Wednesday, February 27, 2013

My thoughts on the Baptism of the Holy Spirit

Short Essay on Pneumatology
Spiritual gifts are God given endowments enabling the Christian to fulfill his or her particular calling. With this divine spiritual empowerment, the Christian is able to complete something he or she could not otherwise accomplish. The manifestation of these gifts is divided into miraculous and non-miraculous, but both groups universally edify the church.1 Their specific purpose is to empower the believer to do the work of Christ on Earth. In every aspect of ministry, preaching, teaching, evangelism, and admonishing the Holy Spirit is there working through the believer.

All believers receive at least one spiritual gift, some receive more than one. The Holy Spirit, “apportions to each one individually as he wills.”2 God decides what each believer will be gifted to do, and distributes power at his discretion. The Fruit of the Spirit is entirely different. In Galatians chapter five, Paul cited them as: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.”3 The Fruit of the Spirit are those aspects of the nature of Christ which so infiltrate the heart and life of the believer that they overtake his character and personality. This is not given at conversion; it comes with maturity. Fellowship with the Savior and abiding in Christ sanctifies the believer; molding him into the new creature promised by the Word of Christ.

The gift of speaking in tongues has a twofold purpose in Scripture.4 In Acts it served to usher in the age of the church at Pentecost. Representatives from many nations were present and they heard the Gospel preached in their native tongue. During the age of the Apostles, it served to authenticate the presence of the Holy Spirit in new converts . Second, tongues is listed among the different spiritual gifts given to “sovereignly chosen believers” to carry out the work of the Church.5 Paul indicates the reason for speaking in tongues is to build up oneself, and to build up the Church. He also requires that tongues spoken publicly be interpreted, so the message may be clearly communicated to the individual it is directed to, or the entire congregation.6

The baptism of the Holy Spirit is the indwelling by the Spirit of God in the life of a new convert. It is this event that causes all believers to be, “baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free– and all were made to drink of one Spirit.”7 Contrary to the charismatic view, I believe when a man places his faith in Christ he receives the Holy Spirit and is thereby baptized in the Holy Spirit. As he begins to grow in Christ and experience him more fully, he receives the fullness of the Spirit. Paul instructed Christians to “be filled with the Spirit.” This instruction is given to those who have already received the seal of the Holy Spirit. The more activity the Spirit exhibits in the life of the believer, the more “filled with the Spirit” the believer is said to be. The phrase “filling of the Spirit” does not describe a second indwelling of the Holy Spirit, it gives evidence that the believer is in the process of being sanctified by the Spirit. Ephesians four testifies just as there is but “one Spirit” and “one Lord,” there is only “one baptism.”8

Speaking in tongues is not a necessary sign of the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. While the initial indwelling of men by the Holy Spirit was evidenced by speaking of tongues, many subsequent conversions bore no such proof. Jesus told Nicodemus that in order to be saved, “one must be born of water and of Spirit.”9 The first birth is of natural means, the second of supernatural. He made no mention of speaking a foreign language. Furthermore, in the same conversation Jesus said that all those who believe on him will be saved.10 Those who are saved must have the Spirit of Christ, tongues or not. Paul reminds us that, “anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.”11

Speaking in tongues is valid where the Spirit leads and where there is accurate interpretation. Tongues served its primary purpose in the days of the Apostles when the supernatural had to be attested to. In 1 Corinthians thirteen, Paul tells us that tongues, prophecy, and knowledge are partial, and, “when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away.” 12 The Church's current state of imperfection makes these gifts necessary, but it will not always be so. One day the Savior will return, the dim mirror will become blinding clarity, and the Church will be made perfect.13

Elwell, Walter A. 2001. Evangelical dictionary of theology. Grand Rapids, Mich: Paternoster Press
Towns, Elmer. 2002. Theology for Today. Mason, Ohio: Cengage Learning.
Henry, Matthew. Matthew Henry's Commentary on the Whole Bible. Web.

1Elwell, Walter A. Evangelical Dictionary of Theology. 2001. pg. 1135
21 Corinthians 12:11 ESV
3Galatians 5:22 ESV
4Elwell. pg. 1206
61 Corinthians 14:4-12 ESV
71 Corinthians 12:13 ESV
8Ephesians 4:4-5 ESV
9John 3:5 ESV
10John 3:16 ESV
11Romans 8: 9 ESV
121 Corinthians 13:10 ESV
13 Henry, Matthew. Matthew Henry's Commentary on the Whole Bible.

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