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Free Books » Bonar, Horatius » Light & Truth: Acts and the Larger Epistles

Chapter 27 - Acts 11:15 - The Baptism of the Holy Ghost Light & Truth: Acts and the Larger Epistles by Bonar, Horatius


This is one of the many repetitions of the Pentecostal scene which occurred in early days. Most unscriptural is the statement of some that the giving of the Spirit at Pentecost was a thing done once for all, not to be repeated, and that we are not to pray for or expect such things again. The whole of the "Acts of the Apostles" is a direct refutation of this piece of human fancy. Wherever the apostles went there was a repetition of Pentecost, whether at Jerusalem, or Samaria, or Antioch, or Corinth. Every conversion is a repetition of Pentecost; it is doing the same thing for an individual soul as was done for three thousand then, by a similar process, and by the same power—the power of the Holy Ghost.

The Holy Ghost is the heritage of the church. The Old Testament saints possessed Him; and still more the New. This is our heritage, the heritage of every believing man. "We receive the promise of the Spirit through faith" (Galatians 3:14). He is the heritage of the last days as well as of the first. The possession of the Holy Ghost, the quickener, the teacher, the purifier, the energizer, the comforter; this is our privilege. He is the "seal," the "earnest" of the inheritance. His personal presence and indwelling (not vaguely, "in the church," as Romanists and many Protestants speak) in the soul is that which the Father has promised. It is this that makes the true, and earnest, and holy man; it is the lack of this that makes time half-hearted disciple, the formalist, the whited sepulchre. Nothing less than this can satisfy us.

Let us note the different expressions used concerning Him and His work in the history of the early church:—"Baptized with the Holy Ghost" (Acts 1:5); "after that the Holy Ghost has come upon you" (1:8); "they were filled with the Holy Ghost" (2:4); "I will pour out of my Spirit"(2:17, 18); "He hath shed forth (poured out) this which ye now see and hear" (2:33); "ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost" (2:38) ; "they were all filled with the Holy Ghost" (4:31); "they received the Holy Ghost" (8:17); "God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost" (10:38); "the Holy Ghost fell on all them who heard the word" (10:44); "on the Gentiles was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost" (10:45); "who have received the Holy Ghost" (10:47); "the Holy Ghost fell on them" (11:15); "John baptized with water, but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost" (11:16); "the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Ghost" (13:52); "when Paul laid his hands on them, the Holy Ghost came on them" (19:6).

Such are the different ways in which the baptism of the Holy Ghost is represented; such the different figures under which the bestowal of this great gift on us is set forth; a coming down, a pouring out, an anointing, a shedding forth, a coming upon, a falling on. As water is poured on us, as oil anoints us, as showers fall upon, as fire descends upon, so does the Holy Spirit come into contact with, and operate upon us and within us.

In one sense, then, Christ is the life of the church, in another it is the Holy Spirit. The church is a body which the Spirit fills, energizes, quickens; without whom no external, or ecclesiastical, or governmental organization is of any avail. In our day we look to externals, to pecuniary prosperity, to numbers, to bulk, to bustle, to schemes; or to talent, to intellect, to eloquence, to learning. What are all these without the Holy Ghost? The spirit of the age, no doubt, is slow to recognize this purely supernatural element; the idea of human progress and development which has taken possession of men cannot co-exist with it; the settled conviction of our age that men are finding their way upward by self-reliance, and personal energy, and that the world is quite able (only give it time and scope) to regenerate itself, is utterly at variance with it.

But in opposition to all this, God's idea of a church—its root, and life, and constitution, and work—finds its development only in an indwelling and inworking spirit. This book of the "Acts" reveals to us more of a church's true life, of a soul's true life, than all the philosophies of earth, all the refinements of the most advanced, or the most stereotyped, theologies of the day. The all-pervading, all-animating thing which makes a church what it is, a Christian what he is, is not a principle, or an idea, or a creed, or a dogma, or a rite, or a sentimentalism, or a sacrament, or a priesthood, but the personal Spirit, even He who is emphatically called in Scripture, "the Holy Ghost." Without Him all churchmanship is vain; all creeds, all ceremonies, all services, all edifices, all altars, all liturgies, all pictures, all processions, all solemnities, all devotions, all genuflections, all chantings are utterly vain.

I. Beware of a superficial religion. No mere surface work or sentimental excitement will avail with God, or stand the coming test of the great day of the Lord. The primitive religion was deep and real; it penetrated every recess of a man's heart, and pervaded every region of his being.

II. Beware of an ecclesiastical externalism. A goodly order of things in the church is right; but woe be to the man who trusts to this. Israel trusted to this, and cried, "The temple of the Lord are we"; but what availed all their outside completeness? Did it not deceive them, and make them lose sight of the awfully sifting words, "Ye must be born again."

III. Beware of seeking anything less than the baptism of he Holy Ghost. Our whole life is to be a reception of this Spirit. He is to be continually coming down on us, and filling us. Let us open our mouth wide that He may fill it. Let us beware of anything that would present itself as a substitute for the living Spirit. Many such things may we expect in these last days from Satan as an angel of light.

IV. Beware of grieving this Spirit. There is great danger of this. Israel was continually guilty of this crime (Acts 7:51), and so is the church: "Ye do always resist the Holy Ghost." Let us not, by unbelief, or error, or inconsistency, or backsliding, or apostacy, grieve or quench this Spirit, whereby we are sealed unto the day of redemption.