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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

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