The Presence and Work of the Holy Spirit

by T. Austin-Sparks

Chapter 2 - The Holy Spirit's Day of Liberty

The book of the Acts, chapter 2: "And when the day of Pentecost was now come..." the margin says, "was being fulfilled": "And when the day of Pentecost was being fulfilled". In this very great matter of the presence and work of the Holy Spirit we can only take one more small fragment this morning, and it arises out of this fulfilment that took place on that particular day.

It ought to impress us that it was on that particular day that God decided to send the Holy Spirit. There is nothing in the Old Testament that speaks of the advent of the Holy Spirit at any given time; no word there that at a certain time the dispensation would change by the coming from heaven of the Holy Spirit to abide for the age. No word that it would be so, but there's very much in the Old Testament that is gathered into that day and that advent. God chose that day because of the deep and rich relationship of things to that particular time.

And when you think of it, dear friends, it is an impressive thing how God chooses His times for things. You know when the Lord Jesus was about to be crucified, the Jewish rulers said, "Not on the Passover". Not on the Passover, but heaven and God said, "Yes, on the Passover". The Jewish Passover was being fulfilled, but being fulfilled in a way, in a fulness, that they neither thought of nor intended. But God said, "This is the time for the great Passover transcending all others; the fulfilment of all others up to this time." He chose this time. He chose the time for this great dispensational change and movement: the coming of the Holy Spirit. It was by His decision that it took place at that par­ticular time.

When all these people gathered in Jeru­salem at their feast of Pentecost, they never imagined what would happen. It had never occurred to them as they had left their far-off cities and countries mentioned in this chapter - how many of them - they never, as they set out on their journey to Jerusalem, had in mind this thing that was going to happen. For them it was the keeping of an old Jewish festival, with much rich meaning for them in history. But the Lord said: "Now's the time for something much more, much greater." He chose the time. Of course we shall see why in a moment, but it was like that. And we are given to understand that the Lord is choosing the time, or is going to choose the time for the coming again of the Lord Jesus. And that is not a general statement, but it is said precisely that when the spirit of Antichrist has reached that point of expression where, more than ever before in history, there will be a bid for world dominion, "Then He whose right it is" will come, to take it.

Antichrist will make the great bid for worldwide dominion, gathered up into one system, whether in one head - it may be, and is there not today a bigger movement in that direction than ever before. There have been many who have made that bid, but it's been more or less on a limited scale, but there are only two camps in this world today really, and the battle is to break down the one, to make way for Antichrist - that is, the summing up of the dominion of this world under one head. And the Lord will say, when it reaches that point, "Now is the time for the right One to have it." "He has appointed the day in which He will judge the world in righteousness by the One whom He has appointed". God chooses His time, His day, and it is always very strategic, opportune, and full of significance. And so it says here, "Now, when the day of Pentecost was being fulfilled", He chose that day for the coming of the Holy Spirit in Person, to govern this dispensation until the coming of the Lord Jesus.

You know that Pentecost means "fiftieth"; literally it is, "Now when the fiftieth day was in fulfilment," was in the course of fulfilment... and that at once opens to us God's meaning in choosing this particular day. For all who know the Bible, even in a very simple way, know that that fiftieth day in the old economy was:

The Day of Jubilee.

And the day of Jubilee was the day when all who had been in slavery were released. All men and women who had been sold into bondage, got their liberty on that day. All lands and properties which had been brought into bondage for debts and so on, had to be released on that day. If you had lived on a fiftieth year day, you would have (if it was necessary) been awakened very early in the morning by a certain sound; for early on that morning, as the sun broke through out of the night, the priests sounded the Jubilee trumpets - the trumpets of Jubilee. And they were the gospel trumpets, if "gospel" means "good news", it was the sound of release for all captives, all prisoners, all in bondage; people and land set free. And the trumpets proclaimed release: "Good tidings to the captives, the setting at liberty of them that were bound!" It was a day, therefore, of great joy for the prisoners, for those who had known no liberty.

God chose that day, or the meaning that was bound up with that day, for the day of the coming of the Holy Spirit. Significant, isn't it? Indeed, that day in Jerusalem was, for many captives, a day of rejoicing, a day of liberation; the going forth over the whole world of the representatives (through representatives). Look at it, "Parthians, and Medes, and Elemites, and dwellers in Mesopotamia, in Judea, and Cappadocia, Pontus, and Asia, Phrygia, Pamphylia, Egypt, Libya, Cyrene, sojourners from Rome..." the whole world is here. The gospel trumpet proclaimed in Jerusalem to the whole world as represented, on that day, the good news of release for the world from its bondage. How strategic God was, how apt. Fulfilment of the old conception, but how much greater the fulfilment than had ever been imagined. I say again, when they came from far-off Rome, and Cyrene, and Libya and all these places, they never expected to hear that message which God had prepared. Now of course, quite simple is the message for us: Pentecost, the Holy Spirit having come, and being here as He is, represents that, just that: glorious liberty for men, glorious gospel of emancipation from bondage!

When the little remnant came back from the captivity in Babylon, Chaldea, having known seventy years of bondage, the word of the Lord through His messenger was: "According to the covenant which I made with you in the land of Egypt, My Spirit remaineth among you... according to the covenant in Egypt, My Spirit remaineth among you". And here they are, because of the faithfulness of God to His covenant, and because of the abiding Spirit of God, they're out of captivity. It's one little sidelight upon the great truth.

Dear friends, I am not sure that we appreciate our liberty in Christ sufficiently. We need to read again that letter to the Galatians in the light of Pentecost, in the light of Jubilee, "our liberty in Christ" - one of our most priceless possessions - translated not out of an earthly Egypt, but out of the authority of darkness into the kingdom of the Son of His love. Being fulfilled then, is the gospel of emancipation for all slaves, for all prisoners.

The Lord Jesus is undoubtedly in the fulness of His ministry on the day of Pentecost. What I like about this is He'd already said it, but here it is in fulfilment: He is here by the Holy Spirit, in the fulness of His ministry. He said... of which He said: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, for He has anointed Me to preach the good tidings to the poor, to bind up the broken hearted, to set at liberty them that are bound, to open the prison to the prisoner, to proclaim..." oh, what an unfortunate translation we have of the words: "the acceptable year of the Lord". No! The year of Jubilee of our God - the Year of Jubilee of our God, the Year of Grace... the Year of Grace, the breaking of the Law which binds the prisoners and has imposed bondage upon so many - the Year of Grace being fulfilled.

And another thing was here very present in the minds of all these who had gathered in Jerusalem. What was it that they were there to celebrate? Well, for them, the Feast of Pentecost was linked with the giving of the Law at Sinai. They were remembering Moses going into the Mount, God meeting him, and giving him the covenant by the Law to govern their lives henceforth. And for them the Feast of Pentecost was always closely linked with that great epoch in their history:

The Covenant and the Law.

The sad and tragic history of broken law, but the Lord knew what He meant... He meant something more than tables of stone written and engraved with pen and inks. He had a deeper meaning. And the day came when the prophet Jeremiah was caused to say, as you will read in the thirty-first chapter of his prophecies, the thirty-first verse. It's always easy to remember the great change: Jeremiah 31:31, it's an epoch. "The day is come, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, not according to the covenant which I made with them when I took them by the hand and led them, but this is the covenant that I will make in those days, saith the Lord, I will write my laws upon their hearts, and upon their minds will I write them". Now, we'll not say a lot about that, because it is so clear, simply clear, that that is exactly what the Holy Spirit came to do; that is the fulfilment of Pentecost. You and I know it. Do we? Do we?

Let me challenge every heart. Let me challenge old and young with this. Do you really know in experience, in life, Jeremiah 31:31? If you really have received the Holy Spirit (which as a child of God you ought to have done) do you know that? Are you able to say, "I know what the Lord meant when He said that through Jeremiah. I know in my own experience that part of Pentecost anyway." Because one of those very first things in the Christian life, when we are born of the Holy Spirit, is we know in ourselves without anybody having to tell us, what we ought to do, and what we ought not to do, in a new way. It's remark­able! It's very remarkable. Things that we did without any question: the way we behaved, the way we used to speak, perhaps dress, oh, in a thousand ways about which we never had a second thought before, we are beginning to get some sensations, some feelings about that now, some question arises about that; what we do, where we go or where we do not go. We say we have a conscience about it, but it's another conscience that we never had before. We did have a conscience before, but it's a new one – an altogether new set of laws which never governed us until this time. Isn't it true? I know it begins in a simple way.

All of us remember the first time that we had a question about something that had never been a question before, we remember it quite well. We remember that first time when within us the Spirit of God put His finger upon something, and raised an issue. We felt uncomfortable, perhaps miserable... something we could not altogether explain and define; something which we did not feel was right. We learned afterward that it was a very vital matter. We came to realise that the progress of our spiritual life was bound up with our giving heed to that. We stayed where we were until that found an answer in our heart. All that is very true, isn't it? "Upon their hearts will I write them, and in their minds". The inwardness of the new covenant that began on the Day of Pentecost, that is in Pentecost; it's the Day of the New Covenant. That's what it means to have the Holy Spirit.

And may I say this, it is a grand thing, a grand thing, to see lives (especially, if I may say so, young men and young women) who are in that way walking with the Lord, and not having to have the law laid down to them by parents, or preachers, or other people; just not having to be told: coming alive to these issues and being able to say: "The Lord has spoken to me about that!" If ever anybody mentions it, then they'll say: "Alright, alright, the Lord has already touched me on that matter." Isn't that grand? That is a sure sign, a sure sign of the Holy Spirit within. Oh for more of it! Oh for more of it, this mighty work of the Holy Spirit on the basis of the New Covenant! If necessary the Holy Spirit saying "Thou shalt not" it is alright if He says "Thou shalt not," or if He says, "Thou shalt". That is, the Spirit is the Arbitrator, the One who comes between the right and the wrong, and gives His verdict in the heart - in the heart. Pentecost is the Day of New Covenant, and it's not right back there so many centuries ago, it's now! It's now, it's for the age, as the Lord says.

And, to close with for the present, Pentecost, as you know, as we have recently said, was the Feast of the Firstfruits - the time when in the old economy the husbandman went out and saw the first ripe grain, gathered it into a sheaf, took it home, made it into two loaves. Two loaves, and took them, and laid them at the feet of the high priest. The first-fruits of the harvest in token of God's faithfulness, of God's grace, of God's disposition to be favourable, of God's intention to give all that that represented and signified - the token of a full inheritance taken by faith in the two loaves. Two loaves. You know, in Biblical symbolism, two is always the number of sufficient testimony. When you've got two you've got enough: "In the mouth of two witnesses", that's enough. If you can get two, you've got sufficient for God: "Where two or three are gathered together in My Name there am I", sufficient basis for the Lord. "If two of you shall agree as touching anything that they shall ask it shall be done of My Father" it's sufficient.

Two loaves - a sufficient testimony. Why? Well, the Lord Jesus in death and resurrection: two sides of His glorious redemptive activity, has now gone up into the Presence of God, presented Himself and been accepted. As He said to Mary, as she sought to embrace Him on that resurrection morning, "Touch Me not; embrace Me not; lay not hold of Me, I have not yet ascended unto My Father. Go to My disciples and say unto them, I ascend unto My Father and your Father; unto My God and your God". Something happened. He presented the double testimony of death and resurrection to the Father God, and was accepted, but in token of all those who in Him, were represented and included as His full harvest. No wonder the Lord chose "those out of every nation under heaven", it says, to be represented in Jerusalem on that day, and One representing the fruit of all the nations attested by the Holy Spirit. All wonderful, very blessed.

Here, in a little gathering like this, a very little one, nevertheless enough nations represented, enough nations to be a token, but Christ the first-fruits - out of every nation, every tribe, every tongue - accepted in token of a great harvest. That's a word of encouragement in a day of frustration in the nations, a day when it seems like limitation and curtailment, but because He is there as the first-fruits of all that believe, the vision will be fulfilled. "A great multitude which no man can number out of every tribe and kindred and tongue... ten thousand times ten thousand and thousands of thousands" that is beggaring language! The inexpressible fruit of Pentecost, Pentecost: the work of the Holy Spirit.

May we all be the fruit of the Spirit, really be the fruit of the Spirit: something presented to God. So, the Lord says, "Present your bodies, a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your spiritual service... Be not conformed to this world. Be transformed by the renewing, the making anew, of your mind." That is the Holy Spirit's work and business. May He have a clear way in every one of us.

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