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Posts Tagged ‘baptism of the Spirit’

The Ascension Appearance, Part 2

May 11th, 2017

The first account I composed, Theophilus, about all that Jesus began to do and teach, until the day when He was taken up to heaven, after He had by the Holy Spirit given orders to the apostles whom He had chosen. To these He also presented Himself alive after His suffering, by many convincing proofs, appearing to them over a period of forty days and speaking of the things concerning the kingdom of God. Gathering them together, He commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for what the Father had promised, “Which,” He said, “you heard of from Me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”

So when they had come together, they were asking Him, saying, “Lord, is it at this time You are restoring the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority; but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.” (Acts 1:1-8 NASB)

The final words of Christ to His twelve-now-eleven apostles were recorded not in the gospels but in the book of Acts that chronicles the early beginnings of the Christian church. By doing so the scripture teaches us that these final words were not the end of His earthly life so much as the beginning of the church’s experience with His Spirit. They do not have a finality about them, like any great person’s final words, rather they have a profound sense of the inauguration and anticipation of a new day, the day of the Holy Spirit.

The convincing proofs of His bodily resurrection: That Christ was with them physically in His new incorruptible body was plain to them. Christ was no ghost or apparition, a mere magical mist that moved here and there like a fog. He was no hallucination, rather Christ had a real body.

The new body which Christ received, and which we will receive (1 John 3:2), is also called a “spiritual body” or soma pneumatikon in the Greek (1 Cor. 15:44). Only in this oxymoronic way are we able to grasp this new reality. Christ has, and we will have, a body which is fit for eternity, one that perfectly combines the spiritual reality of the Christian with the physical reality of human life. Just as God looked upon His original creation and said, “It is good,” so shall He look upon the new Creation that is redeemed by the blood of Christ and say as well, “It is good.”

The church’s spiritually empowered witness: Just as the new resurrection body which we will receive fits us for eternity, so the new spiritual reality of each believer fits us for a life of service and witness to Christ on this earth. We could not enter eternity without this new spiritual body, and we cannot serve and fulfill the plan of God for the church without this new spiritual reality in this life.

Baptized with the Spirit describes the experience of every believer. In the New Testament baptism describes:

  1. An initial act that is associated with salvation, Ephesians 1:13-14, Romans 8:9.
  2. An overwhelming act of God, Luke 12:50. Christ described His death on the cross as “a baptism to undergo.” It is the idea of getting caught in a deluge, or being swept away in a flood.

These two ideas – (1) an initiation or an inaugural act of the Spirit in a believer’s life and (2) an overwhelming reality that changes everything about us – has led Christians to different interpretations of what the baptism of the Spirit means. I will attempt a brief but adequate description of both of these interpretations. It first must be admitted that the epistles never seek to explain what the baptism of the Spirit consisted of. Some have found its definition in Romans 6:3-4, that the Spirit takes us and baptizes us into Christ Jesus, (see also Galatians 3:27), and this is certainly a true teaching, yet the question remains whether or not this was the baptism of the Spirit that Jesus referred to.

The Baptism of the Spirit as a Universal Experience of All Believers: Most of those who are of the Free Evangelical persuasion see the baptism of the Spirit as something that happens to every believer at salvation. It means the entrance into a new life. The Spirit of God did not come upon every believer in the Old Testament, nor did He remain upon them for the whole of their life. But in the New Testament, each believer is indwelt by the Spirit, as Romans 8:9 plainly teaches. There it is proclaimed that anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to Christ. In our interpretation the Baptism of the Spirit in Acts 2 is a description of the inauguration of a new day of the church, where the Joel 2 prophecy, that God will pour out His Spirit upon all flesh, is now being fulfilled.

This interpretation has the Bible on its side, for there is no command in the epistles to receive the Spirit. Peter, in fact, on the day of Pentecost announced that only repentance was required to receive the Spirit (Acts 2:38). The two command verbs in that verse, “repent” and “be baptized” were in different forms. “Repent” was in the plural and connected with the plural “and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit,” whereas “be baptized” was in the singular and was a command directed only toward the one who repented. Later in Acts 11, as Peter explained to the apostles and others what had happened at Cornelius’ house (Acts 10:24-48), the considered opinion was that “God has also granted to the Gentiles repentance unto life” (Acts 11:18). It is abundantly clear from these passages that the early church associated repentance and faith with the receiving of the Spirit, and not as a second act of grace.

The passages that speak of the baptism of the Spirit are: Matthew 3:11-12; Mark 1:8; Luke 3:16-17; and Acts 1:4-5. Only the last of these came from Christ, and the others were from John the Baptist. The context has to do with the purification of hearts and lives, to burn away chaff of sin in our lives through the fire of the Spirit’s convicting power – something that applies to all believers, and not to just a few. So the biblical record and teachings lend themselves most strongly to understand this as the initial and universal experience of every believer.

The Baptism of the Spirit as a Special Experience of a Few Believers: Yet there is a point to seeing it as a special experience, simply because most believers seem to languish in a less than pure spiritual condition. When we read the experiences of these apostles, and other believers, of the power of their witness, the miracles they performed, the joy and boldness they received, we immediately assume this is something special.

The problem comes when we try to duplicate the circumstances. Numerous efforts have been made, and suggestions have been given, such as praying for ten days, as they did (Acts 1:14). Add such matters as fasting (Matthew 17:21) and the laying on of hands (Acts 8:17). When these steps are taken – none of which are given as a requirement for receiving the Holy Spirit – we have tried to reduce the authority of God and replace it with mechanisms, “tricks of the trade,” and human powers. The biblical emphasis is clearly on repentance and faith. Everyone who received the Holy Spirit received Jesus Christ as Lord, and this is the only consistent requirement taught in scripture.

It seems to me that the wiser interpretation of all of these matters is to place the emphasis on the power of God and the presence or the weakness of one’s faith, and not upon the mechanisms. The Spirit is poured out upon all flesh today, and all people and any person who repents and believes, who bows his heart and soul before Christ as his Lord, will receive the Spirit and can live in the power and reality of the Spirit each day. It is not the mechanisms that bring the Spirit into our lives or into dominance in our lives, rather it is a truly repentant and believing heart: “The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit. You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God” (Psalm 51:17 NLT).

Tomorrow we will examine the fruitfulness of the Spirit in our lives, and how He is able to empower us to bear eternal fruit.

Today let us simply repent from sins and believe in Christ, and surrender to Him as Lord.

Christ's Post-Resurrection Appearances ,

The Baptism of the Spirit

July 7th, 2015

Then I remembered what the Lord had said: “John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” So God gave them the same gift as he gave us, who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to think that I could opposed God?” When they heard this, they had no further objections and praised God, saying, “So then, God has granted even the Gentiles repentance unto life.”

Acts 11:16-18, NIV

There are two interpretations among Christians as to what the “Baptism of the Spirit” is.

The Pentecostal interpretation is that it is a second work of grace after someone becomes a Christian. It is preceded by a time of struggling or searching and longing, and just as the early disciples did in Acts 1, we must want and long for the baptism before God will grant it. Someone receives salvation, according to their teaching, when they trust in Christ, but they receive the baptism of the Spirit as a second blessing following salvation.

They usually cite two events in the scripture to prove these points. One is the Pentecost event that was preceded by ten days of the disciples praying and waiting. The second is the Acts 19 experience in Ephesus where Paul came upon a group of disciples who had not received the Holy Spirit, nor even knew that there was a Holy Spirit.

This interpretation also tends to emphasize man’s actions to bring about the baptism of the Spirit in his or her life. Man’s waiting, man’s asking, man’s longing, man’s fasting and praying, and then God responds with His answer.

It is not hard to see the influence of paganism in this understanding, even though they claim scriptural proof. It follows the similar thoughts of the average non-christian religion, that god is distant and uncaring and we must get his attention and so we pray and pray and pray trying to get Him to do what we want Him to do. Jesus said, “And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him” (Matt 6:7-8).

The non-Pentecostal interpretation takes a much more biblical approach. The baptism of the Spirit in the Bible is about the authority of Christ and about the new age of the Spirit. In the Old Testament the Spirit of God came upon His people but in the New Testament He comes to indwell all. In the Old Testament the Spirit came only upon a few and only temporarily upon them, but in the New Testament the gift of the Spirit falls upon all of God’s people and is a permanent marker and gift upon our souls. Here is what the Bible teaches.

First, taking into account all of the passages about the Baptism of the Spirit we see that they were always descriptive of the authority and power of the Lord Himself.

Matt. 3:11,  “As for me, I baptize you with water for repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, and I am not fit to remove His sandals; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”

Mark 1:8, “I baptized you with water; but He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

Luke 3:16, “John answered and said to them all, ‘As for me, I baptize you with water; but One is coming who is mightier than I, and I am not fit to untie the thong of His sandals; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”

John 1:33, “And I did not recognize Him, but He who sent me to baptize in water said to me, “He upon whom you see the Spirit descending and remaining upon Him, this is the one who baptizes in the Holy Spirit.”

Acts 1:5, “for John baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”

Acts 11:16, “And I remembered the word of the Lord, how He used to say, ‘John baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”

Second, the two instances in Acts where the baptism of the Spirit is mentioned as having happened, happened to all believers upon their receiving Jesus as Christ and Lord. There are no commands in scripture for an individual to pray for the baptism of the Spirit, no examples where someone did or were encouraged to do so. It was an event that happened to groups, not to an individual.

Third, as in the Acts 11:16-18 passage above, the phenomenon associated with the baptism of the Spirit, namely speaking in tongues, was a phenomenon that gave a witness to the fact that a new age had come, the age of the Holy Spirit. The emphasis was on this new development in history – the baptism of the Spirit – and the teaching was that the Spirit would be poured out on all flesh, on all who called on the name of the Lord (Acts 2:17-21).

The biblical teaching is the baptism of the Spirit is a “gift” given to believers, and it was always associated with the initial experience of grace, when someone received Christ as Savior and Lord. Peter said, “Repent and be baptized everyone of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38).  There is some confusion over Acts 2:38 because of the difference between Greek and English grammar. In the original Greek, the word translated “repent” is a plural active command. Everyone should repent. The Greek verb translated, “be baptized everyone of you,” is a singular passive command, and was directed only toward those who repented. The verb translated “you will receive” is plural also, meaning that the plurals connect to one another. Peter said, “Repent … and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

And we see in Acts 10 that the Spirit fell upon the believers in Cornelius’ house in Caesarea before they were baptized. Peter asked, “Can anyone keep these people from being baptized with water? they have received the Holy Spirit just as we have” (Acts 10:47).

Fourth, The teachings of the remainder of the New Testament clearly proclaim that we receive the Spirit of Christ when we believe, not as a second work of grace. In addition to Acts 2:38, Romans 8:9b says, “If anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ.” Ephesians 1:13-14 says, “And you were included in Christ when 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.”

Sometimes I am asked if I believe in the “second blessing” and my response is that I do, but I also believe in a third blessing and a fourth blessing and a hundredth blessing, because the Spirit of God lives within us. We will experience ups and downs in our Christian life, times of blessings and times of fullness, and this is because of the work of the Spirit. Many a Christian has had times of drifting away from God and then God revives us and calls us back to Himself, and we repent and return.

Some say that you receive Jesus as Savior at salvation and as Lord at the second blessing, but the clear biblical teaching is that to receive Him as Lord and Savior is required in order to be saved, “All who call upon the name of the Lord will be saved” (Acts 2:21). On a personal level in our walk with God we may have drifted away from His Lordship and need to surrender our lives to Him anew, but it is a spiritual impossibility to only receive Him as Savior at salvation and not as Lord.

The baptism of the Spirit means that in this Church Age we have great privileges to walk with God, to receive His blessings in our spirits, to be transformed by His Spirit into the image of Christ. We walk with Him in intimacy and in relationship and He leads and guides us, opening our minds to understand His scripture and filling our hearts with love. This is a wonderful day of grace and of the Spirit of God in dwelling the people of God.

Glossalalia or Tongues, The Deeper Christian Life