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We’ve already explored this in the life of Jesus: see my previous post and Lk. 4:1-2a, 14-22.

We now turn our attention to the Apostles. Peter and John are brought before the Sanhedrin, ‘the church board’ of that time. This august body is severely rattled by the apostles’ bold proclamation of Christ and healing of a crippled beggar at the temple gate. In response to the Sanhedrin’s charges and full of the Holy Spirit, Peter let loose: “‘Rulers and leaders of the people, if we have been brought to trial today for helping a sick man, I’ll be completely frank with you – we have nothing to hide. By the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, the one you killed on the cross… by means of his name this man stands before you healthy and whole… Salvation comes no other way; no other name has been or will be given to us by which we can saved, only this one!’ (Acts 4:8-12/MSG). The clergy are transfixed by the apostles’ boldness and certainty. Their fascination deepens when they realized these two were ‘mere laymen’ with no formal education. “They warned them that they were on no account ever again to speak or teach in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John spoke right back, ‘As for us, there’s no question – we can’t keep quiet about what we have seen and heard!’” (v. 18-20). After prayer with their fellow-disciples, ‘the place where they were meeting trembled and shook. They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak God’s Word with fearless confidence… The apostles gave powerful witness to the resurrection of the Master Jesus, and grace was on all of them…” (v. 31).

Back to the present. Many in the Body are concluding, against this backdrop of Acts, that a large majority of Western Christians have been ‘saved’ but manifest little, if anything, of the primitive Church’s assurance, confidence and joy in the Holy Spirit. How many of us can whole-heartedly sing ‘Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine! O what a foretaste of glory divine!?’

I recommend three remarkable scriptures as a kind of test-case. First Eph. 1:13-14, where the Apostle Paul is carried away with the saints’ ‘Spiritual Blessings in Christ’ (v. 3ff): ‘It’s in Christ that you, once you heard the truth and believed it (this Message of salvation), found your home free – signed, sealed, and delivered by the Holy Spirit. This signet from God is the first installment on what’s coming, a reminder that we’ll get everything God has planned for us, a praising and glorious life!’ (MSG). Second, 1 Jn. 5:13-15, where the Apostle John revels in the life of the Son, ‘My purpose in writing is simply this: that you who believe in God’s Son will will know beyond the shadow of a doubt that you have eternal life, the reality and not the illusion. And how bold and free we then become in his presence…’ (MSG). Third, 1 Pet. 1:8-9, ‘You (the persecuted believers of Asia Minor) love him, although you have not seen him, and you believe in him, although you do not now see him… you rejoice with a great and glorious joy which words cannot express because you are receiving the salvation of your souls…’ (GNB). C’mon, let’s be honest, where do we witness this today?? Give me an African-style worship any old day – even in dire poverty, believers express their joy in the Lord, their bodies moving and faces shining!) [1]

This is not mind-less enthusiasm. Take the example of Blaise Pascal, the 17th century French genius, mathematician, inventor (of a crude but working mechanical calculator in his time) and philosopher.

Blaise Pascal - Biography, Facts and Pictures

Raised a Roman Catholic, Pascal came to an intellectual faith in God. After suffering the loss of his father, he sought a more vital faith in God. He set aside a day to seek him. Nothing happened all day. He prepared for bed, and then it happened beween 10:30 pm and 12:30 am. He penned in his diary, ‘FIRE! GOD of Abraham, GOD of Isaac, God of Jacob, not of the philosophers and of the learned. Certitude. Certitude. Feeling. Joy. Peace. GOD of Jesus Christ, my God and your God. Your God will be my God. Forgetfulness of the world and of everything, except GOD. He is only found by the ways taught in the Gospel. Grandeur of the human soul. Righteous Father, the world has not known you, but I have known you. Joy, joy, joy, tears of joy. I have departed from him: They have forsaken me, the fount of living water. My God, will you leave me? Let me not be separated from him forever. This is eternal life, that they know you, the one true God, and the one who sent, Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ. I left him; I fled him, renounced, crucified. Let me never be separated from him. He is only kept securely by the ways taught in the Gospel. Renunciation, total and sweet. Complete submission to Jesus Christ and my director. Eternal in joy for a day’s exercise on earth. May I not forget your words. Amen!’ He sewed these notes into his jacket-hem, where it was discovered after his death. Our experience of the Spirit may be very different, but have we encountered the Lord in at least something of this dynamic and intimate way, bringing us his glorious assurance, power and joy??


God imparts his love to his people in abundance! There is a difference between a light drizzle and a mighty down-pour. The apostle Paul writes to the Roman believers concerning the peace, joy and hope following on their ‘justification by faith’: 5:5, ‘And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us!’ (NIV) This ‘love’ refers in the first place to the love of God for us, not our love for God. It refers to our sense of God’s love for us as his people. Paul probably had in mind Is. 44:3, ‘For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour my Spirit on your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants…’ (W. Sanday & AC Headlam, ICC). The image is that of a cloud-burst, a flash-flood, in a desert-place. I recall a vivid childhood experience of mine, aged 5/6. My father, a police officer, had to write an exam in the nearby Karroo town of Cradock, a very hot and arid part of the East Cape. I begged him to take me along. Providentially he didn’t. Along the way, crossing an absolutely dry river bed, he was caught off guard by a wall of water from a cloudburst in the mountains. This flash-flood carried our family car down-stream for quite a way. He managed to escape – I would have drowned. I have an old photo of the family car sunken in the sand with just the roof protruding. That’s what a flash-flood can do, it’s something overwhelming and unforgettable. Some time or another, perhaps in different ways, every true believer will sense such a flood of God’s love in Christ poured into his/her heart by the Spirit! Have you known that, my friend? [2] [PS, this encounter is not to be confused with the ‘filling of the Holy Spirit’ as commanded in Eph. 5:18ff. The latter, and the ‘fruit of the Spirit’ described in Gal. 5:22ff, refer more to a slower process-experience, as we daily submit ourselves to Christ’s lordship. The Romans experience indicates something that happens to us, even unexpectedly, once-off or from time to time]

The great 19th century American evangelist, DL Moody, having found Christ by faith, desired ‘something more’ from God. One day in NY City he felt so overwhelmed by God’s love, that he felt he would explode – his mind and emotions just couldn’t cope with the glory of God’s love out-poured!

A century earlier, the English evangelist George Whitefield’s journal reveals that, one night, after just six minutes of his preaching, a man in the audience cried out, ‘He has come!’ The people praised God all night. Whitefield went home at midnight and wept at his own vileness and, on the other hand, God’s everlasting love for him.

For the encouragement of the more ‘average believer,’ here’s a little sample of my own experience of God’s gracious Spirit many years ago. I grew up in a very nominal Christian home. In my early teen years I became restless under a creeping awareness of God’s holiness and glory. I began to seek God in a very childlike way. I felt strongly that somehow I needed to please my Maker and earn his favour. One day, on an errand to the corner-store to buy bread, as I was returning home, the truth broke on me in an absolutely overwhelming way. God brought to mind a verse that I had read but not grasped, ‘For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God…’ (Eph. 2:8). I tell you, I went home ‘walking and leaping and praising God!’ On my arrival, after contemplating God’s revelation to me, I felt totally immersed in the Spirit’s love and power. At age fourteen, I knew, simultaneously with my new birth, an unmistakable call to Christian ministry and preaching the Word. Besides my Bible, I started reading two books: James Hudson Taylor’s epic biography ‘The Man Who Believed God,’ and ‘Teach Yourself Preaching!’ (Since then I’ve often joked that the latter didn’t help my preaching much). With some new-found Christian friends, we started a Sunday School of sorts in a very poor area. My friends and I felt the Lord’s anointing as we reached out to others in different ways. Sadly, at High School, I lost the plot somewhat amid academic and sporting achievements. Following High School I started out on a career as Chemical Engineer. However, within my first year, I was powerfully reminded of my call to ministry. After three years of secular employ and study, I undertook four years of theological training and then went on to pastor four congregations over a period of thirty eight years – until God sovereignly called me out of the institutional Church fourteen years ago. I now teach and strive to enact the kingdom among the poor and via ‘organic house churches,’ roughly patterned on Acts 2:42. Over the years I’ve been privileged to witness to the Gospel on all the continents of the earth, Antarctica excepted, brrrr! Be encouraged, my fellow-pilgrims, what God’s done for others he can do for you!

Please join me again for PART 3 of this series and see Footnotes and hymn below the pic…

GOD IMAGES - These images show you who God really is


[1] In his book, ‘Joy Unspeakable,’ Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones relates the story of a sceptical woman invited to a packed croft meeting during the Hebrides revival: she could only peek through a window, but the sight of a radiant child’s face shining with the glory of God led to her immediate conversion!

[2] Do yourself a favour and listen to the 1904/5 Welsh revival ‘love song’ attached below, first in Welsh and then in English.


  1. Thankyou Erroll for a wonderful post yet again. I had a similar experience to the one you describe for DL Moody, being overwhelmed by the depth of God’s love. You may remember the world wide devastating tsunami that occurred on 26 December, 2004? Early that same day I was in worship when God’s love for me totally overwhelmed me physically, emotionally and spiritually. I felt as if I was in a deep deep ocean in which massive wave after wave of pure, uncorrupted Love was washing over me. Each wave was more intense. In fact, it became so overwhelming I asked for it to stop because I felt as if I would physically die if those Love waves kept pulling me under. It was more than a mortal body can endure I think. I have not experienced anything like it before or since. It was only later that day news broke of the actual tsunami that killed hundreds and devastated coastal communities around the world. It is a mystery to me why I had that experience that day of all days, but I will never forget it. It opened up a new depth in receiving the Father’s love. It is interesting that even in the song you posted His Love is compared to an ocean. I once heard the Spirit say “‘the ocean reveals God’s Love, the sky reveals His power.” Still contemplating that one!

  2. Thanks so much, Cheryl, for sharing your fascinating story. Quite amazing, really! Yes, the images in that hymn relate so well to the biblical theme. A few months ago I was reminded of Rom. 5:5 – I literally spent weeks and months meditating on that verse. Dr. Andrew Murray says about that verse, ‘Do you really believe it?!’ So many of us don’t… still on that journey. Receiving that love of the Father is ‘key,’ I’m sure.

  3. I much enjoyed this, Erroll, thank you!

    Under your heading, “The baptism of the Holy Spirit is accompanied by unusual love,” you said, “Some time or another, perhaps in different ways, every true believer will sense such a flood of God’s love in Christ poured into his/her heart by the Spirit!”

    I am reminded of John Wesley’s experience in 1738, which he recorded in his journal: “In the evening I went very unwillingly to a society in Aldersgate Street, where one was reading Luther’s preface to the Epistle to the Romans. About a quarter before nine, while he was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed, I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone, for salvation; and an assurance was given me that He had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death.” Wesley’s experience is well known; what is not so well known is that in that moment he was filled with the love of God for others. “I began to pray with all my might for those who had in a more especial manner despitefully used me or persecuted me.”

    You mentioned D.L Moody’s experience of being overwhelmed by the love of God. It was so overpowering that he had to “ask God to say His hand.” I have read of others who experienced this and felt they had to ask God to stay His hand, and I’ve always wondered what would happen to one who did not ask God to stay His hand. Personally I’ve never had an experience of that measure, but I recall a precious time at the concluding session of a camp gathering in which the love of God was poured out upon us—a precious, breaking up time in which the fountains of the deep in us were broken up. Tears were flowing. I felt such a love for my brethren that I could not contain it. I walked about among them embracing them, hugging them with all my might, almost shouting, “I love you… I love you…” with tears streaming down my face. Such was our joy. (And I often find that this is how I express great joy—with tears.) Surely that was “the love of God poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who is given to us.”

    But was this precious experience my baptism in Holy Spirit? I would say, no. I’d had other experiences prior to this, so I don’t think I could call that my baptism in Holy Spirit, which is a one-time event in our lives. But it was certainly a fresh filling of the Spirit.

    Here’s why I say this (it’s something that has been helpful to me, so I thought I’d pass it along to you). G. Campbell Morgan taught, “one baptism, many fillings, one abiding anointing.” When I first heard that, it was new thinking to me. So I searched it out, and I find it to be good Scripture-based teaching. It is in the initial baptism of the Spirit that one is born again and enters the kingdom of God, as Jesus revealed to Nicodemus concerning being “born of the Spirit.” This only happens once, and only needs to happen once; there is no need for one to be born of the Spirit a second or third time. There is no need to be baptized in Holy Spirit, which is to receive the gift of the Spirit (Acts 10:45-47, 11:15-17), a second or third time. Subsequent experiences are further fillings, as we read in The Acts (4:8, 31, 13:9:52). The abiding anointing is the portion of all believers who abide in the Anointed One (1 Jn. 2:27). This abiding anointing accompanies the initial Spirit baptism into Christ by which we are sealed in Christ (2 Cor. 2:21,22).

    Thanks again for this, Erroll, surely it inspires us to open our hearts to the God of love about this, whose love for each one of us is such that there is no need for anyone to be weighed in the balances and found wanting. But let us seek, not so much the experience, but the encounter with our Lord Himself that brings about the experience. Just as your friend Cheryl McGrath did, who was simply worshipping her Lord when she was graced with that powerful experience of being overwhelmed by the love of God.

    How blessed these experiences are—along with the important daily maintenance you mentioned, Erroll, of seeking to be continually filled with the Spirit and yielding the fruit of the Spirit in our daily walk in the Spirit.

    …Also that hymn, the love song of the Welsh revival. A favourite of mine! “Here is love vast as an ocean. lovingkindness as a flood…”

    Love in Christ,

  4. Many thanks for your comments Allan, enriching us further. I am familiar with Wesley’s Aldersgate experience (he’s one of my spiritual heroes) but not that it led to loving prayer for his enemies, which makes perfect sense. It certainly also led him into mission, together with the Moravians of Herrnhut.
    And then that wonderful camp experience, ‘heaven on earth!’ What a memory of God coming down in love…
    Finally, to seek not the gift but the Giver, lest we pursue revival at the expense of God himself: that’s wise counsel.

    I learned from a godly elder in New Zealand, who was counseled by God never to put the Spirit in a box, because we simply can’t put wind in box! Jn.3’s ‘new birth’ message concludes, “The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” So much diversity in our experiences of Christ, who baptizes us with the Holy Spirit and fire! Praise to his name.

  5. You keep surprising me, as Lewis said, “by joy.” Loved the attention to God’s Spirit – that we would be fruitful (bearing fruit of the Spirit) in old age – unto our last breaths. I had no idea that “Here is Love” was a Welsh revival song. I have enjoyed singing it all along.

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