I don’t know if you’ve ever been to a really posh restaurant—Michelin star posh—but they often start the meal with what they call an Amuse Bouche. It’s French for ‘mouth amuser’, which is a strange phrase when you think about it.
It’s a small bite-sized something that is supposed to taste good, show off the chef’s skill and increase your expectation of what’s coming next. It’s a taste of what is to come.
In Ephesians 1, Paul describes receiving the Holy Spirit a bit like that. He says that the Spirit is
the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it.
The word translated as ‘guarantee’ can also mean deposit or down payment. It’s not the sort of guarantee you get with a new washing machine, saying that they’ll fix it for free if it breaks in the next few years. It’s more the kind of guarantee you get when you go to buy a car and put down a deposit. The guarantee you get is that when you return with the rest of the money, they won’t already have sold it to someone else.
When we receive the Spirit from Jesus, he has paid a sort of deposit, which means that we know he’s going to come back and pay the full amount. Therefore, my salvation is assured, I know for certain that on judgement day he will judge me not guilty, and that the full amount—my inheritance—is going to follow on.
Sometimes you see people in the Supermarket, or on the street, with a tray of little samples of food to try. Normally it’s something new that they’re bringing out and they want you to try it so that you’ll buy it. Tasting builds anticipation, if you like it you’ll want more of it. If a company is confident in their product then they’re eager to get you to try something. God is supremely confident in the “product” he’s peddling.
Except with God it’s not try before you buy, as you never get as far as purchasing anything. Jesus bought it for you. You can sample the pleasures of the age to come any time. Did you like that? You don’t have to wait, have some more.
If I’m offered a sample in the Supermarket and say that I like it, they point me to the aisle I can buy it from. When God offers me a sample of the Holy Spirit, and I say that I like it, he gives me a lifetime’s supply.
It’s not a limited amount, even though it’s only a foretaste. It’s miniscule, mouthful sized, in comparison to what we will receive after the sky is torn away and the dead are raised. It’s tiny compared to seeing Jesus face-to-face and being with him forever. But it’s comparatively tiny. It’s not actually tiny. It’s an infinite resource that is infinitely smaller than what it is the tiniest mouthful of.
Got your head around that? No, me neither. But it makes me wonder what on earth it will be like when the kingdom comes. Which I think is the idea.
That means it isn’t to be hoarded. I’m not really sure how you would hoard the Holy Spirit’s gifts to you, but I think we try anyway, jealously keeping what joy or gifting we have hidden away in case someone might see it and take it from us, or in case it somehow runs out. The point of a lifetime’s supply is that it doesn’t, but we’ve hardly thought this through. The inheritance we get is the kind of wealth that grows by being given away. It’s like an inverted savings account. My savings account gets bigger when I put things in it and don’t take them out. My experience of the Spirit gets bigger when I use it.
“Receiving the Spirit” and our “inheritance” makes it sound like something that we are given to keep. It’s not really like that. It’s not that I had a certain amount of Spiritual currency, and by receiving the Spirit I now have a much larger amount. It’s not that I didn’t have any Spirit and now I have some. Being baptised in the Spirit is an experience: you experience it, you don’t file it away. It’s more like something you use than something you have.
The gift of the Spirit is a sign to us that the best is yet to come. If you haven’t tasted it, seek to experience God as he offers himself. It tastes a bit like the warmth of the sun on cave cooled skin, it feels a bit like the smell of salted sea air. Except, nothing like that at all. Both inexplicable, and achingly familiar. Like we were purposed for it.
This post forms part of a serialisation of a short book on ‘Baptism in the Spirit,’ you can read the rest of the posts here.
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