Spirit baptism is a controversial topic. ’Cause it involves power, and people either covet power, or fear it.
Luke 3.16-17 KWL
- 16 In reply John told everyone, “Indeed I baptize you in water.
- And one stronger than me comes. I’m not able to loose his sandal strap.
- He’ll baptize you in the Holy Spirit and fire.
- 17 The winnowing-shovel is in his hand to thoroughly clean his threshing-floor.
- He’ll gather together the grain in his silo.
- He’ll burn up the straw with endless fire.”
Before Jesus ascended to heaven, he told his students to wait in Jerusalem for that baptism,
Acts 2.1-4 KWL
- 1 When the 50th day
after Passoverdrew near, all were together in one place.
- 2 Suddenly a roar came from heaven, like a mighty wind sounds,
- and it filled the whole house where they were sitting.
- 3 Tongues, like fire, were seen distributed to them,
- and sat on each one of them, 4 and all were filled with the Holy Spirit.
- They began to speak in other tongues,
- in whatever way the Spirit gave them the ability.
This, we recognize, is the baptism of the Holy Spirit and fire which both John and Jesus spoke of.
A number of Christians believe this was a one-time deal. The brand-new church, needing a kick in the pants from God to go out and do everything Jesus commanded them to, had God the Holy Spirit specially appear to them, prove he was among them, empower them, and from there they could go out and do the work of mighty Christians. Wouldn’t need to do it twice.
A larger number of Christians believe this so wasn’t a one-time deal. ’Cause it happened again. And again. And again and again and again. Happened to us. Still happens.
Happened to a bunch of Romans while Simon Peter was telling them about the gospel.
Acts 10.44-47 KWL
- 44 While Simon Peter was saying these words,
- the Holy Spirit fell upon everybody listening to the lesson.
- 45 The circumcized believers who came with Peter were astounded:
- The Holy Spirit’s gift was also poured out on ethnics!
- 46 They heard them speaking in tongues and magnifying God.
- Then Peter replied, 47 “Can anyone stop the water to baptize these people?
- They received the Holy Spirit same as we did!”
Happened to some folks in Ephesus whom Paul came across in his travels. We don’t know whether they were Jews or gentiles, and it makes no difference. They had this experience too.
Acts 19.1-7 KWL
- 1 As Paul passed through upper
Asia Minorenroute to Ephesus, Apollos was in Corinth. Paulhappened to find certain students.
- 2 He asked them, “When you believed, did you receive the Holy Spirit?”
- They told him, “But we never heard there’s a Holy Spirit.”
Paulsaid, “So what were you baptized into?”
- They said, “Into John’s baptism.”
- 4 Paul said, “John baptized people
intoa repentance baptism,
- speaking of the one coming after him, so they’d trust
him. That’s Jesus.”
- 5 On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of Master Jesus.
- When Paul laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them:
- They spoke in tongues and prophesied. 7 All the men
The point of this baptism is power. Specifically, power for ministry, like Jesus said.
Acts 1.8 KWL
- “But you’ll all get power: The Holy Spirit is coming upon you.
- You’ll be my witnesses in Jerusalem, all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the world.”
This is the power to do as Jesus does. You know all those miracles he performed in the bible? Anyone who believes in him can do exactly as he did. And more.
Now yes, when Jesus sent out the Twelve to preach the gospel and heal the sick,
Simple: God’s almighty. If one of his obedient servants prays for the sick to get well, God doesn’t need that servant to have experienced Spirit baptism before he can answer that prayer. God is never limited by our lack of experience. Only we are.
Yep, any Christian can perform miracles. Any Christian can demonstrate supernatural gifts: Prophecy, healing, words of knowledge, spiritual discernment, interpretation of tongues, and so forth. They don’t actually need Spirit baptism first. But these acts are gonna be rare, because they’re gonna be under the delusion miracles are rare.
The Spirit-baptized Christian is frequently used by God to do supernatural things. Why? Because that faith hurdle has been largely eliminated. You’re not gonna find a Spirit-baptized Christian who doubts God is real, and still does miracles. You can’t experience God this way, yet still doubt God exists. If you do, you didn’t really experience him, or have been faking it so as to fit in.
Once our doubts about God’s reality are gone, once our worries lest God not act are gone, we can act. And grow in Christian maturity. And grow quickly. A Christian who lacks this experience, who doesn’t minister to others in the Spirit’s power, can grow in maturity too; of course they can. But it’s gonna be much slower going.
The Spirit-baptized Christian has been primed in the supernatural. We’re far more likely to act when the Spirit orders us to. Those who resist the Spirit’s baptism, who say it’s not for the present day, or who claim it only happens when we first become Christians and want nothing to do with any later experience, are far more likely to blaspheme the Holy Spirit than obey him when he wants to do things through them.
Don’t be that way. And don’t let anyone tell you different.
Why people covet Spirit baptism.
The problem with baptism of the Holy Spirit, is actually the same as the purpose of the baptism of the Holy Spirit: It’s power. You know how power corrupts? True even when we’re talking about God’s power.
If you’ve ever experienced the baptism of the Holy Spirit, you know: It feels awesome. But just like narcotics, which should only be used to treat pain and make people well, plenty of people pursue the rush, not the wellness. They’re chasing the feelings. They want the endorphins. Not the Holy Spirit. Not to minister to the people he cares about. Just his power… just for their own selfish reasons.
Understandably, this makes many people really skeptical of Spirit baptism. If God grants Christians his power, but they can actually abuse his power, how on earth can we say this power came from God? Isn’t it more accurate anyway to say the Holy Spirit, not the human, does the miracles?—and if so, how on earth can a human warp or bend God’s miracles? Shouldn’t the Spirit retain way more control over his power than that?
I get their concern. If I were God, I wouldn’t trust these lousy humans any further than I could throw… oh wait, that saying doesn’t really work when we’re talking about the Almighty. Well, suffice to say if I were God I’d be a bit more of a control freak. Lucky for humanity I’m not God, and he’s not a control freak. He actually does grant fallible humans, even ones who don’t fit our own narrow definitions of “good Christian,” the power to do mighty works in his name.
The Spirit won’t let the folks he empowered do evil miracles, like smite people he doesn’t want smitten. But apparently he does permit some of us to prophesy without love.
Some Spirit-baptized people are therefore gonna produce weirdness instead of good fruit. They’re gonna point to the fact they can do miracles in Jesus’s name, and assume it squarely puts them in his kingdom. It does not.
Anti-charismatics also object to the fact that not everyone who asked God for the Spirit’s baptism, got it. ’Cause it is true he doesn’t give it to every Christian. Yet.
Yes, yet. God’s “no” isn’t always a firm no. He offers his power to every Christian for ministry, but he also knows who can handle it and who can’t; who’ll destroy lives with it and who would never. Like a dad who has no trouble letting his daughter light candles, but who’d never give matches to his pyromaniac son, God knows who’s ready for Spirit baptism, and who isn’t. True, he appears to baptize a whole lot of idiots. (And I would argue a whole lot of those idiots are totally faking it. Watch for fruit, remember?) But I’ll just say: Be persistent. Keep asking. Keep pursuing the Spirit, not his power. Keep ministering; demonstrate to yourself and God exactly why you need his power. Keep growing in fruit and maturity. Be patient.
As for speaking in tongues as a sign of Spirit baptism: That’s gonna take its own article, so I won’t get into it today.