An exploratory survey of

Scripture Teaching



Published by : N. Trevor Brierly - 15113 Philip Lee Rd.

Chantilly VA 20151 -703.817.1753 -

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The Holy Spirit

An Exploratory Survey of Scripture Teaching

Table of Contents

Foreword to the First Edition I Foreword to the Second Edition I





5. The Holy Spirit was not yet given because Jesus was not yet glorified - WHY THE SPIRIT WAS NOT YET GIVEN? / THE GLORIFICATION OF JESUS I

6. "I will come again and receive you unto myself" - THE PARACLETE / John 14:1-6 / John 14:7-11 / John 14:12-14 / John 14:15-17 / John 14:18-21 / John 14:22-25 / John 14:26 / John 14:27-29 I

7. "It is expedient that I go away" - John 15:1-8 /John 15:9-17 /John 15:18-25 /John 16:14 /John 16:5-7 /John 16:9-11 /John 16:12-13a /John 16:13b-15 /John 16:16-30 I














Foreword to the First Edition

Foreword to the First Edition

This book is based upon a series of talks given at a Bible study class held in London in the autumn of 1970, in which I sought to bring together the New Testament teaching on the Holy Spirit, believing that a greater awareness of this could do wondrous things in our lives as Christians.

My grateful thanks go out to the members of the class for their spiritual support during the study and their material support in ensuring that this publication saw the light of day. Several years have elapsed before publication owing partly to other pressures, and partly to give time for careful appraisal of the exposition in view of the fact that in some quarters the doctrine of the present work of the Holy Spirit is viewed with suspicion by those who fear that "inner experience" may become detached from Scriptural revelation and subjective feelings may overshadow objective truth presented in the Bible.

I have been especially helped by Eddie Garner, the Secretary of the Class; by Diane Brettell who initially typed the book and Marjorie Mullard who produced the final typescript. Others have helped by a careful reading of the typescript. Their comments did much to clarify both the English and the soundness of the exposition. Particularly I believe the book to be the better for the friendly criticism of Jack Balchin.

I offer it now to the readers with the prayer that they will consider what has been written with open minds, weighing up the testimony of Scripture and being prepared to receive the help which God and the Lord Jesus Christ offer through the Spirit. Quotations from Scripture are mainly from the New English Bible for ease of reading. Where however a more precise translation is required, the reader is recommended to consult the Revised Version and the Revised Standard Version

Edgar Wille

Foreword to the Second Edition

1st May 1975

Foreword to the Second Edition

This second edition of my book on the Holy Spirit, issued by the brotherly support of Trevor Brierly of Virginia, does not amend the original text, though if I were writing it now I would have made specific the references to other writers, of whose names I have in the main lost track. I might also have been tempted to pursue difficulties in greater depth. However the Biblical exposition still stands and makes clear that the Holy Spirit is God at work within the hearts and minds of those who have faith in him through Jesus Christ. This is distinct from the view that the Holy Spirit is manifested only in special gifts such as are described in the book of Acts. The Holy Spirit runs deeper than that, inspiring the lives of those who respond.

When we are baptised into the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit we enter a threefold experience:

1. There is God, infinite, for whom there are no limits large or small. For him nebulae and electrons are equally accessible. He created them. Furthermore no human being (or sparrow) is too small for Him to notice and to help. Such infinitude is beyond our comprehension as Job learned.

2. Then there is Jesus, the human manifestation of the eternal God (1 Tim. 3:16 KJV). Because of the humanity of Jesus, God in him comes closer to our understanding. Through the communion of Jesus with His Father, we begin to see God as Father and to share a brotherhood with Jesus.

3. Then from the Father and the Son proceeds the Holy Spirit, perceived as God within the believer now (John ch 14-17). And God within is God at His most understandable, most influential and closest - God "who works in you inspiring both the will and the deed for his own chosen purpose" enabling us to "work out our own salvation with fear and trembling" (Phil. 2:13 & 12).

So to understand the NT teaching on the Holy Spirit gives us an awareness of a God who comes alongside us (paraclete) as helper, advocate and guide, displaying Himself in the Son as well as in His eternal creative glory. Can any theme of Scripture be more important?

Edgar Wille September 2000

Readers of this book may be interested in the book I have just written, entitled Maps for the Journey - Finding your way around the Bible. Its 464 pages look briefly at every book of the Bible, putting them in context and clarifying their message in a way that leaves the readers to draw their own conclusions and to decide what to do about it.

Further information from Trevor Brierly, 15113 Philip Lee Rd.,Chantilly VA 20151 or email at His willingness to do this does not commit him to all the ideas suggested in the book.


Just as the appearance of the divine glory at Sinai inaugurated the age of Israel under the law, so the pouring forth of the Spirit on the day of Pentecost ushered in the age of the new Israel under grace. It is therefore a most appropriate point at which to begin a study of the work of the Holy Spirit.


The events of the day as recorded in Acts 2 were preceded by a period of intense anticipation. The disciples were waiting for one of the great turning points in the history of the divine dealings with men. Luke records how the Lord after his resurrection opened up the Scriptures to the disciples, showing how it had been foretold that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be preached in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem (echo of Isaiah 2 and Micah 4). They were witnesses of these things and Jesus was going to send the Father's promised gift upon them. Until that had happened they were not equipped for their work of witness. Hence the instruction: "stay here in this city, until you are armed with the power from above." (Luke 24: 44-49).

This instruction was repeated in Luke's second volume. Here Luke says that Jesus told them not to leave Jerusalem. "You must wait" he said "for the promise made by my Father, about which you have heard me speak: John, as you know, baptised with water, but you will be baptised with the Holy Spirit, and within the next few days". (Acts 1:35). Furthermore "you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you; and you will bear witness for me in Jerusalem and all Judea and Samaria, and away to the ends of the earth" (v 7-8 summarising in few words the theme of the whole book of Acts).

And on the day of Pentecost it happened!


First notice what exact effects the Spirit had. It was not primarily a matter of sensational phenomena. The wind, the fire and the sudden ability to speak in foreign tongues certainly acted as a spotlight on the whole event, and drew the attention of the crowd -- but more fundamental are:

a. the newly acquired clarity of understanding which enabled Peter to expound the significance of Old Testament scriptures and with a confident touch apply them to Jesus in his suffering, resurrection and ascension; the instruction of the 40 days after the resurrection had now fallen into place and he was no longer dominated by pictures of merely political glory.

b. the new found courage which enabled disciples who but recently "forsook him and fled", to stand up and publicly proclaim Jesus and even to point the finger of accusation at their adversaries.

c. the conversion of 3000 human hearts -- softened into believing in Jesus as Lord.

d. the sharing of a common life -- the formation of the church.

The Holy Spirit brought changes of outlook and of character: new vision: new understanding: new fellowship and new joy, And these have always been and still are the consequences of the Holy Spirit at work. Pentecost was the dawn of the age of the Spirit, the opening of a new chapter in God's dealings with men. Pentecost saw the formation of the new community -- the new Israel -- the church: the finished work of Christ being made known to the believers in the intimate way described in John 16: 13-15.

The Holy Spirit was not by any means "new" -- but Pentecost was without precedent or parallel. Until now "the Spirit had not been given because Jesus had not yet been glorified" (John 7:39). But now having been crucified and raised and having ascended to the right hand of God, the glorified Jesus was available to the church in a new and universal way, no longer being confined as the earthly Jesus was to a particular locality in the land of Palestine (John 16:7). And it was thus that Peter explained the events of Pentecost in the speech recorded in Acts 2 which we now consider.

Hearing the gospel preached in their local languages created great excitement and speculation among the Jews gathered from all parts to keep the feast. Some were impressed when they heard in their own tongues the great things God had done: others were skeptical and put it all down to drunkenness.


Peter stands up, shouts for a hearing and in his characteristically practical way debunks the accusation of the skeptics by pointing out that it was only nine in the morning. Rather what they were seeing was a fulfilment of Joel's prophecy of the last days, that their sons and daughters should prophesy, their young men see visions, their old men dream dreams and slaves, male and female, be endowed with a portion of God's spirit and should prophesy. In other words the pouring out of the Spirit was not to be limited by sex, by age or by social status. And it would enable them to prophesy, which did not here mean to foretell the future, but to witness to the great things done by God (v 11).

However, could they not have witnessed at any time after the Resurrection morning? Surely from then on they could have spoken with conviction based on the evidence of their outward senses about an empty tomb and a Lord who had once more spoken with them and eaten with them. But Jesus had in effect said: "Wait here in Jerusalem and don't begin your witness until I come to you in a new form and endow you with an inner witness". They could have argued effectively and intellectually that the Lord was risen, but their mission could not and must not begin until they had a new experience and a unique participation in Christ.

The witness foretold by Joel is associated with apocalyptic portents, signs and wonders, in sky and on earth before the day of the Lord should come. "And, then, everyone who invokes the name of the Lord shall be saved" (Acts 2:21). Later on Peter uses the same language and says that Jesus was made known to Israel through miracles, signs and portents during his ministry (v 22). From Pentecost onward, forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit was "for everyone whom the Lord our God may call" (v 39). This is another echo of Joel, who is thus interpreted to mean that the earth -- and heaven -- shaking work of Christ would subsequently be mediated by the Spirit to those who turned to the Lord. This was the meaning of the day's events.

Before reaching this conclusion however Peter took them through a sequence of steps, largely based on the interpretation of the Old Testament, to lead them to the conclusion that the Lord upon whom they must call was none other than Jesus of Nazareth:

1. His listeners themselves knew of the remarkable activities of the Lord. They also knew that their race had used the heathen to crucify and kill him (v 22-23).

2. He then added the witness which he and his fellow disciples could give to the fact that God had raised him to life again (v 24).

3. However this should not surprise Jewish listeners. Didn't Psalm 16 contain just such an expectation that the Messiah's soul would not be left in Hades: his holy one would not see corruption (v 25-28).

4. They could themselves check, by going along the street to David's sepulchre, that Psalm 16 was not really fulfilled in David, for he saw corruption. Therefore David must have been foretelling the resurrection of the Messiah, who should fulfil God's promises and sit on David's throne, which was, of course the throne of the Lord (v 29-31).

5. Peter then repeats the witness of the disciples to the Resurrection (v 32).

6. The Ascension of Christ followed his Resurrection and Peter asserts that he was now in heaven. But whereas their witness might produce conviction that Jesus rose, they could not produce similar testimony that he was now at the right hand of God: they had not seen him there. How then could they be sure. Where was the proof? The proof lay in the events of that very day. The purpose of the Christ's ascent to heaven was that he might receive the Holy Spirit to pour out on those who should turn to him. "Exalted thus at God's right hand, he received the Holy Spirit from the Father, as was promised and all that you now see and hear flows from him" (v 33) Jesus had received the Holy Spirit personally on Jordan's banks -- but only when seated on the throne of the Lord at God's right hand, did he receive the Holy Spirit to share with the believers. This was proof that he was, by the Spirit, present in their midst. If the disciples could not clinch their witness by producing Jesus visibly, they could point to the work of the Holy Spirit on that day of Pentecost as demonstrating that Jesus, as promised, was in their midst, giving them an experience of him and an inner conviction of his presence.

7. Then, as with the other stages of the glorification of Jesus, Peter quotes the Old Testament to prove that they ought also to have been expecting the Ascension because of the words of Psalm 110. David had not ascended to heaven but he expected his Lord to do so: "the Lord said unto my Lord, 'Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies your footstool.'"

8. Finally Peter brings his quotations together by declaring "Let all Israel accept as certain that God has made this Jesus whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah". In other words the Holy Spirit has produced by this day's activity the evidence that Jesus is the Lord spoken of in Psalm 16, "and you have seen him at work in your midst". But for the manifest work of the Holy Spirit the Apostles would have had no answer to the challenge: "you say he is alive: produce him". That is why they had to wait at Jerusalem for the promised Holy Spirit. Till Pentecost, the last link in their chain of witness was missing. Jesus could not be produced: now he could. To sum up, the expressed and implied argument of Peter's dialogue with the crowd was : --

a. Jesus by many signs and portents in his ministry demonstrated that he came from God.

b. But he died on the cross.

c. But this was part of the predicted experience of Messiah and moreover he rose, as was foretold.

d. How do you know?

e. We saw him with our own eyes.

f. Produce him -- or else your witness is suspect.

g. He is in heaven as it was predicted he would be.

h. Then he isn't here for us to be sure of your message.

i. But he is, you know -- all that has happened today has been his work by the Holy Spirit and you have felt him in your midst.


Not only was he in their midst but also in their hearts convicting them of sin, as the Lord had promised. The Lord in John 16:8-11 had stressed the inner and outward witness: outwardly the Spirit would demonstrate that Jesus had gone to the Father when he passed from their sight: inwardly it would convict them of wrong in their refusal to believe in him.

And so, as soon as Peter had finished, this inner conviction wrought by the Holy Spirit caused them to be "cut to the heart". The words "whom you crucified" from the lips of Peter filled them with fear. They saw the enormity of their guilt -- and to this day we will find all our own sins mirrored in those of Sadduccees, Pharisees, Romans, Crowds and Disciples. We were all there. Jesus on his cross puts the spotlight on sin as he draws its venom upon his own pure person. This is one of the ways in which he bore our sins. As we thus see our guilt, and as the listeners on the day of Pentecost saw theirs, the only possible words are: "What are we to do?" (v 37).

Peter's reply gave the essence of Christianity.

"Repent" -- turn right round: face a new direction, having seen yourself as you really are, as a result of the Spirit bringing home the message of' the cross to your personal experience.

"Be baptised" publicly commit yourself to the sharing of the Christ: publicly appropriate the cleansing from sin in him.

"Every one of you" -- irrespective of age, sex or status (echo of Joel).

"In the name of Jesus" -- Joel's "name of Yahweh" (the Lord) to be invoked is now "the name of Jesus" (to understand the name of Jesus is to understand the name of Yahweh).

" -- the Messiah" (Christ) -- Peter had proved by his quotations that Jesus was Messiah, showing from messianic Psalms that what had happened to Jesus was what the scriptures had foreseen of Messiah -- a momentous ministry -- a cruel death -- a decisive resurrection and an ascension to the Father's right hand.

"for the forgiveness of your sins" -- the sacrifice that made them feel their guilt also covered it and man's great need was met: "sins forgiven" is the element of the message of salvation concerned with removing the impediment to fellowship with God.

"and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit" -- this is the element of the message of salvation concerned with the positive boon of fellowship with God. If the forgiveness of sins is part of the message of salvation for all time, the very words require that the gift of the Holy Spirit shall equally be so regarded. It would be an artificial treatment of the words which considered "the forgiveness of sins" as a permanent Christian blessing and the Holy Spirit a temporary first century phenomenon.

"The promise is to you and to your children and to all who are far away" -- Peter was appealing to those present, that they let themselves be carried along from conviction of sin to repentance, to forgiveness of sins and to the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, which would then become a permanent feature of their lives, and the same promise applied to their children also and to Gentiles afar off (Isa. 57:19; Eph. 2:17).

"everyone whom the Lord our God may call" -- could words be more inclusive? No man can come to Jesus unless he is drawn by the Father (Jno. 6:44) whose instrument both initially and continuously is the Holy Spirit.

Pentecost was the first demonstration of what Paul later described: "To prove that you are sons, God has sent into our hearts the Spirit of his son, crying 'Abba! Father'" (Gal. 4:6). There are intellectual factors involved in accepting Christ -- just as the Jews had to wrestle with a Messiah dying and rising as foretold in the Psalms -- but, fundamentally, conversion is a revelation of Christ which he gives us as he gave the early church on the day of Pentecost. The written Word is obviously the basic source of our information. Without initial reading of it and subsequent diligent study of it we would not get far. However to read, to reason intellectually and to make logical deductions would not of themselves convince us of our sins and bring us face to face with our living Saviour. Christianity is an experience, not a philosophy, or a theology, or a dogma, though these have their place. It is the precious gift of God, not the hard earned outcome of the exercise of man's mental powers. Christ lays his hand upon men and renews them by the Spirit, as he did for 3000 on the day of Pentecost, affecting them not only individually, but also collectively forming them into a community who met constantly to hear the Apostles teach, to share the common life, and to break bread and to pray. There were special features as well, in terms of marvels and signs. Also the Spirit worked strongly within them to give a sense of community, so that they even held all their goods in common. "One mind" is the phrase describing how united they were as they worshipped, prayed and ate together, full of joy and unceasingly praising God, and just to emphasise that it was all the work of the Spirit -- i.e. of the ascended invisible Christ, and not the work of man, Luke adds: "and day by day the Lord added to their number those whom he was saving" (v 47).



All that went before in Scripture led to the glorification of Christ. In turn the glorification of Christ, crucified, risen and ascended to the right hand of God, led to the pouring out of the Holy Spirit -- the sending of the Comforter (John 7:38-39). To understand Pentecost fully we need to look back at what went before, starting with the anticipations of the prophets as they looked forward to the day of Messiah.

A new and major outpouring of the Spirit was an essential part of their hope.

Many of the Old Testament prophecies of the great Spirit outpouring are associated with the regathering of Israel and the consummation of the Kingdom of God. No doubt the most natural reading of these passages, one followed generally by Israel, was of national glory, with material prosperity and political supremacy for the race; though spiritual objectives are also constantly set forth. Any supremacy granted to Israel was in order that the other nations might give praise to Israel's God (Deut. 4:6). We cannot ignore the "political" aspect of God's workings, for he is concerned with redeeming the material earth to provide a tangible base to his spiritual purposes in which a remnant of Israel will play their part. But relationship with men and a divine fellowship are his ultimate objectives. The tabernacle of God shall be with men. God shall be all in all. These objectives determine where we should place the accent in the interpretation of the prophecies -- in the realm of the spiritual rather than the material and political. And this is where the New Testament places the accent.


The New Testament reveals a mystery (or secret) that had been embedded in the Old. Even angels were puzzled about the prophets' messages. The joy of Christian salvation, the grace of God in Christ, the sufferings of Christ, the glory of resurrection, ascension, Pentecost and the second advent were the themes of prophets who ministered for a generation to come (1 Peter 1:8-12). None could have foreseen this fulfilment by a straight reading of the Old Testament. Assuming that the Old Testament gave the total picture of what was to be and of who was to come, they would not have recognised him when He came -- and in fact they did not.

"In former generations the secret of Christ was not disclosed to the human race". So Paul shows how Old Testament prophetic messages needed the additional light of the Apostolic Word to make clear the purpose of God (Eph. 3:1-11).

It is inadequate to read the Old Testament without interpreting it by the New; or to seek to establish the gospel by reading the Old Testament and then assuming that Christ would fulfil the Old Testament message precisely as written. The Old Testament is where the message is hidden -- the New brings it to the light.

The divine secret was long kept in silence and needed the work of the Apostles for its disclosure (Romans 16: 25-27).

The message of the New Testament is of fulfilment reached, not of fulfilment still to come, even though some elements of the fulfilment lie yet in our future. The message of the New Testament is "the secret is revealed" a new day has dawned -- the hope is fulfilled and will go on being fulfilled. The first words of the ministry of Jesus, as recorded by Mark, are:

  • "...The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand, repent ye, and believe the gospel" (Mark 1:15).
  • A new day was dawning. And in a sense when the Kingdom is consummated that will not be the dawn of the new age, but rather the noonday when the mass of mankind will receive its blessings.


    This reinterpretation of the Old Testament, this revealing of what was previously hidden, comes out particularly in connection with the promises made to Abraham, which are a fundamental expression of the purpose of God.

    When the Jews read the promises straightforwardly they thought in terms mainly of:

    a. a land to be possessed to its full extent (Gen. 12:7; 13:14-15).

    b. being a mighty nation (Gen. 12:2).

    c. victory over enemies -- "possessing the gate of their enemies" (Gen. 22:17).

    Some would also recognise:

    d. world blessing through Israel (Gen. 12:3).

    e. that God would be a God unto them and that they should be his people (Gen. 17:7).

    f. that faith would be counted for righteousness (Gen. 15:6).

    In such understanding, incomplete though it was, there was faith and trust in Abraham's God, which was pleasing to him.

    When we come however to the New Testament the land, as such, is less emphasised. The fact that God wants to be at home with men is more the emphasis. The tabernacle of God shall be with men (Rev. 21:3).

    The mighty nation is redefined. God's promises were not for many seeds, but for one -- even Christ: and this includes his body, who are all one person in Christ Jesus (Gal. 3:16 and 26-29).

    This is the new definition of Abraham's seed or Israel. It is men of faith who share the blessing with faithful Abraham (Gal 3:9 see also Romans 4:11-12).

    Then as to the nature of the blessing in Abraham: Acts 3 redefines it. Peter speaks of the raising up of the prophet like unto Moses and then adds: "And so said all the prophets from Samuel onwards: with one voice they all predicted this present time" (v 24). "This present time" was the age of fulfilment, elsewhere spoken of as "the last days" and "the final age". This "present time" started in the events from Bethlehem to Pentecost and reaches beyond the second coming to the time when "God shall be all in all". That is the period of the fulfilment of the promises made to Abraham.

    As Peter continues:-

  • "You are the heirs of the prophets; you are within the covenant which God made with your fathers, when he said to Abraham, 'And in your offspring all the families on earth shall find blessing'. When God raised up his Servant, he sent him to you first, to bring you blessing by turning every one of you from your wicked ways" (Acts 3:25-26).
  • The Jews were receiving in the post Pentecost period the opportunity to be the first among the nations to receive the blessing of Abraham -- and the prime feature of the blessing was to be turned away from their wicked ways i.e. repentance and the forgiveness of sins. This interpretation was implicit in the Abrahamic covenant where faith was accounted to him for righteousness. Genesis 15:6 declares Abraham to be a forgiven man. However, but for Peter's words and Paul's expositions this emphasis might not have been noticed. Peter did not teach that when the Lord returns in a future day the blessing of Abraham will begin to be poured out. The blessing started in Peter's own day, though it is true that the number of people participating in the future day will be greatly extended.

    In Peter's speech at Pentecost he associated the removal of the impediment of guilt with the positive boon of the Spirit. And, in addition to foretelling forgiveness of sins, the promises to Abraham were in fact also foretelling the blessing of the Spirit. This is what Paul means when, in Galatians 3:14, he regards the blessing of Abraham as being the "receiving of the promised Spirit through faith". In v. 8 he considers that the promise of blessing on all nations was in effect a preaching of the Christian gospel, for it implied "justification by faith", forgiveness of sins and the pouring out of the Spirit. He doesn't mean that if we want to know what the gospel is we should start with a straight reading of the promises to Abraham uninterpreted by the New Testament. Rather, having heard the gospel from Jesus and the Apostles, as the good news of redemption in Christ, we can then go back and see it implied in the ancient promises. And outstanding among the blessings included in being accounted righteous by faith is the promised Spirit. Sin removed and the Spirit implanted: that is the great work of Christ as he fulfils the promises made to Abraham.

    Of course we are right to refer to the promises to Abraham when we speak of the great day to come, but we ought not to paint the "millennium" merely as a super welfare state -- though men's physical welfare will be attended to. Rather we should see sins forgiven and the Spirit outpoured as the prime blessings through which at last "God will be all in all". The whole work of Jesus, the Apostles and the church is to bring to men both forgiveness of sins and the Spirit. This whole work is the fulfilment of the covenants of promise and the words of the prophets. It started 1970 years ago. We await its consummation. From Pentecost to "God all in all" is the age of the Spirit. We are privileged to live in it. Read the Old Testament with this perspective and untold thrills are waiting to be revealed.


    We have already seen the Kingdom picture in Psalm 110 applied to the work of the ascended Lord Jesus and the Holy Spirit in the Church. One or two more examples must suffice for now.

    Isaiah 49 is very clearly a Kingdom picture and, in its finality, the portrayal of God's servant Jesus as a "light to the Gentiles and salvation to earth's farthest bounds" lies still in the future. As far as Paul and Barnabas were concerned, however, the passage was being fulfilled in the first century as they went forward to preach in the Roman Empire (Acts 13: 46-47).

    The ultimate Kingdom triumph is mirrored in Isaiah 52:7 (K.J.V.).

  • "How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth!"
  • In the inspired hands of Paul (Rom. 10:15) this also becomes the preaching of the gospel by the Apostles; also (Gal. 4) the Jerusalem, of which Isaiah speaks, becomes the heavenly Zion -- the New Jerusalem community, whose name is the "Lord our Righteousness" (Jeremiah 33:16).

    Isaiah speaks of Jerusalem's time of joy in terms of the joy of motherhood coming to a barren woman and the return of a husband to a deserted wife (Isaiah 54:12). In Galatians 4:27 this becomes the joy of the new Jerusalem, the Church, whose tent area is being increased by the inclusion of the Gentiles, and who brings forth the fruit of the Spirit.

    Isaiah 11 presents a very familiar picture of the day when a shoot shall grow from the stock of Jesse and a branch shall spring from his roots. The picture continues after describing the one upon whom the Spirit should rest, with the wonderful idyll of the wolf lying down with the lamb and the lion eating straw like the ox. "They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain, for as the waters fill the sea, so shall the land be filled with the knowledge of the Lord".

    It is reasonable to carry on in the 11th chapter of Isaiah to verse 10:

  • "On that day a scion (or shoot from the root of Jesse shall be set up as a signal to the peoples; the nations shall rally to it, and its resting place shall be glorious".
  • This too is a picture of the Kingdom and Israel's glory, yet to the Apostle Paul in Romans 15:12 it speaks of the call of the Gentiles through the preaching of the gospel; in other words of Paul's special task.

    One more illustration: the prophet Amos describes the sparing and restoring of Israel's remnant when the ploughman shall overtake the reaper and the mountains run with fresh wine. He also describes the day when the fortunes of Israel are restored in these words:

    "On that day I will restore David's fallen house: I will repair its gaping walls and restore its ruins; I will rebuild it as it was long ago that they may possess what is left of Edom and all the nations who were once named mine. This is the very word of the Lord, who will do this" (Amos 9:11-12).

    At the Jerusalem conference, on the lips of James this passage was quoted to give support to the place of equality in the Church which belonged to Gentiles with the Jews. The work of the Lord Jesus had in some way rebuilt the fallen house of David, and into this house in its new form, that is as the Church ruled over by its heavenly King, seated at the right hand of God, the Gentiles were now invited to enter, claimed by God as his own. In other words there was a large measure of the fulfilment of the promises made to David taking place at that very time (Acts 15:13-18). (See also Acts 26:16-18).

    These passages are but a sample. Many other Old Testament passages about the Kingdom are handled in this manner in the New Testament.


    To Jesus and the Apostles the present aspect of the Kingdom of God was highly important. The Kingdom of God was truly within or amongst the believers. (The believer had been rescued from the domain of darkness and translated into the Kingdom of his dear Son -- Colossians 1:13-14). This was something that had happened; something living and something real at that present time, though, as we can rightly preach, there is more to come. Our understandable emphasis on the Kingdom of the future has perhaps led us to undervalue the Kingdom as present with the coming of Jesus as Son of man.

    One writer has compared this New Testament recognition that the Kingdom of God had begun, to the relationship in the 1939-45 war between D-Day and V-Day. When the allied troops landed in Normandy, within a week it could be said that the war was won. In fact it took another year before victory was complete and the nations were able to celebrate V-Day.

    Thus it is with the work of the Lord Jesus Christ. The war had been won by his victory on Calvary and the empty tomb. The age of the Spirit had dawned. We await the completion of the victory when it is extended to all mankind. Then at last we shall be able to celebrate V-Day.

    Thus we find repeatedly that the Apostles bring a new and spiritual interpretation to bear upon many a material and political foretelling of the Kingdom in the Old Testament. Something which starts out as a "Kingdom" passage, which we might be tempted to refer exclusively to a time still future -- the Apostles referred to a time then present and to the work of Christ from his begettal to his ascension and the outpouring of the Spirit. The events of Christ's first coming were essentially fulfilments of the hope of the Coming of the Kingdom. That Age of Messiah was to be an Age of the Spirit.


    Against this background we can review briefly some of the passages which speak of the outpouring of the Spirit in a way which was to surpass all that the Spirit had wrought in Israel so far.

    We have already considered Isaiah 11 as a Kingdom passage, applied by the Apostle to the work of preaching to the Gentiles. In describing the branch that should spring out of the root of Jesse, emphasis is placed upon the Spirit that should fall upon this Son of David.

  • "The spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him,

    a spirit of wisdom and understanding,

    a spirit of counsel and power,

    a spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord, He shall not judge by what he sees

    nor decide by what he hears:

    he shall judge the poor with justice

    and defend the humble in the land with equity; his mouth shall be a rod to strike down the ruthless,

    and with a word he shall slay the wicked.

    Round his waist he shall wear the belt of justice, and good faith shall be the girdle round his body". (Isa. 11:25)

  • This is obviously a description of the Holy Spirit which came upon the Lord without measure, at his first coming and which will be associated with the completion of his mission at his second coming.

    Isaiah 42, another Kingdom passage, speaks of the one upon whom God would place his spirit. God's servant, God's chosen One, gentle and tender, carefully seeks to bring the smouldering wick to full flame. In Matthew 12:15-21 Jesus is said to have been fulfilling this when he avoided contention in the streets of Israel and withdrew himself, asking people not to make known to the mass of the population what he had been doing. Similarly v. 7 of Isaiah 42 speaks of the Lord's work of opening the blind eyes and bringing the captives out of prison, out of the dungeons where they had laid in darkness: words aptly descriptive of his first coming (cf Luke 7:22).

    Isaiah 61 is a further foretelling of the outpouring of the Spirit from the individual Messiah (v. 13).

  • "The spirit of the Lord God is upon me

    because the Lord has anointed me;

    he has sent me to bring good news to the humble

    to bind up the broken hearted,

    to proclaim liberty to captives

    and release to those in prison,

    to proclaim a year of the Lord's favour

    and a day of vengeance of our God;

    to comfort all who mourn,

    to give them garlands instead of ashes

    oil of gladness instead of mourner's tears,

    a garment of splendour for the heavy heart. They shall be called Trees of Righteousness, planted by the Lord for his glory".

  • This outpouring of the Spirit is clearly attributed in Luke 4 to the ministry of Jesus as he preached the good things to come. He startled his hearers by saying clearly that He was the One spoken of by Isaiah. "Today", he said, "in your very hearing this text has come true". He was at the start of the process of inaugurating the Age of the Spirit. (It is often said that the Lord Jesus stopped in the middle of v. 2 of Isaiah 61 and did not proceed to speak of the day of vengeance because the day of vengeance lay yet in the future. The reason he stopped might rather be that, at that point, early in his ministry, he was not preaching judgment. He did preach it later and throughout his ministry he did preach the offer of the oil of gladness instead of mourner's tears as in Isaiah 61:3).


    The Old Testament also speaks of the outpouring of the Spirit, not only upon a particular individual, but upon the whole of Israel.

    Outstanding among such passages is, of course, the prophecy of Joel Chapter 2, which we have already partly considered, as Peter explained it on the day of Pentecost. In its original context, the picture is of a nation which had been the subject of natural calamity, of a plague of locusts in association with a drought and a famine. Eventually they had turned to God and rent their hearts, not merely their garments. In the wake of this repentance and renewal there would come physical blessing. The harvests would be resumed when the northern peril was removed from them and the rains returned. (Joel 2: 18-26).

    These physical blessings were designed to help them grasp the spiritual truth that God was in their midst and ready to pour his Spirit on them. After their repentance there was to come a wonderful spiritual renewal.

  • "and you shall know that I am present in Israel, that I and no other am the Lord your God;

    and my people shall not again be brought to shame.

    Thereafter the day shall come

    when I will pour out my spirit on all mankind; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams

    and your young men see visions;

    I will pour out my spirit in those days

    even upon slaves and slave girls" (Joel 2:27-29)

  • Old men and young men, slaves and slave girls were to receive this outpouring of the Spirit of God. Ordinary folk, not just leaders -- all flesh, anybody, not just kings and priests. No doubt there was some fulfilment (or at least "half-filment") in Joel's time, but even those who read the prophecy in Old Testament times must have felt that any "half-filment" was insignificant compared with something that was to come in the time when the fortunes of Judah and Jerusalem would be reversed (Joel 3:1).

    And Peter says that on the Day of Pentecost it happened. The revival -- the outpouring of the Spirit proclaimed by Joel had begun. He did not enter into any explanation such as a "double application", but simply said that the Age of the Spirit had started. There was fulfilment in Peter's day and rather than describe the future outpouring of the Spirit at the Lord's return to earth as a second fulfilment or double application of Joel's prophecy, we ought to speak of a continuous fulfilment, which began at Pentecost and will reach its fullness when God is all in all.

    There is no suggestion that the Spirit which was poured out on the day of Pentecost would cease to be poured out on those who subsequently repented and turned to God. There will certainly be a mighty extension at the Lord's second coming, but the Age of the Spirit started at Pentecost. That surely is what we must understand from Peter's explanation.


    There are other similar passages which Peter and Paul did not quote, which deal with the same theme.

    Thus Isaiah 32, which speaks of the King who shall reign in righteousness, also describes the trouble of God's people and their land and the sense of desolation which they were to experience "until the Spirit from on High should be lavished upon them" (v. 15). Then righteousness would make its home in the wilderness and dwell in the grass land and yield peace and its fruit would be quietness and confidence forever, and God's people should dwell in peace. There is a link between God's Spirit poured out and the resulting spiritual qualities developed in Israel, and the righteousness spoken of by Paul in Romans and the peace spoken of by Jesus, when he promised his disciples the Spirit from on High: "My peace I give unto you". "The fruit of righteousness and confidence for ever" would have been the fruit of the Spirit that was then being enjoyed by the Church and which will be enjoyed on the widest scale in the finality of the Kingdom.

  • Isaiah 44 is another such passage (v. 25)

    "Thus says the Lord your maker,

    your helper, who fashioned you from birth:

    have no fear, Jacob my servant,

    Jeshurun whom I have chosen,

    for I will pour down the rain on a thirsty land, showers on the dry ground.

    I will pour out my spirit on your offspring

    and my blessing on your children.

    They shall spring up like a green tamarisk,

    like poplars by a flowing stream.

    This man shall say, 'I am the Lord's man'

    that one shall call himself a son of Jacob".

  • Was this one of the passages which Nicodemus should have understood, being a master in Israel? It certainly associates water and the Spirit.


    Parallel with these passages which speak of a special kind of restoration of Israel, linked with an outpouring of the Spirit is Jeremiah 31, the famous New Covenant passage, which describes the work of the Spirit without using the actual word (v. 31-34).

  • "The time is coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with Israel and Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers when I took them by the hand and led them out of Egypt. Although they broke my covenant, I was patient with them, says the Lord. But this is the covenant which I will make with Israel after those days, says the Lord; I will set my law within them and write it on their hearts; I will become their God and they shall become my people. No longer need they teach one another to know the Lord; all of them, high and low alike, shall know me, says the Lord, for I will forgive their wrongdoing and remember their sin no more".
  • This is a key passage as quoted in the New Testament. In fact the New Testament itself should be termed the New Covenant, deriving its description from this passage. The passage itself in Jeremiah 31 is set in the context of the restoration of Israel, in a day when merriment shall pervade the restored nation, rejoicing that God has remembered them and brought them back from all parts of the earth, so that they come with shouts of joy to Zion's height, singing with happiness at the bounty of the Lord (v. 12). Young men and maidens, old men as well, all dance for joy as they see their mourning turn into gladness.

    Without a doubt there is reference here to good things yet to come to Israel after the flesh, though those only will receive these good things who recognise Jesus as Lord, (Romans 11). However, New Testament exposition shows us the relevance of this prophecy to the Gospel.

    The Lord Jesus quotes Jeremiah on the New Covenant at the first Breaking of Bread, when he says: "this is the blood of the New Covenant shed for the remission of sins". On two occasions the writer to the Hebrews quotes the same New Covenant and says in effect: "It is already in force, the Lord Jesus, having ascended to the right hand of God, is already writing his law in men's hearts and granting them forgiveness of sins" (Heb. 8:7-13; 10:15-18).

    Ever since Pentecost made the saving work of the Lord Jesus Christ available to the inner experience of men and women, there has been a move away from a series of do's and don'ts which could be written on stone, to a new approach, to a new "law", which could be written by the Spirit of God in their very inward being. No longer an outward law emphasising conformity by outward discipline but an inner relationship. "I will become their God and they shall become my people and all of them, high and low alike, shall know me" -- not merely know about me, but have that intimate knowledge which the word "know" carries in the Old Testament. Jeremiah 31 in fact brings out the two prime blessings which belong to the Age of the Spirit, and which Peter defined on the day of Pentecost; sins forgiven and transforming of the minds and hearts of the forgiven sinners.


    When we move into the prophecy of Ezekiel we recognise a "nowness" as well as a "thenness" about references to the outpouring of the Spirit. In the passages we have been considering there is a clear New Testament suggestion that the Age of the Spirit has already started. If then we meet similar language in Ezekiel, even when it is set in a context of Israel being gathered from the nations into the physical land, we will expect there to be a present aspect to the prophecy in line with the New Testament interpretations. Thus, for example, Ezekiel 11 speaks in this way (v. 17-20):

  • "Say therefore, These are the words of the Lord God: I will gather them from among the nations and assemble them from the countries over which I have scattered them, and I will give them the soil of Israel. When they come into it, they will do away with all their vile and abominable practices. I will give them a different heart and put a new spirit into them; I will take the heart of stone out of their bodies and give them a heart of flesh"
  • If Jeremiah 31 is applied to the Church according to Hebrews 8 and Hebrews 10, although the chapter itself was originally a chapter about the restoration of Israel, then equally the removal of the stony heart and the receiving of a different heart and a new spirit by the new people of God, even the Church, is surely included here, both as it is happening now and as it will happen in the final consummation.

    Of course this interpretation is not without difficulties. In what way can the building up of the Church out of Jew and Gentile from the first century onward be said to be a regathering of Israel. Perhaps we could see it as the reforming out of disintegrated elements of a new entity, of a new Israel; as James said "God is calling out of the Gentiles a people for his Name". The book of Revelation speaks of a new Israel being formed out of every kindred, tongue and people and nation (Rev. 7). The formation of the Church is a regathering of Israel in a new form, much as a general after a defeat may reform his army with new personnel and go on to victory.

    In the light of the New Testament handling of the Old, it may therefore be legitimate to see some fulfilling of Ezekiel chapter 36, 37 and 38 in the proclamation of the gospel, the pouring out of the Spirit, and the establishment of the Church.

  • "I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone from your body and give you a heart of flesh. I will put my spirit into you and make you conform to my statutes, keep my laws and live by them. You shall live in the land which I gave to your ancestors; you shall become my people, and I will become your God. I will save you from all that defiles you; I will call to the corn and make it plentiful; I will bring no more famine upon you. I will make the trees bear abundant fruit and the ground yield heavy crops, so that you will never again have to bear the reproach of famine among the nations" (Ezekiel 36:26-31).
  • Obviously there are references here to a material redemption that has not yet happened, but the spiritual redemption it implies has already been the experience of the church -- the new Israel.

    In view of the fact that Ezekiel 37 flows from chapter 36, even this intensely political prophecy, associated with the revival of the natural Israel, could have been fittingly applied by a Peter or a Paul to what was happening in their day as Jew and Gentile were gathered together in the new Israel. They did not do so, but such an application is in character with their actual exposition and as elsewhere this would not thereby have excluded still further development.

  • "These are the words of the Lord God: O my people, I will open your graves and bring you up from them, and restore you to the land of Israel. You shall know that I am the Lord when I open your graves and bring you up from them, O my people. Then I will put my spirit into you and you shall live, and I will settle you on your own soil, and you shall know that I the Lord have spoken and will act. This is the very word of the Lord" (v.12-14).
  • As the age of the Spirit started at Pentecost and as there are many manifestations of the Spirit, but one Spirit, then it is not surprising that there would be a number of stages in the manifestation of that Spirit leading to the final consummation, when God will be all in all. This being the case, then the passages which speak of the outpouring of the Spirit as the regathering of God's Israel no doubt cover the whole regathering of all God's people into one, of the Church, of natural Israel and ultimately of all mankind. And even in the gathering of men into the Kingdom of Christ during its preliminary stages, the prime intention is that their sins may be forgiven and that the Spirit may be poured out upon them so that God himself may be their God and may tabernacle among them.

    What will happen in the establishment of the "millennial" reign of Christ will be of a piece with what has already happened. The fundamental change has begun to operate. It remains for it to be made perfectly available, and available to all remaining mankind.



    The Age of Fulfilment starts with John the Baptist, the last of the prophets, whom we might term the "bridge man", who links the Age of the Law with the Age of the Spirit. He, who was the last and greatest of the prophets, who heralded the Coming One, had a lot to say about the work of the Coming One, in particular of his work of baptising men with the Spirit. Jesus asked why were men so keen to go into the wilderness to see John. They went to see a prophet and more than a prophet, the man of whom Scripture said: 'Here is my herald, whom I send on ahead of you, and he will prepare your way before you' (Mal. 3:1).

    Then Jesus continues:

  • "I tell you this: never has there appeared on earth a mother's son greater than John the Baptist, and yet the least in the kingdom of Heaven is greater than he. Ever since the coming of John the Baptist the kingdom of Heaven has been subjected to violence and violent men are seizing it. For all the prophets and the Law foretold things to come until John appeared, and John is the destined Elijah, if you will but accept it". (Matthew 11:9-15)
  • John had sent a message from prison asking whether Jesus was the One to come or whether another Messiah was to be expected. By way of answer Jesus enacted the prophecies of Isaiah 35, so that the blind recovered their sight and the lame walked and the deaf heard.

    In his comments on the type of man that John was, Jesus quotes from Isaiah 40 and Malachi 3. These two were "kingdom" passages, but he has no hesitation in applying them to that which they had just witnessed in the mission of John the Baptist.


    When you stand with John the Baptist you are on the threshold of the Age of the Spirit, at the beginning of the Kingdom of God. There had been a political Kingdom of God in the past. A Kingdom is a kingly dominion. Now God's kingly dominion was taking a tremendous leap forward. John was its herald. In the words of v. 12 men of enthusiasm had, ever since the appearance of John, been seizing hold of the Kingdom. It was now no longer something to come, but something that was there present in their midst in the person of the King (see also Luke 16:16).

    When one sees the relationship of John the Baptist to the Kingdom which Christ was both preaching and manifesting, then the oft discussed passage -- "he that is least in the Kingdom of Heaven is greater than John the Baptist" becomes clear. Those who were among Christ's entourage, the nucleus of his church were no longer on the threshold, but had entered inside. In the nature of things John the Baptist could not be in this position. Those who were the disciples of Jesus had privileges superior to the one who was but the forerunner. They were not superior in moral standing, but in status, as a king's courtier may be said to be in a more privileged position than the man who goes ahead sounding the trumpet to say that the king is coming.

    One writer has commented:

  • "It was not given to John the Baptist to enter the Kingdom of Heaven or to taste the good things that were prepared for the members of Christ. He stood on the border of the promised land and from his Mount Pisgah saw it with his eyes: he beheld the Spirit descend on Christ and knew this was the greater Baptist who should baptise with the Holy Spirit -- that he himself was not thus baptised, full though he was of the Spirit: there were mysteries of the Spirit life that he could not have understood. The Spirit was in John the Baptist as it was in the ancient psalmists and prophets, not as afterwards it dwelt in the apostles and prophets of the New Testament, not as it now dwells in all believers".

    Matthew 3 makes it quite clear that a turning point had been reached in the history of Israel and of mankind.

  • "Already the axe is laid to the roots of the trees; and every tree that fails to produce good fruit is cut down and thrown on to the fire. I baptise you with water, for repentance; but the one who comes after me is mightier than I. I am not fit to take off his shoes. He will baptise you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. His shovel is ready in his hand and he will winnow his threshing floor; the wheat he will gather into his granary, but he will burn the chaff on a fire that can never go out" (Matthew 3:10-12).
  • John the Baptist's language is that of an imminent new age. He speaks of the One who shall come as being mightier than himself, not in a physical or military sense, but in the extensiveness and effectiveness of what he would do. His might would lie particularly in the baptism of the Holy Spirit that he would bring. John the Baptist, who baptised with water for repentance, was not fit to do even the slave's work of unloosing the shoe latchets of his successor who should baptise with the Spirit. John the Baptist was contrasting his own water baptism with the later Holy Spirit baptism of the One who should come. He was not comparing his own water baptism with water baptism in the hands of Jesus, but rather was seeking to bring men to see that his own water baptism was a pointer to the greater baptism which Jesus would bring. Obviously such a greater baptism would lead us to expect something more fundamental than a merely temporary first century phenomenon of outward miracles, which some have suggested.

    John the Baptist stands in the tradition of the prophets. He is still awaiting a gift of the Holy Spirit which, in the words of John 7:38-39, had not yet been given. The mightier one that should come after him would give it. John the Baptist also made clear that the work of the Holy Spirit is not all gentle and gracious. His words about gathering the wheat into the granary and burning up the chaff suggest messianic judgment and purifying, purging and refining.

    The effect of the Spirit upon the individual was to produce a judgment, a "krisis". The Holy Spirit would burn up impurity with its purifying flame, hence the reference to the Holy Spirit and with fire. Jesus as judge through the Spirit would probe and thresh out the secret thoughts of men. Judgment would start as an inward spiritual process and be completed in the final sorting of wheat from tares. John's record of the work of John the Baptist has an additional fact in Chapter 1:33. John the Baptist had previously been told that when he saw the Spirit coming down upon someone and resting upon him, then he would know that this was the one who was to baptise in Holy Spirit. This was God's Chosen One (reference to Isaiah 42).

    Also in John 1:29-31, John the Baptist proclaims Jesus as the Lamb of God to take away the sin of the world. It would be the work of the Holy Spirit to make Christ's redemptive work available to the inner experience of men.

    John the Baptist sees Jesus as the one who takes rank before him; before John the Baptist was born in some sense Jesus already was -- that is to say His significance was eternal, by the origin he had in God, even though as a man he did not begin his personal existence until born of the Virgin Mary. And now John the Baptist baptised in water for the very purpose that Jesus might be revealed in Israel.

    The words of John the Baptist about the Spirit baptism of Jesus never left the minds of the Apostles, so that even in connection with the baptism of Cornelius in the Spirit, Peter is still thinking back to what Jesus had said: "John baptised with water but you will be baptised with the Holy Spirit" (Acts 11: 16). The original words are found in Acts 1:5, when Jesus told the disciples to wait for the promise made by the Father of which they had heard him speak (i.e. in John 14 to 17): "John as you know baptised with water but you will be baptised with the Holy Spirit and within the next few days." Always there is this contrast between John's water baptism and a greater baptism, the baptism of the Holy Spirit.

    By receiving the preparer's baptism (for John prepared the way of the Lord), the penitent prepared himself to receive the Coming One's baptism; he submitted to John's baptism ready for later initiation by the greater baptism into the Messianic Kingdom.

    "Holy Spirit and fire" are mentioned together. It is sometimes considered that the baptism of the Spirit referred to Pentecost, and the baptism of fire to A.D. 70, when the Romans burnt up the Jewish commonwealth and Jerusalem physically. This would however seem too narrow and too temporary and destructive an exhibition of the Spirit to meet the language of permanence and benefit in all the references that contrast John's baptism with the greater baptism of the Spirit in the hands of the Messiah.


    John's baptism then leads us to the Baptism of the Lord Jesus Christ.

    This baptism of Jesus at the hands of John is said quite clearly to be the occasion of the outpouring of the Spirit upon Jesus. This would be the fulfilment of Isaiah 61 and Isaiah 11, and particularly of Isaiah 42 to which reference is made in the Voice from heaven ("My Beloved in whom I am well pleased").

    Yet surely Jesus must have been filled with the Holy Spirit from birth, no less than John the Baptist, particularly when his very conception was the result of the direct work of the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:30-35). The special presence of God with Jesus is seen in his growth in wisdom and God's favour (Luke 2:40) and in the remarkable interest in divine things shown by him at the age of 12 when found in the temple by his parents who had, sorrowing, sought for him. Indeed as Jesus grew up he advanced in wisdom and in favour with God and men (Luke 2:52). However, whatever is meant by John the Baptist's being filled with the Holy Spirit from his mother's womb (literally fulfilled when the babe leapt with joy as Mary entered the room) and however Jesus shared a similar filling, yet it was only when he was baptised by John that the New Testament speaks of a full indwelling of the Holy Spirit in Jesus. Matthew's description puts it thus:

  • "Then Jesus arrived at the Jordan from Galilee, and came to John to be baptised by him. John tried to dissuade him. 'Do you come to me?' he said; 'I need rather to be baptised by you'. Jesus replied, 'Let it be so for the present; we do well to conform in this way with all that God requires.' John then allowed him to come. After baptism Jesus came up out of the water at once, and at that moment heaven opened; he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove to alight upon him; and a voice from heaven was heard saying, 'This is my Son, my Beloved, on whom my favour rests'. (Matthew 3:13-17; see also Mark 1:9).
  • Great though Jesus had already been, something new and different happened when the Holy Spirit took up residence in him by Jordan's waters.

    After his baptism he climbed up the banks of Jordan out of the water, perhaps up some little path and when he stood on the top of the bank above the river, heaven opened and the heavenly voice linked the words "This is My Son", with "My beloved on whom my favour rests". thus combining the Davidic promises in Psalm 2 with the Servant promises of Isaiah 42. The voice declared that in Jesus the Davidic promises and the Servant prophecies met. In his own person he would unite both kingly and suffering aspects of Messiah's mission, thus solving a problem which must have often puzzled the students of the prophets in times past.

    This baptism was the point of handover from the Law and the Prophets to the Age of the Kingdom and Messiah. As Peter declares in Acts 10 to Cornelius, "I need not tell you what happened lately all over the land of the Jews, starting from Galilee after the baptism proclaimed by John" .(Acts 10:37). This baptism was the starting point and Peter goes on to say:

  • "You know about Jesus of Nazareth, how God anointed him with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him".
  • Again Paul in Acts 13 stresses the importance of the point of handover, and final span of the bridge between the Testaments:

  • "John made ready for his coming by proclaiming baptism as a token of repentance to the whole people of Israel. And when John was nearing the end of his course, he said 'I am not what you think I am. No, after me comes one whose shoes I am not fit to unfasten". (v 24-26).
  • The Lord Jesus may be described as the pivot of history, and his baptism was a vital link in the initiation of the Age of Messiah; it was indeed the moment of initiation of Jesus himself into that Age. Thereafter he could walk forward into Galilee and say 'The time is fulfilled' (Mark 1:15).


    Jesus himself was the first to experience the baptism of the Spirit. The Lord himself personally entered the New Era which he was then to introduce to those who should follow him. Thereafter it was by the Spirit of God that he performed wonderful works so that men could be sure that the Kingdom of God had come upon them (Matthew 12:28).

    Even the very opening of the heavens from which emerged the dovelike symbol of the Spirit, was itself symbolic of a breaking through of the divine from the heavenly realm into the earthly. The divine begettal of Jesus had been the breaking in of the Spirit of God in the person of his Son. The baptism of the Spirit was the breaking in of the Spirit upon the Son. In the voice that came from the gap in the heavens, the decree of Psalm 2 was indeed declared "You are my Son". "This Day I become your Father". God already was his Father but now there was a formal acknowledgment and an endowment with special equipment and special power.

    Often men have argued about when Jesus became the Christ, the Anointed. In fact there are a number of milestones in the coming of the Spirit to Jesus. He was conceived by the Spirit; 'he was baptised by the Spirit'; he had a foretaste of the full glory of the Spirit, when transfigured; he was resurrected according to a Spirit of Holiness and when he ascended to the right hand of God, then his anointing by the Spirit was complete.

    His own receiving of the Spirit without measure constituted him the initiator of the New Age, the nucleus of the New Man, of the One Body, the nucleus of the New Israel. Having been begotten of the Spirit he was prepared later to share it with others.

    Sometimes readers are puzzled by Acts 2:33 which speaks of Jesus receiving the Holy Spirit from the Father when he was exalted to God's right hand. This passage refers to his receiving of the Holy Spirit to give to others, whereas the baptism of the Spirit which came to him after his water baptism of John was a baptism personal to himself, though it enabled him to minister unto others.


    A later chapter will demonstrate how the Spirit made the redemptive work of Jesus available in the experience of others (John 16:14). It is therefore important to recognise the redemptive implications of the acceptance of baptism by Jesus at the hands of John. He who needed not to repent and who had no sins needing forgiveness submitted to a baptism of repentance and forgiveness of sins. This was a significant work of association with sinners, being numbered with the transgressors and making their load his. In effect he here proclaims himself the sin bearer and accepts the way of the cross -- being ready to share the consequences of human sin. His Spirit baptism takes place only after the water baptism in which he indicates his close association with sinners and his understanding of his redemptive ministry. As on Pentecost dealing with sin came first: then the positive gift of the Spirit. God proclaims his pleasure in his beloved Son who has now committed himself to die for sinners.

    It is important to notice that the Spirit is poured upon Jesus quite separately from his water baptism. Sometimes the two are confused and some see in the water baptism a means of the mystical transmission of the Spirit. This is not the teaching of Scripture. Water baptism expresses commitment and the commitment so expressed is both the product of the Spirit and the channel of the Spirit's further work.

    Thus baptised in the Spirit without measure (John 3:34) Jesus is equipped for life and service in the New Age and the New Covenant. Far more than Saul before him, Christ is now "another man", able to go forward and grapple with the tempter's power, able to enter upon a new wilderness journey as part of his new exodus. What way would he take? The answer is in Matthew 4. Would he seek to win people by using his newfound powers to be a bread-king and feed the hungry? Would he be a sensation-mongerer appealing to the superstitious?

    Would he be a politician doing evil that good might follow, in the manner of politicians who have always manoeuvred affairs "for the good of others"? All these courses he rejected when led by the Spirit into the wilderness. His first action after being baptised by the Spirit was to determine that he would follow the way of the cross and not the way of the political schemer.

    So began the great ministry. How happy were the eyes who saw these things and the ears that heard the things of him who had been anointed with the Spirit of God. Many prophets and saints had desired to see what they now saw, but never saw it; to hear what they now heard, but never heard it (Matthew 13: 16-17). In other words the anticipations of these prophets and saints who foresaw the Kingdom of God were now coming to pass in the ministry of the Lord.

    Men were now pressing into the kingdom of God (Luke 16:16). The Kingdom now proclaimed was not a political or observable physical phenomenon but an inner state (Luke 17: 21; 21). It was the seed of a great tree (Luke 13: 18-19); it was a state into which people could enter if lawyers did not hinder them (Luke 11:52): it was a gift to be received as little children (Mark 13:10-16) and to be entered by new birth -- of the Spirit (John 3:35): it was a realm which publicans and sinners were then and there entering, while spiritual leaders remained outside (Matt 21:31 cf Luke 7:29-30). If by the Spirit of God Jesus drove out demons, then Israel could be assured that the Kingdom of God was already at work among them (Matt. I2:28). When disciples went forth in the name of Jesus to preach in a city, then the Kingdom of God had come close to them (Luke 10:11-12). The parables of Matt. 13 portrayed the qualities of this divine realm that Jesus established. They were all likenesses of the Kingdom of God -- that Kingdom Age which was dawning. Men could reject it, more or less (the Sower); some could be unaffected by it (wheat and tares); it was the small beginning of great things (mustard seed); so slight at times as to make its great potential unbelievable (leaven); its life was from God (the crop that grows while the farmer sleeps). And when Jesus preached the gospel of the Kingdom of God his emphasis lay on the present blessings he was then and there endowing. He did of course speak also of final judgment and the consummation of all things. but essentially he was the bearer of the gospel of God's kingly dominion (Kingdom) manifested among men, in fulfilment of the prophetic anticipations, in the person of the Son who was richly endowed by the Holy Spirit.


    How great he was words fail to tell, and yet it is in his uniqueness that we find our own conviction of his divine personality. Just as it laid its grip upon the disciples so it does upon us. In his baptism of the Holy Spirit lay the power to realise his divine Sonship, to lay his spell on those who should come to him. As we stand before him, there is an inner compulsion that makes us certain that we stand in the presence of our Lord.

    We see the effect of his baptism of the Spirit in his quite assumption of authority. He spoke as One having authority. "It is said of old... but I say unto you". When Jesus spoke men were amazed -- "What manner of man is this?" Quietly he assumed authority, "Many will say unto me in that day... then will I say unto them" -- "all judgment is committed unto the Son". His message pointed to himself. To bring men to trust in him as their unfailing guide and resource was his main objective. He trained them to give him a trust which otherwise belonged only to God. He talked unceasingly of himself, yet never appeared an egotist. He recognised and recommended humility in others, yet he said that he was the bread of life; the way, the truth and the life; the resurrection and the life, whom to see, Abraham rejoiced. Jesus, after his baptism of the Spirit realising his true destiny and his true origin in all its fulness could say "This day is this scripture fulfilled". Others may have seen him as a mere man, but he called all men to come unto him, "for to believe on him was their main duty and not to believe in him their chief sin".

    Side by side with his indirect assuming of authority he made direct claims describing himself as the Son of Man, and God as "my Father".

    To these direct claims he added indirect claims by doing only what God could do, forgiving sins, stilling waves, bestowing life and claiming to be the one who would judge the world. Yet never could man regard him as an imperial megalomaniac.

    Furthermore he was altogether above us, yet never superior with any overweening superiority. It seemed so natural for him to say "Which of you convinceth me of sin", and "I do always those things which please my Father". Yet never does he strike us as a boastful man. Other men needed saving, not he. Other men were lost sheep, he was the Good Shepherd. He was one on his own, yet never did he say or seem to convey the impression that he thanked God that he was not as other men were. All other men were dead. He was the Life. All other men were in darkness. He was the Light. All other men were hungry. He was the Bread. No consciousness of sin or moral failure. Master of every situation. Altogether above us.

    And yet not superior, no snob, no crank, no eccentric, no self important purveyor of new theories. His teaching was certainly self-centred, his behaviour totally unself-centred, friendly to sinners, to children, to lepers, to harlots.

    What a character he was! How inadequate our praises! Whence came this power? Firstly from the fact he was the Son of the living God, divine in his origin, even called God upon occasions, God visiting his people, Emmanuel, God with us. In Jesus, God entered human life, entered to overcome, in human nature, what defeats us, to bear our sins, to share our situation, to enter our valley of the shadow of death, to share our "penalty", to become the nucleus of the new humanity, to identify with us that we might be identified with him, to live as the Head and centre of the Church, renewing it by the Holy Spirit, and ultimately to come again and receive us into his immortal fellowship. This is Jesus. It was by the baptism of the Holy Spirit that he revealed in action his divine origin and divine role and began the three years of lonely walk to the cross which he had chosen when the Spirit drove him into the wilderness.

    Before his baptism of the Spirit he was free of sin and unblemished. He seemed but an ordinary man, who had originally been just the carpenter of Nazareth. But after the Spirit was poured upon him, his true divinity was recognised by others, not so much in the outward miracles that he performed, though those were great, but by the sheer superiority which caused him to tower above all his contemporaries, without in any way seeming to stand on any self erected pedestal.

    The Lord's baptism by the Holy Spirit on Jordan's banks was the first stage of his baptism. It was not complete until he emerged from the tomb; as he told the sons of Zebedee, he had a yet further baptism to undergo and was under severe constraint until the ordeal was over (Luke 12:49-51). When the baptism was thus complete and he ascended to the right hand of the throne on high, then he was in a position to pass on to his followers a baptism of the Spirit which paralleled his own. Exalted thus at God's right hand he received the Holy Spirit from the Father as was promised, and all that the disciples saw and heard on the day of Pentecost flowed from him (Acts 2:33-34).

    This chapter has taken us from the old covenant anticipation of the Spirit to the new covenant manifestation of the Spirit in three stages:

    a. Jesus entered the new age himself -- was baptised in the Spirit, tested and proved.

    b. As Messiah and Servant ("the beloved Son in whom I am well pleased") he underwent the representative Messianic baptism of fire, in his death.

    c. Then, with victory complete by his resurrection and ascension, the Lord can baptise others in the Spirit.


    Chapter 4 BORN OF THE SPIRIT

    Early in his ministry, as recorded by John, Jesus expounded to Nicodemus the principles of the birth of the Spirit by which men could enter the new age. Within this conversation lie the seeds of the New Testament teaching concerning the work of the Holy Spirit, both when viewed as the Lord's gift from the right hand of God and as the Christian's experience as he is sanctified by his living Lord.

    The conversation takes place against the background of the baptism of John, which we have been considering. The mission of John had stirred the whole nation including the Pharisees. Then Jesus had moved into the limelight and the more sincere, like Nicodemus, felt that his claims must at least be investigated (John ch. 3).

    The Jewish Rabbi visits Jesus by night. Perhaps we should not criticise his caution: he was genuinely impressed by Jesus and he did go! He could hardly be expected to commit himself publicly at this stage - though later on, when all seemed lost, he did. The reason he was impressed by Jesus seems more open to criticism.

  • "Rabbi, we know you are a teacher sent by God; no one could perform these signs of yours unless God was with him" (V 2).
  • It is as if the outward accompaniments of the teaching of Jesus made greater impact on Nicodemus than the inner quality. This kind of failure to understand constantly distressed Jesus throughout his ministry: "ye sought me because of the loaves": the Samaritan woman was impressed by his knowledge of her private life: the disciples misunderstood his warning about the leaven of the Pharisees. Men listened at the level of the flesh -- the material and physical.


    So Jesus sweeps aside all compliments and conversational niceties and goes straight to the heart of his message:

  • "Unless a man has been born over again he cannot see the Kingdom of God".
  • Not intellectual satisfaction or external power -- but divinely initiated inner change alone could enable a man to perceive the Kingly dominion (Kingdom) of God which operated at a higher level than the physical.

    But Nicodemus still groped :

  • "How is it possible for a man to be born when he is old? Can he enter his mother's womb a second time and be born?" (v 4).
  • At best he felt that as one grew older one's pattern of life could not be changed: at worst he was resting his faith in having been born a Jew: what more could Jesus want? Or perhaps he was just obtuse and thought in purely physical terms. However it brought forth the most fundamental of replies from the Lord:

  • "In truth I tell you, no one can enter the Kingdom of God without being born from water and spirit. Flesh can give birth only to flesh; it is spirit that gives birth to spirit. You ought not to be astonished then, when I tell you that you must be born over again".
  • The Kingdom of God could not be seen at this stage, neither could it be entered as a result of physical birth or natural descent. Being a Jew did not make a man a citizen of the Kingdom of God. Once the Kingdom of God was perceived on the spiritual level then racial privilege had no bearing on a man's position. Neither could the punctilious observance of religious practices bring a man into the sphere of God's reign. The initiative was with God, not with man. Here was no salvation by the racial origin of the Jew, nor by the theological expertise of the rabbi. Men are impotent. Only God can save. Repeatedly we shall come back to this theme as we explore New Testament teaching on the work of the Holy Spirit.

    What Jesus was teaching fitted in with a proper understanding of John's baptism, towards which Nicodemus can be assumed to have had sympathy. "Except a man be born of water AND of the Spirit..." -- in the ears of Nicodemus "water" would have referred to the baptism of John. The baptism of John, rightly understood, expressed the principles fully realised in the baptism of the Spirit, which said John, would be bestowed by the greater than he. The baptism of John was in outward form identical with the cleansing ceremony by which Gentiles were proclaimed as Jewish proselytes. By adopting the same rite John was declaring to Jews, the humiliating truth that they were as much in need of cleansing as the Gentiles. He, like Jesus after him, proclaimed that the initiative was with the God who could from the very stones raise children to Abraham.

    But John's mission was one of preparation: as he himself confessed, it only went so far. It pointed to the one who should baptise with the Holy Spirit and fire. Jesus was he and therefore tells Nicodemus that to the water baptism of John must be added the baptism of the Spirit. John proclaimed the need to die to sin -- to be cleansed -- to be forgiven. Jesus brought the means of attaining a new life to supersede the old life of the flesh. And the rest of the New Testament tells the great story of how men and women, not only had their past blotted out, but also became new creatures in Christ Jesus, living temples of the Holy Spirit. They therefore had to abandon their reliance on race and accept the grace of God in Christ Jesus. They had to cease from righteousness which springs from human effort and rest upon the righteousness of faith. By the act of God in Christ men would emerge as from the womb, from darkness into light, from the confines and restriction of legalism into the freedom of the Spirit, from a continual reminder of sin in daily sacrifice, to an uplifted saviour who was even more beyond the Mosaic ritual, than was the brazen serpent in the wilderness (v 14).

    All these themes are implicit in John 3 and, even further, the fact that the new age of the Spirit -- the Kingdom or Kingly reign of God -- could not become fully effective among men until Jesus himself had risen beyond the realm of flesh: until he had transcended the local, national and human and was sat down at the right hand of God. Then, and then only, could he fully perform the work of recreating men and women, as we shall see when we consider John 7:38-39 "the Spirit was not yet given, for Jesus was not yet glorified", and the "Comforter" chapters (John 14-17).


    So important is John 3 that it also records the answer of Jesus to those who as they read the scriptural testimony in this book, may be constrained to ask: "but how does the Holy Spirit operate? What is the meaning of Christ dwelling within the believer?" Nicodemus is their spokesman when he asks how the second birth can take place. After telling him that the whole matter is on the level of spirit, Jesus adds:

  • "The wind blows where it wills: you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from, or where it is going. So with everyone is born of the spirit" (v 8).
  • The wind is "a powerful unseen force which sweeps across the face of the earth, none knows whence or whither. The wind -- the spirit" (the same word means both and the one stands for the other) -- "it bloweth where it listeth and thou hearest its voice, but thou knowest not whence it cometh or whither it goeth. But you can feel its breath on your face if, hearing it pass, you go out and stand in its course. So is every one that is born of the spirit. Don't ask for credentials. Don't wait till you know the source of the wind before you let it refresh you, or its destination before you spread sail to it. It offers what you need: trust yourself to it".

    Nicodemus is still puzzled. "This talk of the freely blowing wind is destructive of the sacred fabric of institutional religion. 'How can these things come to pass?'"

    And Jesus meets this puzzlement of Nicodemus with amazement:

  • "What! is this famous teacher in Israel ignorant of such things?"
  • Nicodemus should at least have glimpsed these ideas from the Old Testament scriptures in chapter 2 of this book (i.e. Ezek. 36:26 et seq.). And, says Jesus, if Nicodemus could not grasp spiritual things from earthly analogies, how would he see the full blaze of heaven, from which Jesus had been sent and to which he would return, to be the link between heaven and earth, the fulfilment of Jacob's dream of the ladder (John 1:51). "No man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the son of man, which is in heaven" (John 3:13).

    The theme of the divine initiative in the recreation of men and women is pursued throughout the gospel of John and is presented as the "truth", and reality, in contrast with the racial, legal and material shadows which had preceded it. Jesus inaugurated a new age -- the age of the Spirit -- which transcends all that went before.


    Thus John presents Jesus as the One who brought heaven into earth's affairs, who being on the level of the Spirit, gives himself to men, who then cease to live on the level of the flesh and began to live on the level of the Spirit. John is reflecting on the life of the Spirit as experienced by the church and traces it back to its origin in Jesus, who as the Word made flesh, came from God and went to God, giving men power to become the sons of God (John 1 and John 13:3).

    The heavenly origin and power of Jesus is expressed by John in such phrases as these:

  • "So the word became flesh: he came to dwell among us and we saw his glory, such glory as befits the Father's only son, full of grace and truth" (1:14).

    "John cried aloud, 'This is the man I meant when I said, 'He comes after me, but takes rank before me', for before I was born, he already was'" (1: 15, 30).

    "I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me" (6:38).

    "I am that living bread which came down from heaven" (6:51).

    "You belong to this world below: I go to the world above".

    "Your home is in this world; mine is not" (8:23).

    "If God were your father, you would love me, for God is the source of my being, and from him I come" (8:42).

    "Before Abraham was, I am" (8:58 -- my heavenly origin pre-dates Abraham).

    "My Father and I are one" (10:30).

  • And this heavenly power was his to communicate to those who put their trust in him. This was partly true when he was among them; "For as the Father has life-giving power in himself, so has the son, by the Father's gift" (5:26). But for the New Age to be fully established he must first be glorified. "What if you see the Son of man ascending to the place where he was before?" (6:63): "for a little longer I shall be with you: then I am going away to him who sent me" (7:33).


    The effect of the Son of Man's Ascension will be discussed in subsequent chapters -- but it is widely expressed under a variety of symbols in John, as the imparting of the life of God -- the life of Christ -- the life of the Spirit to the believer.

  • "The water that I shall give him will be an inner spring always welling up for eternal life" (4:14).

    "Anyone who gives heed to what I say and puts his trust in him who sent me has hold of eternal life, and does not come up for judgment, but has already passed from death to life" (5:24).

    "The bread that God gives comes down from heaven and brings life to the world" (6:33).

    "Unless you eat the flesh of the son of man and drink his blood you can have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood possesses eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. My flesh is real food. My blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood dwells continually in me and I dwell in him. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats me shall live because of me" (6:53-58).

    "My own sheep listen to my voice; I know them and they follow me. I give them eternal life and they shall never perish; no one shall snatch them from my care" (10:27-29).

  • In all these sayings, Jesus himself is presented as the source of the conveying of the divine life of the Spirit to those who put their trust in him. He is the place where God is to be found and experienced. Not in the material, geographical and physical but in the spiritual, in Jesus. As he told the woman of Samaria the time was coming when men would worship the Father neither at Mount Gerizim nor in Jerusalem, "the time approaches, indeed it is already here, when those who are real worshippers (contrast the shadow worshippers) will worship the Father in Spirit and in truth. Such are the worshippers whom the Father wants. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in Spirit and truth" (John 4:21-24).

    This is the distinctive theme of the New Testament. Jesus is the place where the Father may be found; he, not temples made with hands, is the true place of contact between God's sinlessness and human sinfulness. Not the correct ceremony in the right place, as the Samaritans and the Jews thought: salvation is not mediated by cult or location but through the living Jesus -- the source of both Spirit and truth.

    Such is the lofty theme which permeates the fourth gospel. It is central to Christianity. A true doctrine and real experience of the Holy Spirit is fundamental to the Gospel.






    As the time approached for his glorification in death and resurrection, John tells us how the Lord gathered his disciples together into an upper room to speak of the things closest to his heart as a final preparation of them for the ordeal to come and the mission which should follow. His main message was that his impending departure from the earthly scene was not a cause for sorrow, as in fact he would be more fully present than ever before, by means of the Comforter or Holy Spirit.

    The record of the solemnly beautiful occasion in John chapters 13 to 17 is set in the total context of the fourth gospel with its emphasis on the Christian experience of the indwelling Lord Jesus. The inspired arrangement of the material in John's gospel was carried out subsequent to Pentecost and therefore reports especially elements of the Lord's teaching which became meaningful as the Church experienced the Holy Spirit at work in their midst. (e.g. John 2:22; 12:16).


    This is especially clear in the case of chapter 7 which describes the life-giving work of Jesus in terms of the Holy Spirit and declares that the receiving of this new life of the Spirit was not possible till after Jesus was glorified. So "on the last and greatest day of the festival Jesus stood and cried aloud, 'If anyone is thirsty let him come to me; whoever believes in me, let him drink'. As Scripture says 'Streams of living water shall flow out from within him'. He was speaking of the Spirit which believers in him would receive later; for the Spirit had not yet been given, because Jesus had not yet been glorified".

    This inspired linking of living water and Spirit makes us look again at the episode of the Samaritan woman at the well. Jesus offers her "living water" which, when the thirsty drink they will never thirst again. "The water I will give will be an inner spring always welling up for eternal life". An inner spring continuously producing a new quality of life! That will certainly be True of the life to come, but is not Jesus speaking of a new life in the present; a new experience now? These words describe a gift given by Christ to all true believers, in all centuries. It is that living force capable of transforming men's lives and giving them, even now, a taste of eternity -- an experience of that divine quality of life called eternal. And every Christian who has really been born again, receives this life and rejoices in the words of John 4.

    He must therefore also rejoice in the message of John 7:38 which takes the metaphor a stage further in that the water not only wells up but also flows out of the person and becomes a source of benefit to others. And verse 39 declares that this water represents the Spirit (described as the Holy Spirit in the KJV), given to all believers.

    But then we come to the puzzling statement that this Spirit had not, during the days of Christ's ministry, been given, because the time was not ripe. Jesus had not yet been glorified.

    This passage makes the glorification of Jesus the turning point in human history. Before this glorification the Spirit had not yet been given; after it the Spirit had been given. This is notwithstanding the evident activity of the Spirit in the Old Testament. There was some sense not previously evident in which the Spirit was at work in the New Testament times, and even then at work in none but the Lord Jesus till Pentecost.

    True it is that Matthew 10 records how the disciples were sent out and received a special manifestation of the Spirit to shower upon others, but something happened after the glorification of Jesus which had no precedent. There is a new sense of Spirit activity.

    If this is true then it significantly affects our exposition. It means that we cannot take the Old Testament or even the Gospels as giving us the base for a full definition of the Spirit. We must come to Pentecost after the glorification of Jesus. Only then can we expect to see the fullness of the Holy Spirit at work among believers.


    The first need is to define the term "glorification".

    Jesus was not glorified completely until the Ascension. However, there is a unity in the events of the life of Jesus so that his ministry, his death, his resurrection, the ascension and the gift of the Spirit stand together as one event. Thus John 12:16 speaks of the disciples as understanding only after his glorification, the application of the prophecy of Zechariah to the triumphal entry of Jesus. Here glorification refers to the ascension to the Father from whence he sent forth the Spirit (Acts 2:33). When in verse 23 of the same chapter Jesus tells the Greeks that the hour was come for the Son of Man to be glorified, the emphasis is upon his death. Likewise in John 13: 31-35 Jesus is referring to his death when he says "Now is the Son of Man glorified". Judas has had his last chance in receiving the sop. Jesus had given him the opportunity to re-think his whole course. Instead he went out and those most pregnant words appear in the King James version "And it was night". The figure of Judas leaving the light of the room and receding into the darkness outside has been likened to the symbolic blackness which was his destiny. By leaving him free to go out into the night Jesus had sealed his own dearth warrant. The last opportunity for Judas to respond to an uneasy conscience had gone and, as the Lord Jesus would not call upon ten legions of angels, he was as good as dead. He described this fact by the words "Now the Son of Man is glorified and in him God is glorified".

    In his last prayer Jesus prays that God will glorify him, that he may glorify God. Here the total triumph of death and resurrection would be in mind. In verse 4 he speaks of having glorified God on the earth by completing the work he had been given, particularly in relation to the men God had given him out of the world. In verse 5 he looks forward to being glorified in the presence of God with that glory whose origin went back before the world was. (John 17).

    All the aspects of his mission are described as glorification. Glorifying the Father and being glorified were a process involving the displaying of the Father during his ministry, the tasting of death and finally of triumphing over death.

    The completion of his glorification is reached when the men who were God's gift to Jesus should be with him where he would be so that they might look upon his glory, or in the words of the King James version "that he might be glorified in them" (John 17:24). From Pentecost onwards the believers dwelt in heavenly places in Christ Jesus and could be said to be with him where he was, sharing the glory which streamed from him at the right hand of God.

    It is against this background that we understand John 7:39. It was not possible to give the Spirit to men in the new sense until Jesus had reached the realisation of his glory. The realisation of his glory was the completion of his redemptive work. Only when this was complete was there a basis on which to work into the experience of others that which he himself had achieved. Until it had been achieved it was not there to become part of the believer's experience. Once he had completed his work then the objective facts outside people, concerning what he had accomplished could become subjective facts inside them. He could write his "law" upon men's hearts (Jer. 31:33); could be mediator of the new covenant by means of his redeeming death (Heb. 9:15).

    Until Jesus had completed his redemptive work and passed through all the stages of glory to the fullness of heavenly glory the foundation had not been laid for the giving of the Holy Spirit. Put the other way round, once he had completed his work of providing the basis of linking heaven and earth, then and then only could he proceed by the Spirit to forge the link. Redemption had to be achieved before the Holy Spirit could inspire its preaching (1 Thess. 1:5; 1 Peter 1:12). The Spirit of Truth, the Comforter, would draw from the things of Christ and make them known in the inner experience of the believers. So the Lord promised, in his words after the last supper (John 16:14-15). The Jesus who was about to leave them would come back to them in the closest possible way.

    And this was the message that shone through as Jesus talked with the disciples in the upper room after supper.