The Holy Ghost

Who Dwelleth in Us (2 Tim. 1: 14)

by W H Westcott

This document is part of the book

"The Holy Ghost" by W H Westcott

Chapter 8

THE BAPTISM OF THE HOLY GHOST

Of all the functions of the Spirit in connection with Christians this seems to be the one which opens out in the largest way. In 1 Corinthians 12: 13 the whole Christian company is said to have been baptized by the Spirit into one body. It is an unfortunate circumstance that very many earnest believers, in their dissatisfaction with the usual dead-alive state of things in Christendom, and in their desire to come more under the power of God's Spirit, have fixed upon this expression and have sought a quasi-baptism of the Spirit which leads them away from its real significance. It is not our business to contend with them, for at least we are seeking in these studies how to be more fully, yea completely, under His control. But we may see what the Scripture teaches; and God forbid that we should  while affirming our aim to be filled with the Spirit shun what the Spirit is here pre-eminently to produce.

It is clear from the passage referred to, that all believers, whether Jew or Gentile, whether Paul the Apostle or his Corinthian converts (and with them all converts in Christ in every place), are formed into one body by the baptism of the Spirit. They are blessed as individual believers on receiving the gospel of their salvation, and are indwelt by the Holy Ghost,

anointed, and sealed, and in them He operates as the earnest. These things have been considered in previous chapters.

But we are here led further. The same Spirit is the One who forms us into one body; so that every divergent interest which we might have had as individuals, even if they were as widely apart as those of Jew and Gentile, should be submerged in a community of interests under one sovereign direction. The figure is used of a body as a whole and of its members in particular. It does not seem to be the object of the Apostle in Corinthians to show in any special way the glory of Christ as the Head (which is the theme of Colossians), nor the way that He nourishes and administers to its growth and promotes its unity (as in Ephesians), but rather to indicate the Divine power that works in and animates the members of the body in their relations one with another. The whole of the twelfth chapter is given up to this theme. The Holy Spirit moving a man will never for one moment lend His support to any utterance derogatory to the glory or authority of Jesus; nor will He fail for an instant to support His Lordship. There is such a thing as inflation by an evil spirit, a demon; but the Spirit of God when a man in the Christian assembly will start him with the truth of the unassailable holiness of Christ, and His unquestionable Lordship, the risen, triumphant, glorified Man. There will be almost infinite diversity in the way Christ is presented by different men; distinctions of gifts (ver. 4); distinctions of services (ver. 5); distinctions of operations (ver. 6); but with every function there is the one Spirit, and not another; the one Lord, and not another; the one God, and not another. Unity, and the thought and principle of unity, lies behind all the diversity.

But, moreover, there is sober definite purpose in all the diversity. Nothing is more foreign to the spirit of Christianity than for a man to get up under a pretended afflatus, and jabber away in an unknown tongue as a mere fact. That is of man or of the devil. Tongues were originally given for the purpose of reaching foreigners in a meeting, or of voicing their praise or prayer in an intelligent fashion. Being in this way useful, as well as phenomenal, they became a sign even to any unbeliever who might be present, but they were not intended to be signsto believers (1 Cor. 14: 22). Everything done in the assembly when convened, and as led by the true and holy Spirit of God, was for edification, encouragement, and consolation; and nothing for display (1 Cor. 14: 15). The true phenomenon in Christianity is to see a multitude of persons, differing oftentimes in nationality and speech, and always in social status and temperament, so delivered from self-interest by having drunk into one Spirit, that while each is at liberty to take part if led by that Spirit and as led by Him, there is perfect order and subjection one to another, and undoubted profit and edification in what is done.

But the reason of this is stated in our chapter (1 Cor 12: 12, 13). Just as the varied members of a human body, however diverse, being under one will andone control work together in harmony, so it is with the Christ. All saints, indwelt by the Spirit, are corporately associated together under the designation of "the Christ" (see ver. 12, New Tr.). It is not a voluntary association of believers agreeing upon a certain mode of procedure, but an organic unity formed in the power of the Spirit, and subsisting actually and continuously whether convened into one place or scattered. "For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether bond or free, and have been all made to drink into one Spirit." What is formed by the baptism of the Spirit (and concerns and embraces all the members of the body as an accomplished fact), is on our side entered into by our drinking into one Spirit. While the unity is formed, and we are in it through grace and the mighty power of the Spirit, we can only realise it and act according to it by imbibing the thought of God and beingconsistent with it, so that Spirit displaces flesh.

It is to be feared that very few Christians who speak so earnestly of being "baptized by the Spirit" enter into it in the corporate sense referred to in the passage, because they are not in the position where the Spirit's operations in the assembly can be known. Congregations are usually under the rule of man, and know nothing of this liberty of the Spirit in assembly. Yet the Lord vouchsafes to many a great sense of His love, and their true devotedness up to a certain point might well put others, perhaps better instructed, to shame. Would that they could combine all true service and zeal according to the Word with the exercise of this privilege also.

Now if we have understood that all Christians who are indwelt by the Spirit are also baptized by the Spirit into one body, we can perhaps study with more interest its import. The body of any creature is always formed according to its proper uses and habits. So a bird has wings, a fish has fins, etc. It is created for its specific purpose, and all things according to the plan of God. A human body is the vessel in which man was designed to be the image and likeness of God, as representing Him in the world. In Adam this failed; but what failed in Adam is made good in Christ. Christ personally is all that God can desire or require in man, and all that God is is expressed bodily in Him. But Christ was rejected on earth, and disappeared from man's eyes by His death. So that there is no personal Christ on earth. He was raised from the dead, it is true, but is hid in the heavens; and the Holy Ghost is here on earth to represent Him. And not only have we the gospel told out for the salvation of souls, but we have the mystery of the gospel, that there is to be here a mystical body comprising all saints from Pentecost to the Rapture, to be descriptive of Christ. Hence the "body" is called "the Christ." He is absent and unseen; but the body is here, formed by the baptism of the Spirit, in which the whole character of Christ is to be wrought and effectuated. All that He is in life, and affection, and mind, and character, is to be seen in the saints collectively.

What, then, of Christ is to be set forth? First let us say that Israel nationally was intended to be God's witness; the visible and tangible evidence in a national way of what God was. Israel failed; and this opened the way for God to bring out the hidden wisdom which was ordained before the world unto our glory.

There are four mentions of the baptism of the Holy Ghost in the four gospels. In Matthew, where the Lord's Kingship and authority are especially the theme, we have Matthew 3: 11. It was clearly God's purpose, according to that gospel, to have Christ in authority, and to have a people, baptized by the Spirit, who would be absolutely responsive to Him and subject to Him, and able to administer of His authority for His Name. Israel having failed, the church comes by God's grace into the position they forfeited, not in a national but in a corporate way To this end, then, are we baptized into one body, that we may be descriptive of Christ; in absolute subjection to His authority, and capable of acting for Him in a corporate way till He come.

In Mark, we have the service of Christ in His prophetic character, like Elijah and Elisha in the days ofold. In Mark 1: 8, it is clear that He would fain have prepared Israel to be a people capable of understanding Him in that capacity, and of representing Him in loving service to God and men. But Israel failing, He has now formed us by the baptism of the Spirit to the same end; namely, that having accepted of His service for ourselves we in our turn should be now able to represent Him by faithful and diligent service to God and men.

In the Gospel of Luke, the Manhood of Jesus is especially the subject, and the way in which the true character of God was displayed and revealed in a Man. Reading Luke 3: 16 in this light, it appears that Israel as a nation was to become the vessel for all the moral attributes of God to be expressed; but as they rejected the counsel of God about themselves at that time, we have come in for this likewise by the baptism of the Spirit. That is, it is the purpose of God to mould us in our character so that as the body is descriptive of the head, so the saints should indeed, as members of the body of Christ, show not the traits of a carnal nature, but the very graces of Christ, so fragrant to God.

Finally, in John 1: 33, there is the same thought underlying the passage. Christ is seen in the fourth gospel as a Heavenly Man on earth, expressing what eternal life is, and relationship of the Son as a Man with the Father, and all the communion and blessedness of that life and that relationship. When this was presented to Israel, they only refused it all. Thus by God's sovereign favour we are brought in, by the baptism of the Spirit, to be associated with Christ now risen from the dead; that in us may be seen the life, the affections and joys of the relationship, and the blessedness of this intimate communion.

Summing this all up, and remembering that only by the failure of Israel nationally do we come in (yet by the eternal counsel and purpose of God), it is ours to set forth in a corporate way what Christ is. We can see what is in Christ, and that His body has been formed for the expression of Him in a practical way in a world exactly opposite to Him. We are to answer to Him in the sense of administering everything in the Christian community according to God (Matthew); to represent Him in His untiring and perfect service Godward and manward (Mark); to correspond with Him in all His gracious character as the Man of God's good pleasure (Luke) and to walk as sons of God, heavenly men, filled with His Spirit, and in the enjoyment of that eternal life which lies outside of our ordinary life though affecting us in it (John).

These traits and qualities are not to be looked for in the world; nor will they be found in the outward mass of professing "Christendom." But it is intended that they should be found among Christians; since we are baptized by one Spirit into this one body for the very purpose of continuing "the Christ" on earth during His absence. For this all saints are required; it is only in the "newman" comprising all saints that it could be fulfilled. And to further it, it is necessary that all that is of flesh be excluded, all that is of man be negatived, that all may be practically of the Spirit.

It only remains to trace the history in the Acts, as to the baptism of the Holy Ghost. In Acts 1: 5 we have the Lord's own prophecy of its fulfilment as to the disciples who were then of His company; as in Acts 2 we have its accomplishment in their case. On the day of Pentecost it was perhaps exclusively Jews and Jewish proselytes who were brought in. But in Acts 10, supplemented by Acts 11: 15, 16, we have a Gentile band introduced. Thus as to its composition we have one body formed of Jew and Gentile, by the baptism of the Spirit. Into this body God has been bringing souls through faith in Christ and by the reception of the Spirit; so that of every saint viewed in his relation to his fellow-saints in this dispensation can it be said: "By one Spirit are ye all baptized into one body." As far as reception of the Spirit now is concerned, this takes place individually where the gospel of "your salvation" is received; but when received, the same Spirit who seals us individually also unites us with every other sealed one, and so we have a corporate history as well as a particular one.

The baptism of the Spirit then is not some extraordinary infilling of the Holy Ghost in answer to a Christian's earnest prayers, or diligent seeking or self-surrender, or laying all upon the altar, but the simple fact - proper to every saint - that he belongs to "the body" whatever he may be as an individual believer, or servant of Christ. So that every saint has corporate responsibilities as well as personal ones. If I were asked to say what Christians may pray for, it is that they may be filled with the Spirit (Eph. 5); that the Spirit who does already indwell them (Eph. 1) may indeed have absolute control, so that will, affections, indeed the whole man, are brought entirely under His sway. In that case we should not only have learnt how the flesh has been judged in the death of Christ, but that we have put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and holiness of truth (Eph. 4).

And it may be that some who speak of an extraordinary "baptism of the Spirit" really mean the filling of the Spirit already indwelling, though they use the wrong term to describe it. But if they were really to be filled with the Spirit it would mean the destruction of all self-complacency, and of man's disorder in the church of God, and a heart-absorption with Christ to which most are strangers.

In explanation of Joel 2: 28, to which Peter refers in Acts 2, it confirms what I have said; that it is God's purpose to have His earthly people Israel filled with His poured-out Spirit in a national way. But as they through their rulers rejected the counsel of God in the gospels and the Acts, God has temporarily set them aside; and in the meantime is carrying out still grander purposes in Christ's body, the church, in a corporateway.

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