In my 5-part blog, “Holy Spirit? Never heard of the Guy“, I laid out my case in support of an event called the baptism of the Holy Spirit. While most Christians will affirm this event in a general sense, there is however a fundamental disagreement on when exactly this baptism takes place, and what signifies it.
As I covered in that blog series, the majority of conservative evangelical churches teach that a person automatically (and unavoidably) receives the fullness of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit at the exact instant they turn to God and put faith in Jesus. They are instructed to believe this event already automatically happened when they first turned to God, even if they didn’t feel or notice anything different taking place during their conversion and subsequent everyday life. The Catholic Church and most Protestant denominations affirm that when a person first receives the Holy Spirit the phenomenon occurs as an intangible event—there is no way to know you have received it, there are no outward signs, and there is certainly no discernable sign that this event has happened. A new believer simply believes in Jesus by faith, and as they do so God also simultaneously gives them the Holy Spirit in that very moment (Catholics and Lutherans believe that Christians receive the Holy Spirit intangibly, but that the reception of the Spirit occurs when a priest water baptizes the individual during the conversion process—the majority of other protestant denominations affirm it occurs via putting faith in Jesus as a voluntary choice).
In that 5-part Holy Spirit blog series, we walked through most of the examples in scripture in which people received the Holy Spirit. What we noticed in these examples was that when one received the Spirit, both in the Old and New Testaments, its presence was most often accompanied by an outward tangible sign. Additionally, although the Spirit can fill a person at the exact time of a person’s initial conversion (i.e., Acts 10), it also can come as a separate experience (i.e., Acts 2, Acts 8, Acts 19). And lastly, we saw that when the Spirit did come and fill someone in the New Testament both the person who received it, and the one who had been helping to minister the baptism of the Spirit, were able to perceive and confirm that He had been received. When people in the Bible received the Sprit, there was no doubt that something measurable had taken place at Its reception.
So likewise, it makes sense that for believers today we too ought to expect and receive the Spirit in the same way as those who in the biblical record did.
NO PROBLEM FOR SOME, BIG PROBLEM FOR OTHERS
For those who haven’t had as much teaching from the pulpit surrounding the baptism of the Holy Spirit, I’ve found it rather easy to walk someone through the scriptures and have them come to a similar conclusion. For them, the concept is not that big of a deal. Why? Simply because they haven’t received much teaching against receiving the Holy Spirit and have not yet been taught by church leaders to reject a secondary/companion experience with God. And, of these same folks who have become interested in pursuing the baptism of the Spirit, perhaps months or years after their initial conversation, many do indeed receive It and enjoy the many accompanying benefits.
But for others, especially those who come from the more conservative evangelical branches of the faith, this viewpoint is met with sharp objection. This is because these particular churches teach that:
- if a person does not have the Holy Spirit, then a person cannot even be a Christian and be “saved”
- they have been told for so many years by pastors and Bible study leaders that they already received the Sprit when they first believed, there is nothing more to be experienced, and it becomes insulting to even suggest that they do not have the Spirit or Its baptism.
- the church has taught them that they already have had the silent intangible baptism of the Spirit, but just that God doesn’t use/give spiritual gifts as He once did during the early church. All of those gifts, like speaking in tongues, died out once the apostles completed writing the New Testament and past out. They will say that the best evidence of receiving the Spirit is a transformed life or holy lifestyle.
- still for others, just talking about a tangible manifestation of the Spirit makes them want to puke because they had a bad experience with a certain church or certain individuals that taught/advocated the baptism of the Spirit.
So, clearly, this topic has a reputation for opening up a can of worms with folks who hail from certain theological backgrounds/traditions and/or experiences.
The following points will address some of these objections.
Point 1– Doesn’t scripture teach that if you don’t already possess the Holy Spirit, then you are not truly a Christian?
First of all, the answer to this question is absolutely not. You become a follower of Christ when you turn from your former way of thinking and turn to Jesus and actively put faith in Him as your Lord. As you turn to Him, and continue to follow Him, you stand righteous and acceptable to God. Just as father Abraham and brother Job were made righteous before God through faith absent of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, so also is anyone who calls on God in repentance toward Him.
Secondly, as I covered in the original five-part blog series, Acts chapters 8 and 19 are two clear examples where people are found to be lacking the baptism of the Holy Spirit yet are validated as committed followers and disciples of Jesus. Although ultra-conservative Pentecostals sometimes claim that a person is not saved unless they have had a manifestation with the baptism of the Holy Spirit, these two chapters from scripture show this objection shouldn’t even be considered reasonable.
Point 2- If you say that becoming a believer in Jesus and receiving the Spirit are separate events, how do you explain I Corinthians 12:3 and Romans 8:9? Don’t these passages from scripture plainly teach that I already have the Spirit?
On the surface level, these two passages seem to contradict my premise that the baptism of the Holy Spirit is a separate event from one’s initial conversion. However, let’s take a look at each passage separately.
I Corinthians 12:3: Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking by the Spirit of God ever says “Jesus be cursed!” and no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except by the Holy Spirit. RSV
So then, those who object to my premise say:
If a person believes in their heart that Jesus is Lord, enters into that new relationship of faith and trust in Him, and begins to follow him, how can you say that they don’t already have the Spirit indwelling inside them? Doesn’t this verse say that no one can confess Jesus’s lordship without the indwelling of the Spirit?
My response is: No—I don’t think I Corinthians 12:3 is saying that at all. Understanding this passage comes down to how you define what exactly “except by the Spirit” means.
Consider Matthew 16:16-17 when Jesus asks Simon (Peter) “Who do you say I am?“. Peter’s response was, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”
Now notice Jesus’s reply “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven“
As we see in this excerpt Peter correctly identifies Jesus as Lord/the Christ. And, Jesus specifically tells him that this revelation is not from his own human reasoning, but through assistance via God Himself. Yet, Peter’s accurate confession took place months and potentially years before Peter was even filled and endowed baptism of the Holy Spirit as recorded in Acts chapter 2. If we take I Corinthians 12:3 to mean that one must first have the indwelling of the Spirit before one can acknowledge Jesus’s lordship, then how can we understand Peter’s own revelation of Jesus being the Son of God when He was still absent of the Spirit’s filling?
Consider also the thief on the cross in Luke Chapter 23. He recognized Jesus’s lordship and said, “Jesus, remember me when You come into Your kingdom“. The thief of course did not yet possess the promise of the baptism of the Spirit either, yet this man was successfully able to identify Jesus as Lord and confess Him as such. This revelation must have been revealed to Him by the Holy Spirit apart from the baptism and indwelling of the Spirit as well.
Thereby we see that “except by the Spirit” in Corinthians 12:3 is not saying that one needs to have the baptism and indwelling of Spirit to confess Jesus. Instead, it must be referring to just to the revelation, or opening up of understanding, that the Holy Spirit brings supernaturally to the individual believer upon conversion.
This reveals a simple truth—one does not need to be filled and indwelled with the Spirit in order to be influenced and receive spiritual truth by the Spirit. Even James 2:19 tells us that demons believe and acknowledge that Christ is Lord (albeit they don’t submit their lives to His lordship and are in rebellion), yet of course we wouldn’t make the claim that they too share in the baptism of the Holy Spirit.
Yes, someone can come to revelations of spiritual truth through the leading, influence, and persuasion of the Holy Spirit working in one’s life. And, it can happen apart from the baptism and filling of the Spirit. But, the baptism of the Spirit, that is to say when the Spirit moves from just working with you to actually taking up residence inside you together with your human spirit, is an entirely different event.
Our next verse, Romans 8:9, demands a bit more attention for our discussion.
Romans 8:9 – “You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ.” NIV
I concede that on its surface this verse can throw an existing Christian into a head spin if my premise is to be reasonably considered:
“Are you saying that if I don’t have a manifestation of the Holy Spirit then I don’t have the Spirit at all? If so, then I guess you are saying that I don’t even belong to Christ! And if I don’t ‘belong to Christ then I must be going to hell. RUBBISH! I’ve been a Christian my whole life!”
First, let us remember that the early church handled evangelism, and the subsequent conversion experience(s), VERY VERY differently than what we see in today’s churches. Realizing these stark differences will help us unlock some of the confusion our twenty-first-century brains bring into this verse when we try to read it today.
The book of Acts is clear in how the first-century church evangelized and made disciples of Jesus. The multiple elements that defined the whole of the conversion process were carried out far more rapidly, and in direct succession, than what we see in the church today. We see that very clearly described in the book of *Acts.
*NOTE: One cannot look outside the book of Acts (as when once tries to do when they read Romans 8:9 alone to form an opinion about the Spirit) to define how and what the conversion experience looked. This is precisely due to the fact that the book of Acts is the only book that described and documented the processes and actual events that comprised the sum total of the conversion experience. All the other New Testament books were written to folks well after their initial conversion and were specially written with the purpose of dealing with existing internal/external church issues. The new testament apostolic letters were not written with the intension for people learn about the conversion process and what it exactly entails. Those letters were purely supplemental, written to a group of people who are post-conversion. Therefore, Acts must be our foundational guide concerning what takes place during conversion.
Now, notice in following examples something interesting that they in the early church would do at a person’s conversion. This practice is now nearly non-existent in our churches today:
- When Peter evangelized to thousands of people on Pentecost in Acts chapter 2, verses 40 and 41 tell us that, “And with many other words he solemnly testified and kept on urging them, saying, Be saved from this perverse generation!” So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls.”
- When Phillip evangelized to the Ethiopian eunuch Acts chapter 8 says, “ As they traveled along the road [after just meeting Philip and hearing Him explain the Gospel], they came to some water and the eunuch said, “Look, here is water. What can stand in the way of my being baptized?” And he gave orders to stop the chariot. Then both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water and Philip baptized him.”
- When Peter evangelized at Cornelius’ house in Acts chapter 10 the whole household was baptized in the Holy Spirit right as Peter was talking and began speaking in tongues. What was Peter and His entourage’s response? – “’Surely no one can stand in the way of their being baptized with water. They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have.’ So he ordered that they be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked Peter to stay with them for a few days.”
- When Paul and Silas prayed and worshiped with songs in prison the Philippian jailor invited then to share the Gospel to his whole household. What resulted? “Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house. At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his household were baptized. The jailer brought them into his house and set a meal before them; he was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God—he and his whole household. “
- When Paul shared Jesus to Lydia Acts 16 says, “On the Sabbath we went outside the city gate to the river, where we expected to find a place of prayer. We sat down and began to speak to the women who had gathered there. One of those listening was a woman from the city of Thyatira named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth. She was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message. When she and the members of her household were baptized, she invited us to her home. “If you consider me a believer in the Lord,” she said, “come and stay at my house.” And she persuaded us. –
Did you notice that in all five examples that the events marking a person’s conversion all took place within the same day from which the person came to faith? In Lydia’s case she didn’t even make it home that day before she was water baptized. The Philippian jailor didn’t even wait till morning to get a good night’s sleep before He was water baptized. The baptism of the Holy Spirit fell on Cornelius’s house in the middle of Peter’s opening conversation, and they were then baptized in water right away after. And the Ethiopian eunuch didn’t wait, he stopped his chariot at first sight of water and asked to be baptized right as they were driving!
What we twenty-first century believers need to understand is that when the gospel of Jesus Christ was shared during the first century, all of the multiple elements that made up the process of conversion (repentance, faith toward God, water baptism, receiving the Holy Spirit, entering into a new community) transpired immediately. If someone had come to believe in the message of Jesus on any particular day during the first century church, there was:
- no waiting period to confess your faith publicly on a big church stage,
- there were no new believers/confirmation classes to go through before you were affirmed
- there was no waiting 6-9 months for a special Sunday service to get water baptized
- and there was no delay in receiving the promised gift of the Spirit.
It all took place on the same day.
When people both heard and experienced the message of Jesus, and responded likewise in faith, they received forgiveness of their sins in repentance, were water baptized, and were prayed over to receive the Holy Spirit. This all-in-one-day process is how we see conversion happening in the book of Acts. Receiving the Holy Spirit, which by was confirmed by a tangible outward manifestation, was simply only one element of a multifaceted conversion experience that all took place within a relatively short period of time.
Now, if we read Romans 8:9 from that mind set, we too are able to understand that Paul was writing to people who had gone through the same one-day multi-faceted conversion experience as well. And so, for Paul to assume that these people already received all the many elements making up the conversation experience, including the baptism of the Spirit, would have been a correct assumption. Why? Because this was exactly how the process was done in the first century church.
Also, by looking at all of the people named in Romans chapter 16, it is indisputable that Paul already knew many of these people personally and could vouch that they already received the Spirit. For as we saw in Part 5 of “Holy Spirit? Never heard of the Guy“, guiding people to receive the Holy Spirit with tangible signs was part of Paul’s ministry as seen in Acts chapter 19:1-4. And, in examining Paul’s method of questioning in Acts chapter 19, we saw that it was usually during water baptism where the apostles tended to minister the baptism of the Spirit.
Therefore, it is easy to conclude that in Romans 8:9 and its, “…and if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ” sentence, that the apostle Paul was simply using this expression of receiving the Spirit of Christ as just another way of describing the day that one became converted. This phraseology isn’t unique to this one passage in Romans, Paul actually uses similar language in his other letters (i.e., Galatians 3:1-5, where he references the event of receiving the Spirit as synonymous with one’s initial conversion). And in other passages, Paul describes a person’s conversion experience in other terms such as water baptism (Romans 6:3-4, Col. 2:12), and then also just as putting faith in God (Romans 10). The apostle Peter also reminds his audience about their conversion in referring to water baptism (I Peter 3:21-22), and in Acts 15:7-9 Paul speaks of both their and the gentiles’ conversions as when they received the baptism of the Holy Spirit.
The most logical way to make sense then of Paul’s different references is to conclude that Paul used the different elements of the conversation experience interchangeably to refer to the same life-changing day when a person begin to follow Jesus.
Likewise, then, Paul also could have just as easily written Romans 8:9 with this instead “…If anyone has not been water baptized, they do not belong to Christ”, or “…If anyone has not confessed the Lord Jesus, they do not belong to Christ”, or even, “…If anyone has not been cleansed from their sins, they do not belong to Christ.” At first that might seem outrageous to some evangelicals, but don’t we also see Jesus Himself employing the same language when He describes the water baptism element as pertaining to part of the whole of one’s conversion experience (John 3:5, and Mark 16:16)? Don’t we also see the Apostle Paul referring to repentance for the remission of sins the same way? (Acts 26:20). Don’t we also see the Apostle John say, “No one who denies the Son has the Father. Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also” in I John 2:23?
Clearly, referring to just one event in the conversion process to represent its whole experience would not have been a weird thing to do for a first-century believer. This is because the multiple elements (repentance, confession of Jesus, water baptism, baptism of the Spirit, entering into the body/community of Christ) weren’t looked at as separate events along a timeline of a long and lengthy conversion process as we do now—it all happened the same day. And, so, thereby it would be perfectly understandable for one to refer back to any one of the particular elements of the conversion process that took place the same day and then use that element to call back to the time one first became saved.
This author does not disagree with the evangelical notion that we initially come into the family of God and are saved by our faith alone. However, the failure to affirm the importance of the other elements of the conversion process, and a disregard to conduct a timely execution of such elements, is probably the sole reason why so many Christian struggle with Romans 8:9 today. While in separating out “when is the exact moment I got saved?” has indeed brought about good by affirming that our salvation lies not on things we ACOMPLISH IN THE FLESH but rather through FAITH in God, it has also watered down the conversion process in such a way that we neglect the original process that both Jesus and His disciples laid down as an example for us to follow. And in doing so it has left believers without our tangible “receipt“, the down payment of the Holy Spirit (II Cor. 1:22, 5:5, Ephesians 1:13-14), that Jesus wanted us to walk in and rejoice in starting from the very first day of our salvation and reconciliation to Him.
In summary, Romans 8:9 is not a verse to be used to justify a belief that a person receives the fullness of the baptism of the Holy Spirit automatically and intangibly during the exact moment of one’s initial conversion—yet this is exactly how many preachers use this verse. Instead, it is a verse that is simply referring back to one’s glorious conversion day by referencing just one of the beautiful elements that was included in the first-century process of turning to God in faith toward Jesus. Furthermore, Romans 8:9 is not a verse that should be used to try to justify the false notion that if one does not have the baptism of the Spirit that “they do not belong to Christ”.
*ONE LAST THING OF NOTE ON ROMANS 8:9: Another possible way to describe Romans 8:9, that would require more time than this post permits, is something I call the UNICAL dilemma. In short, this arises out of an issue surrounding biblical translation.
The manuscripts from where we translate the New Testament into English were written in Greek using a script called UNICAL. In UNICAL all of the words are strung all together with no spaces with no lower-case or upper-case letters (i.e. THISISANEXAMPLEOFUNICAL).
This means that when any translator arrives at a word such as, πνευμα (transliterated as pneuma in the Greek), they must decide whether to capitalize this as “Spirit”, as in referring to the Holy Spirit, or “spirit” as in referring to our own human spirit. The tension in different translations can be easily seen if one does a parallel study of James 4:5. Some Bible translations capitalize the “S” in the word Spirit, and some resign it to a lowercase “s”, spirit. How confusing! If you read James 4:5 both ways, using lowercase and “s” and then uppercase “S”, you will see immediately how profound of an impact this would have on the meaning of the verse. And, after 2000 years of Bible translation, there is no clear consensus as to how James 4:5 should be interpreted. It is anyone guess.
What is the significance of this? The reference to the “Spirit of Christ” found in Romans 8:9 could also be translated as the “spirit of Christ“. If that were the case, then Romans 8:9 may not even be referring to the Holy Spirit at all! It could instead be referring to the regenerated state of one’s own human spirit that happens during conversion.
During the conversion process our corrupted human spirit gets literally “reborn” (John 3:5-7, James 1:18, I Peter 1:23-25). Our human spirit becomes as clean, holy, and just as righteous as Jesus. Our human spirits literally share in the same nature as Christ, sinless, which is the same reality that Jesus enjoyed due to His immaculate conception and sinless life on earth. So, in one sense, we, in our spirits, literally carry the same spirit of Christ. We are similar to Him due to our new born-again sinless nature in the spirit. As II Corinthians 5:17 says, we truly are new creations in Christ!
If the apostle Paul was referring to a lower case “s” in Romans 8:9 when he said that we have the “spirit of Christ”, then this verse would take on a whole new meaning and render this verse exempt from being used a proof text to claim whether someone has the Holy Spirit or not.
Perhaps Paul was not even talking about the Holy Spirit in this passage. He just as easily could have been saying that if anyone was not born again (and not had the new sinless nature of Christ in their human spirits that automatically comes through faith in Jesus at conversion) then that person doesn’t belong to Christ.
It is entirely possible that this is what Paul was talking about in Romans 8:9. However, as of now there are no Bible translations that seem to reflect this idea as of yet. So, for now, this author will leave this idea in the realm of what I call “exciting speculation” (however, there are such passages where the little “s” big “S” are indeed translated differently across Bible versions, for which the implications toward the meaning of these verses are substantial—i.e., compare I Corinthians 2:10-14 with NIV and KJV). It’s very possible that we may soon see a day in which a different rendering of this verse will be present in upcoming Bible translations.
POINT 3 – ISN’T ALL THIS TALK ABOUT ‘RECEIVING THE SPIRIT’ SELF-SERVING? SHOULDN’T YOU BE FOCUSING ON OTHERS AND THE COMMUNITY OF CHRIST INSTEAD, AND NOT GET CAUGHT UP IN PERSONAL GRATIFICATION?
In part 4 of my initial blog series on the Holy Spirit, I mentioned how the argument between whether a person has the baptism of the Spirit or not has truly robbed us of Jesus’s end goal behind the baptism— which is, to receive the benefits that accompany it.
As I am known for saying, call this experience whatever you want, but once you receive a tangible outflow of the Spirit and begin to walk in it in your daily life, your life will never be the same. You will feel and act differently. It will be as if someone took jumper cables to your spiritual life. It will be as if you went from fighting a forest fire with a water pistol to flying in one of those helicopters that douse the flames of a forest fire with a huge bucket. It will be as if you went from listening to music with a pair of broken headphones to hearing music blasting out of a high-definition speaker. Buckle up, because when this thing hits you, you’ll be having fun! Yes! There are personal benefits to the baptism of the Spirit.
However, as the apostle Paul tried to explain in I Corinthians 12-14, there is a far greater reason why we should seek this outflowing of the Spirit. This purpose is tied to the greatest purpose found in the bible—LOVE.
The endpoint of receiving the baptism of the Spirit isn’t you. Its main purpose isn’t to bless you or to provide you with something to boast about. It is about others. The baptism of the Spirit is a tool given to you by God to be able to share His life and goodness with those around you. It all goes back to what God told father Abraham, “I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing…and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Genesis 12:2-3). The apostle Paul saw the gospel of Jesus Christ AS the manifestation of this long-awaited promise (Galatians 3:6-9). And how does the apostle Paul say this fulfillment would be accomplished? By people receiving Christ’s Spirit, “That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith” (Galatians 3:14).
The apostle Paul emphasized that the manifestations of the Spirit were there to be a benefit to all (I Corinthians 14:12). Yes, he affirmed the gift of tongues edified the individual (I Corinthians 14:4), but he stressed that the other gifts, prophecy, words of knowledge, words of wisdom, etc., were far greater to be desired because they served others. So, while many of us who receive the Spirit start out with speaking in tongues for personal edification, we are encouraged to pursue the other gifts: so that we may become a blessing to others, so that we can share God’s life and goodness to those around us, and so that we can let our lights shine so bright in the world around us that others can’t help but be drawn to the light of Jesus within us.
Yes, becoming a follower of Jesus, turning to Him, receiving the forgiveness of your sins, and entering into a new spiritual birth primarily benefits YOU. Receiving the baptism of the Spirit primarily benefits OTHERS. Yes, at our conversion, God breathes and you receive His life into YOU. But when we receive the baptism of the Spirit you are enabled, though the power of God, to impart life to OTHERS.
Seeking the baptism of the Spirit is neither selfish nor self-serving. It is the exact opposite. It is the tangible empowerment that allows you to be a river of living water that flows out to every individual and group you encounter. Sadly, the people that claim that seeking the baptism is self-serving are completely missing the point as to why it is so crucial that we seek after the baptism.
POINT 4 – HOW DO YOU RESPOND TO ALL OF THE PEOPLE WHO HAVE HAD BAD ENCOUNTERS WITH PEOPLE WHO PUSH THE BAPTISM OF THE SPIRIT? WHAT ABOUT ALL OF THE EMOTIONALISM AND WEIRD STUFF PEOPLE HAVE SEEN AT CRAZY CHURCHES, OR ON TV/VIDEO, REGARDING THE HOLY SPIRIT?
A friend of mine told me a story. He grew up in a charismatic church out in the boonies of the Black Hills in South Dakota. It was church that believed in the baptism of the Spirit. It also believed that a person needed to speak in tongues to prove they had it. One day during a service the church leaders took my friend, who was a young boy at the time, and brought him into a room. They leaders prayed for him to receive the Holy Spirit. Then they waited…and prayed some more…and then waited, and prayed some more, and so on. After a while the little boy figured out pretty quick that he wasn’t leaving the room till something happened, so he just made up some silly words and said them out loud. The leaders were happy that he received the Spirit and the boy left and resumed his day. It was all fake.
Other folks have had similar experiences. The internet is littered with similar stories. Some people have been accused of not being true believers because they have never spoken in tongues. Others have been pressured and coerced to produce some strange syllables as proof. And others have seen such mind-baffling craziness (barking like dogs, rolling on the ground, trance-like emotionalism) during church meetings, coupled with a lack of personal character from those engaging in such manifestations, that they want nothing to do with any of this charismatic craziness.
With that, on behalf of those who endorse the baptism of the Spirit, I apologize and ask your forgiveness. The baptism is something that has been terribly abused, misused, exploited, conjured up, and counterfeited. The baptism should be a freeing and lifegiving experience, not a rite of passage, something that is pressured, or a scary or uncomfortable moment. For those who have caught a glimpse of the ugly side of charismaticism it is a vomit-inducing recollection. There is no shortage of those who incorrectly use the gifts, abusively wield the gifts, pressure the gifts, and those who are just plainly shams/con-artists. Nothing can be done to undo these wrongs. It is an embarrassing commentary.
While many folks have experience or have seen unpleasant instances regarding the baptism of the Spirit, please also know that there is a whole other side of the movement that doesn’t function or look that way. Just like when the two planes hit the Twin Towers on September 11th, 2001 and many muslins came out pleading with the American people to not judge their faith by the action of a few terrorists, we too ask that you don’t judge the whole subject based upon the negative experiences you’ve had. Just as most Christians denounce and distance themselves from the actions of the hyper-extremists from the Westboro Baptist church, we too seek to distance ourselves from the extremists in the wings of our charismatic ranks. You have been done a great disservice, and on behalf of those who didn’t reflect the love of Jesus Christ concerning charismaticism, the gifts of the Spirit, and the baptism of the Holy Ghost, we are sorry.
But I want to encourage you, that if there is any part of you that still feels a tug on your shirt to revisit an experiencing the Holy Spirit, SEEK IT OUT despite any negative former encounters. I’ve personally never spontaneously goofy-danced. I’ve never uncontrollably flopped like a fish on the floor. And I’ve never shouted like an idiot at the top of my lungs among a group of people spewing out nonsense words. However, I do pray, sing, and talk to God in the gift of tongues. And I have had some personal encounters with the Holy Spirit that have brought enhanced intimacy with God, belly laughter, understanding, peace, as well as times where I have felt the Spirit lead me to share things with folks that I would not normally do.
Don’t judge the things you may have seen or even have been a part of as being the sum total of the experience. There is a real, intimate, gentle, chill, and vulnerable side of the baptism of the Spirit that seldom gets publicized.
My mom was sixty years old when she received the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Although she knew her Bible in and out, prayed regularly, and had been water baptized and followed Jesus since she was eighteen, later in life she developed a hunger for a deeper walk with God. It took a lot of humility for her to seek out a new experience with Jesus after already spending forty years as a model Christian. When she received the baptism of the Spirit at sixty, she didn’t get any brownie points with her pastor. She didn’t gain any extra favor with God. And she didn’t enter into a higher spiritual rank in the Kingdom of God or at church. But she did gain increased personal intimacy with God. And that intimacy spilled out into a blessing that affected all of the lives she encountered. She became more of a stream a living water than she was before.
If that’s something you want to become, then I encourage you to seek God regarding His gift of the baptism of the Spirit. Maybe you have already tried once or twice and nothing has happened, or maybe you have had a bad experience. But I encourage you not to give up. Continue to seek it out. Continue to press into it. Continue to seek God. Continue to listen to encouragement from others. And try to get around those folks who lovingly practice the gifts of the Spirit. Believe that God wants you to have this gift (Luke 11:13) and go after it with your whole heart. The rewards will both bless you and those around you.
*As always, I’d love to hear what’s on your mind so please drop your thoughts in the comment section below!