Posts Tagged 'Baptism in the Holy Spirit'



The Holy Spirit and You, Part 5

 

The-Baptism-of-the-Holy-Spirit

The Baptism of the Holy Spirit, Part One

 

There are all kinds of ideas floating around out there in the church world about what the baptism in or of the Holy Spirit is.   Pentecostal and charismatic churches will say that the baptism in the Holy Spirit is an experience subsequent to salvation.  This is not incorrect.  Some will teach that speaking in tongues is “proof” that one has received the baptism.  This is open to debate.  It’s best that we consult the Bible, however, to get the facts straight about this wonderful experience.  That sounds like an easy task, but it’s get a little complicated with verses like this one:

For us there is only one Lord, one faith, one baptism…  (Ephesians 4:5  TLB)

Actually, the New Testament teaches clearly that there are three baptisms, not one:

   A baptism in water, Acts 8:38.

   A baptism in the Holy Spirit, Matthew 3:11.

   A baptism into Jesus Christ, Romans 6:3

So, just what was Paul getting at when he wrote to the Ephesian church, telling them that there was only one baptism?  In truth, the first two would be nothing without the last one.  The ONE baptism must surely refer to the baptism into Jesus Christ, with the other two flowing from this one.

For now we are all children of God through faith in Jesus Christ, and we who have been baptized into union with Christ are enveloped by him. (Galatians 3:26, 27  TLB)

So why all these baptisms when only one is the significant one?  Water baptism is the earthly witness and Spirit baptism is the heavenly witness that a person has been baptized into Christ.  By these two witnesses – human and divine – our union with Jesus Christ is positively established on earth and in heaven.  By the Spirit we are baptized into Christ and then by Christ we are baptized in the Spirit.

Water baptism is pretty easy to  understand.  Whether you are a sprinkler, pourer, or dunker, you can see with your eyes a baptism and hear with your ears the explanation about what’s going on.  But before we move on to look deeply into Spirit baptism, let’s consider all that is involved in being baptized into Christ.

1.      Baptism into Jesus Christ

The very first thing of note is that being baptized into Christ suggests death

For sins power over us was broken when we became Christians and were baptized to become a part of Jesus Christ; through his death the power of your sinful nature was shattered.   (Romans 6:3  TLB)

Some Christians have a hard time taking this verse literally, but Paul meant what he wrote.   Upon accepting Jesus as our Lord and savior, were were baptized into Him – baptized into His death – so that our sinful nature would no long have control over us. 

For now we are all children of God through faith in Jesus Christ, and we who have been baptized into union with Christ are enveloped by him.  (Galatians 3:26, 27  TLB)

Remember, to be “baptized” properly means “to be immersed.”  The Greek baptizo is a very descriptive word.  Imagine, being born again is like being immersed in Jesus Christ!  That’s the idea Paul is conveying; a Christian should be so immersed or enveloped in Christ, it is as though his old sinful  nature has gone a way.  Now, experience teaches us that it is still very much a part of our lives.  Our obligation being “in Christ” is to consciously avoid paying attention to it.  It should be as though we are dead to it. 

I have been crucified with Christ: and I myself no longer live, but Christ lives in me.  (Galatians 2:20a  TLB)

The second thing baptism into Christ implies is burial

Your old sin-loving nature was buried with him by baptism when he died; and when God the Father, with glorious power, brought him back to life again, you were given his wonderful new life to enjoy.  (Romans 6:4  TLB)

If we have been “enveloped” by or “immersed” in Christ, then we have been completely identified with Him in every way, including His burial.  How can we be raised to a new life if we haven’t first been buried?  Romans 6 is full of powerful language that gives rise to profound ideas and startling images.  For Paul, we have been entombed with Christ so that like Christ we may be raised to a new life. 

This leads right into the third point.  Our baptism into Christ suggests resurrection.  Colossians 2:12 says,

For in baptism you see how your old, evil nature died with him and was buried with him; and then you came up out of death with him into a new life because you trusted the Word of the mighty God who raised Christ from the dead. 

Our “resurrection” is just a figure of speech Paul’s employs to describe how Christians have been delivered from their old life of sin into their new life of salvation.  We have moved from our old life to our new life by way of a spiritual resurrection. 

Baptism into Christ also involves unity, the fourth point.  Obviously when we are baptized into Christ, we become one with Him.  We become so identified with Him we can’t be separated from Him.  But there is another kind of unity at work here.  Consider–

We are no longer Jews or Greeks or slaves or free men or even merely men or women, but we are all the samewe are Christians; we are one in Christ Jesus.  (Galatians 4:28  TLB)

Talk about unity!  We are all one in Christ Jesus.  This kind of unity is only possible IN Christ.

2.  The second baptism

So far, we have been talking about “the first baptism,” the baptism into Christ.  We can also call this “conversion.”  The “subsequent baptism” is the baptism of the Holy Spirit.  When it comes to how we found Christ, our conversion experiences are all different.  No two people can say they experienced Christ the first time same way.  The same thing is true of Spirit baptism.  This is why there is so much confusion surrounding this “event.”  To some, the baptism in the Holy Spirit comes on them so powerfully and so obviously they can remember the day, time, and even what they were wearing when it happened.  Others receive this baptism quietly, sometimes by themselves, with no fanfare. 

Let’s consider Spirit baptism

(a)  The baptizer. 

With water I baptize those who repent of their sins; but someone else is coming, far greater than I am, so great that I am not worthy to carry his shoes! He shall baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.   (Matthew 3:11  TLB)

 

It might surprise some reading this, but it is back in Matthew, not Acts, that we first read about this “subsequent baptism.”  John the Baptist is talking about Jesus; Jesus is the One who baptizes a believer in the Holy Spirit.  This great gift – this moving experience – is Christ’s blessing to us.  It is something He personally does in us and for us.  Of course, it is to His advantage; that is, it is to the advantage of the whole Body of Christ that believers receive this Spirit baptism.  It is meant to strengthen the believer and ultimately these strengthened believers will result in a stronger Body.  It is for His glory that Jesus is as ready and willing to baptize the saint as He is to save the sinner.

(b)  The promise.

That Jesus will baptize His followers is a promise He has made. 

John baptized you with water, he reminded them, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit in just a few days.  (Acts 1:5  TLB)

And Peter replied, Each one of you must turn from sin, return to God, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; then you also shall receive this gift, the Holy Spirit.  For Christ promised him to each one of you who has been called by the Lord our God, and to your children and even to those in distant lands!  (Acts 2:38, 39  TLB)

Take note of the promise!  The promise to baptize in the Spirit is just as real and just as much a promise as the promise of salvation!  If that’s true, why are unbelievers encouraged to “get saved” yet Christians, unless they attend Pentecostal or Charismatic churches, are seldom encouraged to seek Spirit baptism?  Think about it.  Pastors and church leaders are so ignorant of this great BIBLICAL doctrine, they are literally hindering members of their congregation from receiving an experience every bit as real as their conversion.  The really sad thing is that this “subsequent baptism” is just the second part of or a continuation of their salvation experience.

(b)  The fulfillment.

After that first handful of believers received Spirit baptism, Peter explained it to onlookers:

No! What you see this morning was predicted centuries ago by the prophet Joel…  (Acts 2:16  TLB)

This experience was not some kind of funky, self-induced state of hysteria experienced by a group of fringe Jews.  In fact, Spirit baptism was predicted generations before!  It was spelled out by the prophet Joel.  Lest anybody think the Baptism in the Holy Spirit was only for the disciples gathered in the upper room, Paul wrote about it–

But when the time came for the kindness and love of God our Savior to appear, then he saved usnot because we were good enough to be saved but because of his kindness and pityby washing away our sins and giving us the new joy of the indwelling Holy Spirit, whom he poured out upon us with wonderful fullnessand all because of what Jesus Christ our Savior did.  (Titus 3:4-6  TLB)

The very fact that you, as a Christian, are an ambassador for Christ, demands that you experience the fullness of the Spirit Paul wrote about.  You are supposed to be representing the One who sent you, Jesus Christ, and of Him, we read this–

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me…  (Luke 4:18a  TLB)

This is Jesus quoting from Isaiah, and applying that quote to Himself!  If the Spirit rested on Jesus, He must surely rest on us, too!

(c)  The necessity.

Many, many Christians have never and will never experience the “subsequent baptism” because they’ve never learned about it or, worse than ignorance, they have no interest in it.  But the fact remains, being baptized in the Spirit in an absolute imperative.  At least the first leaders of the apostolic church thought so.

While Apollos was in Corinth, Paul traveled through Turkey and arrived in Ephesus, where he found several disciples.  Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed? he asked them.  (Acts 19:1, 2  TLB)

Paul and Apollos found a group of Christians (note that!) that had not yet received the baptism of the Holy Spirit.  Now, being Christians, members of this group were full of the Spirit, but they had not yet received the baptism.  Why?  Their problem was simply one of ignorance.  When the baptism of the Spirit was explained to them, they received it. 

(d)  The condition.

Ignorance can certainly keep Spirit baptism from a sincere believer.  But there are other conditions.

You love the right and hate the wrong.  And that is why God, your very own God, poured fragrant oil on your head, marking you out as king from among your dear companions.  (Psalm 45:7  KJV)

Loving the right and hating the wrong speaks to character and also to honesty before God.  Living right and thinking right, being a person of principle and upstanding character are conditions that have to be met if you want to receive the baptism, or the anointing, of the Holy Spirit.  In other words, your heart has to be right – not perfect, just right before God.

(e)  The evidence.

Some Pentecostal churches stubbornly teach that speaking in tongues is the evidence that a believer has received the baptism in the Holy Spirit.  Unfortunately for them, the Bible teaches something else.

In fact, in everything we do we try to show that we are true ministers of God.  We patiently endure suffering and hardship and trouble of every kind.  We have been beaten, put in jail, faced angry mobs, worked to exhaustion, stayed awake through sleepless nights of watching, and gone without food.  We have proved ourselves to be what we claim by our wholesome lives and by our understanding of the Gospel and by our patience. We have been kind and truly loving and filled with the Holy Spirit.  (2 Corinthians 6:4-6, TLB)

Paul left being “filled with the Holy Spirit” to the end, but being filled with Spirit made all the things that came before it possible!  Patience, courage, strength to work and stay awake, fasting, living wholesome lives…all those things were possible because Paul and his friends were filled with Spirit and filled with His power.  Being able to things that don’t come naturally to a human being is surely proof one has been baptized with the Holy Spirit.

(f)  The result.

The presence of the Holy Spirit in the new life of the believer is a given.  At the moment of salvation he is filled with God’s precious Spirit.  After that, God wants that believer to experience even  more of His presence.  The baptism of the Holy Spirit is an experience made possible because of the work of the risen Christ in the life of His people.  Salvation is wonderful.  Salvation is what gets you into heaven.  But between then and now, we all have to live our lives in the here and now.  The baptism in the Holy Spirit makes life on earth a little more bearable and your work for God a little more effective.  Can a Christian get by without the baptism in the Holy Spirit?  Yes!  Of course he can.  But why would he want to?

Receiving the Holy Spirit

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Receiving the of the Holy Spirit

We all know why Jesus came to earth:

For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.  (Luke 19:10  NIV)

The promise of salvation was why Jesus came, we all know that.  But the gift of the Spirit is as much a promise of Christ as the gift of salvation:

When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father—the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father—he will testify about me.  (John 15:26  NIV)

When we accept Christ as Lord and Savior, we become sons (and daughters) of God:

But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law,  to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship.  (Galatians 4:5  NIV)

Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God…  (John 1:12  NIV)

In the same way we as children of God have a right to be filled with the Holy Spirit; to be filled with His power.  But how exactly does this happen?  To be sure, at conversion we are filled with the Spirit.  But what about after that?  What about subsequent infillings of the Holy Spirit?  What about the fullness of the Holy Spirit?  Such questions are not the purview of the Pentecostals or the charismatics!  The fullness of the Spirit is available to all Christians.  The Bible tells us exactly how to receive the Holy Spirit.

1.  You must live in forgiveness!

As one Bible scholar remarked, “The holy dove cannot dwell among unclean birds.”  So, if you want to experience the fullness of the Spirit, you must be forgiven and walk in forgiveness.

“Repent and be baptized, every one 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  NIV)

Peter, in preaching to the Jews on the Day of Pentecost answered the burning question of the ages:  “What shall we do to be saved?”  Peter had just told those in the assembled crowd that they were guilty of crucifying Jesus, and that He was the Messiah.  Peter’s answer to their question stresses three things. If these people wanted to get right with God and enjoy His presence, then they must make:

  • A complete confession of their guilt, as it related to how Jesus was treated;
  • A complete confession of their helpless condition:  they were sinners unable to save themselves;
  • A complete submission to the apostles so that they may be delivered from their guilt.

If you notice, in Peter’s answer to, “What must we do?”  he does NOT tell them, “There is nothing YOU can do.”  In his answer, he tells them exactly what they MUST TO. While they cannot save themselves; there is a correct response to hearing the Gospel:  THEY must repent;  THEY must be baptized.  But none of this is possible unless God is drawing them by the power of Word.  It is our will that moves and acts but it is only God’s grace that makes that possible..

The baptism referred to here is water baptism.  It has no saving power in and of itself, but it is symbolic of their submission to God and a demonstration to others of their new found faith in Christ.

Once these things are in place, they would be free to receive the Holy Spirit.  If you want to experience the absolute fullness of the Spirit in your life, you have to do what Peter told his people to do.  Repent, submit, live your faith then you will be in a position to receive the Spirit.

2.  You must be a child of God!

Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.”  (Galatians 4:6  NIV)

In the context of this letter, Paul wanted his readers to know that they, mostly Gentiles converts, had become “sons of God.”  It is for these “sons of God,” the Spirit in intended.  The Holy Spirit was poured into their hearts just as He has been poured into our hearts.  Why? Every child resembles their parents.  God sent His Spirit so that we may start looking like our heavenly Father!

And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.  (2 Corinthians 3:18  NIV)

It is the Holy Spirit that slowly transforms us into God’s image.  This is not to say we become “gods,” but that we begin to take on some of His attributes.  We, as born again believers, like to talk about our “relationship” with God, and we certainly have that.  But “relationship” is not the same thing as “likeness.”  It is only through the work of the Spirit that we become like Jesus.  And that “likeness” is nothing less than the outward evidence of our “relationship.”

3.  You must recognize your need!

Consider the words of the prophet Isaiah:

For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour out my Spirit on your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants.  (Isaiah 44:3  NIV)

Unless you feel the need, God will never endow you with the fullness of the Spirit.  Yes, you are filled with the Spirit when you become born again, but there is more.  The baptism of the Holy Spirit IS the fullness of the Spirit, but no believer may enjoy that unless they know they need it. If you feel self-sufficient in yourself, you won’t be seeking the fullness of the Spirit and it won’t be offered to you.  But to those who need more strength, more of the presence of God, the fullness of the Spirit is offered unreservedly.

He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.  (Isaiah 40:29  NIV)

But you have to KNOW your need before God can meet it!  A lot of Christians seem to want to experience Spirit baptism, but they haven’t realized the purpose for which it is given.  Know your need or needs and God will give you MORE of His Spirit to meet those needs.

4.  You need faith!

It’s strange that people seem to be able to have faith for salvation but have very little faith for receiving the fullness of the Spirit.  Part of this problem is a lack of teaching or just plain bad teaching.  Over and over again, otherwise orthodox preachers and Bible teachers make fun of the baptism of the Spirit and mock those who believe in it and the contemporary manifestation of the gifts of the Spirit.  But if you if have the faith, you will receive more of God’s presence in your life.

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.  (John 7:39  NIV)

It all starts with belief in Jesus; confidence in His Word and in His Work.  Think about what Paul told the Galatians:

Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a pole.”  He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.  (Galatians 3:13, 14  NIV)

 In this verse, we see the two aspects in receiving the Spirit:

  • The fact:  Christ redeemed us!  Our redemption is an accomplished, historical fact.
  • The purpose:  That we might receive the promise of the Spirit.

It is an odd thing that within the broad Christian community, the FACT is so universally believed, but the PURPOSE is so ignored.  If you have faith for your salvation, you should easily have the faith to receive the fullness of the Spirit!

5.  You must be obedient!

It’s a fact.  You can desire all the things of God—the deeper things of God—but if you aren’t living in simple obedience to His will and His Word there’s only so much God can give you and only so far you can go.

We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him. (Acts 5:32  NIV)

When you are living in obedience to the Lord, you will be placing yourself in the very mainstream of His will for you and you will be in a position to receive all that God wants to give you, including the fullness of His Spirit.

6.  You must be willing to wait (be patient)!

The disciples were told to “wait for the promise of the Father,” in Acts 1:4.  As the disciples waited in patient obedience, the Promise came.

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.  (Luke 24:49  NIV)

Why did they have to wait?  What was the purpose for the waiting?  We can’t know for sure, but it probably all has to do with two things:  obedience manifested by patience.  Human beings, even redeemed ones, are not good at waiting for anything.  We want what we want when we want it.  But we have to wait for the Promise to come to us.  When we exercise our faith, we obey, and we learn patience.

7.  You must pray!

If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!  (Luke 11:13  NIV)

Such a simple step, but it gets missed in the hustle and bustle of our lives.  Sometimes we get so caught up in expecting God to “just do” things for us that we neglect to sit down and actually talk to Him about it!  Even with Jesus, it was while He was praying that Heaven opened and the Holy Spirit descended upon Him—

When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too. And as he was praying, heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”  Luke 3:21, 22  NIV)

And it was while the disciples were praying that they were filled with the Spirit—

After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly. (Acts 4:31  NIV)

And remember what happened to Solomon?

When Solomon finished praying, fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices, and the glory of the Lord filled the temple.  (2 Chronicles 7:1  NIV)

Prayer is what moves the Hand of God.  Prayer is what shows God how serious you are.  It’s more than merely “talking” to Him.  True prayer reveals your heart to Him and it opens you up to His Spirit.

If you are serious about walking in the fullness of the Spirit and and if you want to do extraordinary things in and for the Body of Christ, then start considering receiving more of the Holy Spirit.  Why wouldn’t you want more of Him?

 

STUDIES IN ACTS, PART 3

Understanding Tongues

When the Holy Spirit came to the infant Church in Acts 2, there were two signs that accompanied His arrival: the sound of a mighty, rushing wind and something that looked like tongues of fire. These were unique signs that have never been repeated in the history of the Church. You would be hard-pressed to find any Christian who would claim that these signs have been repeated.

Not so the third sign, speaking in other tongues. There are charismatic/pentecostal denominations that teach “speaking in other tongues” is a normative sign that an individual has received Spirit baptism. These denominations rightfully teach “speaking in other tongues” is the only supernatural sign from Acts 2 that is seen occurring multiple times in Acts. But they go one step further.  To them, this sign continues today.  When a believer experiences Spirit baptism, the proof or evidence that such a thing has taken place is that the newly-baptized person will start speaking in tongues immediately.

Other denominations claim that all signs associated with the very early Church ceased with the death of the last Apostle, probably John. They say correctly all miraculous signs that accompanied the spread of the Gospel in New Testament times were necessary to give authority to the preaching of the Gospel since the New Testament hadn’t been written yet. Today, our authority comes from the completed Word of God, hence “signs and wonders” are no longer needed. To these Churches, there is no “second blessing,” no Spirit baptism, for it is no longer needed, and a person is filled with the Spirit when they are born again and that’s it.

While no Christian denomination denies the Holy Spirit or His work in the Church and in individual believers, there seems to be two extremes in the Church today. On one side, there are denominations that pay little more than lip service to the Spirit. It’s like these “mainline” denominations really don’t know what to do with Him. On the other side, there are denominations that have created “pentecostal doctrines” in an effort to separate themselves from “those other churches” that they perceive as dead and powerless. Often, unfortunately these kinds of Churches go way overboard and their services are filled with all kinds of  strange “manifestations” of the Spirit’s presence.

Forgetting what “denominations” say, what does the Bible say?

1. Distinguishing between tongues in Acts and the Gifts of the Spirit

Speaking in tongues as the Spirit enables” is wholly a New Testament doctrine. The very first instance is found in Acts 2.

All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them. (verse 4)

We know from verse 6 that these “tongues” were known languages—that is, known by people other than those speaking. This was truly a miracle! Just imagine if you opened your mouth and suddenly started speaking in a language you had never learned. This is what happened to the 120 when they were filled with the Holy Spirit. It wasn’t so much a “gift of tongues,” as it was a “gift of languages.” This ability to speak different languages was given to the 120, not to pray or praise God, but for the very practical purpose of evangelism. Remember, there may have been dozens and dozens of different languages represented in Jerusalem; they had come to town from far and wide for the Feast of Pentecost. So, the Lord providentially made it possible for the greatest number of people to hear the Gospel in one day by enabling the first church congregation to speak in different languages.

This “gift of languages” is seen other times in Acts, but it is never mentioned in any of the Epistles, although “speaking in tongues” is mentioned. In Acts, we read of two more incidents where “speaking in tongues” is mentioned:

Acts 10:45—47. Here, Jewish believers who were with Peter at Cornelius’ home were amazed when these new Gentile believers were filled with the Spirit and began to speak in other tongues. Again, the word translated “tongues” here means “known languages.”

While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message. The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on Gentiles. For they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God. (Acts 10:44—46)

All who heard” the sermon Peter preached were filled with the Spirit. What is significant here is that these who heard the sermon were already believers, just as the 120 were. These Gentiles, also like the 120 Jews, were given the ability to speak in different languages. This was the first incursion of the Gospel into Gentile land, so, just like back in Jerusalem, God enabled the first Gentile evangelists to speak in languages necessary for spreading the Gospel in this new area.

Acts 19:6. This is the third and last instance of believers receiving the Holy Spirit in Acts and speaking in different languages as a result. This time, it was a group of brand new Christians in Ephesus Paul happened upon. What is interesting here is that this group of isolated Christians had never even heard of the Holy Spirit!

These Ephesians had previously repented and believed, but their knowledge was limited. They are still called “disciples,” and were God-fearing people who, when they learned more about Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit, gladly received the Spirit’s baptism. And, just like the 120 and the folks in Cornelius’ home, they were given the ability to speak different languages.

When Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied. (Acts 19:6)

Throughout Acts, it seems as though Spirit baptism is definitely an experience subsequent to salvation. In other words, based on the examples of Cornelius’ household and the Ephesian disciples, one may be a believer and not be “baptized in the Holy Spirit.” There are other examples that support the idea that Spirit baptism is a “second work of grace,” but only these three indicate that “speaking in tongues or “languages” followed the infilling of the Spirit.

Leaving Acts, the next reference to “speaking in tongues” is actually found in Romans, although that phrase is not used. Here is what Romans 8:26 says:

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.

This verse, coupled with what Paul would later write to the Corinthian church regarding “praying in the Spirit” is highly suggestive. These “wordless groans” occur when a believer is praying on his own, but at some point the Spirit comes on him, takes over, and prays through him. In this instance, the “groans” cannot be understood by any human being—they don’t constitute a known language, and it is not the Spirit praying for the person who is praying, it is the Spirit using the vocal abilities of the person praying. The idea of this verse is that as we pray, we may “run out of things to pray for,” and at that point the Spirit takes over, praying through us.  Another way to look at it is that when we come to the end of our resources, those of the Holy Spirit, who is within us, take over.

In Romans 12, Paul lists a series of spiritual gifts, including:

  • The ability to prophecy;
  • The ability to serve others;
  • The ability to teach;
  • The ability to encourage others;
  • The gift of giving generously;
  • The gift of leadership;
  • The gift of mercy.

In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul lists a few more spiritual gifts:

  • A message of wisdom;
  • A message of knowledge;
  • (Gift of) faith;
  • Gifts of healing;
  • The ability to work use miraculous powers;
  • The ability to prophecy;
  • The ability to discern between different kinds of spirits;
  • The ability to speak in tongues;
  • The ability to interpret tongues.

Elsewhere in the New Testament, there other Gifts of the Spirit mentioned, including these in Ephesians 4:

  • The gift of being an evangelist;
  • The gift of being a prophet;
  • The gift of apostleship;
  • The gift of the teacher/pastor.

With regards to Ephesians 4, it is clear that some of these gifts (offices in the church, really) have ceased to exist:

Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. (Ephesians 2:19, 20)

So we might say that the apostle and the prophet as offices in the Church were foundational ministries that we have built upon, and are no longer needed. This does not mean that the spiritual gift of prophecy does not exist, merely that there are no prophets or apostles in the church today (Christian cable channels notwithstanding).

So you see, then, that the spiritual gift of tongues is just one of many spiritual gifts. The Corinthian church of Paul’s day was obsessed with this one single gift to the exclusion of all the others, which is why he spent considerable time teaching them about the Gifts of the Spirit. It’s no different with the modern Church, where entire denominations have been founded on “the gift of tongues.” Why not found a denomination on the gift of encouragement? Or the gift of generosity? Why tongues? Paul teaches that all the Gifts of the Spirit are equal; none is better than another. Yet, the “gift of tongues” is the one that we hear most about, the one that is the most obvious to notice, and, as in the case of the Corinthian church, the one that is abused the most.

Chapter 13 of 1 Corinthians, the so-called “love chapter,” is really about how to use the Gifts of the Spirit in the best way: in love. Paul begins:

If I speak in the tongues (known languages) of men or of angels (gift of tongues–unknown languages), but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith (gift of faith) that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess (gift of generous giving) to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. (verses 1—3)

When Christians engage in any abuse of any spiritual gift, they are not using that gift in love. The Gifts of the Spirit are given to Christians for the express purpose of building up the Church; they are to be used to bless the Body of Christ. Spiritual one-up-manship has no place in the Church because that takes the focus off Christ puts it on the one exercising his particular gift or gifts. This is probably why “the gift of tongues” is so abused and stressed so much; it’s hard to miss somebody in the congregation going off and babbling unintelligibly.

There is, then a clear distinction between the “tongues” of Acts and the “gift of tongues” elsewhere in the New Testament. In Acts, it was a the ability to speak foreign languages that fell on believers, so that they could engage in effective evangelism. This most remarkable ability accompanied an additional infilling of the Holy Spirit, because we know that a person is already filled with the Spirit when they initially believe.

In Paul’s teaching, we discover that there are numerous Gifts of the Spirit given to believers that enable them to engage in ministry to the Body of Christ beyond their normal talents. The “gift of tongues” is just one the many spiritual gifts believers may receive when they experience an additional infilling of the Spirit, subsequent to their initial infilling at conversion.

Also, since we haven’t heard of mass groups of English-speaking Christians breaking out in Mandarin Chinese after a prayer meeting, we can conclude that the “tongues,” the ability to speak foreign languages, of Acts 2 has gone the way of the Old Testament prophet and the New Testament apostle. It was a foundational ability that was needed only in the beginning but not now.

2. The gift of tongues

So is “speaking in tongues” a “normative sign” that a believer has been baptized in the Holy Spirit? Not according to the “tongues” of Acts. Those “tongues” were foreign languages, not “the language of the Spirit.” Since all the Gifts of the Spirit are equal, then we must conclude that the “normative sign” that one has had a deeper experience with the Holy Spirit—if indeed a sign accompanies that—must be the manifestation of any of the Gifts of the Spirit, including but not limited to tongues. What, then, is this “gift of tongues,” outside of Acts, all about?

The answer to that question is found is not in denominational literature, but the Word of God, specifically 1 Corinthians 14. This chapter was written to a large but troubled church. It was full of members who were full of the Holy Spirit, but desperately in need of learning how to use those gifts properly. After listing “the gift of tongues” along with all the other Gifts of the Spirit in chapter 12, Paul, in chapter 13, first teaches the Corinthians that they must exercise all the gifts (he uses only the gifts of tongues, prophecy, faith, and giving as examples) in love. You may think it odd that Christians would have to be told that, but the admonition to love one another was given numerous time by Jesus and John. The implication is that Christians may find it difficult to love one another. Given the destructive behavior many pastors see in their congregations, it becomes obvious that even genuine believers, from time to time, will engage in behavior that brings harm to a brother or sister, and what better way to do that than using their spiritual gift to make them feel inferior? For that reason, Paul warns his Corinthian friends that no one gift is superior to another, that all are needed in the Church, and Spiritual gifts should be used in love.

That brings us to 1 Corinthians 14. Here is what Paul teaches about the spiritual gift of “tongues” in that chapter:

  • For anyone who speaks in a tongue does not speak to people but to God. Indeed, no one understands them; they utter mysteries by the Spirit. (verse 2) This reminds us of what Paul wrote to the Romans; of how the Holy Spirit prays through us with groanings that cannot be understood by human beings. In the context of 1 Corinthians 14, Paul basically admonishes the people with that gift to pray in tongues away from other people because when they speak in tongues it does nothing for anybody else—that is, praying in tongues for all to hear is not a loving way to exercise that gift. Why? Because it is useless to the one who hears and it draws his attention to the one speaking in tongues.
  • Now, brothers and sisters, if I come to you and speak in tongues, what good will I be to you, unless I bring you some revelation or knowledge or prophecy or word of instruction? (verse 6) Paul in verse 18, Paul will tell his friends that he speaks in tongues often; but here he says that if he comes simply speaking to them in tongues, like during a sermon or during a worship service for example, then he’s wasting his time. They can’t understand him, so he then says it’s better to use another gift or speak the Word of God in a language all can understand. The words “some revelation” could refer to a teaching one gives during a sermon or Bible lesson. “Knowledge” and “prophecy” more than likely refer to those particular spiritual gifts.
  • So it is with you. Since you are eager for gifts of the Spirit, try to excel in those that build up the church. For this reason the one who speaks in a tongue should pray that they may interpret what they say. (verses 12, 13) Notice what Paul says here and what he does not say. The Corinthians were excited about using their spiritual gifts, but Paul wanted them to become expert at using the ones that built up the greatest number of people in the Church. He obviously can’t be referring to tongues, because he just taught them that tongues are of no benefit to anybody in the church save the one speaking in them. Verse 13 is like a caveat, it does not provide a new use for tongues. Should a person get carried away and break out in tongues during a service, the genie is out of the bottle. What is to be done? Scores of people have heard something they shouldn’t have heard and they have no idea what was said. In that case, Paul suggested the best course of action would be for that person to correct his mistake by asking God to give him the interpretation of what he had just prayed to God so that everybody who heard him could be blessed just as he himself had been blessed. Paul is not encouraging the public display of tongues, he is simply giving advice in case it happened.

Here is way the gift of tongues should never be used during a worship service:

Tongues, then, are a sign, not for believers but for unbelievers; prophecy, however, is not for unbelievers but for believers. So if the whole church comes together and everyone speaks in tongues, and inquirers or unbelievers come in, will they not say that you are out of your mind? But if an unbeliever or an inquirer comes in while everyone is prophesying, they are convicted of sin and are brought under judgment by all, as the secrets of their hearts are laid bare. So they will fall down and worship God, exclaiming, “God is really among you!” (verses 22—25)

Breaking that down, we notice:

  • The gift of tongues exercised in public does nothing for other Christians, but will most certainly confuse an unbeliever who hears it and will make the one speaking in tongues look like they are out of their mind. So, there is no way to use the gift of tongues in public in a way that is helpful to anybody, saint or sinner. Why? Because the spiritual gift of tongues is only good for the one exercising it.
  • But if another gift of the Spirit is being exercised, like the gift of prophecy, which is exercised in a known language, then that same sinner, instead of being confused, will actually be convicted of sin in their life and realize that God is among the congregation.

The key for Paul is that when Christians get together, they need to have an orderly service. Remember, the Corinthians were excited about using their spiritual gifts, so they needed verses 26—40 in the worst way. Most churches today have the opposite problem; they are devoid of any manifestations of the Spirit, good or bad. Given that, these verses sound like Paul is giving guidelines for how to have a pentecostal church service: two or three people should speak in tongues, somebody should interpret, anybody with the gift of prophecy should stand up and give their message, but again only two or three of them, and so on. But, instead of looking at these verses as patterns for pentecostal services, what if we look at them as “what to do if things get out of hand”? If Spirit-filled believers get carried away and start exercising their gifts improperly, the leader of the service shouldn’t shut it down, compounding an already uncomfortable situation, he should calmly take control of the service and reign in those who are carried away in their Spiritual gifts.

Therefore, my brothers and sisters, be eager to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues. But everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way. (verses 39, 40)

We never want to “quench the Spirit,” but people need to be taught how to use their particular gift or gifts in the right way so as to minister to the most number of believers in the most effective, God-glorifying way.

Summary

Based on the preponderance of Biblical evidence, there is an encounter with the Holy Spirit Christians may look forward to that is subsequent to their initial encounter with Him at their conversion. This second encounter, often referred to as “the Baptism in the Holy Spirit,” is a second infilling of the Spirit, at which time a believer is given the ability to exercise certain gifts given him by the Spirit. All but one of these gifts are for the encouragement of the Body of Christ. The gift of tongues is a spiritual gift given to a believer for his benefit only, so that he may pray in the Spirit, or so that the Spirit may pray through him.

The “gift of tongues” as one of the Gifts of the Spirit is not to be confused with “speaking in tongues” that we see in the book of Acts. There, the “tongues” represented known languages and were for the benefit of those who heard the Gospel in their own language.

To conclude this study, let me quote the great Apostle:

Now eagerly desire the greater gifts. (1 Corinthians 12:31a)

Our churches today are just as desperate as the Corinthian church was, except our desperation is for more of the Holy Spirit.  Perhaps when we get to the end of our resources and realize we need something (Someone) more, then we will be visited by Him in a dynamic way.

(c)  2011 WitzEnd

STUDIES IN ACTS, Part 2

 

Pentecost and the Coming of the Holy Spirit, Luke 2

The Book of Acts is definitely a book of history, but it is a book of history with a difference: there are no dates in it. It is left up to scholars to fill in the chronological blanks. The consensus among Bible scholars and historians is that the events recorded in Acts 2 occurred during the Jewish feast of Pentecost celebrated during the last week of May, in the year 30 AD.

The word “pentecost” comes from a Greek word meaning “fiftieth.” As part of their Feast of Weeks, the Jews celebrated Pentecost on the fiftieth day after Passover. It is also known as the Feast of Harvest, at which the celebrants presented the firstfruits of the wheat harvest.

While Christians have appropriated the word “pentecost” and associate it with the work of the Holy Spirit in the church, that is not the correct use of the word. Pentecost was a Jewish feast, it was part of the the Jewish calendar and has no real meaning outside of that context. The Holy Spirit was given on the Day of Pentecost, not because Spirit baptism is a “Pentecostal Blessing,” but because that particular day was the one day when Jerusalem was literally overflowing with visitors attending the day’s festivities. It was the perfect day for the Spirit to descend, fill the followers of Christ, empowering them to witness to the greatest number of people at one time. All these visitors who heard the Gospel would take the Gospel back home with them when the Feast of Weeks was over.

The Baptism of the Holy Spirit was eluded to in Matthew’s and Luke’s Gospels, where it was carefully distinguished from John’s baptism:

John answered them all, “I baptize you with water. But one who is more powerful than I will come, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” (Luke 3:16)

Luke is the only Gospel writer who connects what John the Baptist said with the miracle at Pentecost.

The coming of the Holy Spirit was the final phase of Christ’s mission. First came the Incarnation; when God became man to secure our redemption; to unite man with His Creator. Then came then the Crucifixion, the sacrificial, substitutionary death of Jesus Christ, during which He gave His life as a ransom for sinful man; separating those sins from those He came to save. Next, the Resurrection—the literal, physical resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. Finally, Pentecost and the coming (or giving) of the Holy Spirit to the Church.

1. All together in one room, Acts 2:1

When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place.

When the Church began, you could squeeze it all into one room. There were some 120 souls waiting patiently for something to happen. Luke gives us a hint as to when the event happened: “when the day of Pentecost came,” which simply means that the Holy Spirit came some time during this particular Day of Pentecost. While Luke gives us some practical information, he is also giving us a statement of great theological import. By mentioning “the Day of Pentecost,” Luke is reaching back in time to embrace the many Old Testament prophecies surrounding the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, like Joel 2:28. Not only prophecies, there were many “foreshadowings” of this great day. In Leviticus 23, we are given all the details of the Jewish feasts and festivals, including Passover. Passover was celebrated in the spring of the year, and this foreshadowed the death of Jesus Christ. He and the disciples celebrated Passover on the evening before His death—the death of the perfect Lamb of God.

Get rid of the old yeast, so that you may be a new unleavened batch—as you really are. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Therefore let us keep the Festival, not with the old bread leavened with malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. (1 Corinthians 5:7—8)

After Passover, they were to bring their firstfruits—a sheaf of grain as an offering. In 1 Corinthians 15:20, Paul reckoned that the resurrection of Jesus from the dead was a kind of firstfruit of the resurrection of all believers to come.

As part of the Feast of Pentecost, we read this in Leviticus 23:17—

From wherever you live, bring two loaves made of two-tenths of an ephah of the finest flour, baked with yeast, as a wave offering of firstfruits to the LORD.

The two loaves of bread could not represent Jesus Christ because of the presence of yeast, which represents sin. So what then does the bread represent? This wave offering in Leviticus represents all those who, through the atoning work of Jesus Christ, are presented to God, though not perfect, but still redeemed by Christ.

These imperfect believers were “all together in one place.” This phrase suggests that the 120 were not only in the same place at the same time for the same purpose, but they were in unity. However, this unity was not why the Spirit came, as some like to suggest. In fact, the Holy Spirit’s coming to the Church was an event preordained by God. It was an event determined by God in eternity past; God did not give His Spirit because the 120 were manifesting any kind of unity.

The interesting thing about this “unity” is that the 120 were all expecting something to happen; they were gathered together as they had been instructed by the risen Lord, all with a spirit of expectation.

2. The Age of the Spirit, verses 2—4

Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.

Because the Holy spirit is just that, a Spirit, there is nothing sensory about Him. However, for the sake of the 120, along with the coming of the Holy Spirit, God manifested certain visible and audible signs so there could be no mistake that what happened to the faithful that day was what they were expecting.

Wind. The first thing we notice about the coming of the Holy spirit is the suddenness of His appearance. The believers expected something to happen, but when it happened, it was quick, and it was sudden and surprising. Why wind? The Lord in His providence and wisdom manifested the Spirit’s presence using a very familiar thing. Jesus taught this in John 3:8—

The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.

Fire. This sign was in fulfilment of what John the Baptist said in Matthew 3:11—

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.

Of course, what looked like fire really wasn’t fire; it was the visible manifestation of the Holy Spirit. The “tongues of fire” were not so different from what appeared to be dove, descending upon Jesus when He was baptized in the Jordan River.

What was the significance of this display of sound and light? of wind and fire? There is a distinct parallel between the giving of the Holy Spirit and the giving of the Law at Mount Sinai. Consider the similarities:

On the morning of the third day there was thunder and lightning, with a thick cloud over the mountain, and a very loud trumpet blast. Everyone in the camp trembled. Then Moses led the people out of the camp to meet with God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain. Mount Sinai was covered with smoke, because the LORD descended on it in fire. The smoke billowed up from it like smoke from a furnace, and the whole mountain trembled violently. (Exodus 19:16—19)

The giving of the Law ushered in a brand new epoch and the Israelites needed to see and hear and experience it in all its fullness. The manifestation of God’s presence on Mount Sinai was unnecessary, but God knew the people needed to be fully alert and conscious of the significance of what was happening. So it was at Pentecost with the Holy Spirit. The era of the Holy Spirit had arrived; the disciples needed to experience God’s presence and His authority in a manner they would never forget.

Tongues. Immediately, the whole group was filled with the Holy Spirit. The Greek text indicates that the entire group, all 120, were filled once, all at the same time. In other words, the Spirit came and stayed with each of the 120; He did not come and go, come and go, as He did in the Old Testament. The outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the 120 happened one time; they were not baptized in the Spirit over and over. Henceforth, He abides in the Body of Christ, the Church, both corporately and individually. When a sinner confesses Christ as His Savior, he is filled with the Holy Spirit; Jesus Christ comes in and abides in that new believer in the Person of the Holy Spirit. That new believer at the moment of his conversion is not only filled with the Holy Spirit, but he becomes part of the Body of Christ—the Church (that is, the invisible Church). At some point, he will become part of the visible Church, a local body of believers.

When the Spirit filled all those believers, they literally became the “mouthpieces of the Spirit.” At Pentecost, the curse of Babel was lifted. the effect of the Spirit literally reversed what happened in Genesis 11—

Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.” So the LORD scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city. That is why it was called Babel—because there the LORD confused the language of the whole world. From there the LORD scattered them over the face of the whole earth. (Genesis 11:7—9)

At Pentecost, the Holy Spirit came and miraculously enabled the Christians to speak in languages all visitors to Jerusalem could understand. In fact, the word “tongue” here means “spoken language.” These “tongues” were not an “unknown language,” but known languages, as Dr. Luke makes clear in verse 6:

When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken.

No matter how much some people want to equate the “tongues” here in Acts 2 with the “tongues” Paul writes about in 1 Corinthians 14, there is no correlation; they are not the same “tongues.” The purpose of “tongues” here was for a more effective witness in and around Jerusalem. Only God knew how many different languages were represented by the many visitors to Jerusalem during this particular Pentecost. By empowering the believers with the ability to speak in different languages, God was enabling all these visitors to Jerusalem to hear the Gospel in a language they could understand.

There are those who wonder if the miracle was in the speaking or in the hearing. The miracle of “tongues” had to be in the speaking of different language because the Spirit filled the 120, no the crowd who heard them.

3. Final thoughts

The coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost is the most significant event in the history of the Church. It is significant theologically and practically. We might say the Spirit came for these two purposes. First, theologically, the Holy Spirit took all those believers and baptized them into ONE Body of believers. The Church existed before the Spirit fell, but it was at best a very loose group with little or no organization. The Church before Pentecost was just a bunch of people who loved Jesus. But when the Spirit came, that bunch of loose knit people were knit together as one; baptized into the Body of Christ. The Holy Spirit took that disparate group of men and women and them one.

Second, practically, the Holy Spirit empowered those believers to spread the Gospel. The Spirit came to take the teachings of Jesus and of the Word of God and make them real to the believers, giving them the supernatural unction to proclaim those things to others with confidence in a way they could understand.

After the Spirit fell at Jerusalem, the empowered Church of Jesus Christ began to grow and multiply. When it reached the Samaritans, they received the Holy spirit. When it reached the Gentiles, they received the Holy Spirit. Wherever the Gospel was preached and received by those who heard it, the Spirit filled those new believers immediately.

(c)  2011 WitzEnd

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