Can Pentecost Be Repeated?
Text: Acts 10:44, “The Holy Spirit fell on all them which heard the word.”
You know that Pentecost, as far as the day is concerned, was a sacred Jewish feast day. It was the feast of the “first fruits,” and was second only in importance to the Feast of the Passover, but to the Christian it is sacred for quite another reason. We commemorate that day because it is the birthday of the Christian Church. There was no church prior to the day of Pentecost. The first reference to the Church is found in Matthew 16:18. Jesus there promised that He would build His church, and on the Day of Pentecost the Holy Spirit came and baptized believers into one body, which is “the Church.” “By one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles; whether we be bond or free” (1 Corinthians 12:13).
Now, that is the Church of Jesus Christ. It is not Methodist or The Moody Church, Baptist or Presbyterian; it is the church of Jesus Christ, and I believe there are some members of that mystical body in almost every church in the land. There are a great many members in almost every church in the land that are not members of that body. Only the Holy Spirit can receive members into the church. We may welcome them to our earthly organizations, but unless they are regenerated the Holy Spirit never baptizes them into the body, which is the church.
On the day of Pentecost (Acts 2) the Holy Spirit began a new and distinct ministry upon this Earth. Something that had never been known before. He came from time to time, to Old Testament men of God, empowering for special service, and seemingly withdrew His presence from them when that service was accomplished, but now He begins a new ministry.
When Israel left Egypt for the promised land, you will remember that one of the first things God said to Moses was, “I want you to build me a sanctuary that I may come and dwell among them,” and when that sanctuary was complete God came to dwell in the Most Holy Place, between the cherubim, over the mercy seat, and He was with them as their guide, as their protector. He went before them as a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. But there came a day, when, because of their sin and idolatry, He withdrew His blessed presence, and Israel was left without God in her midst.
You will observe in the prophecy of Daniel, that that Hebrew prophet always refers to Jehovah as the GOD OF HEAVEN. And so He is, as far as the world is concerned. On the Day of Pentecost the Holy Ghost came not only to form the Church, but to abide with her for ever. But I would have you observe that there were certaindisciples, and I emphasize CERTAIN DISCIPLES, that were filled with the Holy Spirit. We have come to believe that there were many other disciples, but we have no grounds for believing that others than the one hundred and twenty“were filled with the Spirit.” All baptized into the body, of course, but the one hundred and twenty especially endued, and they “began” a ministry of triumph that was so wonderful that in a few short years it was said of them, “these are the men that turned the world upside down.” God knows that we need that kind of ministry today.
Now, I believe that SPECIAL ANOINTING is not only the privilege of all Christians, but it is the responsibility of every Christian to seek that blessed fullness.
Jesus Himself is the supreme example of the spirit-filled life. Everywhere in His ministry it is emphasized that He was FILLED with the Holy Ghost, and to me this is a very significant truth, for this one man who could say to the world, “Which of you convinceth Me of sin?” “The prince of this world has nothing in Me.” Not to permit Himself to begin His public ministry until there came to Him a special anointing of the Holy Ghost, is a fact that every Christian worker should consider thoughtfully and prayerfully.
In the narrative from which I have selected the text, you will find that Peter, in his address at Caesarea, attributes the results of Christ’s marvelous ministry to the fact that “God anointed Him with the Holy Ghost and with power” and “He went about doing good.” After He was baptized with the Holy Spirit at the Jordan (Matthew 3:16), we read, He returned from the Jordan “full of the Holy Ghost,” and “was led of the Spirit.” And again, “Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit unto Galilee.” He entered the synagogue in that little village where He had lived for thirty years, and found the place in Isaiah where it is written, “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the Lord hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound.”
Notice, the emphasis everywhere is on the “anointing.” To bind up broken hearts, to open prison doors, to let captives go free is surely a ministry to which the Holy Spirit alone is equal.
Throughout the three years of the ministry that followed, in all the teachings of Jesus He said little or nothing about the Spirit, to those who were about Him. In the seventh chapter of John there is a reference to the Spirit’s ministry, but it is evident that at the time He spake those words, the disciples did not comprehend their meaning. It was on the last great day of the Feast when Jesus stood up and cried: “If any man thirst, let him come unto Me and drink,” and, “He that believeth on me, as the Scripture hath said, out of his inmost being shall flow rivers of living water.”
Now, John wrote his Gospel long after the Day of Pentecost, and he tells us that those rivers of power and blessing flowing from the believer’s life were the result of the Spirit’s fullness. “For this spake he of the Holy Spirit, which was not yet given.”
In the closing hours of our Master’s life, He revealed to His disciples great truths regarding the Holy Spirit and His ministry through them. Keep in mind that He was speaking to His own when He said: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father.” Now, the doing of those greater works,and His going to the Father, are vitally associated. “I will pray the Father, and He shall send you another Comforter, that He may abide with you forever.” So whatever the Church is lacking this morning, she is not without the PRESENCE OF THE HOLY SPIRIT. Don’t make any mistake about that. As long as the church is on the Earth (I am speaking of the true church), the Spirit of God is in the midst of her. As to our attitude toward the Spirit—that is another question.
“He abideth with you forever…for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.” “These things have I spoken unto you, being yet present with you.”
“But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.”
“When the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me.”
“Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: It is expedient for you that I go away.”
By no power of human reasoning could they see that it was expedient, but the explanation is, “If I go not away He will not come unto you.” “If I depart I will send Him unto you, and when He is come He shall convict the world of sin.” Do you see the force of it? The Holy Spirit’s ministry is through human channels.He must have a human instrument through which to work. He does not work independently of man. Just as God Himself must have a body to work out our redemption, so the Holy Spirit must have a body that He can use to convict men of sin.
All those references to the Holy Spirit were made in that last great sermon as recorded in the Gospel of John, chapters fourteen to sixteen inclusive. Then again, after His resurrection, and just on the eve of His ascension, we read: “And being assembled together with them, commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith he, ye have heard of me.”
Centuries had passed since God, through Joel, made the promise. But the day of fulfillment had come. Don’t depart until you receivethe promise of the Father. “John baptized with water, but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost, not many days hence,” and “Ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Spirit is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me, both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria and unto the uttermost part of the earth.”
Here we see the great purpose and plan and program of God for the Church. He never had any other plan, and we cannot substitute any other plan for His plan, and hope for success.
The early Church had her problems and her difficulties, and they were just as real as ours are, but through the Spirit’s fullness all of these problems were met and solved, and so the difficulties of the Church can be successfully met today. Take, for instance, that bit of history in the fourth chapter of Acts. Peter and John were forbidden to speak or teach in the name of Jesus, and were also threatened with punishment if they did so. Being let go, they reported what the chief priests had said to the Church, and the Church did then what it is our privilege to do now. She did not begin to fight or put up arguments with her critics; she went to her knees, crying mightily to God for an out-pouring of His Holy Spirit to meet this opposition. “And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness.”
This was a long while after Pentecost, and many of them who had been filled on that first occasion were again ANOINTED for a new service.
Then in Acts, chapter eight, you have the story of a great revival in Samaria. It was the real thing. “Unclean spirits were cast out of men and women”…”And there was great joy in that city.” When they believed Philip’s preaching concerning “the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women.” But later Peter and John come to them and when they had given instruction, the whole company went down before God seeking the FULLNESS of the Spirit, for as yet He had not fallen on any of them, and these were all filled with the Holy Ghost.
In chapter nine you have another striking example. That young Jew, filled with the very hate of hell, breathing out slaughter against the Church of Christ, on his way to Damascus gets a soul vision of Jesus, and everything is changed. Trembling and astonished, he cries, “Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?” You remember how he was sent up into the city to await orders from Heaven, and the Lord singles out an ordinary layman, named Ananias, and sends him to this scholarly Jew, that he may be taught the way of God more perfectly.
“And Ananias went his way, and entered into the house; and putting his hand on him, said, ‘Brother Saul, the Lord, even Jesus, that appeared unto thee in the way as thou camest, hath sent me, that thou mightest receive thy sight, and be filled with the Holy Ghost’” Acts 9:17.
In Acts, chapter nineteen, you have another instance of the very same thing, and at a much later day the Apostle Paul, writing his epistle to that Church at Ephesus, speaks of their being SEALED with the Holy Spirit, but he also exhorts them to be FILLED with the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 5:18).
Surely the early Church made much of the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit made much of the early Church, and I am convinced that it is only as we are filled with that blessed presence that we are saved from the power of the flesh. “Walk in the Spirit and ye shall not fulfill the lusts of the flesh”; but the opposite of that is, if we do not walk in the Spirit we shall fulfill the lusts of the flesh. There is no neutral ground here.
The Law of the Spirit
There is in this world certain great powers. We call them forces. For instance—electricity, steam, gravitation. We know that there are certain laws that govern these forces. They only operate within the limits of those laws. If we obey the law of power, the power will serve us. If we disobey the law, the power will oppose us and probably destroy us. That is true as far as natural forces are concerned. I believe that there is THE LAW OF THE SPIRIT, and the Spirit works within the limits of His law, and we must observe the law of the Spirit if we would have the power serve us.
In connection with this outpouring of the Spirit at Caesarea, there are some things worth observing. For instance, you have, first of all, a messenger with a PREPARED HEART and a PREPARED MIND, and in the ministry these go together. I am afraid that too often we give attention only to the preparation of the mind and neglect the heart.
On one occasion, some years ago, Dr. A.T. Pierson said to me: “In my long ministry I have had a great deal more trouble with my heart than with my head. When I am in perfect harmony with the will of God everything seems to fit in its place.”
Peter was a very humanmessenger, and it will not do for him to depend upon his past experience for this occasion. He had been wonderfully filled previously, and greatly used of God, but here is a NEW MINISTRY and it calls for FRESH preparation. Peter, you know, was a sort of religious aristocrat. He belonged to a people that had a hard time with their prejudices. He through that all outside of the pale of Judaism were but dogs. God had to teach him a great lesson.
Peter is down at Joppa at the seaside, but three days before, in Caesarea, an angel appears to one, Cornelius, a man with an honest heart, seeking after God, and the angel tells him of a man a day and a half journey away who could tell him words whereby he could be saved. Why didn’t the angel tell him those words? Because angels cannot preach the gospel. A true gospel preacher must be a witness. A witness must have a personal experience, and angels have no personal experience of redemption, for they never sinned.
That is why I can preach to sinners a better gospel than Gabriel himself, and when we get to Heaven we are going to sing a song that will make even the angels wonder.
“When we sing redemption’s story
They will fold their wings;
For angels never felt the joy
That our redemption brings.”
We have just got to have an experience to tell Cornelius how to get saved. Cornelius doesn’t want theory nor philosophy. He feels he is a death-doomed sinner. He wants WORDS OF LIFE, and so important is it all that God sends an angel to direct him to a saved sinner,that he might be led in the right way.
Now, while all this is going on the Lord is dealing with Peter at Joppa. He had gone up on the housetop to pray, and when a worker will take time for personal devotion, God can talk to him and He will straighten out the kinks in his nature and will make him the minister he ought to be.
Peter looks upon these Gentiles as outcasts, so the Lord gives him a vision of certain animals, and tells him to “Arise, slay and eat.” Peter objects on the ground that he is a Jew, and cannot eat anything that defiles. But three times over the Master tells him to slay and eat, and then informs him that nothing that He, the Lord, hath cleansed, Peter should call common or unclean.
Now the lesson is that every gospel preacher must learn to value a lost soul for the soul’s sake. He must never get away from the fact that God loves the whole world, and that Jesus tasted death for EVERY man. That He is not willing that any should perish. And he onlyis fit to preach the gospel who values a soul for that soul’s sake.
When Peter comes to the place where he can take the way of the Lord, the men are rapping at the gate, and he goes with them. When he arrives at the house of Cornelius, he meets a company of honest people waiting to know the willof the Lord. He begins to instruct them, and it would appear that the Holy Ghost was impatient to bless them, for Peter had only given a brief bit of instruction as to the death and resurrection of Jesus when the Holy Spirit set him aside and said: “That will do!” And the Holy Spirit FILLED THE WHOLE COMPANY.
In relating his experience in chapter eleven, Peter says, “As I began to speak, the Holy Ghost fell on them as on us at the beginning.”
Oh, beloved people, “It is not by might nor by power, it is by my Spirit, saith the Lord,” and when He can get an instrument FULLY YIELDED to His will, He will work and no man can hinder.
You will notice another thing in connection with the outpouring of the Spirit. Not only was there a prepared preacher but a PREPARED CONGREGATION. They were all “present” before God, to hear all things that “God had commanded” the preacher. Now, when a preacher can get a congregation like that, if he is a spirit-filled man himself, something is going to happen. But I want to say, dear people, that even mighty men of God may bepowerlessbefore a congregation that is critical, irreverent, lacking seriousness of thought.
Gladstone once said, “Eloquence is just the speaker pouring out in a flood upon the congregation, what he has already received from the congregation in a vapor.” So you see there is a responsibility upon the pew as well as upon the pulpit. If we come to this house of worship from time to time in the spirit of those men and women in the household of Cornelius, there is not the least shadow of a doubt that the Holy Spirit will be OUTPOURED, and the name of our God will be GLORIFIED.