The Baptism in the Holy Spirit – Its Promise and Purpose

All believers are entitled to and should ardently expect and earnestly seek the promise of the Father, the Baptism in the Holy Spirit and fire, according to the command of the Lord Jesus Christ. This was the normal experience of all in the early Christian Church. With it comes the enduement of power for life and service (Luke 24:49; Acts 1:4,8; 1 Corinthians 12:1-31). This experience is distinct from and subsequent to the experience of the new birth (Acts 8:12-17; 10:44-46; 11:14-16; 15:7-9). With the Baptism of the Holy Spirit come such experiences as an overflowing fullness of the Spirit (John 7:37-39; Acts 4:8); a deepened reverence for God (Acts 2:43; Hebrews 12:28); intensified consecration to God and dedication to His work (Acts 2:42); and a more active love for Christ, His Word, and the lost (Mark 16:20).

I began considering the work of the Holy Spirit here by saying: “Over the next couple months I’ll consider the work of the Holy Spirit, reporting on my family’s after-breakfast reading from Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1994). We plan to read these chapters on the Holy Spirit from it:
– Chapter 30: The Work of the Holy Spirit
– Chapter 39: Baptism and Filling with the Holy Spirit
– Chapter 52: Gifts of the Holy Spirit (1): General Questions
– Chapter 53: Gifts of the Holy Spirit (2): Specific Gifts”

However in my rereading of Chapter 39 in preparation for my family’s considering baptism with the Holy Spirit, I realized how much of the chapter is devoted to arguing against the traditional Pentecostal understanding of baptism with the Holy Spirit expressed in the quotation from the “Statement of Fundamental and Essential Truths” of the Pentecostal Assemblies of Newfoundland and Labrador with which I opened this post. Thus I decided for us to read about baptism in the Holy Spirit from William W. Menzies and Stanley M. Horton’s Bible Doctrines: A Pentecostal Perspective (Springfield, Missouri: Logion Press, 1993) instead of from Grudem’s Systematic Theology. We have finished reading Chapter 7, “The Baptism in the Holy Ghost,” and are about to read Chapter 8, “The Initial Physical Evidence of the Baptism in the Holy Ghost.” This post is based on what we read in Chapter 7 about the promise and the purpose of baptism in the Holy Spirit.

The Promise of Baptism in the Holy Spirit

During the last recorded appearance of Jesus to his disciples in Jerusalem, he told them, “Behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high” (Luke 24:49, ESV; all Biblical quotations are from the ESV). He went on to say about the promise of the Father, “[which] you have heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days hence” (Acts 1:4-5). Then after leading them out to the Mount of Olives from which he was about to ascend into Heaven, he told them, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8).

Jesus said these things to disciples whom he had earlier told “Your names are written in heaven” (Luke 10:20) and “You are clean” (John 15:3). Thus they were already regenerated when Jesus told them that they would soon be baptized with the Holy Spirit. Menzies and Horton conclude, “One may be regenerated, may be a saint, and yet not enjoy the baptism in the Spirit and its anointing for service, which Jesus promised believers” (page 124).

The Purpose of Baptism in the Holy Spirit

Acts 1:8, quoted above, associates baptism in the Spirit with power for witnessing. Baptism in the Holy Spirit also opens the door for the activities of the Holy Spirit that are commonly called spiritual gifts. We’ll consider them after we complete our study of baptism in the Holy Spirit.

After pointing out this, Menzies and Horton explain why Paul’s epistles don’t say much about baptism in the Spirit, comment on Ephesians 1:13 and 1 Corinthians 12:13, and warn about the importance of living in the Spirit. They suggest that Paul’s epistles don’t say much about baptism in the Holy Spirit because it was the normal experience of first-century believers. They identify the sealing of Ephesians 1:13, “In him [Christ] you also, when you believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit,” with baptism in the Holy Spirit and the baptism of 1 Corinthians 12:13, “In one Spirit we were all baptized into one body–Jews or Greeks, slaves or free–and were made to drink of one Spirit” with salvation. Their warning includes a reference to Ephesians 4:30, “Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.”

I agree with their suggestion that Paul’s epistles don’t say much about baptism in the Holy Spirit because it was the normal experience of first-century believers. And I agree with their identifying the baptism of 1 Corinthians 12:13 with salvation rather than with baptism in the Holy Spirit. As they point out, “The preposition ‘by’ (Gk. en) clearly means ‘by’ in all the other verses where it is linked with the Holy Spirit in this chapter. John the Baptist declared that Jesus is the One who baptizes in the Holy Spirit (Matt. 3:11…). Paul makes it clear that the Holy Spirit is the One who baptizes us into Christ, that is, into the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:13…). The two baptisms are clearly distinct” (page 129). The Holy Spirit baptizes us into the body of Christ when we are saved, and then Jesus baptizes us in the Holy Spirit.

However I identify the sealing of Ephesians 1:13 with salvation rather than with baptism in the Holy Spirit. Thus I think that the warning of Ephesians 4:30 applies to all Christians, who are indwelt by the Holy Spirit and made part of the Church when they are saved, rather than just to Christians who have been baptized in the Holy Spirit. Accordingly, we are all to “be imitators of God, as beloved children, [and to] walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us” (Ephesians 5:1-2).

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