THE need for the possession of God's spirit has been felt from the earliest times.
When Israel left the land of bondage they craved flesh to eat as they were wont to have in
Egypt. Moses breaks down beneath their murmurings and cries to Jehovah in his distress.
But Wisdom knew that flesh was not the need, but spirit. So Jehovah bids Moses gather
seventy elders to receive the same spirit that rested on him. A cloud, the emblem of His
spirit in those dim days, covers them. His spirit rests upon them. They prophesy.
A strange thing occurs. Jehovah said He would put His spirit on seventy. As it
was, only sixty-eight are in the appointed place, standing near the tent of testimony.
Two, whose names mean Affection and Affectionate-Deity (Medad and Eldad) are not there.
They remained in the camp. Did the spirit pass them by? Such a breach as this in the
regular ritual of the tabernacle would be an unpardonable transgression (Num. 11). But the
spirit refuses the limitations of the flesh and ignores what it deems so important.
Distance, and time, and place, so vital in physical affairs, are nothing to spirit. Eldad
arid Medad are not left out, though they are not in the appointed place. They lift their
voices in the camp, far from the tent, speaking Jehovah's word! What must their neighbors
have thought! How dared they! What an awful thing to do! It must be stopped! A young man
runs and tells Moses. Joshua chimes in: "My lord Moses, forbid them." But Moses
answers: "Would that all Jehovah's people were prophets and that Jehovah would put
His spirit upon them!"
So the seventy helped Moses bear the burden of the people by the spirit imparted to
them by Jehovah. We need not more than make mention of Joshua, who by this spirit brought
Israel into the land Jehovah promised them: of Othniel and Gideon and Saul and David, of
Elijah and Elisha, and all the prophets who served Jehovah's people as His spirit gave
them capacity. The Messiah fills up the measure of the spirit's power and accomplishes all
His mighty work by its anointing. "I have put My spirit upon Him," said Jehovah
(Isa.42:1). Even in that coming day of blessing for this earth the power behind material
good will be Jehovah's spirit. The essence of that kingdom does not lie, as some supposed,
in food and drink, but in the righteousness and peace and joy which His spirit imparts
THE PROMISE OF THE SPIRIT
Is Moses' wish ever to come true and all Jehovah's people receive His spirit?
Ezekiel foretells a day for his people when this will be fulfilled. "...a new spirit
will I put within you" (Ezek.36:26). What new spirit is this? "I will put My
spirit within you and make you walk in My statutes, and you shall keep My judgments and do
them. And you shall dwell in the land which I gave to your fathers; and you shall become
My people and I will become your God" (Ezek.36:27,28). Nothing less than the word of
Jehovah will bring life to their dry bones. "Behold," says He, "I will
cause spirit to enter into you, and you shall live" (Ezek. 37:5).
"Except anyone should be begotten of water and spirit he cannot be entering
into the kingdom of God" (John 3:5). Isaiah bears a like testimony. The desolation
shall continue "until spirit be poured out upon us from on high" (Isa.32:15).
And again, "I will pour My spirit upon thy seed and My blessing upon thy issue"
(Isa.44:3). Peter refers to this on the day of Pentecost: . . . and you shall be obtaining
the gratuity of the holy spirit. For the promise is to you and to your children, and to
all those afar, as many as ever the Lord our God should be calling" (Acts 2:39). Many
of Jehovah's people, like "Affection" (Medad) in the camp of old are,
physically, at a distance from the place of blessing. They are afar, scattered among the
nations. They are not eligible to the physical enjoyments which the land will produce. But
this cannot hinder a spiritual blessing, however it might interfere with their
material welfare in Jehovah's day.
This spirit was not promised to the nations. Moses' wish went the great length, as he
thought, of embracing all of Jehovah's people. God's promise, through Joel, goes further
than this. It includes all flesh (Joel 2:28; Acts 2:17). Not all flesh at all
times, but all flesh after the nation of Israel receives this blessing and thus becomes
the channel to convey it to the other nations. The Jews had no thought whatever that the
spirit would be imparted to men of other nationalities before the time mentioned by Joel,
after God has judged all nations in the valley of Jehoshaphat.
THE PROMISE CONFIRMED
The greatest of all prophets born of woman was John the Baptist. He was filled with
holy spirit even before his birth. In spiritual capacity he was fitted for and filled the
place of Elijah. As that great prophet must come and restore all things, so he came to
prepare the people for their Messiah. Elijah himself shall truly come, but the spiritual
power he will exercise has already been present in Israel (Matt.11:11-14). But greater and
higher than all is the One Whose very generation was by holy spirit. He is that
life-imparting Spirit on Whom the fulfillment of the promise depends. As to His flesh He
was David's Seed. As to His most holy spirit, He was God's Son (Rom.1:3,4). God, the
Father of spirits (Heb.12:9), was His Father. But, while He was on earth, He did not
fulfill the promise concerning the spirit. Ever and anon He referred to it, but deferred
its fulfillment until His exaltation.
What was the hindrance? Strange words fell on their ears when He spoke of this and His
departure. Sorrow filled their hearts at the thought of His leaving them. Yet He tells
them: "It is expedient for you that I am coming away, for if I should not be
coming away, the Consoler will not be coming to you. Now, if I should be gone, I shall be
sending it to you" (John 16:7). While He was with them in the world He kept them and
taught them and comforted them. He was their Paraclete or Consoler (John 17: 12).
Lest His departure should bereaved them, He promises another consoler, which would remain
with them. This spirit would be their teacher and keeper and consoler (John 14:16,26).
But why not have both Paracletes at the same time? Why wait until after His departure?
Speaking of it once, He cried, "If anyone should be thirsting, let him come to Me and
drink. He who is believing into Me, according as the scripture said, out of his bowel
shall gush rivers of living water." Then we are informed that He said this concerning
the spirit which those believing into Him were about to get. For holy spirit was not as
yet given, seeing that Jesus was not as yet glorified (John 7:37-39). He was the
only temple of the divine spirit during His humiliation (John 2:21). He alone could
furnish a draught for the thirsty. But, wonderful to relate, the time was to come when
those who believed into Him should become a channel for this living water, this
life-imparting spirit. Let us embed this deeply in our hearts: The spirit was not given by
the "lowly Jesus", but by the glorified Christ. The measure and plenitude of
the gift of the spirit is gauged by the glory that He gets.
After His sufferings He returns to them in the subdued glory of the pre-ascension days,
and gives the disciples holy spirit, with authority to forgive sins (John 20:22). Yet He
bids them remain at Jerusalem for the fulfillment of the Father's promise, after He
Himself has ascended into the heights of heavenly glory, from whence He would send the
At Pentecost Peter proclaims the exaltation of Messiah, thus removing the hindrance to
the free outflow of the spirit. He proclaims the conditions on which the spirit will be
imparted. "Repent and be baptized each of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the
pardon of your sins, and you shall be obtaining the gratuity of the holy spirit. For the
promise is to you and to your children, and to all those afar, as many as ever the Lord
our God should be calling. "This is not confined to the land. Like all the spirit's
work, it is unhindered by place or distance. The sons of Israel who (like Medad and Eldad
at a distance from the tabernacle) were scattered among the nations, were eligible to this
spiritual blessing, as well as those in Jerusalem.
Israel knew, from Joel's prophecy, that after Jehovah's day set it, it would be
extended to all flesh. Yet at this time they had no such thought, not even that it might
include non-Jewish proselytes dwelling in the land. Indeed, until they once more rejected
Christ in the stoning of Stephen, this blessing was confined to Israel's narrow pale and
the city of Jerusalem. But after that, Philip proclaims Messiah to the Samaritans, and
they were baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus. But holy spirit did not fall on them.
The kinship they claimed with Israel was based upon the flesh. The spirit repudiates the
flesh and ignores its pretensions. The flesh cannot channel spiritual gifts. Only in
answer to the apostles' prayers, and the laying on of hands, do they also receive the
spirit (Acts 8:5,15-17).
How different is Cornelius' case! Physically, he is further removed than the
Samaritans. In "fact, though he was a proselyte, a devout worshiper of Jehovah, the
God of Israel, and dwelt in the land He gave them, he was loathed instead of loved, as
Jehovah's laws commanded (Deut.10:19). Even Peter dreaded to enter his house or eat at his
table, and his fellow saints were furious about it. Israel had forgotten Egypt and their
bondage, so, instead of loving a stranger as themselves, they made him keep his distance.
God uses extraordinary means to induce Peter to go to Cornelius and proclaim that which
was sent to the sons of Israel (Acts 10:36). But, having been convinced that God is not
bound by the letter of their law, he is persuaded to go with Cornelius' messengers. His
first words were not at all reassuring: "You are versed in the fact how
illicit it is for a man who is a Jew to be joined to or approach another tribe...."
(Acts 10:28). While Peter was still telling them what Jesus of Nazareth did by the power
of holy spirit, and of the pardon of sins through His name, a marvelous thing occurred. Holy
spirit fell on all the aliens who heard his word! And not only so, but they spoke
languages and magnified God, even as the apostles themselves had done at Pentecost (Acts
The Circumcision who were present were astonished. It was too late for baptism or
prayer, or the laying on of hands, or any ceremony prior to the spirit's coming. The flesh
had such a large place with them that God's gracious action seemed inexplicable. Since
Cornelius and his household received the spirit, Peter is forced to join them by baptism
to the cleansed company at, Jerusalem. Though he was chief of all the apostles, he had to
answer for such a flagrant transgression as this! "You came in to uncircumcised men
and ate with them! "It took much talking to stop the mouths of these believers.
Until this time the disciples, the repentant, the baptized, the proselytes, received
this gift. But nowhere did He promised it to His enemies. If we read His word aright, they
were to be utterly destroyed from among His people. The most malignant enemy Messiah ever
had among mankind rose and wrought havoc among the ecclesias and destroyed His saints. In
the very height of his rebellion Saul of Tarsus is stricken to the ground, blinded by the
glorious brightness of Messiah's presence. Ananias (meaning whom Jehovah graciously
gives) is sent to him to restore his sight and that he might be filled with holy
spirit. He eventually becomes a prophet and a teacher at Antioch (Acts 11: 19-29; 13:1).
The first mission ever directed by holy spirit was that of Barnabas and Saul. Christ
Himself, before His ascension, had sent out the twelve. This new ministry was not only
distinct from theirs, but also from the previous service of Saul and Barnabas themselves.
The holy spirit separated them. The holy spirit sent them forth. It is only
as we see this that we realize the intensely spiritual character of the work they did.
The first extended account of this mission is concerned with their visit to another
Antioch, in Pisidia (Acts 13:14-52). For the first time we hear of justification.
For the first time we read that the law is superseded by faith. For the first time the nations
are brought into the light and receive eonian life. After Barnabas and Paul are forced to
leave, we find that the disciples are filled with joy and holy spirit. What stress is laid
on the operation of the spirit in all this! They are sent by holy spirit. The blessings
proclaimed are spiritual. The disciples are filled with holy spirit.
When the mission had been accomplished, and they had returned to Antioch, from whence
they started, certain men came to Antioch from Judea, insisting on the necessity of
physical circumcision for salvation. In the subsequent discussion the one point which
outweighed all others, and which finally decided the matter against the Judaisers, was
thus put by Peter: "God, the Knower of hearts, testifies to them, giving the holy
spirit according as to us also, and does not discriminate at all between us and them,
cleansing their hearts by faith" (Acts 15:1,5,8,9). So it was acknowledged, even by
their opponents, that believers among the nations received holy spirit by faith, when they
believed, apart from repentance, baptism, or laying on of hands.
This seems to be a departure from the strict letter of the promise, for it contained no
hint of spiritual blessings for the other nations until after the Lord had entered upon
His earthly glories. Perhaps the reason is this: Though His glorious feet have not yet
stood upon Mount Olivet nor touched a spot in Israel's land, He has come, in sun-dismaying
splendor, outside that land, upon the distant Damascus road, leading to an activity
(such is the meaning of the city's name), in harmony with such grace, for He claims the
worship and fealty of His worst enemy.
The ministry of Saul (or rather Paul, his spiritual cognomen) is based upon and
proceeds from this glorious sight. Just as John the Baptist anticipated Elijah, being
endued with his spiritual capacity, so Paul anticipates the mission of Israel in the
coming eon, by means of his enduement with the nation's spiritual power. Messiah cannot be
present in person among His people in their land, nevertheless, in spirit, He now
goes outside the land, where He never could have gone while still on earth. In spirit, He
now walks up and down the land of aliens, who have no claim on Him in flesh.
THE EARNEST OF THE SPIRIT
The characteristic feature of Paul's itinerant ministry was that all received holy
spirit on believing. Nothing but faith was required for the gift. It was by faith in order
that it might accord with grace. Consequently, while it was not, strictly speaking, the
promised gift (for it was so gracious that it came to them apart from any promise) it, is
a gift with promise. It is a promissory gratuity. God does not give His spirit
without, at the same time, pledging Himself to further favors. Hence it is called the holy
spirit of promise (Eph.1:13).
An earnest is not only a pledge of future payment, but is a part of it. It is the same
in character. All our blessings are spiritual, hence we are given the spirit as an
earnest. This, of course, is temporary, pending the deliverance of all that has been
procured for us. Our heavenly honors cannot be realized until the usurping powers of
darkness, who now reign among the celestials, are cast out. Meanwhile, we have not only
the promise in the Scriptures, but the pledge in our hearts. We have a small foretaste of
our spiritual wealth the moment we believe.