By John Fitzsimmons
Series: Holy Spirit
We all come from different places! We all have different stories. Our experience of life, faith, culture, church, family etc all differ & our experiences have helped form our perspectives, cautions, frustrations & expectations. For this reason everyone’s questions, reservations, concerns, frustrations etc are valid. We are all on a journey & on our journey so far we’ve been taught different things, influenced by different circles, warned of different things, enthused for different things. And now at this time in all our lives we’re all together in the same room, part of the same church. As we develop as a church I think it is very important we are aware & sensitive to where one another are at in every respect. I believe it’s especially important concerning this next aspect of the Spirit’s ministry – The Baptism & Gifts of the Holy Spirit.
One reason I believe in taking things slowly, when it comes to teaching the Bible, is so we all have time to think, rethink, process, to ask questions, discuss & listen to each other & not just me. It also allows time to listen to people’s responses, feedback, questions & perspectives & then engage in with them in conversation & preaching. For this very reason I know there are some of you who are nervous even at the mention of this subject, you’re wondering where it’s going to lead, are we all going to be speaking in tongues & falling over etc. Then there are others & you think that’s the best thing I’ve ever said, you just want the wind, fire, & tongues to happen right now, you feel frustrated, maybe even limited, that it hasn’t. Then there are others somewhere in the middle. You want something to happen... but you’ll keep the seat belt on for a while...
In 2 Timothy 4:1-2 Paul charges Timothy, & this is a charge that extends to all ministers. “In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage – with great patience and careful instruction.” With great patience and careful instruction Paul says in the context of a ministers preaching. Why? Because as a minister preaches the Word he finds everyone in different places & they need to be met where they are & led on from there into the fullness of life in Christ. This takes great patience and careful instruction because it is his responsibility to guide everyone towards unity, maturity & fullness in the Christian life.
This is vitally important when it comes to the Baptism and gifts of the Holy Spirit because there has been so much confusion, division and disagreement over these things. Yet we ought to humble ourselves before the trustworthy Word because none of us, & no stream of Christianity, has a monopoly on the Holy Spirit, just as none has a monopoly on the Scriptures. We all see in part as in a mirror dimly...
As always in body of Christ we listen to & learn from one another with humility. We are part of a kingdom which transcends & outlasts denominations, streams & movements; therefore we recognise the value & need of every part of the universal Church. We are not competitors but partners in the gospel. Jesus is building his Church and it is much bigger than Pentecostalism, so I encourage you to get outside the Pentecostal/Charismatic box & mingle with & learn from & be influenced, challenged & balanced by the wider body of Christ. We are not a clique; we are part of the global multicultural, multi-denominational movement.
Now with that said let me now say this: If we don’t be ourselves nobody else will be. If we don’t play our part nobody else will. If we don’t emphasis our distinctive no one else will. We are called to be Pentecostal. This doesn’t mean if you don’t see yourself as Pentecostal today you’re not welcome, you are very welcome – everyone is welcome! You are still part of the family because the family is bigger and like I already pointed out your questions; reservations & concerns etc are also welcome & even needed. I’m just simply pointing out that we are what we are & we need to become what we are more... And we are what we are primarily because of what we believe about the baptism with the Holy Spirit.
We are not distinctive because of what we believe about spiritual gifts or healing etc... loads of churches believe what we believe about those things today. No our distinctive is what we believe about the baptism with the Holy Spirit. Or maybe it’s what we used to believe... This is what we’ll be looking at over the next month or so.
What is the baptism with the Holy Spirit?
In Matthew 3:11 John the Baptist says; “I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me comes one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” This same statement, “baptize with the Holy Spirit”, is recorded in each of the four gospels (Mark 1:8, Luke 3:16 & John 1:33).
Note that Jesus is the one who baptises with the Holy Spirit. Note also the imagery of water, wind & fire... which all help describe the work of the Spirit. The word baptise means to be immersed in water. That’s the analogy John uses to help us understand this aspect of the ministry of Jesus. J. R. Williams writes; “Baptism in water means literally to be immersed in, plunged under, and even drenched or soaked with” water. John W. Wyckoff notes; “to be baptised in the Holy Spirit is to be totally enveloped in and saturated with the dynamic Spirit of the living God.” Now the Bible also uses other terms for this reality of the Holy Spirit including “being filled with the Holy Spirit”; “receiving the Holy Spirit”; “the Holy Spirit falling upon”; “the Holy Spirit coming on”; “clothed with power from on high.” Each of these phrases help us understand the nature & purpose of Spirit-baptism & we will pick up on these as we explore.
Now many Christian’s believe baptism in the Holy Spirit is part of or the same as the new birth experience. Pentecostal’s believe it can happen alongside new birth but also believe it can happen after because we believe it is a distinct experience with a different purpose. New birth is the work of the Spirit connecting us to life in Christ. Baptism in the Spirit is Jesus immersing us in the power of the Spirit. New birth is the Spirit giving new life in Jesus. Baptism in the Spirit is Jesus giving us power for witnessing. So this means there are three distinct aspects of the Holy Spirit’s ministry if you like. 1. To bring new life in Christ – New Birth. 2. To empower us for our part in God’s mission – Baptism with the Spirit. 3. To make us progressively like Jesus – sanctification. Everything the Holy Spirit does is included in these three aspects of his ministry & we will look at them as we continue to get to know the best Friend the Father has given.
Why Pentecostals believe Baptism in the Spirit is a distinct experience from new birth.
At the end of the Gospel of Luke in 24:49 Jesus says; “I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.” Then in Acts 1:4-5 while he was eating with his disciples he commanded; “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptised with water, but in a few days you will be baptised with the Holy Spirit.” This is Jesus talking to his disciples remember. Then in verse 8 of the same chapter he says; “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
Then of course Acts 2 happened, the Holy Spirit came in the most dramatic and powerful way. Frightened disciples where transformed into brave witnesses. This baffled the Jewish leaders, how could these unlearned Galileans speak with such authority with the most astounding results?
We have to recognise this was a very unique time in history; this was a turning point... The disciples in the upper room were followers before the cross, resurrection & day of Pentecost. Salvation had not yet been secured. Resurrection life was not yet available. These disciples lived through all these events and were followers of Jesus as they took place. Pentecost was a unique event in this way. The Spirit came with wind & fire & birthed the church... For this reason the day of Pentecost by its self is not the strongest basis for seeing baptism in the Spirit as a distinct experience from new birth. However the book of Acts provides plenty of examples of how new Christians, saved after the day of Pentecost, experienced the Spirit.
Shortly after the day of Pentecost, Philip, the only named evangelist in the NT, preached the gospel in Samaria. Acts 8:12 says; “But when they believed Philip as he proclaimed the good news of the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptised, both men and women.” So they are new believers, they are born again & baptised, but then it says in 8:14-17; “When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to Samaria. When they arrived, they prayed for the new believers there that they might receive the Holy Spirit, because the Holy Spirit had not yet come on any of them, they had simply been baptised in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then Peter and John placed their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.”
So these people had believed through the ministry of Philip. Then they receive the Spirit in a significant & noticeable way afterwards through the ministry of Peter and John. This experience of the Spirit was a distinct experience from their coming to faith.
Next we have Saul who became Paul. Miraculously converted on the road to Damascus! Three days later he is met by Ananias, an unknown disciple who laid hands on him so that he might not only regain his sight but also be filled with the Holy Spirit. Paul was “filled with the Holy Spirit” three days after his famous conversion. You can read the story in Acts 9:1-19.
Then we go on to chapter 10 when Peter reluctantly goes into a Gentile house – Cornelius’s house. Peter preached the gospel to the household. Verse 44 says; “While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message.” The Jewish Christians where amazed at this, hearing them speak in tongues & praising God. This account shows people can come to faith & be baptised in the Spirit at the same time. The most important thing to Pentecostals is not that baptism in the Spirit is subsequent to new birth, but that it is distinct from. New birth gives life; baptism in the Spirit gives power for mission, worship & ministry.
Here is one more example from Acts 19. Paul meets twelve men who are described as disciples in verse 1. Listen to the story in verses 1-7;
“While Apollos was at Corinth, Paul took the road through the interior and arrived at Ephesus. There he found some disciples and asked them, ‘Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?’ They answered, ‘No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.’ So Paul asked, ‘Then what baptism did you receive?’ ‘John’s baptism,’ they replied. Paul said, ‘John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance. He told the people to believe in the one coming after him, that is, in Jesus.’ On hearing this, they were baptised in the name of the Lord Jesus. When Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied. There were about twelve men in all.”
Do we receive everything at new birth? Certainly Cornelius’ story shows a person can be saved & filled with the Spirit the same day. But for Paul & those in Samaria & Ephesus things were different. They heard the gospel & believed it, but received the filling of the Spirit later.
Christians disagree about when a person is baptised with the Holy Spirit... Some believe it happens in new birth while Pentecostals view it is a distinct experience empowering believers for ministry. The weakness of the first view is that few can honestly say they knew what it was to be saturated in the presence of the Spirit when they first believed. The weakness of the second view is some Christians are still relying on an experience they had many years ago... Our fundamental belief on the Holy Spirit is this:
“We believe in the deity of the Holy Spirit who proceeds from the Father and the Son and the necessity of His work in conviction of sin, repentance, regeneration and sanctification, and that the believer is also promised an enduement of power as the gift of Christ through the baptism in the Holy Spirit with signs following. Through this enduement the believer is empowered for fuller participation in the ministry of the Church, its worship, evangelism and service.”
We’ll explore this more fully in the coming weeks. However the most important thing is not how we define the work of the Spirit theologically... the most important thing is that we experience his ongoing power in our lives in fresh & new ways. That we are immersed, filled, clothed in his presence & power over & over again. Samuel Chadwick wrote; “Theology without experience is like faith without works: it is dead.” If there is one thing we cannot put in a tidy little box it is the work of the Holy Spirit... My question would simply be: Have you ever experienced what it’s like to be saturated in the Spirit of God, to feel as though every part of you is filled with the presence of God? If you have: When was the last time the Spirit’s power was manifested in your life in such a way?
One last thing, I’m very purposely doing this series in the order of New Birth, then baptism in the Spirit & then sanctification because we need to understand baptism in the Spirit is not something we earn! It is not something we’re given when we reach a certain level of holiness. There is no hint of that in any of the Scriptures looked at or mentioned today. Spirit-baptism is a gift we’re given to equip us for life, ministry & mission. It gives us freedom, confidence & boldness to do what God has called us to do. So this is really not about levels of Christianity... this is about our need for power & confidence to fulfil God’s purposes. In the book of Acts the filling of the Spirit was not a reward for being holy. It was a gift given to empower weak & ordinary people to live lives they otherwise would not have lived. Therefore it’s available for you... David Legg says;
Being filled with the Spirit is not being holy enough. Some people have taught down through the years that you need to get holy, you need to stop doing this, you need to start doing that; you need to sanctify yourself, almost, and then the Holy Ghost will come upon you. If you were able to do all those things, you wouldn't need the Holy Spirit! Eh? I've said to you already, and I will say it many times: the whole Christian operation is a by grace, through faith exercise. God gives it all by gratuitous grace through the merits of the shed blood and the resurrection of His Son, it's all because of Jesus - and the only way we get any blessing or benefits of it is receiving it by faith. Grace is the hand of God that gives it; and faith is our hand that receives it. The fullness of the Spirit, or whatever you want to call it, baptism of the Spirit, is exactly the same.
The Christian life is impossible, from start to finish, without the Holy Spirit. If the Holy Spirit was to withdraw himself from the Church genuine Christianity would go with him. It is impossible to be a Christian apart from the Spirit’s work of New Birth. It is impossible to grow as a Christian without the Spirit’s work of sanctification. It is impossible to fulfil your mission as a Christian without the Spirit’s work of empowerment. All these things overlap reminding us we depend completely on the Holy Spirit enlivening, empowering & transforming us & others.