The Abiding Presence of the Holy Spirit
May 16th, 1965 @ 10:50 AM
THE ABIDING PRESENCE OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
Dr. W. A. Criswell
5-16-65 10:50 a.m.
This is the pastor bringing the morning message entitled, The Abiding Presence of the Holy Spirit. This, as I have said in our church paper, The Reminder, and at the 8:15 o’clock service this morning, this is an epochal day in my life and in my preaching ministry. I had announced so long ago that last October I would begin preaching a series of sermons on the Holy Spirit; the adorable, and blessed, and present Third Person of the Trinity. When time came however, for me to begin, I found myself bogged down in theological confusion. So, I waited a while, studying longer. And almost every month thereafter I thought, "Now the following month I will begin this series of sermons on the Holy Spirit." But time after time, after time, I found myself theologically, exegetically, confused.
When I began preaching through the Revelation, I paused for a month, as you remember, and took off, took out, and studied for a month so that I could be sure that I would have a common, and continuing interpretation of the book and not change after I came to the fifth chapter or maybe change again when I came to chapter 12. And those days were difficult days for the apocalypse is a very difficult book. But there has been nothing, neither the studying of the Revelation nor any other thing to which I have set my heart – – there has been nothing that has involved so much of so deep and difficult a matter as dedicating myself to this series of sermons on the Holy Spirit. Somebody asked me, "After you get through preaching and we have concluded this series, will there be any difference? Will there be any change?" I replied, "That lies in the sovereign purpose and will of God."
I do not know what will happen or what God will do during these days and months that these sermons are delivered on the Holy Spirit. What God will do in His sovereign grace, I am not able to say. But I do know this much: we who attend these services, and listen with an open heart, and a prayerful and understanding mind, we shall be blessed of God. We shall understand far more than we know now. And what God shall do lies in His elective purpose. We leave it in His grace, and in His choice.
There have been two thousand years practically since Pentecost. That means in the history of the church, we have two thousand years of experience. And for any intelligent, knowledgeable person, we are able to understand, and to interpret the present, and maybe to forecast the future by the past. And for us to blind ourselves to the two thousand years of history, the Holy Spirit present with us since Pentecost, for us to blind ourselves to that history would be all things most inexcusable. Therefore, the series begins with a recounting. And the things are so many. I am almost drowned in the assignment I’ve given myself to present them in just two messages. I had at least fifty or fifty-five minutes this morning to preach and I got two-thirds of the way through what I prepared for this hour. There is so much to be said and so much to be learned. Two thousand years we have had since Pentecost to learn of the meaning, and the message, and the work, and the anointing of the Holy Spirit of God.
In the fourteenth chapter of the Gospel of John the Lord said, "I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Paraclete that He may abide with you forever" [John 14:16]. He is here. He is here this hour, this service. "Even the Spirit of truth; the world cannot receive Him, it cannot know Him, but ye know Him, for He dwelleth with you and shall be in you" [John 14:17]. The Holy Spirit of God, here in this service and in our souls. "But the Paraclete, which is the Holy Ghost, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He shall teach you all things" [John 14:26]. There is nothing that God has purposed for us, in divine and heavenly wisdom that the Holy Spirit will not teach us if we sit as learners and as scholars at His feet.
But when the Paraclete has come, whom I will send unto you from the Father even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, He shall testify of Me.
It is expedient for you that I go away, for if I go not away the Paraclete will not come, but if I depart, I will send Him unto you, that He may abide, that He may abide with us forever.
[John 15:26, 16:7]
So since Pentecost, there have been two thousand years of experience in the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit of God.
Now as we begin this study, the history of the Third Person of the Trinity, is a sea with many waves. The study touches every great doctrine of the Bible: the doctrine of the Trinity, the deity; the doctrine of our Lord and Savior, the Mediator between God and man; the doctrine of the inspiration of the Holy Scriptures; the doctrines of grace and of salvation; the doctrines, the teachings of the gifts of the Spirit in the church to the believers. As the study shall progress, we shall touch every major doctrine, and teaching, and revelation of the Word of God.
Now to start – – first, the teaching of the Holy Spirit, about the Holy Spirit – – in the days of the apostles and in the days of the apostolic fathers; the holy men of God who lived immediately following the days of the apostles – – there never was a time, there never was a time among the early disciples of Jesus when the followers of Christ did not adore, and worship, and witness to the deity of the Holy Spirit. That is found in their baptismal formula. And it is found in their many doxologies. "We are to baptize," said the Gospel of Matthew, "in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit" – – one God in trinity, "in the name of", singular, "in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit" [Matthew 28:19].
And that same Trinity is found in their doxologies, the last verse of the second [book] of Corinthians ends with this beautiful benediction, "The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the communion of the Holy Spirit, be with you all, Amen" [2 Corinthians 13:14]. In the glorious doxology that begins the apocalypse; the Revelation 1:4, John, to the seven churches which are in Asia, "Grace be unto you and peace, from Him which is and which was and which is to come, the Pantokrator, God Almighty; and from the seven spirits which are before His throne," – seven as you know in the Bible is a word for the plentitude, the fullness of God – "from God Almighty and from the fullness of the Spirit and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the Earth" [Revelation 1:4, 5].
All through the lives of the apostles, you find that glorious adoration, and that marvelous worship, and witness to the three persons in the God-head; co-substantial, co-equal, of the same substance, God our very God; God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit. Now after the days of the apostles, when the apostles had died; the apostolic fathers, the holy men of God in the churches, were no less of the same heart and same mind as they worshiped and adored the three persons in the God-head. For example, when Polycarp was murdered, in about 155 AD, the pastor of the church at Smyrna, the church at Smyrna sent out a letter, an encyclical to all the other Christian churches in the world in which they described the noble martyrdom of their great pastor. And the letter that the church of Smyrna sent out, describing the death of the martyred pastor Polycarp ends, that letter ends, with the martyr’s closing act of worship.
And I quote from Polycarp as he laid down his life for Jesus which quotation closes this glorious letter in 155 AD from the church at Smyrna. Listen, "For this," said the martyr, "and for all things I praise Thee, I bless Thee, I glorify Thee with the eternal and heavenly Jesus Christ, Thy beloved Son. With whom to Thee and to the Holy Ghost be glory both now and through all ages to come."
I quote once again from Julius Africanus, one of the most learned ecclesiastics of all time, born in about 160 AD, made his home at Emmaus in Palestine near Jerusalem. He wrote five books in his choronography, sometimes called a chronicon, in which he recounted all the things of the blessings of God, from the days of the apostles to his own day. He closes his fifth and last book with this glorious doxology. "We render thanks to Him who gave our Lord Jesus Christ to be a Savior, to whom with the Holy Ghost, be glory and majesty forever."
The apostles and the apostolic fathers never defended, never defined, they never delineated the Holy Spirit. They took His presence as elementary, as foundational, as fundamental and they never argued it. Just as the Bible never argues the presence, and the power, and the reality of God, the Bible just begins, "In the beginning, God," The only thing it adds thereto is later in the Psalm, "The fool hath said in his heart, there is no God" [Psalm 14:1]. The Bible never argues it. It never defends. It just presents the glorious Lord. In the same way did the apostles and the apostolic fathers present the Trinity; the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
One other thing among the apostolic fathers, one of their marvelous and glorious acts of deference and worship to the Holy Spirit is this. They looked upon the Holy Spirit as the author of all of the Scriptures, the Old Testament and the New Testament [2 Timothy 3:16]. And they constantly spoke of the Holy Scriptures as being the writings of the Spirit of God [2 Peter 1:20-21]. And I take Justin Martyr for example, who lived in about 150 AD and in speaking of the ancient writers as a stringed instrument, writing the Holy Scriptures, Justin Martyr said this, "Their task," the task of the writers, the apostles, and the prophets who wrote the Old and the New Testament, "their task was but to surrender themselves wholly to the working of the Spirit of God, that the divine plectrum descending from heaven might make use of holy men, as of a harp or a lyre, in order to reveal to us the knowledge of divine and heavenly things."
Hieronymus who lived just a little later, says of the Scriptures and I quote, "They are spoken by the Word of God and His Spirit. While we, in the degree in which we are inferior, and stand at the greatest distance from the Word of God in His Spirit, are in need of the knowledge of His mysteries." And again, "The logos has given us a four-fold gospel: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. The logos has given us a four-fold gospel, which is held together by one Spirit. One Spirit inspired and ultimately wrote it all."
One of the peculiarities of the Greek fathers – – the Latin fathers in the West, the Greek fathers in the East – – one of the peculiarities of the Greek fathers is this. That practically always, they omit the name of the author of the Scripture they’re quoting and refer it as a saying of the Holy Ghost. Instead of saying, "Isaiah says" or "Paul says", the Greek fathers will almost inevitably say, "As the Holy Ghost says." For example and I quote from Origin, "We can by no means say of the writings of the Holy Ghost, that there is anything superfluous or idle in them, although many a thing may appear dark to us." The whole Scripture, old and new, the apostolic fathers attributed to the writing, to the inspiration, to the God-breathing of the Holy Spirit. And they rarely will use the name of the human author. But they rather refer all of the Bible to the writing of the Holy Spirit.
Now after the first generation of those holy men of God who followed the apostles, there came bitter, and terrible, and vicious attack against the Trinity and the deity of the Son of God, and of course, the deity of the Holy Spirit. And this began the Christological controversies that severed, and wrecked, and tore the churches from one side of the civilized world to the other. And that gave birth to the creeds. That’s where the creeds came from. When the heretics and men who did not accept and believe the inspiration of the Word of God – – when heretics attacked the church, and attacked the Bible, and attacked the inspiration of the Scriptures and the revelation of God therein – – the people of God gathered together. And through their preachers, and through their pastors, and through their ecclesiastical theologians, scholars, they spelled out the best they could in human language, they spelled out what it is that the Bible teaches and the Word of God reveals. And when they wrote it out you call that thing written out a creed.
Now you can follow the attack and the story of the orthodox men of God as they develop and as they wrote these creeds. First of all, and the oldest of all, is the Apostles’ Creed. There are many scholars who think they can trace back the Apostles’ Creed to 100 AD, to the days of John, the beloved disciple. Other scholars deny that but in any event the Apostles’ Creed goes back, and back, and back in antiquity to the days of the very apostles themselves. And the Apostles’ Creed is the pattern for all of the creeds that have been written ever since. It is very simple and it presents the doctrine of the three persons in the God-head. I read it in its ancient form.
I believe in God the Father Almighty, and in Jesus Christ His only Son, our Lord; who was born of the Holy Ghost and the virgin Mary; crucified under Pontius Pilate and buried; the third day He rose from the dead, He ascended into Heaven, sitteth at the right hand of the Father. Then He shall come to judge living and dead, and in the Holy Ghost, the Holy church, the remission of sins, the resurrection of the flesh.
That was a pre-summation of those ancient people of the great cardinal doctrines that surrounded the deity of Christ, of God, and of the Holy Spirit.
Then in about two hundred, a little before 200 AD, there arose men who began a vicious and merciless attack against the inspiration of the Bible and the revelation of God and the Trinity. One of them was named Sabellius. He flourished about 200 AD and his heresy is called sabellionism. And the doctrine of Sabellius was this, we call it modalism, there is a uni-personal god and he just appeared. He just energizes in these modes. For example, one of his modes, one of his energies, was in creation; you might call that God, the Father, the creator. One of his modes is redeemer, and you might call that Jesus of Nazareth. One of his modes, one of his energies is the life-giving work of the Holy Spirit. The heresy of Sabellius was that there is no such thing as a Trinity and as a person in the God-head.
And it was against Sabellius, that Tertullian, the brilliant lawyer, convert of Carthage North Africa, that Tertullian coined the word Trinity; a trinity, one in three, three in one. And it was against Sabellius that the preachers of that day began to use the word "Person", applying to the persons of the God-head. You won’t find Trinity in the Bible. You won’t find Person in the Bible referring to the God-head. It was against the heresy of Sabellius who denied the Trinity and who looked upon God as being modal in His life. He would express Himself here, express himself there, express himself there but just different expressions of God; but no such thing as a difference of person in the God-head, or a trinity of persons in the God-head.
Now as the days further past, the greatest heretic, and the ablest of all time and the most famous of Christian history, arose and flourished about 300 AD. His name was Arias. And the Arian Controversy swept the entire civilized world and at first carried the churches of Christ with it. Arias believed that there was one Almighty God and that that one Almighty God made, created, Jesus, and that Jesus created the Holy Spirit. You’ll find in these heretics more and more that the Holy Spirit becomes sort of an undefined influence. These men are your first Unitarians. Arias believed that the Holy Spirit was a creature of a creature. God created Jesus and Jesus created the Holy Spirit. Since most of that controversy and most of that attack was directed against the deity of Christ. He’s just another human being, a super-Socrates, an exalted Confucius; maybe the finest but still just a man. That controversy was directed mostly against the deity of the Son of God in denying the Trinity, denying the deity of Christ, and of course, the Holy Spirit.
So in 325 AD, there was gathered together in a little town in Asia Minor called Nicea, there was gathered the leaders of all the churches of the Christian world. And they were gathered there to confront Arias with his doctrine against the deity of the Son of God, and the deity of the Holy Spirit. And in those days in 325 AD, the council of Nicea took the Apostles’ Creed and they spelled out the deity of the second person of the adorable Trinity. And they wrote it like this, I read the Nicean Creed:
We believe in one God the Father almighty, Maker of all things visible and invisible; and in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, begotten of the Father, only begotten, that is of the substance of the Father, God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made, both those in Heaven and those on Earth; who for us men, for our salvation, came down and was made flesh and lived as man among men, suffered, and rose the third day, ascended into Heaven, is coming to judge the quick and the dead; and in the Holy Ghost.
That is the Nicean Creed spelling out the deity of the Son of God.
Now in the Apostolic Creed, in the Apostles’ Creed, and the Nicean Creed of 325, there was spelled out in no uncertain terms the deity, the co-substantiality, the same essence, of God the Father, God the Son. But they just mention the Holy Ghost, "We believe in the Holy Ghost." There was a great period of turmoil that followed the Nicean Council and Creed of 325. And that turmoil was led by an able ecclesiastic and theologian by the name of Macedonius and his heresy is called Macedonianism. And the onslaught of Macedonius was especially against the Third Person of the Trinity, denying His deity, denying Him a co-substantiality and an essence the same with God, and making Him some kind of an influence or some kind of a creation.
So in 381 AD there was called another council; this one in Constantinople. And this council spelled out the doctrine of the churches recording the third person of the Trinity. They took the Creed of the Council of Nicea, and they made this addition with regard to the Holy Spirit, and I read their added words. "We believe in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and Giver of life, who proceedeth from the Father. Who with the Father and Son together is worshiped and glorified, who spake by the apostles." And from that day in 381 AD to this day, wherever there is an orthodox church, Greek Catholic, Roman Catholic, Protestant, Evangelical, Baptist anywhere in the world that there is an orthodox church, that is the ultimate and final doctrine of the deity of the God we worship. There is one God Almighty in heaven, there is one God Almighty, our Redeemer in earth, and there is one God Almighty who lives in our souls: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit; "adorable, worshiped, and glorified, who spake by the apostles" in this message, an inspired and unchangeable Word of God. That is the creed.
Now in those days, in those days, there arose a heretic; and his name was Montanus. And the heresy of Montanism swept the Christian world. Montanus appeared about 150 AD. Now remember in 150 AD, Polycarp, the convert and disciple of John was pastor in Smyrna, one of the seven churches of Asia. And at the same time Patheus, a convert, and a disciple of the sainted apostle John was pastor at Hierapolis, which is just across the Lycas River from Laodicea. In those days – – now you remember how early those days were and how near to the apostles those days were – – for when Montanus appeared, the disciples and converts of John, the beloved disciple were still living and still preaching the gospel of the Son of God.
Montanus appeared in about 150 AD and his appearance signaled an amazing and an unusual thing. It was this: when the apostles died, when the apostles passed away, the marvelous, supernatural, miraculous works of the apostles died with them just like that. Just like you cut it off, just like you take a cleaver and sever it. Oh, how those marvelous, miraculous, supernatural things that the apostles were able to do! When they died, those supernatural things died with them in the immediate and following generation. The apostles could raise the dead. Peter did. Paul did. The apostles could do marvelous, and wonderful, and supernatural things. And they saw visions and Christ appeared to them in person. And they wrote down visions and revelations from heaven. Paul did. John the sainted and beloved disciple did. And these things that they received became Holy Scriptures but when the apostles died all that was cut off, just like that. It ceased to be. The supernatural works of the apostles ceased when those apostles died.
Isn’t it natural and wouldn’t you have expected it? Isn’t it natural that there should appear some man of piety, and ecstatic vision, and acidic vigor? Wouldn’t you expect some man to stand up, and to appear, and to say, "In me all of the gifts of the apostles by the Holy Spirit, are recreated. In me all of the heavenly visions are renewed. And in me all of the mighty works of the apostles can be seen?" That exact thing happened in about 150 AD, for there appeared in a village in Fitua, a prophet by the name of Montanus; with his two prophetesses, Maximilla and Priscilla. And they came with trances, and with ecstasies, and with visions. And what they said and what they delivered was purported by them to be the latest revelations from heaven and to supersede the very Scriptures themselves.
And one of the most astonishing and amazing things that I ever read in history is this, Montanism swept away Tertullian and some of the greatest theological minds of the Christian world. Tertullian, this able and brilliant defender of the faith, in North Africa; Tertullian was a Montanist. And I read this. Tertullian said, "If the writings of the apostle Paul can supersede the writings of Moses then why cannot the ecstatic revelations and visions of Montanus supersede the writings of the apostle Paul?" I am amazed, I am overwhelmed at the hold and the drive that Montanism had in the early, early Christian world.
Well, out of the fierce and violent conflict between Montanism and the preachers and pastors of the churches, there came two things. And you listen to these two things. First, the churches of Christ and the pastors of the congregations of the Lord said,
The Scriptures are forever a closed and a sealed Book. There are to be no other visions. There are to be no other revelations. And we are to expect no other Holy Scriptures from God, from the Holy Spirit, from heaven. But they are forever concluded and there is to be no other addition to the Canon.
That was the first thing that rose out of the conflict with Montanism. And the churches of those early and far away days said this last book in the Bible, the Book of the Revelation, deservedly and by the Spirit of God is the last book of the Bible.
And the last words in that Revelation refer to the whole message in the Word of God.
I testifyeth unto man that the words of this prophecy,
If any man shall add unto these things God shall add unto him the plagues in the Book.
And if any man shall take away from this Book, God shall take away his part in the Book of Life, and from the Holy City, and from the things which are written in this Book.
[Revelation 22:18, 19]
The churches back there after 150 AD, when Montanus came saying, "I have a new revelation from God. I have another vision. God has spoken again and we have other Scriptures." The churches then said, "No. There are no other Scriptures. There are no other revelations. There are no other visions. This is a closed and a final canon."
And the true churches of God have been saying that ever since through all of the centuries since. They say, "No," to Joseph Smith and his vision of the book of Mormon. "There are no other visions and no other revelations, and no other words to be added to the Scriptures." They say, "No," to Mary Baker Glover Patterson Eddy. "There are no other additions. There are no other visions and there are no other Scriptures. This is a closed and a final Book. And until the end of time," said those ancient people, "We are to expect no other verse, no other chapter, no other paragraph, no other volume added to the holy Word of God." I am just reciting history. That is what they said in 150 AD as they wrestled with the vicious presentation of Montanus.
All right, the second thing, and our time is gone, the second thing that arose out of the Montanian controversy. Montanus came claiming as a prophet of God, and as moved by the Holy Spirit of God, and as the leader of the Latter-Day Saints. Montanus came saying that renewed in him and in his prophetesses were all of the gifts and all of the marvelous wonder-working power of the Holy Spirit that God gave to the apostles. So the churches, in wrestling with Montanism, said a second thing. Namely, that supernatural gifts – – the marvelous powers that were given the apostles to raise the corrupting dead and to do many other glorious and incomparable things – – that the gift of supernatural working of miracles was never promised to the continuing church. That they ceased in the authentication of the message of the apostles and that the purpose of the miraculous working power of the holy apostles was to authenticate their mission and the message from heaven. And when the apostles died, those marvelous, supernatural gifts of raising the dead and of all those other incomparable things they did, that those marvelous gifts died with them. And we are not to expect them any longer or any more.
And they said that the work of the Holy Spirit now is one of illumination and regeneration. We are not to look for another apostle John. We are not to expect another miraculous working Simon Peter raising the dead. We are not to look for another glorious, glorious apocalyptic vision from heaven. These things ceased in the days of the apostles. And what now we are to pray for is the illumination of the Holy Spirit of God in our minds, and in our souls as we read the holy and divine Word. And we are to expect the marvelous regenerating power of God as we witness to the saving grace of the Lord Jesus.
But if you come to your pastor or if you go to any church and you expect some marvelous, supernatural demonstration, some miraculous visitation from heaven, you are going to be disappointed according to the Word of God and according to the testimony of the churches for two thousand years. Our work now is to be given, through an illumination of the mind and the heart, an understanding of what God has revealed to us in His sacred Book. And in the power of the Holy Spirit of God to raise not from the corrupting dead this corrupting flesh, but to raise out of the death of damnation and judgment upon our sins to a new, and a saved, and a regenerated life in Jesus Christ.
And the joy of the Spirit, and the fullness of the Spirit, and the glory of the Spirit, and the understanding of the Word of God, and the power of a life lived again in the name of Jesus, and a thousand other glorious things that God has in store for us, the Lord will give us today. He will bestow them upon us today [Hebrews 11:6]. But we are not any longer to look for a new chapter to add to the Bible. Nor are we to look for any man to appear on the scene of history who is able to raise the dead and to do the miraculous works done by those holy apostles as they were sent forth to authenticate their message, preaching the gospel of Jesus.
Now we shall pick it up from there. I had hoped to go much further in this message but the time is gone. We will pick it up from there and follow it through, next Sunday, I pray to this present hour; the history of the Holy Spirit as we see Him in the churches and in the lives of the people. And God give us wisdom to profit and to deliver us from the terrible errors that so many others have fallen into and do fall into. Oh, the divisiveness, and the heresies, and the terrible and awful disillusions that arrive when people are not taught the things of the truth of God! May He bless us now, and give us heavenly wisdom, and an unction from above that shall sustain us in our life now and shall deliver us in triumph in the life that is yet to come.
Now, Brother Till, while we sing our song, somebody giving his heart to Jesus, somebody putting his life in the fellowship of the church, a couple, a family, one somebody you, while we sing these words of appeal. In the balcony round, from side to side, you come and stand by me, "Pastor today I give my heart to Jesus, today I take the Lord as my Savior." Or, "Pastor we are coming in to the fellowship of the church, and here we are, here we come." As the Spirit shall say the word to your soul, and lead in this appeal, on the first note of the first stanza, come; when you stand up, stand up coming. "Here I am. I decide now." While we stand and while we sing.