"Thou hast given a banner to them that fear Thee, that it may be displayed because of the truth" (Ps. 60:4).
It Is Ministered through the Gospel of Christ
The Fullness of Blessing
By Fred O. Blakely
"I know that, when I come unto you, I shall come in the fulness of the blessing of Christ" (Rom. 15:29, ASV; cf. ch. 1:11).
PART I (IN TWO PARTS)
As chapter 1:11-12 indicates, the Apostle desired to visit the Roman church in order to impart to it "some spiritual gift," and to be "comforted" by the mutual faith of its members and himself. The sense in which he used the expression, "the fulness of the blessing of Christ," thus refers, in his case, to "the gifts and graces of the Lord Jesus," of which Paul was then "a constant instrument, in the hand of God, to dispense to those who were converted to the faith" (Adam Clarke).
In application of the involved principle, that fullness of blessing in Christ, or in "the gospel of Christ" (KJV), will here be taken to denote what God now offers humanity in His exalted Son, through the gospel. Our use of the text will take the nature of an encapsulated view of that Divine blessing, in an effort to challenge and encourage both individuals and the church as a whole to receive the fullness of the blessing for themselves.
When the comprehensive scope of "the fulness of the blessing of Christ" begins to be perceived and experienced, it shall be found to be completely adequate-yea, abundantly ample!-for the supply of all our needs (cf. Phil. 4:19).
Hence, in such apprehension and experience is the way-the only way-to the meeting of personal needs and those of the body of the church. To seek such supply elsewhere, is but to look in vain. Let us, therefore, "take the cup" of God's salvation in our necessities, and so "call upon the Name of the Lord" (Ps. 116:13).
Prominent among the blessings in Christ, or gospel benefits, are undoubtedly the following, which we should earnestly seek and fully receive.
The Forgiveness of Sins. The fundamental blessing Jesus Christ has provided for and offers to humanity is that of the forgiveness of sins. "Thou shalt call His Name Jesus," said the angel to Joseph: "for He shall save His people from their sins" (Mt. 1:21). Since "all have sinned, and come short" of God's glory (Rom. 3:23), being thereby alienated from Him, the remedy for that situation is evidently the foremost need. That is so, because union or fellowship with God is the ultimate blessing, as it is His fundamental objective for man.
The wealth of spiritual blessings in Christ has its beginning conferment upon the individual at this point-the forgiveness of his sins. The door of acceptance by the holy Father -"through the redemption" that is in His sacrificed Son-is that by which all mankind must enter into that grace which, if continued in, will eventuate in eternal glory and blessing. And that acceptance by God is because of one's reception of the propitiation for his sins which Christ has made.
The Purged Conscience. Not only is sins' forgiveness essential for God's acceptance of men; it is equally necessary for their acceptance and recognition of their exalted state as His sons. That is where the purged conscience proclaimed in Hebrews 9:13-15 comes in. The forgiven person must be spiritually aware of his condition in Christ, if he is to draw near to, fellowship with, and serve God becomingly as His dear child.
So is "the knowledge of salvation" by the remission of sins provided by Christ (Lk. 1:77), as well as the benefit itself, required. Only thus can one worship and serve God "without fear, in holiness and righteousness before Him," as God has provided for him to do (vv. 71-74).
The "joy unspeakable and full of glory" that attends the knowledge of sins' forgiveness (I Pet. 1:8), is a precious part of this benefit. To the extent that the heinousness of sin, in its defiling and alienating effect, is duly recognized, such joy at the realization of cleansing therefrom will result.
A person with purified heart and purged conscience will find himself spontaneously joining with Paul in the glad cry, "Thanks be unto God for His unspeakable gift!" (II Cor. 9:15; cf. I Cor. 15:57). And, with the Ethiopian eunuch, he will go "on his way" from his baptism "rejoicing" in his blessed state of reconciliation to and acceptance by the God of his salvation (Acts 8:39).
The Gift of the Spirit. With sin, the separator of man from God, removed by the blood of Christ and sin's consequent forgiveness by God, the way is clear for God to come into the forgiven person and abide with him. That He freely does, in the Persons of the Father and the Son, through the instrumentality of the Holy Spirit. Thus, it is written that God "poured out" the Spirit "upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior" at our "washing of regeneration" (Tit. 3:5-7, ASV).
The Involved Conditionality. Like all of God's blessings in Christ, of course, this gift has to be received by the individual in order to be possessed by him. It is by no means unconditionally or automatically bestowed. The Spirit's outpouring upon us "abundantly" through Christ must be taken as potential, dependent as to its personal experience in the full on individual reception thereof. The same principle is operative here as with Christ's salvation of the "whole world" by His death (II Cor. 5:19-20; I Jn. 2:1-2). The full provision for the benefit has been made; but it must be personally received to be had by the individual.
That situation respecting the Spirit's outpouring accounts for the apostolic exhortation to the church to "be filled with the Spirit" (Eph. 5:18). It also enlightens Jesus' assertion, made in anticipation of the post-Pentecostal era, that the Father will "give the Holy Spirit to them that ask Him" (Lk. 11:13). We "ask" for the Spirit in the sense apparently intended when, by obedience to the gospel and subsequent submission to God, we place ourselves in the required state to receive Him.
So, for example, is submission to baptism "an appeal to God for a clear conscience" (I Pet. 3:21, RSV), or an asking for the forgiveness of sins, which is promised on the condition of that submission. Thus also do we effectively "call upon the name of the Lord" (Rom. 10:13; cf. Acts 22:16).
Peter's declarations in both Acts 2:38 and 5:32 are to be so understood. In the former instance, he promised the Spirit to believers in Christ who would repent of their sins and be baptized into Christ. On the latter occasion, Peter declared that God gives the Spirit to "them that obey Him." Accordingly, though the Spirit has been "poured out abundantly" from heaven, He is to be had in that fullness of measure only by those who will permit Him to possess and express the life of God through them.
Actually, it is that way with the forgiveness of sins. By His death, Christ propitiated "the sins of the whole world," thereby reconciling it to God (II Cor. 5:19-20; I Jn. 2:1-2), as we have pointed out. For the propitiation and reconciliation to become effective for the individual, however, it must be received by him through obedience to the gospel.
His Essential Functions. Although, as to detail, the Spirit's ministry is manifold, as is those of the Father and the Son, in the broader sense, it can be said to be twofold. That is the work of personalizing the Father and the Son to those in whom He dwells, and the illumination of Scripture and "the things concerning the kingdom" (Acts 8:12; 28:31). To receive the fullness of the blessing of Christ in these areas, is to partake completely of the ministry of the Holy Spirit.
That of Personalization. The personalizing function of the Spirit with reference to God and Christ is made emphatically clear by Scripture. In one breath, as it were, Jesus promised that the Father would send the Spirit to the disciples following His ascension (Jn. 14:15-17). In the next, He declared, "I will come to you" (vv. 18-20). "I will manifest Myself to him" who meets the imposed conditions therefor, He continued (v. 21). That circumstance requires the situation we have represented: that Jesus comes and abides in us by the Holy Spirit.
That is further manifested to be so by our Lord's elaboration of the Spirit's work (ch. 16:13-14). "He shall not speak of Himself," it was declared (v. 13). Instead, "He shall glorify Me" (v. 14). Much that is revolutionary to modern thinking and teaching about the Spirit is implicit in that representation of the case.
A Christ-centered and -filled heart and life are Spirit-filled and -dominated ones. Through the Spirit Christ dwells in our hearts "by faith" (Eph. 3:17). So is He in us, both "the hope of glory" (Col. 1:27), and our complete sufficiency for life and death. As Paul declares, "No man can say, Jesus is Lord, but in the Holy Spirit" (I Cor. 12:3, ASV; cf. Mt. 16:16-17; I Jn. 5:1, ASV).
The Father's Manifestation. It is exactly the same with the personalization to the believer of God the Father. In confirmation of our sonship, the Father "hath sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, Abba, Father" (Gal. 4:6; cf. Rom. 8:15-16; I Jn. 3:24; 4:13; 5:10). Not only did Jesus' sacrifice for sin redeem us therefrom; it qualified us for "the adoption of sons" (Gal. 4:5). And the gift of the Spirit conferred upon us "the spirit of adoption," or "sonship" (Rom. 8:15), i.e., a lively awareness of our filial relation to God, and a keen sense of His presence with us.
Hence, the promise of Christ in John 14:23. It says that both He and the Father will "come unto" and make Their "abode" with, or dwell in, him who meets the specified conditions therefor. So Paul's representation of the individual saint, and the corporate body of them, as "the temple of God" (I Cor. 3:16-17; II Cor. 6:16).
We, accordingly, as the several members of Christ, are "builded together" in Him "for an habitation of God through the Spirit" (Eph. 2:21-22; cf. I Pet. 2:4-5, 9-10). God is in us, "of a truth," as will be evident as we live and walk "in the Spirit" (I Cor. 14:23-25; cf. Gal. 5:25).
In view of this personalizing ministry of the Spirit, Matthew's interpretation of the name "Immanuel," applied by Isaiah to Christ, who had the Spirit without measure, is applicable. It means "God with us," the Apostle declared (Mt. 1:23; cf. Isa. 7:14). It is thus with the Spirit's work, as regards His ministry of God to us. That ministry results in God being "with us" in the Persons of the Father and the Son, as we wholeheartedly yield to the Spirit.
The One of Instruction. The other fundamental work of the Holy Spirit in the believer is that of the illumination of or instruction in Scripture, or "the things concerning the kingdom of God" (Acts 8:12; 28:31). Only "the Spirit of God" knows "the things of God," declares Paul (I Car. 2:11). Thus, if we are to know them, in the power of spiritual discernment, the Spirit must minister that knowledge to us. So the Apostle's continuance: We have received "the Spirit which is of God, that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God" (v. 12).
It is quite true that was written primarily in reference to the Apostles. Secondarily, it is applicable to us, however. That is in order to our adequate understanding of the Apostles' writings and the other Scriptures.
It is a grave error to think and teach that the Scriptures can be made to minister their life-giving and -sustaining power apart from the enlightening function of the Holy Spirit. As Paul goes on in the Corinthians text to say, they are "spiritually discerned," which circumstance requires the Spirit's ministry (ch. 2:14-16).
That such is the work of the Spirit was specifically declared by Jesus, in anticipation thereof. "He shall take of Mine," and of the Father's, "and shall show it unto you," He told the Apostles (Jn. 16:14-15). The promise was not confined to the Apostles, as John makes clear, writing to the church some forty years later. He then represented the brethren's possession of the Spirit as investing them with the necessary knowledge of kingdom matters, without which investment they would have been incapable of coping with the adversary, as would we (I Jn. 2:20, 27; 4:4).
The Demonstration by Jesus. The Spirit's expository function with regard to Scripture was demonstrated by Jesus after His resurrection and before His ascension. Three times over, it is written that He performed that ministry (Lk. 24:27, 32, 45). "Then opened He their understanding, that they might understand the Scriptures," it is declared (v. 45).
He has not at all changed in that function; certainly, He has not ceased to perform it. In fact, His enthronement at God's right hand in heaven was in order that He, among other ministries, might carry it on more widely and effectively (cf. Lk. 12:50; Jn. 16:12-15, 25; Eph. 4:10). Hence, His promise in John 16:25: "I shall show you plainly of the Father."
Those who will partake of "the fulness of the blessing of Christ," therefore, will eagerly avail themselves of this His readiness to open to them the Scriptures of truth. That He will certainly do, as He is allowed to dwell in and sup with them (Rev. 3:20).
(PART 2, CONTINUED TOMORROW)
"Let your loins be girded about, and your lights burning; and ye yourselves like unto men that wait for their lord, when he will return from the wedding; that when he cometh and knocketh, they may open unto him immediately" (Lk. 12:35-36).