Identifying A New Testament Assembly
Compiled by Lonnie Ford for the Nepali Brethren
Chapter: IX. THE ANOINTING OF THE NEW TESTAMENT ASSEMBLY FOR DIVINE SERVICE
- THE "PROMISE OF THE FATHER" is a special ministry of the Spirit, in and on behalf of the New Testament assembly, (John 14:12-20, 26; 15:26; 16:7-14).
- Just before His ascension to the Father, Jesus said to His disciples in 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."
- It is no accident that the Holy Spirit is called the "Holy Spirit of promise" in Eph. 1:13.
The Spirit's ministry to the assembly and through the Assembly, cannot be understood apart from a careful study of what Jesus called -- the "Promise of the Father" in Acts 1:4.
- This was a reference to the Old Testament prophecies of Joel, Zechariah, Isaiah and Ezekiel among others.
Before the Spirit could come in His indwelling capacity, it was necessary for Jesus to both "go away" and to be "glorified," (John 16:7; 7:37-39).
- A close examination of John chapters 13-17, will identify the people to whom the "Promise of the Father" pertains.
- This group was those with which the Lord established His supper in the upper room.
- After Jesus' death, burial and resurrection, being assembled with His Apostles, and having taught them for 40 days, He commanded them to wait -- "To whom also he showed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God: 4 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. 5 For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence," (Acts 1:3-5).
This promise was only partially fulfilled on the day of Pentecost, upon the faithful remnant of that House. (There are still future aspects of that promise, that have to do with the coming future millennial kingdom at the return of Christ).
According to Paul in Eph. 1:14, we now only have an "earnest of the Spirit."
- We are safe to say that the promise was made with the house of God, and not to all those who have believed in Jesus.
- It was a promise made in Jer. 31:31-34 with the house of Israel and the house of Judah.
The Old Testament prophets invariably saw the promise of the 'indwelling Spirit,' connected with the restoration of the theocracy to Israel in the coming Millennium, (cp. Ez. 37:26-28).
- But in the day of redemption, resurrection and regeneration, we shall receive of the Spirit without measure.
- It is implied that we now realize only a pledge of what shall be in that glorious day.
It is evident that the complete and final fulfillment of this "Promise of the Father," will be realized only in the coming kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ.
It is cause for rejoicing -- "that the gentiles are now fellowheirs, and of the same body and partakers of the promise in Christ by the gospel," (Eph. 3:6).
- The testimony of Isaiah is in perfect harmony with this, (cp. Isa 59:19-21).
The engrafting of the Gentiles into the "House of God," was a "Mystery hidden from ages and generations" but now is revealed through the apostles and prophets according to Eph. 3.
According to Eph. 5, we, who are members of a New Testament Assembly, are members of the flesh and bone of Christ.
Christ is the true "Seed" of Abraham, (Gal. 3).
Therefore (according to Eph. 2), it is only through identification with Christ, in body relationship, that Gentiles become "fellow body members" with the Saints and of the household of God.
No person can experience this covenant blessing apart from such an intimate relationship to Jesus, the Christ, the true seed of Abraham, and the heir of the Promise.
In Gal. 3:14 we read -- "That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith."
- Yet Paul warned -- "That ye be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promise," (Heb 6:12).
- Then in Heb. 10:36 Paul said, "for ye have need of patience that after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise."
THE PROVISION OF THE SPIRIT.
- By the death of the "Seed" Jesus, -- provision is made so that "the blessings of Abraham" might come on the Gentile.
- This was so that we might receive "the Promise of the Spirit through faith."
- This "promise of the Spirit," is the promise of God's dwelling presence with His New Covenant people in this age.
- This promise was also limited to a loving and obedient people -- it was for those who love the commandments of God, (John 14:21-23 cp. Acts 5:30-32).
For the GUIDANCE and EMPOWERING (enabling) of the assembly to fulfill its commission.
- Chapters 14-17 of the Gospel of John revolve around this "promise of the Father," and its effect in the lives of His people.
- This is best summarized by John in chapter 14:16-17 -- "And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you forever; Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you."
- The apostle Paul spoke of this same blessedness in Col. 1:26-27 -- "Even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints: To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory."
- Here the reference to this indwelling, will be found connected with Christ being "in" his people, and their being "filled with all the fullness."
- The Spirit is CONTINUALLY at work in the Assembly.
He is at work in the assembly, to bring us to the consummation of all that is within the perfect will of God, for the members of the 'Body of Christ.' Blessed and manifold are His ministries in our behalf:
- He came to TEACH us all things.
He came to EMPOWER us in our witness:
- Here is Jesus' own promise: John 14:26 -- Williams, "But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send to represent Me (lit. 'in My Name'; so 'to represent Me') will TEACH YOU EVERYTHING HIMSELF, and cause you to remember everything that I have told you."
He will GUIDE us into all Truth:
- John 15:26-27, "But when the Helper comes, that is, THE SPIRIT OF TRUTH, who comes from the Father and Whom I Myself will send to you from the Father, HE WILL SPEAK PLAINLY ('testify') ABOUT ME. AND YOU YOURSELVES WILL ALSO SPEAK PLAINLY ('bear testimony') ABOUT ME for you have been with Me from the first."
He will DIRECT our service:
- John 16:13 -- (Amplified), When He, THE SPIRIT OF TRUTH (the Truth-giving Spirit) comes, He will GUIDE you into all Truth (the whole, full Truth). For He will not speak His own message -- on His own authority - but He will tell whatever He hears (from the Father, He will give the message that has been given to Him) and He will announce and declare to you the things that are to come -- that will happen in the future.
He will BEAR WITNESS to our SONSHIP:
- Acts 13:2-4 (RSV), "While they were worshipping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, 'Set apart for Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.' Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off. So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went down to Seleucia; and from there they sailed to Cyprus. When they arrived at Salamis, they proclaimed the Word of God . . ."
He will FULFILL THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF THE LAW in us:
- Romans 8:16 (KJV), "For His Holy Spirit speaks to us deep in our hearts, and tells us that we really are GOD'S SONS."
He will help us in our infirmities and make intercession for us:
- Romans 8:4 (KJV), " . . . that the righteousness of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit."
He will reveal the glory of things to come:
- Romans 8:26, "Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities (weaknesses, daily problems, etc.) for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered (with feelings that cannot be expressed in words)."
He will impart GIFTS for effective service:
- 1 Cor. 2:9-16, Note the following about this passage.
- verse 9-10, We know these things because God has sent His Spirit to tell us, and His Spirit searches out and shows us all of God's deepest secrets.
- verse 11, As no man can know what anyone else is thinking or what he is really like, except that person himself, so no one can know God's thoughts except GOD'S OWN SPIRIT!
- verse 12, Therefore, God has given us HIS SPIRIT ('not the world's spirit'), to tell us about the wonderful free gifts of grace and blessing that God has given us.
- verse 13, And in telling you about these gifts, we have even used the very words given to us by the HOLY SPIRIT ('spiritual things'), not words that we as men might choose ('human wisdom'). So we use the HOLY SPIRIT'S WORDS to explain the HOLY SPIRIT'S Truth, comparing spiritual things with other spiritual things equally revealed by the SPIRIT.
- verse 14, These things shared by the Holy Spirit are foolishness to the natural man, so he will not and cannot accept them because they are spiritually understood.
- verse 15, He that is spiritual, discerns the truth & has the mind of Christ.
He will bring forth in us His gracious fruit:
- 1 Cor. 12:1, "Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I would not have you ignorant ... there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are differences of service, but the same Lord; and there are diversities of ways to operate, but it is the same God which worketh all in all. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man for the common good of all."
Ultimately, He will quicken our bodies in a glory resurrection like our Lord's:
- Gal. 5:22, "The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law."
THE BAPTISM OF THE HOLY SPIRIT.
- Romans 8:11, "If the Spirit of Him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, He that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by His Spirit that dwelleth in you . . ."
- Jesus looked upon His disciples as the nucleus of Israel, who accepted His Message of THE KINGDOM OF GOD.
After Jesus' death and resurrection, this small group of dedicated disciples, numbering about 120, waited several weeks on God for divine direction.
- They were therefore, formed into the true people of God, 'the spiritual Israel.'
- He indicated His purpose to bring into being His Assembly, made up of those who recognized Him as MESSIAH.
- These would be 'THE PEOPLE OF THE KINGDOM,' (i.e. its rightful heirs), and at the same time they would be the MESSENGERS OF THE GOSPEL OF THE KINGDOM in the world.
On the day of Pentecost, a marvelous thing happened.
Jesus' disciples experienced a divine visitation that was accompanied by certain visible and audible manifestations, which convinced them that God had poured out His Promised Spirit upon them.
When the little band of 120 faithful disciples experienced the Pentecostal 'gift of the Spirit,' Peter spoke of it saying (Acts 2:16), "This is what was spoken by the prophet Joel."
The promise given to Israel to be fulfilled at THE DAY OF THE LORD, was now being experienced ... NOT BY THE NATION, but by a group of faithful men and women who believed in Jesus as the MESSIAH, and were obedient to His command to 'go and wait,' (Luke 24:49).
THIS WAS NOT A FULFILLMENT OF JOEL, but a foretaste of what it will be like.
- During a period of forty days, Jesus appeared to them from time to time, continuing to instruct them in the same theme that had been His central message -- THE KINGDOM OF GOD, (Acts 1:3).
- This they understood to refer to restoration of the Jewish Kingdom, (Acts 1:6).
Furthermore, Peter adds an expression that gives the event END-TIME significance.
- It was the same 'in kind' but not in 'quality.'
- The recipients were still IN THE FLESH, they were not GLORIFIED as those in Joel will be -- IN THAT DAY.
The 'last days' are the DAYS OF THE SPIRIT, who has now been given to His Assembly.
The coming of the Spirit manifested Himself in several ways to the Jews, appealing to their PHYSICAL SENSES:
- He substitutes for Joel's 'after this' ('afterwards' KJV) the words, "AND IN THE LAST DAYS," (Acts 2:17).
- In the prophets, 'THE LAST DAYS' was an expression designating the time of 'THE KINGDOM OF GOD,' the KINGDOM ERA.
- In 'THE LAST DAYS,' God's RULE is to be established in all the earth; all nations will worship the God of Israel and peace will prevail among all men, (Isa 2:2-4).
Peter explained that this marvelous power was the outward sign of experiencing Joel's prophecy, when God would pour out His Spirit on ALL HIS PEOPLE.
This outpouring of the Spirit is called the 'baptism of the Spirit' (Acts 1:5), and the 'gift of the Holy Spirit,' (Acts 2:38).
The meaning of the 'IMMERSION of the Spirit' can be discovered from a study of the uses of the term.
- A mighty rushing sound filled the upper room where the 120 disciples were gathered.
- They saw the appearance of a flame of fire, splitting up into separate tongues and resting upon each of them.
- They felt themselves filled with a wonderful sense of the PRESENCE OF GOD, so much so that they broke forth in praise to God.
- They had the capacity to speak in different languages, so that all present could hear in the dialects of their native lands.
- The 120 disciples were baptized with the Spirit at Pentecost, and at the same time they were 'filled' with the Spirit, (Acts 2:2).
- These two terms - 'immersion' and 'filling' -- are not synonymous, for Luke relates that there were recurrences of the 'FILLING' with the Spirit (Acts 2:4; 4:8; cf. 9:17 and 13:9), but never is it said that believers were immersed with the Spirit A SECOND TIME.
- The 'gift of the Spirit' was promised to those who repented and were baptized in water, (Acts 2:38).
- Whenever the Spirit is mentioned AFTER Pentecost, it is never an experience of believers who had already been baptized once with the Spirit, but only of new people brought into the fellowship of those who had been immersed - the new people of God, Messiah's Assembly.
- When Philip took the Gospel to Samaria, the Samaritans believed and were baptized; however they did not at once receive the Holy Spirit, "but they had only been baptized in the Name of the Lord Jesus," (Acts 8:12, 16), i.e., they did not at once enter into the 'immersion' with the Holy Spirit.
Immersion with the Spirit is explicitly mentioned after the conversion of Cornelius THE GENTILE, and his family.
- Only AFTER Peter and John had come down from Jerusalem and prayed, laying their hands on those NEW BELIEVERS OUTSIDE OF ISRAEL, was the gift of the Holy Spirit given.
- There had to be a direct recognition of the authority of the Jerusalem Assembly, where the Spirit resided before they could enter into its blessings.
These two instances however, are not a repetition of the Pentecostal experience, but its EXTENSION beyond the circle of Jewish believers, first to the Samaritans and then to the Gentiles.
- The gift of the Spirit, which was given even as Peter was preaching (Acts 10:44f), is identified with the baptism with the Spirit (Acts 11:16) in Peter's explanation; but it did not require the laying on of hand or water immersion.
- This was a very difficult time for the JEWISH ASSEMBLY.
- They had to learn to accept GENTILES into their fellowship.
A final allusion occurred in Ephesus, where Paul found a small group of disciples who had never heard of the gift of the Spirit, (Acts 19:2).
- They were entering into something that had already been given.
- They had only been baptized 'into John's baptism,' i.e., they knew of John's preaching about Jesus as the Messiah and had been baptized into repentance in anticipation of the coming Kingdom.
- They had not heard of Jesus' death and resurrection, and of the coming of the Holy Spirit.
- They may have been converts of Apollos who knew only the baptism of John until he met Priscilla and Aquila, (Acts 18:25-26).
- Though Apollos may have been baptizing knowing only of the baptism of John, it is evident that he had no authority to do so, in that he was not part of the authorized assembly.
- When they were baptized in water in the Name of the Lord Jesus, Paul laid his hands on them, and the "Holy Spirit came on them" and they spoke in languages and prophesied, (Acts 19:6).