THE PENTECOSTAL CHURCH
"For by One Spirit have we all been baptised into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether bond or free; and have been all made to drink of One Spirit." l Corinthians 12: 13.
Paul stresses some remarkable facts in this epistle. If a man shall be joined to the Lord he is forever one Spirit. There is a complete marriage between his born again spirit and the Holy Spirit Who comes to dwell within him upon his being born again. The new believer is to understand that his body is by his regeneration " a temple of the Holy Spirit Who is in you, Whom ye have from God."
The second truth relative to our theme is that just as you and I possess a body through which we express ourselves to one another and if anything happens to this body we cease to function here on earth. So when a person is born again he or she is incorporated into the Body of Christ of which He is the Head. This company of the redeemed in heaven and on earth is not a society or an organisation, but an organism through which Christ in heaven expresses His life on earth as the Holy Spirit functions through the Church and makes it a Pentecostal organism of His glorious Ascension life.
Therefore every Christian should be able to see this truth, and say "Amen " to it. When a person sees these related truths then he knows that his entire being must be for God that the Holy Spirit dwelling within him may and will accomplish all the will of God in His life according to His infinite wisdom. He must also see that just as the Holy Spirit within him is the spring of Divine life in his being, in like manner he must desire intensely that what that specific purpose is that God has in his life shall be accomplished.
In the understanding of these truths and his submission to them, he is baptised experimentally into one Spirit. The life of God has become real to him beyond the shadow of a doubt. He now wants the Spirit indwelling to live through him in all the will and power of God at whatever cost to his mortal body. Then he will desire to fulfil the will of God within his mystical incorporation in the Body of Christ so that no true believer can ever stand aside from the Body of Christ wherever he perceives the local manifestation of that body.
There is, however, another step here set forth by the apostle Paul in profound mystical language. The man who knows he is joined to the Lord and also knows with tremendous gratitude that his mortal body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, must press on to know what it means to "have been (all) made to drink of one Spirit." Now this seems to me to be the Pentecostal blessing that God's people need. This is the blessing that will make any company of the Lord's people a vital organism for God in the neighbourhood where they worship. I have no need to tell you how desperate is the need and how urgently we ourselves here in Peckham need to become a Pentecostal church. There are basic facts confronting us today that we dare not attempt to ignore or even to minimise.
We are in a vicious circle from which nothing less than the Pentecostal blessing can deliver us. Here in the text we are taught that we have been baptised by one Spirit into one Body. That is an action of the Spirit and its reaction in the experience of the believer is the perception of the Body of Christ. Not in the gigantic monstrosity which the ignorant world outside calls the Church but in the company of the redeemed in heaven and on earth eternally one in the Spirit. To this must be added the truth that we have been all made to drink of one Spirit. Whether that means that we have been " drenched" by the one Spirit or whether we have received the Spirit in limitless measure the accent is upon this fact. That as the result of our baptism into the one Spirit each individual believer becomes conscious that in at least one particular way he urgently and desperately needs the Holy Spirit.
The more he receives this ministry the more he longs for its continuance and increase. His longing for the satisfaction in the Spirit increases the capacity until he is drinking in fulness the life of the Spirit and becoming so capacitated by the Spirit that the rivers of water are flowing from him to enrich and ennoble every human being he touches. It is my firm belief that this is the one answer to the present plight both of the world and of religion. It is my prayer that every person here this evening will give full careful reflection to this matter, will submit to the one Spirit in such issues as bring us into condemnation and will in repentance and faith seek the one blessing without which the prospects for the days to come are not encouraging.
In my view as Paul reflected on all this, human ability, what we call consecrated service, he reached one conclusion that he sets forth in the next chapter, the chapter on love which is one of the masterpieces of literature. If love has its right, creative place in the life of the Christian, then the Church of the Body is invincible. Any Church, and any individual will enter into Pentecostal blessing not by prayer alone, important as that is or even by faith without which it is impossible to please God, but the essential ingredient as Paul indicates is love because that is God experimentally active within the believer. God so experimentally in the believer gives the unction to prayer and faith and every activity to which the believer is called. And first let it be noted that the Holy Spirit longs to bring our entire beings into such an attitude and relationship that
1) WE LOVE GOD
Nobody knows anything about love until they are in love with God. The love God has towards us is an assurance that there is absolutely nothing in the universe or in Himself that God will not be, do and give for our highest joy, delight and eternal favour. Conversely there is nothing that God values more than the real, sincere, unaffected love of a human being for Himself. Now if we are concerned with obedience then we should know that the first duty of the believer is to love the Lord Thy God with all your heart and soul and strength. Love is a cultivation of the Holy Spirit. The love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Spirit and if we tell God that we want to love Him supremely with all our heart then He Who commands us so to love Him will give us the power and capacity to love Him as He loves us. When we thus love Him, every thought of Him will call forth the deepest emotion within our beings and there will be nothing so inspiring, elevating, illuminating and creative as the outgoing of love from our cold hearts to Himself. The great secret of all eternity is capacity for God. By this and this alone shall we take our place in the eternal purpose, by this and this alone shall we determine so much of the vast eternal experience to which we are moving and capacity for God is never greater than our true and sincere love for Him. If every Christian would make it the first business of life to love God and to love Him more and more, the Pentecostal blessing would soon be ours. What then is the state of your heart towards God?
2) WE LOVE ONE ANOTHER
Paul, in his letter to the Ephesian Church (4:16) makes it quite clear that no Church can really increase if it does not increase in love. Love is the real strength of a Church. If we are really concerned to be loving God, we shall be the more enabled to love one another. Fellowship is a big factor in a Baptist Church. The member who loves God will be concerned for the good order of the fellowship. The officers, elders, deacons, bishops will know that inside the Church there are no officials but ministry, and the Church will be a happy, joyful company if each member makes it his or her business to love each and every fellow believer.
Some people think this to be a sentimental conception of church going. Paul, however, warns us against distinctions between nations and against distinctions between social grades, none of which is recognised in heaven. In the world the wealthy may look down on the poor and the poor may react with bitterness against the rich, but inside the Christian Church it is the duty of every believer to love every other believer. We are to love one another and to have patience with one another.
Church members who leave one fellowship and go round the corner to join another because they have fallen out or have a grievance ought never to be welcomed by the other Church. If we leave because we fail in love then we become a spiritual peril to the Church we join. It is a terrible thing to harbour in the heart a dislike of another person. Of course, there are awkward people in the Churches and it may be beneficial if we put ourselves among their number. Do we not ourselves make mistakes, say the wrong thing and bitterly regret it almost before the action is accomplished and the word spoken? Do we not all need the tolerant patience one of another? This is a matter every Christian is to master. If the words or actions of another Christian are so grievous then we are not to stay away and leave a wound in the Fellowship; we are to leave no stone unturned until our heart is full of love to our fellow believer. Lovelessness is a sin that can have serious results in the Church and may be as deadly to the progress of the Church as the sin of Achan. Are you crying out to God to help you to love every fellow member with all your heart and strength, your neighbour as you love yourself?
3) WE LOVE THE BACKSLIDER
The backslider is a mystery and a grievous burden. He may never have been truly born again. He may have been swayed by his emotions. He may have been seduced to neglect his Bible and prayer. He may find the daily challenge very strong. He may have endeavoured to maintain fellowship with the ungodly and found himself one of them. These are not our concern this evening. I am thinking of our attitude to the backslider. It is so easy to be critical and to condemn when we ought to be thinking, praying and working for their restoration. A man whose heart is being continually filled with the love of God will become a spiritual man and in point of fact he is the one who can be used to the restoration of the backslider
A critical Christian going about finding fault, passing on the gossip, is a menace to a fellowship. I have known backsliders in our own Church reluctant to come back not because they did not want to come back but because they were embarrassed and fearful wondering how they would be received. It is so easy when you see a long-absent member entering church to exclaim: "Fancy seeing you here," but it is enough to quench the longing to return. What if with those who have left us there is a heart hunger they know not how to satisfy?
Should we not be like the Father in the story of the Prodigal Son with hearts that carry the burden of their falling away, standing ready to welcome them back with gratitude to God and joy in our hearts? If the Prodigal had learned that his father was dead and his brother now had the inheritance nothing would have persuaded him to have returned home. He would rather have died by the swill tub of the swine. It is love that we are needing! Who shall say which is the greater sin? The sin of the backslider or the self-righteousness of the elder son? If once this spirit were really in our midst the Spirit of God would move upon backsliders mightily to persuade them to return and we should welcome them knowing full well as we should that only by the grace of God have we been delivered from their snares. Finally, we should see to it that
4) WE LOVE THE UNGODLY
"God commendeth His own love towards us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." The man of the world does not know it but he is starving for love. Love is leaving the world. What a loveless world we are in. Christians are addressing themselves to world need in the wrong way. A clergyman of the Church of England has led the Aldermaston march but he should know that nuclear developments in war are the result of man's rebellion against God. If he had led a march on London urging men and women to be reconciled to God many of his fellow travellers would have been absent.
If the love of God welled up in our hearts, and our churches were centres of true brotherly love one towards the other; such as the world could never know in its own way of life, then people would be drawn by the Spirit of God to taste the new experience. At the moment if God sent men and women to us we have not enough compassionate, Calvary love in our midst to meet the dire and tragic need of human society. Have you in your heart a love for God sufficiently strong to woo the sinner to Christ? It is love that we need. Therefore as we prepare to come to the Table let each one of us ask how far we can experimentally say "Amen." to the message. If we feel our hearts lack love let us confess the fact to God and ask Him liberally to meet the need of our own hearts and dedicate our whole beings to the fostering of the love for God which He by the Spirit wills to shed abroad within us. There are great possibilities in time and eternity for the individual who perceives the secret and makes the first concern of life to be as full of the love of God as God Himself!
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