The Deep Things of God

1 Corinthians

The Deep Things of God

January 10th, 1965 @ 10:50 AM

But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.
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1 Corinthians 2:10

1-10-65     10:50 a.m.


Along with this great throng who fill this vast auditorium in the First Baptist Church in Dallas, we welcome you who share with us this hour on radio and on television.  This is the pastor bringing the morning message entitled The Deep Things of God.  It is a message concerning the Holy Spirit.  Not as a text, but only as a subject, I read in the middle part of the second chapter of 1 Corinthians.  Paul is writing of the things God hath in store for us who love Him, saying that eye has never seen them, ear has never heard their description, the heart of a man has never even imagined them; but God hath revealed them unto us by His Spirit: “for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God” [1 Corinthians 2:9-10].  And that was a subject chosen for this hour, The Deep Things of God.

And it is just my reaction to the study of these past several months, as I have wrestled with and attempted to prepare the series of promised sermons on the Holy Spirit.  But they are not forthcoming.  I have not started delivering them yet, and I do not know when their commencement will be made.  The first rule of homiletics, the first principle of preaching, is this:  never preach your doubts, or your uncertainties, or your perplexities, but rather preach your assurances and your convictions.  And I’ve never broken that rule that I know of in my life.  In the thirty-seven years I have been a preacher, I have tried without exception to preach what I felt and what I felt that I knew was the truth of God.  This is the only time thus far I have ever departed from that ironclad rule.  That promised series of the Holy Spirit on the Holy Spirit has not begun, and I do not know when it will begin.  And the reason is a very plain and patent one.  There are so many perplexities in my own soul concerning the truth of the Holy Spirit of God until I cannot begin.  And I’m not going to begin until I have an answer from heaven that at least speaks to my own heart.  Now several have said to me, “That’s a strange thing.  That’s an unusual thing.”  And others have said to me, “Why, these things, I have not found them so perplexing and so full of difficulty.  Why do you hesitate?  And why are you stammering?  And why do you not have that temerity and boldness to begin?”  So I just thought this morning I would tell you why.  Why the hesitation and then to outline, if I can, some of the perplexities that flood me, that overwhelm me as though I were lost in a raging storm in the sea––some of the things that overwhelm me concerning the Holy Spirit of God.

All right let’s begin.  First: it is a most delicate subject, most so.  In the passage of Scripture that you read in the sixteenth chapter of the Gospel of John, our Lord said of the Holy Spirit of God, “For He shall not speak of Himself [John 16:13].  He shall glorify Me [John 16:14].  He shall take of Mine, and show it unto you [John 16:14], but He will not speak of Himself” [John 16:13].  The Holy Spirit of God is in the background.  He is in the inner sanctuary.  He is in the Holy of Holies, and when one probes into the person and work of the Holy Spirit, it is like one intruding.  It is as one intruding into the holy sanctuary itself.  “He shall not speak of Himself” [John 16:13].  He is always in the background.  He is likened unto a dove–that sensitive.  And how easily would a dove fly away?  It is like coming into the intimacies of a family thus to probe and to intrude into the person, and presence, and work of the Holy Spirit.  “He shall not speak of Himself, but He shall glorify and speak of the Lord Jesus” [John 16:13-14].

One of the great theologians of this last century wrote these words in the beginning of his tremendous theological work on the Holy Spirit, and I quote from him:

The need of divine guidance is never more deeply felt than when one undertakes to give instruction in the work of the Holy Spirit.  So unspeakably tender is the subject, touching the inmost secrets of God, and the soul’s deepest mysteries.  We shield instinctively the intimacies of kindred and friends from intrusive observation.  And nothing hurts the sensitive heart more than the rude exposure of that which should not be unveiled, being beautiful only in the retirement of the family circle.  Great delicacy befits our approach to the holy mystery of our soul’s intimacy with the living God.

[“The Work of the Holy Spirit,” by Abraham Kuyper]

And I am persuaded, as I study I am persuaded that the more one approached the truth of the Spirit of the Lord, and as one would draw the nigher and would understand the more, I am more convinced and more persuaded the less he would be knowledgeable, or boastful, or ostentatious.

I think of the vision of Isaiah when he saw the Lord and the throne of God.  And he described the seraphim, and he said each one had six wings.  “With twain he covered his face,” in holy reverential awe; “and with twain he covered his feet,” in humility, hiding himself in the presence of God; “and with twain he did fly” [Isaiah 6:2], lifting himself from this sinful earth.  I have that persuasion of our intruding into the presence of the innermost sanctuary of the Most High, to cover our faces, O God, to cover our feet, and even to lift ourselves up from a sinful earth.  It is a delicate subject.

I have a second observation.  I am surprised.  It is an astonishment to me the doctrinally divisive attendant that constantly characterizes the history of the church.  There has never been a promulgation of a doctrine, a teaching, concerning the Holy Spirit of God that did not meet violent opposition.  And it has been a battleground ecclesiastically, doctrinally, from the beginning.  And there hasn’t been any age or any era where the divisiveness of the teaching and doctrine of the Holy Spirit has not rent the very heart of the congregations of the Lord, all the way through.

In the beginning centuries, in the 200s, there was a great theologian by the name of Sabellius.  He was the father of modern Unitarianism, Sabellius.  Sabellius taught, and Sabellianism is, that the Holy Spirit is not a person, may be an energy, may be a modal aspect of God, may be an influence; but the Holy Spirit is not a person, so said Sabellius in the theological controversy of his day.  And he was followed by Arius in the 300s.  Arius was the most famous heretic of all time.  And the entire civilized world was rent by the heresies of Arius; resulted in the tremendously effective and world-famed Nicene Council, called in 325 by [Constantine], the first Christian Roman emperor.  Arius said that Jesus was a creation of God the Father.  And Arius said that the Holy Spirit is a creation of God the Son.  “He is a creature.  He is not deity.  He is not God.  He is a creation just like all the other created beings in this universe.”

As you follow through those stormy theological controversies, we come to the middle centuries.  And to my amazement, I remembered again, though it had gone out of my mind, it was over the doctrine of the Holy Spirit that the churches of the Lord were rent in two between the East Greek Orthodox Church and the West Roman Latin Church.  They divided over a doctrine of the Holy Spirit.  In 325 AD at the Council of Nicaea, the creed was written that the Holy Spirit proceeded from the Father, though it was commonly believed He also proceeded from the Son.  In 381 AD, in 381 AD at the world council of the churches, the creed was the same—that the Holy Spirit of God proceeded from the Father, though it was commonly believed as in Nicaea, though it was commonly believed that the Holy Spirit also proceeded from the Son.  The council in 381 AD met in Constantinople.  So in 325 at Nicaea, in 381 at Constantinople; both of them promulgated that doctrine of the procession of the Holy Spirit from the Father but not from the Son.  Now, at the Council of Toledo, in Spain, at the Council of Toledo in 598 AD, there was an assembly there but only this time of the Latin Church, of the Western Church.  And they added to that Nicaean Creed, they added the word Filioque, “and the Son,” that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son.

The Eastern Church, the Greek Church, was not represented in that Council of Toledo in 598 AD.  And it angered the Eastern Church.  And they denied that the Holy Spirit proceeded from the Father and the Son.  And the Eastern Greek Orthodox argued from John 15:26:  “But when the Comforter is 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.”  So the Greek Eastern Orthodox wing of the church said that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father according to John 15:26.  But the Western Church, the Roman Church said, “But He also proceeds from the Son, as,” and they quoted John 16:7:  “Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away; but if I go away, the Paraclete will come unto you, whom I will send,” the Son speaking, “I will send Him unto you.”  So the Western Church said He also proceeds from the Son.  And that tremendous doctrinal cleavage became so violent and so great that in 1054 AD the Eastern church anathematized the Western church; and the Western church anathematized the Eastern church.  They cursed one another.  They damned one another.  They condemned one another to eternal perdition and hell.  And that division is to this day.  You have the Greek Eastern Orthodox Church, and you have the Western Roman Church.  And they divided over that, a doctrine of the Holy Spirit.

Now when you come to our modern day, you are lost in the sea of endless ecclesiastical, doctrinal controversies.  I point out just one among our own people, among our own Baptist people.  One of the violent controversies that rent our Baptist churches concerned a doctrine of the Holy Spirit.  You know when you say, “Sometimes our Baptist churches avow there are three ordinances.”  Why, immediately that comes to your mind baptism [Matthew 28:19], the Lord’s Supper [Matthew 26:26-28; 1 Corinthians 11:23-30], and the washing of feet [John 13:3-17].  And many, many of our old Baptist churches follow those three ordinances:  the ordinance of baptism, the recurring ordinance of the Lord’s Supper, and the washing of feet.  And by the way, if you’ve ever seen that service, it’s one of the most moving and humbling of all of the services you’d ever look upon, the washing of feet.  No, the controversy I’m speaking of, our Baptist churches were rent asunder in days past over these three ordinances:  baptism, and they agreed on that [Matthew 28:19]; the Lord’s Supper, and they agreed on that [Matthew 26:26-28]; but they violently differed over the ordinance of the laying on of hands [Acts 8:14-17].

Following the story in the eighth chapter of the Book of Acts and in the seventeenth verse, “Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit” [Acts 8:17], our Baptist churches said that no man came into full membership of the congregation of the body of Christ until, after he was baptized, the elders and the presbytery of the church laid their hands on his head in order that he might receive the Holy Spirit.  You never heard of that.  The doctrine of it has dropped out of our Baptist denominations because all of those who believed in those things, we withdrew fellowship from and those people gradually acquiesced.  But that was one of the doctrinal controversies of our Baptist people; the doctrine of the laying on of hands to receive the Holy Spirit [Acts 8:17].  You know the thing that is impressive to me as I have read that controversy?  After people were baptized, they were brought to the front of the congregation, and there they knelt, and the holy men of God laid hands upon their heads, that they might receive the Holy Spirit.

I come to a third thing.  My difficulty, my hesitancy, in beginning this series of sermons; the first was the delicacy, the delicacy of the subject, intruding into the Holy of Holies.  The second was the doctrinally divisive turmoil that has raised in the church from the beginning about the doctrine of the Holy Spirit.  Now I mention a third: and these are the almost illimitable difficulties attendant to the study itself.  I’m going to point out, and I wish I had hours here, but I’m going to point out just some of those.

First of all, there is difficulty in the nomenclature itself, in the very vocabulary itself, in the language itself.  The baptism of the Holy Spirit, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, the anointing of the Holy Spirit, the sealing of the Holy Spirit, and the infilling of the Holy Spirit––what does all of that mean and what is the difference?  I’ve already found out there is more misunderstanding and more wrong use of that term, the baptism of the Holy Spirit, than of any other one phrase or doctrinal subject in all the Word of God.  That one thing, the baptism of the Holy Spirit, it is not anything as people think it is.  But what is the difference between all those different references and phrases?  Some of them are positional, and some of them are experiential.

And there you have to define again what do you mean by a thing being experiential?  And what do you mean by a thing being positional?  Well, a positional relationship with God is something that is up there in heaven, like our adoption.  We are adopted into the family of God when we are converted [Romans 8:15].  And we are made a joint heir with Christ [Romans 8:17], but that’s something up there in glory; it is not an experience down here below.  But the infilling of the Holy Spirit of God is experiential [Ephesians 5:18].  It is not positional.  It is something that you feel.  It is something that comes upon you.  It is a power by which the whole earth shakes, and a man is moved!  But what are all those phrases referring to the Holy Spirit of God, some positional and some experiential?

Then the very reception of the Holy Spirit of God is also itself a violently contested doctrine.  How do we receive the Holy Spirit?  And when do we receive the Holy Spirit?  These marvelous theologians whom I love to follow, and in whom I have such illimitable confidence, almost without exception, every one of those theologians says that when a man is converted he receives all of the Holy Spirit that he’ll ever have, and thereafter, it is just for the man to give more of himself to the use of the Holy Spirit, but you’ll never received any more than you receive when you were converted.  For example, I quote from one of those theologians:

One can be indwelt by the Holy Spirit only once, but each day thereafter can bring a new submission to the control of the Spirit of God.  The believer will never have more of the Holy Spirit than he has the instant he accepts Jesus as personal Savior.  Our problem day by day is not getting more of the Spirit, but letting the Spirit have all there is of us.

[source unknown]

Now that is a consensus of most of the theologians that I love and love to read after.  When we receive the Holy Spirit, it comes instantaneously, the moment we are converted, and that’s all that we’ll ever have, we’ve got all there is of the Spirit of God, and it’s just for the Spirit of the Lord to have more of us.  And that is what they say.

And when we come to a passage like the eleventh chapter of the Book of Luke and the thirteenth verse where the Lord tells us to ask for the Holy Spirit:  “If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children:  how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask Him?” [Luke 11:13]. They say, these theologians, many of them say that that belongs to the era of the Lord in the days of His flesh but has no pertinency for us now.  We are not to ask for the Holy Spirit.  We’ve already got the Holy Spirit.  He is here with us forever.  I quote from one of the theologians:  “Christ limited”—talking about this passage here about asking for the Holy Spirit—

Christ limited to His immediate followers during His life on earth the possibility that the Holy Spirit would be given to those who ask for Him.  We have no record that the disciples ever acted on this promise.  And in contrast, we have the promise of Christ that the Spirit would indwell them after His departure.”

[“The Holy Spirit,” by John F Walvoord]

And that is what the Lord says.  That is what the Lord says.  After He is gone,   “The Holy Spirit, the holy Promise of the Father will come, and He will abide with you forever” [John 14:16].  So we’re not to ask for Him, even though Christ said here “ask” [Luke 11:13].  “We’re not to ask––that applied only to the days of His flesh.  But now the Holy Spirit is with us, and we are not to pray for the Holy Spirit.  He is with us already.”

All right another difficulty: is there a second work of grace?  Is there an experience over, and unique, and separate, and beyond the experience we shared with God when we were converted?  Is there another experience?  Is there another work of grace?  Is there something else yet, unique, separate and apart, that God would do for us if we opened our souls, if we asked?  It’s that same thing again, as in the eighth chapter of the Book of Acts in that seventeenth verse:  “Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit” [Acts 8:17].  Is there a separate work?  Is there another experience?  Some of the greatest men of God and some of the greatest preachers of all time testify in their own life, and in their own autobiography, and in their own story of that separate and unique experience.

John Wesley had it, when at Aldersgate Chapel, his heart was strangely warm, and he went out of that chapel the flaming evangelist of God.  Dwight L. Moody had it, walking down Wall Street in New York City, after having prayed with God and interceded for the Holy Spirit, he called it the baptism of the Holy Spirit.  All these people call it the baptism of the Holy Spirit, and I know that I know now that that’s not correct to call it that, whatever it is.  But they called it the baptism of the Holy Spirit.  And Dwight L. Moody walking down the street was flooded and visited from heaven.  He asked to go to a friend’s room.  And in that room, he had such an experience with God––the overflowing, overwhelming baptism from above, as he called it, until he said, “O God, stay Your hand, or I die.  Stay Your hand or I die!”  And Moody went out of that place, and he stood up, and Moody said, “I preached the same sermons, and I preached the same texts, and I made the same appeals, and people came!”  And as you know, they came by the thousands and the hundreds of thousands; a unique and a separate experience.

R.A. Torrey writes of it endlessly.  There’s a man converted under R.A. Torrey.  R.A. Torrey writes of the baptism of the Holy Spirit of God endlessly as a unique and a separate experience.  Wilbur Chapman did so.  Again and again you find these men, great men of power, and of prayer, and of evangelism, and of soulwinning, men in whom we have the most illimitable love and confidence.  They testify of this unique and separate experience.  And yet the entire theological world will deny it.  Almost the entire theological world denies it.  “There is no such experience as that; none at all,” and what they point to is, that we have divine “infillings,” and we can have them again and again and again.  And they will turn over here to the second chapter of the Book of Acts, the second chapter of the Book of Acts, and at Pentecost  [Acts 2:4]. “They were all filled with the Holy Spirit, they were all filled with the Holy Spirit” [Acts 2:4].  Then when you turn to the fourth chapter of the Book of Acts, Peter, who was filled at Pentecost, it says in the eighth verse, “Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit” [Acts 4:8], there he is, filled again.  Then in the thirty-first verse, “And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were gathered together, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spake the word of God with boldness” [Acts 4:31].  These are the same people that were filled at Pentecost [Acts 2:4].  They were filled again and again.  And the theologians say that there is a divine “infilling,” a divine “infilling”; not a unique and separate experience or work of grace.  There is a divine enduement, an “infilling”; and it will come again, and again, and again, and again.

What difference did Pentecost make?  We come to another problem.  Why, how was it in the Old Testament, the Holy Spirit?  And how is it now in the New Testament and with us today?  What difference did Pentecost make?  In the old dispensation, 1 Samuel 16:14, “But the Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the Lord troubled him.”  Can we lose the Holy Spirit?  In the penitential Psalm, David’s fifty-first Psalm, David cries, “Cast me not away from Thy presence; and take not Thy Holy Spirit from me” [Psalm 51:11].  In the Old Testament, they say they could lose the Spirit of God.  But in the New Testament that is impossible.  For the Lord said, “I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Paraclete, another Comforter, the Spirit of God, that He may abide with you forever” [John 14:16].  And no man can ever lose the Holy Spirit.  When you are converted, He stays with you forever.  Well, what is that difference in administration and dispensation?  In the Old Testament before Pentecost, what difference did Pentecost make, and under whose administration and dispensation of grace we’re living now?

And finally and hastily, what of these nine gifts of the Holy Spirit of God?  What about them?  In the twelve chapter of the 1 Corinthian letter, Paul writes:  “Now there are diversities of gifts, there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit [1 Corinthians 12:4].  For the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal” [1 Corinthians 12:7]; then he names nine gifts:

To one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge; to another faith by the same Spirit;

To another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit;

To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; and to another, the ninth, the interpretation of tongues.

 [1 Corinthians 12:8-10] 

What are those nine gifts of the Spirit?  We want to be a New Testament church.  We want to be Christ’s church.  We say we are a New Testament church.  We say we are Christ’s church.  If this is true, do these nine gifts characterize us?  Should they?  Were they temporary back there in the days of the apostles or do those nine gifts characterize a true church of Christ today?  Do they?  To another, the gifts of healing, healing, healing, the gifts of healing [1 Chronicles 12:9].  A man is asked:

If you had been living when Christ was on earth,

And had met the Savior kind,

What would you have asked Him to do for you,

Supposing you were totally blind?”

The man considered and then replied,

“I expect that, without doubt,

I’d have asked for a dog, with a collar and chain

To lead me daily about.”

How often thus, in our faithless prayers

We acknowledge with shamed surprise,

We have only asked for a dog and a chain,

When we might have had opened eyes?

[author unknown]

Do you believe that?  Yet, in the fifth chapter of the Gospel of John, at the pool of Bethesda, the Scriptures say there were a multitude of ill, and halt, and blind, and impotent there, and the Lord healed one [John 5:1-9].

In the fourth chapter of the Gospel of Luke, our Lord delivered His great sermon at Nazareth, and He said in the days of Elijah the prophet there were worlds of widows in Israel, and he was sent to one in Zarephath in Phoenicia [Luke 4:25-26].  And He said in the days of Elisha the prophet, Israel was filled with lepers.  There was one healed, Naaman the Syrian [Luke 4:25-27].  What is this gifts of healing? [1 Corinthians 12:9]. And if a man had the gift of healing, why would he not walk up and down the corridors of Baylor and heal the sick?  Why would not this good doctor invite him to his hospital that he might heal the sick? Gifts of healing.

“To another, divers kinds of tongues” [1 Corinthians 12:10], tongues––after Paul discusses in the fourteenth chapter all of those things concerning tongues [1 Corinthians 14:1-30]; I can’t ever forget that he closed the chapter, “Brethren, covet to prophesy, and forbid not to speak with tongues.”  First Corinthians 14:39, “And forbid not to speak with tongues.”

I have to close, the time has gone.  God must say something.  God must speak to us.  God must reveal His truth to us.  Not only concerning a minister of the gospel of Christ or their marvelous records in our generations of the coming down of the enduement of the Holy Spirit, but upon congregations, upon congregations.  I have read of it in my studying again and again and again, upon congregations the Holy Spirit of God, coming down like fire, like thunder, like lightening, like earthquake, moving heaven and earth.

I conclude with just one humble word of my own spirit.  In all this searching, and agonizing, and wrestling, and praying, and studying, and asking of God, I conclude with one word.  Lord, whatever man shall say or not say, whatever the doctrine, whether it be divisive or healing, whatever, O God, the outcome shall be, dear blessed Savior, let our discussion, and let our sermonizing, and let our preaching, and let our studying, and let our searching, and interceding, and pleading, and begging, O God, let it be not just a matter of words and forensics and dialectics, but Lord let it be, let it be in demonstration of the Spirit and of the power of God.  And that was the great avowal of Paul, God’s preacher:  “And I, my brethren, I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling” [1 Corinthians 2:3].  “With twain he covered his face; and with twain he covered his feet” [Isaiah 6:2], in reverential awe in the presence of God.

I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling.

And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power;

That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God!

[1 Corinthians 2:3-5]

Lord, not a doctrine, not a sermon, not a sentence, but Lord the power, the demonstration, the reality––if God lives and if the Holy Spirit is, then Lord let us look, let us see, let us feel.  Do it Lord.  Do it.  And how it shall be, I don’t know.  I haven’t any word yet, just waiting, just praying, just studying, just asking, just searching; O God, for an answer.  Let it be fire from heaven.  Let it be a demonstration that our faith should not stand in a hearsay, in a mouthed doctrine, in a repeated sentence, but that our faith should be built upon a demonstration of the presence and the power of God.  Oh, do it Lord.  Do it Lord.

At the 8:15 service, when I got to the end of the sermon I said, “I feel like calling for a prayer meeting.”  I feel the same way at the end of this hour.  O Lord, who is able, and who is worthy, and who is equal?  The Lord looks down in grace, and in wisdom, and in mercy upon us; and answer, Lord, and show us.

Now while we sing this hymn of appeal, somebody you today, take the Lord Jesus as Savior, “Here I am pastor, and here I come.” Somebody you to put your life in the fellowship of the church, a couple you, a family you, or one somebody you, while we sing this song of appeal, while we wait prayerfully, make that decision now, and come.  “Here I am, pastor, I give you my hand.  I give my heart to God.”  Or, “We are all coming into the fellowship of this dear church today.  We’ll be praying with you, pastor, we’ll be looking heavenward with you.  We’ll be waiting on God by your side.”  As the Spirit of the Lord should make appeal, should say the word, come this morning.  Come now, while we stand and while we sing.