The Outpouring of the Spirit
August 2nd, 1981 @ 10:50 AM
THE OUTPOURING OF THE SPIRIT
Dr. W.A. Criswell
8-2-81 10:50 a.m.
And this is the pastor bringing the morning message. In our series of doctrinal sermons on pneumatology, on the doctrine of the Holy Spirit, last Sunday was the first one entitled The Deity and the Person of the Holy Spirit. This next Sunday, the message will be entitled The Baptism of the Holy Spirit; and the message today, The Outpouring of the Holy Spirit of God.
I hope you will take your Bible, all of us in this great sanctuary and all of you who are sharing the hour on radio and on television, take your Bible and open to Joel, the prophet Joel. Daniel, Hosea, Joel, got it? Daniel, Hosea, Joel: in chapter 2, verses 28 and 29. Then turn to Acts 2; Joel chapter 2 and Acts chapter 2, now the prophecy in Joel:
And it shall come to pass that I will pour out My Spirit upon all flesh;
Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy. Your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions: And upon My servants and upon My handmaids—
In the original text that is just male and female, men and women, young people, boys and girls—
Upon My servants and My handmaids in those days, will I pour out My Spirit.
Now in the second chapter of Acts, verses 16 through 18, Peter is standing up at Pentecost with the apostles, and he lifts up his voice and says:
This is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel; And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of My Spirit upon all flesh: And your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams: And on My servants and on My handmaidens, male and female, I will pour out in those days of My Spirit; and they shall prophesy.
Hebrews 1:1 says these are the last days [Hebrews 1:1-2]. The prophecy refers to a dispensation, an age in which we live. That’s what the author of Hebrews was referring to; these are those last days, this dispensation, this age of grace.
There are several ways in which we can divide up the great eons and ages of God’s creative work and redemptive work in the earth. One simple one would be this: there is a dispensation, an “age of the Father,” the creation and all of the uncounted eons of eternity in which the Father wrought the mighty miraculous establishment of everything visible and invisible, a dispensation of the Father, of creation [Genesis 1:1-2:3].
A second could be called a “dispensation of the Son.” That would be an age, a dispensation of redemption [Isaiah 63:9]. The Angel of His Presence in the Old Covenant, in the Old Testament, guiding the chosen family, beginning with Seth through Enoch, and Noah, and Abraham, and the children of Israel in the Old Covenant. The Angel of His Presence: Jesus in christophany, in theophany—the pre-incarnate Christ—and finally incarnate and redeeming us by His sacrifice on the cross [Hebrews 1:2]. There is a dispensation, an “age of the grace of our Lord.”
There is a third, a dispensation and age of the Holy Spirit of God, poured out upon the world, and that began at Pentecost in the second chapter of the Book of Acts [Acts 2:1-42]. When we look at this passage in Joel, it is an announcement from heaven of a marvelous and glorious day coming [Joel 2:28-32]. And that is the manner of revelation, and that is the way of God. Always, there is a glorious day coming!
It is written on the first page of the Bible, and the middle page. It is written on the last page of the Bible. In the first book of the Bible, in the last book of the Bible, in the middle part of the Bible, in every section of the Bible, it is presented: there is a glorious day coming. There is advancement, and outreach, and development in the kingdom of God. The Lord God never recedes: He goes on, and upward, and outward, and forward. His creation is followed by redemption, and His redemption is followed by sanctification, and His sanctification is followed by glorification.
God always moves inexorably on. That is why we are never to be troubled as Paul writes to the Thessalonians, in [2 Thessalonians 2:2]: We are never to be troubled, not by the convulsions of nature, or the convulsions of the social order, or by wars, or devastation. God’s purposes are sovereign. They are inexorable; they never change. It pleases God that the saints should inherit the earth, so there is always a triumphant, victorious note in the prophetic message. There is a better day, there is a great day, there is a triumphant day coming [1 Corinthians 2:9].
This outpouring of the Holy Spirit of God is at a set date in heaven [Luke 24:49; Acts 2:1-4]. Just as there was a set date for the incarnation of our Lord spoken of in Daniel, chapter 9 [Daniel 9:24-25], just as there was a set way for the incarnation to take place, spoken of in Isaiah 7:14, and just as there is a set day and a set place in which the Lord is to be born, spoken of in Micah 5[Micah 5:2-3], so there is a set day in heaven for the Lord to be crucified [Matthew 27:32-50]; a set day in heaven for the Lord to be raised from the dead [Matthew 28:1-7]. There is a set day in heaven for the second coming of our Christ [Matthew 24:36]. There was also a set day for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit [Acts 2:1-42].
That day in type, is the fiftieth day after Passover [Leviticus 23:15-16]; in Greek, it’s called Pentecost, “the fiftieth day” [Acts 2:2]. And that is the day that Christ, after He returned to the heavenly Father [Acts 1:9-10], poured out upon the earth the Promise of the Father [Luke 24:49; Acts 1:4]. If He gave His life, an atonement for our sins, God promised Him that the Holy Spirit should be poured out upon the earth. And in keeping with the sacrifice of our Lord and the Promise of the Father to the Son, on Pentecost, the set and exact day, the Holy Spirit of God was poured out upon the earth [Acts 2:1-39].
Now I want you to take your Bible once again, and I want you to turn to Ephesians, chapter 2, Ephesians, chapter 2. Then I want you to turn to I Corinthians, chapter 6. We are now going to be instructed that the Holy Spirit of God has a new home; He has a new dwelling place, He has a new temple [1 Corinthians 6:19].
In the second chapter of the Book of Ephesians, the apostle Paul is speaking of this creation of the church, made of Jew and Gentile and all races and families. In verse 16, he speaks of the one body [Ephesians 2:16]. Now, let’s begin to verse 19, to the end of the chapter. Ephesians 2, beginning at 19:
You are now no more strangers and foreigners—
But you are fellow citizens with the saints of the household of God.
You are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief corner stone.
In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.
We in the church, spiritual stones [1 Peter 2:5], are fitted into the temple, the holy temple of God that we might be an habitation of the Spirit of the Lord [1 Corinthians 3:16]. The outpouring of the Spirit now has a new home, a new dwelling place, a new temple. He is in His church.
Now, 1 Corinthians chapter 6, verse 19, “Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit which is in you, which you have of God, and you are not your own? [1 Corinthians 6:19]. You are bought with a price” [1 Corinthians 6:20]. The Holy Spirit of God has a new dwelling place; He has a new tabernacle, a new temple, He dwells in His church. And when we come together as a church, as a people of God, the Holy Spirit of heaven is here with us.
And if He is not let, if He is not hindered, if He is not quenched, the Spirit of God will be felt as He moves in the presence of the congregation. You’ll feel Him in a dedicated choir, you will feel Him in a consecrated orchestra, praising God with the trumpet, with the stringed instruments, you will feel Him in the prayers of dedication. You will feel the tugging of the Spirit of God in the invitation. And you will feel His presence as the truth is proclaimed in breaking the bread of life. He dwells in His church; the temple of the Spirit in the earth [1 Corinthians 3:16], and He dwells in our individual hearts [1 Corinthians 6:19].
I’ve often thought that’s the reason that a church service can be so mighty and so moving. If I bring the Holy Spirit with me in my heart, and He comes with you in your heart, and we gather together in His holy and omnipotent name—oh, what a service! Oh, what an hour! Oh, what a glory: God moving among us!
Now, will you notice another thing? The universality of the gift, “When that day comes,” that set day which was at Pentecost [Acts 2:1]:
I will pour out My Spirit upon all flesh; Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions: And upon My male servants and upon My female servants will I pour out My Spirit…upon all flesh.
[Joel 2:28-29; Acts 2:16-18]
In the days of the Old Covenant, the Spirit of God came upon a few select and chosen persons, now and then. For example, the thirteenth chapter of the Book of Judges closes with this observation, “And the Spirit of the Lord moved Samson at times in the camp of Dan” [Judges 13:25]. And thus, through the Old Covenant, the Spirit of God would come upon Samson, upon a Samuel, upon a Saul [1 Samuel 10:6, 16:14], upon a Solomon, upon an Isaiah [Isaiah 61:1]—just once in a while at a select time. But in the new dispensation of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of God is poured out upon all flesh [Acts 2:17]. We all are instruments of His glory and of His moving presence, of His blessing—all of us.
One of the most remarkable things that I have read concerned the Holy Spirit of God given to people that I’d never dream for. In my reading, there are knowledgeable—-these are not people of unknowing, of knowledgeable men—scholarly men, in my reading, they will say that the greatest preacher ever produced in America is John Jasper. It takes your breath to think of such a thing as that. The tremendously scholarly men who have preached the gospel on American soil, and yet they pick out an unlettered, uneducated slave in Richmond, Virginia and say “the greatest preacher of the gospel in America was John Jasper.”
I went to Richmond one time, the first time after they had built their freeway from the airport into the city. That freeway went like an arrow and bowed there around like that. And right in the middle of the bowl is a red brick church. And I asked the missionary of the foreign missionary board who had met me at the airport to take me to speak to the board, I said, “Well, this is the strangest thing in the world, this freeway going like that and then bending around the church. Why didn’t they tear it down and just build the freeway right straight through?” He said, “Listen, that church is the Fifth Mount Zion Church and that was the church of John Jasper.”
“And I will pour out My Spirit upon all flesh” [Acts 2:17]. He may be an ignorant slave, black, like John Jasper, or he may be a brilliant Harvard and Yale scholar like Phillips Brooks. All flesh, what a marvel! What a wonder! An inspired pulpit and an inspired pew, an inspired pastor and an inspired layman; all of us alike, receiving the measure of the Spirit just as much as our hearts will allow and invite: “all flesh.”
You notice again in the prophecy, “And your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,” propheteuō [Acts 2:17]. To us, prophecy means “foretelling.” That’s a late meaning of the word. Always, always in the Bible, propheteuō, prophecy means “forth telling,” boldly proclaiming the message of Christ; witnessing, all of us.
And He says. “Your old men shall dream dreams” [Acts 2:17], Victor Hugo said, “Winter may be on my head, but spring is in my heart.” Our faces may wrinkle but our souls, never! Because a man is old doesn’t mean he’s lost his hope, and his vision, and his dream, and his labor, and intercession of love and prayer and ministry before God. I don’t think there’s a more beautiful verse in English literature than Robert Browning’s:
Grow old along with me,
The best is yet to be,
The last of life for which
The first was made.
Behold a whole I plan,
Youth shows but half,
Trust God, fear not
And be not afraid.
[“Rabbi Ben Ezra”; Robert Browning]
“Your young men shall see visions; your old men dreaming dreams” [Acts 2:17].
“And your young men seeing visions…” Ah! how wonderful it is when our young men and our young women look forward to a great and glorious day in the power and strength of the Lord. The best song is yet to be sung, the best poem is yet to be written, the best sermon is yet to be preached, the best picture is yet to be painted. The greatest Sunday school is yet to be built. And the most marvelous church is yet to appear on the horizon of God’s grace. “Your young men and your young women shall see visions…” [Acts 2:17], a glorious tomorrow; that is the prophecy of God.
We turn now to its fulfillment. When Simon Peter stood up at Pentecost in Jerusalem, he was the instrument of God to introduce the new dispensation to the world [Acts 2:14-40]. The Lord had said to Simon Peter in Matthew 16:18 and 19, “You are Simon Peter,” Petros, “and upon this petra” upon this foundation the deity of Christ—his great confession:
I will build My church; and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.
And I will unto thee, the keys of the kingdom of heaven:
And whatsoever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven;
And whatsoever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven.
Acting in accordance with the Spirit of God, what He did was in keeping with the elective purpose of heaven [Acts 2:14-40]. In keeping with that promise of Joel, of the outpouring of the Spirit, the new dispensation [Joel 2:28-32], and in keeping with the promise of our Lord that Simon Peter should be the instrument through whom the new dispensation should be offered to the world [Matthew 16:18-19], at Pentecost in Jerusalem, Simon Peter stands up and proclaims the new age and the new day [Acts 2:14-21], and quotes Joel chapter 2 [ Joel 2:28-32; Acts 2:16-21].
In the eighth chapter of the Book of Acts, Philip, the deacon, proclaims the gospel to the half-Jew, the half-breed Jew, the Samaritan, the despised Samaritan [Acts 8:5-8]. But the promise of the Lord was that Simon Peter should introduce the new dispensation, this day of the outpouring of the Spirit [Matthew 16:18-19]. So when word came to the church at Jerusalem that these in Samaria had turned to the Lord, they sent Simon Peter, and he placed his hands upon their heads, and they received the Holy Spirit, the outpouring of the Spirit of the God [Acts 8:14-17]. The half-breed now has received the blessing.
One other that includes the world: in the tenth chapter of the Book of Acts, an angel appears to the godly Cornelius, a Roman centurion, a pagan, a Gentile. And the angel said to him, “You send for one Simon Peter in Joppa.” And they send for Simon Peter [Acts 10:3-8], the instrument of God to introduce the new dispensation of the outpouring of the Spirit [Matthew 16:18-19].
Simon Peter stood in Jerusalem and opened the new age to the Jew [Acts 2:14-42]. He stood in Samaria and opened the new age to the half-Jew, to the half breed [Acts 8:14-17]; and now he stands in Caesarea before the Gentiles [Acts 10:34-43], and as he speaks the Holy Spirit falls upon those who listen to the voice of Simon Peter. And Simon Peter turns to his brethren in amazement and says, “Who can forbid water that these should not be baptized upon whom the Lord has poured out the Spirit of God?” [Acts 10:44-47] And thus, the new dispensation is entirely introduced to the Jew, to the half-Jew, and now to the Gentile. From then on until the present, we have been in the age and the dispensation of the Holy Spirit.
Paul will write in I Corinthians 2:
My speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom,
but with demonstration of the Spirit and power: That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.
[1 Corinthians 2:4-5]
And Paul will write again in I Thessalonians 1:5, “Our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Spirit.” And then Simon Peter will write in I Peter 1:12, “We have preached the gospel unto you with the Holy Spirit sent down from heaven.” And this is the age in which we live. Always, the preaching of the gospel of Christ is attended by the presence and the moving and the power of the Holy Spirit. That is its sign, its signal, its aegis.
“It came to the pass,” in the nineteenth chapter of Acts, “while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul came to Ephesus, and he found certain disciples. And he said unto them: Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” Not have you, did you. As he looked at those disciples, it elicited from his heart a deep solicitude. There was no—there was no light in their eyes, there were not praises on their lips, there was not joy in their hearts. And so he asked them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” And those weary, half-taught disciples answered, “We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Spirit” [Acts 19:1-2].
What a tragedy! They were living in the dark and not knowing it was high noon. They were under the oppressive weight of keeping laws and ordinances, when the liberty of the grace of God in the Holy Spirit in our hearts had come, had been poured out upon the earth. And they listened to the gospel message of Paul, and they received the Holy Spirit, and they magnified God and spoke in languages, ecstatic [Acts 19:6]. That is the will of God for us.
Our preaching and our worship is to be characterized by tremendous power and presence, that our faith does not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power and the demonstration of the Spirit of God [1 Corinthians 2:4]. And when we gather in our services, it ought to be in the moving Spirit of God that we’re here.
I sometimes think of that tremendous luxury liner, the Titanic. They are so desperately trying to find it off of Newfoundland, in a canyon in the ocean of fifteen or sixteen thousand feet deep. What is the difference between the iceberg that sank that great liner to the bottom of the ocean and the bosom of the water that carries the traffic of the sea? I don’t know any difference but just temperature. I don’t know any difference. The difference between the iceberg that sank it and the waters that carry the traffic in that sea lane is a matter of temperature.
When the temple of God is cold, and pulseless, and lifeless, dead monotony, it’s a bore; it’s something to get through with, “Let’s have the benediction!” We look upon it as an amnesty so we can get out and be first in line at a cafeteria or whatever. Oh, that there was in the church, a flame and a fire! There’s nothing like fire to be compared to it, it is nothing but like itself. It warms, it’s the secret of the universe, without it, everything is dark and cold. But with the light and with the fire in its warmth, the whole world comes to life. That’s the way it ought to be in the house of God; it ought to be filled with the moving Spirit of the Lord, intensest interest.
They took me one time, when I was in Cairo, to the City of the Dead; I never saw anything like that, I didn’t know it existed in the earth. There were temples, temples, temples, temples—they would call them mosque, mosques, mosques—they are temples, just miles of them; and as silent and still. People of means in the generations of Cairo would build a temple, and there they would place their dead; a city of the dead.
And I wondered at the temples of the Holy Spirit that the Bible calls “churches” [1 Corinthians 3:16], lifeless, spiritless, pulseless, dead. And the other temple, our body [1 Corinthians 6:19]: we are cadavers so often, and the Holy Spirit has no way to shine, and to glorify God, and to speak praises to the Lord. Dear God, fall afresh on us!
May I hastily summarize what I wish I had an hour to speak of? When the Holy Spirit is upon us and we feel His presence, there are some things that happen. One is this: we become convicted and we fall before God in confession and in repentance [John 16:8-9].
“Now, preacher, that’s a strange thing, it ought to be those bartenders out who are doing that. It ought to be those whoremongers over there that are doing that. It ought to be those terrorists out yonder, those murderers over there that are doing that!” You know, it’s a strange thing in the Bible; it is not Ahaz, it is Isaiah who cries saying, “I am a man of unclean lips” [Isaiah 6:5]. It is not Goliath, it is David who says in his penitential Psalms, “I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceived me [Psalm 51:5]. I’m a sinner, Lord, from the day I was born.” It is not Festus the Roman procurator; it is Paul who says, “I am the chief of sinners” [1 Timothy 1:15]. And that Spirit of contrition [Psalm 51:17; Isaiah 57:15, 66:2], and confession [Romans 10:9-10], God’s Spirit moves like that in our souls and brings us to cleansing and to washing, making us usable in His name [Titus 3:5].
A second thing: when the Spirit of God is so mightily present, people are saved—at Pentecost, that was revival! [Acts 2:1-42]. Samaria was revival! [Acts 8:5-16]. Caesarea was revival! [Acts 10:34-48]. Wherever the Spirit of God moves, people are saved. “And God added to His church,” it’s translated here, “those that should be saved” [Acts 2:47]. What he actually wrote was, “God added to His church those who were being saved every day.”
“God added to the church daily those that were being saved” [Acts 2:47].
And I think of our services here. These are just convocations of God’s people in which these who have found the Lord come to praise His name, To stand in the presence of men and of angels, “I’ve been saved, I’ve been saved.”
And a last thing: always, His presence is accompanied by unspeakable joy. Do you remember the verse that described Samaria? “And there was great joy in that city” [Acts 8:8]. You never know God without gladness, and you never have the Spirit of God in your heart without praise and glory unspeakable.
There was a black man—thinking of John Jasper a moment ago—there was a black man, a servant. And he was so happy and so glad in the Lord. And his boss-man, said to him, “What you so glad about?” And he said, “I’ve been filled with the Holy Spirit.” And the man said to him, “You ignorant Negro, don’t you know there’s no such thing as a Holy Spirit?” And the black man humbly replied, he replied, “Boss-man, what you ought to be saying is this: That there ain’t no such thing as the Holy Spirit that you knows of.” And I think of that black man’s word to describe ten thousand and thousands of so-called members of the church, “There is no such thing as a Holy Spirit” and its gladness, and its joy, and its glory that you know of. O Lord, that He might fall upon us!
And in the third chapter of John, the prophecy is made: “God gives not the Spirit unto Jesus by measure” [John 3:34]. There’s no limit to it. And the eleventh chapter of the Book of Luke says, “If you, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children; how much more will the Father give good gifts—will the Father give the Holy Spirit to them who love Him?” [Luke 11:13]. There’s no end to it.
Choir, God bless you as you learn better and fuller and deeper how to praise the Lord; there’s no end to it. And orchestra, God bless you as you learn more beautifully and marvelously to lift up the sounds of glory to the praise of Jesus. And the Lord help me to preach in great power and unction of the Holy Spirit as I pray and pore over these sacred Scriptures and try to reflect the marvel of His grace and goodness. And God bless the whole congregation as in our daily witnessing and in our homes and in our lives, we praise God. Magnify the Lord [Acts 10:46-47]; that’s the indwelling and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Now, may we stand together?
Holy Spirit of God, fall fresh on us. Break us, melt us, mold us, fill us. Spirit of the living God, fall fresh on us. And Spirit of God do Thy office work now, to convict, to point to Jesus, to lead us to Him who loved us, and gave Himself for us [Galatians 2:20]. Then Lord, may we have a life of victory, of joy, of praise even through our tears to see Thy face, and even in our greatest sorrows and disappointments, to believe that God has some better thing prepared for us [Hebrews 11:40]. Lift us up, our Lord; give us a song in our hearts and praises on our lips. And may we live a full and wonderful and joyful life, and then in heaven, just praise Thee world without end.
While our people pray for you and ask God for you, a family you, a couple you, or a one somebody you, “Today, “I am answering God’s call in my heart, the moving the Spirit in my soul, and I am coming forward.” A family, every one of you, a couple, you and your friend, you and your wife; or just one of you—a child, a youth, a man, or woman—make the decision in your heart, and in this moment when we sing, come, come. A thousand times welcome, come.
And thank You, Lord, for the sweet harvest. In Thy wonderful and saving name, amen. While we sing, come.
THE OUTPOURING OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
Dr. W. A. Criswell
8-2-81I. The prophecy
A. Refers to our age of grace, this dispensation
B. The marvelous gift
1. A glorious day coming
2. There is always progress onward and upward (1 Thessalonians 1:14)
C. A date set in heaven (Daniel 9:25, Micah 5:2, Isaiah 7:14)
1. A new abode for the Spirit (Ephesians 2:19 – 3:1, 1 Corinthians 6:19)
2. Universality of the gift (Judges 13:25)
3. The effects of the giftII. In fulfillment
A. Simon Peter the chosen instrument (Matthew 16:18-19)
1. Jewish Pentecost (Acts 2:14)
2. Samaritan Pentecost (Acts 8:14, 17)
3. Gentile Pentecost (Acts 10:5-6, 45, 47)
B. Through the years unto the present (1 Corinthians 2:4, 1 Thessalonians 1:5, 1 Peter 1:12)III. In experience
A. Did you receive? (Acts 19:1-7)
B. Christian faith identifies with power and presence of the Holy Spirit
C. What the outpouring of the Spirit brings
1. Conviction, confession and repentance (Isaiah 6:5, Psalm 51:5, 1 Timothy 1:15)
2. Conversion of the lost (Acts 2:47)