Intro

This blog gains its name from the book Steele's Answers published in 1912. It began as an effort to blog through that book, posting each of the Questions and Answers in the book in the order in which they appeared. I began the project on Dec. 10, 2011. I completed it on July 11, 2015. Along the way, I began to also post snippets from Dr. Steele's other writings — and from some other holiness writers of his times. I still do that every once in a while.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Pentecost and the Founding of the Church

"Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he shall guide you into all the truth: for he shall not speak from himself; but what things soever he shall hear, [these] shall he speak: and he shall declare unto you the things that are to come He shall glorify me: for he shall take of mine, and shall declare [it] unto you" — John 16:13, 14 (Revised Version).

This intimate identification of the Spirit's mission with the person of Christ and the success of His work was because in the wisdom of God it was seen to be necessary to the establishment and universal spread of His kingdom. There is truth in the argument that the existence of the Church as the visible exponent of Christ's kingdom is the great proof of the resurrection and divinity of its Founder. This is true. But our contention is that the Church which was not organized when Jesus Christ, its living head, ascended, would not have had a beginning on the earth without the Pentecostal gift. This idea has found expression in that beautiful and inspiring formula of worship, the Te Deum Laudamus, called by Canon Liddon "at once a hymn, a prayer and a creed," in these sublime words,

"When Thou hadst overcome the sharpness of death,
Thou didst open the Kingdom of Heaven to all believers." 

This dates the founding of the Church on the day of Pentecost. It was then that Christ, in the person of the Paraclete, like the sunrise described by the poet Horace, Altera dies, sol idem (Another day, the same sun ), gathered together the Church of the firstborn of the Spirit on the earth, the first to receive the Spirit of adoption and to head the procession of redeemed souls through all the Christian ages.

Without Pentecost the resurrection of Christ would soon have been confounded with the prodigies of the Greek and Roman mythologies. There would, after a few years or generations, have been no one interested in defending this historic fact, and after the death of the apostles there would have been no witnesses to the resurrection power as a transforming spiritual experience. The historical facts without a spiritual life built on them, preaching and defending them and dying for them a martyr’s death, would have had no champion to advocate them and to perpetuate the remembrance of them.

We do not read that the company of disciples was at all increased by the story of the resurrection of Christ repeated again and again during nearly fifty days. This bare historic fact made no converts. Facts alone, though miraculous, and truth alone, though undoubted, have no regenerating power. Only life can beget life. For seven weeks the company of believers had all the facts of the gospel except the ascension complete, and for ten days they had the climax, the ascension of Christ, but there was no increase of their numbers. But on the fiftieth day three thousand believed on Jesus as the divine Saviour. Something must have happened. There is no effect without a cause. In this hidden cause lies the secret of the final triumph of Christ.

Let me illustrate. In the late American Civil War, in the absence of Gen. Sheridan, the Federal commander in the valley of Shenandoah, his army was unexpectedly attacked in camp and routed. They threw down their arms and ran like frightened sheep. This scared herd of soldiers without arms suddenly turned about, met and conquered the over-confident foe, regained their lost artillery and camp and drove Gen. Early and his Confederate army in a disorderly flight and captured his artillery. What caused the change from a disgraceful rout to a glorious victory? It was the sudden arrival of their valiant commander riding bareheaded at breakneck speed.

What caused the sudden great victory of the gospel? What produced the conversion of three thousand in a day? It was the sudden arrival on the field of the divine Commander in the mysterious, invisible, conquering personality of another. It is vain to attribute the initial force of Christianity to the conversion of Saul of Tarsus. You have first to account for his sudden transformation from a bloody persecutor. But he was not converted during the fifty days after the crucifixion. Even if he had been it would be as paradoxical to ascribe the first triumph of Christianity to the accession of a persecutor as it would be to attribute Sheridan's victory, plucked out of defeat, to the presence of the chief of Gen. Early's staff rallying the running Federal soldiers to fight the army he had just deserted in treason to the Confederacy.

The Gospel of the Comforter, Chapter 9.