Master Sermon List
The Dynamic Of Pentecost
by F. B. Meyer
"Ye shall receive power" (Acts 1: 8)
Among many happy experiences of a mission held under the Southern Cross was a motor ride from Launceston to Hobart. It will always stand out clear cut in my memory. As I write, I see again that majestic range of mountains on my left, streaked here and there with snow, their aspect ever changing under the alternations of sun and cloud.
They told me that on their summit there was a lake of fifty miles in circumference, which supplied a waterfall a thousand feet in height. As with Niagara, so with this, the vast volume of power generated by the fall has been converted into an electric current, which now supplies the entire island with power. This has already tempted manufacturers to establish themselves in the neighborhood of Hobart, and is likely to attract others. There will be large demands for labor, and the prosperity of Tasmania will be greatly enhanced. Afterwards, when sitting at the hospitable table of my host, I discovered that the same current which was driving the factories was at work on the table, making delicious toast.
The suggestion of spiritual analogy was irresistible. For me, at least, that mountain lake, hidden from sight, carried my thought to the mystery of the Eternal God. The fall of descending water was a symbol of the Incarnation; whilst the diffusion of power to the factory and the home suggested the Grace of the Holy Spirit, who is ready to minister a world wide revival, or to solace one lowly believer. This is the power with which our Lord was anointed at His baptism. This is the power which on His Ascension He communicated to His Church. This is the power of which we must avail ourselves, if we are to count in Christian service and warfare.
Would it not be the height of folly if Tasmania were to resolve to cut the supply of power from that mountain lake and to substitute hand power? Would not the factories soon close down, and the incipient harvest of prosperity suddenly wither? Yet it often seems as though the modern Church were in danger of making a similar mistake. In scores of cases she is disconnecting herself from the dynamic of Pentecost, and is endeavoring to find compensation for her loss of spiritual power in brilliance of intellect in the pulpit, in highly organized and expensive machinery, and by calling to her aid adventitious accessories, which are borrowed from the world; and which, even where they may be comparatively innocent, are totally unfit to secure the great ends for which she was called into being, according to the purpose and plan of her great Architect.
Far otherwise was the purpose of our Lord, when He led the little group of chosen friends to some familiar spot on the Mount of Olives, that He might give them His parting instructions and brace them for the stupendous task which He was about to commit to their care. Satan had offered to give Him all the kingdom of the world for one act of homage. This offer He had refused; but He was inaugurating a campaign which would win those same kingdoms, not by sword or scimitar, nor by pandering to human passion, but by blood and suffering, by the proclamation of the living voice, and notably by the cooperation of the Holy Spirit.
The Imperative Need of Power.
The task that awaited that little group was one of unparalleled difficulty. They were charged with the obligation, not only of publishing the Evangel, but of inaugurating a revolution. They were to turn men from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God. They were to disciple all nations, speaking different languages, scattered over the vast Roman Empire, which extended from the Atlantic to the Far East. They were to initiate a mission of regeneration and renewal, comparable to a new creation.
They were to substitute Christianity for paganism, as the foundation of a new type of civilization. Upon the reception or rejection of their message eternal issues hung. In fact, humanly speaking and without exaggeration, it depended on that tiny group of unknown and ordinary men and women, whether the incarnation and death, the Resurrection and Ascension of the Son of God would obtain the audience and acceptance of mankind.
The task was stupendous, and the obstacles to success immeasurable. There were the philosophies and priesthoods of the ancient religions, jealous of the least invasion of their vested interests. There were the shameless license and immorality of the Roman Empire, which have left their trail on the epistles of the New Testament, as well as in the locked chambers of Pompeii. There was also the pride of the Caesars, who would not brook the rivalry of another King, "one Jesus, whom Paul affirmed to be alive."
In addition, let it be remembered that they had to conquer through the Cross. The Cross! It was the symbol of unutterable shame. The Cross! By common consent it was never mentioned in polite society. The Cross! Only the lowest criminals were condemned to suffer its terrible and shameful torture. To the Jews it was a stumbling block, and to the Greeks foolishness. But this was to be the royal standard under which our Lord marshaled His troops to overcome the world!
We cannot consider these circumstances, which arose like a chain of Alps from the plains or human indifference and opposition, without realizing the enormous task which awaited the little company that clustered around the Savior to receive from His lips their world wide commission. But He knew all; and He would never have sent them forth unless He had known that the power which He promised to supply was amply adequate for their need.
But is not the Church today in danger of prosecuting her vast mission, without availing herself to the full of that Divine power? Her ministers and missionaries are educated to a high level of intellectual efficiency, and many, very many of them, are earnest and devoted. Her finances are munificent. Her machinery complex and efficient. But she must always remember that she will fail of the results that alone can satisfy the travail of her Lord, unless her main reliance be upon the energy of that power to which He referred when He breathed on the Apostles and said: "Receive ye the Holy Spirit: as the Father sent Me, even so send I you."
The Power, which our Lord promised, was spiritual, i.e. was an appeal of the Divine Spirit to the human.
"God is Spirit," said our Lord at Jacob's well. It seemed as though He were inaugurating a new era. The well of patriarchal piety might be deserted; the arguments as to where men ought to worship might be left unsolved; the expectation of a conquering Messiah might be unrealized; but the one outstanding feature of the new era was that the Father was seeking worshippers to worship Him in spirit and in truth. This is the highest level of human experience.
Our human nature can operate on three levels of experience. On the level of the material world by the senses of our body; on the level of the world of mind and morals by the perceptions of our souls; on the level of the eternal and spiritual world by our spirit.
For accurate and clear thinking we may regard the soul as the seat of our personality. It is you, or I, or any other. The reason, affections, emotions, judgment, and moral consciousness have their home there. But the soul looks out on two worlds. To the material world below it, it is related by the organs of touch, sight, smell, taste, and hearing. To the eternal world above it, it is related by the spirit, which seems to be endowed with similar organs of perception, extending even to the being "quick of scent in fear of the Lord." We have the option of descending by the spiral staircase downward to materialism, or of ascending by the spiral staircase upward to fellowship with the Eternal and Divine. On the one hand, the lure of the savory pottage; on the other, the ladder which reaches to Heaven and on which angels go and come.
There are multitudes, according to the teaching of the Apostle (1 Cor. 2:14-15), who never rise above the natural or soulish level. They, like the first Adam, are living souls, but they know nothing of the last Adam who is a life giving Spirit. They bear the image of the earthly; and die without having been lifted, through obedience and faith, into union with the heavenly Man, the Lord Jesus Christ. They are unlit candles! The inner chamber of their threefold nature has never been illumined by the Shekinah. The throne room has never been occupied by the King. The windows that look out on the Delectable Mountains and the City of God have never been unshuttered.
But all this is altered when the soul turns towards God in faith and obedience. Then we are born into a new world; then we become aware of the unseen and eternal, as we used to be of the passing shadows of time and sense; then the spiritual senses are as quick to discern good and evil as our physical senses to distinguish light from dark and sweet from bitter. The Shekinah shines in the most Holy Place! The King ascends to His throne - and through the upper windows we look out on the things which God has prepared for them that love Him. Can we wonder that Jesus insisted on the necessity of being born from above; or that He said, with a touch of sadness, "That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and only that which is born of the Spirit is spirit"? Ah! happy day, when the Spirit Himself beareth witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and as children become heirs to the priceless boons which the Spirit hastens to unfold.
The spirit is our capacity for God. When it is, vitalized by the incorruptible seed, it enters into direct union with the Divine Nature. "He that is joined to the Lord is one spirit." We move on new levels of experience; we touch reality; we climb the mountain ranges, which are reflected in the changeful waters of the time sphere. We understand, not by reasoning, but by intuition - which reason afterwards verifies. And more particularly for our present purpose, we become receptive of that mighty power of which our Lord spoke in His farewell discourses, and which, in that last interview on the Mount of Olives, He pledged Himself to give.
It was to this organ of our nature that the Lord promised the Pentecostal gift, knowing well that, if only a channel could be formed between the Spirit of God and the spirit of man, there would be a constant communication of Grace and power which would find its way into every avenue of the soul enlightening the mind, enriching the speech, invigorating courage, sweetening the affections, and imparting a Divine enthusiasm. He knew that even the body would become a Temple of the Lord. The water of life that proceeds from the Throne of God would flow through all the channels of our being, refreshing, cleansing, satisfying, and renewing; and then flowing forth, as the Scripture has said, to heal the marshes, create universal verdure, and ultimately make the waters of the Dead Sea sweet. Before we leave this insistence on the Spirit - aspect of our life, as necessary to its harmony with the Highest, let us record, and bear in mind, three outstanding facts:
1. This is the life which flows through the mystic Vine, in which all who believe are branches. As we abide in constant fellowship with the Savior, we feel the pulse of the Spirit of life permeating our spirits as the sap permeates the branches.
2. This life is eminently practical. It pours into the soul, and dominates the body. When the lamp of the Spirit is lit, the whole body is also full of light. There is no part dark, but everything is as when a lamp with its bright shining gives light to all that enter the house.
3. One of the best methods of quickening the life of the spirit is worship. The repetition of Isaiah's Thrice Holy, or of the Gloria in Excelsior, or of any of the outbursts of adoration recorded in the Book of Revelation, will at once bring us into contact with the world of reality.
Will not some, who have read thus far, ask themselves whether their spirit may not resemble a disused muscle, present but atrophied? Do they realize that they may have within a living spring of holy desire and love? Does the Spirit bear witness within them that they are God's children? Does He inspire their prayers, and overcome the striving of the flesh? Above all, does He reveal the love and Grace of Christ, so that He has become a living, bright reality? If not, then let them follow on the track of the ascending Savior, and commit to Him their destiny in this life and the next. That moment will witness the awakening of their spiritual life; the scales will fall from their eyes; a new world will open to their view. Peace unspeakable will keep heart and mind, and they will reiterate the cry of the great Pascal: "Joy! Joy! Unspeakable joy!" The Spirit will begin to witness with their spirit, and the living water to flow through their life.
This was the level on which Christ proposed to give the Pentecostal enduement: and this is the level on which alone we can receive the promise of the Father. There is a natural affinity between Spirit and spirit, between the Spirit of God and the spirit of men. Like attracts like. "The natural or physical man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness unto him, and he cannot know them, because they are spiritually discerned; but he that is spiritual discerneth (or understandeth) all things, and he himself is discerned (or understood) by no man."
It was because our Lord knew that those who gathered around Him had fulfilled these conditions, and had been born into union with the unseen and eternal, that He was able to say: "Behold, I send forth the promise of My Father upon you; tarry ye in the city until ye be clothed with power from on high." "Ye shall receive power when the Holy Spirit is come upon you." And let us remember those great words of George Fox: "If but one man or woman were raised by the Lord's power to stand or live in the same spirit that the Apostles and Prophets were in, he or she would shake this country for miles around."
The Significance of Christ's Parting Promise.
From the earliest times the dynamic of the Holy Spirit has been realized by individuals, such as Moses, Elijah, Isaiah, and the Prophets. They were mountain top men, whose contact with the spiritual and eternal made them saints and seers. They were elect souls, who dwelt apart, breathing the rare air of the highlands. They spake as moved by the Holy Spirit, though sometimes unaware of what the Spirit of Christ, who was in them, did signify. The full mystery of Pentecost was not then made known unto these holy souls as it has now been unfolded through Christ's Ascension. To us it has been revealed that even Gentiles may be fellow partakers in the experiences of the Spirit filled life.
This great intention was in the heart of Christ. By assuming our nature, and carrying it through the Heavens to the Eternal Throne, He has placed the fulness of the Holy Spirit within the reach of all flesh - of old men and children, of young men and maidens, of the laborer who ploughs the brown earth, and the maids who churn the milk. We do not say that He brought a new power into the world, but that He placed world old and eternal power within the reach of the simplest and humblest souls who were joined to Him by a living faith. Christ had the Church of the Christian centuries in mind when He spoke His farewell discourses, and after His Resurrection tarried forty days, speaking the things concerning the Kingdom. It was clearly His intention, now that He was the Head and Representative of His Church, to claim for the whole Church, and especially for its leaders, that same anointing, which fell on Him at His Baptism in the Jordan.
Though His human nature was due to the direct operation of the Holy Spirit, He delayed entrance on His public ministry until that anointing had taken place. The Apostle Peter, in the house of Cornelius, said emphatically that "God anointed Him with the Holy Spirit and with power." The Baptist confessed that he would not otherwise have known Him; but He who sent him to baptize had forewarned him that he must watch for One on whom the Spirit descended and abode.
This anointing with power which our Lord claimed in the synagogue at Nazareth refers only to His human nature and earthly ministry; for He has been One with the Eternal Spirit in the mystery of the Holy Trinity before time began. But, as the Priest and King of Mankind; as the Head of the Body, His Church; as the channel through which the Pentecostal gift was bestowed, it was meet that the Spirit should descend on Him, as by the soft wings of a dove. It was a vast encouragement to the group on the Ascension mount to learn that, as it had been with the Head, so it would be with each member of His mystical body who would claim the same enduement by the exercise of obedience and faith.
The Pathway of Christ's Ascension
From the teaching of the Apostle Paul (Eph. 1:21-23, compared with 6:12), we gather that, when the cloud hid Him from view, just as that veil fell behind the High Priest and hid him on the Day of Atonement, the ascending Christ was beset with the concentrated opposition of the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the Heavenly places. It was as though the whole force of the world of fallen spirits were gathered to bar His upward progress. It was a vain attempt! His course was no more interrupted than a flimsy veil of mist can alter the course of a sunbeam. He ascended on high, leading captivity captive. As in the triumph of a victorious general through the streets of ancient Rome the conqueror's car was followed by a long train of subdued and captive princes and potentates, so we may picture Death, the Grave, and the Power of Hades as conquered foes, attached to Christ's triumphal progress. "Having put off from Himself the principalities and powers, He made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in His Cross."
May we not here make use of the magnificent symbolism of the ancient Psalm, quoted by the Apostle: the chariots of God came forth to welcome the returning King, "even thousands upon thousands"? Then they turned to accompany His progress as He approached the Eternal City. We hear the challenging voice of the foremost ranks; "Lift up your heads, O ye gates, and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors, and the King of Glory shall come in." To the inquiring appeal, "Who is the King of Glory?" the entire crowd of rejoicing angels and saints reply: "The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle! The Lord of Hosts, He is the King of Glory!" Finally the ancient doors slowly unfold to admit Him.
He bears the semblance of our humanity; He is the man Christ Jesus; but on His vesture and on His thigh He hath a name written - King of Kings, and Lord of Lords! This is poetry of the sublimest sort; but the truth, which lies beneath, is the sure anchorage of our faith. We know it is true, because we have felt the pull of the rope, the power of the risen, :ascended, and glorified Christ! But putting aside this majestic image, let us recall the Lord's own promise: "I will pray, or make request of the Father, and He shall give you another Paraclete, that He may be with you for ever" ... "even the Spirit of Truth, which proceedeth from the Father ... if I go, I will send Him unto you."
Permit me to put it thus. When our Lord entered the presence chamber of Deity, all created beings dropped behind, as He received the Father's welcome. And when He was asked what reward or guerdon He would claim for His agony to blood, the Savior answered: "Father, I ask nothing for Myself. It is enough to have finished the work Thou gavest Me to do, and to be assured that redemption is secured for a lost race; but if Thou wilt give ought, I ask that in my human-divine nature that same fulness of the Holy Spirit may reside which I possessed with Thee and Him in the eternal unity of our being before the world was. Thus I shall be able to shed forth the fulness of His Grace and help upon My Church, as they were shed on Me when I emerged from the water at My baptism."
Such was our Savior's prayer. He made request of the Father, as He had promised; and in his sermon on the Day of Pentecost Peter declared that, being exalted to the right hand of God, He received of the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, which He poured forth on the waiting disciples. This is very significant. Having led captivity captive He besought and obtained this great gift for man; yea, for the rebellious also, that the Lord God might dwell among us.
To adopt the language of the Apostle (Col. 1:19; 2:9): "It pleased the Father that in Him, in His mediatorial and representative capacity, all the fulness of the Godhead should dwell, that from His fulness we might all receive, and Grace for Grace." In Him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead in a corporeal form; and to each one of us who is united to Him by faith a share in that gift was apportioned. Whether we have claimed it or not is another matter. Too many are content to claim their share in Calvary, but never go further to claim their portion in the gift of Pentecost. They are content with the brazen altar and the laver, but never enter the Holy or the Holiest Place.
Ten days passed, during which the faithful lovers and disciples of Christ continued steadfastly and with one accord in prayer until the Day of Pentecost was fully come, and the Lord fulfilled His sure word of promise, "Ye shall receive power."
Whoso hath felt the Spirit of the Highest
Cannot confound nor doubt Him, nor deny;
Yea, with one voice, O world, tho' thou deniest,
Stand thou on that side, for on this am I.