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The Crisis of Pentecost

By T. Austin-Sparks

      Christianity is built upon two great facts, the facts that God raised Jesus from the dead and the fact that the Holy Spirit makes this a reality in the life of the believer. Jesus risen; the Spirit given: these are the two foundations of our faith. There is no real knowing or living until the Holy Spirit comes, and comes in.

      It is He who throws light upon Jesus, from His birth to His cross, explaining the significance of His earthly life. You will never come into the good and value of the life of the Lord Jesus until the Holy Spirit interprets, explains and applies it. You will only have an earthly story, snatches of history and biography, unless the Spirit takes up the incarnation, the walking, the teaching, the working and the dying of the Lord Jesus and imparts their true significance to you. Why did Christ come to earth at all? What was He here for? The one inclusive answer to this question is that He came to bring back man into a living, conscious union with God.

      But if this was the case then all that He was and did was in vain until the Holy Spirit came from above to impart the value of His life and work to believers. He would have come in vain, taught in vain, worked in vain and died in vain if the Holy Spirit had not taken up the matter and made it real and living. It was the Lord Jesus Himself who placed this tremendous importance upon the Holy Spirit: "It is expedient for you that I go away, for if I do not go away the Comforter will not come..." (John 16:7). The meaning of the life of Christ can never be effectively realised apart from the gift and indwelling of the Holy Spirit. The very first thing which the Spirit does is to make instantly real in us that which Christ came to do. "The Spirit beareth witness with our spirits that we are children of God." Quite clearly this means living, conscious relationship with God. When the Spirit comes He begins at once to take up the purpose of Christ's coming to earth and imparts it in the life of the believer. In fact there is no spiritual experience which we can have which is not directly attributable to the Holy Spirit.

      Now the Bible is a book of crises. There are four major crises described in the Word of God. and of course many minor ones in between. The first of these major crises was the crisis of creation. That was a major crisis for it was nothing less than the intervention of God in relation to purpose. God reacted to vanity, to what was void and without purpose or meaning, serving no real end - "Now the earth was without form and void". God was not prepared to tolerate this, so He acted in a crisis of intervention. The second great crisis was that of redemption. Through the coming to earth of the Son and through His death on the cross, God intervened to recover what had been lost through sin. It was the great crisis of recovery. The third crisis was that of Pentecost, the intervention of spiritual fullness as against mere figures, representations and fragments, to bring in the real and the full. By Pentecost heaven intervened to bring into human affairs and experience the full expression of divine life. Then the fourth great crisis will be that of the coming again of Christ. This will represent the intervention of God for universal restoration and restitution. It has many aspects and is still future, but it is just as certain as the other three.

      Now we note that in every one of these major crises the Holy Spirit is very much in evidence. At the beginning, we are told that "the Spirit of God brooded over the face of the deep". He was the agent and energy of the first creation. Then in the crisis of redemption He was in charge from first to last. The Redeemer was born of the Spirit; He was anointed by the Spirit and did His mighty works by His agency; and finally He offered Himself without spot to God through the eternal Spirit. All the way through the work of redemption, the Holy Spirit was the energy and power, the agent, the custodian. Then of course it goes without saying that the third great crisis of Pentecost was in the hands of the Holy Spirit. That was where He took charge of everything, even as the Lord Jesus had so strongly stipulated that no attempt was to be made to preach and nothing was to be done until the Spirit had come. It was the commandment of the Lord that His disciples were to tarry until they had been endued by the Spirit, so insisting that no movement was to be attempted until the whole divine programme had been taken over by the Holy Spirit. Finally we may be sure that the matter of the coming again of the Lord Jesus will involve the activities of the Holy Spirit. It will represent the consummation of the Spirit's work. He will have brought to birth sons for manifestation with the Son. He will have effected the spiritual growth and perfection of God's people; like Abraham's servant, He will bring the bride and present her to the Bridegroom. So it is that the end of the book of the Revelation brings the call: "The Spirit and the bride say, Come".

      But when we have considered these four main crises and the many minor ones in between, we still have to ask what occupies the foreground of God's eternal purpose. The answer is that right in the centre of the stage is a being called MAN, a unique creation, the crown of all creation. The Bible is the story of heaven's interest in man. He is the one upon whom all attention is focussed. God's great concern is with man, and moreover the activities of all the heavenly beings are centred upon him. "Not unto angels hath he subjected the inhabited earth to come, but one in a certain place has said, What is man that thou art mindful of him?" (Hebrews 2:5-6). All heaven is occupied with the destiny of man. And all hell equally focusses its attention on the human race. The kingdom of evil is occupied in its hostility to mankind. Being divided as a kingdom - as Jesus says it is - it works in seemingly contradictory ways. On one hand it does its utmost to degrade man, to dishonour him, to make him lower than he really is, to persuade him to make human life cheap, a mere cipher to be liquidated at will, fodder for the state or for the cannon. On the other hand it tries to make man without God to be something more than he really is, to ensnare him into arrogance and self-sufficiency, to pretend that a human being has independence and authority of his own and something to be proud of. But in both cases the objective is the corruption of man and his spiritual destruction. The kingdom of evil concentrates its attention on the purposes of God for man in a never-ceasing campaign to spoil this masterpiece of God's creation.

      This may seem irrelevant to the subject of the Holy Spirit, but far from being so, it forces us to recognise that only by the coming in of the Spirit can these evil purposes be averted and the grand design of God fulfilled. The purpose of creation was that man should become a son of God. As Paul explains: "...foreordained unto the adoption as sons, to be conformed to the image of his Son...". So Pentecost really takes us back to the original thought and purpose of God in the creation of man. The Holy Spirit brings that purpose up to date, so that when a believing man receives the Holy Spirit as his inner life, all God's eternal desires and intentions enter into a phase of realisation.

      If this is so, then it follows that there must be a tremendous change in the person of the one who is in the good of Pentecost. We know very well that before Pentecost the men and women who were closely associated with the Lord Jesus in His walk and work by no means answered to God's original thought for mankind. When the Holy Spirit came, however, they became quite different people, so very different that we might almost say that they were another 'order' of people. They had passed from one kingdom into another. By the Spirit of sonship the Son Himself had entered into their lives, to make them veritable sons of God.

      It seems to me that there can be no true understanding of the meaning of the crisis of Pentecost until we associate it with God's original purpose in creating man. Immediately we understand this, though, we have the key to the coming of the Spirit. I understand that there are some eighty-eight direct references to the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament, but they are partial, symbolic or preparatory, all pointing on to the supreme objective of God which is to enjoy intimate fellowship with human sons. This explains the words in the letter to the Galatians, where Paul speaks of the promise of Abraham coming to Gentiles as well as Jews. This promise consists of the life of sonship to God through Jesus Christ. Now we note that the apostle goes on to say that this is made effective by the promised gift of the Holy Spirit who is "the Spirit of His Son" (Galatians 4:6).

      The Spirit is busy making possible God's eternal desire to have His creation peopled by loving and obedient sons. We are told that the creation itself groans and travails that this holy purpose should be realised - and soon! What is more, the Holy Spirit also longs over God's people with groanings which cannot be uttered, for His supreme purpose in intervening in human history is related to the goal of sonship. He regenerates us to make us children of God. He guides us because we are the sons of God. He trains and disciplines us according to the fact that "God dealeth with you as with sons". It is impossible to exaggerate the importance of the presence and working of the Holy Spirit. All the fulfilment of divine purposes in man is committed to Him. But it is possible for us to fail to realise the great objective of the crisis of Pentecost, which was to provide God with men and women who can eternally satisfy His heart and administer His will. This is not mere doctrine, it is the most wonderful prospect which has ever been revealed in God's universe. God the All-Wise and the All-Gracious has set His heart on bringing many sons to glory, and has committed to His gracious Spirit the task of transforming sinners like us so that He may have the family of sons, conformed to the image of His Son, which He planned before time was. There are many other aspects of the Spirit's working in and through us. All of these are important. Most of them, however, are related to the one all-inclusive objective which involves the transformation of our inner lives into that spiritual reality of likeness to Christ which was always God's purpose for man. "Behold, what manner of love the Father has bestowed upon us, that we should be called children of God, and such we are. It is not yet manifested what we shall be, but we know that when He is manifested we shall be like him." That is really what Pentecost was all about.

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