ERRORS ABOUT SPIRIT BAPTISM
One of the most controversial areas about discussions on the Holy Spirit is the matter of Spirit baptism. When it comes up, the hair begins to rise on the back of preachers’ necks and the blood pressure begins to rise along with it. There is much confusion about this topic. Though the topic raises many questions, there are also several New Testament references to the fact that there is such a thing.
Matthew 3:11—baptized with the Holy Ghost.
Mark 1:8—he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost.
Luke 3:16—baptize you with the Holy Ghost.
John 1:33—he which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost.
Acts 1:5—ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost.
Acts 11:16—ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost.
1 Corinthians 12:13—by one Spirit are we all baptized.
Ephesians 4:5—one baptism.
Since God chose to mention this event so often, it must be an important work of the Holy Spirit in the lives of Christians everywhere!
Many people in the religious community have already made up their minds about how they feel about this issue. However, many times they don’t know why they feel the way they do. Is the baptism with the Holy Spirit a mystery of scripture? As always, God’s Word has the answer. Those seeking the truth must remember though, to rely on what God says rather than on the opinions of men—no matter how learned these men may seem in this area. Research strongly indicates that many popular beliefs about this subject are held only because someone else said what they thought. While every person is entitled to an opinion, should what people think become the foundation for belief or should the foundation of God’s opinion be built upon? Seeing the whole counsel of God from a personal and prayerful search of the scriptures gives the one who searches for the truth a reason for the faith he holds. Countless theologians, however, have chosen to take the word of their former teachers before they searched the matter out for themselves. The presence of so much controversy in this area has also caused many well meaning people to adopt some errors in their theology about this subject. My discussion today is designed to open up the subject, one rarely discussed by independent Baptists. Another article will deal more carefully with the true Bible basis for this topic.
Errors About What It Is
Some think this is the act of the Spirit of God that creates a new union for the believer that makes it possible for him to join the body of Christ, the church.
Others feel that unlike the way things were before this baptism takes place, the Christian who enjoys it may now be used by the Lord in a fresh way to carry out His purposes. This is because going through this baptism creates a new and wonderful association with the triune God that was not present before.
Charles Ryrie went so far as to say that the baptizing work of the Holy Spirit formed the church. Did this mean there was no church before the baptizing work of the Holy Spirit took place?
Famed evangelist and writer, R. A. Torrey said that the baptism is a definite experience of which one may know whether he has received it or not.
W. A. Criswell felt that it placed believers in the body of Christ. He separated this act from regeneration or salvation and anointing.
Still others feel that this matter is so important because if a person does not understand it, he cannot understand the only sure basis for holy living.
While each of those things sound very convincing to the average believer and may even make a certain degree of sense, they leave many holes in a theology that raises many questions but gives few answers.
When does it happen?
Does this baptism take place at the moment of salvation? If it does, it’s universal to all believers and related to their position in Christ as an instant work at the moment of salvation whether the believer knows about it or not. This also means that the baptism with the Holy Ghost is not an event that follows salvation according to those who hold that position.
Some feel that the Day of Pentecost signaled the day the Holy Spirit took up residence on earth because before that time, “the Holy Spirit was not yet…” John 7:39
Those who feel this was also point to Acts 8:14-17 where scripture seems to indicate that there were believers who already had water baptism but they needed more than that to do what God wanted them to do in their lives. What else did they need? It was the baptism of the Holy Spirit that was received on the Day of Pentecost and was now available for them to receive too. All they had to do was ask for it!
Whenever a men or women becomes a Christian, some think they receive the baptism automatically. For them it’s a part of the second birth. Because of this, each believer receives the baptism with the Holy Spirit only one time and it is never repeated for them again.
Not a few also think that no person, not even a Christian, has the Holy Spirit until he or she is baptized in the name of Jesus or receives spirit baptism. They cite as proof of this idea, what Luke wrote in Acts 2:38.
“Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.”
Evangelist John Brown of John Brown University fame said the Holy Spirit is not received at conversion, but the Holy Spirit works from without and sometime later in our religious experience and in a second work of grace, He takes up His abode in our hearts. His proof of this is found in three portions of scripture.
“But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.” Romans 8:9
“Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?” 1 Corinthians 3:16
“What? Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?” 1 Corinthians 6:19
Brown pointed out that while the believer receives a part of the Holy Spirit—that part which secures his salvation, the final goal for all believers is the fullness of the Spirit at the second work of grace. He also felt from the Day of Pentecost until now the Holy Spirit has been God’s abiding, unchanging, commanding voice to men—but not before the Day of Pentecost.
Lewis Sperry Chafer
According to Chafer, the baptism of the Holy Spirit began at the same time as other works of the Holy Spirit like regeneration, indwelling and sealing. In some instances, this baptism and the filling of the Spirit happened at the same time.
He feels that each Christian is baptized by the Holy Spirit at the moment of salvation. This idea is confirmed by the Ephesians 4:5 which must then refer to spirit baptism and not water baptism. The natural conclusion of the matter is that all Christians who are baptized with the Holy Spirit are baptized into one body.
“One Lord, one faith, one baptism.” Ephesians 4:5
R. A. Torrey
Torrey raised an interesting question about the Baptism with the Holy Spirit. The famed evangelist and co-worker of D.L. Moody wrote extensively about this subject. Here are just a few of the interesting questions he raised in his ministry.
“Must we know that we have the baptism with the Holy Spirit before we take up our work for the Lord?” He felt it vital that Christians first know they had gone through this experience. “We must know it both by the statement of God’s Word and our own experience.”
“May we not have to wait for some time for the Baptism with the Holy Spirit as the apostles had to wait on the Day of Pentecost?” Because the Day of Pentecost was unique and it seemed to him there was no waiting for this event after that day, Torrey felt waiting was no longer necessary.
“And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness.” Acts 4:31
“Will there be no manifestation of the baptism with the Holy Spirit when we receive it? Will everything be just the same as it was before? And if so, what good is it anyway?”
ERRORS ABOUT WHY IT IS SO IMPORTANT
Some who study this matter feel its importance lies in the fact that by this baptism Christians enter into a new relationship to the Spirit and it is Him who then brings them into the body of Christ, the church.
Along with this thought comes the one that this act ensures the unity of the body—regardless of race, culture or background while it provides a special place and function for each believer. While Ephesians 4:16 is cited as the proof text, nothing is mentioned to link Ephesians 4:16 with the baptism of the Holy Spirit.
This baptism, others think, is what makes it possible for the believer to be in Christ. Jesus talked about the “ye in me” principle in relation to this baptism and the need for being identified with Christ, yet these aren’t really related to the act of the baptism with the Holy Spirit.
Without any doubt, the act is important. Perhaps though, it’s for other reasons than the ones mentioned here.
HOW DOES A PERSON GET THIS BAPTISM?
The general consensus is that seven steps are best taken to achieve this experience. Other scholars feel only a few steps of the seven are needed.
Step one is the vital element of first accepting Jesus Christ as personal Savior. A person must rest entirely on the finished work of Christ on the cross of Calvary and His atoning death for men on a personal level as the sole ground of acceptance before God.
“Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.” Romans 3:20
“This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?” Galatians 3:2
Step two is the need for a person to either repent or experience a change of mind about sin itself. This is a change from that attitude of mind that loves sin or indulges in it to a mind that renounces sin—all sin without holding on to it.
Step three prompts the Christian to make an open confession of his renunciation of sin and his acceptance of Christ as Savior before the world. This blessing is not for secret believers or for the shy. Only those who openly confess Christ by submitting to water baptism may partake of the spiritual baptism.
“Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.” Acts 2:38
The fourth step involves understanding that God gives the blessing of the Holy Spirit only to those who obey Him.
In this sense, Acts 2:38 is a matter of obeying God. But this obedience goes far beyond what that verse speaks about. It means doing everything that God commands without any reservations. This dictates unconditional surrender of the child of God to his heavenly Father. As further proof of the need to obey, consider what Luke wrote in Acts 5:32.
“And we are his witnesses of these things; and so is also the Holy Ghost, whom God hath given to them that obey him.”
An extreme thirst for this blessing from the Holy Spirit is vital to taking step five. Seekers are urged to adopt a motto by which they live: “The Holy Spirit, the Holy Spirit, the Holy Spirit. O God, give me the Holy Spirit!”
The urge becomes so great that some seekers need to feel they would rather die than go on living without the Holy Spirit in this sense.
Perhaps more Christians, they think, should get alone with God and ask Him to show them if their personal desire in this area is what it ought to be.
“In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. (But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.)” John 7:37-39
Step six is simple: just ask God for it! Ask God in no uncertain terms for the baptism with the Holy Ghost. There is nothing vague about this step because it is a definite prayer for a definite blessing.
“If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?” Luke 11:13
The final step involves the exercise of faith. Do you dare expect from God what you asked Him for? If you asked for the baptism in faith why shouldn’t God give it to you?
“If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.” James 1:5
“Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them.” Mark 11:24
Though most of these ideas sound good, they have some degree of truth but leave out other vital issues about spirit baptism. But if these things aren’t completely true, how do you explain the many case histories of men and women that sought the Spirit in this way and supposedly found Him? Something indeed happened—but what was it that happened? Is there another side to this issue that most people know little about? It seems so. We'll talk about that next time when we talk about what God's Word says about this issue! In the meantime, test the teachings whether they are of God. Today's article is designed to do nothing more than expose you to some of the many erroneous teachings about God's Spirit that sound so good and even make sense, but they don't hold to the whole counsel of scripture.