A.J. Gordon, The Ministry of the Spirit -- Was he a proto-Pentecostal?

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Relztrah

Puritan Board Freshman
I am reading a copy of A.J. Gordon's The Ministry of the Spirit which I find very thought-provoking. Some of the passages of this book sound very much like Pentecostal teaching although this book was published in 1894, many years before the Asuza Street Revival and the Pentecostal movement. I will quote one of these sections at length, removing the footnotes and other formatting.

There is a doctrine somewhat in vogue, not inappropriately denominated redemption by incarnation, which maintains that since God gave his Son to the world, all the world has the Son, consciously or unconsciously, and that therefore all the world will be saved. It need not be said that a true evangelical teaching must reject this theory as utterly untenable, since it ignores the necessity of individual faith in Christ. But some orthodox writers have urged an almost identical view with respect to the Holy Ghost. They have contended that the enduement of the Spirit is “not any special or more advanced experience, but simply the condition of every one who is a child of God"; that "believers converted after Pentecost, and living in other localities, are just as really endowed with the indwelling Spirit as those who actually partook of the Pentecostal blessing at Jerusalem." On the contrary, it seems clear from the Scriptures that it is still the duty and privilege of believers to receive the Holy Spirit by a conscious, definite act of appropriating faith, just as they received Jesus Christ. We base this conclusion on several grounds. Presumably if the Paraclete is a person, coming down at a certain definite time to make his abode in the church, for guiding, teaching, and sanctifying the body of Christ, there is the same reason for our accepting him for his special ministry as for accepting the Lord Jesus for his special ministry. To say that in receiving Christ we necessarily received in the same act the gift of the Spirit, seems to confound what the Scriptures make distinct.2 For it is as sinners that we accept Christ for our justification, but it is as sons that we accept the Spirit for our sanctification: “And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying Abba, Father" (Gal. 4:6). Thus, when Peter preached his first sermon to the multitude after the Spirit had been given, he said: "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost" (Acts 2:38). This passage shows that logically and chronologically the gift of the Spirit is subsequent to repentance. Whether it follows as a necessary and inseparable consequence, as might seem, we shall consider later. Suffice that this point is clear, so clear that one of the most conservative as well as ablest writers on this subject, in commenting on this text in Acts, says: "Therefore it is evident that the reception of the Holy Ghost, as here spoken of, has nothing whatever to do with bringing men to believe and repent. It is a subsequent operation; it is an additional and separate blessing; it is a privilege founded on faith already actively working in the heart. . . I do not mean to deny that the gift of the Holy Ghost may be practically on the same occasion, but never in the same moment. The reason is quite simple too. The gift of the Holy Ghost is grounded on the fact that we are sons by faith in Christ, believers resting on redemption in him. Plainly, therefore, it appears that the Spirit of God has already regenerated us. "

Now, as we examine the Scriptures on this point, we shall see that we are required to appropriate the Spirit as sons, in the same way that we appropriated Christ as sinners. "As many as received him, even to them that believe on his name," is the condition of becoming sons, as we have already seen, receiving and believing being used as equivalent terms. In a kind of foretaste of Pentecost, the risen Christ, standing in the midst of his disciples, "breathed on them and said, Receive ye the Holy Ghost." The verb is not passive, as our English version might lead us to suppose, but has here as generally an active signification, just as in the familiar passage in Revelation: "Whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely." Twice in the Epistle to the Galatians the possession of the Holy Ghost is put on the same grounds of active appropriation through faith: "Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law or by the hearing of faith?" (3:2). "That ye might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith" (3:14). These texts seem to imply that just as there is a "faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ" for salvation, there is a faith toward the Holy Ghost for power and consecration.

If we turn from New Testament teaching to New Testament example, we are strongly confirmed in this impression. We begin with that striking incident in the nineteenth chapter of Acts. Paul, having found certain disciples at Ephesus, said unto them: "Did ye receive the Holy Ghost when ye believed? And they said unto him, Nay; we did not so much as hear whether there is a Holy Ghost." This passage seems decisive as showing that one may be a disciple without having entered into possession of the Spirit as God's gift to believers. Some admit this, who yet deny any possible application of the incident to our own times, alleging that it is the miraculous gifts of the Spirit which are here under consideration, since, after recording that when Paul had laid his hands upon them and "the Holy Ghost came upon them," it is added that "they spake with tongues and prophesied." All that need be said upon this point is simply that these Ephesian disciples, by the reception of the Spirit, came into the same condition with the upper-room disciples who received him some twenty years before, and of whom it is written that “they were all filled with the Holy Ghost and began to speak with other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance." In other words, these Ephesian disciples on receiving the Holy Ghost exhibited the traits of the Spirit common to the other disciples of the apostolic age.

Whether those traits—the speaking of. tongues and the working of miracles—were intended to be perpetual or not we do not here discuss. But that the presence of the personal Holy Spirit in the church was intended to be perpetual there can be no question. And whatsoever relations believers held to that Spirit in the beginning they have a right to claim to-day. We must withhold our consent from the inconsistent exegesis which would make the water baptism of the apostolic times still rigidly binding, but would relegate the baptism in the Spirit to a bygone dispensation. We hold indeed, that Pentecost was once for all: but equally that the appropriation of the Spirit by believers is always for all, and that the shutting up of certain great blessings of the Holy Ghost within that ideal realm called "the apostolic age," however convenient it may be as an escape from fancied difficulties, may be the means of robbing believers of some of their most precious covenant rights.



How am I to interpret this? Particularly such statements as, "This passage shows that logically and chronologically the gift of the Spirit is subsequent to repentance. Whether it follows as a necessary and inseparable consequence, as might seem, we shall consider later. Suffice that this point is clear, so clear that one of the most conservative as well as ablest writers on this subject [William Kelly], in commenting on this text in Acts ["Lectures on the New Testament Doctrine of the Holy Spirit"], says: "Therefore it is evident that the reception of the Holy Ghost, as here spoken of, has nothing whatever to do with bringing men to believe and repent. It is a subsequent operation; it is an additional and separate blessing; it is a privilege founded on faith already actively working in the heart. . ."

I would greatly appreciate any insights from PB members who are familiar with A.J. Gordon's teaching and this work in particular.
 

Phil D.

Puritan Board Junior
Many aspects of Pentecostalism were derived from earlier sources. It didn't simply appear out of nowhere, or develop in a vacuum. Gordon, Finney, Moody, R.A. Torey and others had various proto-Pentecostal characteristics in their teaching and ministries, whether holiness, divine healing, revivalism, or the Holy Spirit as a second blessing. The 1906 movement was essentially an amalgamation of these beliefs put on steroids.
 
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Pilgrim

Puritanboard Commissioner
He was not pentecostal, but perhaps similar to R.A. Torrey, he believed that the Baptism with the Holy Spirit was subsequent to salvation.

The wiki for Gordon mentions that a book of his on healing was a standard work among early Pentecostals.


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