Fundamental Questions of the Christian Life # 7
(c) Revelation of Man's Destiny
How profoundly and how fully does Paul teach concerning the purpose and the destiny of man! At the beginning of the Bible we have hints that God created man with a great purpose and a great destiny, but Paul divulges it all. He tells us exactly what was in God's thought before He created man or the world - what He intended in creating man - what the destiny of man was to be. All this comes out through Paul. How is this possible? Because the Holy Spirit Himself has revealed it to Paul, and then Paul, by the Holy Spirit, has been enabled to reveal it to us. And by the same Spirit this great Divine work of a new creation is to be carried on to its final fullness. The last thing in the material creation was: "And God saw everything that He had made, and, behold, it was very good" (Gen. 1:31). God entered into His rest. That is the crowning work of the Holy Spirit bringing everything ultimately to the pleasure and satisfaction of God - not only bringing God into His rest, but bringing God's rest into His creation.
(d) New Consciousness and Capacities
Paul goes on to say much about the new consciousness of the new-creation man and woman. An entirely new consciousness is given to the believer who receives the Holy Spirit. All that of which such a one was entirely unconscious, now breaks forth into consciousness and becomes the most living reality in the believer's life - such as the consciousness of God as Father, the consciousness of Christ as Saviour, and many other sides and aspects. Every believer who has received the Holy Spirit knows how true this is. There is a new awareness in every realm; there are new capacities for doing and for being what was entirely impossible before. All this relates to the spiritual counterpart of the creation - the new creation that is in Christ Jesus; and it is all accomplished by the indwelling Holy Spirit, just as the material creation was effected by the pervading and brooding Spirit of God.
(e) The Teaching of Jesus
Let us remember, furthermore, that Paul was an inheritor of what Jesus had said regarding the Holy Spirit. Now Jesus had said very much about this matter. At the end of His life here on this earth, the Lord Jesus had taken many hours, apart from the world, apart from the multitudes, to be alone with His disciples. And through those many hours there was one thing about which He was speaking, in one way or another, almost continually. There was one phrase that was constantly on His lips: "In that day ..." He said, "in that day ..."; and when you look to see what "that day" was, you find that He was saying: "When He, the Spirit ... is come" (John 16:13) - He shall do this and that. It was the coming day of the Spirit. All that Jesus had said about that day, and about what the Spirit would do when He came, Paul had come into, had inherited. Paul had come to know - what the Apostles had dreaded, until they knew it - the truth of Jesus' words: "It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you" (John 16:7). Yes, the disciples dreaded His going, but they lived to prove that it was, as He had said, a far, far greater thing for the Spirit to come than for Jesus to remain in the body. Paul had come into the reality of that - into the superior greatness of the Spirit's presence even to the physical presence of the Lord Jesus.
Now Paul knew all that by experience, and he therefore brought all this knowledge, this spiritual knowledge, into the question that he put to them. And how the question grows! What a tremendous question it becomes if it implies all that! All that Jesus taught and meant about the day of the Holy Spirit, all that that same Spirit had done in fulfilling the very words of the Lord Jesus: "He shall guide you into all truth ... He shall take of Mine, and shall declare it unto you" (John 16:13, 14). - all that had come to Paul. What a wealth we have in Paul's letters about the Holy Spirit! And all that comes into this question: "Did ye receive the Holy Spirit when ye believed?" It is a very big question! Viewed in that light, I doubt whether there is a greater question. What a difference it should make to the Christian life if it is all true!
Let me sum it all up by saying this: The Christian, the believer, who has really received the Holy Spirit, is a supernatural being. The indwelling of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of God, and His imparting of eternal life, constitute the believer a supernatural being, a being who has something within of a supernatural character, distinguishing him from all others. It is a deathless life! To receive eternal life means that there is that within which transcends the natural order, making the recipient an eternal being, in the Divine sense, linked with Heaven and linked with eternity. And the Church in which this is true, which has truly received and is indwelt by the Holy Spirit, is a supernatural Body; there is no power in this universe which can destroy it. History has proved that and will prove it to the end. Let men and devils combine against this Church: no matter - it will remain; it is supernatural.
In the second Place, we find "disciples" mentioned here. "Paul ... found certain disciples." They would no doubt have been people who were bearing the name "Christian"; they would have classed themselves as such and would probably have been referred to as Christians. And yet they were people who, while being called disciples, were yet without the fundamental essential of the Christian life. What were they? I think the answer is to be found in Apollos, the Jew from Alexandria, who had recently arrived in Ephesus and had previously come into touch with the ministry of John the Baptist concerning Jesus. We are told here that he had been 'instructed by word of mouth' [katecheo] (Acts 18:25). Now, what was John's vocation? John's vocation was to prepare the way of the Lord, to lead on and point on to Jesus. What was John's message? Repentance in view of the imminent coming of the Messiah. "Repent!" said John. But John had definite limitations. Said he: "I....baptize you in water...He that cometh after me...shall baptize you in the Holy Spirit" (Matt. 3:2, 11). That represents a very great difference.
Now Apollos had got all that, and probably some extra teaching about Jesus, apparently at second hand ('by word of mouth'). In the main, Apollos ended where John ended: that is, he was without a personal experience of the work of the Holy Spirit through baptism into Jesus Christ. He had, nevertheless, some particular values on the positive side. We are told that he was "mighty in the scriptures" (Acts 18:24): which I take to mean that he had an unusually wide and deep knowledge of the Old Testament Scriptures about the coming Messiah - what we call the 'Messianic Scriptures' - all of which pointed toward the Christ; all of which rang out the note of preparation, and especially of repentance, for the Christ was coming. John baptized with a baptism of repentance in preparation for the Christ and His kingdom: but there he stopped and could do no more. And Apollos seems to have stepped there too. Perhaps he was a mightier man in the Old Testament Scriptures than even John the Baptist, but with all his knowledge of the Scriptures he fell short of the experience of the Holy Spirit. And therefore, according to the law of ministry, he could not lead these disciples further than he himself had gone.
(continued with # 8)