February 16, 2015
“In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. (But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.)”
It is a wonderful fact that Jesus Christ has blessed those He has saved with the indwelling of the Holy Ghost, Who has come to meet all of our needs and to work through us to meet the needs of the world! What a wonderful truth, and what an amazing blessing! He is figuratively described as a well of living water springing up to satisfy our inner thirst forever, and gushing out with rivers to satisfy the thirst of others! Let us not lose our grip on this wonderful metaphor and the truth it pictures.
According to the writer (the apostle John), the book of John was written to convince the reader that “Jesus is the Christ” (see chapter 20, verse 31) so that he “might have life through His name.” Jesus came to give us Life, His Life! This is why the book introduces us to Jesus and His claims, and then presents proofs to back up those claims. The purpose of it all is that those who read this remarkable book “might have life” in Him. The life that is offered is the life of Jesus Himself (see this in John 1:4; 6:32-35; 10:10; 11:25; 14:6)! It is described as “everlasting life” (3:14-16; 4:13-14; 5:24, 39-40; 6:27, 47) and those who receive it are able to live “more abundantly” (10:10). The adjectives “everlasting” and “eternal” which often describe this “life” in the book of John refer more to the quality of the life He came to give us than to the quantity of it (its length). Those who receive His life can live “more abundantly,” and enjoy an existence on earth more fulfilling, successful, peaceful, and joyful than any other way of life! We find the theme of the abundant life first in chapter 4, where a spiritually thirsty woman is told that Jesus will give her “living water” if she would just ask for it (verse 10). Jesus explains this metaphor with these powerful words.
“Whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.”
The symbol of living water becoming a well inside the one who drinks it is expanded in chapter 7, where we read of “rivers of living water” flowing out from the believers inner self (verses 37 and 38). The living water not only satisfies the needs of the believer, but also meets the needs of those around him. Then it is explained that this stunning metaphor speaks of “the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified” (verse 39). The Holy Spirit is given in the gift of eternal life, and the ministry of the Spirit is essential and basic to the abundant life that Jesus gives. Of course, the Spirit (Who is God, the Third Person of the Holy Trinity) came to abide in believers on the great day of Pentecost as the New Testament Age began. His presence and power in our lives is the chief distinction between the life of Old Testament believers and the daily life of New Testament believers who have learned to live abundantly. What a wonderful thing it is to have the Spirit of God actually living inside us! How many blessings surrendered Christians enjoy because of Him (look over the words of Jesus about Spirit-filled living in John 14:15-21, 25-27; 15:26-27; and 16:7-14)!
But sadly, for decades now, teaching and preaching about the Holy Spirit has diminished in most fundamentalist pulpits. In some pulpits it has almost died out. After a hundred years of neglecting Him, whole segments of Bible-believing Christendom are now saying foolish things about the ministry of the Spirit, warning us not to speak much about Him, or to give Him much attention. We can be thankful that more and more preachers are remembering the many reasons for us to renew our interest in the Person and work of the Spirit, and to correct the problems that have been created through our neglect of Him. It will be a healthy part of the work of revival in our midst to start talking about the Holy Spirit. Here are some of the reasons why.
1. THE HOLY SPIRIT IS IN SOME SENSE THE KEY TO VITALITY AMONG CHRISTIANS.
Remember that the Spirit was given to bring us life. Many, many churches these days can be characterized as virtually lifeless in spite of the fact that the members have eternal life, and God Himself lives within them! This seems to be especially true of churches that cling to the honorable label of “fundamentalist,” even though the early fundamentalist churches were far from dead. The eighth chapter of Romans is a section of scripture that can point us to the reason why our churches are dying. The Holy Spirit is given great prominence in this important chapter, as even a quick scan of the verses will demonstrate. He is mentioned nineteen times in Romans 8, which is part of the segment of the book about deliverance from the power of sin. In this chapter, He is called “the Spirit of life.”
“For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.”
In the experience of Christians the influence of the Spirit of life is what gives us life and overcomes the influences of death. And He is in conflict with the impulses of our “flesh,” which means the moral depravity inherent in human nature because of the fall of man. This conflict was highlighted back in chapter 7, where we learn that our “carnal (fleshly)” selves are “sold under sin” (verses 14-20). Our “members” (the parts of our bodies) are dominated by “the law of sin” so that the physical body of a believer can be called “the body of this death” (verses 21-24). Yet Jesus Christ has delivered the believer from his sinful self by the salvation He bought for us on the cross and by the Holy Spirit He gave us when we believed (Romans 7:25-8:4). So now, according to Romans 8:12-16, we are no longer “debtors…to the flesh, to live after the flesh,” but are called upon “through the Spirit” to “mortify the deeds of the body.”
“For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.”
It is the Spirit that quickens the revived believer, and gives him the “spark” we have all seen in those who catch fire for God. When we neglect the Holy Spirit in our life and work, we are left with the flesh. And fleshly living is death. Only by the Spirit of life do we experience the life of Jesus in our daily walk and in our church. The retreat from solid teaching about the Spirit that came in reaction to false teaching about the Spirit (Pentecostalism) has enveloped the lives and ministries of many good people in the death of carnality. We must come back to conscious dependence upon the Holy Spirit for His power and enabling if we are to survive! We will enliven our dying churches if we get back to walking and working in the Spirit of life!
2. THE LORD JESUS GAVE THE SPIRIT A CENTRAL ROLE IN CHRISTIAN LIVING.
The night before He died, the Lord taught His disciples the principles of New Testament living. The talk He gave them, beginning with the washing of their feet in the upper room and followed by a prayer they heard Him pray, is recorded for all of us is John, chapters 13 through 17. Many have called it “The Upper Room Discourse” because it began in the famous “upper room.” In this talk, He told them He was going away, but exhorted them not to be troubled over it. When He would leave them, He would be going to the Father to begin the work of interceding for us, which would open the door to phenomenal privileges in prayer (14:12-14). He would also be sending them His Replacement, “another Comforter” (14:15-17), who would live in them and would never leave them. This is the Person of the Holy Spirit. Because of the mystery of the Triune God, when the Spirit lives in a man, the Father and Son also live in Him, and many phenomenal benefits result (14:18-27). The ministry of the Holy Spirit in and to and through the Christian is presented as key to the victorious, liberated life that Jesus had promised them and us (John 8:12, 31-32, 34-36; 10:10). As a matter of fact, in the five chapters that give us the Upper Room Discourse, three of them are devoted to teaching about the Holy Spirit (John 14, 15, and 16).
Some have misinterpreted one of the statements Jesus made about the Spirit in this section to mean that the Spirit does not talk about Himself but only about the other Persons of the Godhead. That misunderstood and misapplied statement is in John 16:12-14.
“I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come. He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you.”
The phrase “he shall not speak of himself” has been misapplied to mean that He doesn’t talk about Himself. Of course, it is obvious that the Holy Spirit, Who is the true Author of all scripture (Second Peter 1:20-21), says a whole lot about Himself, from Genesis 1:2 to Revelation 22:17, including the statements in John 16! The mistake in interpreting this verse is in taking “of himself” as meaning “about himself.” The actual meaning of the word, both in the Greek and in the English of John 16:13, is “from” instead of “about.” Can you see this in the passage? The Holy Spirit would be speaking, not from Himself alone, but from the entire Trinity of God.
The teaching here is that the Holy Spirit was going to give us in the New Testament scriptures truth that would proceed from the Father and the Son through the Him. That is the meaning of the verse. It does not say that the Spirit is reluctant to speak about Himself, nor does it imply that we should be reluctant to talk about Him. It means that He doesn’t speak from Himself.
We have learned, especially in John 13 through 17, that the Lord Jesus taught us to live the Christian life with the help (“Comforter” means “Helper”) of the Holy Spirit. Therefore it is important that we talk about Him. Ignoring the Comforter in our sermons and lessons has wrecked many lives and ministries. We must make up for lost time and go back to the emphasis on Spirit-filled living that our forefathers had. Baptist pastor A. J. Gordon of the late 19th century spoke and wrote much about the ministry of the Spirit, and we must start reading him again. Fundamentalist giant W.B. Riley believed and preached the importance of relying on the Holy Spirit. The books that great Baptist F.B. Meyer left us are full of uplifting references to the Spirit. Fundamentalist leader R. A. Torrey wrote many good books that will get us back to the right relationship with the heavenly Dove, and we ought to dust them off and read them again. We must start talking and learning about the Holy Spirit as godly generations before us did!
3. WE HAVE NO RIGHT TO TREAT THE SPIRIT AS LESS THAN GOD.
The Holy Spirit is God, you know. It has been the false teachers that have relegated Him to some lower identification. When normally orthodox teachers seem to reduce Him to a force or a power or an influence behind the scenes, they do not do the Spirit justice nor treat Him as deity in the way that the scriptures do. He is the Creator Who was active in the creation of heaven and earth as were the Father and the Son (Genesis 1:1-2). He is the other Comforter, like Jesus the Son, who came in a sense to replace the personal presence of Jesus with believers when Christ went back to the Father, and when He is in us, so is the Father and the Son (John 14:18-23). The apostles dealt with Him as God in the spreading of the Gospel and the function of the first churches (read Acts 2:14-18; 4:29-31; 5:1-11; 8:29-35; and 13:1-4). He appears in the visions of the apostle John with the Father and the Son (Revelation 1:4-6; 4:2-11) and is worshipped with Them. He is honored in the baptismal formula equally with the Father and the Son (Matthew 28:18-19). He leads the children of God and is to be followed by them as Lord (Romans 8:14-16 and Second Corinthians 3:17). He intercedes for them before the Father as does the Son of God (Romans 8:26-27). He gave us the very Words of God (Second Peter 1:20-21), which are His Words. He is a divine Person, with the heart and will and mind of Deity (Romans 8:27, Romans 15:30, First Corinthians 12:11). As God, He possesses all the divine attributes (Psalm 139:7-10, First Corinthians 2:9-10, Hebrews 9:14). Therefore we ought to give Him all the reverence and obedience and trust that we owe to God. To do less is nearly blasphemous and heretical.
4. THE NEW TESTAMENT VIEWS THE SPIRIT AS WORKING IN HARMONY WITH THE FATHER AND THE SON.
The Persons of the Trinity are not in competition; They are in perfect cooperation, and are never jealous for attention in conflict with the Others.
“For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost. For he that in these things serveth Christ is acceptable to God, and approved of men.” [Serving the Son in the Spirit is acceptable to the Father]
“Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all.”
[The gifts of ministry are the works of the Spirit, the Lord Jesus, and God the Father]
(First Corinthians 12:4-6)
“Wherefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus, and love unto all the saints, cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him…”
[We are to pray to the Father, Who is the God of the Son, for the enlightenment of the Spirit]
There are many passages in the New Testament scriptures like these that present the works of God among us as cooperative actions of Father, Son, and Spirit equally. Look up passages such as Second Corinthians 13:14, Galatians 4:4-6, Ephesians 2:13-22, and Titus 3:4-7 for examples. In the rituals of the Temple in the Old Testament, which typify the Person and work of Jesus Christ, the use of oil (which stands for the Holy Spirit) plays an essential role (read Exodus 29, 30, and 40, to get an idea), indicating again the importance of the Spirit to the work of the Trinity. It is vital to understanding God the Father and God the Son for Christians to learn about the Holy Spirit. The Spirit glorifies the Son, we find in John 16:14, and He is sent both by the Father and by the Son as our Comforter, according to John 14:26 and 15:26. We cannot divorce the Person and work of the Spirit from the Persons and works of the Father and the Son. To neglect or minimize the Holy Spirit will be to neglect and devalue the other two Persons of God.
5. REVIVALS ALL INVOLVE THE RESTORING OF THE SPIRIT TO HIS PROPER PLACE IN CHRISTIAN LIFE AND WORK.
All New Testament revivals have come about through the work of the Holy Spirit. One such revival is described by the Bible in these terms:
“And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness.”
Normal New Testament Christianity is Spirit-filled Christianity, and every great revival has involved new interest and faith in the Holy Spirit. It’s the way in works. We pray to the Father in the name of the Son with the help of the Spirit. We honor the Father by abiding in Christ and being filled with the Spirit. This is the norm, and the goal to which revival takes us. Therefore we must speak and teach and learn about the Holy Spirit if we want revival.
It is indeed high time for renewed focus on the ministry of the Spirit because so many have neglected Him so long. Because of the spread of false teachings about the Spirit, it is important that the truth be told about Him again. The essential role He has in our lives and in our work must be emphasized, and the thoughtless and scriptural arguments against doing so cast aside. He is not less than Almighty God, and He is not to be slighted or diminished in our thoughts. Let the people of God again turn wholeheartedly to their Comforter for the help and power we need to turn the multitudes to our Savior.
Dr. Rick Flanders