Wednesday, August 27, 2008

"This is That!"

This is a most incredible exposition between an Old Testament and New Testament passage. It is from Watchman Nee's "The Normal Christian Life" and it concerns how the working of the Holy Spirit is going to be different for each believer.

"When the Holy Spirit came upon the disciples at Pentecost there was something quite extraordinary about their behavior, and Peter offered an explanation from God's Word to all who witnessed it. This, in substance, is what he said: 'When the Holy Spirit falls upon believers, some will prophesy, some will dream dreams, and others will see visions. This is what God has stated through the prophet Joel.' But did Peter prophesy? Well, hardly in the sense in which Joel meant it. Did the hundred and twenty prophesy or see visions? We are not told that they did. Did they dream dreams? How could they, for were they not all wide awake? Well then, what did Peter mean by using a quotation that seems not to fit the case at all? In the passage quoted (Joel 2:28, 29), prophecy, dreams, and visions are said to accompany the outpouring of the Spirit, yet these evidences were apparently lacking at Pentecost.

On the other hand, Joel's prophecy said not a word about 'a sound as of the rushing of a mighty wind,' nor about 'tongues parting asunder like as of fire' as accompaniments of the Spirit's outpouring; yet these were manifest in the upper room. And where in Joel do we find mention of speaking in other tongues? And yet the disciples at Pentecost did so.

What did Peter mean? Imagine him quoting God's Word to show that the experience of Pentecost was the outpouring of the Spirit spoken of by Joel, without a single one of the evidences mentioned by Joel being found at Pentecost. What the Book mentioned the disciples lacked, and what the disciples had the Book did not mention! It looks as though Peter's quotation of the Book disproves his point rather than proving it. What is the explanation of this mystery?

Let us recall that Peter himself was speaking under the control of the Holy Spirit. The Book of the Acts was written by the Spirit's inspiration, and not one word was spoken at random. The is not a misfit, but a perfect harmony. Note carefully that Peter did not say: 'What you see and hear fulfills what was spoken by the prophet Joel.' What he was was: 'This is that which hath been spoken by the prophet Joel.' (Acts 2:16). It was not a case of fulfilment, but of an experience of that same order. 'This is that' means that 'this which you see and hear is of the same order as that which is foretold.' When it is a case of fulfillment, each experience is reduplicated, and prophecy is prophecy, dreams are dreams, and visions are visions; but when Peter says 'This is that,' it is not a question of the one being a replica of the other, but of the one belonging to the same category as the other. 'This' amounts to the same thing as 'that'; 'this' is the equivalent of 'that'; 'this is that.' What is being emphasized by the Holy Spirit is the diversity of the experience. The outward evidences may be many and varied, and we have to admit that occasionally they are strange; but the Spirit is one, and He is Lord (See 1 Cor. 12:4-6)

....When the Holy Spirit is poured out upon God's people their experiences will differ widely. Some will receive new vision, others will know a new liberty in soul-winning, others will proclaim the Word of God with fresh power, and yet others will be filled with a heavenly joy or overflowing praise. 'This...and this...and that!' Let us praise the Lord for every new experience that relates to the exultation of Christ, and of which it truly be said that 'this' is an evidence of 'that.' There is nothing stereotyped about God's dealings with his children. Therefore we must not, by our prejudices and preconceptions, make water-tight compartments for the working of the Spirit, either in our own lives or in the lives of others. This applies equally to those who require some particular manifestation (such as 'speaking with tongues') as evidence that the Spirit has come upon them, and to those who deny that any manifestation is given at all. We must leave God free to work as He wills, and to give what evidence he pleases of the work He does. He is Lord, and it is not for us to legislate for Him.

Let us rejoice that Jesus is on the throne, and let us praise Him that, since He has been glorified, the Spirit has been poured out upon us all. As we behold Him there, and accept the divine fact in all the simplicity of faith, we shall know it with such assurance in our own hearts that we shall dare to proclaim once again with confidence - 'This is that!' "

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