The Shepherd of Hope blog is here to serve you, to help you know Jesus better and to find hope in Him. This blog relies on the Spirit of God using the word of God to build people of God. All material has been prayerfully submitted for your encouragement and spiritual edification. Your questions and comments are welcome.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Two Baptisms

“They had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus” – Acts 8:16b

There are those who contend that there is only one work of the Spirit in the life of the believer. They hold that the baptism in Christ and the baptism with the Spirit are one in the same. They hold that there is only one baptism. Part of their view is based on Paul’s use of the phrase “one baptism” in Ephesians 4:4-6 where it states, “There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6 one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.”

The context of the verse is Paul’s exhortation for the Ephesians to be united. He exhorts them to make every effort to “keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph. 4:1-3). Therefore Paul reminds them they are united as “one body,” just as God is “one Spirit, . . . one Lord, . . . one God and Father of all, . . . .” They should remember too they are united “as you were called in one hope of your calling, . . . one faith, one baptism; . . . .” Our concern here is the meaning of “one baptism.”

There is “one baptism” as it pertains to entering into the church. That baptism is the baptism into Christ.  Jesus is the only way to the Father and into His eternal family. But the Bible describes the two-work nature of the life in the Spirit by referring to two baptisms. Let me explain.

First, there is the experience described as being “baptized into Christ.” This is a baptism unto salvation and begins the inner work of the Spirit in the believer. Examples of this first work are as follows:
  • They had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.” – Acts 8:16b
  • “They were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.” – Acts 19:6
  • “Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?” – Romans 6:3
  •  “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” – Galatians 3:27 (also Colossians 2:12).

At the baptism into Jesus we are born again; born of the Spirit (John 3:5). The Spirit begins conforming us to the likeness of Jesus at the new birth (Romans 8:29; Ephesians 5:18). The Holy Spirit washes our sins away and regenerates us spiritually giving us new life (Titus 3:5). Water baptism symbolizes this work of God in us. But notice that in Acts 8:16 it is implied that there is something beyond being baptized into Christ. It states, “They had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.” This points to an additional work.

Second, there is the experience described as being “baptized with the Holy Spirit.” This is the Spirit’s empowerment for service. This is the second work of the Spirit and is described by Jesus as the Spirit coming “upon” us. Jesus referred to this in Acts 1:4-5 and 8, “. . . wait for the Promise of the Father, ‘which,’ He said, ‘you have heard from Me; for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now. . . . But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; . . . .”

Have you been baptized into Christ Jesus as your Savior? If you have been water baptized to show God’s initial regenerative work of salvation in you, have you received His baptism with the Holy Spirit that empowers for service and ministry? There are a number of examples in Acts where this twofold use of baptism is seen (Acts 2:36-39; 8:12-17; 9:3-5, 6, 17-18 with 1 Corinthians 12:3; Acts 10:44-48 in light of 11:15-17 and 15:6-9; 19:1-7).

When the apostle Paul uses the phrase “one baptism” he is referring to the unity of believers and how a person enters into a personal saving relationship with Jesus Christ.  But there is a general application of baptism. Baptism speaks to initiation or entrance into something. There is of course only one way to become a Christian and have eternal life and that is through Jesus Christ (John 14:6). This is the baptism into the name of Jesus or into Christ as we mention above. But baptism can be used to speak of other initiations or entrances.

 For instance Jesus, when asked by the mother of James and John to give her sons a special place on His left and right, spoke prophetically of the cost these disciples would pay. He used baptism to describe this cost saying, “You will indeed drink My cup, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with . . . .” (Mat. 20:23; Mark 10:38). Jesus was speaking of His death and pointing ultimately to the death of James (Acts 12:2). Baptism here speaks of a literally passing from life to death through persecution.

 In our denominationalized world churches often refuse to accept the baptisms of other denominations. In Ephesians Paul is stating believers are one in Christ and that believers are not baptized by denomination or specific people but by one Spirit. There are those who perform ritualistic baptisms for people who have no saving relationship with Jesus Christ. An example of this is infant baptism. An infant has no comprehension of the gospel. A ritualistic baptism cannot save that infant. That infant is covered by God’s grace until they can make their own decision to receive Jesus by faith in the gospel. That is also true of those impaired in some way and unable to understand and respond to the gospel. God’s grace is sufficient. God is merciful as well as just. God is holy and loving and will work righteously in such situations.

 But baptism is merely an outward sign of an inward heart work and reality. Baptism is a ceremony Christians partake in to testify to the world that they have made a transition. Primarily, they have died to the old way of life and been raised with Christ to a new way of life in Him (Rom. 6:1ff.). Baptism testifies to a transition, a change in life direction, a transition from one realm to another. Baptism into Christ testifies to the transition from death to life, secular to spiritual, hell to heaven bound. The baptism with the Holy Spirit testifies to the transition believers make from relying on their own strength to relying on the Spirit, from flesh to Spirit, from weakness to God’s power.

Paul also spoke of those “baptized for the dead” (1 Cor. 15:29). Being baptized by proxy in no way effects the salvation of the one for whom another is being baptized. In fact, baptism can’t save anyone. Baptism is an outward means to testify to the world that an inner reality of the work and presence of the Spirit is going on in the person being baptized. That is not something that can be done for someone else. Each person must make their own personal decision to follow Jesus. That decision can only rightly be demonstrated by that person’s personal baptism. There is only the “one baptism” that means anything regarding salvation, the baptism of those who have been born again of the Spirit, not a dead religious ritual performed on people who are dead. Baptism won’t make a difference for those trying to work their way to heaven by baptism.  That is important to know given the newfound exposure of the cult of Mormonism due to the prominence of people like Mitt Romney and Glenn Beck. Mormonism practices proxy baptism. Salvation is a gift of God’s grace to be received through faith alone in Christ alone.

The baptism into Christ is descriptive of being born again of the Spirit. The baptism with the Holy Spirit is descriptive of the initiation of the Christian into the Spirit filled Spirit empowered life of ministry and service to the Lord. It is a subsequent work Christians need to receive in order to be effective in their service to the Lord. Do you have it? If not pray and ask God for it.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

“Divided tongues, as of fire”

“Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them”

– Acts 2:3

Fire does not need advertising. Fire demands our attention. Once a fire gets going, it’s hard to stop. A fire permanently consumes everything it touches. Fire can burn away dross and purify. But fire can also cause great harm. God used fire at Pentecost. What is the meaning of the tongues of fire that came to rest over the heads of those who were in the upper room that day? When we look in the Bible we see that fire is used in many ways.

First, God uses fire to manifest His presence. God manifested Himself to Moses in a fiery burning bush. This burning bush was different though, it didn’t burn itself out (Exodus 3:2). When Moses approached the burning bush he was told by God to take off his sandals. This was holy ground. It was through the burning bush that God made His presence known. This was the place He revealed His name to Moses (Exodus 3:1-6). God desires to dwell among His people. That was the purpose of the Tabernacle (Exodus 25:8; 29:45, 46). And God uses fire to make His presence known (Exodus 19:8; 40:38). When the Spirit comes He brings the eternal presence of God into lives. 

The presence of God doesn’t need to be advertised. God’s presence makes its own impression. When we look historically at revivals we don’t see advertising, we see the Spirit drawing people with His magnetic presence. God is real and He makes a real impression on people. When Moses saw the burning bush, he was drawn to it. When people see the fiery presence of God in  church they are drawn to it. Pray for revival. Pray for His presence. Pray for His fire.

Second, God uses fire to reveal His glory. God revealed His glory to the people of Israel by consuming the burnt offering on the altar in the Old Testament (Leviticus 9:23-24). The Holy Spirit brings the glory of God into a person’s life. Paul put it this way, “Christ in you the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27). It is the Spirit that brings the glorious presence of Jesus into a person’s life. All that we do should be for the glory of God (1 Cor. 10:31). That includes seeking revival.

Third, God uses fire to reveal His power. God revealed His power in fiery hail to the Egyptians oppressors (Exodus 9:24). When the Spirit comes upon believers He brings the power of God into their lives in a special way. The Spirit brings power to defeat sin and serve the Lord.

Fourth, God uses fire to reveal His supremacy over all other gods. God used fire to show He was real and mighty and above all other supposed gods. When Elijah challenged the prophets of Baal God used fire to differentiate between Himself and Baal. Baal was no true god (1 Kings 18-19).  Only the true God answers to the prophet and rains fire down consuming sacrifice. When the Spirit of God comes upon believers He proves His supremacy through the fire of His people.

Fifth, God uses fire to dispel the darkness and lead His people. God led Israel with a pillar of fire by night (Exodus 13:21-22). Jesus the Holy Spirit would lead people into “all truth” (John 16:13). Without the Spirit you can’t know truth. It is the Spirit who reveals God’s will. He does this through the inspired word. He illuminates its meaning to those who prayerfully read it and turn to Him for understanding of it (1 Cor. 2:9-14).  

 Sixth, God uses fire to illustrate His protection. God used the imagery of fire to communicate His protection to the Israelites. They were returning from captivity to rebuild Jerusalem. Their position was very vulnerable. God said, “For I, ‘says the LORD, ‘will be a wall of fire all around her, and I will be glory in her midst” (Zechariah 2:5). The Spirit protects those He employs. In Acts jail cells can’t hold God’s men and storms can’t drown them.

Seventh, God uses fire to communicate His vengeance and judgment. In Hebrews it states, “For our God is a consuming fire” (Hebrews 12:29). The context of the passage is describing how it is impossible for unrepentant sinners to escape God’s wrath (Hebrews 12:25-29). Jesus spoke of   “everlasting fire” and “hell fire” (Mat. 18:8, 9). This destination is for those who  refuse to repent of their sins and reject Jesus. It is for those who are not found in the Book of Life. The guilty will be cast into the “Lake of fire” along with Antichrist, the false prophet, and Death and Hades themselves (Rev. 20:10-15).  This is a frightening potential destination. The sentence entails being “tormented day and night forever and ever.” This is why the lost are called “lost.” Lost opportunities, lost hope, lost eternal lives. And this is just for the unrepentant (Psalm 5:4; 7:11; 9:8, 16-17). It is the Spirit who conveys the just judgment of God to a lost world (John 16:8-11).

Eight, God uses fire to describe the nature of His word. Through the prophet Jeremiah God said, “Behold, I will make My words in your mouth fire, and this people wood, and it shall devour them” (Jeremiah 5:14). Those who hear God’s word and refuse to allow it to have the Spirit led effect, will ultimately be consumed by that word of God. It is the Spirit who inspires and fires God’s word.

Ninth, God uses fire to describe how He can purify away sin. Fire is a purifying agent. When Isaiah came into the presence of the Lord he was convicted of his sinfulness and the sinfulness of the people. Angels took a coal hot from the fire and put it to his lips to symbolize God’s purifying work in this servant’s life (Isaiah 6:1-7). It is the Spirit who cleanses us from that fleshly sin that hinders our usefulness to God (Acts 15:8-9).

Tenth, God uses fire to describe passion for Jesus and His word. On the road to Emmaus the resurrected Jesus met up with two disciples. He fellowshipped with them “expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself” (Luke 24:27). (O to be there listening to that teaching!) After Jesus left them, the two said to one another, “Did not our heart burn within us while He talked with us on the road, and while He opened the Scriptures to us?” (Luke 24:32). When the Spirit comes our hearts burn with a fiery passion for God’s word (e.g. Acts 2:42).

Eleventh, God uses fire to describe the need for decision. In Acts 2:3 it states the tongues of fire “sat upon each of them.” “Each of them” had prayed “Each of them” had obediently waited for the promised baptism with the Holy Spirit. There wasn’t a bon fire set by God in the middle of the group. There were fires upon each of them. God gives individual attention. He requires individual decision to receive His fire.

God calls each of us to lay our all on the altar. The burnt offering of the Bible was an offering of total consecration, total surrender. That which was offered and burned on the altar could not be unburned. Similarly we, like “living sacrifices,” need to present ourselves to God in total surrender (Rom. 12:1-2).

By using fire at Pentecost God was communicating a great deal. He communicates His holy eternal presence. He communicates His protection and His purifying power. That’s what comes to those upon whom the tongues of fire come to rest. When Jesus is seen in the last book of the Bible John describes His “eyes like a flame of fire” (Rev. 1:14; 19:12). Jesus has a passion for His people. The next time you see Jesus, He will have fire in His eyes. The question remains will you have His fire in your eyes? Have you experienced the fire of God? Has the Holy Spirit come upon you with fire? The promise is for you, for us. It is a gift of God’s grace received by faith. Ask Him for His fire today.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

A Rushing Mighty Wind

“And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting” - Acts 2:2

Wind is a powerful force in nature. If you’ve ever seen or experienced a hurricane, tornado or cyclone, you know this all too well. Jesus instructed the disciples to wait for an empowerment promised by the Father (Acts 1:4-5, 8). This power would come in connection with the Holy Spirit. The word “Spirit” is translated from the Greek term pneuma which literally means breath, a current of air, or breeze. Therefore it’s appropriate the power of the Holy Spirit is inaugurated by the coming of a mighty rushing wind from heaven. This isn’t the first time we see wind used in scripture. God uses wind to convey various aspects of His powerful influence. An examination of the use of wind in scripture sheds light on the power of the Spirit received at Pentecost and available to us today.

First, wind is used by God to bring His judgment. God blew in a plague of locusts upon the Egyptians (Exodus 10:13). God comes to discipline the unfaithful “on the wings of the wind” (2 Samuel 22:11).  The prophet Nahum illustrated God coming in judgment in a “whirlwind” against His enemies (Nahum 1:3). The Holy Spirit blows into the lives of sinners seeking to convict them of their sin (John 16:8-11).  

Second, wind is used by God to end God’s judgment. The Lord sent wind to dry up the waters of the Flood of judgment (Genesis 8:1). He used wind to blow locusts in as well as blow them out during His plagues on Egypt (Exodus 10:13 and 19).  Like a great vacuum the Spirit draws people toward Jesus where they can find salvation from the judgment of sin.

Third, God uses the wind to bring a blessing. God used the wind to part the Red Sea so the Israelites could escape from the pursuing enemy Egyptians (Exodus 14:21). In the wilderness God used the wind to bring the blessing of a harvest of quail for His hungering people (Numbers 11:31). God heard the prayer of Elijah and blew in rain to refresh the droughted land (1 Kings 18:44-45). Like the wind, the Holy Spirit brings tremendous blessing to the believer. The Spirit brings the blessing of the presence of God.

Fourth, the wind of God is powerful. Elijah was God’s instrument to defeat the prophets of Baal. But after the victory Elijah ran in fear from Jezebel and grew depressed. The Lord got his attention by sending a mighty wind that tore into the mountain where he was standing (1 Kings 19:11). The Lord got Elijah’s attention with a mighty wind. Then He spoke to him with a still small voice.

The power of wind can come in a sudden gust. Wind can begin in a small funnel that builds in strength. There were only about 120 disciples gathered in the Upper Room. They were obediently praying for the Promise of the Father. God habitually uses small things, small groups to manifest His might and power. His does this to make clear the Source of His power.

The power bestowed at Pentecost has had worldwide influence. There have been miraculous healings and prophetic fulfillments. Societal wrongs righted and darkness dispelled by the light of the Lord. The power of the Spirit has moved on people to build hospitals, schools, and bring societal order. But the most significant impact has been the piercing of the heart of sinful humanity with the truth of the Gospel. Millions of souls saved. Myriad disciples made. The Spirit breathed God’s revelation truth in an eternally relevant Book, the Bible. “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away” (Mat. 24:35). Such power is a category infinity in wind strength!

Fifth, wind is invisible but real. Jesus used the wind to illustrate the Holy Spirit cannot be seen (John 3:8). To this day with all our scientific advances meteorologists still have difficulty calculating the wind. You don’t see the wind coming. You don’t know it’s there until it touches you. You may not see the Spirit, but He is always there.

Sixth, wind can be used by God to shake us up.  A hurricane can be a frightening experience. On the ocean wind can make waves that change a comfortable voyage into a perilous ocean venture.  It was a mighty wind sent by God that shook the ship Jonah was in and stopped him from his rebellious retreat (cf. also Psalm 107:25-30). Jesus can calm the storms in our lives (Matthew 8:26). Storms caused by the winds of God are meant to lead us to Him. The Holy Spirit can use windstorms in life to wake us from spiritual lethargy.

But Satan can kick up storms too. He is limited by God. But he can wreak havoc nonetheless. It was a mighty wind in the book of Job that destroyed the house where Job’s children were dining and killed them all (Job 1:18-19). Where the wind is from is important for us to discern. The powerful wind in Job brought a severe trial. The powerful wind of the Spirit brings power to serve and witness for the glory of God. God can use all things for good (Rom. 8:28). That is a powerful statement when you think it through.

Seventh, wind moves things. It is the wind that blows into the sails of a ship and moves it (Acts 27:7, 13-18). Even though people can be big and sluggish like ships the wind of the Spirit can move them. A sailing ship without wind is dead in the water. Without the Spirit we can’t move. The Holy Spirit is able to move the unmovable. The Holy Spirit is able to drive us to our destination.

Eight, wind blows away the chaff. Chaff is the discarded outer portion of wheat. Those who harvested wheat took the cut stalks to a threshing floor where they beat them until the kernels of wheat separated from the outer skin. The threshed wheat was then tossed into the air so the wind would blow away the chaff. Chaff symbolically is a type of sin. It represents that which is unwanted, superficial, lightweight, spiritually.  The Spirit blows away ungodly refuse in our lives (cf. Psalm 1).

Ninth, wind is a sign of the Spirit bringing life. In the book of Ezekiel, the prophet Ezekiel is brought “in the Spirit” to a place where he sees a vision of a valley of dry bones. God directs Ezekiel to prophesy over the dry bones. When Ezekiel obeys a wind comes from God and breathes life into the dead bones (Ezek. 37:1-14). Just as this prophetic vision pictures God sending a wind to bring life to dead Israel in captivity, so too does the Holy Spirit come as a wind upon Christians who have been trying to minister and serve in their own strength. The wind of the Spirit is a symbol of bringing life to that which was dead or dying. When the wind of the Spirit blows He brings new life to the unsaved and refreshing to those out of breath.

R.A. Torrey said, “A real revival is a time of quickening or impartation of life. . . . Only God can impart life, therefore, a revival is a time when God visits His people, and by the power of His Holy Spirit, imparts new life to them, then through them imparts life to sinners dead in trespasses and sins.” [1] Revival is the Spirit blowing and bringing life to that which is out of breath or dead. We need a breath of fresh air from the Spirit. We need a holy breeze from the Holy Spirit. We need the mighty rushing wind of the Spirit to blow again.  Join me in making that our prayer.

[1] R.A. Torrey, The Power of Prayer and the Prayer of Power, (Alachua, FL: Bridge –Logos, 2009) p. 218.

Friday, July 6, 2012

The Baptism with the Holy Spirit is for us today.

Some say that the Baptism with the Holy Spirit was only for the beginning of the church. However when we look at Acts 2:39 it states, “For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.” This is echoed by R.A. Torrey, prominent Bible teacher of old who stated, “The baptism with the Holy Spirit is for every child of God in every age of the Church’s history. If it is not ours in experimental possession, it is because we have not taken what God has provided for us in our exalted Savior . . . .” [1]

When we bypass the empowerment of the Holy Spirit we rely on our own “persuasive words of human wisdom.” Instead we should seek the Spirit’s empowerment so that we can serve our Lord appropriately “in demonstration of the Spirit and of power” (1 Cor.2:4). That is the pattern laid down by the apostle Paul in scripture.

But how can we obtain this baptism with the Holy Spirit? In his book The Baptism with the Holy Spirit, R.A. Torrey puts forth seven steps to help us receive the baptism with the Holy Spirit. He bases these steps primarily on Acts 2:38 where it states, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”  Torrey points out that the force of the word “receive” here is to take. [2] The baptism with the Holy Spirit is there for the taking. But there is a sequence, a chronology to follow. Torrey’s steps first take the person separated from God by sin to salvation. Then second, he takes us to the fullness of the Spirit’s empowerment.  
First, repent changing your mind about Christ. The context shows people were “cut to the heart” and convicted about their role in crucifying Jesus. The first step is to change from a Christ-crucifying attitude to a Christ-accepting attitude. We are seeing more and more of a Christ-crucifying attitude in the world today. Sinners need to accept Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. You must be born again (Jn. 3:1-7) and regenerated (Titus 3:4-7) by the Spirit before or concurrent with (Acts 10:44-45) the baptism with the Holy Spirit. The first step is that Jesus must be received as Savior and Lord (Rom. 10:9-10; Gal. 2:16).

 Second, repent renouncing all sin. There must be a change of mind about sin. A person must go from a sin-loving or sin-indulging attitude to a sin-hating, sin-renouncing attitude (1 John 2:1-6; 3:6-9).  Ask God to do a deep search of your heart (Psalm 139:23-24). Don’t be quick to think there is no sin in you (1 Jn. 1:8, 10).Get alone with the Lord and ask Him to search your heart. If He doesn’t bring anything to mind, move on (Rom. 8:1-2). That which is not from faith is sin (Rom. 14:23; cf. also Ps. 66:18; Is. 59:2; Hab. 1:13).  

Third, openly confess your renunciation of sin. “Baptism” is a symbol of humility and open confession of our sin and renouncing of it (1 Jn. 1:9). We are not saved by baptism. Salvation is a gift of God’s grace received through faith in Christ (Eph. 2:8-9). We can be saved without being baptized like the thief on the cross (Luke 23:39-43). But baptism is an outward expression of an inward work of God in us. We are buried with Christ in baptism dying to the old sinful life. We are raised to newness of life (Rom. 6:1-4). God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble (Ps. 51:17; 1 Pet. 5:6). Baptism is a statement of humility. Jesus was baptized though He was free of sin (Mat. 3:16-17). If sinless Jesus was baptized, how much more should we be baptized?

Fourth, obey. In Acts 5:32 it states the Holy Spirit is given to those who obey. Obedience means total surrender to the will of God. Obedience is an attitude of the will. Torrey suggests praying: “Heavenly Father, here I am and all I have. You have bought me with a price and I acknowledge Your absolute ownership. Take me and all I have, and do with me whatsoever You will. Send me where You want; [keep me where You want]; use me as You will. I surrender myself and all I possess absolutely, unconditionally, forever to Your control and use.” E.g. like a burnt offering – Lev. 9:24; compare with Rom. 12:1-2). [3] Don’t hold back from total surrender due to fear of what God will do with you. God loves us and will only do what is best for us (Ps. 84:11; Rom. 8:31-32). Manifestation by the Spirit is according to the Spirit’s will and for the profit of all (1 Cor. 12:6-7). There is no better place to be than in God’s hands.

 Fifth, have a sincere intense desire; “thirst.” You must have a heartfelt thirst for the Baptism with the Holy Spirit (Luke 11:13; e.g. Thirst – Is. 44:3). Have pure motives. Don’t seek to build yourself up or bring attention to yourself or serve your own purposes. Seek only to glorify God even if it means you serve in obscurity. (E.g. Acts 8:18-24).
Sixth, ask in prayer. We need to do “definitely asking for a definite blessing”[4] (Luke 11:13). God has promised to give the Holy Spirit to the one who asks for Him. Ask in prayer.

Seventh, “Believe that you receive.” We need to ask in faith without wavering (Mark 11:24; James 1:5-6; Heb. 4:6; 11:6). When we purchase property we gain the property in two steps. First you sign the papers; then you actually step on the property. Similarly, we pray for the baptism with the Holy Spirit and receive it by faith. But the manifestation and power may not be evident until we step out in faith and serve. If we know and believe that the baptism with the Holy Spirit is God’s will, then we can ask confidently and receive in faith (1 John 5:14-15).

 There is no reason to wait to be baptized with the Holy Spirit. You will have to wait only if you have not met one of the above steps. If you have met the steps you won’t have to wait. Pentecost is the only time anyone waited for the Baptism with the Holy Spirit in order to fulfill the purpose of the Feast of Pentecost. There is ample proof that waiting is not necessary (e.g. Acts 4:31; 8:15, 17; 9:17, 20; 10:44-46; 19:6). And if we don’t need to wait, why not take time to pray the prayer of faith and ask the Father for His promise of the Spirit right now?  

[1] R.A. Torrey, The Baptism with the Holy Spirit (Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Pub. 1972). Pg. 34
[2] R.A. Torrey, Ibid. pg. 34
[3] R.A. Torrey, The Baptism with the Holy Spirit (Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Pub. 1972). Pg. 44
[4] R.A. Torrey, The Baptism with the Holy Spirit (Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Pub. 1972). Pg. 51

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Errors Associated with the Baptism with the Holy Spirit

The baptism with the Holy Spirit is an important promise from God. It is the means by which believers are empowered to serve our Lord. Serving or attempting to serve our Lord in our own strength results in frustration, futility, fruitlessness and ultimate failure. This reflects poorly on us as Christians and our Lord Jesus. An example of this are those who incite confrontations with impaled pig’s heads on poles at Muslim events, or banners with gay slurs at homosexual events. This is “ministry” in man’s flesh plain and simple. It’s important to minister in the leading and power of the Spirit. Otherwise we risk doing more harm than good.

There are a number of errors associated with the baptism with the Holy Spirit. The prime error is associating the baptism with the Holy Spirit with conversion. This undermines the seeking of God’s promise of power (Luke 24:49; Acts 1:4-5). And if we set aside the baptism with the Holy Spirit thinking it is merely something every Christian receives at conversion, the result is Christians seeking to serve the Lord ignorantly in their own strength. The consequence of such teaching is too often pigs heads impaled on poles in the name of the Lord.

The disciples in Acts were born again (John 20:22) and told to tarry until they received the empowering baptism with the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:4-5, 8). They needed to be empowered by the Spirit before they launched out to fulfill the Great Commission. The baptism with the Holy Spirit is a subsequent work of the Spirit received by faith (Acts 15:8-9). It is for us today (Acts 2:39).  

There are other errors associated with the baptism with the Holy Spirit. Some mistakenly think that everyone baptized with the Holy Spirit will speak in tongues. Speaking in tongues is a viable spiritual gift, but not everyone speaks in tongues. At Pentecost those baptized with the Holy Spirit did speak in tongues, but there were other gifts operant there as well. Peter demonstrated the spiritual gifts of evangelism, prophecy, and teaching to name a few. These are frequently glanced over while tongues are overemphasized.

In Acts 8 when believers are baptized with the Holy Spirit there is no mention of their speaking in tongues. The apostle Paul specifically states not everyone speaks in tongues (1 Cor. 12:30). Thinking that speaking in tongues is the sole evidence of the baptism with the Holy Spirit leads to confusion about this gifting. The true evidence of being baptized with the Spirit is empowerment for service. That service is rooted in and motivated by the love of the Spirit (Rom. 5:5; 2 Cor. 5:14).

Another error is confusing our calling with our spiritual gifting. The Holy Spirit empowers and gifts according to His calling on a person. Calling involves the “ministries . . . diversities of activities” (1 Cor. 12:5-6). Calling involves the particular circumstances we are sovereignly placed in by the Lord. Calling is where the Spirit determines you are to serve. Gifting is the enablement through which the Spirit empowers you to serve. God’s calling is connected with His gifting. If He calls us to be an evangelist, He will give us the spiritual gift of evangelist. If He calls us to be a pastor-teacher, He will give us the spiritual gift of pastor-teacher. If He calls us to be a doctor, He will give spiritual gifts vital to making us a Christlike doctor. But the Spirit calls us and places us where He wants, not where we want. Wherever we are, we are on a mission for the Lord.

Disappointment is another error and is based on thinking that everyone baptized with the Holy Spirit will be an evangelist. Evangelism is one of a number of spiritual gifts (1 Cor. 12:8-10). We need to serve where the Spirit puts us and with the enabling spiritual gifts He gives. We are all called to share the gospel. Some will be called as evangelists. Others may be gifted with wisdom, knowledge, helps, mercy, and other spiritual gifts to do this. There are some who are particularly gifted by the Spirit in leading others to Christ. Every spiritual gift is aimed at building up the body of Christ. The Spirit determines how we are to be plugged in and used.
Presumption is another error. It is often rooted in pride. It can be the product of frustration. It is most commonly seen in the thought that preaching or teaching is the only manifestation or gift associated with the baptism with the Holy Spirit. The Spirit determines the calling and gifting of a person (1 Cor. 12:11). We can desire the greater gifts, but it is the Holy Spirit who sovereignly decides our calling and gifting (1 Cor. 12:11, 31). Full surrender of motives is essential. There is nothing worse or more discrediting to the Lord and the church than a person presumptuously “called.” It only leads to problems.

The story is told of a farmer who was planting in his fields. He was a new Christian and was hoping to be led out of what he viewed as the drudgery of his work. As he plowed one particularly hot and humid day he paused and looked up. In the sky he saw clouds form the letters “PC.” He thought to himself, PC, God is calling be to Preach Christ! Thank God I can leave this wretched business of farming.

This farmer turned preacher proceeded to lead a most frustrating and fruitless ministry. He slogged on through divisions and continual difficulties in ministry. Nothing seemed to go his way. He was beset with frustrations and little joy in his task. His family eventually forsook him as did his flock. Finally, he came to the end of the road and passed away.

 At the Pearly Gates Peter met him. As part of the orientation to heaven there was a Question and Answer time. The farmer asked Peter, “You know Peter, I was once in the fields plowing and saw the letters ‘PC” and answered God’s call to preach Christ. I was obedient to the heavenly calling. But my life was filled with fruitlessness and frustrating failure. Why wasn’t the blessing of the Lord on my ministry?” Peter looked into the farmer’s records. “Hmmm,” Peter said. “Yes, I see how God heard your cries and gave you a message in the clouds. Yes, He put ‘PC’ in the clouds. But He was telling you to Plant Corn not preach Christ! God wanted you to minister to the physical needs of people as a means to open the door to the Gospel.” Have you superimposed your desires in a calling that never came from God? Beware of that! Where the Spirit guides, the Spirit gifts! And it is His sovereign decision in all of it.

Lastly, there is the error of indifference. There are those who assume that the baptism with the Holy Spirit is only for those in “ministry.” R.A. Torrey explains,  “a mother with a large family of children [thinks] . . . that the baptism with the Holy Spirit simply imparts power to preach, it is a matter of no personal concern to them. But when we come to see the truth that while the baptism with the Spirit imparts power, the way in which that power will be manifested depends upon the work to which God has called us and no efficient work can be done without it. Then the mother will see that she equally with the preacher needs this baptism – needs it for that most important and hallowed of all work, to bring up her children ‘in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.’”[1] We all need to be baptized with the Holy Spirit.

 Jesus was anointed with the power of the Spirit before He began His ministry (Acts 10:38; Luke 3:21, 22). After the Spirit descended on Jesus, He successfully resisted the temptations of the devil (Luke 4:1-13). Later He declared the Spirit of God was upon Him to preach (Luke 4:14-21). Jesus was empowered by the Spirit to minister. We are to follow in His steps (1 Pet. 2:21; 1 Jn. 2:6).

It is better to “tarry” or wait for the baptism with the Holy Spirit before we try to serve in our own anemic strength. In our own strength we will misrepresent God as weak and failing. While we wait, “The world is no loser. When the power came [on the apostles and disciples] they . . .  accomplished more in one day than they would have accomplished in years if they had gone on in presumptuous disobedience to Christ’s charge. We also, after we have received the baptism with the Holy Spirit, will accomplish more in one day than we ever would in years without His power.” [2] Tarry in your Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high.

[1] R.A. Torrey, The Baptism with the Holy Spirit (Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Pub. 1972). Pgs. 22-23

[2] R.A. Torrey, The Baptism with the Holy Spirit (Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Pub. 1972). Pgs. 31-32