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Free Books » Bonar, Horatius » Light & Truth: The Lesser Epistles

Chapter 4 - Galatians 3:2 - The Holy Spirit, and the Hearing of Faith Light & Truth: The Lesser Epistles by Bonar, Horatius




The Holy Spirit, And The Hearing Of Faith.


"This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of

the law, or by the hearing of faith?"-Galatians 3:2.



     It is the Holy Spirit that is the life of a church, and the life of a soul. No Spirit, no life! It is through this Spirit that the man awakes,-opens his eye, his ear, his heart. This Spirit is first with the sinner; revealing the truth to him, and enabling him to believe it. Not self nor man, nor the flesh is first; but the Holy Ghost. It is He who moves upon the face of the waters.

     But there is another side of the question which our text brings before us; viz, the receiving of the Spirit after believing, as the result of 'the hearing of faith.' In neither is there any visible illapse, or audible voice, or perceptible touch; anything contrary to or out of the region of our faculties; still both are real. It is to the second that our text refers. And the question to be solved is this: Does He come in connection with the law or the gospel? Is He received by working, or by believing? Does the preaching of the law, or the preaching of grace, bring Him? The apostle appeals to the experience of the Galatians, when first he came to them preaching the gospel.  It was in connection with that gospel which he preached that they received the Spirit; and that gospel was not the gospel of working, but of believing. The Spirit came down on them when he delivered his message of grace, and they received that Spirit in receiving the good news.

     The apostle refers to one thing only here, as the result of a received gospel,-the Spirit. But in like manner are all the blessings of the new covenant received. Thus is Christ Himself received: by 'the hearing of faith.' Thus is pardon received: by 'the hearing of faith.' Thus is life received: by 'the hearing of faith.' 'So we preached,' says he, 'and so ye believed.' It is not as workers of good works, or doers of God's law, but as listeners to His gospel, that we are receivers of His blessings. It is not as workers, but as listeners, that we are receivers of His Spirit. 'Hear, and your soul shall live;' 'Hearken unto me;' 'Listen, O ye isles;' Blessed is the man that heareth me;' 'He that hath an ear, let him hear;' 'Hear, ye deaf.' 'He that heareth my words.' 'Blessed are they that hear.'

     I. The Holy Spirit is God's special gift to us.-(1.) He is the promise of the Father. (2) He is the Church's special birthright. (3.) He is in the hands of the risen Saviour. (4.) In Him are all the gifts needed by the Church as a whole, and by each saint. In the Spirit all is contained that we need. The Father is most willing to bestow Him; the Son is most willing to shed Him down; He is most willing to come. We need Huh much. As the earth without rain and sunshine turns to barrenness, so is it with the Church or soul without the Spirit. But still He is 'ministered,' or 'given,' or dispensed in a particular way,-God's way,-the way that will honour the Father and glorify Christ.

     II. He is not received in or by working.-None of God's gifts are thus received; least of all the Spirit. The law does not procure us the Spirit. Works do not contribute to our obtaining it. We do not serve in order to obtain the Spirit, but we obtain the Spirit in order that we may serve. First the Spirit, then work; not first work, and then the Spirit. The works that we do without the Spirit, or previous to our receiving the Spirit, are in themselves poor and unprofitable, nor can they in any way secure the Spirit for us.

     III. He is received by the hearing of faith.-The expression is a peculiar one. It is not simply 'hearing,' nor 'faith,' but the 'hearing of faith,' that obtains for us the Spirit. What does it mean, then? Not that faith which leads to hearing, but that hearing which leads to faith (or believing). It is in listening to the divine word that faith springs up; and then the Spirit comes in and fills us with all His gifts and graces. No doubt the Spirit must work in order to our hearing and believing; but then He works most fully after that we have believed. It is the believing soul that is the vessel for receiving all His fullness. The Holy Ghost then does not come,-

     (1.) By works-Works cannot win, or buy, or deserve. He is the free Spirit.-(Psalm 2:12.)

     (2.) By chance, or at random.-There is no chance work in the mission of the Holy Ghost.

     (3.) By miracle, as at Pentecost.-It is the same Spirit, but not by open miracle.

     (4.) By mere sovereignty.-God is sovereign; yet He gives the Spirit in an appointed way, and according to promise.

     But in believing, and by believing, in proportion to our faith. The simpler and stronger our faith, the more of the Spirit.

     Let us believe for the Spirit. Not simply believe and hope that by and by the Spirit will come, but believe for Him; that is, earnestly and believingly desire Him, and desire more of Him. Our unbelief hinders Him, grieves Him. Let us beware. Only believe, and be filled with the Spirit.

     The age thinks it can do without the Spirit. Let the Church watch against this blasphemy. Let her keep hold of the Lord's promise, the promise of the Father. Let her prize the gift; long for more of it. Let every saint seek more of it. Let our cry be continually, More of the Holy Spirit; more of His fullness; more of His gifts and graces!

     Not human intellect or genius, but the power and wisdom of the Holy Ghost!  Study and culture may do much for the mind in widening and filling it; but more is needed. Man's faculties, well-disciplined according to the progress of the age, may raise him to no inconsiderable height; but only the divine Spirit can lift a fallen being out of the region of darkness and evil into sympathy with 'the age to come,' into communion with the living God.