In Acts 8 following the death of Stephen Phillip went down to a city of Samaria to preach. And they praised God and thanked him that Samaria had received the word of God. But they (the apostles) sent to them also Peter and John as if Philip wasn’t enough. They sent to them Peter and John, who did what? Acts 8:14 “Now when the apostles at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent to them Peter and John, who came down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit; for it had not yet fallen on any of them, but they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.” It seems obvious that these people therefore that Philip preached to he had preached to them, as far as one can see, the gospel. Because you see in Acts 8:12, “But when they believed Philip as he preached good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized.” So it would seem that Philip preached to them a gospel, a whole gospel there.
It’s a little unlike the situation that you found in Acts 19, where you might think Apollos perhaps didn’t know the whole gospel. If you look at Acts 19:1, “While Apollos was at Corinth, Paul passed through the upper country and came to Ephesus. There he found some disciples. And he said to them, ‘Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?’ And they said, ‘No, we have never even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.’ And he said, ‘Into what then were you baptized?’” And then they answered” slightly differently you see, they didn’t answer, “Into the baptism of Jesus.” “They said, ‘Into John’s baptism.’ And Paul said, ‘John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, Jesus.’ On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.” And that’s the way the people that were baptized by Philip were baptized.
So you could say that maybe in Acts 19 they had not heard the full gospel; they had been baptized into John’s baptism. But certainly in Acts 8 it said specifically that they had preached to them the kingdom of God and of Jesus Christ and they were baptized into the name of Jesus. And yet it seems that they did not receive the Holy Spirit so Peter and John were sent down to them. So that’s what we’re talking about when we talk about the sealing with the Holy Spirit, it’s not, in other words, just the new birth. It’s not being acted upon by the Holy Spirit so that your spirit is regenerated because I think we’re all very clear that we could do nothing without the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is present even from the moment we’re convicted, “When the Holy Spirit comes he will convict the world of sin.” So it’s the Holy Spirit who convicts us of sin. You might say it’s the Holy Spirit who brings to us a heart of repentance; a heart of sorrow to God for what we have done.
So the Holy Spirit undoubtedly acts upon us, and it’s him that energizes our spirits, that makes them alive, enables us to see the things that the Bible says only spiritual people can see, so it’s the Holy Spirit that brings the new birth about. But what we’re talking about here is this sealing with the Holy Spirit that is presented in Acts 2 on the day of Pentecost, and then is brought home again in Acts 8, and then is brought up again in Acts 19. It’s an experience of the Holy Spirit that follows having the gospel preached to you that follows having believed, that follows even having been baptized. So you could believe the gospel, you could be baptized, which presumably would only come if you showed evidence of repentance and of belief in Jesus, but even subsequent to that, these converts of Philip’s had not been sealed with the Holy Spirit.
So it does seem plan to us, as we’ve shared over the years, that this sealing with the Holy Spirit, or sometimes we have called it the baptism of the Holy Spirit, or the fullness of the Holy Spirit,
is something that comes subsequent to what we would normally call a conversion or belief in the gospel, or being baptized in the name of Jesus. And Paul here is saying, “You were sealed with the Holy Spirit.” And he prefaces that a little in Ephesians, and this will bring us to the heart of what I feel that God wants us to see clearly this morning. Ephesians 1:13, “In him,” that is in Jesus, “You also,” and then these are relative clauses “You also,” you, “who have heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and have believed,” in him, you also, “were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit.”
So Paul is saying, “It’s in Jesus you were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit.” And then he reminds us who we are, we’re the people who have heard the word of truth. And we explained that at the beginning another possible translation of the Greek words is, “You have heard the explanation of reality.” And that means they heard the same explanation as we’ve been sharing these days; that we did not start our lives here on our first birthday. We didn’t. We didn’t start our lives when the doctor or the midwife delivered us from our mum’s body. We didn’t start our lives then. We started our lives way back before that. We’ve shared often Ephesians 2:10, “And you are God’s workmanship created in Christ Jesus for good works which he has prepared beforehand.” And I think we’ve begun to get hold of that idea that we were created in Christ and we can see more clearly than ever that if we’re created in Christ than we’re part of him. And we can see that in a very real way we can be said to be his body. We’re part of him. Indeed, we might be an eye, or we might be a finger, but we’re part of Christ. That’s our real being, that’s our real existence, we’re part of Christ. God allowed us to be born in our mum so that we could come to earth here, but we ourselves were created in Christ. And we’ve shared how he says, “The gospel of your salvation,” and we’ve said, “The good news of our deliverance,” because we’ve shared how God did see everything at that moment, and saw exactly what would happen to us, and saw that we would exercise our own free wills and would go our own way, and would bring about a destruction of him himself. And he saw that he had to bear all that, and he had to face that, because he had to face what he had made and he had to meet the full consequences of it.
He was not playing games; this was something he committed himself to. He decided right from the beginning that his son would be the first-born of all creation and all the human beings would be born in his son. And he would bear those human beings in his son and he would bear all that they did to him. He would in fact have to destroy his son, because the humanity that was filling him was rebelling against him and he would have to destroy that and face that. And he in fact in some miraculous way was part of that destruction.
You can’t say, “God created suicide,” but he went as close to that as he possibly could. He bore the full brunt of his own wrath against this kind of attitude to him and he bore that in his son. Then he raised his son up and raised us up with him and that’s the good news; “that God out of the great love with which he has loved us, even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ and raised us up with him.” So all that has happened, all that has taken place, and now we come to earth as little human beings that you can see and touch, and that is our history. And of course, we’re faced with the whole lie that that is not your history, you are here in this imperfect world, and you yourself are fallen and imperfect, and you have to struggle to try and become like God. That’s what Satan said, “Surely when you have this knowledge you’ll be like God, knowing the difference between good and evil.” All of us are born into a society that teaches that. What Paul is saying is that when you believe the real explanation of reality, then you are in a position where you will be sealed with the Holy Spirit.
Now what I’d like to bring home to us is something that is very obvious to all of you, if you’re
with me this far, and that is this you’re thinking “Alright, that is my history and I have tried to think of it as you’ve explained it. I’ve tried to grasp this fact that all those feelings of inadequacy, those feelings of being not worth anything, those feelings of trying to scramble my way through life somehow and make it successful, I’ve tried to damp those feelings down and reject them. I sense what you’re saying — that I am part of Christ that God has made me in Christ. And he’s going to keep me in Christ, not quite against my will, but as far as he can, almost against my will. He’s going to keep me in Christ because he loves me and he’s had mercy on me. It’s no surprise to him what I am and he has nevertheless held onto me in Jesus, so I am part of Christ and he has actually given me a place in heaven. He has raised me up, and I know that I am really in heaven now; I’m really at God’s right hand. I’m really his accepted child and it would be amazing to feel that. It would be incredible to able to think that way every moment of every day because if I’m really in heaven, and I’m really at God’s right hand, and my life has actually already been lived by Jesus, and he has foreseen all the difficulties and overcome all the obstacles, then I’m free here. I have a great life here.” That’s what the Holy Spirit has to do — to take of the things of Christ, to take all that and make that real in us, and that’s what happens when you are sealed with the Holy Spirit.
Your dead right, I even tried to express it in my tone of voice, trying to lift you out of time into eternity, and it’s really trying to do that. It’s trying to say, “I know in eternity I am in Christ. In him I have been crucified and raised up and my Father loves me with his whole heart as if I’d never done anything wrong at all. Now I have to think that into this dumb thick head of mine.” You can’t because the thick head is fallen, and believes it’s fallen, you can’t do it yourself. But it seems that when the Holy Spirit comes upon people, that all becomes real and they suddenly sense it. They begin to walk three or four feet above the ground. They’re like the men on the day of Pentecost. They may not speak in tongues, they may not manifest a gift of healing, but they will in some sense enjoy the wonderful joy and glory of being in God’s presence at his right hand. They will sense that every second of their days and the Holy Spirit will beget in them the reality of that heaven around them. It seems to me that’s what the Holy Spirit does when he comes upon us. He can only come upon people who believe these things, but he is able to come upon people who believe these things and want these things with all their heart.
Now if you ask me if this did not usually happen at once with people immediately upon the new birth, with the apostles it didn’t because you remember, they did believe in Jesus, they confessed, “Thou are the Christ, the Son of God.” There are various examples of different disciples signifying that they did believe Jesus was the Messiah. And you could say in fact, Jesus had breathed upon them in the upper room and said, “Receive thou the Holy Spirit.” And they certainly saw the devil was subject to them when the seventy were sent out. So you could say that as far as people can be before the day of Pentecost, they were Christians. They were people who were born of the Spirit and yet they did not have this great certainty.
In fact, wouldn’t you agree that they were actually filled with a good deal of fear because they all ran when Jesus was arrested and Peter denied him? So there was a good deal of fear in them when they gathered in the upper room. But somehow in the upper room when the Holy Spirit came upon them, the whole attitude changed, they suddenly seemed to enter into their inheritance. They suddenly seemed to realize that of course they were in Christ, and he was in them, and their power was in him, and they could do what he is able to do. And so it happened all through the New Testament; when people were filled with the Holy Spirit, they seemed to enter into their inheritance; they seemed to enter in to what God has done for them in Jesus. And I do believe loved ones, that’s the heart of what the fullness of the Holy Spirit does; he brings to us the whole reality of it.
So if you ask should we speak in tongues if we’re filled with him, no, I don’t think you should necessarily speak it tongues. Obviously Philip,s converts didn’t speak in tongues, there’s no mention of them speaking in tongues. People came into it in all kinds of ways. I don’t believe Wesley spoke in tongues, or R.A.Torrey, or Moody spoke in tongues, but they certainly had a tremendous certainty and confidence in the presence of God inside them and in their presence in him. And it seems that when the Holy Spirit comes, he takes all these things that you believe and you hope for, and he makes them real. We’ve used the example at times of the man who was blind and Jesus touched him and after the first touch Jesus asked him, “Can you see?” And he said, “I can see men as trees walking.” So the new birth brings about some perception of these things, so you do see it. But then Jesus touched him a second time and he was able to see clearly. And it seems to be that second touch of the Holy Spirit that brings clarity and a confidence of what you are and who you are. And if you ask me If I think if I keep preaching it to you and keep explaining it, that that will make it real to you, it helps because God’s word gives life. But finally it seems that only the sealing with the Holy Spirit will enable you to experience all this and not simply to be thinking “Wouldn’t that be wonderful, wouldn’t that be great. Yes I am in Christ and Christ is in me, if I could only remember that.” But of course when he comes upon you and fills you then you have no trouble remembering it because it’s bubbling up from within you. It’s bubbling up inside.
One of the reasons I’m sharing some of these thing this morning is I was quite surprised as I’ve been reading through Martyn Lloyd Jones on Ephesians. I have been reading through his comments and then sometimes using some of his examples and at other times just saying what I saw myself. But this last one that I read and that I would like to read tonight surprised me with the certainty with which Lloyd Jones comes in saying, “It is very important to experience this.” I always think of Lloyd Jones as a very orthodox Evangelical who is accepted by everybody as the orthodox Evangelical preacher yet he has this wild sentence where he says, “Don’t just take it by faith. Feel it, experience it. We’re meant to experience it.” And it brought home to me again that of course there is a difference. There is a difference. At times I think he’s more aggressive in that way than I think I am. I think part of it is he probably doesn’t specialize in preaching that often and so he puts it very strongly when he does. But he’s very clear, he says, “Oh yes, you don’t have to take it by faith when it’s bubbling up inside you, when you’re filled with the light and the glory of God.”
So it is important for us to see; what is the heart of the fullness of the Holy Spirit? Well, it isn’t tongues, or that gift, those will come as God determines to give them. But it is above everything else it seems to me, making real our actual position in Jesus. Making that situation real to us and enabling us to live in the reality of it. Now what I hope that will be to you is good news. I hope that you’ll see that you don’t have to make this real yourself — that only the Holy Spirit can do, so you have to deal with him. And of course that’s what finally Lloyd Jones says.
So what I’d ask you to do is not put the sealing with the Holy Spirit away as something we’re experts at and that we have shared and talked about for years. But put it together with the things we’ve been sharing and ask “Lord am I living in this glorious position that I fully believe you have given me? Is it possible that maybe I get overwhelmed at times by the situation or by circumstances, or I get bogged down in earthly details, or I find myself worried or anxious about things, or I find myself a little critical of others at times? Is it possible that these things are coming because in fact, I’m not living in the glory and fullness of the position that you have given me in Jesus that I’m not really experiencing Jesus around me? Is it possible that that’s why I have these troubles? Lord if it is, then Holy Spirit I want to be in reality, I want to live in reality.
I want live in the position that God has given me in Jesus. I want to live in eternity, here in time. I want to live in heaven here on earth.” And the Holy Spirit is a kind and gentle Savior because he is the Spirit of Jesus. It is your Jesus who has borne you all those years, and all these present years, it is your Jesus who has kept you inside himself because he loves you. Your Jesus is the one who is able to make all these things real to you through the Holy Spirit.