C H Spurgeon on 'Did You Receive ... When You Believed?'.
I think one of the reasons I love reading pre-1900's books more than any others, is because they have no hang-ups about the Charismatic or Pentecostal Movement. While Dr Ll0yd-Jones could enjoy reading B B Warfield, he admitted that Warfield had a massive hang-up with the Catholic claims to healing and therefore pragmatically wrote his paperback; "Counterfeit Miracles". Hang-ups and pragmatism seem to be enemies that can affect our theology without us sometimes even realising. So another birthday gift was Volume 30 of the Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Series by C H Spurgeon (I'm so almost there!). And how thrilled to see this sermon on "Receiving the Holy Ghost" there.
He has some comments that will fit in with Phil Johnson's claim that Spurgeon was (unquestionably of course) a cessationist, BUT he brings a new perspective to it that charismatics should consider. But above all, his perspective brings a freshness to this question, that each of us should be asking ourselves. So in my normal (hopefully helpful) format, here is the outline, points and key quotes, plus some commentary of my own (in italics).
"Receiving the Holy Ghost". - Sermon Delivered on July 13th 1884.
Text: Acts 14:2: "He said unto them, "Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed?".
"It may be well to notice what question the apostle did not put to these Ephesian disciples of John. He did not say to them, "Have ye believed?". This would have been a very important question, but it ought to be settled once for all. Our faith must be either boldly affirmed or sorrowfully denied, but it should not remain the subject of question".
"Paul does not enquire about ways and means and times (regarding their conversion) but he does ask, "Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed?". Our Revised Version reads it, "Did ye receive the Holy Ghost when ye believed?" and others who are probably as accurate read it, "Are ye receiving the Holy Ghost now that ye have believed?".
"It does not matter one atom which way you read it; all the renderings come to this, Do you see a connection between your believing and the Holy Ghost?"
Ah yes! All the reformed evangelicals would leap up and cry! The connection! You cannot be a Christian without receiving the Holy Ghost! It happens simultaneously! It happens unconciously! But wait a second - Spurgeon hasn't finished.
"Did you receive Him when you believed? Oops. Have you received Him since you believed? Oh no. Are you daily receiving Him as you believe? That is the question before us - the Holy Spirit in our hearts as believers. Has your faith been sealed by the impress of the Holy Ghost? This is a point of utmost importance and upon it I desire to speak with deep and solemn earnestness in the power of the Holy Spirit Himself."
Note this next section ...
"You know, dear friends, when the Holy Spirit was given in the earliest ages He showed His Presence by certain miraculous signs. Some of those who received the Holy Spirit spake with tongues; others began to prophesy; and a third class received the gift of healing so that whereever they laid their hands, disease fled before them. I am sure that if these powers were given now in connection with the reception of the Holy Spirit and your believing, you would all be anxious to possess them". Oh really?
"I can hardly imagine a single Christian who would not put to himself the enquiry, "Have I received the Holy Spirit in that fashion".
"You would want to be healing, or to be speaking with tongues, or to be working miracles by which you could glorify God; would you not?". Well would you?
"Now it must never be forgotten that those works of the Holy Spirit which are permament must assuredly be of greater value than those which were transitory. We cannot suppose that the Holy Ghost brought forth the best wine at first and that his operations gradually deteriorated. It is a rule of the kingdom to keep the best wine until last, and therefore I conclude that you and I are not left to partake of the dregsbut those works of the Holy Spirit which are at that time vouchsafed to the Church of God are in every way as valuable as those earlier miraculous gifts that have departed from us". Yes breath a sigh of relief cessationists ... he's still with you. lol. But read that paragraph again ... the best wine until last.
"I would therefore press it upoin you this morning that, as you would certainly enquire whether you had the gifts of healing and miracle working, if such gifts were now given to believers, how much more should you enquire whether you have those more permament gifts of the Holy Spirit which are this day open to you all, by the which you shall work no physical miracle, but shall achieve spiritual wonders of the greater sort".
"Beloved are you now receiving the Spirit? Are you living under His divine influence? Are you filled with His power? Put the question personally. I am afraid some professors will have to admit that they hardly know whether there be any Holy Ghost; and others will have to confess that though they have enjoyed a little of His saving work, yet they do not know much of His enabling and sanctifying influence".
"We have sipped where we might have drank. We have drunk where we might have bathed. We have bathed upto the ankles where we might have found rivers to swim in. Alas of many Christians it must be affirmed that they have been naked and poor and miserable when they might in the power of the Holy Spirit, have been clad in golden garments and have been rich and increased in goods".
"We will therefore first, this morning consider the question; and then we will listen to the lessons it is calculated to teach".
"1. I want you first to consider THE QUESTION. In some respects it is a vital question. I shall not be playing about the outskirts of religion but plunging into it's very centre. The question has nothing to do with the sect to which you belong, nor with the particular condition in which your mind may happen to be in for the present hour; it is an enquiry which touches the heart of the man and the inmost life of his spirit. 'Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed?'.".
Note this especially;
"I beg to say further that where it is not vital, it is nevertheless greatly important. I do not think we ought always to be asking the question; "Is this essential?" meaning thereby; "Is this essential to our salvation?". Those are miserable souls who would be so penurious in obedience and love, so that they would labour and love no more than is absolutely needful to get to heaven. They would be saved in the cheapest possible way, and they would be content to crawl over the threshold of heaven, but not to go too far in. They want as much grace as is necessary to float them over the bar at the harbours mouth; but they do not desire an abundant entrance.
Oh ye miserly professors, stinting yourselves in the matter of the grace of God, I have little enough to say to you; but I turn to the children of God and joyfully remind them that there is in the Holy Ghost not only what they absolutely need to save them, but much more. Here is not only bread, but wine on the less well refined. In the Holy Ghost, there is comfort to gladden you, grace to strengthen you, holiness to enable you and love to purify you".
"Oh brothers, the church is weak today because the Holy Spirit is not upon her members as we could desire Him to be. You and I are tottering along like feeble babes, whereas if we had more of the Spirit, we might mount up without fainting, run without weariness, and even mount up with wings as eagles. Oh for more of the anointing of the Holy Ghost whom Christ is prepared to give immeasurably to us if we will but receive Him!".
C H Spurgeon would clearly agree with Dr Lloyd-Jones assessment of the problem with the church today, that I posted on some weeks ago: Saturday, October 22, 2005 - What's Wrong With the Christian Church Today? Dr Lloyd-Jones has the answer.
"Now I come to notice that this question is assuredly answerable. 'Have ye received the Holy Ghost?'. The notion has sprung up, you cannot tell whether you have the Holy Ghost or not; but you can. Give a man an electric shock and I warrant you he will know it. But if he has the Holy Ghost, he will know it much more".
"You need not ask a question about present experience".
"If you do not feel the Holy Ghost at work distinctly and perceptibly even now, then lift your heart to God for it and pray that you may now receive Him in all His fulness".
"So much upon the question - I cannot send it home".
"2. One or two LESSONS can be gathered upon the very surface of this question".
"We must continue to live by receiving. We received Christ Jesus the Lord at the first and now we receive the Holy Ghost".
"Once more the Holy Ghost can be yet more fully possessed by all believers. If there should be a brother or sister here who has a notion that he cannot have any more grace, I'm afraid he is specially in need of it".
Spurgeon clearly has no problem with the dichotomy of having 'all things in Christ' and yet always constantly needing to be filled and go on being filled with the Spirit.
"May the Lord enlarge all our hearts and fill them, and then enlarge them again and fill them again so that from day to day we may receive the Holy Ghost, till at the last Jesus shall receive us into His Glory".
Wheew ... Amen!