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Rivers of Living Water

By David A. DePra

Jesus answered and said unto her, Whosoever drinks of this water shall thirst again: But whosoever drinks of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life. (John 4:13-14)

In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. (But this spoke he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.) (John 7:37-39)

These two passages, put together, tell us much about the relationship between salvation and the baptism of the Holy Spirit. From them we shall see that salvation and this baptism are ONE. There are not TWO blessings or experiences, but ONE.

There have always been those who have taught that you must first be saved, and then later have added to you a, "second blessing." This second blessing is often called, "the baptism of the Holy Spirit." Today this baptism is often made synonymous with speaking in tongues, and other things often associated with Pentecostalism. But this is not what the Bible teaches. The Bible teaches that there is ONE blessing – a Person, Jesus Christ. Salvation is the result of receiving HIM. Then, because we are indwelt by Christ, there comes an overflow. But it is all of Christ – as ministered by the Holy Spirit.

You don’t receive Christ at salvation, and then have added to you the Holy Spirit later. Neither do you receive some of Christ, and get more of Him later. Neither do you receive some of the Holy Spirit, but receive more of Him later. No. At salvation, you are COMPLETE IN CHRIST. However, you do need to grow, and come to manifest Him. The indwelling of Christ must come to overflow from you.

All of this is accomplished by the Holy Spirit. Christ dwells in us through the Holy Spirit, and overflows us through the Holy Spirit. The two are as ONE. We don’t have a physical Christ bodily dwelling inside of us! That is nonsense. But Christ did ascend bodily into heaven. Thus, the MEANS by which He is in us and overflows us is through the Holy Spirit.

These above passages are among many that prove that when we are saved, we receive a, "well of water," which Jesus said, is eternal life. But this, "well of eternal life," must eventually turn into, "rivers of living water," which overflow us in power, and makes us witnesses unto Christ.

A Well

Jesus said, "Whosoever drinks of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life." Of course, He was referring to Himself as the WATER. If you drink of HIM – receive Him into you – He will be in you as a well of water which is eternal life.

We see in this the great Truth that eternal life isn’t a THING God gives us. No. Eternal life is Christ. God gives us, not a THING, but Himself, through Christ. CHRIST IN US is eternal life. He is the WATER – the water WHO IS the eternal life.

Of course, the metaphor of water is used because it IS a matter of life or death to each one of us, isn’t it. And certainly all the more in the climate of that country in that day. Jesus uses the well of natural water – which can only temporarily sustain us – to point out that there is an eternal source of life – an eternal water. It is HIM. He says, "If you drink of this natural water, you will thirst again. But if you drink of ME, you will never thirst again. The life giving nature of myself dwelling in you will be eternal."

Jesus used many such metaphors in His teaching. He said basically the same thing about Himself using bread:

Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Moses gave you not that bread from heaven; but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven, and gives life unto the world. Then said they unto him, Lord, evermore give us this bread. And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst. (John 6:32-35)

The contrast is again clear: Temporary sustenance vs. the Eternal. And Jesus Christ IS the eternal water, bread, and consequently, He is LIFE in us.

Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you. Whoso eats my flesh, and drinks my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He that eats my flesh, and drinks my blood, dwells in me, and I in him. As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father: so he that eats me, even he shall live by me. This is that bread which came down from heaven: not as your fathers did eat manna, and are dead: he that eats of this bread shall live for ever. (John 6:53-58)

When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory. (Col 3:4)

A River

Jesus spoke to the woman of Himself as a WELL – a well of eternal life. But later in the gospel of John, as quoted above, He used yet another metaphor. He spoke of a RIVER of living water:

He that believes on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.

You will notice the condition laid down here, for having this river of living water: He that believes on Me. You have to put your faith in Christ. If you do, you will be saved, but also come to have this flow of the river of living water.

This ties into the passage we read about the WELL. Jesus said that whoever DRINKS of Him, will receive in them a WELL of eternal life. That is clearly salvation. But now here, in this passage, He also promises something else that comes with salvation. He says, "He that believes on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water." So the WELL is supposed to result in an overflow or RIVER.

Note that BOTH the well and the river are the result of salvation. The WELL of eternal life is the result of coming to Jesus and drinking of HIM – HE becomes our well within. But the river is the result of the same – whosoever BELIEVES on Jesus. Thus, BOTH the well and the river are the result of CHRIST IN US. We do not get the well at salvation, only to lack the river – until we receive a second blessing. No. Salvation and the baptism of the Holy Spirit are ONE blessing.

Now, just to further prove this, let’s read again the second part of the passage from John 7. Jesus said, "He that believes on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. (But this spoke he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.)"

Jesus was saying that the SPIRIT was the river, but that the overflow He was promising was the result of what? – a second blessing? No. The overflow was the result of, "he that believes on Me." In other words, ALL is in Christ, at salvation. The well is not one thing, and the river another. The river IS the well -- overflowing. Likewise, we don’t get Christ at salvation, and then the Spirit later. No. The Spirit who is the overflow is equal to Christ who is the well.

If we want to try to break these two things up into two different experiences, we are essentially saying that we could have Christ in us, but no possibility of overflow – unless we get another blessing. This is not what Jesus said. He simply stated, "He that believes on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water."

Some people have not seen the Truth on this matter because they have assumed that the apostles were saved in New Testament fashion before Pentecost. They were NOT. No one was. There was no new birth before Pentecost, and no indwelling of the Holy Spirit. There could NOT be – because Jesus had not yet ascended. It was only when Jesus ascended that the Spirit could be given, and through that Spirit, the ascended Christ could come and dwell in believers – leading to the overflow.

But weren’t the apostles saved before Acts 2? Sure. But under the Old Covenant. This did not provide for a new birth or an indwelling. What? Are we so silly to think that the apostles had CHRIST IN THEM as they walked around with Him during His ministry? Of course not. They didn’t have Christ IN THEM – which is what eternal life IS – until Christ ascended and came back to them through the Holy Spirit.

We must see that the coming of the Comforter is the coming of Christ – not bodily, but to dwell IN His Body. And Christ in us is eternal life. He IS that well of water, of eternal life. But Christ could not dwell in people through the Holy Spirit as long as He was here in physical form. No. He first had to ascend.

We know this because Jesus had told them, "And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it sees him not, neither knows him: but ye know him; for he dwells with you, and shall be in you. " (John 14:16-17)

Under the Old Covenant the Holy Spirit could be WITH people. But only once Jesus ascended could the Comforter come and be IN people. Jesus said so.

The Key to Overflow

There is a certain idea among Christians that suggests that the overflow of the Holy Spirit is simply something that happens to us or through us – but almost when we aren’t looking. But this is nonsense. The WELL of life in us cannot overflow us unless WE – I said WE – are the vessel THROUGH whom the river flows. In other words, God doesn’t use us to the disregard of us. No. He works through our WILLS, our conduct, our personality, and our faith. We do the yielding to Him, and He does the flowing.

This is verified all through scripture. The Holy Spirit never takes people over, and makes them do ANYTHING. Not even in the most extreme cases of supernatural manifestation do we ever see this in the Bible. Even in those cases where the presence of God came in the OT, where the priests were unable to stand, they weren’t being, "taken over." And certainly, no place in the NT is it ever said that the Holy Spirit takes someone over. Rather, in the very chapter that talks about tongues and prophecy, Paul says, "The spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets. For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints." (1 Cor. 14:32-33)

God can do anything He wants, when He wants to do it. But generally, He had chosen to work through those in whom Christ dwells. He has chosen to minister through people, and manifest Himself through people. You are not going to see Jesus walking around anytime soon, or the Holy Spirit floating around like a disembodied spirit. Never. But what you will see is redeemed humanity who have come under the Lordship of Jesus Christ. These are the folks through whom the rivers of living water can flow.

How can the Holy Spirit overflow a person – outward – if that person is not under the Lordship of Jesus? If I am not yielded to Jesus Christ as Lord in my conduct, and am operating under my own lordship in it, how can the Holy Spirit flow through MY lordship? He cannot. I have to yield to the Lordship of Jesus and the Holy Spirit can flow.

Of course, we must back up a step to realize that it is the Holy Spirit that is FIRST trying to make us yield. This is the inward work of the Cross. I must be thoroughly broken of my independence from God and come under the Lordship of Jesus in my heart. Then I will yield my conduct and thinking. As I do, the Holy Spirit, who is IN me, can more thoroughly flow THROUGH me.

The idea of a RIVER provides a great illustration. We receive the WELL OF LIFE at salvation. But even though the potential for the RIVER is there, there cannot be a RIVER flowing until – what? Until all the hindrances to the flow are removed. Just like a RIVER cannot smoothly flow if rocks and barriers are in the way, neither can the Holy Spirit flow through us if our hearts are hard and our agendas are in the way. First these must be removed, and then the Holy Spirit can flow as a RIVER.

But you see, there is nothing that needs to be ADDED here, is there? No. In fact, there needs to be a SUBTRACTION. I must decrease so that HE might increase. The WELL that I have within me will flow like a RIVER only if I continue to yield myself to the Lordship of Jesus Christ.

So we see that even though the Holy Spirit never takes anyone over, and cannot flow through us unless we first yield, that nevertheless the Holy Spirit can and will flow through those who yield to the Lordship of Jesus Christ.

The Purpose of the Spirit

This is a big key: The Lordship of Jesus Christ. Indeed, the purpose of the Holy Spirit IN US is to bring us, not only UNDER the Lordship of Jesus, but also into conformity with Him. The Holy Spirit wants to form our mind, will, and actions to reflect the Lordship of Jesus. If that happens in us, then we are built up in Christ. We are being made mature in Christ – which Paul says is the purpose of all the gifts:

And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ: That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: (Eph 4:11-15)

The idea that the purpose of the baptism of the Holy Spirit is to give us gifts to DISPLAY is nonsense. The purpose of the baptism is the build us up in Jesus Christ – and He uses the gifts in each other to do it. Thus, once the focus becomes tongues, healing, signs and wonders, or miracles, we are off the track. The focus is CHRIST IN US.

Paul said so. He said that the gifts are given, "for the perfecting – maturing – of the saints." He said all of this was so that we would come, "unto the measure of the stature of the FULLNESS of Christ." THAT is the purpose of the Holy Spirit. There are NO others that God is concerned about – and everything else is being used of Him to work towards that end of Jesus Christ.

This is why any message that suggests that God’s goal is to give us THINGS, and do great THINGS in our lives, and make us happy, is error. God’s goal is CHRIST IN US. Any THINGS which suit that purpose will be, "added unto us." (see Matt. 6:33) And any THINGS that don’t suit the purpose of Christ in us, will not be added, indeed, they will be removed.

As a believer begins to be built up in Christ – the negative side of which is the tearing down of our flesh – that believer will, as it were, burst forth. There will be a flowing forth of the Spirit, as rivers of living water. Or, to put it another way, the Christ who is in us as a WELL, will then flow through us as a RIVER.

There is no dimension of Christ that God holds back from any of us. There is no dimension of Christ that we must receive in another blessing in addition to Christ. Christ is both WELL and RIVER.

For my people have committed two evils; they have forsaken me the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water. (Jer. 2:13)

O LORD, the hope of Israel, all that forsake thee shall be ashamed, and they that depart from me shall be written in the earth, because they have forsaken the LORD, the fountain of living waters. (Jer. 17:13)

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