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Thursday, May 29, 2008

Baptism in the Holy Spirit: A theological study

Throughout history there have been many Godly Christians who have held very different beliefs about the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. This subject has massive impact to the practice of ministry within the church. It impacts prayer, worship, new Christians, teaching and discipleship. So it is important to have a strong theological understanding.

As a church planting intern it is very important to grasp this doctrine from a biblical perspective so that I can effectively and appropriately incorporate it into new church ventures in the future. This study does not cover all aspects of the doctrine, but looks to answer this question: Is Baptism in the Holy Spirit synonymous with conversion or a separate experience available for all believers?

What happens in the Bible?

  1. Redemption is the story of the Bible (John 3:16). The result of redemption is reconnection to God i.e. being in God's presence. This is what God wanted at the beginning and gets at the end. Therefore the Bible is full of people who experience an intimate relationship with God. God's presence is tangibly experienced by people throughout scripture. The New Testament sees this multiplied especially with power-encounters and spiritual gifts.

  2. The Old Testament looks forward to a time when the Holy Spirit will be poured out in a larger measure. Joel 2:28 "I will pour out My Spirit on all mankind; and your sons and daughters will prophesy".

  3. The gospel's look forward towards what Jesus will do, namely baptism in the Holy Spirit. Matthew 3:11 "...He [Jesus] will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire."

  4. The epistles look back assuming it has happened. Eph 1:13 "Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit."

  5. The book of Acts shows us how it happened. Acts 8:16 "because the Holy Spirit had not yet come upon any of them; they had simply been baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus".

  6. Not one epistle tells a believer to be baptized in water or by the Holy Spirit, yet both occur independently in Acts. This is probably because both forms of baptism are the norm, they are assumed.

  7. How would a first century Jew understand the phrase "receive power"? Simple. From what they knew of when the Spirit came upon characters like Gideon, David, the Judges, the prophets and the priests. Just as these insignificant and fearful people were suddenly transformed, given power gifts and often thrust into leadership roles, so they would be too. Acts 1:8 "But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you".

  8. All four gospels share the same statements by John the Baptist regarding Jesus being the Lamb of God and bringing a baptism of the Holy Spirit. This is also repeated in Acts. This introduction is the primary way Jesus is to be understood, substitution for sin and filling with God's power. John 1:29 "Look, the Lamb of God [Jesus], who takes away the sin of the world!" and John 1:33 "... he [Jesus] who will baptize with the Holy Spirit."

  9. Jesus makes bold statements about his purpose on the earth, a Baptism of fire as John predicted. Luke 12:49 "I have come to bring fire on the earth".

  10. Jesus, being the Son of God, received the Holy Spirit after water Baptism. This shows that having the Holy Spirit descend on you, or poured out on you, has nothing to do with receiving forgiveness of sins, but rather power for ministry -- preaching and healing. Luke 3:22 "the Holy Spirit descended upon Him" Luke 4:14 "Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit" v15 "He began teaching in their synagogues and was praised by all". Luke 5:13 "He stretched out His hand and touched him, saying, "I am willing; be cleansed." And immediately the leprosy left him".

  11. Jesus says to his disciples pre-Pentecost that they already know the Holy Spirit and that he is already with them, but will also be in them as a counselor. This shows a distinction between these two things "know" and "being with", to "being inside a person". John 14:16-17 "I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever—the Spirit of truth ... But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you."

  12. One of Jesus' main purpose, according to John, was to be a Baptizer in the Spirit. However, Jesus did not say much about it especially at the beginning. Jesus had not yet dealt with sin or been seated in the place of all authority and so the Spirit could not be poured out until after that time. John 7:37-39 "If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him." By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified."

  13. The book of Acts, being narrative, is qualified as being directly inspired by God and beneficial for doctrine. We can therefore discover a practical post-crucifixion first century experience and doctrine of Holy Spirit Baptism. 2 Timothy 3:16 "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness".

  14. The disciples in Samaria received the Baptism in the Holy Spirit after they were saved. Some label this as a "Samaritan Pentecost" but the Bible does not claim it to be the first out pouring on the Samaritans. During Pentecost in Acts 2, with the vast amount of nations involved, some Samaritans could have theoretically had a direct or indirect experience. This makes a definitive "Samaritan Pentecost" an unstable and unprovable position. Labeling this event a particular Pentecost requires a "Paul Pentecost" label later on in Acts and subsequent labels for each people groups first experience of Gods power -- an "Eskimo Pentecost" for example. Superimposing "labels" where the bible does not would undoubtedly pigeonhole ones theology and potentially conceal biblical truth. Acts 8:14-16 "When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them. When they arrived, they prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit, because the Holy Spirit had not yet come upon any of them; they had simply been baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus."

  15. Peter explains that the day of Pentecost (the first mass Baptism in the Holy Spirit) and the Samaritans experience (a subsequent mass Baptism in the Holy Spirit) are equally the fulfillment of the same promise in Joel 2:28-19 that Jesus taught about. This shows that the Pentecost experience was not an isolated one-time only event, but it is a one-time event for all believers. Acts 11:15-16 "And as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them just as He did upon us at the beginning. And I remembered the word of the Lord, how He used to say, 'John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.'"

  16. Paul (formerly Saul), a Jew, experienced Baptism in the Holy Spirit separately from conversion, after Pentecost. Ananias refers to Paul as a "Brother" meanings a Christian Brother, one already saved, and as one about to receive the Holy Spirit. Acts 9:17 "Ananias went and found Saul. He laid his hands on him and said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road, has sent me so that you might regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit."

  17. The Gentiles at Cornelius's house receive the Baptism of the Holy Spirit during conversion, as they were receiving the gospel from Peter. After they exercised spiritual gifts, a common sign of Holy Spirit Baptism, they were baptized in water. This particular sequence shows that it can happen at conversion as well as afterwards. But there is no question of a power encounter in addition to repentance and forgiveness. Acts 10:44-46 "Even as Peter was saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell upon all who were listening to the message. The Jewish believers who came with Peter were amazed that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles, too. For they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God."

  18. The believers at Ephesus received the Baptism of the Holy Spirit after they had believed and after they were baptized in water. Paul asks if they had received the Baptism of the Holy Spirit after they had believed. If Baptism in the Spirit and conversion are synonymous then the question could be interpreted "Were you converted when you were converted?" -- which is a mute question. Why would Paul, the primary author of New Testament theology, ask such a ludicrous question? Acts 19:2 "Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?" v5-6 "As soon as they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then when Paul laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in other tongues and prophesied."

  19. Baptism in the Holy Spirit is part of the salvation package. Biblical salvation in the New Testament is not just repentance but it encapsulates: repentance, faith, water baptism and Holy Spirit baptism. These characteristics are always present in the biblical narrative. Can someone be saved without water baptism? Yes. Can some be saved without Holy Spirit Baptism? Yes. But the Bible expects and assumes that believers will desire to receive all that God has for them. The totality of salvation is still to come and will not fully come until Jesus returns. These verses show that salvation is a process and that Baptism in the Holy Spirit is identified as a separate event. Romans 13:11 "our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed". Titus 3:5-6 "He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior". Gal 4:6 "Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts". (Note: in this verse sonship had already happened, and because of this the Spirit is sent which indicates a separation of identity and Spirit power).

  20. Positions which emphasize Baptism in the Holy Spirit and conversion being at the same time, or being the same thing, often rely on this scripture: 1 Corinthians 12:13 "For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit". Consider these points:

    1. The context/subject of this passage is the unity of believers within the practice of spiritual gifts. This is not intended to be doctrinal statement that inseparably links Baptism in the Holy Spirit with conversion -- otherwise it would make a stronger case for that. Read the whole chapter to get the point.

    2. The baptism referred to in this passage is actually "into one body" which could easily mean water baptism. It does not say "baptized into the Spirit", but it says that this is by the Spirit. Baptism by the Holy Spirit is not the same as Baptism in the Holy Spirit. For example, we don't get baptized by water. Rather, we get baptized in water by a person. The language that describes Spirit baptism it is usually: pour out, upon, anointed, fall on, promise, filled, receive, gift, given, seal and pledge. These phrases do not appear in conjunction with this section. The Contemporary English Version states it like this "God's Spirit baptized each of us and made us part of the body of Christ". I can't find another translation that puts it like this, and I'm not a bible translator by any means, but I think that either way it is unclear to build a doctrine on this especially when so many other scriptures make it clear.

    3. Also note the word "one" before Spirit. Paul is trying to emphasize that we work for the same boss, unity is the primary theme here.

    4. Again, this affirms that Paul assumes salvation is a whole package. He taught and practiced water baptism and Holy Spirit baptism as a whole deal. There is no separation in his mind. If you are around Paul and you believe in Jesus you will receive water baptism and Holy Spirit baptism.

    5. What does "all made to drink of one Spirit" mean? Well, Paul personally baptized a few of the believers in Corinth and could confidently state that they had been made to drink from the one Spirit from first hand experience. As a church they were very active in spiritual gifts which would make a statement like this fitting for them. Again, drinking of one Spirit, assumes a step in salvation that Paul always took if it does refer to Spirit Baptism. It could also just be a reference to unity "one spirit". The word "spirit" in the original Greek could be taken either way.

    6. Because of these points the Corinthian passage does not contradict the narrative sequence of salvation in the book of Acts: repentance, faith, water baptism and Holy Spirit baptism.

    7. Note: John Piper says "I don't think that what Paul is talking about in 1 Corinthians 12:13 is the same as what is happening in Acts ... I think the essence of being baptized with the Holy Spirit is when a person, who is already a believer, receives extraordinary spiritual power for Christ-exalting ministry." See article here.

  21. Often times those who believe that Baptism in the Holy Spirit is synonymous with conversion deny the activity of power gifts for today. This doctrine is somewhat inconsistent because although all believers are supposed to receive power at conversion they cannot use it for anything. It has no more application -- it's redundant. This would make Baptism in the Holy Spirit at the same time as conversion utterly pointless. Why believe in receiving power from above if the reason the original disciples received it has ceased? Some cessationists now acknowledge the fact that God can sovereignly heal people -- but continue to deny other spiritual gifts. Another inconsistency.

  22. As we have seen from the book of Acts, one can be a disciple of Jesus, having been baptized in water and unified with the Spirit of Christ, but not have received the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. Therefore verses like Romans 8:9 "... if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ" do not apply to believers who have not received the baptism of the Holy Spirit.
What does Baptism in the Holy Spirit achieve?

Assurance of Salvation
  1. Because we have been saved by Jesus He sends his Holy Spirit which causes a deep cry within our spirits toward God. This results in a Godward passion from the identity that God is our Father. Gal 4:6 "Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, "Abba, Father."

  2. Receiving the promise of power creates a mark, or a seal, a guarantee for the believer for the totality of salvation. This guarantee is not for God's benefit, as if he would forget, but for ours. It is an inner assurance for us. It is the presence of power within that makes those nagging doubts ("Am I really saved") go away. Again, if we don't have it we are not any less a believer. Salvation is based on faith, not feeling. This is therefore about inner conviction rather than butterflies in your stomach.Eph 1:13-14 "Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God's possession—to the praise of his glory"
Power gifts for worship, witnessing and the edifying of believers
  1. A main result of Holy Spirit Baptism is the delivery of Spiritual gifts, boldness for worship, witnessing and the edifying of believers. Acts 19:6 "Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied"

  2. Other references: Lk 4:14-18, 24:48-49; Jn 15:26-27; Acts 1:8, 2:4-12, 2:14, 2:17-18, 4:31-33, 5:32, 6:5-10, 9:17-20, 10:45-46, 13:9-10, 19:6; 1 Ths 1:4-8
The initiation of more "fillings" by the Spirit
  1. At the beginning of the book of Ephesians Paul makes it clear that they have already received the Baptism of the Holy Spirit (Eph 1:13-14 and 4:30). In chapter 5 verse 18 he commands them not to be intoxicated with Alcohol but to be filled with the Holy Spirit. Urg!? If they have received it how can they receive it again? This phrase literally means "be being filled" with the Spirit. It is an ongoing experience of God. Eph 5:18 "Don't destroy yourself by getting drunk, but let the Spirit fill your life".

  2. Paul continually prays for the Colossian church that they would be "filled" with Spiritual wisdom. This is not a reference to Baptism in the Holy Spirit. We see instruction here to actively engage with the Spirit for "fillings". Again, this is Col 1:9 "we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding"
What does it NOT achieve?
  1. It does not make some Christians better than other Christians. If that is ever taught, communicated or imposed then it is wrong wrong wrong.

  2. It does not necessarily improve your maturity or character. Just as knowledge puffs you up, so power gifts can puff you up. But the solution is not to remove either knowledge or gifts. It is actually far more important to love others more than we love ourselves. However, this does not remove the desirability of Baptism in the Holy Spirit and spiritual gifts as they are great vehicles for people to see and experience God's love. But, it is a warning to use them for the benefit of others, which is how they are intended. 1 Cor 13:2 "If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing."

  3. Character is developed through experience and walking by the Spirit through each situation. Just simply exercising gifts and having power encounters does not result in Godly wisdom and humility. Being led by the Spirit, following him by walking along side produces fruit. We can live by the Spirit through using His gifts, but if we never walk by the Spirit we never mature through situational opportunities. Gal 5:16, 22 & 25 "But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh ... But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law ... If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit". (It's possible to live, but not walk).

  4. The Corinthian church excelled in Spiritual gifts but lacked wisdom in practice and maturity as disciples -- these things are not synonymous. Paul wrote to them saying "My friends, you are acting like the people of this world. That's why I could not speak to you as spiritual people. You are like babies as far as your faith in Christ is concerned." (1 Corinthians 3:1).
How can this be practiced in the church?
  1. Taught in membership.
  2. Practiced in worship times both corporately in large and small gatherings.
  3. A step in the process of water baptism (not forced but an environment created for explanation and receptivity).
  4. The only biblical qualification to receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit is to be thirsty. It is otherwise open to every believer. If someone is theologically not convinced or not hungry for more of God then attempting to lay on hands and pray is not going to be beneficial. Opportunities for this to happen need to be created: John 7:37 "If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink."
  1. Terry Virgo on Baptism in the Holy Spirit from Together on a Mission conference 2007. Download mp3
  2. John Piper on Baptism in the Holy Spirit.
  3. BAPTISM IN THE HOLY SPIRIT pdf article by Charles Leiter
  4. Wikipedia article on Baptism in the Holy Spirit
  5. Jack Deere: Surprised By the Power of the Spirit/By the Voice of God
  6. Martyn Lloyd-Jones: Joy Unspeakable
  7. Baptism In The Holy Spirit (alternative view)

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