tarrying meetings, indeed a nickname sometimes given them is "holy rollers." It is not doubted that there are extravagances, nor is that to be wondered at when particular stress is laid on the emotions and less on the reason, but Christians need badly to learn not to confuse exceptions with rules, and not to elevate the story of a particular lurid incident, which is probably secondhand and apocryphal, into a general standard of behavior. For the truth is, even while admitting extremes in some places, whether ostracized by the generality of believers or no, God's seal is as much or more on "The Pentecostals" in the salvation of souls than on any other denomination of a like size. Nor have they their superiors in generous giving, warmth of fellowship, or liberty in prayer.

      What then do we learn from all this? Surely, that it is not a question of one emphasis being wrong and the other right, but that each is given a special angle of the all-embracing truths of the Christian walk and warfare. That is their particular message; it is their calling to stress it and to reveal its eternal values to the whole Church, not to the exclusion of other emphases, but complementary to them, each having its rightful place, each contributing to the other, but all pointing to the one central figure of Christ.

      Thus those who maintain that all is ours in Christ in conversion, and that no "second blessing" is needed, have as their particular message the all-sufficiency of Christ. They point to Christ in Himself. They call on the soul to be occupied with Him. They are busied in showing Him forth from every page of Scripture. But their particular danger is so to concentrate on the objective aspect of Christ in all the Scriptures, on His Person and Glory, that they insufficiently stress the necessary response of the believer in separation and consecration, and his need of the fullness of the Spirit.

      Those who teach a "second blessing," the filling of the Spirit after regeneration, in their message given at hundreds of Conventions "for the deepening of the spiritual life,"       stress consecration as the main prerequisite for this blessing, resulting in separation from the world and dedicated daily living and public witness. The filling of the Spirit, they say, is God's ready response to the act of consecration; therefore the core of their message is the call to a full surrender. Their danger is that, in thus stressing entire consecration as the main doorway to the fullness of Christ, they stimulate a believer to surrender with greater emphasis than they do to faith. But it is faith that sanctifies, even as it is faith that saves. All the repenting in the world is only useful as a preparation for believing; and all the consecration likewise.

      The exponents of "holiness teaching," of entire sanctification, center their attention on heart purification by faith, as a definite experience which gives deliverance from indwelling sin, fills with perfect love, and endues with power to live a holy life and bear an effective witness. To them the mere call to consecration and the receiving of the fullness of the Spirit does not solve the problem, because it does not sufficiently expose and neutralize the hidden foe, the worm at the roots of man's being, the flesh which lusts against the Spirit. Merely to present the body as a holy temple unto the Lord and to count on His indwelling is to turn too much of a blind eye towards the other occupant of that temple, the indwelling sin of Romans 7, and to leave it too ignored and unmolested to reveal its presence in no uncertain way in the daily life: "for when I would do good, evil is present with me." Their message, then, would get to the root of things, lay the finger on the sore spot in man and provide the remedy; the blood which not only gives "remission of sins" (the fruit), but "cleansing from all sin" (the root); the Cross upon which not only did He bear our sins but crucified our affections and lusts; the tomb, where not only was He buried but we with Him. Made free from the law of sin and death, we rise in Christ, purified in heart, perfected in love, alive unto God, yet not we but Christ living in us. And all this by one definite sanctifying experience in response to the "faith of the operation of God;" or as Moffatt puts it: "as you believed in the power of God;" a faith which has clear witness borne to it, a faith which both receives and knows, and which enters into rest. Thus this emphasis points not only to consecration but also to faith; to man's receiving rather than to his self-giving faculty; and to God's completely satisfying and sanctifying response of grace given in one moment of time.

      Its dangers or weaknesses are a possible over-stress of the negative side of the sanctifying experience; of purification rather than infilling; of death rather than resurrection in Christ; sometimes drawing too much attention introspectively to the believer's inner condition, rather than to his indwelling Savior, and leading to repression in place of child-like liberty. But, much more serious, and this is the chief objection raised to this form of teaching by its critics, extreme and seemingly illogical and dangerous emphasis, they say, is laid on the elimination of the flesh by the one crisis of entire sanctification; while insufficient explanation is given of how the appearance of sin is to be accounted for in the believer's life after this "death to sin", this "removal of carnality from the heart." The crisis is stressed and explained at the expense of needed teaching concerning the subsequent process of the daily walk in the Spirit. The perfection claimed for the sanctification experience is not always squarely reconciled with the imperfections of the daily life. It is sometimes difficult to get "holiness" teachers even to face up to the apparent illogicality of their position: yet we think that some approach to an adequate explanation can be given, as we will endeavor to show when we examine the question of temptation. (See Chaps. 1 3-15) But the fact of this apparent discrepancy and the lack of a plain explanation is an undoubted hindrance to many who feel that in other respects this holiness message and teaching is of paramount importance: and it may also produce bondage and questionings, or, worse still, minor hypocrisies and concealments, in the hearts and lives of earnest "holiness" people.

      Those who emphasize the baptism of the Holy Ghost "with signs following" give a leading place to the gifts of the Spirit. They teach the believer to seek and expect the same manifestations of the Spirit as in the days of Pentecost, miracles of healings, gifts of tongues, and interpretation of tongues. There are the gifts and there are the fruits of the Spirit, both recorded in Scripture. The fruits are seen in the character and conduct of daily life: love, joy, peace, gentleness, self-control. Some of the gifts [6] have a more supernatural, supernormal appearance; it is not usual nowadays for Christians commonly to speak in tongues, to have powers of healing or prophecy. Yet these gifts were plainly in evidence in the early church, even the Apostle Paul thanking God that he "spoke with tongues more than they all". And it is upon a revival of these gifts, especially speaking with tongues, both as evidence of the baptism of the Spirit and as equipment for worship and witness, that stress is laid (although that is not meant to imply that the fruits of the Spirit are not also taught and emphasized).

      Now, upon closer examination, we find that speaking in tongues is a form of ecstasy. The tongue is no longer under rational control. The emotions are greatly intensified. The conscious mental processes are suspended. Often the body is shaken. Sounds come from the throat in a rhythmic stream which are usually completely unintelligible to the natural ear, yet they find a response in the consciousness of a fellow-recipient of the Spirit, one who has the gift of interpretation of tongues, who is able quietly and sanely to interpret them in intelligible language, "usually in the form of exhortation, sometimes of adoration and praise, and very rarely of prediction". Those who have this gift can exercise or restrain it when and where they will. The spirit of the prophets is subject to the prophets. They also testify to the sense of glory and worship which fills their souls, which is in accordance with the statement of Paul: "He that speaks in an unknown tongue edifies himself." Furthermore, it is to be noted that the baptism of the Holy Ghost accompanied by speaking in tongues is usually only experienced (though there are exceptions) after long and intense seasons of waiting and seeking, crying and groaning before God.

      All this goes to show that this experience is preeminently a manifestation of the Spirit through the emotions. It is a presenting of the personality to God with such a complete abandonment and at such a pitch of intensity that the reason is finally transcended, the conscious being submerged, the love of God and the power of the Spirit flooding in through the whole range of the emotions.

      In this rational age, however, we are quick-and foolish - to despise and deride emotion. Such an experience as the above appears either ridiculous, unnecessary or excessive. Not so, indeed. For one thing, it was the experience of Pentecost, repeated on the historic occasion when the Gospel was first preached to the Gentiles: (Acts 10:44-48) it was common in the early church. (2 Cor. 14) Paul the rational, the master of logic, thanked God that he spoke with tongues more than they all! For another, the stirring of the emotions is the source of every human activity. No emotion as a driving force, no creative thought; no emotion, no great achievement; no emotion, no deeds of love nor exploits of faith. Love is largely compounded of emotion. God is love.

      Therefore in stressing the baptism of the Holy Ghost with this sign following, the advocates of this teaching are penetrating to the most sensitive, most powerful cord in human nature, and are stirring their hearers to seek and find the living God through that avenue. The result is a people whose joy knows no bounds; fervent in testimony, free in prayer, large in heart, wide in generosity; with the warmth in their message and fellowship which attracts more hearers to their usually humble halls than probably any other denomination of equal size.

      But it is also true that such a presentation has its many real dangers. Too often, reason is given practically no place at all: all is emotion. The balance is not kept; joy becomes shear noise, and preaching a string of emotional exclamations. Sometimes the gifts of the Spirit are stressed almost to the exclusion of the fruits, and little taught about holiness and separation. [7] The gift of tongues is not always controlled and used in the orderly manner enjoined in Scripture, but may be exhibited for selfish enjoyment or fleshly display, sometimes even combined with inconsistent living; for the expansion of the emotional life carries with it the danger of a reaction into sensuality, unless the walk with God is closely maintained. Also demonic possession, in place of the Spirit's baptism, is possible when the being is so completely handed over, if anything less than God Himself through Christ is the genuine objective of the seeking soul.

      Thus these four main categories cover the varied avenues by which the people of God "grow up into Him in all things."

      Growth, consecration, purification, fire. These four words might sum up the four presentations. Each is obviously included in the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ. Each is Scriptural and, in some measure, of course, each is taught by all, and all by each. Is not, therefore, a largeness of Christian tolerance called for? In our emphatic finite way we see some aspect of truth; it is a divine revelation to us; it revolutionizes us; it is our message to our generation. To us it seems more important than perhaps any other truth, and more relevant to the needs of our day. The Spirit seals it by blessing it to many other lives. It appears to us, at least with our often parochial and limited view of things, as the message which has God's special blessing upon it, the word of the Lord for our day. The Bible seems full of it, to whatever passage we turn (for it is a law of life that we always see what we look for; we select and attract to ourselves from the whole sum of things that which holds our particular interest and attraction; a truth the Psalmist touches on when he says: 'With the merciful Thou wilt show Thyself merciful, with the upright, upright, with the pure, with the froward.") Just because we are finitely human, we shall most probably overstate our own particular viewpoint, overrate its value in relation to the whole, and underrate other viewpoints. And so we get schisms and splits!

      We must be true to what we see. No man can preach another's message. God sends us each out to be ourselves; and, in presenting our convictions, perhaps it is almost impossible for us to see equal truth in somebody else's. Perhaps we are not even meant to, for each is needed to counter-balance the other and to counteract our chronic tendency to overstate and overuse. The all-at-conversionist cannot "see" the second-blessing. The flesh-versus-Spirit teacher cannot accept the entire sanctificationist. And none of them can agree with the Pentecostal!

      But can we not have such a large view of our essential unity in Christ, of the vastly greater fact that we all center in Him, revere His Word, rely on His Blood, preach His Gospel, that we make more of our unity than of our differences? Can we not fellowship together, meet on common platforms, join in common conferences, and not thereby lose our liberty of free expression? As we state with thankfulness where we agree, so let us also state where we disagree; but let us do it with humility, as well as with conviction, and with good humor. We know that we are of God and the whole world lieth in the wicked one. We are not many, and the whole world is very great. How essential then that we stand together. God gives certain platforms for certain messages. That is right. Let each message be declared without fear or favor. But let there be room also for recognition that there are other godly brethren who cannot see all that we do, but who also probably do see many things that we don't! And let us welcome them too.

      Surely this is the unity of the Gospel, a unity that allows an absolute liberty. Compulsory unity, such as in the Church of Rome, is death. We do not believe in these unifications that bind the people of God down to manmade leadership, and man-made laws, or even man-made interpretations of God's Word. A unity based on compromise is equally false and fatal. The fact is that a great deal of the complaint of lack of unity in the Church of Christ is nonsense. They mistake uniformity for unity. There is an eternal unity between God's born again people. There is a worldwide family of God here and now on the earth. No formal resolutions, no legal gettings together, are needed. Any servant of God, who travels the world to-day in Christ's Name and unlabelled by any particular denomination which may limit the bounds of his fellowship, does not take long to discover the marvelous reality of God's present-day family. He will go from hut to mansion, from white to black, from lord to laborer. He will have to try and understand nearly every language on earth, and when he cannot, the hand grip and smile of welcome will bear the same family message of love.

      This is the living unity without uniformity. Probably it is as far as God wants His people to go. Federations may be possible, or fellowships, if they really give individual freedom for each to express their worship and faith as they wish, the only bond of union being the Scriptural test that Jesus is confessed to be the Son of God who has come in the flesh; (1 John 4:2,3) but closer union probably only ends again in divisions. For the Spirit will be free. He will break forth in this direction, if He is bound in that. He is life, not letter; and even the very sacraments of Baptism and Communion ordained by the Savior and the Apostles can be no standard of union. If they are our focal point, what about those great communities who practice neither? Are they to be excluded? If ordained ministry is to be necessary, what about that world-wide community of believers who consider such a ministry unscriptural? And if some doctrine of the Spirit, what about our "Holiness" and "Pentecostal" brethren?

      The truth is that a multiplicity of sects is not an evidence of disunity, but of healthy variety. [8] There always will be such and always should be. The Spirit will always be manifesting Himself in some new way; not with a new Gospel, but with a new presentation of it, or new emphasis of some neglected aspect of it, or new application of it to present-day needs. The wise will welcome all; not join all, but recognize in each with joy some fresh outstretching of the saving hand of God to the world. "Wisdom is justified of all her children." Even democracy teaches us that the party system is healthy, and, indeed, the evidence of true liberty and the only means of giving expression to the all-round views of a people; new parties must arise, as the left wing parties of our day, to express new political insights and convictions. In the House of Commons a leader of the opposition is even paid a large salary to marshal the assaults of his party upon the viewpoints of those in power!

      The sad thing is our engrained tendency to regard all other sects as sheep-stealers and rivals. It is really only the outward expression of our own innate selfishness. If another group comes into a town, with fervor and freshness, with some strong and joyful emphasis on Gospel truth, and some of my congregation leave to join them, why do I object? It is only taking away from me, not from Christ. Let me rather be humbled that others should come, and that there should be a warmth, attraction and power with them which I do not appear to have. If only I truly consult the interests of Christ and of my flock, I will always exhort them to go where they are happiest in Gospel fellowship, and only to remain with me if they find this fellowship most vital.

      "Endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace."

      1. Outstanding exponents of this position are the Brethren: but it is held in the main by the evangelicals of all denominations.

      2. This is often known as "Keswick teaching" and is taught at the hundreds of conventions for the deepening of the spiritual life which are the worldwide offspring of the "Keswick Convention".

      3. The "holiness" bodies. It was taught in the early church by the Montanists; by John Wesley and John Fletcher in early Methodism; by General Booth in founding the Salvation Army (who still have their "holiness" meetings, but do not now in a great many cases teach holiness as radically as their founder). The modern denominations who wholeheartedly adopt the "holiness teaching" are the Church of the Nazarene (a large denomination in U.S.A., smaller in Britain); the International Holiness Mission; the Calvary Holiness Church; the Mennonites; the free Methodists, and others.

      4. The various denominations that go under the general title of "Pentecostal". Some of these are very large. One in U.S.A. has over 2,000 churches; another in Sweden 750 churches, one of them with a membership of 7,000. In England, there are The Assemblies of God (a branch of a much larger denomination in America.), Elim Foursquare, The Bible Pattern Church, The Apostolic Church, The Full Gospel Church, etc. Between them these churches also have large representation on the mission fields. It should also be pointed out that not all the Pentecostal people insist on "tongues" as the initial sign of Baptism of the Spirit, although most appear to do so. One of their greatest leaders in England holds that any of the gifts and offices bestowed by the Holy Spirit, amongst those mentioned in Eph 4 and 1 Cor. 12, is proof of the Spirit's fullness.

      5. 1 Cor. 12: 10 A note from the Rev. Noel Brooks on this point says: "The word 'unknown' in I Cor. 14, is not in the original and is printed in italics in A.V., while R.V. omits it. The tongue, or to use a modern expression, 'language', spoken is not ESSENTIALLY unknown, but may be, and generally is, unknown to the assembly to whom it is addressed. There have been a number of well authenticated cases amongst modern Pentecostals of the language being understood by persons present."

      6. An interesting comment on the relationship between natural ability and the gifts of the spirit, and how the two meet and produce their continued contribution to the glory of God in a redeemed personality, is in William Kelly's Notes on the Ephesians, p. 146. He says: "There are these two things, the ability which is the vessel of the gift, and the gift itself which is, under the Lord, the directing energy of the ability. Paul was a most remarkable natural character; but besides this, when called by the grace of God, a gift was put in him that he did not possess before, a capacity in the Holy Ghost of laying hold of truth and of enforcing it on people's souls. God wrought through his natural character, and his manner of utterance, and his particular style of writing; but everything, though flowing through his natural ability, was in this new power of the Holy Ghost communicated to his soul."

      7. In all fairness it should also be remarked that "there are many Pentecostal pastors who do strive to inculcate moral ideals and lift the general level of spiritual life. As a matter of fact I suppose there is as much negative separation amongst the Pentecostal people as amongst the Holiness. The rank and file of the movement not only are total abstainers, nonsmokers, etc., but almost entirely deny themselves pictures, theatres, and even musical concerts and novel reading. As one who knows the inside I would say that mere separation is not our need in the movement, but positive development of Christian character."-Note by Rev. Noel Brooks.

      8. Being in a finite world we only "know in part" and so easily tend to overemphasize what we do know at the expense of other aspects of truth; and, being in a fallen world, we all too quickly stifle the vital spirit of truth by the mere dead letter. Hence the necessary up-rise of a new emphasis. The day is coming, the day of the Lord's return, when all such varieties will cease, when "we know even as we are known" and when "we all come in the unity of faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God unto a perfect man".

Back to Norman P. Grubb index.

See Also:
   The Law Of Faith: Preface
   The Law Of Faith: 1. A Personal Explanation
   The Law Of Faith: 2. Faith - A Natural Faculty
   The Law Of Faith: 3. From Natural to Spiritual Faith
   The Law Of Faith: 4. Inordinate Affection
   The Law Of Faith: 5. Undiscovered Self
   The Law Of Faith: 6. Undiscovered Self
   The Law Of Faith: 7. The Law of Transmutation
   The Law Of Faith: 8. From Elementary to Advanced Faith
   The Law Of Faith: 9. The Swaying Battle of Faith
   The Law Of Faith: 10. Full Assurance of Faith
   The Law Of Faith: 11. Two Testimonies
   The Law Of Faith: 12. The Varied Teachings of the Fullness of the Spirit
   The Law Of Faith: 13. The Centrality of the Will
   The Law Of Faith: 14. Temptation and Its Beneficial Effects
   The Law Of Faith: 15. Temptation Analyzed
   The Law Of Faith: 16. Faith in the Daily Life
   The Law Of Faith: 17. Speaking the Word of Faith
   The Law Of Faith: 18. What Is Clear Guidance In Major Matters?
   The Law Of Faith: 19. What Is Clear Guidance In Minor Matters?
   The Law Of Faith: 20. False Faith
   The Law Of Faith: 21. Strategy In Faith
   The Law Of Faith: 22. Unproductive Faith
   The Law Of Faith: 23. An Example of a Revolutionized Faith
   The Law Of Faith: 24. Harmonious Relationships With Things
   The Law Of Faith: 25. Harmonious Relationships With People
   The Law Of Faith: 26. The Underlying Law of Fruitbearing Faith
   The Law Of Faith: Appendix - The Dialectic of Life and Its Origin


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