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Spirit Baptism

Baptized in the Holy Spirit
      The phrase "baptized in/with the Holy Spirit" is used in the Bible to describe the new and dynamic ministry of the Spirit in the last age. The term describes the fact of the coming of the Spirit in the believer's life, and the ministry which He exercises in that life, especially making real our sonship. We may describe it as the experience of both: coming into a close and beautiful relationship with Jesus as our Lord and Saviour, and knowing God as our Father, Rom. 8:14-15, 1Cor.12:1-3.
Bible usage
      The phrase in the Bible is not "The Baptism of the Holy Spirit", rather it is verbal, ie. "Baptize(d) with (in) the (Holy) Spirit".
      Jesus uses the phrase to remind his disciples of John's prophecy, "Before many days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit", Acts 1:5. Afterwards at Pentecost, "they were filled with the Holy Spirit", Acts 24. Peter described this event in his sermon as the promise of the Holy Spirit which is "poured out". Some years later Cornelius too was "baptized with the Holy Spirit", Acts 11:16, i.e. received the "gift of the Holy Spirit", Acts 11:17.
      All these phrases are a description of the one experience. To be baptized with, be filled with, receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, describes the out-pouring of the Holy Spirit upon believers. Every true believer is "baptized in the Spirit", receives "the gift of the Holy Spirit", for "anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to Him", Rom. 8:9.
1. Original use by John the Baptist
      John the Baptist was the first to use the phrase when he said that the "one who comes after me will baptize with the Holy Spirit", Matt.3:11. Here he is referring to the coming Messiah who would do a great work in pouring out the Spirit of God, Ezk.37, Joel 2:28-32.
2. Use by Jesus
      Jesus said that the "hour" had arrived. In Jesus all the prophecies were being fulfilled. The last days would soon be upon mankind, and the Spirit would be bestowed on all believers.
      To the Samaritan woman, Jesus said, " Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water I shall give will never thirst; the water that I shall give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life", John 4:14.
      To the crowd during the feast of Tabernacles Jesus said, "If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink, he who believes in me, as the scripture has said, 'Out of his heart shall flow rivers of living water'. This he said of the Spirit, which those who believe in him were to receive: for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified", John 7:37-39.
      So Jesus promised the gift of the Holy Spirit. The life-giving Spirit would quench the longing desires for communion with God. The Holy Spirit is none other than the Spirit of Christ. So when Jesus promised that the disciples would be "baptized with the Holy Spirit", Acts 1:5, he meant nothing more than what he had already taught.
3. Use by Paul
      In 1Corinthians 12:13 Paul wrote, "For by one Spirit we were all baptized (immersed) into one body, Jews or Greeks, slaves or free, and all were made to drink (watered, saturated or made to drink) of one Spirit." Everyone sees their pet theory here, eg. some see this as a reference to water baptism which makes you a member of the body of Christ, and/or conveys the Holy Spirit to you. Whereas some Pentecostals say, you are baptized (water) as a sign of repentance, with respect to the body (instead of into), then later you are watered (baptized) with the Spirit.
      Paul is certainly not introducing a new theology of the Spirit here. 1Corinthians 12 deals with different aspects of the Spirit's work: i] He converts us and we call him Lord, 12:3; ii] He makes us part of the body of believers, 12:12-13; iii] He gives spiritual gifts, 12:11. In 1 Corinthians 12:13 Paul is simply talking about a Spirit baptism which occurs when we believe in Jesus, ie. Jesus comes into our life.
When is a believer baptized with the Holy Spirit?
      Peter's words in Acts 2:38 are normative, "Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit." A person who believes immediately receives the gift of the Holy Spirit.
      Paul verifies this truth. A person is forgiven their sins when they believe, Romans 10:14-17, and at the same time receive the Holy Spirit, Gal.3:1-5. Acts has some problem sections, but the norm remains:
        i] There is the account of the Samaritans who believe, but who did not receive the Holy Spirit. We are not told why, but it was certainly not the norm, Act.8:16. It seems they were short on information and thus had not come to truly put their faith in Jesus.*
        ii] There is also the account of the twelve John the Baptist sectarians in Ephesus. "Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?" Acts 19:2. Their answer showed that they had neither heard of the Holy Spirit, nor of Jesus as Lord. They had only known the teaching of John the Baptist, ie. they weren't yet Christians. On being baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus (immersed in sound teaching) the Spirit came upon them.
Second blessing teaching
      Christian revival groups have tended to promote the idea of a second blessing, or work of grace, by the Holy Spirit after conversion. Terms such as perfectionism, full sanctification, divine love, total commitment, were initially used to describe this experience of the Holy Spirit. In the late 1800's the term "the baptism of the Holy Spirit" became the common term. It was adopted by Pentecostals in the early 1900s. It is used today in Charismatic circles to describe a post-conversion experience of the Holy Spirit who empowers the recipient for witnessing and edification. The experience is usually authenticated by the gift of speaking in tongues.
      It is quite clear that many Christians have had a vital experience of the Holy Spirit's work in their life. Yet this experience cannot be used to support "second blessing" teaching.
      The only Biblical support for a second blessing (a Baptism of the Holy Spirit) is found in the description of the outpouring of the Spirit upon the disciples on the day of Pentecost. Yet we know well that a description is never a prescription. Jesus explained in John 7 that the out-pouring of the Holy Spirit must wait until after his glorification. From then on it would be "Repent and be baptized everyone of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit", Acts 2:38. A person who has not received the Spirit is not a Christian, Rom.8:9.
      Spirit baptism is an aspect of conversion. Every person, upon believing in Christ, is justified and baptized by (in) the Holy Spirit into the body of Christ, cf. 1Cor.12:13, Eph.1:13. At the moment of conversion we enter into a full relationship with the Holy Spirit and possess in fullness all that God offers us in Christ, Col.2:10. This is our Christian standing. It does not mean that we are perfect, which must await the Parousia, 1John 3:2, or that we have no need to grow and live out our Christian fullness. We may see a parallel in Christian holiness, cf. Heb.10:14, 1Pet.1:2, 2:9. Just as we are Holy in Christ, so we are full, yet we must seek to express that fullness in our Christian life. By grace through faith we will begin to be what we are already in Christ.
The assurance of our standing in Christ
      Although it is not possible to talk of a "Second Blessing" as a post conversion empowering, it is possible to speak of "baptized", or better "filled" as an experience of Jesus' intimate involvement in our lives through the indwelling Spirit. Such an experience can be a very moving and results in a firm assurance of God's love for us. It is something we may experience many times in our Christian life. Consider the following aspects of assurance:
1. Assurance in conversion
      The Old Testament prophets spoke of the day when the Holy Spirit would be given, Joel 2:28. John the Baptist renewed that promise, Matt.3:11. Jesus pointed to it after his glorification, John 7, Acts 1:8. On the day of Pentecost the promise was fulfilled. The promise was for a personal confrontation with the living God. When the Holy Spirit came upon them they met Jesus and again experienced his gentle touch. The Holy Spirit was for them the "Spirit of Christ", cf. 2Cor.3:17-18.
      In no way did the Spirit supersede Jesus, cf. Acts 1:1. Jesus is always Lord and Saviour. The Spirit gives all glory to the Son. From Pentecost on, everyone who gives their life to Jesus, who repent and believe, receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, Acts 2:38, Eph. 1:13. In the simplest terms it means that Jesus becomes intimately involved in our lives for eternity.
      Thus on becoming a Christian, by faith alone, we are both justified and receive the Spirit in fullness, Gal.3:2,5. Forgiveness, Sonship, liberty and fullness are ours from the moment of believing. Gal.5:5, Col.2:6-10.
      For many, the moment of conversion can be a powerful release, the removal of oppressive guilt, a gentle touch of the Master's hand. For some believers it is a powerful spiritual experience. Their meeting with Jesus (the infilling of the Holy Spirit) serves to assure them of His eternal love. Yet we all need to be reminded, for many, if not most, the conversion experience can be quite mundane.
2. Assurance in the Christian life
      The experience of the Spirit's works in our lives, if you like, His "filling", or better, His "release" prompts assurance in the Christian life:
        i] A new understanding of forgiveness. It is a most powerful experience to glimpse the mercy of God. It can touch us and bring us to our knees in gratitude, Mi.7:18. A mighty blessing indeed.
        ii] A new repentance. No Christian lives up to their standing in Christ. We have a problem of "carnality" ie. we opt for the "flesh" rather than the "Spirit". There are two possibilities before the Christian. We may choose to follow the flesh or the Spirit, Gal.5:13-25. So there is always a gap between a Christian's standing and their performance. Thus the Bible encourages us to "walk by the Spirit and not gratify the desires of the flesh" Gal.5:16. "Live by the Spirit", Gal.5:25. "Be Holy", 1Pet.1:15-16. etc. An awareness of the gap between performance and standing, reminds us of God's amazing grace in Christ. Such moments can be very moving and powerful, a moment of great blessing.
        iii] A new understanding of God's promises. The mind boggles when we focus on God's promises to us. When we actually rest on those promises we find ourselves greatly moved. Not only do we find their eternal verity touching our lives, but we also find ourselves encouraged by one of the most profound of theological truths - the perseverance of the saints. A faithful reliance upon the promises of Jesus promotes a sense of assurance, a very powerful experience indeed.
      The most powerful promise is that of Jesus' intimate involvement in our lives. "I am with you always even to the ends of the earth". His promise for us is that we will know him and experience him as a friend right here and now. Few Christians have experienced the potential of that relationship in their lives (it's release). The apostles certainly experienced the intimacy of Jesus' personal involvement in their lives. Pentecost, for them, was a personal confrontation with the living Jesus.
      We are complete, full in Jesus. He has given us everything, but we often fail to realize the potential we have as members of Christ's body. So Paul prays that we might be "full", Eph.3:14-19, and exhorts us to "be full", Eph.5:18, ie. realize our potential as Spirit-filled Christians.
      So when a Christian realizes their potential and puts it to the test, they are confronted with the reality of Jesus in their life. There can be no greater blessing than to experience a personal confrontation of Jesus in and through the Holy Spirit, to experience his involvement in our lives as we step out in faith to serve him. To find ourselves empowered for service, where before we were powerless, is a wonderful blessing indeed, Acts 4:8, 13:9
Note*. The Conversion of the Samaritans, Acts 8.
      Some theologians make much of Acts 8 where the Samaritans "receive" the Holy Spirit after "they believed Philip as he preached good news about the Kingdom of God" and were baptized. Clearly Luke describes this incident as unusual and outside of the normal sequence of events. The reaction of the apostles demonstrated this, 8:14-16.
      It seems that the Samaritans had not yet completely understood the implications of the gospel and so were not yet truly converted. They needed further instruction on the gospel from Peter and John to properly respond to Jesus, receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, and so become Christians.
      Luke gives us quite a few clues in Acts 8 to show us that their commitment to Philip's preaching was defective and that their baptism was not fully Christian.
        i] The Samaritans were looking for the coming of the great one, a Messiah or Taheb who would bring in a second Kingdom, uniting all Israel with the Samaritans. The Samaritans will inevitably rule in this kingdom. Simon, through magic, had claimed to be "Great". Philip came performing "signs" and preached the "Good News of the Kingdom". He was enthusiastically received, but he had clearly contextualized the gospel in such a way that he had given the Samaritans a false impression, resulting in a response which was sincere and enthusiastic, but wrongly directed.
        ii] The Samaritans' superstitious response to Simon is described in the same terms as their response to Philip, v6 and v10f. It obviously had the same lack of depth.
        iii] The word "Believed" in this passage is qualified in the Greek to signify intellectual assent rather than commitment to God.
        iv] Luke immediately drives this fact home by adding that Simon too "believed", yet he had neither "part" nor "lot" in the matter of salvation, v21. In other words, Simon had not really fulfilled the conditions for the gift of the Spirit, cf. Act.2:38). His understanding was so faulty that he thought the Spirit could be purchased, 8:20. He was a Christian in outward form only and his only hope was to repent, v22. Luke makes it clear that the Samaritans' response in v.12 is similar to that of Simon's.
        v] In this passage Luke is illustrating the difference between a Christian and a non Christian. The possession of the Spirit is the proof of one's acceptance by God (ref. 11:17), The crucial point of this passage is that the Samaritan's response is not genuine because the Spirit had not come upon them. Thus the hustle of Peter and John to the scene.
      Observe how Luke parallels Simon and the Samaritans. Both turn from magic to Philip. Both believe in Philip. Both are baptized by Philip, but here they part. The Samaritans receive the Spirit which shows that they finally come to genuine faith, but Simon receives a curse because he continues to be interested in external things.
      Although the compressed nature of this narrative makes it difficult to know with certainty what is occurring, the above explanation does justice to the evidence and fits in with the clear teaching of scripture.

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