"Oh, to be like Thee, Lord, I am coming
Now to receive the anointing divine!"
That last clause might well be taken to compass and cover what we are going to consider at this time - the "anointing divine". We will look at some fragments of Scripture:
"And behold, I send forth the promise of My Father upon you; but tarry ye in the city, until ye be clothed with power from on high" (Luke 24:49).
"And, being assembled together with them, He charged them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, said He, ye heard from Me; for John indeed baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized in the Holy Spirit not many days hence" (Acts 1:4).
"Being therefore by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He hath poured forth this, which ye see and hear" (Acts 2:33).
"Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law having become a curse for us; for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree; that upon the Gentiles might come the blessing of Abraham in Christ Jesus; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith" (Gal. 3:13).
You will have noted that the coming of the Holy Spirit is so frequently referred to as "the promise of the Father", and if you study the contextual references to that phrase, you will find that the gift of the Holy Spirit was a promise with a very long history - that is, it dates right back to Abraham. In this one fragment Paul stated quite clearly and definitely that the promise made to Abraham would have its fulfilment by the gift of the Holy Spirit.
That promise of God was repeated again and again through the Scriptures, and it revived, or had a special emphasis, in the prophets. You will find Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Joel and Zechariah all have something quite strong to say about the coming of the Spirit or the Day of the Spirit.
"The promise of the Father" was a long-standing promise, and therefore, a long-standing hope. The point, of course, which is so impressive, is this, that while Christ is the central and supreme figure in all the Scriptures, all the meaning and value of Christ in every respect, was only made effective here by the coming of the Holy Spirit. Jesus Himself said that would be so: If He "did not go away, the Spirit would not come"; it was "expedient that He should go away" for that very reason, surely indicating and implying that all that He had come to do, and did, waited for its practical effectiveness in the coming of the Spirit. Christ's life, Christ's work, and Christ's power as Son of Man here, was dependent entirely upon the anointing. He fulfilled all His ministry in dependence upon the anointing, by all that the anointing meant. It was true in His case, and the Word of God bears that out abundantly, it must be all the more true, certainly equally true in the case of the church, that the church's life and work, ministry, and power rest solely upon the anointing of the Holy Spirit. And what is true of the whole, is true of every part, every individual. We may have everything that Christ has said and done, we may have it all, but it means nothing without the anointing. That, of course, is well-known from the fact that He had given His teaching in great fullness; He had done His mighty works, He had lived His wonderful life, He had died His tremendous death, He had risen again in triumph over death. And we might think that is enough to get on with and to go out with, but at that very point, with all that present, He says: "Tarry": "Don't go yet; depart not from Jerusalem yet, wait, that is not enough!" "...till the Spirit come". That is tremendously impressive.
That is where we begin; it is not fresh light, I am aware of that, but we must be impressed, I feel, more than ever, with the tremendous thing that has happened in the giving of the Holy Spirit. I trust that that is what we are going to be impressed with more than ever in these chapters.
The Holy Spirit Given by the Father to the Son
The next thing for us to note is that the Holy Spirit was given by the Father to the Son on the completion of the whole cycle of redemption. He left the glory: He came "out of the ivory palaces", "He emptied Himself", He laid aside His garments of glory, He came here and accepted the situation of a bond-slave, the fashion of a man; carried through His great mission, and completed redemption, and returned to the Father, carrying with Him that completed and finished work. At that time the Father, according to these words, gave Him the Spirit: "Being therefore, at the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit...". The giving to the Son of the Holy Spirit therefore was God's seal upon a finished work. If therefore, you or I are to come into the good of the Holy Spirit as God's gift to the Son, it will be God's gift to faith in Christ and His perfected and finish work. That is a statement of fact, but it is also a challenge.
So many of our lives are powerless and bring little honour to the Lord. We are weak and deficient, not because He has not provided the Holy Spirit to make it otherwise, but because we are not resting fully and finally upon a perfected work done by the Lord Jesus. Put in another way, while we are in doubt or are in any way weak as to this matter of Christ's perfected work of redemption, the Holy Spirit stands back. It is a terrible thing for a Christian, who is really an heir of the Holy Spirit, not to be living in the good of the gift of God, the promise of the Father. Settle this whole matter, that there is nothing more to be done, "He has by one offering, perfected (made complete for ever!) them that come unto God by Him" and you have cleared the way for the Spirit. Live in any other way that raises a question about that - uncertainty about your redemption, your salvation, your acceptance, which means raising a doubt as to whether Christ has done it all, and the Spirit stands with a veil over His face, grieved. That is a terrible state to be in.
And so I repeat that the Holy Spirit was given to the Son as the Father's seal upon the accomplishment of the entire circle of redemption, and the Holy Spirit is given to us, abides with us, and makes His presence real with us when we rest upon the ground of God's giving of the Spirit to His Son - the work finished!
The Spirit of Sonship
Then we go on. The next thing we note is the particular significance of the gift of the Spirit. "And coming up out of the water, and praying, the heaven was opened, and a voice came out of heaven, saying, 'Thou art My beloved Son'". The particular significance of the gift of the Spirit is that He is given as the Spirit of sonship. "Because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, whereby we cry, Abba, Father." It is true in the case of Christ Himself as Son of Man. In His incarnation, the Holy Spirit indicated by coming upon Him that He was God's Son, that this One is marked out in sonship; it is true of Christ Himself. It is true in the same way of the believer. It is by the receiving of the Holy Spirit that we receive sonship. We are born into the family; we are marked out as sons of God. The Spirit of sonship - we have more to say about that later. For the time being, let us note what that indicates. It does represent a momentous thing in the history of this creation; it represents and indicates no less a thing than God restarting a divine family, of which Christ is the first. Think of that! God restarting a divine family.
The first Adam was created by God, put on probation by God, but was never adopted. Adoption comes by way of fulfilled probation to the satisfaction of God. The Last Adam was born, probationed, and adopted! The giving of the Spirit to Him was the adoption, that is, the attesting of Him as God's Son. So the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of adoption and He is called in the Word the Spirit of adoption. That means, in this family which God has recommenced in His Son (a tremendously significant thing in the history of this whole creation) God has started over again to build a divine family - sons of God.
Paul makes a tremendous thing of that, as you know, in his letter to the Romans. He says the whole of this old, fallen and cursed creation groans and travails in pain. What is it groaning for? "Waiting for the manifestation of the sons of God." "And we who groan within ourselves, are waiting for our adoption." That is, those who are sons shall be manifested.
So the Holy Spirit is the seal and sign of sonship, of membership of the family, of being in this new thing that God is doing, of which He is, in a peculiar sense, the Father. It gives new emphasis, significance, to the very words used: "the promise of", not God, but "the Father" - "the promise of the Father", implying sonship in its fulfilment, carrying with it sonship, when the promise is fulfilled. It is all so bound up together as a whole.
The church is Christ in a corporate way. Paul says in 2 Corinthians: "We are anointed in Christ... and (God) has anointed us in Him." The church is in Christ, is Christ corporate, by the Holy Spirit. And so, the Holy Spirit coming brings us into the Body of Christ, and it is in the Body of Christ that sonship is attested by the Holy Spirit.
Adoption into God's Family
Further, all the divine values and interests are bound up inseparably with sonship. Be very clear about that. Let me repeat, all the divine values and interests are bound up with sonship. It is the one thing that God has ever had in His heart, in His mind, in the creation and existence of man. God has vested all His interests in sonship. This matter of sonship is immense in its significance. There is no greater and higher thought in this universe than sonship. That brings us back to the beginning and I would that we recognised it in a new way, to take account of the tremendous significance of a new birth, of one person being born anew into the family, receiving the Spirit, and entering into sonship. It is what Christ came for and He leaves us in no doubt whatever as to its meaning and significance. He will repeat three times over: "There is joy in heaven among the angels over one sinner that repenteth". He will put into the balances all the traditions and oracles, the visions, the prophets and the law, and all that has been in the Old Testament, on the one side, and on the other: "You must be born again". And that all goes for nothing if this is not true (and that is not a small 'all'). No, this is what Christ came for, to bring this family into being through adoption. That is the mighty work of the Holy Spirit, to bring about the birth into this family.
It is no small thing for one to be born again. This is a matter which has suffered perhaps as much as any, if not more, than any matter in the way of prejudice. This whole matter of evangelism has suffered much by the cheapness associated with it. It has suffered much by worldliness being allied to it. It has suffered immensely by not relating to all that God means by having sons, in being made something in itself, just 'being saved', just being born again. It has suffered much through prejudice of an inadequate apprehension of what it means to be 'born again' in the family of God. It is not less evangelism that is needed, but what is needed is the fulness of the meaning of a soul being saved. It should be given its tremendous significance from heaven's standpoint as being all that ever Christ came for, and all that ever the Holy Spirit came for. The church would be a very different thing, and Christians would be very different people if only there was from the beginning a greater knowledge of what is involved in being brought into the family of God or receiving the Holy Spirit, which is the same thing.
Enmity Against God's Children
Yes, there is a tremendous significance about this matter. In this life you and I will probably never fathom that significance. If we did but understand our own history and experience, and the experience of all the Lord's children, we should understand what it means to have received the Holy Spirit. You see, the presence of a divine seed in this earth, in this cosmic realm is the occasion of a bitter controversy. You ask, what is all the trouble about, all the conflict, all the pressure? What is it all about, that this world is in a turmoil and a ferment? What is all this experience of ours, of suffering, and trial, and adversity, and conflict, and pressure? The answer is: the presence of a divine seed in this universe.
Now, what I am going to say can be wrongly interpreted, but what I mean is quite true that wherever there are Christians, there will be trouble - make no mistake about it! The presence of Christians in this universe is the occasion of all the trouble. There are many illustrations of this in the Old Testament. All the trouble in Egypt was because God had a divine seed in Egypt and in the end, like Jonah's whale, Egypt was glad to vomit them out! Babylon was glad to get rid of them! It is like that; their presence represents something of tremendous disturbance and challenge. That explains our trouble! Until this thing is brought to its final issue, (we shall probably be speaking about that again later) the trouble will go on. Once we have it all to ourselves, then it will all be at rest. And we are going to have it all to ourselves; that is the end. The sons are going to possess. The end of this controversy is going to come about, and we shall be on top then indeed; there will be no one underneath! It will be settled. In the meantime things become more and more acute, and it is the very presence of this divine seed that is the occasion of all the controversy. Yes, it is no insignificant thing to be a child of God and to have the Holy Spirit.
The Bible teaches that all these immense issues of life, conflict, work, service, can only be secured and carried through by the anointing. It teaches this in type and figure in the Old Testament, in many forms and representations, and in the history of God's people. The Spirit's presence was the guarantee of reaching the divine end. The withdrawing of the Spirit meant that the people lost the thing for which they were the people of God. But, what is set forth there historically and typologically, is infinitely more true spiritually in our own dispensation. We are only going to get through, survive, fulfil our mission, do our work by the anointing. There is no other hope. If it was true of Jesus, it is true of the church, and of every believer.
For the present, what are our conclusions? First of all, the Holy Spirit brings into this world and universe, a different and a unique kind of manhood, or creature, or creation - something different, the like of which is not to be found anywhere else. A different kind of creature, person, order of being, spiritually, first of all. It ought to be very evident to you and to every true child of God that whatever there may be of the old deep down in the deepest part of our being, there is a difference from all others who are not in Christ. We know it, we are aware of it; it is the most real thing in our consciousness and experience that we are different. A difference has been made; it is a difference as stark as that between light and darkness; between life and death. However much that consciously means to us, it is the basic fact of our very existence as the people of God. Something has been done, has happened, in us; we may not understand or be able to explain, but it has happened in us. Those who have not come that way cannot understand us, and it is no use trying to explain ourselves to them, they never will understand until they come the same way. That basic, initial difference, which is the mark of sonship, of the Spirit's presence and operation, is the thing on which the Spirit works continually, all the way through our lives. But it begins in a spiritual way; it is a spiritual thing. It is also a moral thing. I use that word in its largest sense; a difference has been made morally. I want to say something more about that now.
It is something that you and I have got to see, and then lay hold of, that the presence of the Holy Spirit results in a moral difference in us. And by that I do not only mean that it makes us more 'moral', decent people, respectable people. I mean by that that it brings into us a dignity which is the beginning of something which at last is going to be consummated in 'kingship'. It is the spirit of kingship that has been introduced. The presence of the Holy Spirit, making any man or woman a member of this reconstituted divine family, gives to that man and woman a dignity which distinguishes them, or should distinguish them, (I say it with care) a 'superior' order of people in this universe. Safeguard the words 'superior order'; don't let us think wrongly of ourselves, more highly than we ought to think, as being some very important people. But, here is the spiritual truth. It is a most dignified thing to be a member of the family of God. Could a higher and greater dignity be conferred upon anyone? We are children of the Great King of the Royal Family, destined to reign. It is this that is introduced with His gift of the Holy Spirit.
Now note that the one thing which Satan has always sought to do,
by any conceivable means, is to dishonour and degrade the sons of
God, to bring reproach upon the Father by way of the children.
Look at Israel in Egypt! Do you know how the story begins about
Israel in Egypt? It begins like this: "Now these are the names of
the sons of Jacob... went down into Egypt" - sons of a 'prince
with God'; sons of an anointed man. Of that people in Egypt, God
said: "Let my son go." You see, in figure, here are the sons of
God. But look, if Satan is typified by Pharaoh, and his kingdom by
Egypt, what is the one thing he determines? To degrade and make
slaves of them and make them use their strength and their lives to
bring 'kudos' (glory, renown) to the prince of this world. That is
a long story with many sides and aspects. What may be true in the
historical sense in the Old Testament is exactly what is happening
now! What is all this work of the enemy about, upon you and upon
me, the pressure and the harassment, the confusion, and what not?
What is it all about? To make us cringing, self-despising,
self-pitying, all sorry for ourselves, people who are afraid to
lift up our heads and look the world in the face! Isn't that true?
Is not that the effect that suffering, adversity and trial can
have upon us? They rob us of our spiritual dignity as 'princes
with God'. The devil is doing it, and he is trying hard at this
thing, there is no doubt about it!
How shall we lift up our heads? How shall we be what we are from God's standpoint - sons of God? How shall we be in the ascendant, reigning in life? How shall we be freed from all this that makes us in the eyes of men such a despicable crowd? By the anointing, only, but truly! That is why He is given, to bring this dignity among the people of God. No, not pride - God forbid! Not conceit or self-sufficiency, but, yes, with our head, perhaps bleeding from many a battering, yet not bowed; our spirits wounded in the conflict, but not finished! "Though I fall, yet shall I rise"! That is the Spirit of Christ! That is what I mean by a 'moral' difference. Oh, I take this to my heart, do you? We need the Spirit, but we have the Spirit! What is required? You and I must recognize, first of all, what a thing God has done in giving us the Holy Spirit. It is a fact! We have to recognize the ground on which He has given the Spirit - the finished work of His Son, "...has given us the Spirit". And then, with both hands, by faith, we lay hold of the gift. In the hour, the day, that is dark, contrary and difficult, and we are tempted; let us, by the grace of God, say: 'But, I have the Holy Spirit dwelling within me, and that is the answer!' We have the answer because of the anointing. "Anoint the shield and the battle-axe" - there is great fighting in the anointing.
I must leave it there, but do remember that all our discipline, conflict and travail is bound up with this matter of sonship. The transforming from the one old type, to the new type in Christ, is by way of terrible discipline and travail, which is a painful process of going through the transforming course and work to be changed from one likeness to another. But you see, that is exactly what Paul meant in words, perhaps, as familiar to us as any words in the Bible: "All things work together for good to them that love God and are the called according to His purpose." What good? All things? Yes, this discipline, this suffering, this affliction, this adversity, this seeming frustration - all this, all these things - what are they doing? They are the stuff of our transformation by which we are being changed from one form to another; from what we are in ourselves to what we are in Christ. It is infinite good! God has hold of it all; God works that good in all these things to them that love Him.