'Christ hath redeemed us from the curse, that upon the Gentiles might come the blessing of Abraham in Christ Jesus ; we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.'Gal.3:13,14.
THE word faith is used the first time in Scripture in connection with Abraham. His highest praise, the secret of his strength for obedience, and what made him so pleasing to God, that he believed God; and so he became the Father of all them that believe, and the great example of the blessing which the Divine favour sows, and the path in which it comes. Just as God proved Himself to Abraham the God who quickens the dead, He does to us too, in fuller measure, in giving us the Spirit of His own Divine to dwell in us. And just as this quickening power came to Abraham through faith, so the blessing of Abraham, as now made manifest in Christ, even the promise of the Spirit, is made ours by faith. All the lessons of Abraham's life centre in this: ' We receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.' If we want to know what the Faith is through which the Spirit is received, how that faith comes and grows, we must study what God has taught us of it in Abraham's story.
In Abraham's life we see what faith is: the spiritual sense by which man recognises and accepts the revelation of his God, a spiritual sense called forth and awakened by that revelation. It was because God had chosen Abraham, and determined to reveal Himself, that Abraham became a man of faith. Each new revelation was an act of the Divine Will; it is the Divine Will, and the revelation in which it carries out its purpose, that is the cause and the life of faith. The more distinct the revelation or contact with God, the deeper is faith stirred in the soul. Paul speaks of 'trust in the Living God:' it is only as the Living One, in the quickening power of the Divine Life, draws nigh and touches the soul, that living faith will be called forth. Faith is not an independent act, by which in our own strength we take what God says. Nor is it an entirely passive state, in which we only suffer God to do to us what He will. But it is that receptivity of soul in which, as God comes near, and as His living Power speaks to us and touches us, we yield ourselves and accept His word and His working.
It is thus very evident that faith has two things to deal with: first the Presence, and then the Word of the Lord. It is only the Living Presence that makes the Living Word; so the Kingdom comes not in word only, but in power. It is on this account that there is so much reading and preaching of the word that bears so little fruit; so much straining and praying for faith, with so little result. Men deal with the word more than with the Living God. Faith has very truly been defined as 'Taking God at His word.' With many this has only meant, taking the word as God's; they did not see the force of the thought, Taking God at His word. A key or a door handle has no value until I use it for the lock and the door I want to open; it is alone in direct and living contact with God Himself that the word can work effectually and open the heart for God. Faith takes God at His word; it can only do this when and as He gives Himself. I may have in God's book all His precious promises most clear and full; I may have learnt perfectly to understand how I have but to trust the promise to have it fulfilled; and yet utterly fail to find the longed for blessing. The Faith that enters on the inheritance is the attitude of soul which waits for God Himself, first to speak His word to me, and then to do the thing which He hath spoken. Faith is fellowship with God; faith is surrender to God; the impression made by His drawing nigh, the possession He takes of the soul by His word, holding and preparing it for His work. When once it has been awakened, it watches for every appearing of the Divine Will; it listens for and accepts ever indication of the Divine Presence; it looks for and expects the fulfilment of every Divine Promise.
Such was the faith through which Abraham inherited the promises. Such is the faith by which the blessing of Abraham comes upon the Gentiles in Christ Jesus, and by which we thus receive the promise of the Spirit. In all our study of the work of the Holy Spirit, and of the way in which He comes, from His first sealing us, to His full indwelling and streaming forth, let us hold fast this word: ' We receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.' Whether the believer be striving for the full consciousness that the Spirit dwells within, for a deeper assurance of His shedding abroad of God's love in the heart, for a larger growth of all His fruits, for the clearer experience of His guiding into all truth, or for the induement of power to labour and to bless, let him remember that the law of faith, on which the whole economy of grace is grounded, here demands its fullest application: ' According to your faith be it unto you.' ' We receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.' Let us seek for Abraham's blessing in Abraham's faith.
Let, in this matter, our faith begin where his began: in meeting God and waiting on God. 'The Lord appeared unto Abraham . . . . And Abraham fell on his face: and God talked with him: Let us look up to our God and Father as the Living God, who Himself, by His Omnipotent Quickening Power,to do this wonderful thing for us : to fill us with His Holy Spirit. The blessing He has for us is the same He gave to Abraham, but only larger, fuller, and more wonderful. To Abraham, both when his own was now as dead, and later on, when his son already bound on the altar, the prey of death, He came as the Life - giving God. ' He believed who quickeneth the dead.' ' He offered up Isaac accounting God able to raise him up.' To us He comes, offering to fill spirit, soul, and body the power of a Divine life, through the Holy Spirit dwelling in us. Let us be like Abraham. Looking at the promise of God, he wavered not through unbelief, but waxed strong through faith, giving glory to God, and being fully assured that what He had promised, He was able also to perform.' Let us have our souls filled with the faith of Him who has promised, our hearts fixed on Him who is able to perform : it is faith in God opens the heart for God, and prepares to submit to and receive His Divine working. God waits on us to fill us with His Spirit: oh, let us wait on Him. God must do it all with a Divine doing, most mightily and most blessed: let us wait on Him. To read and think, to long and pray, to consecrate ourselves and grasp the promise, to hold fast the blessed truth that the Spirit dwells within us; all this is good in its place, but does not, bring the blessing. The one thing needful is, to have the heart filled with faith in the Living God; in that faith to abide in living contact with Him, in that faith to wait, and worship, and work, as in His Holy Presence. In such fellowship with God, the Holy Spirit fills the heart.
When we have taken up this position, let us keep in it ; we are then in the right state for the Spirit, in such measure as He already has had access to us, further revealing what God has prepared for us.' As we then think of some special manifestation of the Spirit, of which the conviction of need has been wrought, or go to the promises of the word to be led into all the Will of God concernig the life of the Spirit in us, we shall be kept in that humbling sense of dependence out of which childlike trust is most surely begotten. We shall be preserved from that life of strain and effort which has so often led to failure, because in the very attempt to serve God in the Spirit we were having or seeking confidence in the flesh, in something we felt, or did, or wished to do. The deep undertone of our life, in listening to God's word, or in asking God to listen to us, in silent meditation or public worship, in work for God or daily business, will be the assurance that overpowers every other certainty: 'How much more will the Heavenly Father give,' has He given, and will He always be giving, 'the Holy Spirit to them that ask Him.'
Such a faith will not be without its trials. Isaac, the God-given, faith-accepted life of Isaac, had to be given up to death, that it might be received back in resurrection-type, as life from the dead. The God-given experience of the Spirit's working many a time passes away, and leaves the soul apparently dull and dead. This is only until double lesson has been fully learnt; that a faith can rejoice in a Living God, even when all feeling and experience appear to contradict the promise ; and that the Divine life only enters as the life of the flesh is given to the death. The life of Crist is revealed as His death works in us, and as in weakness and nothingness we look to Him. We receive the promise of the Spirit through faith. As faith grows larger and broader, the receiving of promised Spirit will be fuller and deeper. Each new revelation of God to Abraham made his faith stronger and his acquaintance with God more intimate. When his God drew near, he knew what to expect; he knew to trust Him even in the most unlikely appearances, when asking the death of his son. It is the faith that waits every day on the Living God to reveal Himself ; the faith that in increasing tenderness of ear and readiness of service yields fully to Him and His Presence; the faith that knows that only as He wills to reveal Himself can the blessing come, but that because He always does love to reveal Himself, it will surely come;-- this faith receives the promise of the Spirit.
It was in God's Presence that this faith was wakened and strengthened in Abraham and the saints of old. It was in Jesus' Presence on earth that unbelief was cast out, and that little faith became strong. It was in the Presence of the glorified One that faith received the blessing of Pentecost. The Throne of God is now opened to us in Christ; it is become the Throne of God and the Lamb: as we tarry in humble worship, and walk in loving service before the Throne, the river of the water of life that flows from under it will flow into us, and through us, and out of us. ' He that believeth, rivers of water shall flow out of him.'
Ever-blessed God! who dost in Thy Divine Love and Power reveal Thyself to each of Thy children as far as he can possibly bear it, increase within us, we pray Thee, the faith through which alone we can know or receive Thee. Whether Thou comest as the Almighty, or the Redeeming, or the Indwelling God, it is ever faith Thou seekest, and according to faith we receive. O Father! convince us deeply that we have just as much of the Spirit as we have faith.
Our Holy God! we know that it is Thy Presence wakens and works the faith in the soul that yields to Thee. Draw us mightily, we pray Thee, yea, resistibly into Thy Holy Presence, and keep us waiting there. Oh, deliver us from the terrible fascination of world and flesh, that Thy Divine Glory may be our all-absorbing desire, and our whole heart emptied to receive the Holy Spirit's revelation of Christ within. We desire to take Thy words, and let them dwell richly in us. We desire in stillness of soul to be silent unto God and wait for Him; to trust and believe that the Father hast given us His Spirit within us, and is in secret working to reveal His Son. O God! we do live the life of faith ; we do believe in the Holy Spirit. Amen.