Life on the Highest Plane
Vol. 1: The Person and Work of Christ
The Crowning Work of Jesus Christ in Salvation
There remains yet one thing to be done to perfect God's gracious plan of salvation. A connecting link between the Saviour in Heaven and the sinner on earth is needed. The finished work of Christ by some means must be made applicable to and operative in the souls of men. A way must be provided whereby the life of the crucified Saviour, now enthroned as Lord in Heaven, may be communicated to, and maintained in, the believer on earth.
TWO WONDROUS GIFTS
Upon the sinner God has bestowed a wondrous gift, that of His Son as Saviour; upon the believer God has bestowed a second wondrous gift, that of His Spirit as Sanctifier.
Galatians 4:4-6, "But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons. And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father. Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ."
God sent forth His Son that the sinner might enter the family of God as a child. God sent forth His Spirit that the child might enter into the fulness of his inheritance as an heir. God gave His Son to make salvation possible for us; God gave the Spirit to make salvation real in us. God gave His Son that we might have life; God gave the Spirit that we might have life abiding and abounding.
GOD'S CROWNING WORK
Without the Holy Spirit's work all that was accomplished through Christ's death, resurrection and exaltation would be of ld be of no avail. One cannot study thoughtfully the Lord's last conversation with His disciples on earth recorded in John 13-16 without seeing that He teaches most clearly that the sending of the Holy Spirit from the Father upon His return to glory was to be the crowning work in His salvation of men. Let us turn then to these chapters for a study of this truth.
There were many things that He longed to say to His disciples that last night but they were unable to bear them (John 16:12). A few things, however, He must make clear. One was the kind of life He expected them to live. It was to be both an abiding and an abounding life. His life was to be to their life what that of the vine is to the branch. In Him dwelt all the fulness of the Godhead bodily and that fulness was to be made theirs until they were "filled with all the fulness of God" (Colossians 2:9-10; Ephesians 3:19).
As He talked along about this wonderful abiding and abounding life, He said, "But because I have said these things unto you, sorrow hath filled your heart " (John 16:6). No doubt He was watching their faces and saw a confused, troubled look as He spoke of going away from them and yet of expecting them to live any such life as this. He had told them that it was to be a life characterized by peace, joy, power, fruitfulness, friendship and love, yet it was to be interwoven with suffering, tribulation, persecution, even possible death by violence. How could they ever hope to live such a life if He went from them when in those three years in which they had enjoyed the blessing and helpfulness of His personal presence there had been so much of envy, criticism, discouragement, cowardice, fear, and unbelief in their lives? His quick sympathy understood what they feared to express and He hastened to comfort them by saying: "I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you."
What a strange thing to say to tell them in the same breath that He was going away from them and yet coming to them. But He explains further: "Yet a little while, and the world seeth me no more; but ye see me." He was to be with them and seen of them but in a way unknown and invisible to others. It must be, then, in a spiritual rather than in a physical presence. Still they were perplexed and could see no real benefit in His leaving them. Then He said, "Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you." But what would be gained by the going of Jesus Christ and the sending of some one else in His place? Had it not been very wonderful to have the Lord with them on earth, talking and praying with them, teaching and leading them, letting them work with Him, showing them by the life He lived and the work He did how they ought to live and work? Yes, it had been very wonderful but not altogether successful. While there had been much of joy in fellowship with Him yet there had been also much of discouragement. He said so much the meaning of which they could not grasp and even what they did understand they so often failed to obey. He had been much with them but they had not grown like Him in the three years. What gain then could it be to have Him go away so that even His bodily presence was denied them? He does not leave them without answering every questioning of their sad, perplexed hearts.
John 14:16-17, "And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever: even the Spirit of truth . . . for He dwelleth with you, and SHALL BE IN YOU."
Oh! here is something entirely new: wholly different from any of God's dealings with men before. God the Spirit had been with men and He had come upon men but never had He been in men as a perpetual presence. Now it would seem that through Jesus Christ's going back to the Father by way of the cross and the tomb and the clouds an entirely different relationship was to be established between God and men, a relationship more close and intimate than anything man had experienced through all the centuries. "We will come unto him and make our abode with him" (John 14:23). God, the righteous, holy One, was to live in men in actual presence. How could such a thing be? The Lord Jesus tells us.
John 14:20, "At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me and I in you."
John 17:21, "As thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us."
How would the Son who was leaving to go back to the Father in Heaven and to live at His right hand be able to live also in Peter, and in James, and in John on earth? "O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!" Here indeed is the crowning work of the Lord Jesus.
John 16:7, "Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you."
John 16:13-14, "Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself: but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he shall shew you things to come. He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you."
John 15:26, "He shall testify of me."
Jesus taught clearly in these words that the chief mission of the Holy Spirit in being sent forth from the Father to dwell in the believer was that He might make the presence of the risen, glorified, living Lord an actual spiritual reality. He also taught them that the Holy Spirit was to be both the sole and the sufficient messenger of spiritual truth and the medium of spiritual revelation. In other words all that they would ever know of, or receive from, their risen Lord was to be communicated by and through the Holy Spirit. Without Him there would be no means for the presence and power of the risen Christ to be manifested in their lives, and no way for them to realize in their spiritual experience the blessing and benefit gained for them by Jesus Christ through His death and resurrection. The Holy Spirit was to be the middleman between Heaven and earth. The salvation that had come from the Father through the Son would be applied by the Spirit. By the power invested in the Holy Spirit the believer would be lifted to the plane of the spiritual man and his life maintained there.
THE PROMISE OF CHRIST FULFILLED
Christ had promised that, if He went away, the Holy Spirit would come and His promise was fulfilled literally. He died and rose again. He met the disciples individually and collectively several times, revealing Himself to them as their risen Lord. He gave them a last commission; then He repeated His promise and commanded them to wait for its fulfilment.
Luke 24-49, "And behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high."
Acts 1:4-5, "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. For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence."
Jesus Christ then ascended into Heaven (Acts 1:10-11). They waited according to His command (Acts 1:12-14). God's time was fulfilled. The day of Pentecost came (Acts 2:14). The promise of the Father was actualized in the descent of the Holy Spirit in baptism upon the waiting group of believers.
THE TWOFOLD ASPECT OF THE HOLY SPIRIT'S BAPTISM
The descent of the Holy Spirit upon the disciples had a double import: it accomplished two definite, distinct things.
First, the Holy Spirit came upon each believer filling him with Himself. Through this baptism the exalted Christ took up His abode in the individual believer where He was enthroned as Lord and appropriated as Life. Through the baptism in the Holy Spirit the abundant life of the living Lord was manifested in power in each believer.
Acts 2:4, "And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost."
Second, the Holy Spirit came upon the whole group of believers and baptized them into one body, the Church. Through this baptism they were united to Christ, its Head, and to one another as fellow members of the body of Christ. Through the Holy Spirit's descent on the day of Pentecost the exalted Christ was installed as Lord over, and instilled as Life into, the Church.
1 Corinthians 12:12-14, "For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit. For the body is not one member, but many."
THE RESULT OF THE HOLY SPIRIT'S BAPTISM
Through His death, resurrection and exaltation, the Lord Jesus not only removed the penalty of sin but He broke its power. Through union with Him by faith He had made potential for the believer on earth the same life of victory, power and holiness, which He lived in Heaven. This life was to be communicated to and maintained in each believer through the incoming, indwelling and infilling of the Holy Spirit.
On the day of Pentecost, Peter, James, John and all the other believers who tarried in the upper room were baptized with the Holy Spirit. The question is bound to rise in our hearts, "Did that baptism make any difference in their lives? If so, what difference?" Even a casual comparison of the record of the life of the disciples before and after Pentecost will convince any one that a marvellous change had been wrought. These men had been in almost daily companionship with Jesus during the years of His public ministry. They had been taught deep truths by Him, they had shared His wonderful prayer life. They had lived under the spell of that matchless personality day by day. He had been both their Teacher and their Example for threee years.
But witness the failure, defeat, and sin of their lives as it is laid open to our gaze in the Gospels! See the jealousy, ambition, selfishness, pride, self-seeking, self-assertion, self-love, weakness, and fruitlessness. In spite of their fellowship with the Holy One who tried in all possible ways to help them they remained very largely what they were before they followed Him.
And why was this true? Because He was only living with them, one without, working upon them by His word and personal influence. But what a change was wrought when on the day of Pentecost, through the baptism in the Holy Spirit, Christ came down into those men to take the perfect possession, the complete control, and the unhindered use of their whole being. Self was dethroned and Christ was enthroned as Lord. Christ became the Life of their life.
A fourfold fruitage was manifested in their lives immediately. They became men of purity. "God, which knoweth the hearts, giving them the Holy Spirit, purified their hearts by faith." A mighty inward change first was wrought. The Spirit of God is a holy Spirit and He can only dwell in a holy place. So His primary work is always the cleansing of the innermost recesses of the life. "Be ye holy for I am holy " is God's mandate to the saved soul. When the disciples were baptized with the Holy Spirit He first purified them, displacing pride with humility; selfish ness with love; cowardice with courage; carnal with spiritual; worldly with heavenly; human with divine; temporal with eternal.
They became men of power. "Ye shall receive power after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you." This promise abundantly was fulfilled in them. Inward purity begat outward power. The book of the Acts is one unbroken record of the mighty power of God the Holy Spirit coursing through purified channels. "Rivers of living water" flowed through those first apostles and believers into Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and even to the uttermost parts of the earth.
They became men of passion. One and all they gave themselves to the winning of souls. Their own hearts, all aglow with fervent gratitude and adoring praise to Him who loved them enough to give Himself for them, were kindled into a flame of passionate desire to bring others into the joy and peace and security of a personal, saving relationship to the Lord Jesus Christ. They became men of one passion "This one thing I do" animated their lives.
"Oh! for a passionate passion for souls
They became men of prayer. Communion with God through prayer, and cooperation with God through intercession in making the finished work of Christ operative in other men's lives, became their chief delight and constant occupation. The book of the Acts is one continuous record of answered prayer. All their wonderful works were begun, continued, and ended in prevailing prayer.
The repeated impression made upon the student of the book of the Acts is that through the baptism in the Holy Spirit at Pentecost those first believers were changed from carnal into spiritual Christians and that from that time on they purposed to live their lives on the highest plane. What life on the highest plane was to them is defined aptly and adequately in a description used repeatedly in connection with them, "They were filled with the Holy Spirit."
Through our studies thus far we have seen that in the finished work of Jesus Christ, the eternal, incarnate, crucified, risen, ascended, exalted Son crowned by the sending forth of the Holy Spirit, God has made all-sufficient provision for lifting any and every person from the deepest depths of life on the natural plane to the highest heights of life on the spiritual plane. (See Diagram 7.)
End of Volume 1
Volume 2: The Relation Between Christ and the Christian