As stated on my Bio page, I was raised in a Southern Baptist household and was educated in an environment that believed that everything that I ever needed of the Holy Spirit was deposited in me when I accepted Jesus into my heart. Also, that the gifts of the Holy Spirit (and especially the offensive and confusing gift of tongues) had ceased and had been rendered unnecessary by the completion of the canon of scriptures we know as the New Testament.Perhaps this has been your experience and background as well. It is pretty common, nowadays.
As a life-long churchgoer and avid Bible Study attendee many topics such as the entire book of Acts were skimmed over and much of the New Testament-first church actions were explained away as historically accurate and quite necessary at that time but, that those dramatic things died off with the original disciples. I accepted this teaching from people I assumed knew much more than I, and went on my way, living my life. It wasn’t until many years later in my struggling Christian walk that I was overwhelmed with the feeling that there must be more. Why had I never had any relevant teaching on Spiritual Gifts? And, why after 35 or 40 years of being a Believer could I not even articulate, with any certainty, what those gifts might be in my life? Why was I seeing nothing more powerful than a fine sermon happening in church over the years. Why were my children feeling that church was not very relevant to their lives…just boring and judgmental?
There must be more! I began to pray. As I backed up and began to really study the amazing passages that were overlooked or twisted like a pretzel to make it seem like a reasonable explanation, I began to see with eyes of new understanding. The Holy Spirit had not moved, His gifts had not ceased. God had not changed. He is absolutely, fundamentally, incapable of doing so! (Hebrews 13:8)
It was the established church that had moved from God’s Word and Apostolic, First Century Church example. And, as we moved further along, adding our editorial comments and piling on doctrines of men, then the signs and wonders fell away from our congregations.
As we moved further away from the Hebrew roots of the early church we became too well-educated to believe in healing or to believe in Satan or demons and thus found no need to cast them out. Interestingly, I note that Southern Baptists, at least, espouse a very firm belief in the inerrancy of the Scriptures and the fact that God is the same yesterday today and tomorrow with one hand; but with the other, carefully edit the sermons and the Sunday School lessons to avoid looking too closely at those large portions that may be difficult or awkward to explain. It is a strange dichotomy that no one has really been able to adequately explain to me.
That said, I can find no scriptural evidence, directly stating or showing that the Gifts of the Holy Spirit ceased or that Bold, Holy Spirit power was intended only a temporary stop-gap measure to jump start this new thing called Christianity. I believe that this church doctrine grew out of a blatant, direct need to explain away the obvious absence and cessation of the very signs and wonders that had once been the prominent lifeblood not only in our congregations but as a sign to the lost world that Jesus is who He says He is.
Sadly, just as described in Ezekiel 10 with the Old Testament folks at the Temple who did not treasure His Presence any longer, we let the Holy Spirit, the Glory of the Lord, slip away and never even noticed He was gone. With him went most of the physical healings, deliverance and prophetic gifts such as words of wisdom and knowledge, and the marvelous, misunderstood, prayer language, the tongues of Angels. He will not intrude where He is not welcome.
In many of my Blog posts I speak of the “Baptism in the Holy Spirit”(Acts 1:4-5) and if you are like me, you probably had never heard the term or if you had, it was delivered with a tone of quasi-derision or suspicion as something that only poorly-educated, over excitable, emotional people believed in. As in a court of law, hear-say evidence is not really evidence, nor is it admissible. We need to go to the absolute source for our answers and Truth. Is it coincidental that the Bible says that the Holy Spirit will lead us in all truth? (John 16:13)
First off, before anyone gets the wrong idea: The Baptism in the Holy Spirit has ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to do with your eternal salvation. Jesus came, laid down His life and shed His blood on that cross to cover your sins once and for all. In doing so, He fulfilled a host of Old Testament prophetic scriptures including the entire point of the Feast of Passover, Feast of Unleavened Bread and the Feast of First Fruits. If you have repented of your sins, and trusted in Jesus as your Lord and Savior then you are saved and Heaven bound. Nothing else is needed for your salvation. If you are happy with this spiritual location and don’t feel the need for anything further, then read no more. The rest of this publication is for those who are thirsty for everything that God offers in his Gospel of the Kingdom. It is for those who are hungry for MORE.
I think that it is also useful at this juncture to explain (insofar as I am able) the Trinity. It may come as a surprise to Jews or followers of Islam but Christians believe in one God. One God. The God of Abraham, the Great I AM, our Creator is comprised of 3 equal parts: the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. All three persons are equally God. (By the way, This is an important, seminal difference where Christians and Mormons differ. They claim that Jesus is a created being and co-equal with Satan. Christians believe that Jesus is who he claimed to be, The Messiah, One third part of the Trinity, All God and an eternal being and not created like the Angels, or Adam. It is a very important distinction.) But, I digress.
So, Jesus is God incarnate or God “clothed as man” here on earth. While here, he set aside His deity and became all man. We don’t see miracles, signs and wonders or verbally “duking it out” with Satan in the wilderness until after the Holy Spirit rests
on Him like a dove at His baptism in the River Jordan. (All three persons of the Trinity are present at that moment, by the way.) Later, Jesus, specifically told his disciples, just before his ascension to Heaven, that He HAD to leave them so that the HOLY SPIRIT could come and comfort, lead them in all truth, and remind them of everything Jesus had ever talked to them about. He told them in no uncertain terms, to WAIT for the Holy Spirit. (Luke 24:49)
People are adept at categorizing, labeling and filing away things never to revisit them again or reevaluate based on new revelation. It is interesting for me to remember, and perhaps you can relate, as many of us grow up not really understanding the Trinity (Genesis 1:26, Matt 28:19, 1 John 5:7-8) or where the Holy Spirit fits into that whole confusing mix. In my juvenile, mental file system, I put the Holy Spirit into the same “unique & weird” category that my crazy, Great Aunt Lorena occupied. She existed. We all knew that she was family; my Grandmother’s first cousin. Unfortunately, she bore a remarkable resemblance to Cruella DeVille from the Disney movies- which made her highly suspect in my young mind! She had a mysterious background that my parents whispered about even though she rarely came around. She didn’t often leave her home and venture out, although she didn’t live all that far away from us in Dallas. However, on those rare occasions when she would show up, on holidays or for the odd visit, we didn’t really know what to expect or how she might act. No two ways about it, she was strange and everyone was just a little on edge as to what to say and how to behave. I was uncomfortable. Avoidance, just to be on the safe side, was a much better option than relationship from my childhood perspective.
It is time to pull out the mental files we have established for the Holy Spirit, dust them off, compare them to the Word and do some serious reevaluation. It is a sound practice, no matter what pillars you are basing your spiritual life upon, that you study the Bible for yourself, read those scriptures in context and make sure it actually is Biblical Doctrine and not just Church Doctrine. Sometimes they are the same thing but oftentimes they are not. While both may have been long misunderstood; unlike my long ago, sad, unbalanced and mysterious Aunt Lorena, The Holy Spirit is just God, just as Jesus was God. He is just a different manifestation of that God who loves me more than I can begin to understand.
He has a definitive, specific mission, scripturally based and vital job description that Jesus told his fellows they must wait to receive. Therefore, If I don’t believe in His Person, His Gifts, Power or the necessity of the Holy Spirit at all, then am I not intrinsically saying that Jesus was mistaken, in error, or outright lying to his team? God, Jesus and the Person of the Holy Spirit: All three are God. I don’t believe that you can take one and not acknowledge the others. All three are equally important. We aren’t going to get too far in our spiritual growth if we don’t become intentional about developing a deep friendship with The Holy Spirit.
Let’s look at what Scripture says: Matthew 3:11, Mark 1:8, Luke 3:16, John 1:33 all describe a specific, different baptism than that John the Baptist was performing. John is indicating that He was baptizing with water unto repentance but Jesus was going to baptize with the Holy Spirit and Fire. Earlier I stated emphatically that the Baptism of the Holy Spirit has nothing to do with your salvation and that is true. However, one must be a Christian to receive the gift of this Baptism in the Holy Spirit. The verses above all state that Jesus baptizes with the Holy Spirit. So, you can be a Believer in Jesus and be saved and not have received the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. This was certainly my story. I accepted Christ as my Savior before I was 10 years old. I didn’t receive the Baptism into the Spirit until I was past 50. I was truly saved, I was definitely going to heaven, I had led many others to a saving knowledge of Christ. However, while I loved the Word of God and was fairly knowledgeable about the Bible I was still pretty much exactly where I had been years before. I couldn’t always put my finger on it but, I had felt that there was something missing spiritually. There had to be more: and, of course, there was!
It is in the early pages of the book of Acts that we see the dramatic entrance of the Holy Spirit. Remember, Jesus has told his disciples not to venture from Jerusalem until they receive the power of the Holy Spirit. All 120 of the original core of believers is together in the upper room. They are in totally unity, praying in one accord for this mystery to happen. By the way, while I don’t think that they knew exactly what to expect…I believe they knew when it was coming. Please recall, Jesus has been crucified on the Feast of Passover, buried on the Feast of Unleavened Bread, and been resurrected on the Feast of First Fruits. They were all of one accord waiting for SOMETHING powerful to happen on the Feast of Weeks: Pentecost. First they heard something really loud, a Mighty Rushing Wind and then they saw tongues of fire resting and flickering above each of their heads! This is sort of an initial multi-sensory extravaganza, isn’t it? Details are sketchy on the timeline here. But we know it is a big Feast Day with specific things to do at the Temple.
Pentecost is one of the 3 Feasts that is Required Attendance for every Jewish Male. So, at some point that morning, this core group of 120 people leave the upper room and make their way through the crush of people. (The historian, Josephus records that there were regularly 2.5 million men present for these Feasts in Jerusalem). Acts 2:4 relates what happens next; ” and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance”. They are speaking in foreign languages. The Greek word used in Acts is “glossa” which means languages. This wasn’t just some supernatural magic trick to wow the crowd. There were men there from all over the known world and suddenly they were hearing the Gospel of Jesus in their own languages. Everybody was still talking about Jesus. He was big news. It had only been 7 weeks and one day since Passover, the day Jesus had been crucified. Please recall that there had been a total eclipse of the sun for over 3 hours and a huge earthquake, not to mention all sorts of folks resurrected from their graves and proclaiming Jesus as Messiah! Believe you me, when people started speaking in their own languages to them about Jesus, they knew EXACTLY of whom these men were testifying! This all broke loose right at the time of the morning sacrifice at the Temple.
Filled with the Holy Spirit, Peter is transformed from Fraidy Cat disciple status into BOLDMAN! He jumps up and starts preaching. I’ll let you go read it yourself but essentially, He gives them a history lesson proving from the Old Testament that Jesus was the Messiah. He gives them a spiritual spanking and then leads at least 3000 men to faith in Jesus. Not bad for day one! Then look what happens in Acts 2: 37: They agree with him, they are convicted of their sin and now convinced and believe that Jesus is the Messiah: ” What shall we do?” Peter’s response is telling and specific: 1) Repent of your sins. 2) Be baptized ( water) every one of you, in the name of Jesus for the remission of sins and 3) Receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Lest we think this was just a special list for the Jewish folks in attendance that particular day read on…” for the promise is to you and to your children and to ALL who are far off and to as many as the Lord our God will call.” This covers us all. The Promise of the Holy Spirit,and all that entails,with the Power, boldness, conviction of sin, leadership into all truth, comforter, all those gifts listed in the New Testament are used to Glorify Jesus and build up the body of Christ all throughout the New Testament. It wasn’t just for Jews or for the Apostles or the original disciples. It was for them but it was for ALL who are and were far off. All who were called. Thankfully, ALL means ALL! Praise God! We don’t need to fly without a parachute! And this definitely shows us that this wasn’t a promise with a limited time guarantee!
After this Day of Pentecost experience nothing was ever the same. Due to this amazing and necessary Spirit Baptism, they were bold, confident and able to recount massive blocks of scripture with a single bound! They immediately began to walk in such authoritative anointing of the Holy Spirit that Peter and John only had to walk down the street;and if their shadows touched sick people,they would be healed! Powerful Change. Permanent Amazing Improvement. These gentlemen had spent three years in the personal presence of Jesus and nothing like this had ever happened before. How much more, then, do we need this filling and Baptism of the Holy Spirit! The difference was staggering and just as Jesus had promised them. The Power of the Holy Spirit: Don’t leave home without it!
This isn’t the only passage which deals with this multi- step process. According to the Mosaic Law, you need at least two or three corroborating witnesses to prove anything. So also, we need at least two or three scriptures upon which to build any doctrine. So let’s move on and see what we can find. Phillip, in Acts 8, is in Samaria. The people there believed, they were baptized in water. Here is where it gets interesting, so pay close attention: Verse 14-16 Peter and John show up and prayed that they, these new Samaritan believers, might receive the Holy Spirit ” For as yet, He had not fallen on them-they had only been baptized in the Lord Jesus.” This is pretty explicit evidence, to me, that these people did not receive everything they needed at the time that they accepted Jesus and followed his example in water baptism. Lets read on and see what else we can find.
The order of these separate steps does not seem that critical. For instance, in Acts 9 we read the story of Saul on the Damascus road. He is stopped, talked to and blinded by the Lord and led to town. There he waited, fasting and praying, for 3 days until the prophesied disciple, Ananias comes over. In verse 17 we pick up the story. Paul by this time is a true believer, Ananias lays hands on him and Saul is immediately filled with the Holy Spirit. Right away he can see again and he goes out and gets Water Baptized, as per his instructions.
In Acts 10 Peter received a vision to go to Cesarea to meet with a group of Gentiles who are anxious to hear the Gospel. Peter and his buddies were totally amazed when, while he is still sharing the story of Jesus with them, the Holy Spirit fell on the whole Kit and Kaboodle of these Gentiles, Cornelius the Roman and his household, and they begin praising God! Something visible and definable happened that alerted Peter to the fact that the Holy Spirit had fallen on these folks. Verse 46 tells us what that was: They heard them speak with tongues. They talked it over and decided that since the cat was out of the bag, so to speak, they needed to get all these folks water baptized in the Name of Jesus.
Acts 19 shifts over to Ephesus with Paul ( formerly Saul) and his mission work in Ephesus. Paul arrives and bumps into a group of “disciples” who ALREADY believed in Jesus. Note, if you will, that Paul knows and is not shocked that a person can be baptized by water into the body of Christ and yet not be baptized by the Name of Jesus into the Holy Spirit. Paul specifically asks them: Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed. Verse 4-6 shows their reply. No they did not. They were kinda clueless…which is alright. They were baptized then, in the Name of Jesus in water and then Paul laid hands on them, the Holy Spirit came up on them and they spoke in tongues and prophesied.
Over and over we see in the book of Acts that this is the pattern. I will admit that later on we see an abbreviation of this as,… “and they believed”. I think after driving home the multi-step process so thoroughly and repeatedly, early on, that after awhile it was understood that when it says “They believed” it means that they came to the knowledge by way of the conviction of the Holy Spirit, Repented of their sins, were water baptized and then received the gift of the Holy Spirit. Not necessarily in that order. In the same way, If I say I am going to the post office I do not have to specifically outline that first I have to get in the car, put it in gear, and drive over to the post office, get my little key to open the box, remove the mail, then stand in line and buy stamps. I could ,redundantly,say all those things every time I go but I can just say I’m going to the post office and you pretty much get the drift that all those steps were actually performed.
Let’s review: When I believed on Jesus I was saved, I became a new person. When I was baptized in water I was following the example of Jesus and showing the world that I was symbolically washing away the old person and aligning myself with Christ. That old, sinful Sally was cut off. And when I was finally, years later, baptized in the Holy Spirit, I received the Power to walk in the new! Trying to live out the Christian life without this power was an effort in constant frustration and stagnation. The Spiritual gifts I had pondered and needed to operate in the Christian life successfully were now dropped into my life. They have nothing to do with my everyday skills and abilities and not by any effort of my own that I can brag about; but are His Gifts to me. They are available when He thinks I need them,just by my asking the Lord and seeking more of Him. He is so happy to oblige!
I encourage you to take the time to read straight through the book of Acts a time or two.
Do it, not with a concordance in your lap or stopping every verse or two to consult the notes in your study Bible, but just with a prayer that God would open the eyes of your understanding and lead you in all truth as he promised to do. It is important to always rightly divide the word of Truth. Do not take my word for any of this. Nor should you blindly follow behind any preacher or author or whoever wrote the notes in your particular study Bible. Please remember, that while the books of the Bible are truly the inspired Word of God, these extra Biblical sources are not, and can be influenced heavily by the convoluted explanations of seminarians who have never fully experienced the Holy Spirit and feel, in all sincerity, that they must perpetuate explanations as to why we are not experiencing the same power that is described over and over and over in the Scripture.
My final thought I want to leave you to ponder is this: And this is important so don’t just breeze thru this final paragraph! Who do you think wins when we ignore the carefully laid out scriptural pattern that the Lord left us to follow. Who do you know, in this supernatural chess game we call life, that may have a vested interest in keeping you confused and entangled in false doctrine, clueless and powerless? Who do we know that is the Father of Lies? People, we don’t need to spend time wondering what’s missing or why we are not routinely seeing signs,wonders and miracles in most of our churches any more. The real question we need to be asking our pastors and each other is when do we repent and revert back to Plan A: To that Power-packed, First Century Church experience outlined in Acts. The answer is, as it usually is: obedience.
*Please Email me if you have further questions or concerns or would like me to pray with you to receive the Gift of the Holy Spirit! If you would like further good reading on this topic, I highly recommend:The God I Never Knew by Robert Morris. Also, Baptism in the Holy Spirit by Ron Phillips. Hosting the Presence by Bill Johnson is also an excellent read.