The Sovereignty of the Holy Spirit

by T. Austin-Sparks

Chapter 3 - The Holy Spirit and a Vessel in Relation to the Purpose of God

Reading: Ezekiel 1:1,4-28; 2:1-2.

We shall continue for a little while in the matter which the Lord has been bringing before us, namely the sovereignty of the Holy Spirit. We shall turn back to this book of Ezekiel again, because if there is one book more than another in the Old Testament which sets forth the sovereignty of the Holy Spirit, it is this one.

"Visions of God"

The first chapter is not easy to understand at a first reading nor at a second. You have to read it quite a few times before you can really get in your mind a clear definition of what it was exactly that Ezekiel saw. We can put it into few words, remembering that what is here in this book is called 'visions of God'. It might be well just to pause to let that light upon us. God is revealing Himself. What is here then, is that which discloses God, brings God into view in different ways and different connections. In these visions, the all-inclusive vision is in chapter 1, which is very much in relation to the rest of the book what the first chapter of John is to the rest of the Gospel. You know how the first chapter of John contains all that follows in that gospel and all the remainder of John's gospel is just a breaking up and working out of what is in chapter 1, and so it is with Ezekiel. The first chapter includes all the prophecies and governs all the content of this book. The rest is just the leading-out of the implications and significance of this first chapter.

Well then, Ezekiel says that he looked and out from the north there came a whirlwind, a stormy wind, with fire infolding itself, that is, turning inward upon itself, and revolving upon its own axis, something which is moving by its own impetus and volition, and as he looked and saw this oncoming whirlwind, it began to take more definite shape or to show some distinct features, all of which he sets down.

First of all, there were four living ones with their features, the man, the lion, the ox, the eagle, and then, as beneath them like a chariot, wheels - great wheels, fixed in every direction, that is, according to the four points of the compass - embracing in a word the whole creation. And looking closer the prophet saw that the rims of these wheels were full of eyes round about which represents universal vision, all-comprehending knowledge. The living ones on the wheels moved straightforward because the spirit of the living ones was in the wheels. And then, looking higher, he saw above the living ones a great firmament, a heaven crystal clear, and above all a sapphire throne, and upon the throne above it: the likeness as of a man. But the description of the man is a very awful description - to use the word in its proper sense - full of awe. And then finally, as encompassing the throne and encircling the man upon it above: the rainbow.

We said that all that gives character to the rest of the book and if you were to take up each part of that first comprehensive vision and recognise its significance, you would see that it is all applying all the way through the book. That is not our intention in this meditation.

I want at once to pass right over to the book of the Acts and to point out that what we have in the book of the Acts is exactly that in spiritual counterpart. This was a vision, but it is summed up in the precise statement that all this comprised a presentation of revelation of the glory of the Lord. When we then come to the book of the Acts, we have Ezekiel 1, not now in a vision, but in reality. The language of the day of Pentecost is the sound of a mighty, rushing wind, and there appeared tongues of fire parting asunder. You cannot mistake the symbolism. A whirlwind, wind and fire, moving not by the will of man, not as propelled by any human organisation, or institution, or committee, or board of directors, but by its own almighty, independent, self-contained volition. That is Pentecost. That is the movement of the Lord; wind and fire - two of the mightiest elements in God's creation.

The Living Ones

Living ones - they appear again and again in the Scriptures and especially do we see them in the book of the Revelation, and without staying to say what has been said before at considerable length, let us point out that these living ones are the symbolism of Christ and His church, Christ and His Body.

Christ, in the first place as the Man, speaking of and setting forth representation, representative before God, representative of God; that is, on God's behalf to man, and for man to God; the Man - representation.

The lion - He is Lord. Now, you get those two things in Acts. The testimony is concerning Jesus of Nazareth, a "man mighty in word and in deed". "I see the heavens opened", said Stephen, "and the Son of Man standing on the right hand of God" (Acts 7:56). Get alongside of that and immediately relate to it the testimony, "God hath exalted Him to be a Prince and a Saviour" (Acts 5:31). "He is Lord of all" (Acts 10:36). Here is the lion feature - He is Lord. The Man who is Lord. The testimony of Pentecost is that Jesus is Lord. Jesus the Man, is also Lord of glory.

The ox - "I see... the Son of Man standing...". When the Lord Jesus is presented at the beginning of the book of the Revelation, He is girded. In the Scriptures the ox is forever the type and symbol of Divine service. The Lord Jesus is God's servant. That is sometimes translated in our version in that way. You remember - "Thy holy Servant Jesus" (Acts 4:30). The service of the Lord Jesus comes into view with the ox aspect of the living ones.

Then comes the eagle, that is heavenliness of life and of vision, always carrying an element of mystery. The eagle is supposed to be the symbol of knowing everything, universal knowledge. There is a little word you remember, that says, "There is a path that the eye of the eagle hath not seen" (Job 28:7). That is saying a tremendous thing. "There is a path that the eye of the eagle hath not seen." Well, that must be something beyond all range of knowledge but that of the Holy Spirit, that path. Quite a lot of people who worship intellect are not prepared to admit that there is a path that the eye of the eagle hath not seen. Now then, I will take you out to the eagle's standpoint, and you test your vision against the eagle's. Why, he is far beyond you every time. What you would never detect, he has seen. Oh, we are outstripped by the Holy Spirit. The Lord Jesus is in that position.

But if this fourfold symbolism of the living ones represents Christ, it also represents Christ in a corporate capacity - His Body and members. We are not going to stay to show how that is in the Scriptures, but it is so, and it means that the church which is His body is to take character from Him in the sense that it is to represent God here. The church, the body of Christ, is as Christ here. So often, as you know, in the New Testament the church is spoken of as though it were identical with Christ. Such language as - "As the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of the body, being many, are one body; so also is Christ" (1 Cor. 12:12).

One body, many members - identification. So the Man is Christ - and then Christ expressed and revealed in His Body.

The lion - well, the church is to take its character from Him and come into fellowship with Him. "All authority hath been given unto Me in heaven and on earth. Go ye therefore..." (Matt. 28:18-19). That is identification with Him in His authority, and you notice how in the book of the Acts the Lordship of Jesus Christ is being expressed, ministered through the church in the Name of Jesus, and every power in creation has to yield there when the church speaks in the Name of Jesus.

But even alongside of that, the church, His Body, is a servant. Peter says, "Not lording it over God's heritage" (1 Pet. 5:3). However exalted your position may be in union with Christ, not lording it over God's heritage: "Ourselves your servants for Jesus' sake" (2 Cor. 4:5). Well, you see, that opens up its own realm of Scripture. The servant of God is the church, the body of Christ, the ox.

The eagle - "That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ may give unto you a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him; having the eyes of your heart enlightened, that ye may know what is the hope of His calling, what the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what the exceeding greatness of His power to us-ward who believe" (Eph. 1:17-19). That is the path which the eye of the eagle hath not seen, granted by a Spirit of wisdom and revelation to those who have the eyes of their hearts enlightened.

Well, that all came into a living expression on the day of Pentecost. The church was there with the exalted Lord and took its character from Him.

The Wheels

And the wheels - what are they? They go straight forward, they turn not to the right hand nor to the left. They go straightforward. How did they do it? You do not know. You see, that is the difficulty and mystery of Divine things. You have got a wheel pointing in that direction and a wheel pointing in this direction and another one in another direction, all going straight forward, keeping together in the same direction. These things cannot be reduced to our minds, but the significance is perfectly clear, if you see what the wheels are. What really did happen on the day of Pentecost? Well, Peter stood up with the eleven and said, "This is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel" (Acts 2:16), and in making that statement, he gives us a clue.

This is what? Well, God has all the way along had His counsels settled, His purposes established, and God right through the ages has been going on with His eternal counsels, and this is that! This is not something that has suddenly come up. This is something which has been foreseen and fore-established long before, and long before Joel. It is coming out of eternity and it is moving on and it has to do with every bound of the earth and of the creation. It reaches it and points in every direction, the counsels of God from eternity concerning this whole creation in its fourfold direction. God is moving on in His eternal counsels, and Pentecost is just that: God in sovereignty coming and taking up those purposes of His from eternity and going on.

It is a great thing to realise that it does not matter really what happens in the nations. God is going on with His settled purpose. Here in Ezekiel things are apparently on the earth in a very serious and tragic condition. Everything seems to be upset and in chaos, but it is making no difference to God, He is going straight on. In Ezekiel, Israel and Judah have departed from the Lord and they are about to be abandoned by the Lord, but God is going on. He is not abandoning His purpose. In the book of the Acts, all Israel has rejected God's Son; God is going on. All the nations are in tumult, but God is going on. Let us remember that in a day like this. A heavenly vision means that you do not become despairingly entangled in the chaos of earth and in all the tragedy of this world. You do not become involved in it as though it spelt disaster. No, heavenly vision means that you see through it all that God is going on and straight on. He is not deviating a bit because of all this, He is not being deflected a hair's breadth because of this. The counsels of God move straight on towards the ultimate end.

If we could only stay with that - what a wonderful story! There is no romance like this in all history. Why, the book of the Acts is just full of it. Listen to them - "Jesus of Nazareth... ye by the hand of wicked men did crucify and slay" (Acts 2:22,23). I wonder if ever, in reading the story of the arrest and trial of the Lord Jesus, you have ever felt - I confess that sometimes I have felt - oh, what a pity that Pilate was not a little stronger, had a little more courage, that he did not yield a little more to his wife when she told him her dream! How near you get sometimes to the point where just a little more on one side of the balance, and the whole thing would have taken another course. What a pity... the whole thing giving way just for want of a little bit more! But then I have had to come to what it says here in the Acts. Yes, by the hands of wicked men they slew Him, they crucified Him, but it also says here - "According to the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God". Is this an accident, a slip, a mishap, a misfortune? Has something gone wrong? No, God is going straight through this. This lies directly in line with the eternal counsels of God. This is no accident, there is not something unfortunate about this. It has got to be. God is cutting sheer through all human aspects of this with Divine counsels.

Acts is full of that, history is full of that. See how things which look like the manipulation of men and if only this had obtained things would have taken another course... no! God is moving right through the whims and fancies of men. There is a romance behind the Word of God and it is the romance of these eternal counsels, the sovereignty of the Spirit of God taking hold of everything, moving through everything, and Paul puts it into that sublime word so precious to us - "We know that to them that love God all things work together for good, even to them that are called according to His purpose" (Romans 8:28). Always add that last bit on, don't forget that. A lot of people like to take the first bit, that all things work together for good. But don't make any mistake - they work together for good when you are in line with God's purpose, not otherwise. Do take hold of that. In line with God's purpose, He works all things together for good. That is, nothing can, in the ultimate sense, harm you. You may suffer in the meantime, but in the ultimate sense it cannot harm. It will be taken hold of by the sovereignty of God and made to facilitate and expedite God's end rather than frustrate. "I would have you know, brethren, that the things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the Gospel" (Phil. 1:12). The Spirit is sovereign in adversities.

It is also good to know that in these eternal counsels and purposes of God there is all-comprehending knowledge and understanding.

"Full of Eyes Round About"

Nothing escapes those eyes, the eyes of God's knowledge. Everything is taken in. "Full of eyes round about", not missing anything, and you know when we come into perfect oneness with God in His eternal purpose under the sovereignty of the Holy Spirit, it is just remarkable how we discover that the Lord has got His eyes upon the details. It is no accident. If only we were to come under the sovereignty of the Spirit, how many more things could the Lord do, how many more things could the Lord make us aware of.

We miss so much because we are not under the Spirit's government. You do not know why you are constrained to go to a certain place, take a certain course, why it is that you are either impelled or held back, but you know it. You know inwardly that there is something happening, causing you either to move or not to move, and if you obey the Spirit, sooner or later you know that the Spirit saw something, and your moving in that direction had an Ethiopian down in the desert. You did not know any more than Philip. All he knew was that the Spirit told him to go that way which was desert. A strange thing, out of revival to a desert. But the Spirit could have his way with Philip, and the Spirit was vindicated down there. The Spirit is seeing everything. I do not know what your cry is, my cry daily is that I may be so governed by the Spirit that all contacts may be arranged by Him, all the moving and the not moving, because that is a very fruitful way. Well, for the moment, that is enough about the wheels, full of eyes, moving on and obeying because the Spirit is there.

A Firmament

"A firmament above, crystal clear". All this is heavenly in its nature. This, after all, while it will make contact with the earth and it will relate to things here as a testimony, you notice that it is not earthbound, "When they were lifted up from the earth...". This thing is being governed by the heavens, this is the rule of the heavens. The church you see here, the Body in union with Christ under the Spirit's sovereign government, is being actuated from heaven, and is serving heavenly purpose. The tragedy is this, that the New Testament church so soon lost its heavenly position and relationship and life, and came down to earth and resolved itself into an earthly institution. This came to its great climax and consummation in the fourth century under Constantine when the church and the State joined hands and became one, and the leaders of the church said, "The Millennium has come and the thousand years has started!" - an earthly institution and an awful delusion. Come down there and the devil can delude and rob and spoil, as he did. The Lord re-acts to get a people with a testimony towards the earth, with an impact upon the earth, but not by any means bound to the earth; a heavenly thing under heavenly government. The sovereignty of the Spirit will have that, you see.

I am marking every step by this: this is what it means when the Spirit is sovereign. You are moving directly in line with eternal counsels, the purposes of God from everlasting to everlasting in His Son through His church, and I am with that when the Spirit is sovereign. It is a straightforward course and it is heavenly in its relationship, in its life. It is not earthly at all.

You know, that is a challenge. It is a challenge to a very great deal that is here today which is called 'the church'. It is not just an idea that you come out on a doctrine of 'come-out-ism', that you decide to leave all the organised system of Christianity and take an independent position. No doubt a lot of people have done that. If you have done that as a matter of policy, by any suggestion to you from the outside, I suggest that you go back again. If you get a heavenly revelation, a vision of God, you will be out, even though you stay in. In the innermost reality of your spiritual life, you will know that you are no part of an earthly organisation, though it be called 'the church'; that you are out, you cannot possibly be bounded by earth and earthly limitations, even religiously. You are out in the universality of the heaven. And no one who has not had that as a spiritual experience can understand what I am talking about, and of course you cannot understand Ezekiel 1 in any case, but this is what it means. It is heavenly, there is a firmament, and the firmament is governing. It is what Daniel meant when he told the king that the heavens do rule, and the king acknowledged it, he had to come to know that the heavens do rule.

"And above the firmament a throne, and upon the throne above it the likeness, the appearance, as of a Man." I need not stay with that throne and that Man. We all recognise Him.

A Rainbow

But then we must not omit the encirclement of the throne with the rainbow, for it ever speaks of the grace and mercy of God in covenant. Storms, deluges, judgments for sin, yes, but judgment is not the last word, destruction is not the last word. The last word, the eternal song, will be of His infinite mercy and grace, and so it is a throne of grace, after all, and not finally of judgment, although there are going to be judgments.

You see the symbolism, but all this is in Acts. You can see it there and it is all summed up in this one thing: when the sovereignty of the Spirit obtains, this is the sort of thing that is going on.

Revelation of God's Eternal Purpose

Now, I want you to realise that this was a vision given to Ezekiel, a servant of God. It was to his spirit a revelation of things as they existed with God in the unseen. No one else saw this, but he saw great spiritual realities which lie back of the universe, back of all that was happening on the earth. Only Ezekiel saw it and knew it.

The point in that is just this. We may be very much impressed and taken up with the happenings on the earth, history itself, the chequered course and career, the rise and fall of empires, the tragedy of wars and conflicts, and the sufferings of man. But there is something behind all that, something very definite behind it all. To come under the sovereignty of the Spirit is to begin to see this that lies behind all, to have another knowledge, another information, and to be in fellowship with God who is working to a plan which lies behind all this. The sovereignty of the Spirit means that.

It is a very great thing to have had the eyes of the heart enlightened to know what is in God's mind, what is meant by that recurrent phrase - "according to the eternal purpose". That is the thing to govern and that is the thing to save when everything on earth seems to be going to pieces and to be going wrong. God is working to an eternal purpose, and the Holy Spirit, when He gets His way in a life, begins to lift away from earth and give this assurance and this conviction and this concern, and furthermore, enables to come into co-operation with this eternal purpose back of it all. Ezekiel saw in vision what was behind, what was eternal, and it saved him. He is called 'the prophet of hope'. His name means 'God my strength'; Ezekiel will have to go through a very great deal of suffering, of sorrow, of distress. He will have the tragedy of his people forced through the very arteries of his heart in travail, but he will be saved and be the prophet of hope to his people because he has seen what lies behind everything.

If we are going to have any ministry at all that is going to save in the day of earth's tragedy when men's hearts are failing for fear, when everybody does not know where they are, we have got to see with the eyes of the heart enlightened what God's eternal purpose is, and to be co-operating with God in that.

The question at once arises with you. What is the eternal purpose? That Jesus Christ shall fill all things and be all in all. But that has got to be made good in spiritual experience. Is there suffering? Well, that suffering can be unto death and eternal barrenness, or under the sovereign control of the Holy Spirit, that suffering can be made to bring about a mighty increase of Christ in the most direct way, and who will contradict that? If you have suffered according to the will of God and if in your suffering, you have taken this attitude - "Lord, I am not asking for deliverance from the suffering, to escape from it, to have it taken away, but I am asking You to fulfil the Divine purpose in it; then, when that is done, if You will, take it away...!" If you have taken that attitude towards suffering, you know quite well that your suffering has been used of God to bring about an increase of the Lord in your life. It is always like that. And what is true in a personal case is true for the church, and may it not be that the limitation and weakness of the church today is largely due to its having such a long period without any suffering? The Lord may be going to rectify that.

But you see there is a purpose to which God is working. I only merely, barely, indicate that. The purpose of God in the end is that Christ is going to fill all things and He Himself is going to be all in all, and that works right down to details of our lives. Recognise then, that what the Lord is working at from eternity is to bring you into the fulness of Christ and to bring the fulness of Christ into the church, the church which is His Body, the fulness of Him that filleth all in all. The Spirit must be sovereign, must have His way, if that purpose is to be realised. It is the great purpose in grace which God has covenanted, given in the symbol of the rainbow. The rainbow is the symbol of His covenant, grace reaching His end.

Ezekiel saw the glory slowly leaving Jerusalem. It seemed to move in three stages. It lifted up and hovered as though God were waiting to see if perhaps yet they would turn and forsake their sin. And then it moved out to the Mount of Olives a little way off and hovered. Oh, the Lord is loath to leave anyone, to withdraw, He waits. He hovered again, but no - and then the glory moved right away. Israel was left, Jerusalem was abandoned, but God works - judgment, adversity, destruction, captivity - and you work through these many chapters, firstly of Israel's judgment, then the judgment upon the nations, and then what? The way is cleared for God: new visions of the house, and the glory coming back.

Pass over to Acts. "Oh Jerusalem, Jerusalem, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not! Your house is left unto you desolate" (Matt. 23:37-38). The glory is passing from Jerusalem. It hovers on the Mount of Olives, longing, but no! They cast Him out, they reject Him, and the glory is withdrawn from Israel, and Israel shall know her judgment. "There shall not be one stone left upon another." But then the book of the Acts, the new house, the church brought into view, the glory coming back and filling. You see the type and the antitype between Ezekiel and Acts.

An Instrument with Revelation

But what does it lead to? It is this - when the Holy Spirit is sovereign, He will first of all secure unto Himself a prophetic instrument, that is, a vessel, which has God's thoughts. The church is supposed to be that and is intended to be that. As a whole, the church is not that, but nevertheless, God does not abandon His line of procedure, and He will secure unto Himself an instrument which stands related to Him in the capacity of the prophetic ministry for the time of declension and departure, an instrument which sees, with heart eye-opening, what God's thoughts are for His people. Ezekiel is that, and he is a man who is abandoned to the Holy Spirit. This is the kind of instrument that God will use. You know very well, as you read through this book, how repeatedly the words are used - "the Spirit lifted me up", "the Spirit carried me through", "the Spirit took me out, the Spirit set me upon my feet". The Spirit; and here is a man who is utterly in the hand of the Holy Spirit. All that is happening is because the Spirit is so absolutely sovereign.

Now, the first thing that the sovereignty of the Spirit means is that He gets hold of an instrument that has God's thoughts for His people in a dark day when those thoughts have been lost, when the knowledge, the vision, the clear sight of those thoughts, has become darkened. God raises up an instrument, maybe small, but He raises up an instrument, a vessel, in which His full thought for His people, or shall I say His fuller thought for His people, is deposited. That is what the Holy Spirit will do. Here is the instrument in the hands of the Holy Spirit which has revelation. Oh, how important it is in a day such as Ezekiel's and such as this, that there shall be somewhere something here among the Lord's people which has revelation by the Holy Spirit of what God's thoughts are.

The faithfulness of God requires that He shall have such an instrument. That is, He cannot abandon His purpose nor His people. He must have an instrument like that in revelation, seeing what lies behind the chaos, the tragedy, what God's thought is.

The Instrument Made a Sign

Then - and this is the more difficult aspect - I suppose our hearts might leap and bound at that idea of an instrument with revelation. But there is no room for the flesh here. The flesh is never allowed to exhibit itself in Divine revelations, and so the instrument raised up for such a purpose will be one which itself is made a sign, that is, it will go through the very things themselves in personal experience, and those things will go through it. "Son of man, I have made thee a sign to the house of Israel" (Ezek. 12:2,6). Do you see what that meant? Do you know that Ezekiel was away in captivity already? The ten tribes have gone into captivity, and Ezekiel was with them. Now, two tribes, Judah and Jerusalem, were back there still, and far away from it all Ezekiel was having the whole tragedy of Jerusalem passed through his heart in experience. It was being worked through him so that he could tell the people on the spot what was happening and going to happen, although the actual news of it did not reach them for months afterwards. It has all been wrought in him, and he is telling them.

For instance, on the day that Jerusalem actually fell, Ezekiel's wife died. You remember the story, and how the Lord took hold of that domestic tragedy to use it as a sign to Israel, to make it the vehicle of a message to the House of Israel. The Lord has lost His bride, and the Lord's loss of Jerusalem which He had betrothed unto Him, the Lord's loss of His people of whom He was able to say, "I remember thee, the kindness of thy youth, the love of thine espousals; how thou wentest after Me in the wilderness, in a land that was not sown" (Jer. 2:2), and how He described Israel as being beautiful, "I remember thee", and now that is lost to the Lord and Jerusalem is destroyed, and that has its reproduction and expression in the domestic circle of the prophet. That day his wife died. There was no reason why she should die, not naturally, but God was working out His own Divine history and fulness in the life and heart of an instrument, so that that man could not only stand up and say, "I have received a message from the Lord!" He could say, "I know this by personal experience, this thing has been wrought in me, this is a part of my being!" Believe me, that is a law of usefulness to God.

Paul said, "I fill up on my part that which is lacking of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for His body's sake, which is the church" (Col. 1:24). He had Christ's sufferings in part passed through his very heart, his very life. Paul was no retailer of doctrine, Paul was a man who spoke out of what God was doing in him, and it is not so easy to be a minister on that basis. It must be like that. "Son of man, I have made you a sign", and you know how Ezekiel was setting this thing that was happening forth all the time and he did not know that it was happening by any direct course. He got it from heaven, and the way in which he knew it was the Spirit working day by day in his own life.

Yes, God will have an instrument, but that will be an instrument deeply wrought into the thoughts of God through suffering and experience. The sovereignty of the Spirit means that. Are you ready for that? When you ask the Holy Spirit to be absolute Lord and Sovereign and to have perfect mastery in your life, what do you expect? I know what I expected - very different from what I got! There began a history of deep suffering, out of which any little ministry that could be should flow. I am thankful it is like that. It is good to be able to say that we have learned in experience, we know it under the hand of God, we are not talking out of a book. It is good to be in that position. But it is a costly way. The Spirit will take us that way - that is the point. When He is sovereign, He will.

Holiness unto the Lord

What rises out of this whole revelation through Ezekiel, all his prophecies, comes out in full view at the end in positive statement. But it is here inherent in chapter 1 that the sovereignty of the Spirit demands an inward state which is in conformity to God's holiness. The vision, the beginning, is just that. I said it is awful, it is the sapphire, it is the crystal, it is the fire, it is the burning, it is the lightning - it is terrible! What is it that is terrible? It is the holiness of God. The glory of God rests upon God's holiness. There can never be glory and glorification until there is holiness, and in the end you know when the house is brought in in vision and the glory returns. The statement is that the whole bound, the whole dimension, the whole order of the house is holiness unto the Lord. That was the trouble here - unholiness, and when the Spirit takes in hand the purpose of God and becomes sovereign, He works towards a state inwardly in conformity with God's holiness. The people went on with their religious performances, they continued in their religious rites. It was not that they were not going to church, that they were not offering sacrifices. It was not that they abandoned the whole temple order and system. They were keeping it up. But inwardly it was all unholy and God who sees all can never allow outward religious forms to be a substitute for inward holiness. The sovereignty of the Holy Spirit means that God is going to have things inwardly according to His own holiness.

Pentecost was indeed a holiness movement from heaven. Ananias and Sapphira discovered that. Yes, holiness. Well, is that terrible? Would we have it otherwise? Surely not! We pray that the Holy Spirit may do that work in us, may have a full way to see to it that in our inward parts it is holiness unto the Lord.

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