In parts 1 and 2 I reviewed my upbringing (or a lack thereof) with the Holy Spirit and then gave a short testimony of my experience with the Spirit in my early twenties. In part 3 I will now lay out a fast forward version of the history of the Spirit in the Bible and share some verses and deductive reasoning that has led me to take the position on the baptism of the Spirit as I do today: the baptism of the Spirit is a separate event apart from simply just saying a prayer where you invite Jesus into your heart.
The Spirit of God is found throughout the whole bible. It’s even in the very first book, Genesis. In the third sentence of Genesis it says that at the time the world was in it’s infancy of creation “the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.”
We find that throughout the Old Testament the Spirit was a real entity and indeed at work and active within individuals. But, during this time in Biblical history the Spirit only came upon certain people for certain periods of time and for certain special roles – like to help a king rule a nation (I Samuel 10) or to write the Old Testament books and give prophecy (II Peter 1:19-21). In the Old Testament the Spirit could stay with or leave an individual at will. His ever-abiding presence that we experience now at believers in Jesus was not a guarantee back then. The Spirits presence could be conditional for many reasons. Furthermore, the Spirit was not available to everyone. It was only given out to a few privileged people as God willed. And even when it was given out their were times where only an apportioned amount would be given out as in the example with Moses and seventy other elders (Numbers 11:17-25). The Spirit also rested on these folks in the Old Testament: Joshua (Deut. 34.9), Samson (Judges 14-15), King David (1 Samuel 16), Gideon (Judges 6), and some random dude named Othniel (Judges 3).
For those who did receive the Spirit in the Old Testament the Bible records that many of them had a tangible experience with when they received it – i.e seventy elders prophesying, Samson receiving supernatural strength, etc.
My favorite example of the tangibility of the Spirit is when a guy named Saul was told that He was going to be King over Israel. After Saul was anointed with oil the prophet Samuel gave instructions and said to him, “And there, as soon as you come to the city, you will meet a group of prophets coming down from the high place with harp, tambourine, flute, and lyre before them, prophesying. Then the Spirit of the Lord will rush upon you, and you will prophesy with them and be turned into another man.” 1 Samuel 10
Saul followed Samuel’s instructions and everything that was prophesied over Saul came true. Saul had a very strong tangible experience as he received the Holy Spirit. I resonate with this passage as well. It felt like as I too was turned into another person when I was baptized in the Spirit in college. I haven’t been the same since.
As we continue to move through the Old Testament we find some prophetic passages referring to an outpouring of Spirit that was still yet to come. As wonderful as it was for the Spirit to rest on a few special people in the Old Testament those examples would be nothing compared to the outpouring of the Spirit that would come during the time of God’s Messiah.
One prophet named Joel wrote this about the coming of Messiah and how it related to the Spirit of God, “”It will come about after this That I will pour out My Spirit on all mankind; And your sons and daughters will prophesy, Your old men will dream dreams, Your young men will see visions. Even on the male and female servants I will pour out My Spirit in those days.” (Joel 2:28-29)
The prophet Joel wrote about the day when the Spirit of God would be poured out on all people. And, what is important to note, it’s pretty clear from this foretelling that there will be some evidence when the Spirit had been poured out on the people – they would prophesy, dream, and have visions. I’d call that a tangible experience with the Spirit!
Thus far I’ve presented that the Spirit was present throughout the Old Testament. It was present at the beginning at creation, functioned in lives of a few chosen people to do certain special roles and tasks, onset of which was usually recorded with an accompanying tangible experience, and when prophesied about it was foretold that there would be future time when a pouring out onto all people would occur and be accompanied by tangible signs.
There is so much focus on the Holy Spirit in the New Testament that one could make a case that it should be renamed to the “Testament of the Spirit”. For example, the Old Testament is three times as large as the New Testament yet the New Testament references the Spirit of God at least three times as much as the Old.
Rather than just briefly testifying to work of the Spirit, as the Old Testament only does, the New Testament gives us multiple large passages of scripture that reveals specifics to who the Spirit is, what He does, how to receive Him, how to commune with Him, and how to walk in it (John 14-17, Romans 8, the whole book of Acts, I Cor. 12-14, just to name a few). Let’s continue our fast-forward synopsis of the Spirit.
JESUS AND THE SPIRIT
The coming of Jesus is the reason we call the New Testament the New Testament. It’s God’s new and completely different way of communicating and having relationship with His people. I like how the author of the book of Hebrews puts it in Chapter one, “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son [Jesus].
Most mainstream believers agree that Jesus was fully God at birth and fully human at the same time – a paradoxical dichotomy that Christians are told to wholeheartedly embrace. We don’t know much about the Jesus’s early life. We have one little passage in the book of Luke that says that when Jesus was a twelve He stayed in the temple and was listening and asking questions of the teachers. And then after that there is nothing about Him until we see Him going down to meet John the Baptist to get water baptized.
Following Jesus’s baptism in water the Bible says the Spirit of God descended on Him. And BAM! Right after that Jesus’s life completely changed and His ministry began in going about doing good and healing all those who were under the power of the devil (Acts 10:38).
A little point I like to bring out from this story is that although he was Lord and creator of the universe, the King of Kings, even Lord at humble His birth, He did nothing, and perhaps could do nothing, until He had a personal experience with the Holy Spirit. So, what we see is that even Jesus Himself was baptized/immersed in the Holy Spirit. We’ll see later that this is the same instructions He gave to His disciples following his death as well.
A point to consider: If Jesus was Lord at His birth then shouldn’t He have already been able to do whatever he needed to do with just the power He had in Himself as God incarnate? But, the fact that Jesus himself needed to be baptized with the Spirit indicates to us that there is clearly something more going on within the mechanics of the trinity then just assuming each member can do anything independent of each other. All three have to work in tandem, just as Jesus said, “Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.” (John 5:19).
This immersion, or baptism in the Spirit is very important – so important that even Jesus, Lord over all creation, needed Himself. Wow!
Jesus also had tangible outward characteristics after being filled with the Spirit. Only after receiving the Spirit did He formally begin His ministry which was highlighted by using the power and presence of the Spirit to heal diseases and cast out demons (Matthew 12:22-28). He was basically ineffective and unequipped until He had the Spirit.
MORE TO COME
The New Testament also speaks a soon-to-come work that Jesus would do regarding the Spirit.
John the Baptist was out baptizing folks in water months before Jesus came to him for Himself to be water baptized. The Bible says that John’s ministry was one of compelling people to confess their sins, turn away from them and do good, and to be water baptized. But, ALSO, he was preaching that there was another person coming that was going to baptize them…baptize them yes, but not with water:
“I baptize you with water. But one who is more powerful than I will come, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” – Luke 3:16
Herein John says that the Messiah will be doing a special work within people. He would be baptizing and immersing people in the Spirit. But what would this baptism look like if it wasn’t in water? How exactly was this going to happen? We’ll see soon…
Jesus said a bunch of things about the Spirit while He taught on earth. But we must continue our fast forward review of the New Testament so let’s push on.
I will quickly mention that John chapters 14-17 are a treasure trove about the coming promise of the Spirit and what it would do in our lives. In these verses Jesus promised that after His death He would send the Spirit to live with us. In fact, he said, “for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. “ John 16:7
AFTER JESUS’S RESURRECTION
Jesus died on the cross God and raised Him from the dead. After He rose again He first appeared to a bunch of people and then eventually returned back to the heavenly realm.
But, before He left He gave instructions and said, “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” Acts 1:4-5. He went on to say, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” Acts 1:8.
Just as Jesus did nothing till He had been baptized with the Spirit by John the Baptist, the disciples too were also instructed to do nothing until they had the same baptism.
So, that’s what the disciples did. They waited and prayed.
After weeks of waiting the Holy Spirit finally came as Acts chapter two details:
“When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. 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.
Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken. Utterly amazed, they asked: “Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language? Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs—we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!” Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?” Some, however, made fun of them and said, “They have had too much wine.” Acts 2:1-13
Each disciple was filled with the Spirit. When this happened they spilled out of the room they were meeting in, rather drunkenly according to the text, and stumbled out into the streets in joy. As they were doing so they were speaking in tongues. In this particular example the tongues they were either speaking in foreign languages that folks in the streets could understand, or they are speaking in a heavenly language in which the bystanders were miraculously able to hear in their own languages. It’s important to note that in other examples found in the New Testament this “tongue speaking” shows itself in non-recognizable languages, i.e. languages that no person can understand – like as referenced in I Corinthians 14:2.
The people in the streets noticed that these people were acting unusal and even accused them of being drunk.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve been around a lot of drunken people, including myself at times. We’re loud, boisterous, stumbling, happy, emotional….those are some of the things I think about when I think of being drunk. So, if you read the rest of Acts chapter 2 and the mini-sermon that Peter gave to the bystanders after the disciples received the Spirit, read it in the context of someone acting/sounding drunk joyful and happy – just do it for fun. It takes the seriousness and sometimes boredom out of the Bible.
Do you remember in part 2 when I cited Joel’s prophesy of the Spirit being poured out when Messiah comes? Well, if you go ahead and continue to read the sermon Peter gave after they stumbled out into the streets in Acts chapter 2 and you’ll see that He directly quotes that passage from Joel. And specifically, Peter says that what the bystanders were hearing and seeing was the tangible evidence of what Joel was talking about – the Spirit of God being poured on all flesh.
Acts 2:33 also says that the bystanders were seeing and hearing the Holy Spirit being poured out., “Exalted to the right hand of God, He has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear.” (Emphasis mine). Clearly this was a tangible experience. People were able to see and hear the real presence of the Spirit.
These disciple they were acting drunk. Maybe they were raising their hands to the sky in praise. Maybe they had tears of joy streaming down their faces. They certainly weren’t standing around looking all pious with their hands folded neatly! They were speaking in weird languages “declaring the wonders of God”.
Peter said that their speaking in tongues, praising God, acting drunk-ish, was all tangible evidence to the observers that indeed the Spirit had been poured out and now indwelled them. This was the baptism the John the Baptist was talking about in Luke 3:16, “I baptize you with water. But one who is more powerful than I will come, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”
So we see, just as it was in the Old Testament, an outward tangible sign accompanied when the Spirit was received. The disciples who met in the upper room following Jesus’s death were born again believers. Their sins were forgiven. The had inherited eternal life through faith in Jesus. However, they did not have the baptism of the Spirit. And, when they did receive it, they knew they had it!
THE GOSPEL MESSAGE THAT PETER PREACHED – THE INDWELLING OF THE SPIRIT
After the street folks saw this “Spirit” event happened the Bible records Peter’s giving an impromptu sermon. In verse 37 of Acts chapter two it says that they heard Peter’s words and were moved in their hearts. They basically were saying, “I agree with what you said, what should we do about this?” Peter instructs them in verse 38-39 to have a change of heart toward God (repent), to be water baptized so their sins would be forgiven, and then, the biggie, they too would receive the Holy Spirit.
Now, I need to stop here because what I just wrote really goes counter to what I’ve normally heard people teach from this passage. Peter didn’t say that if they repented and got baptized in water that they would then go to heaven. Nor did he say they would receive eternal life. I do agree that both of those aspects were true results of coming to faith in Jesus, but listen closely to what Peter said,
“Peter replied, “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. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.” (Acts 2:38-39)
He said that if they did these things that they too would receive the promised gift of the Holy Spirit. The same Spirit that the disciples had received moments before! And logically, they would receive it and experience it in the same way. And why wouldn’t they? For it was the very outward tangible experience of the baptism of the Spirit that the bystanders saw which made them first ever stop and take note of what was happening!
To paraphrase Acts 2:37-38, Peter basically says, “Guys, if you’ll have a change in heart toward God and be baptized in water for your sins to be washed away you will get the same thing we just got!” –
Amazing! It’s a very different message than what I got from the church and different from what most preachers offer today.
In verse 41 it says that about 3000 folks took Peter up on His offer and were baptized. No, doesn’t say specifically how or what manifestations were measurable when they received the baptism of the Holy Spirit. However, when I read verses 38-39 that we just went over it is very clear to me that receiving the Holy Spirit was the very purpose for which Peter gave the offer. There no mention of salvation from hell, not that a salvation from hell wasn’t in the grand picture, but the invitation was to receive the Spirit. That fact is undeniable.
So, just because it’s not written in verse 40 specifically I would make the case that it just simply wasn’t mentioned because it is a no-brainer – the Spirit was the “thing” the bystanders noticed when the apostles were acting drunk and speaking in tongues, and the Spirit is the very thing that Peter promised that the bystanders would receive if the repented and were baptized. It’s that simple.
He told them furthermore that the promise of the Spirit was for them, their children, and to all those a far-off (verse 39) indicating that this gift is available to any who should come to believe. Which includes us today.
The very first message the apostles gave publicly after Jesus’s death was a message encouraging people to experience the baptism of the Holy Spirit. If you read Acts 2 and Peters message without the traditional evangelical glasses on, and read it objectively, I think you’ll come to the same conclusion. The Holy Spirit had come, it was eager to reside in the heart of believer to share relationship and intimacy with God, and it was accompanied with a tangible out flow just as Jesus said it would: “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive…” (John 7:38-39 ESV).
RECEIVING THE SPIRIT
Mainline Protestants support the teaching that the Holy Spirit resides in the believer. They also support the notion that there is a “baptism in the Spirit”. However, as I mentioned in Part 1, what they debate is exactly how, when, and what is looks like when one receives the baptism.
Acts chapter two makes it undeniably clear that the baptism in the Spirit took place many weeks after the disciples first believed and became saved. However, many church leaders deny that there is a second blessing that comes after your initial faith. They always cite the same fist full of reasons for why they believe this to be the case to which we will go over in the last blog post. But, here is how they usually deal with Acts chapter two:
Yes, the twelve apostles and the other gathered together in the upper room did have a separate event of being filled with the Spirit. However, this is no longer the case. When it fell on the folks in the upper room the Holy Spirit had not yet been sent by Jesus. It wasn’t sent until weeks after His resurrection. That is why the disciples had to receive it days after they had already believed in Jesus.
And in turn, since the Spirit was sent by Jesus 2000 years ago anyone who comes to believe in Jesus now also immediately receives the baptism of the Spirit simultaneously. Because we are living in the post-acts chapter two era, and Spirit has been sent, both the baptism of the Spirit and salvation are synonymous with each other. The Spirit automatically rushes in and fills the believer, in full, at the exact moment they come to believe – no exceptions. (I referenced this theology in Part 1 when I specifically mentioned Billy Graham and his application of this during his crusades)
This explanation would be plausible if when we continued to read the book of Acts we also saw all new believers receive the Spirit right away. But, this is absolutely not the case. There are two other times in the Book of Acts where Spirit in fact does NOT fall on the believer at the time they believe. They are explicitly recorded as separate events. We will explore those instances in the next two posts.
Because of that I continue to hold to the belief that with the indwelling of the Spirit comes additionally a tangible reality that is clearly visible/audible to the individual and to others. We saw that happen in the Old Testament with Saul when he prophesied along with the other prophets, we saw it in the Gospels with Jesus when he starting His public ministry via casting out demons and healing the sick in the power of the Spirit, and we saw it here in Acts chapter two when the disciples in the upper room received the Spirit and then spilled out into the street like drunkards only to declare the wonders of God in foreign tongues. That to me is enough evidence to endorse the idea that there is some sort of tangible evidence when a believer receives the Holy Spirit.
I’ve also come to believe that speaking in tongues is the probably the easiest way of confirming receipt of the Spirit. I do leave some room open to believe that tongues is not necessarily the only way for confirmation, but I do lead with tongues when I am personally helping and encouraging someone to receive the baptism of the Spirit. Tongues seems to be the easiest manifestation of the Spirit’s indwelling presence to draw out. It’s main purpose is to bring personal intimacy with God that builds up and edifies the individuals faith (I Corinthians 14, Jude 20). It is the only gift that the Apostle Paul says can be used outside of the church for personal edification. All the other gifts are intended to serve others.
Perhaps the most compelling reason to encourage tongues as evidence of the baptism of the Spirit is that it is the only spiritual gift Jesus specifically mentions as a sign for those who would later come to believe in Him:
“Later Jesus appeared to the Eleven as they were eating; he rebuked them for their lack of faith and their stubborn refusal to believe those who had seen him after he had risen. He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well.” (Mark 16:14-16).
So, yes, I do believe in a separate, post-salvation event, when one receives the Spirit and is manifested in a way that is tangible both to the individual and to others. Tongues is a good indicator of the baptism and is the outward flow and tangibility that can be experienced both individually and as a witness to others.
When the Spirit falls on you will know that something is different. And that difference will be tangible.
Apart from the evangelical reasoning of Act chapter two, there are more reasons why people argue against a tangible expression as a proof of receiving the Spirit. I am intimately familiar with most of them. I will address those in the last blog. But for now, I’m going to continue in this series with the conviction that receiving the Holy Spirit also brings with it some form of outward tangibility.
ACTS AS OUR GUIDE, NOT THE EPISTLES
My experience in the evangelical church mostly ignored the Book of Acts. Their main focus were on the rest of the New Testament books the followed Acts (Galatians, Romans, Ephesians, etc.) with an overall emphasis on showing our need to live holy sinless lives so we are pleasing to God as we wait for His return.
However, one thing never occurred to me. All of the books written after the Book of Acts were written to churches that had already beem established. They were written to believers that had already received the Spirit during their conversion (see Ephesians 1:13 and/or I John 3:34). Those books speak much on the dynamics of churches that were already established and functioning, but they give very little account to the process by which the Spirit entered into a believer’s life.
Only in the book of Acts do we find a detailed record of what the conversion experience was actually like. And, most importantly for the sake of this blog series, it is the only place where we see the processes of how conversion happened. This is why I believe that the Book of Acts is the most authoritative book for defining what how salvation was first presented and how is was followed through in conversion.
As I mentioned, the traditional belief by most mainline Protestants is that the Spirit comes at the time when a person puts their whole faith into Jesus and is in turn born again. For them they believe the process happens automatically. The baptism of the Spirit is not up to the believer, and is NOT a separate experience and has outward tangibility. It’s all inward and most intangible.
Lets see what the rest of the book of Acts has to say about this intangible baptism in the Spirit.
On to Part 4…
*As always, I’d love to hear what’s on your mind so please drop your thoughts in the comment section below!