The Power of His Resurrection (pt 3)

Getting In and Getting On …

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3.1 Baptism in the Spirit

The word ‘baptize’ means to dip or plunge in something. It is not only used for water baptism. The different uses of the word can be recognised by asking ‘Who is being baptised, by whom, in what?’

Read 1 Cor 12:13. Paul here is emphasising the unity of all Christians, by pointing to the activity of the Holy Spirit when we are born again (see ‘With, In & Upon’ in part 1). In this case the ‘by whom?’ is the Holy Spirit, and the ‘in what?’ is the body of Christ.

Now read Mk 1:8. Here the ‘by whom?’ is Jesus, and the ‘in what?’ is the Holy Spirit. Jesus made it clear that this referred to the Day of Pentecost (Acts 1:5).

Note that the term ‘Baptism of the Spirit’, used by many Charismatics and Pentecostals, is strictly speaking incorrect: it should be ‘Baptism with (or in) the Spirit’. Note also that, although baptism is the initial immersion of someone into something, it is normally intended that we should remain in that state afterwards. (We remain permanently identified with Christ’s death and resurrection, even though the symbolic act of immersion in water is cut short for obvious reasons!).

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3.2 When and how are we Baptised in the Spirit?

3.2.1 Five Examples

The book of Acts provides a clear picture of how the Gospel was first preached, and with what effect. There are 5 incidents which describe the believers’ initial experiences of the Baptism in the Spirit.

  • Acts 2:1-41. It is clear that this was the moment when the apostles were baptised in the Spirit (Acts 1:5). As noted in part 1 (‘With, In & Upon‘) the experience was some time after their new birth. (Incidentally, it is not recorded when the disciples were baptised in water, or by whom). There was a sound of a mighty wind, tongues of fire appeared on them and they praised God in tongues (Acts 2:2-12).However, Peter tells the people that if they repent and are baptised they too will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. He presents salvation, water baptism and baptism in the Spirit as a total package; and the people respond. They are baptised that same day; and there is no mention of any delay in their being baptised in the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38-42).
  • Acts 8:14-8. Here there has been an unexplained delay between the believer’s baptism in water and their baptism in the Spirit (note the use of the term ‘on’ or ‘upon’ in Acts 8:16). This was a matter of some concern to the apostles; so they prayed, laid hands on them and they received the Spirit. We are not told exactly what happened; but the result so impressed the ex-magician Simon that he thought it worth paying for the power to reproduce it.
  • Acts 9:17-8. Saul has already become a believer and Ananias addresses him as ‘brother.’ Ananias has come so he can see again and be filled with the Spirit. When he lays hands on Saul his eyes are healed and he gets up and is baptised (probably in water as well as the Spirit).
  • Acts 10:44-8. Cornelius and his friends believe the Gospel the moment they hear it, and the Holy Spirit comes on them while Peter is still preaching. They speak with tongues and praise God; which was clearly an important sign to the Jews, who doubted whether Gentiles could be saved (see Acts 11:15-8). Water baptism came later (Acts 10:47-8).
  • Acts 19:1-6. Here again there has been a hold-up in the experience of these believers, in this case due to ignorance, and Paul is clearly concerned about it. When they have been properly taught and baptised in water, he lays his hands on them. The Holy Spirit then comes upon them and they speak in tongues and prophesy.

3.2.2 When?

So in answer to the question ‘When?’ we can say that there is no hard and fast rule: but that the early Christians preached repentance and salvation, followed by baptism in water and baptism in the Spirit, as a total package and sought to keep any delay between them as short as possible.

3.2.3 How?

On the question ‘How?’ we can also see there is a fair amount of variation. In Acts 2:2-4 we have a rushing wind and tongues of fire: in Acts 9:17-8 we have a healing, but no hint of any fireworks. Three common elements stand out, however.

  • On every occasion the Holy Spirit was given the people were either already in prayer or they began immediately to worship God.
  • In 3 out of 5 cases (Acts 8:17,9:17 & 19:6) we are told that people had hands laid on them (in the other 2 there were reasons why this was not likely to happen: but the Spirit clearly did not stand on ceremony!).
  • Also, in 3 of the 5 cases (Acts 2:4,10:46 & 19:6) we are told that they spoke with tongues. Of the other 2 cases we know that Paul regularly spoke in tongues afterwards (1 Cor 14:18) – did this happen then or later? In Acts 8:17-19 something dramatic happened which Luke doesn’t bother to describe; probably something he considered normal on such occasions.

The evidence does not say a person must be baptised in water or have hands laid on them to be baptised in the Spirit. It does not say that it has to be a ‘loud’ experience. Nor does it conclusively say that they must speak in tongues. But all the evidence shows that when the Spirit fell upon someone it was a God-centred experience and there was a definite and unmistakeable display of His supernatural power. That, after all, is what Jesus promised (Acts 1:8).

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3.3 Getting In

There is no ‘method’ for receiving the baptism in the Spirit: but the following pointers will be helpful.

Be clear about your motive
Since the purpose of the baptism in the Spirit is that we should be witnesses (Acts 1:8) we are wasting our time and God’s if we seek it for any other reason.
Trust God to do it right.
The Holy Spirit is by nature unpredictable (Jn. 3:8) and it is easy to fear that somehow he is going to land you up to your ears in an impossible situation (cf. 1 Kings 18:7-16). Some also fear that, even though they ask God for spiritual gifts, the devil may slip in with a counterfeit ‘answer.’ But God is not like that! Read 1 Cor. 10:13 & Luke 11:11-3 and get them in your heart. He will do things in a way that is right for you.
Stop looking at yourself.
Many who have often prayed for the baptism, but not received, feel that it is because they are in some way ‘unworthy’. We have already seen that is not really a problem; we are only required to be ‘postmen’ for the Holy Spirit. The real problem is that they are too busy trying to be worthy: and if God granted the baptism on that basis it would undermine the very gospel he wants them to preach! The baptism in the Spirit is given on the same basis as salvation – it is an undeserved gift (Gal.3:1-5).
Focus on God.
As already noted, every occasion when people were baptised in the Spirit began in prayer and/or ended in worship. There is nothing like worship to build your faith and encourage the Holy Spirit to move.
Expect to receive the gift of tongues.
It was noted in part 2 how the gift of tongues was exceptional in the respect that its primary function was to build up the one using it. We have also seen strong evidence that it was the normal experience of the early Christians. God has not changed, and ‘the promise is for you and … for all whom the Lord our God will call’ (Acts 2:39).
Don’t expect your mind, or tongue, to be taken over. As you concentrate on worshipping God, you will find a rising desire to express your feelings to him. At that moment, speak out whatever sounds come to mind first. The more you focus on worshipping God, the more fluently the language will come: and the more you try to listen to yourself and analyse it, the more you will stumble.

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3.4 Getting On…

Use what you have (2 Tim. 1:6)
Many older Christians neglect to use the gift of tongues in their private prayer because they think it ‘immature.’ Paul did not agree with this. Such ‘spiritual snobbery’ makes light of a gift given by God to strengthen our spiritual life. There is little wonder if our growth is stilted.
Pass on what you are given (Mt. 24:45-7 & Luke 6:38).
It’s to be shared: not hoarded.
Don’t be afraid of failures (Mt. 17:16 & Acts 5:16)
The disciples had their failures too, despite being personally ordained by Jesus: but they learned to succeed.
Forget the past (Phil. 3:13)
Many get bogged down in memories of past failures or successes. God says ‘Forget it, and press on …’
Be ambitious (1 Cor 12:31 & Phil. 3:13)
Self-seeking is wrong: zeal for God’s kingdom is commendable (Jn. 2:17).
Let love be your motive (1 Cor. 13:1-14:1)
If your motive is right, God won’t let you go far wrong (Is 30:21).
Give God the glory (Jn. 15:8 & Is. 42:8)
Remember that the object of all the Spirit does is to reveal God’s nature.

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