So far, I have written about baptism into Christ, which is the work of the Holy Spirit, who convicts us of sin, leads us to salvation and regenerates our spirit, and water baptism, which is a symbol of the work of Christ on the cross and the death, burial and resurrection of our old lives when we accept Christ. The last baptism I want to write about is baptism of the Holy Spirit.
For many people, this is a controversial topic. Many Christians believe, because they were taught to believe, that when we follow Christ, the Holy Spirit dwells within us, and that’s it. That’s mostly correct – when we are saved, the Spirit is grafted into our spirit, and our spirit comes to life. The Holy Spirit is always a part of us from that time forward, guiding, directing, encouraging, revealing, illuminating. But is that really the extent of the work of the Spirit? Or is there more?
Some evangelical denominations hold to a cessationist view, which basically states that the baptism of the Spirit and the signs of this baptism were only for the early church, to help establish the church, and show people the power of God. These gifts are said to have passed away before or shortly after the death of the last Apostle.
Recently, at a denominational seminary, a prominent pastor spoke of his relationship with the Holy Spirit during chapel. The content of the message indicated that although he was a member of the denomination that teaches cessationism, he had experienced the baptism of the Holy Spirit on many occasions, and regularly spoke in tongues during times of prayer. This message was denounced by the seminary president, the audio and video of the message destroyed, and a statement from the seminary was sent out stating that the message was “ill-timed, inappropriate, unhelpful, unnecessarily divisive, and contrary to the generally accepted understandings and practices of [this denomination].”
I think there is a misunderstanding of the work of the Spirit in general, and more specifically, the baptism of the Holy Spirit, behind all this. It is a divisive topic – it need not be. I grew up in this particular denomination. I went to a private college and seminary of that denomination, and for all its faults, I feel deep love and loyalty to it. I was saved and called to ministry as a baptist. I served on staff in many baptist churches. I may well do so again, in spite of the things I am about to write. It’s part of who I am, and I am proud of my baptist heritage. What makes me stop short is the denominational stance on something so basic, so Scripturally true, so profound, and so needed in our daily lives. Again, I think there is a huge misunderstanding of what the baptism of the Holy Spirit is all about.
My pastor, Rober Morris, of Gateway Church has written a wonderful book called The God I Never Knew: How Real Friendship with the Holy Spirit Can Change Your Life. If you want to know more about the Spirit, read this book. I did, and it changed my life. Your life can be changed, too.
Over the next few days, I will look more deeply into this final type of baptism, discussing the arguments for and against, discussing the how and the why. But beyond these things, ask yourself, has there ever been a time when, as a Christian, you felt like something was missing, or not right? Have you ever noticed a lack of spiritual boldness, a lack of God’s presence? We all go through these times of feeling apart from God, but if this characterizes your whole experience as a Christian, what do you think is missing? Pray that God would open your spiritual eyes to see and your spiritual ears to hear what will follow over the next few days. Maybe what you are missing is the power of the Holy Spirit in your life.