[So very important!!]
The Holy Spirit's Hidden Meaning in the Scriptures
"They therefore, when they were come together, asked Him saying, Lord, dost Thou at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?" (Acts 1:6).
We pointed out in a previous chapter how much the prophets were occupied with this matter of the Kingdom. These disciples of the Lord Jesus had their whole idea of the Kingdom from the prophets, and so their question is based upon a certain kind of mental apprehension of the teaching of the prophets. They had deduced certain things from what the prophets said, and they bring this question even at this late hour - "Dost Thou at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?" And He said unto them, "It is not for you to know times and seasons, which the Father hath set within His own authority. But ye shall receive power, when the Holy Spirit is come upon you: and ye shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea and Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth. And when He had said these things, as they were looking," - He restored the Kingdom, ascended His throne? No - "He was taken up; and a cloud received Him out of their sight" (Acts 1:6-9).
Everything begins there in the way of spiritual understanding, because this statement of the Lord Jesus indicated that a new dispensation was being inaugurated which was different from that which the disciples had expected from the teaching of the prophets. This was the dispensation of the Holy Spirit, and they were going to discover that the Holy Spirit had meanings about the Old Testament prophecies which they had never imagined were thee. Not until the Holy Spirit took hold of the Word of God did they know the prophets at all. And then we shall see that when He really took hold of the Scriptures and began to apply them and open them up and give the Divine meaning, things happened which not only were unexpected but were utterly contrary and opposed to the fixed mentality of the disciples, and which required a complete shattering of their mentality, the abandonment of established positions on their part. It is tremendously challenging if the Holy Spirit gets hold of the Word of God and then gets hold of us. There are going to be revolutionary changes in our whole outlook and procedure, and this book of the Acts is just full of that.
The Coming of the Spirit - A New Order Introduced
It is the dispensation, or stewardship, of the Holy Spirit. The words 'dispensation' and 'stewardship' mean an economy, an order; how things are done in this regime. We find that, in this dispensation, when the Holy Spirit came, He began to change things, because He was in charge. You may become a member of the staff of a business, and when you arrive you find things are done in such and such a way. Times are set and fixed like this; this is how things are done in this regime. And then a new Managing Director arrives, and he sees this prevailing order, and he registers at once that it is an imperfect system, that it is not producing the fullest results for which the business exists. He begins quietly but very strongly to take charge, and things begin to change, and the old set people who have been in that regime for years do not like these changes, and they begin to kick. They will not have it; they revolt and begin to fight against this new order. Some, who are more open-spirited, who are not so fixed and settled, begin to see his mind, his vision, and although they stumble on difficulties from time to time, and come up against the implications of this tremendous change - like Peter, over the visit to Cornelius (Acts 10) - and it wants just a little battle to get over the old prejudice, nevertheless, they have their battle, get over their difficulties, and fall into line, and so the great change takes place with wonderful results. Things begin to happen; the original purpose of the business is now beginning, in a wonderful way, to be realized and fulfilled.
That is exactly what happened when the Holy Spirit came in on the day of Pentecost. There was an existing, fixed, established order, but it was not reaching God's end. It was not, as we say, 'delivering the goods.' The Holy Spirit came, with all the full knowledge of the Divine mind; He entered in and began His work of realizing the real Divine concept; He took hold. So He divided the people. Some - these that dwelt in Jerusalem, and their rulers - would not have the new order. Well, all right - they lose it all. But others came into fellowship of the Holy Spirit, "joined unto the Lord ... one spirit" (1 Corinthians 6:17), with wonderful results.
A Vital Contrast - The Letter and the Spirit of Scripture
The point is: first of all, it is a new dispensation; and next, the Holy Spirit is in charge. His being in charge has to be recognized, with all that it means. And, being in charge, by His activities He reveals and evolves the very object of God from all eternity, and seeks to bring it out in this dispensation. As for the cleavage (a splitting apart) - well, it was an historic cleavage then, but it is a cleavage which spiritually has been going on all through the dispensation. It is a dividing between men of the letter and men of the spirit. That movement, that tendency, toward a fixed position is constantly recurring, bringing that which is of God into imprisonment, within organized limitations which frustrate the whole counsel of God. I have an article before me- I wish I could quote it all; I cannot - but there are some things in it which express what is in my heart better than anything that I could say myself. It was written by a Member of the British Parliament.
"There are many classifications into which men and women may be divided - as upper, middle or lower class; rich, well-to-do and poor; religious, sceptical and atheist; ... and so forth and so on. But, as I think, the only categorization which really matters is that which divides men as between the Servants of the Spirit and the Prisoners of the Organization. That classification, which cuts right across all the other classifications, is indeed the fundamental one. The idea, the inspiration, originates in the internal world, the world of the Spirit ... the idea having embodied itself in the organization, the organization then proceeds gradually to slay the idea which gave it birth. In the field of religion a prophet, an inspired man, will see a vision of truth. He expresses that vision as best he may in words. Upon what his disciples understand of the prophet's message, an organization, a church, will be built. The half-understood message will crystallize into a creed. Before long the principle concern of the church will be to sustain itself as an organization. To this end any departure from the creed must be controverted and, if necessary, suppressed as heresy. In a few score or a few hundred years what was conceived as a vehicle of a new and higher truth has become a prison for the souls of men. And men are murdering each other for the love o God.
One moral to be drawn, it would not be wholly facetious to suggest, might be that the first rule for any organization should be a rule providing for its dissolution within a limited period of time ... When we are members of an organization, as such, our attitude to it should be one of partial detachment. We must be above it even while we are in it. We should reckon on being in almost perpetual rebellion within it. Above all we should regard all loyalties to organization as tentative and provisional. We must be Servants of the Spirit, not Prisoners of the Organization. We must keep in touch with the sources of life, not lose ourselves in the temporary vehicles.' [or, as I have been saying all along: "go to God via the Holy Spirit, for everything! We are not to depend on any human whether preacher, other believer, or any so-called "expert". (I blame the churches for telling us that the only way to God is through the minister or that particular church - for our confusion. We were told that because, in their mind, that was the only way the churches could keep their membership growing!) May we ask questions, discuss, with others? Of course, but remember, the Holy Spirit is the final Word. That is why it is so vital to each of us to have the full indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Only the Holy Spirit can guide us in truth and pure light from above. Only He knows the plans of God for each of us individually! Only He can keep us on the narrow path because He knows how easy it is to fall off! - The Shepherd's Disciple]
"This world is a bridge. Ye shall pass over it, but ye shall build no houses upon it." (end of quote)
Is that not just what you have in the Acts and all the way though - the crystallizing of our apprehension of truth, our interpretation, the partial perception, the statement in the letter, something fixed, embodying that which was of the Spirit of God in the beginning, but not allowing it to go beyond those bounds now? Anything more, anything other than that, is called heresy; this is the last word. It may be embodied in an organization, in what is called a church, a sect, a denomination, and if you go beyond that well, you are said to be all wrong. The great difference between men of the organization and men of the Spirit is what you have here in the Book of the Acts.
(continued with # 1 - "The Lordship of the Spirit Essential to Progress")