Holiness Equips For Service
“Ye shall receive power after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you,” said our Lord in His last talk before He ascended to the skies. This assurance was given not only for the disciples of that day but for the disciples of all time. We have shown in the last chapter how great is the power of a holy life in its influence. This is the unfolding of that idea.
There have been many interpretations of the “power” promised at Pentecost. Some have thought it was the power to work miracles, but Jesus had already given the disciples that power, when He sent them out two by two, to preach the kingdom of God. Some have thought it was a magical power to cast a spell over men as they preached. But the verse following seems to naturally explain it. He adds “And ye shall be witnesses unto me. “The power” qualified them to be witnesses for Jesus. There is much in the ministry of testimony, for Spirit-baptized Christians to prove the religion of Jesus Christ to be true. Testimony is the great agency for spreading the gospel. It is on a level in importance (if not more important) with preaching. God does not call all Christians to preach, but He does call all to testify. He expects all preachers to be witnesses. Satan tries to make it appear that it is so difficult to believe the Christian religion that the preacher must be always trying to prove it by powerful discourses, but he does not like to have testimony for men are so constituted, that not to accept the testimony of competent witnesses proves them either dishonest or mentally deficient.
A witness is the most important person in a court of justice. A trial can be held without a jury for it may be a justice trial. It may be held without a judge for it may be held by referees. It may be held without a lawyer, for a man may plead his own cause. But it cannot be held without a witness. So God chose the most important agency for proving disputed points; when He saw fit to make us all witnesses, who have a Christian experience, for if there be no experience, then Christianity is “a cunningly devised fable.”
Much depends on the character of the witnesses. Therefore the empowerment of Pentecost was two-fold. First, it is negative. It comes by the elimination of the hindrances to consistent testimony. It removes the inbred sin or depravity-the great hindrance to testimony. We have shown in the previous chapter that the influence of a holy life is almost omnipotent in removing doubt as to the truth of our holy religion. Let us notice still farther that with the blessing of holiness goes the removal of the hindrances to testimony. An inconsistent life is a great hindrance to testimony. But there are also other elements that are removed. The baptism with the Holy Ghost removes cowardice. There are many well meaning people who would really like to recommend Jesus Christ by testimony and exhortation, who lack the courage. They are ever trembling under their duty, which they have not the courage to discharge. But Pentecost brings courage. It was so in the experience of Peter. A maiden frightened him into a positive denial of his beloved Lord. So shocking was his cowardice, that it led him to profanity. But a few days later he stood before the Jewish high court and accused them of the murder of Jesus Christ. What made the difference? Pentecost. In that short interval his heart had been purified. (See Acts 15:9.) The cowardice had been burned out by holy fire. Now he was ready and anxious to testify. This is what the fiery tongues that sat on the heads of the disciples at Pentecost symbolized. It meant tongues set on fire to testify for Jesus Christ.
But still farther, indifference, or apathy in the matter of the salvation of men is a hindrance to testimony. The entire sanctification of Pentecost takes away indifference as to the salvation of sinners and substitutes a passion for souls. It means perfect love to mankind. It makes us anxious — more than anxious — to see men saved. It does not give all the gift of evangelism, but it makes them efficient up to their capabilities and gives a constant longing to see sinners saved and believers sanctified. This is one of the infallible proofs that we have received the purifying baptism. But more than this it is positive. There is a peculiar unction that attends the testimony of fully saved men. This is the New Testament spirit of prophecy. Peter declared that it fulfilled the prophecy of Joel, “Your sons and daughters shall prophesy.” It is unfortunate that the term prophecy has been limited in these days to the foretelling of future events. This is a narrow view of the word. To prophesy means to speak for another. The Old Testament prophets probably were speaking for God and prophesying as truly when they brought the messages of God to kings and potentates, as when they predicted future events. It is the same under the New Testament dispensation. They who speak for God, whether in sermon or testimony, are New Testament prophets, and especially so when they have been filled with the Holy Spirit.
St. Paul says this is more effective than to have great and shining gifts. Speaking of the gifts of the Spirit in I Cor. 14:1, he says Follow after charity, and desire spiritual gifts, but rather that ye may prophesy.” In verse 39 he tells them to ‘covet to prophesy.” In some quarters today there is a great coveting to possess gifts, especially of tongues, but there is not much coveting to tell of the power of the blood that cleanseth from all sin. This is New Testament prophecy indeed. There is a very remarkable passage in I Cor. 14:23-25 which we quote: “If therefore the whole church be come into one place, and all speak with tongues and there come in those that are unlearned or unbelievers, will they not say that ye are mad? But if all prophesy, and there come in one that believeth not, or one unlearned, he is convinced of all, he is judged of all: and thus are the secrets of his heart made manifest; and so falling down upon his face, he will worship God, and report that God is in you of a truth.” In other words, New Testament prophecy-the testimony of Spirit filled believers will put the unsaved under conviction. This is the divine method of carrying on the saving power of the Gospel by the testimony of Spirit filled men and women. The modern method is to leave the whole matter of the conviction and conversion of the world to the pulpit. But Jesus gave the first place to testimony. He did not say, “Ye shall be My pulpit orators,” but “Ye shall be witnesses of me.” When Lyman Beecher was asked the reason for the great revivals under his ministry he replied, “I preach to my church on Sunday and they go out and preach to the outside world through the week and so we have six hundred sermons preached all through the week.”
The baptism with the Holy Spirit is the divine equipment for this highest service. It is the divine endorsement and authorization. A true testimony has the authority of Jehovah behind it. When a noted prize fighter was in the ring one day, the sheriff stepped up to him, read a warrant and told him to follow him. He submitted to arrest. He could have killed the sheriff, who was a small man. But the small man had the authority of the state behind him and the great brute meekly yielded. State authority means much. When the government swears in the witnesses in court, it means that the authority of the whole commonwealth is behind the witness. His testimony has to be considered in making up the verdict. And when God gives His witnesses the baptism with the Spirit, they have the authority of Jehovah behind them and they have to be heard. God said, “My word shall not return unto me void.” The Word of God does not return to Him void. This does not mean that it always meets with apparent success. This is not expected. Its purpose is to force men to a decision for or against the truth. When the saints prophesy those who hear are forced to a decision. Such is the office of testimony that is inspired by the Holy Spirit.
We have some notable instances of the truth that holiness increases efficiency. D. L. Moody was a lay evangelist in Chicago, accomplishing little. He tells us in his autobiography that at one time he was greatly bothered by two women, who were constantly telling him that he needed the Holy Spirit. He said that at first he was vexed. But after a time he began to believe they were right. So he appointed a meeting every Friday afternoon to pray for the Holy Spirit. It was our privilege a few years ago to meet one of these women. We asked her if Mr. Moody seemed very much in earnest. She replied that he was so desperately in earnest at the last Friday meeting that he was prostrate and literally rolled upon the floor, as he prayed for the Holy Spirit. The Chicago fire broke out the next week and no more meetings could be held. A little later Mr. Moody received the baptism with the Spirit, which put an unction on his labors and from that time, he became a great worldwide, evangelistic power. He urged this experience upon the church the remainder of his days. Owing to the Calvinistic theology in which he was trained he failed to make the matter clear, definite and positive in his teaching. He was always urging it, but we have never heard of anyone receiving the experience under his teaching or preaching.
James Brainerd Taylor was a young man in Princeton College. He had been instructed by a pious Methodist concerning the experience of entire sanctification. He sought and obtained. His memory is still precious in the Congregational churches of New England. He became a spiritual power. Wherever he went his saintliness beamed upon the people. God used him for the salvation of men. One day two men on horseback met at the intersection of two roads and while the horses were drinking from the water trough, one said to the other, “My dear Sir, I trust you are acquainted with the Lord Jesus Christ, and if not I hope you may make His acquaintance.” It was a simple sentence. Just a few words but there accompanied it an unction, an air of sanctity that carried the message to the heart of the stranger. He could not shake off the impression made by the holy light that radiated from that face. He yielded to God; was called to the ministry and later to the foreign field. He began to inquire who the man was who spoke to him at the water trough. No one could tell him. One day as he was preparing for his voyage to heathendom, he received a library as a gift. In opening one of the books, he saw a portrait on the inside of the cover. He exclaimed, “That is the man who spoke to me at the water trough.” On looking at the title page he read, “The Life of J. B. Taylor.”
Holiness is the divine equipment. It is in harmony with common sense that God would equip His people with more than mortal energy because of the fearful opposition which they meet in carrying on the work of God against the combined forces of “the world, the flesh and the devil.” Human power, unaided, always has and always will fail.