WHAT IS THE BAPTISM OF THE HOLY SPIRIT?
This is part II in a series on the Holy Spirit
Last week I asked, “Why is the doctrine of the Holy Spirit so divisive when the Bible is crystal clear on the need for the Spirit’s power?” There is a critical need for “balance”. Many churches tend to embrace one extreme, or the other. We identified the two extremes as resembling circuses or cemeteries.
In the circus environment, anything goes. Bizarre acts are excused by thinking “the Spirit is moving.” Often, the Spirit is not moving; human emotions, and fleshly impulses are. I Corinthians 14:33 and 40 remind us, “For God is not the author of confusion but of peace,” and to “let all things be done decently and in order.” God works through brokenness, humility, and full surrender, not chaos and confusion. If you have ever been to a major league game, you may have noticed that fans (all who are clearly devoted to the players) come in all shapes and sizes, and with a spectrum of personalities. They all express themselves differently. I want to be careful not to discredit this.
At the other extreme lies the cemetery. Good churches have died pursuing knowledge instead of anointing, theology instead of surrender, hermeneutics instead of holiness…you get the picture. We “stand on sound doctrine” but rarely sit under the fountain of life. We study to be powerful in the pulpit, but rarely kneel in prayer to receive the Spirit’s power.
Within these two extremes, we find another controversial topic: the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. One view suggests that we receive all of the Spirit that we will need at conversion. The other argues that there is a second work of the Spirit after conversion that should be sought. In short, you may have all of the Holy Spirit, but does He have all of you? It’s easy to assume that the answer, in general, is “no”. Most theologians agree on three primary Greek prepositions that describe the Spirit’s activity throughout the New Testament–para, en, and epi.
Para means “to come along side,” as we see in John 14:16, “And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you forever.”
Whereas the Greek word en means “to dwell within,” as we see in John 14:17, “The Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you.”
Finally, the Greek word epi means “to come upon,” as we see in Acts 1:8, “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
This “coming upon a person” is where the doctrine of the Baptism of the Holy Spirit comes from. This move of the Spirit is so powerful that people often feel that they were never saved to begin with once experiencing it. The Spirit coming upon a person to witness is available at any time according to God’s sovereignty, but surrender (and desire) must take place in order to receive this “epi” of the Holy Spirit. One thing is certain, we can’t be full of the Holy Spirit if we are full of ourselves.
I sincerely believe that the greatest need in the lives of Christians today is the power of the Spirit. There is a desperate need to be open and teachable about this critical empowerment…it is fundamental to the Christian faith. If we’re honest, we realize that the power of the Holy Spirit is clearly missing in the church, and in the lives of many Christians.
How many of us can say like Jeremiah, “His word was in my heart like a burning fire, shut up in my bones; I was weary of holding it back, and I could not” (20:9)? How many of us have truly experienced Jesus’ promise in John 7:38, “He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water”? How many of us can relate to Acts 1:8, “You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you”? How many truly understand Matthew 3:11, “He [Jesus] will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire”?
The fact is that many have not truly experienced the Spirit’s power; the Spirit’s fire; the Spirit’s anointing. The power of the Holy Spirit is like dynamite that ignites a hunger for God so intense that every aspect of life is changed—we become bold, not passive; stable, not fanatical; and committed, not wavering. Don’t be discouraged; instead, desire this anointing above all. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled” (Matthew 5:6).
More on the baptism of the Holy Spirit next week…