An interesting principle is put forth in the Scriptures. It is more than merely interesting, though, in my estimation. I believe it is vitally important to understand and experience this principle in our daily lives.
What does it really mean to be “in Christ”? We are fairly well schooled about the need to be “born-again”. We ask Jesus to come into our heart and forgive us of our sins. It is relatively simple to understand how to do that. We may not understand all the mechanisms associated with how the Holy Spirit actually lives inside of us, but we have pretty well learned how to go through the motions for the process to take place. Or have we?
Until recently, I have pretty much taken it for granted that, as I ask Jesus to come into my heart first thing each morning, it is a done deal. I shouldn’t expect anything extraordinary to happen. I know a supernatural event happens at that moment, but I don’t look for or expect to feel anything unusual. You know, I’m not a Charismatic or Pentecostal. After all, faith is, just simply believing that Jesus will do what we ask because He promised to.
It’s like, “God said it, I believe it, that settles it.”
When we ask Jesus to come into our heart I believe He enters us via the Holy Spirit. But now my question is, “Does that constitute the baptism of the Holy Spirit?” We are to be baptized in the Holy Spirit daily. Does that happen as a matter of course as we ask Jesus into our heart each day? Why not just assume that I’m baptized in the Holy Spirit and go on about my duties? That may have sufficed had I not run across some Bible verses and Spirit of Prophecy statements that make me wonder. (For those who are not familiar with Spirit of Prophecy, it consists of the writings of Ellen G. White)
Is the baptism of the Holy Spirit the “former rain”? Can we have the former rain experience without the baptism of the Holy Spirit? While the subject of the Holy Spirit plays largely in this present topic it is not my intention to try to answer all the preceding questions, if indeed I could at all. In a subsequent study I will offer some insights addressing the subject of the Holy Spirit.
Getting back to the subject at hand—–so we ask Jesus to enter our heart. We may also ask Him to fill us with His Spirit. That is fine. Jesus said He, the Spirit would be with us and in us. And we base the process in a large part on John 1:12, “But as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name.” Right then and there we are born again. We are born with a spiritual genetic makeup that will grow into a son of God. Every day we are born again because we must die daily, even though we are growing up into Christ more and more daily. So each day we are born again even though each day we are born again with more progress or maturity hopefully, than the day before. This is because of lessons learned, new truths revealed, experiences, etc.
So far this still seems very basic and commonly understood. Now we have more ingredients to throw into the mixture. In John 14:17 Jesus said the Holy Spirit would be in us. It also says that the Holy Spirit is to be “received,” just like it said we must receive Jesus in John 1:12. I will treat on this “receiving” a little later. So now we have Jesus and the Holy Spirit in us if we follow through on this process. In John 17:23 Jesus said that He would be in us and that the Father is in Him. Therefore when we receive Jesus via the Holy Spirit we are also receiving the Father by default, so to speak. Or are we???? I’m not so sure. I don’t think any of the Godhead enters uninvited, unrecognized, unacknowledged. Why did Jesus make sure that we understood that the Father was in Him? He went to task to make sure Philip understood this when in John 15 Philip said, “Show us the Father…” A Romanian brother alerted me to this situation by explaining to me why we are to “ask, seek, and knock” according to Luke 11:9. Although it seems in context to be speaking exclusively of requesting the Holy Spirit, a thoughtful reflection intimates that there are three Worthies that we are to receive as a unit but in their order. Actually, there is an “orderly” process outlined in the injunction. It goes like this, “ask and you shall receive the Holy Spirit, seek and you shall find Jesus through the Holy Spirit, (after all, isn’t that His office according to John 15:26 “…He shall testify of me”?) knock and the Father’s heart shall be opened unto you.” It seems to indicate that the Holy Spirit is the opening wedge, so to speak for much more to come, but not without sufficient effort on our part, as will be discussed forthwith. Does not the Scripture say, “And you shall seek Me and find Me when you search for me with ALL of you heart,” Jeremiah 29:13?
Now we have part of one side of the equation. We are bidden to knock. We can discover a clue as to what that entails by considering the counterpart to it as Jesus declares, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If any man hear My voice and open the door I will come into him and sup with him and he with me,” Revelation 3:20. The Godhead knocks for entrance at the door of our heart. We are to knock for entrance at the door of the Father’s heart. By Jesus, through the agency of the Holy Spirit we may gain an entrance into the Father’s heart. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man comes to the Father but by Me.” Not only is Jesus “the Way” as far as example to live free of sin: He is “the Way” to the Father. This is also emphasized by the fact that Jesus declared His Self to be the “Door” in John 10:9.
If it were not for the work of the Holy Spirit, we would not appreciate the sacrifice of Jesus, nor would we seek a relationship with Him. Were it not for Jesus we would not have inclination nor ability to know the Father as it is our privilege to know Him. Some Christians mistakenly assume that they have all that there is to have of the Godhead by seeking Christ alone. After all, He said that if you have seen Christ you have seen the Father also; because the Father is in Christ. And Jesus said that He and the Father are one. This does not mean that we need not seek a distinct, semi-separate relationship with the Father. I do not believe that Jesus was implying that. I do believe that our relationship and dealings with the Father are not precisely the same as they are with Jesus. I hope to make clear why I believe this is so further on in this study.
Now Jesus not only said that the Father was in Him, He also said that He was in the Father. “Believest thou not that I am in the Father and the Father in Me?” John 14:10. In John 15: 5 Jesus said, “…he that abideth in Me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit…” Here we have pointed out to us the full compliment of the exalted privilege that is ours. The relationship that we are to have with the Godhead is a two-sided coin, so to speak. It is an equation of sorts. as well. It is an equality of condition as opposed to amount. “…that they may be one, as we are,” said Jesus of us, while praying to the Father. Jesus made use only of the same agencies that are available to us. Jesus was full of the Holy Spirit and had the Father abiding in Him as well. He was in the Spirit (see Luke 4:18) and in the Father. The Divine Agencies were in Him and He was in the Divine Agencies. This is exactly the experience we are to acquire and maintain. “This union with Christ, once formed, must be maintained. Christ said, “Abide in Me, and I in you… This is no casual touch, no off-and-on connection… Abiding in Christ means a constant receiving of His Spirit…” Desire of Ages, Page 676. (emphasis, mine).
We are to have the Holy Spirit, Christ, and the Father abiding in us. We are to abide in the Holy Spirit, Christ, and the Father. It is a two-way experience. It requires two-way reception. It is meant to be a simultaneous action with each of the three members of the Godhead, but each in their order. We would not ask the Father to enter our heart without first asking Jesus in would we? We receive the Holy Spirit, the Holy Spirit receives us. We then seek and receive Christ and Christ receives us. We then can request and receive the Father and the Father receives us. Each Divine Agency is received in His order. At first glance in the Scriptures it would seem to be automatic. You get one, you get all. Again I say, I don’t believe this to be so. With each we receive the ability to receive the next. This is what is automatic. It may be a little misleading by the way that we understand conversion. We encourage the unsaved to repent and ask Jesus into their heart to be their personal Savior. If they do that, though, it means that the Holy Spirit has been working in them already. You may recall in Acts 19:1-6 that the Apostle Paul met some believers that had been baptized unto Christ but had not been baptized in the Holy Spirit. They had to back up and be re-baptized in the Holy Spirit! They were out of order, albeit, unwittingly.
We don’t go around preaching to people to accept the Holy Spirit as their savior, and ask Him into their heart. That is not the position or office that the Holy Spirit is occupying. On the other hand we are to be baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, Matthew 28:19.
The Holy Spirit is already at work, by virtue of the Father, drawing people to Christ, Who in turn will draw people to the Father, via the Holy Spirit.
Now about receiving the Divine Agencies and They receiving us….
The Father will not receive us unless we first receive His Son Jesus because Jesus said no man comes to the Father except by Him, John 14:6. No man comes to Jesus unless the Father draws him, John 6:44. Jesus said we must keep His words/commandments in order for Him to be manifest to us and for He and His Father to make their abode with us, John 14:21, 22-23. The Holy Spirit is included in this also. The Spirit of Prophecy makes it very clear: “So with the followers of Christ. We can receive of heaven’s light only as we are willing to be emptied of self. We cannot discern the character of God, or accept Christ by faith, unless we consent to the bringing into captivity of every thought to the obedience of Christ. To all who do this the Holy Spirit is given without measure. In Christ “dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily, and in Him ye are made full. Colossians 2:9, 10, R. V,” Desire of Ages 181. So then there are conditions to being received by the Divine Agencies. Then there are conditions to us receiving the Divine Agencies as well: “ Christ has promised the gift of the Holy Spirit to His church, and the promise belongs to us as much as to the first disciples. But like every other promise, it is given on conditions. There are many who believe and profess to claim the Lord’s promise; they talk about Christ and about the Holy Spirit, yet receive no benefit. They do not surrender the soul to be guided and controlled by the divine agencies. We cannot use the Holy Spirit. The Spirit is to use us. Through the Spirit God works in His people ‘to will and to do of His good pleasure.’Philippians 2:13. But many will not submit to this. They want to manage themselves. This is why they do not receive the heavenly gift. Only to those who wait humbly upon God, who watch for His guidance and grace, is the Spirit given. The power of God awaits their demand and reception. This promised blessing, claimed by faith, brings all other blessings in its train. It is given according to the riches of the grace of Christ, and He is ready to supply every soul according to the capacity to receive,” Desire of Ages 672. So we must meet the conditions prerequisite to receiving the Holy Spirit so we can in turn seek and receive Christ and then on to the Father. Trying to get to know Jesus or the Father without seeking the Holy Spirit’s fullness is an impossibility. Thank God that we are told what the conditions are!
At this point there may be some that read this and think, “Wait a minute, this is getting way too complicated. The Gospel is supposed to be simple enough for a child to understand.” I agree. Let me do a little explaining. There are three phases to the reception process. The reception of justification , the reception of sanctification, and the reception of glorification. Jesus had glorified the Father in that He completed the work of sanctification. You can read all about it in John 17. He prayed to the Father to fulfill the same process in His disciples so that they could eventually be glorified. That includes us. Jesus needed not the reception of justification because He never sinned. The reception of justification really is the simplest part. We choose the plan of salvation and surrender to Christ, thus receiving Him by faith and we are “…accepted in the Beloved,” Ephesians 1:6. By the act of giving a flower to Jesus, children had their names inscribed in the Book of Life, see Desire of Ages, page 564. It is after we have taken the name of Christ upon us that we enter a new phase of relationship. We are then under the most solemn obligations to follow through on building a character fit for eternity and in working for the salvation of others. This is the phase with the all-encompassing conditions. Look at this statement: “The tenderness of Christ is to be brought into the daily life of his followers. His character is to be reproduced in them. The disinterested benevolence shown by him is to be shown by them. His love for souls should be cultivated by practice. Humble, wrestling prayer will soften and subdue hearts. Christ’s servants can and should be able to meet and overcome every temptation. They should say, ‘I am not my own; I have been bought with a price. By the infinite sacrifice Christ has made for me, he has put it out of my power to give him more than he demands. All is his. He has purchased me, body, soul, and spirit. He calls for all my time, all my capabilities.’ Thus we may show that we are abiding in Christ and that Christ is abiding in us. Christ accepts no divided service. His followers are to shine as lights in the world. ‘Come out of the world, and be ye separate,’ is the message which comes sounding down along the line to our time. Love not the world, neither the things of the world. Set your affections on things above, and not on things below. Those who heed this message will find that Christ’s yoke is easy and his burden light.”
Mrs. E. G. White
General Conference Bulletin
April 1, 1899
It is not without good reason that it must be a totally consistent connection with the Divine Agencies as will be shown next. While the members of the Godhead are one in purpose they are different in their work of dealing with us. They hold different offices. Cooperation with all three is indispensable if we are to reach our full potential as representatives of Christ and finish the work He has given us to do, thus establishing the framework for the reception of glorification.
The Holy Spirit uses us as long as we cooperate with Him. The Holy Spirit has a work to complete in this world just like Jesus did. He is anxious to complete it. Jesus’ work is still to bridge the gap between us and the Father so that we may be availed of the divine treasury. The divine treasury houses the equipment, tools, and armaments (including strategies) that we need to complete the work that Jesus has assigned us. We are to build a character for eternity and win others over to do the same. The Father’s work is to release the treasures to Christ. Christ delivers them to us via the Holy Spirit.
“In describing to His disciples the office work of the Holy Spirit, Jesus sought to inspire them with the joy and hope that inspired His own heart. He rejoiced because of the abundant help He had provided for His church. The Holy Spirit was the highest of all gifts that He could solicit from His Father for the exaltation of His people. The Spirit was to be given as a regenerating agent, and without this the sacrifice of Christ would have been of no avail. The power of evil had been strengthening for centuries, and the submission of men to this satanic captivity was amazing. Sin could be resisted and overcome only through the mighty agency of the Third Person of the Godhead, who would come with no modified energy, but in the fullness of divine power. It is the Spirit that makes effectual what has been wrought out by the world’s Redeemer. It is by the Spirit that the heart is made pure. Through the Spirit the believer becomes a partaker of the divine nature. Christ has given His Spirit as a divine power to overcome all hereditary and cultivated tendencies to evil, and to impress His own character upon His church…Of the Spirit Jesus said, “He shall glorify Me.” The Saviour came to glorify the Father by the demonstration of His love; so the Spirit was to glorify Christ by revealing His grace to the world. The very image of God is to be reproduced in humanity. The honor of God, the honor of Christ, is involved in the perfection of the character of His people.” Desire of Ages 671.
The Father receives us through Christ as our Intercessor. We receive the Father, and the treasures that the Father issues out, through Christ as our Bestower.
“The Father reveals his love to Christ by receiving and welcoming the friends of Christ as his friends…Our precious Saviour is ours today. In him our hopes of eternal life are centered. He is the One who presents our petitions to the Father, and communicates to us the blessing for which we asked. He is the medium of prayer through which man speaks to God, and the medium through which God imparts blessing to humanity. He is the Intercessor and the Bestower.” ST 6-18-96. “The summing up of the benefit of prayer is that devotion that leads to faith in God’s promises. This faith is the key that opens the divine treasury, is the hand by which we appropriate to our use the richest gifts of God. The prayer of the contrite heart unlocks the treasure house of supplies, and lays hold of omnipotent power. The Lord Jehovah accepts the argument that is presented in the name of his Son, and places the resources of his merit at your command. It is our privilege and duty to bring the efficacy of the name of Christ into our petitions, and use the very arguments that Christ has used in our behalf. Our prayers will then be in complete harmony with the will of God. Then it is that Christ clothes the contrite suppliant with his own priestly vestments, and the human petitioner approaches the altar holding the holy censer, from which ascends the incense of the fragrance of the merit of Christ’s righteousness.” ST 6-18-96.
Where is this experience of “within and without” taking us? Understanding the process of obtaining the character of Christ as Intercessor and Bestower is indispensable to our receiving it. His experience is to be ours, for “…as He is, so are we in this world.” 1John 4:17. The only thing that Christ is waiting for in order to finish the plan of redemption is 144,000 who are filled with His Spirit, complete in His character. We must finish the work He has left us to do. The experience within will be revealed in the conduct without. The Father is longing to receive us physically into His open arms. Let us seek Him in the manner He has arranged. “We are not to think of reward, but of service; yet kindness shown in this spirit will not fail of its recompense. “Thy Father which seeth in secret Himself shall reward thee openly.” While it is true that God Himself is the great Reward, that embraces every other, the soul receives and enjoys Him only as it becomes assimilated to Him in character. Only like can appreciate like. It is as we give ourselves to God for the service of humanity that He gives Himself to us.” Mount of Blessings, 81.
“We may talk of the blessings of the Holy Spirit, but unless we prepare ourselves for its reception, of what avail are our works? Are we striving with all our power to attain to the stature of men and women in Christ? Are we seeking for His fullness, ever pressing toward the mark set before us—the perfection of His character? When the Lord’s people reach this mark, they will be sealed in their foreheads. Filled with the Spirit, they will be complete in Christ, and the recording angel will declare, ‘It is finished’” (The Review and Herald, June 10, 1902).