Monthly Archives: April 2016

14-15. The Sacraments

Last evening the church Life group which my wife and I attend studied “14. The Lord’s Supper” and “15. Water Baptism” of the Statement of Fundamental and Essential Truths of the Pentecostal Assemblies of Newfoundland and Labrador. Four attended. We opened with Leonora, my wife, leading us in singing and prayer; we considered the sheet on “The Sacraments” that I’d given out in a previous meeting; Ray Noble took prayer requests and brought them to the Lord in prayer; and we closed with lunch. The contents of the sheet follow, supplemented by a few comments by me, which are italicized.

A sacrament is a ceremony instituted by Jesus Christ and observed by Christians as a sign of God’s grace or as a means for them to receive God’s grace in their lives. Like other Protestants we recognize two sacraments, baptism and the Lord’s Supper (Roman Catholics recognize seven). Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper on the night of his betrayal (1 Corinthians 11:23-26), and he commissioned the eleven to baptize converts before his ascension to Heaven (Matthew 28:18-20). Here is what the Statement of Fundamental and Essential Truths of the Pentecostal Assemblies of Newfoundland and Labrador says about the two sacraments.

14. The Lord’s Supper
The Lord’s Supper, consisting of the elements of bread and fruit of the vine, is the symbol expressing our sharing the nature of our Lord Jesus Christ (2 Peter 1:4), a memorial of His suffering and death (1 Corinthians 11:26), and a prophecy of His second coming (1 Corinthians 11:26), and is enjoined upon all believers “until He comes.”

15. Water Baptism
Water Baptism is an outward sign, seal or expression of an inward death, burial and resurrection, signifying the believer’s identification with Christ, in that he has been planted in the likeness of Christ’s death, raised by the might of His power to walk in newness of life, yielding his members as instruments of righteousness unto God as those who are alive from the dead. It is not a saving ordinance, but is essential in obedience to the Gospel. Baptism, according to Scripture, should be administered by single immersion, and according to the command of Jesus in Matthew 28:19.

I explained that we’d consider 15. Water Baptism before 14. The Lord’s Supper because a person is usually baptized in water as a sign of his or her becoming a Christian before he or she begins observing the Lord’s Supper as a Christian.

Baptism

Although there is agreement among Christians that baptism is connected with the beginning of the Christian life and of one’s initiation into the church, there is disagreement about what it means, whom it should be done to, and how it should be done.

“Water Baptism is an outward sign, seal or expression of an inward death, burial and resurrection.” Two passages which indicate that baptism symbolizes the believer’s union with Christ in his death, burial, and resurrection are Romans 6:3-4 and Colossians 2:12. “It is not a saving ordinance.” The reason for this assertion is that some Christians hold that baptism is a saving ordinance, Roman Catholics holding that it saves by itself and Lutherans holding that faith is a prerequisite. Some passages which seem to support their view are Mark 16:16, John 3:5, Acts 22:16, Titus 3:5, and 1 Peter 3:21. However I understand those passages to show that baptism symbolizes our being cleansed from sin rather that to affirm that it cleanses us from sin. Although recognizing that the passages seem to connect water baptism and salvation, the others in our group agreed with me.

Although some churches baptize the children of believing adults as well as the adults, we limit baptism to believers, those who have met the conditions for salvation—repentance and faith. In the New Testament water baptism was administered to believers when or shortly after they made a profession of faith. Some passages in Acts describing this are 2:41, 8:12, 10:46-48, 16:14-15, and 16:32-33. Those who affirm infant baptism note that the last two of those passages refer to the baptism of households, but there is no indication that those households included children.

“Baptism…should be administered by single immersion.” Although historically baptism has been done by immersion (dipping the subject under water), affusion (pouring water on the subject), and sprinkling (sprinkling water on the subject), in the New Testament it seems to have been administered just by immersion. As well the symbolism of the believer’s union with Christ in his death, burial, and resurrection seems to require baptism by immersion.

I noted that “Baptism…should be administered…according to the command of Jesus in Matthew 28:19” was probably included in 15. Water Baptism because of the insistence by Oneness Pentecostals that baptism should be in the name of Jesus rather than in the name of the Father, and the Holy Spirit.

The Lord’s Supper

“The Lord’s Supper [consists] of the elements of bread and fruit of the vine.” Christians disagree on the relationship between the elements and the body and blood of Jesus Christ. We believe that the elements just symbolize his body and blood (see the next paragraph), but Roman Catholics believe that they actually become his body and blood when the priest says “This is my body” during Mass (their name for the Lord’s Supper), a view called transubstantiation. They believe that when this happens Christ’s sacrifice is repeated and that grace is imparted to those present. Although Lutherans don’t believe that the elements actually become the body and blood of Christ, they believe that his physical body and blood are present “in, with, and under” them, a view called consubstantiation.

“The Lord’s Supper…is the symbol expressing our sharing the nature of our Lord Jesus Christ (2 Peter 1:4), a memorial of His suffering and death (1 Corinthians 11:26), and a prophecy of His second coming (1 Corinthians 11:26).” Theologians identify additional things symbolized by the Lord’s Supper, including the benefits of Christ’s death (Matthew 26:26-28), spiritual nourishment (John 6:53), and the unity of believers (1 Corinthians 10:17).

Although Protestants generally agree that because the Lord’s Supper is a sign of being a Christian only those who believe in Christ should participate in it, some theologians argue from the meanings of baptism and the Lord’s Supper that only those who are or plan to be baptized should participate in the Lord’s Supper and some churches restrict participation in it to their own members and/or specify a minimum age for participating in it. We practise what is called “open Communion” (“Communion” is another name for the Lord’s Supper), which means that all believers present are invited to participate. However often the pastor encourages us to examine ourselves before participating, as Paul told the Corinthians to do (1 Corinthians 11:27-29). We had an interesting discussion of this paragraph. For example, we considered whether Communion should be observed in children’s services, concluding that it shouldn’t be.

Ordinarily the pastor or other leader who officiates at a church’s worship service should officiate at the Lord’s Supper too. However there doesn’t seem to be any reason why only leaders should distribute the elements and our church invites different members of the congregation to share in distributing them.

In the original Lord’s Supper a single loaf of unleavened bread and a single cup of wine were used. However often substitutes are used that retain the symbolism; our church uses wafers and small glasses of grape juice.

Throughout much of church history most of the church has celebrated the Lord’s Supper every week. However since the Reformation many Protestant groups have celebrated it less often; our church celebrates it once a month.

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13. The Baptism of the Holy Spirit

Last evening the church Life group which my wife and I attend studied “13. The Baptism of the Holy Spirit” of the Statement of Fundamental and Essential Truths of the Pentecostal Assemblies of Newfoundland and Labrador. Four attended. We opened with Leonora, my wife, leading us in singing and prayer; we considered the sheet on “13. The Baptism of the Holy Spirit” that I’d given out in a previous meeting; Ray Noble took prayer requests and brought them to the Lord in prayer; and we closed with lunch. The contents of the sheet follow, supplemented by a few comments by me, which are italicized.

In our study of the Statement of Fundamental and Essential Truths of the Pentecostal Assemblies of Newfoundland and Labrador we’ve finally come to the Truth which distinguishes Pentecostals from most other Christians:

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 2:4, 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).

The Evidence

The Baptism of believers in the Holy Spirit is indicated by the initial physical sign of speaking with other tongues as the Spirit of God gives the utterance (Acts 2:4; 10:46; 19:6).

Our Distinctive Testimony

We consider it a serious disagreement with the Fundamentals for any minister among us to teach contrary to our distinctive testimony that the Baptism of the Holy Spirit is regularly accompanied by the initial physical sign of speaking with other tongues as the Spirit of God gives the utterance, and we consider it inconsistent and unscriptural for any minister to hold credentials with us who thus attacks as error our distinctive testimony.

We didn’t read the Scripture texts, my explaining that we’d read most of them in going through the rest of the sheet.

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).

The Purpose of Baptism in the Holy Spirit

Baptism in the Spirit is associated with power for witnessing in Acts 1:8, quoted above. Other benefits of receiving it are described in the closing sentence of the opening paragraph of the Truth 13 (see above). It also opens the door for the activities of the Holy Spirit that are commonly called spiritual gifts, “supernatural abilities given by God through the exercising of which believers are enabled to minister effectively and directly in particular situations [1 Corinthians 12:4-11]” (Truth VI, 4 of the Statement of Fundamental & Essential Truths of The Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada).

The Initial Evidence of Baptism in the Holy Spirit

Before his ascension, Jesus told the eleven not to leave Jerusalem but to wait in Jerusalem for the promise of the Father which he had told them about, “for…you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now” (Acts 1:5). Peter told the crowd which gathered on the day of Pentecost that what they had seen and heard was the fulfilment of that promise (2:33). Thus, Acts 2:1-4 comprises the first description of people being baptized in the Holy Spirit.

1 When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. 2 And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3 And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. (2:1-4)

Peter went on to tell the crowd that they would also receive the gift of the Holy Spirit if they would repent and be baptized, “[f]or the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off” (2:38-39). Acts refers to four subsequent occasions on which ones were baptized in the Holy Spirit: the Samaritan believers (8:14-17), Paul (9:17-19), the Gentiles gathered in the house of Cornelius (10:44-48), and the Ephesian disciples (19:1-7).

14 Now when the apostles at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent to them Peter and John, 15 who came down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit, 16 for he had not yet fallen on any of them, but they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 17 Then they laid their hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit. (8:14-17)

17 So Ananias departed and entered the house. And laying his hands on him he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus who appeared to you on the road by which you came has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 18 And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he rose and was baptized; 19 and taking food, he was strengthened. (9:17-19)

44 While Peter was still saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word. 45 And the believers from among the circumcised who had come with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out even on the Gentiles. 46 For they were hearing them speaking in tongues and extolling God. Then Peter declared, 47 “Can anyone withhold water for baptizing these people, who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” 48 And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked him to remain for some days. (10:44-48)

1 And it happened that while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul passed through the inland country and came to Ephesus. There he found some disciples. 2 And he said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” And they said, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” 3 And he said, “Into what then were you baptized?” They said, “Into John’s baptism.” 4 And Paul said, “John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, Jesus.” 5 On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 6 And when Paul had laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began speaking in tongues and prophesying. 7 There were about twelve men in all. (19:1-6)

We didn’t read the Scripture texts, our having read them in preparing for the meeting.

The chart below shows what preceded and marked each of the five occurrences of baptism in the Holy Spirit in Acts.

RECIPIENTS & REFERENCE — WHAT PRECEDED AND MARKED BAPTISM IN THE HOLY SPIRIT
the believers gathered together on the day of Pentecost (2:1-4) — preceded by a wind-like sound that filled the house and “tongues as of fire” that rested on each; accompanied by speaking in other tongues “the mighty works of God” (2:11)
the Samaritan believers (8:14-17) — preceded by Peter and John’s praying for and laying hands on them; seen to be received by Simon the magician, suggesting some unusual manifestation of the Spirit’s presence (8:18-19)
Paul (9:17-19) — preceded by Ananias’s laying his hands on Paul; accompanied or followed by the restoration of Paul’s sight and his being baptized
the Gentiles gathered in the house of Cornelius (10:44-48) — occurred while Peter was preaching; marked by their speaking in tongues and extolling God; served as evidence to Peter and the Jews that God had given salvation to them (11:18) and they could be baptized
the Ephesian disciples (19:1-7) — preceded by their being baptized and Paul’s laying his hands on them; accompanied by their speaking in tongues and prophesying

On the sheet I gave the above as a chart.

Speaking in tongues is referred to in three of the five accounts, but it isn’t mentioned in the accounts of the Samaritan believers or of Paul. However that some external manifestation such as speaking in tongues occurred when the Samaritan believers received the Holy Spirit is implied by Simon’s offering money to buy the power to impart the gift of the Holy Spirit by the laying on of hands. And although Acts records Ananias’s telling Paul that Jesus had sent him so that Paul might receive his sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit, it doesn’t actually say that Paul was filled with the Holy Spirit at that time, let alone giving details about how he was filled. Thus, in light of his saying later, “I thank my God, I speak with tongues more than ye all” (1 Corinthians 14:18), Paul too may have spoken with tongues when he was first filled with the Holy Spirit.

Thus, I think that the Pentecostal doctrine that the initial evidence of baptism in the Holy Spirit is speaking in tongues rests on a solid Biblical foundation.

The others in the group agreed with me that the Pentecostal doctrine that the initial evidence of baptism in the Holy Spirit is speaking in tongues rests on a solid Biblical foundation.