About Jesus   Steve Sweetman

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The Baptism in The Holy Spirit Redefined

 

"What the Bible says about the
Pentecostal experience" 

 

 

Table Of Contents

 

Preface

1    Let U's Begin
2    In The Beginning

3    After The Meeting

4    Back Home

5    It Began To Happen
6    The Traditional Explanation

7    The Old Testament

8    The Holy Spirit And Jesus

9     The Holy Spirit And Jesus

10   The Phrase The Baptism In The Holy Spirit

11   Acts 2

12   Acts 8

13   Acts 9

14   Acts 10

15   Acts 19

16   Let's Recap

17   Second Work Of Grace In Terms Of Believing

18   Revisiting My Experience

19   What Really Happened In 1971?

20   Your Experience

21   Another Way To Understand Your Experience

22   Romans 8:9

23   Genuine Faith Acts 2:38

24   In Conclusions

 

 

 

Preface

 

Before I begin I would like to say that I am Pentecostal by experience but not by doctrine.  When making this statement I usually confuse everyone who hears it.  They inevitably ask, "What does that mean?"  My answer is found in the following pages.   

 

 

1 - Let Us Begin

 

The Baptism in the Holy Spirit means different things to different people. This issue has divided the Evangelical church for a long time, although the conflict seems to have died down in recent years.  

 

I was introduced to what Pentecostals call the Baptism in the Holy Spirit in 1971.  After hearing about this I eagerly searched for it.  What you will read in the following pages is both my personal testimony and my position on the subject, which in the history of the church is not my thinking alone.   

 

I hope you seriously think about what I say and not accept it or reject it without considerable thought.  Too often we fail to do the research on Biblical issues.  For this reason Biblical illiteracy penetrates the western world church.  If we claim to love Jesus, we should love what He tells us, and what He tells us is found in the Bible.  We must, therefore, take the Bible seriously.      

 

I will begin with my personal experience so you can see where I've come from.  I don't relate my experience to prove my thinking on the subject because experience, my experience included, proves nothing when it comes to the Bible.  We don't build doctrine on experience.  We build doctrine on a good hermeneutical approach to the Bible.  If our experience doesn't match Biblical thinking then we need to question our experience, which I have done in my own life concerning the Baptism n the Holy Spirit. 

 

 

2 In The Beginning

 

While growing up in the Free Methodist Church I took many trips to the altar.  Every Sunday night, after the usual emotional pleas, you'd find me on my knees in search of forgiveness of sins.  There were so many rules and regulations taught to maintain one's salvation back then that I was never sure if I was really saved.  Feelings associated with guilt followed me everywhere I went.  Hell's fire seemed to be around every corner.  One slip into one simple little sin would do me in for good, or so I thought.  This was the reason for my many trips to the altar to find forgiveness.  

 

It was in February, 1970, after watching Billy Graham on television I knelt beside my bed.  In a very unemotional five seconds I prayed the following.  "Lord Jesus, if I'm not forgiven please forgive me now."  It was short, simple, but very real and from my heart.  Although I didn't realize at the time how real it was, it changed the direction of my life.  The next day I woke to a surprising change in my life.  No, I didn't feel different.  I just acted different.  No longer did I read the Bible just to get rid of my feelings associated with guilt.  I wanted to read the Bible.  I wanted to pray.  I wanted to be a witness.  I just wanted to live for Jesus apart from any motivation based on ridding my feelings associated with guilt.  I was transformed, and it only took five seconds.  It proves that although there's nothing wrong with emotions, they don't always have to accompany a valid experience with Jesus.  Many of those emotional encounters at the altar produced no real change in my life. 

 

I believe my life never changed prior to this five second prayer because I was consistently being taught a legalistic gospel of works.  Initial salvation was free of charge and free from works.  It was by faith and faith alone, but, maintaining salvation appeared to me to be by works.  In short, I was saved by faith but I stayed saved by works. That's not Biblical and that's why my feelings associated with guilt never went away           

 

The first time I was in what you would call a Charismatic style meeting was in a school converted into a Christian outreach centre in Lexington, Kentucky.  It was March, 1971.  The room was a normal sized classroom.  You might well imagine one of your high school classrooms you were taught in as a youth since that is what it originally was.  The room was crowded and this is what I observed.

 

It was standing room only.  A matter of fact, you really could not say standing room only.  There were people sitting in window sills, on the floor, or wherever they could squeeze themselves into.  It reminded me of the time in the book of Acts where Paul was preaching and a young man fell asleep and fell out of the window onto the ground below.  The only difference was that no one fell out of a window, even though there was one pretty heavy set man sitting on one of the window sills.

 

The number of people squeezed into that room was something to see, but more importantly was who was in the room.  There were old people in their seventies and there were teenagers.  There were all shapes and sizes.  Talk about people being in one accord, I saw that there.  I was so used to the church being segregated into children, youth, young married couples, middle aged people, and seniors. To see them all in one room at one time and actually enjoying themselves, was shocking at the least.

 

The meeting began, and this was what impressed me.  People started singing these new songs, or at least they were new to me.  The lyrics were worshipful, giving adoration and thanks to Jesus.  Then, at one point everyone stopped singing.  There was a moment of silence.  Then, very quietly some people started to sing in tongues.  Others soon joined in.  Everyone was singing in a different language that the Lord had given them.  The spontaneous song started quietly, grew in strength and loudness, until it all died down into another reverent silence.  There is no way that I can relate this experience to you in its fullness if you have not experienced it.  There is no way I can relate how I felt about what I saw.  I had never seen anything like that before.  I was certainly impressed.  

 

After the singing there was a message in tongues which someone interpreted.  That too was new for me.  Then came a time of prayer where people prayed for each other. They laid their hands on one another and prayed.  Everyone was involved.  It was more than just the pastor up front doing the praying.  Everyone prayed.  Again, this was pretty new to me as well.  

 

So there I was.  Besides being very impressed, I knew
the Lord Jesus was there in that gathering. That night was
another life changer for me.  I knew that I did not have

what these people had and I wanted it bad.  The following few months proved to be an interesting experience in my search for what these people in Kentucky had.

 

 

3 After The Meeting

 

Upon arriving home from Lexington, Kentucky, in March 1971, I began my search for the Baptism in the Holy Spirit in earnest.  I wanted this experience real bad.  I had pretty much accepted the Pentecostal way of thinking concerning this.  It was not until later on that I began to rethink things through. 

 

Actually, my search had begun that Tuesday night down in   Kentucky in that jammed packed Spirit filled room.  At the end of the gathering a man suggested that anyone who wanted prayer for any reason could to stay behind.  So I stayed behind looking for this new experience with the Holy Spirit.  I told those who would pray for me that I wanted what they called the Baptism in the Holy Spirit.  I also mentioned that I was a bit nervous.  One of them replied by saying that a bride always feels a bit nervous as she meets her groom on her wedding day.  They encouraged me to relax because when I met the Bridegroom, He'd sooth the anxiety out of my system.  That really didn't help me, but, those words did make an impact on me. I'd later spend some time pondering over the idea that I was to meet the Bridegroom.    

 

These brothers in the Lord proceeded to tell me more about what I was looking for.  Meeting the Bridegroom, as they put it, sounded more than a bit exciting.  After a short while of sharing back and forth they laid their hands on me and began to pray.  I really can't remember just what they prayed, but I do remember what happened, and that was nothing. That's right; nothing happened.  At least nothing visible happened, and as far as I was concerned, nothing invisible happened either.  That wasn't what I was expecting, and it sure wasn't what I was hoping for.

 

It was quite evident to all of us that nothing happened, at least nothing visible, as I've just mentioned.  So, one kind and helpful brother in the Lord told me to accept this by faith.  The words "accept this by faith" would pop back into my mind many times after that night.  Accepting things by faith in this instant meant that even though I didn't feel like I met the Bridegroom I must believe I did meet Him, but I figured that if I had actually met Him that we'd all know it for sure.  It should be a thrilling moment to experience; and now they told me to do some kind of mental gymnastics they called faith.  I was to believe something happened when apparently nothing did happen.  Was I to somehow trick my brain into believing something happened when it didn't happen?  Is that what they called faith?   

 

When I began to think things through for myself I understood what happened that Tuesday night in Kentucky.  Those brothers were sincere.  They really tried to introduce me to the Bridegroom as they put it.  In their minds the Bridegroom was Jesus.  The problem was that I had already met Jesus, so it made no sense to meet Him for the first time again.  I didn't have to be reintroduced to Him all over again. 

 

The other thing is that if meeting the Bridegroom meant that I would finally receive the Holy Spirit into my life; that was a problem.  I was a true believer. I believed that I already had the Holy Spirit living in me.  So, how could He come to live in me when He was already in me?  How could Jesus answer a prayer that had already been answered? Something wasn't jiving here.  The whole situation was a bit confusing, and maybe this was the will of the Lord.  The whole event got me searching my way through the Bible for myself.      

 

 

4 Back Home

 

Upon arriving back home something else increased my desire to receive this experience that everyone called the Baptism in the Holy Spirit.  Some of my best friends had received this experience and amazingly enough, they were speaking in tongues. I would later understand speaking in tongues to actually be praying in tongues as the Apostle Paul put it in 1 Corinthians 14:14. 

 

I can remember quite clearly asking my best friend how one spoke in tongues.  It must have been after the fiftieth time that I asked him when he finally clued me in on the secret.  It was simple.  All I needed to do was to say hallelujah ten times real fast and my tongue would flip over and the tongues would just float off my lips.  Of course, he was joking, but this next episode was no joke.

 

I found myself at the altar of a Pentecostal church.  Again, I was looking for this great experience everyone was talking about.  It was the height of what was called the Charismatic Movement.  While looking for the baptism, as it came to be known, I overheard a Pentecostal preacher tell a man beside me to repeat his tongues.  If he would do that then he would begin to speak in tongues.  Copying someone else praying in tongues did not sit well with me back then and still doesn't today.   

   

Then, there was my other friend who tried his best to help me out.  In all seriousness he told me to just invent my own tongues and speak them out by faith.  Sooner or later Jesus would honour my faith and give me the real thing.  That too did not sit well with me.  Attempting to duplicate the supernatural with human effort is just not right.   

 

 

5 It Began To Happen

 

It was a month after my visit to Kentucky when I found myself in a small prayer meeting with my friends.  We were huddled around each other in a little circle on the floor in our local Youth For Christ coffee house.  I know that emotions don't necessarily confirm the presence of Jesus, but on the other hand, Jesus can touch our emotions, and that He did for me that evening. 

 

While basking in the presence of the Lord in prayer it started to happen.  This funny little word slipped out of my mouth. "Boy," I thought.  "Was that a word in tongues?"  I sure thought it was, and to this day I still believe it was.  To be clear, I did not invent this word of tongues, nor did I copy it from a friend.  I was simply magnifying Jesus in English when a word that I had never heard before came out of my mouth.   

 

Over the next few days I found myself asking how this one word could constitute a supernatural gift of the Holy Spirit.  I can certainly understand the critics of tongues thinking it was psychosomatic, a product of an overactive imagination.  It did seem to defy common sense and logic.  I admit that I had a hard time thinking the Lord would give me just one word of tongues.  It sure didn't happen that way in Acts 2, Acts 10, or Acts 19.  So, I tended to give up on the word, but, anytime I found myself in one of those prayer meetings, I'd quietly speak this word in my personal prayers to Jesus.

 

It was a couple weeks later in yet another prayer meeting with my friends that another unknown word slipped out of my mouth.  Apparently I now had two words in tongues, but again, how could two unknown words constitute valid Biblical tongues.  Two words still bothered me, but as usual, when I found myself in the presence of Jesus, I'd quietly speak them in prayer.    

A few weeks later, and again in a prayer meeting with my friends, I quietly prayed these two words.  I'm sure you can guess what came next.  Yes, a third word rolled off my lips.  I now had three whole words in tongues, or so I hoped. 

 

By now it was well into the summer and a number of weeks had gone by without any additional words.  I began to really struggle over the idea that three words could validate a real gift from the Holy Spirit, so I gave up.  I left tongues up to the full fledged Pentecostals, which apparently I would never be.  My friends could pray in tongues.  I'd stick to English.  Maybe the Free Methodist Church man was right when he told me that I shouldn't seek the gifts but the giver of the gifts.  He did have a point, although 1 Corinthians 14:1 clearly tells us to desire gifts of the Holy Spirit.  In that sense of the word, he didn't have a point.      

 

In September of 1971 my friends and I moved into a farm house in the country.  Christian communes back then were common among the Jesus People Movement.  It was in my bedroom in the farm house when I pulled out my guitar and began singing to Jesus.  For some reason I sang the three little words that I had given up on.  All of a sudden the Holy Spirit filled every fabric of my being.  Those three little words exploded into sentences and paragraphs.  There I was, just like those in that crowded classroom in Kentucky .  It was like the Gentiles in Cornelius' house in Acts 10.  For about an hour, I sang in tongues to Jesus. 

 

This experience with Jesus wasn't a one time experience.  He had given me a real gift that would edify me as the Apostle Paul taught in 1 Corinthians 14:4.   Every day since 1971 I have prayed in tongues and over the next few years I studied the New Testament to learn more about what I had experienced.  I acknowledge that experience is important, but if our experience doesn't line up with the Bible, we must rethink our experience.  I'm not saying we should discredit our experience.  We should just put it in Biblical perspective.  The following is my rethinking of what has been called the Baptism in the Holy Spirit.    

  

 

6 - The Traditional Explanation

 

There needs to be a little historical background before I proceed.  Around the turn of the 20th century there was a group of people who met for prayer in California. The Holy Spirit visited these people in a similar way to that which is found in Acts 2.  After being blessed with this outpouring of the Holy Spirit they went to their Bibles to, in my words, doctrinalize their experience.   They noted that an Acts 2 experience seemed to have happened to them, so they called it the "Baptism in the Holy Spirit."  I know that this history lesson is extremely short and simplistic, but in a nut shell that is what happened.  

 

From this one outpouring of the Holy Spirit came revival.  From this revival came churches and denominations promoting what they called the Baptism in the Holy Spirit.  They backed their doctrine with certain passages, similar to what they experienced, from the book of Acts. 

 

Traditionally speaking, the Baptism in the Holy Spirit is said to be an experience subsequent to one's initial salvation. That is to say, at one point in time we get saved, or born again, and then at another point in time we receive the Baptism in the Spirit. This is often called a "second work of grace;" the first work of grace being initial salvation.  Some suggest that both initial salvation and the Baptism in the Spirit can happen at the same time, but they claim that is highly unlikely. 

 

When thinking of the Baptism in the Spirit as a second work of grace, the majority of Pentecostals believe that one receives the Holy Spirit at initial salvation and then at some future point gets baptized in the Spirit.  Others, who are in the minority, say that one only believes in Jesus at initial salvation and they receive the Holy Spirit at the Baptism in the Holy Spirit.    

 

If you ask the average Pentecostal what they mean by the Baptism in the Holy Spirit these days, you'll probably get a variety of answers.  The reason for this is that many cannot really explain what this term means from a Biblical perspective.  Unlike the average Pentecostal, I will now proceed to explain what I understand what the Bible says about this issue.   

 

7 - The Old Testament

 

In the first chapter of the book of Genesis it says that the Spirit of God moved across the face of the earth.  It did not take long for the Biblical record to introduce the Holy Spirit to us.  From Genesis to Revelation the Holy Spirit is seen throughout the Bible.

 

The main point I would like to make here is that for the most part the Holy Spirit did not reside in people in Old Testament times.  Many times Scripture says that the Spirit came on someone and they spoke the Word of the Lord, Ezekiel 11:5 being one example. 

 

There is a real distinction between the Spirit coming on someone as seen in the Old Testament and the Holy Spirit actually living inside of someone, as seen in the New Testament.  

 

Man lost the presence of God in his life when Adam disobeyed God's command in the Garden of Eden.  Scripture does not make it clear if Adam and Eve actually had the Holy Spirit living within them prior to the fall.  We know next to nothing about their pre-fall lives.  We do know that their communication and relationship with God was such that they could talk with Him, but that changed.  A separation between man and God inflicts humanity ever since.

 

8 - The Holy Spirit and Jesus

 

In Luke 1:34 Mary asked the angel Gabriel how she could conceive a child without being married.  In verse 35 Gabriel answered Mary by saying that the Holy Spirit would come upon her, producing a miraculous conception.  This is the first mention of the Holy Spirit coming upon a person in the New Testament.  This means that Jesus had a human mother but His father was God Himself.  This miraculous birth speaks to the Deity of Christ.  Jesus was fully God and fully man from conception.  It's not that Jesus had the Holy Spirit; He was the Holy Spirit in human form.    

 

In John 1:29 John the Baptist said he would recognize the Messiah when he saw the Spirit of God, like a dove, descend on the one he would baptize.  This tells us that there is more to the Holy Spirit than one body can contain, and that includes the body of Jesus.  Jesus was God, yet, even as God, the Holy Spirit came from heaven and settled upon Him.  This is also true in the life of a Christian.  We have the Spirit within us but He also comes upon us as is seen in the book of Acts. 

 

John proceeded to say that he baptized with water but Jesus would baptize with the Holy Spirit.  This is the first mention of the Holy Spirit in connection with the word "baptism" in the New Testament.

 

One thing to note is that Jesus would baptize with the Holy Spirit.  The word "baptize" here is a verb.  It's not a noun.  It's not a person, place, or thing, which a noun is.  John was saying that Jesus would give believers the Holy Spirit.  The way in which He would do this would be via a baptism.  So, as one gets totally drenched in water when he gets water baptized, so one gets totally drenched in the Spirit when he gets Holy Spirit baptized.

 

Pentecostals have exchanged the verb phrase "will be baptized by the Holy Spirit" and turned it into the noun phrase, "the Baptism in the Spirit."  As a result we seek an experience and not the Holy Spirit.  Biblically speaking, we do not see the term "Baptism in the Spirit" in the Bible.  This is one point I will be making in the following pages.  We do not receive an experience called the Baptism in the Holy Spirit.  We receive the Holy Spirit through the process of a baptism.  You might think this is semantics, but it's not.   

 

John said that Jesus would baptize us with His Spirit in John 1:33.  The baptizing is only the way in which you receive the Spirit.  The way or means of getting something is not the important issue. What you receive is the important issue.  In this case we "receive the Holy Spirit." The process, or the way this happens is like a baptism; like being totally soaked or drenched in water you are drenched in the Holy Spirit.  This is exactly what we read about in Acts 2.

 

9 John 20

 

Most people begin their doctrinal position on the Baptism in the Holy Spirit in Acts 2, but not me.  Before we look at Acts 2, I'd like to backtrack to John 20:22.  The setting is one of the times that Jesus met with the eleven disciples after His resurrection.  He said, "Peace be to you ..."  Then, as He breathed on these men He said, "Receive the Holy Spirit."  Without doing too much thinking about this passage you'd think that these disciples received the Holy Spirit when Jesus breathed on them.  I suggest this was not the case.

 

One reason why I believe these men didn't receive the Spirit here is because of John 7:39.  There, Jesus said that at some future date those who believed on Him would receive the Holy Spirit, but this would only happen after He was glorified.  The question then becomes, "when was Jesus glorified?"

 

I believe that Jesus was glorified at His ascension.  The only other time you might say that He was glorified would be at His resurrection, and I don't see that being the case.  In John 17:5 Jesus prayed; "Father glorify me with your own self, with the glory I had with you before the world was."  In this instance Jesus links being glorified with the union He and His Father had prior to His incarnation.  This glorious reunion was not fully realized until Jesus returned to His Father.  Therefore, Jesus could not have given the Holy Spirit to the disciples in John 20 because He had not yet returned to the Father, at least not for good.  Some might suggest that He returned to His Father and appeared to His disciples from time to time after His resurrection but that his speculation.  There is no text that says such a thing.       

 

Knowing the disciples didn't receive the Spirit in John 20 is important.  It's important because it shows us that Acts 2 was not a second work of grace in terms of the Holy Spirit as Pentecostal doctrine teaches.  Acts 2 was a first work of grace when it comes to the Holy Spirit coming to the believer.  Those in the upper room in Acts 2 received the Holy Spirit for the first time in their lives, and they received Him by being baptized in Him. 

 

There is another point to be made from Acts 1:1 to 6.  Jesus told His followers not to leave Jerusalem but to wait for the gift the Father had promised.  The promised gift is the Holy Spirit as Peter said in Acts 2:38.  If the disciples had received the Holy Spirit in John 20, there would be no reason for Jesus to tell His disciples to receive Him again in Acts 1.     

 

Another thing to note is that there were eleven men in the room in John 20.  There were one hundred and twenty men and women in the upper room in Acts 2.  If the eleven received the Holy Spirit in John 20, what happened to them in Acts 2?  Then, the rest of the one hundred and twenty who weren't with Jesus in John 20, what happened to them in Acts 2?  Did 111 men and women receive the Holy Spirit in Acts 2 and the 11 receive an experience some call the Baptism in the Holy Spirit?     

 

It's clear to me that everyone in Acts 2 received the Holy Spirit into their lives for the firs time.  This was not a second work of grace for them concerning the Holy Spirit.  It was a first work of grace.   

  

 

10 - The Phrase Baptism In The Holy Spirit

 

In Acts 1:5 Jesus said that John the Baptist "baptized with water but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit."  This is where the term "Baptism in the Holy Spirit" comes from.   

The important thing to know here is that Jesus didn't tell His followers that they would receive and experience called the Baptism in the Holy Spirit, which as I've said before, is a noun phrase.  Jesus said that they would be baptized with the Holy Spirit.  That is to say, as one gets drenched with water in water baptism, one will be drenched with the Holy Spirit he is baptized in the Spirit. 

 

We've turned a verb into a noun here.  We've turned the means of receiving the Holy Spirit into an experience.  We've emphasized how we receive the Holy Spirit instead of the Holy Spirit Himself.       

 

Let's take a tour now through the book of Acts to those passages Pentecostals use to promote their thinking that the Baptism of the Holy Spirit is a second work of grace that is subsequent to receiving the Holy Spirit at initial salvation.

 

 

11 - Acts Two

 

We now come to Acts 2.  We see 120 disciples waiting in Jerusalem as Jesus commanded (Acts 1:4).  They were waiting for the promised gift of the Father, which we know from Acts 2:38 is the Holy Spirit.  These people were together for one purpose and that was to receive the Holy Spirit. 

 

Acts 2:3 says that there appeared tongues like fire that sat upon each of them.  Acts 2:4 says that the disciples were all "filled" with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in tongues.  It was as if a big cup of Holy Spirit was poured onto them from heaven.  Their empty lives became full of the Holy Spirit.  This is what Jesus meant when He said that these people would be baptized with the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:5).  The way in which these people received the Spirit was by being filled or baptized.     

 

Even though there is no exact word stating they "received" the Holy Spirit in this passage, we know they did.  They received Him via a filling according to the text. 

 

In Acts 2:14 and following Peter explains what had happened to those who received the Holy Spirit.  He quotes from Joel 2:28 through 32 in the defense of this event.  Joel said that the day would come when the LORD would pour out His Spirit on all flesh.  This was the beginning of that day.  Joel uses the words "pour out."  So, Joel said that the Spirit would be poured out and once He was poured out the disciples were filled as Luke states here in Acts 2.   

 

In Acts 2:33 Peter says that Jesus, while at the right hand of God  had received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and had now poured Him out on the believers.  Again, we see the words "poured out" in reference to the disciples receiving the Holy Spirit, just as Joel predicted.  We also see that the gift of God is the Holy Spirit.  The gift is not an experience called the Baptism in the Spirit as Pentecostal doctrine states.    

 

From Acts 2 we learn that Jesus told His disciples that they would receive the gift of the Father, which was the Holy Spirit.  The way in which they received the Holy Spirit was via a pouring out of the Spirit into their lives from heaven, or as Jesus said in Acts 1:5, they'd receive the Spirit when they were baptized with the Holy Spirit.  

 

I conclude that the disciples did not receive a second work of grace called the Baptism of the Spirit in Acts 2.  That is to say, they did not receive the Spirit prior to Acts 2 and then receive the Baptism in the Spirit in Acts 2 as Pentecostal doctrine teachers.  When they were baptized in the Spirit they received the Spirit.  There is no second work of grace concerning the Holy Spirit in this passage.       

 

 

12 - Acts Eight

 

We now turn to Acts 8 where Philip preached to some Samaritans who believed the Word of God and were water baptized (Acts 8:12).  Samaritans are half Jews and half Gentiles, both biologically and religiously.  Because these people both believed and were water baptized I suggest that Philip must have understood their faith was genuine.  If he thought otherwise, he would not have baptized these people in water.   

 

Acts 8:14 and 15 tell us that when Peter and John heard that the Samaritans had received the word of God, they came from Jerusalem and prayed for them to receive the Holy Spirit because He had not yet come upon them. 

 

The word "receive" is used twice in this passage.  These people had received the gospel but they had not received the Spirit.  It is thus clear that these people first believed and then after a while received the Holy Spirit. 

 

I conclude that the receiving of the Spirit by these Samaritans was not a second work of grace concerning the reception of the Holy Spirit into their lives.  They first believed and then at a later date they received the Spirit.  This is not typical Pentecostal doctrine that states one receives the Holy Spirit at salvation and then gets baptized in the Spirit afterwards.  It did not happen this way in Acts 8 and therefore you can't teach Pentecostal doctrine from this passage. 

 

 

13 - Acts 9

 

Acts 9 concerns the Apostle Paul's conversion.  If you read the first 20 verses of Acts 9 you'll note that Paul met Jesus on the road to Damascus .  The experience was obviously quite dramatic.  Paul left the experience being blind and the next three days he spent praying.  It wasn't until Ananias came to pray for Paul when his eyes were open.  It was at this moment that Paul received the Holy Spirit.

 

Acts 9:17 says that Paul "was filled" with the Spirit.  Once again, being filled with the Spirit portrays the Holy Spirit being poured out on Paul from heaven.  As he was being filled, he was receiving the Spirit for the first time in his life.

 

We don't have all of the fine details about Paul's conversion.  The text does not say the exact time when Paul became a real believer.  Paul was certainly a true believer by the time Ananias laid his hands on him in prayer.  I suggest Paul became a true believer when he met Jesus. 

 

Paul's experience was similar to those in Samaria in Acts 8.  He first believed and some days later he received the Spirit. I conclude that Paul's experience does not fit the traditional Pentecostal teaching that says one receives the Spirit when he first believes and then gets baptized in the Spirit at some secondary event.  I would suggest that Paul's conversion was either a two stage conversion; first believing and then receiving the Spirit, or, his conversion experience was one long event lasting at least three days.      

 

 

14 - Acts 10

 

Acts 10 concerns Cornelius and his Gentile family and friends accepting the gospel and receiving the Holy Spirit. 

Acts 10:44 tells us that while Peter was speaking the Holy Spirit fell on them.  The next verse tells us that Peter and those with him were astonished that the Holy Spirit "was poured out" on these Gentiles.  They knew this because these Gentiles spoke in tongues and glorified God.

 

In Acts 10:44 the words "come on" are used to describe the giving of the Spirit to these people.  In Acts 10:45 the words "poured out" are used.  Like in the previous examples, the Holy Spirit came down from heaven and was poured into the lives of these Gentiles. 

 

Unlike Acts 2, 8, and 9, these people believed and received the Holy Spirit simultaneously.  They didn't first believe and then receive at some later date.  I conclude that there was no second work of grace here when it comes to the Holy Spirit.  It was a first work of grace.       

 

 

15 - Acts 19

 

Acts 19 is the last of the five examples those who believe in the traditional thinking of the Baptism in the Holy Spirit use to support their thinking. 

 

Paul meets with some disciples in Ephesus .  In Acts 19:2 he asks them if the have "received the Holy Spirit since they first began to believed".  Something in their conversation must have confused Paul a bit and that's why he asks this question. The men responded by saying that they did not even know there was a Holy Spirit.  Paul might have been even more confused over that answer.  He therefore asks "unto what were you baptized"?  They answered.  We were baptized under John's baptism.  At that point Paul clued in on what was happening. 

 

These men only knew of John the Baptist's message and Baptism.  John said that the day would come when Jesus would appear on the scene.  John's task was to prepare the way of the Lord.  That's all these men knew.  They did not realize that Jesus had come and gone.  They did not realize that the Holy Spirit had taken Jesus' place here on earth.   

 

Paul told these men about Jesus and the Holy Spirit.  In Acts 19:6 Paul laid his hands on these men, and as the text states, the Holy Spirit "came on" these men and they spoke in tongues and prophesied.    

 

It is clear that once again, the experience of these men differ from those in the last four examples.  They did believe in Jesus, although their belief was from an Old Testament perspective, not a New Testament perspective.  When they learned the Jesus had already come and gone, they believed as a New Testament Christian and received the Holy Spirit. 

 

I conclude that the reception of the Holy Spirit was not a second work of grace in terms of receiving the Holy Spirit.  These men put New Testament faith into practice and as a result they immediately received the Holy Spirit.    

 

 

16 Let's Recap

 

Let's recap what we've learned so far. Remember, the traditional thinking concerning the Baptism in the Holy Spirit is that you receive the Holy Spirit when you first believe, then at some future date you receive the experience called the Baptism of the Spirit as a second work of grace.  Do we see such a second work of grace in the five examples that Pentecostal doctrine use to support this thinking?  

 

In Acts 2 believers received the Holy Spirit by way of being baptized into Him.  The text says that they were filled with the Holy Spirit. There was no second work of grace concerning the Holy Spirit.    

 

In Acts 8 the Samaritans accepted the Word of God and a few days later they received the Holy Spirit.  The text states that they were filled with the Spirit.  Once again, there is no second work of grace in terms of the Holy Spirit. 

 

In Acts 9 Paul met Jesus, and most likely believed right away, but it took a while before Ananias came so he could receive the Holy Spirit.  The text states that Paul was filled with the Holy Spirit. Again, there is no second work of grace here in terms of the Holy Spirit.   

 

In Acts 10 the Gentiles heard the Word, believed it, and immediately received the Holy Spirit.  The text states that the Spirit came on these people.  It also states that the Spirit was poured out on them.  There is clearly no second work of grace here in relation to the Holy Spirit

 

In Acts 19 certain Ephesian men believed as a New Testament Christian should believe and immediately received the Holy Spirit.  The text states that the Spirit came on these men.  Once again, there is no second work of grace here in terms of receiving the Holy Spirit.   

 

The traditional teaching concerning the Baptism in the Spirit is that at one point in time in your life you receive the Spirit, and then at another point in time you're baptized in the Spirit.  In these five examples used to support this position, that did not happen.  In all five instances, people received the Holy Spirit and the way in which they received Him was a baptism.  If you persist on using the term "the Baptism in the Holy Spirit" as a noun phrase, you must admit that the Baptism in the Holy Spirit is the same as receiving the Holy Spirit for the first time in your life.  It is not a second work of grace in terms of the Holy Spirit.

 

 

17 - A Second Work of Grace In Terms Of Believing

 

If receiving the Holy Spirit is a second work of grace, it's not a second work of grace in terms of the Holy Spirit.  That is to say, you don't receive the Spirit and then at a later date get baptized in the Spirit.  You receive the Holy Spirit when you are baptized into Him at what I call initial salvation.

 

If receiving the Holy Spirit is a second work of grace, it is a second work of grace in terms of believing in Jesus.  That is to say, you must first believe before you can receive the Spirit into your life.  This makes sense in the five examples we've looked at in Acts.

 

The one hundred and twenty people in Acts 2 were already believers when they received the Holy Spirit.  Therefore, receiving the Spirit was a second work of grace in terms of believing.  That being said, Acts 2 is not a good example to use in support of this position.  Those in Acts 2 could not have received the Spirit prior to Acts to even if they wanted to.  They had to wait until Jesus returned to His Father.

 

In Acts 8 the Samaritans first believed and then a week or so later, or maybe even longer, they received the Holy Spirit.  In this case, receiving the Spirit was a second work of grace in terms of believing.  They first believed and then they received the Spirit.

 

In Acts 9 Paul first believed as well.  Then at a later date, probably only three days, he received the Spirit.  Receiving the Spirit was a second work of grace in Paul's life in terms of believing.

 

In Acts 10 the Gentiles pretty much believed and received the Holy Spirit at the same time.  The same is true in Acts 19 with the Ephesians.  I suppose if you get real technical, both the Gentiles and the Ephesians first believed and within seconds or minutes received the Holy Spirit.  

 

If the reception of the Holy Spirit into one's life is a second work of grace it is second to believing.  This goes along with what Peter says in Acts 2:38 when he says that if you repent and are baptized, and baptize indicates faith, you will receive the Holy Spirit.  First you believe and then you receive.  That's the Scriptural norm.                

   

 

18 Revisiting My Experience

 

You might wonder what really the big deal is.  You might think this is just a matter of words, just a matter of semantics.  Well, let me remind you again what the traditional view of the Baptism in the Spirit is.  When one first gives his life to Jesus in true belief, he receives the Holy Spirit.  Then, at some future date, he receives what is called the Baptism in the Holy Spirit.  It's called a second work of grace because it comes second after receiving the Holy Spirit when one is converted. 

 

In light of these two works of grace, I have just shown that in the book of Acts there was no second work of grace, at least in terms of receiving the Holy Spirit.  In the five examples in Acts, the Baptism in the Spirit experience was when people received the Spirit.

 

Another way to put it is when you are born again of the Spirit and become a Christian you receive the baptism in the Spirit because you receive the Spirit Himself.  That is really what Jesus is talking about in John 3 when He says that you must be born again of the Holy Spirit.  In other words, as one is born physically, one can also be born spiritually.  As dramatic as physical birth is, spiritual birth is just as dramatic.  As one is flooded with water at physical birth, one is flooded with the Spirit at spiritual birth.

 

So what happened to me?  I've mentioned that I had many altar call experiences while growing up in an Evangelical church family.  Most of these experiences got rid of my feelings associated with guilt.  However, that doesn't mean these experiences were valid experiences with Jesus.  Yes, I suppose I could have just been caught up in the emotion of the moment.  Altar calls were often heavily weighted with emotion.

 

I don't believe every last trip to the altar was pure emotion.  I believe I did experience Jesus on many of those trips.  The problem was that after I visited with Jesus, the church's legalistic teaching would in one sense drive me away.  The feelings of guilt that Jesus wanted to get rid of in my spiritual system returned with the preaching of a legalistic gospel. 

 

I was about eleven years old on one of these trips to the altar.  All of the other trips to the altar have faded into one massive blur, but not this one.  I believe I received the Holy Spirit into my life that evening.  Still, it wasn't until almost a decade later, after that short five second prayer, that Jesus did rid me of my feelings associated with guilt. 

 

The year after that five second prayer was when I first encountered the Holy Spirit in a new and fresh way.  This was my trip to Kentucky that I related to you earlier.  From March 1971 to September 1971, my quest was to receive the Baptism in the Holy Spirit.  That appeared to take place in my bedroom as I sang to Jesus with my guitar in hand, or did it.

 

 

19 - What Really Happened In September 1971?

 

I later discovered from a detailed search of the Bible that I did not receive the Baptism in the Spirit in my bedroom in September 1971.  When I learned that the Baptism in the Spirit meant receiving the Spirit, I had to rethink my experience. 

 

It's my understanding that I received the Baptism in the Spirit at the altar when I was eleven years old because it was then I believe I received the Holy Spirit into my life.  What happened to me a decade later was not the Baptism in the Holy Spirit.  It was simply one of many special visitations of the Holy Spirit that I've experienced over the years.  The one thing different about this visitation, is that while the Holy Spirit came on me, or, was poured out on me from heaven, I received the gift of tongues. 

 

Like those in the book of Acts who had many outpourings of the Holy Spirit into their lives so have I.  September 1971 was just one of many memorable occasions, and to be clear, I've had many other memorable occasions as we all should have.  You can see this in the life of the Apostle Peter.  He was filled with the Holy Spirit in Acts 2 and he was filled with the Holy Spirit on several other occasions. 

 

 

20 Your Experience

 

I certainly don't want to make light of your experience.  I'm not suggesting your experience that you call the Baptism in the Holy Spirit wasn't a real visitation of the Holy Spirit.  I'm sure it was.  I'm only suggesting that you look at what happened to you and then turn to the pages of the Bible to see if your experience lines up with God's Word.  If it does; that's good.  If it doesn't; you must rethink your experience in light of Scripture.  Maybe it's valid.  Maybe it's not.  You may have to simply redefine what happened to you in light of the Bible.  That's what I had to do.  My experience was valid.  I simply put a valid Biblical label on it.

 

Again, I believe I received the Holy Spirit at age eleven.  I believe Jesus gave me the gift of tongues in September 1971.  I believe when I received the Holy Spirit at age eleven, I received Him by being baptized into Him.  Just as one gets soaking wet when he is water baptized, so I was soaking wet with the Holy Spirit that night.  

 

During the 1960's and 1970's the Charismatic Movement spread around the world.  As in the days of the early Pentecost revivals, people had varying experiences with the Holy Spirit that they called the Baptism in the Spirit.  They were taught this was a second work of grace in terms of the Holy Spirit. They were taught that they already had the Holy Spirit in their lives and this new experience was the Baptism in the Spirit.

 

Many of those who received what they called the Baptism in the Spirit came from mainline denominations that had long sense ignored the gospel of repentance and faith in Jesus.  I therefore question that these people had the Holy Spirit prior to the time they claimed they had received the Baptism in the Spirit.  Many of these folk might not have really had true valid faith.  If this is so, then what happened to them when they received what they call the Baptism in the Spirit?

 

If many of these people had no valid faith, I propose that what they called the Baptism in the Spirit was really their salvation, or conversion, experience.  It was not a second work of grace but a first work of grace.  This may be hard for some to swallow but it's worth thinking this issue through.  There are many who claim faith in Jesus, but there are few Apostle James' around to challenge this claim.  If you read the book of James you'll quickly see that true faith produces real Biblical works.  If there is no outward and visible expression of faith, there is probably no faith, and, if there is no faith in a person, there is no Holy Spirit in that person.  It's that simple.     

 

 

 

21 Another Way To Understand Your Experience

 

Many people may be like the Samaritans in Acts 8.  They have believed, but they have not yet received the Holy Spirit.  The span of time between believing and receiving may be short or it may be long. 

 

Maybe you were one who simply had faith.  Maybe in your heart and mind you believed in the Lord Jesus Christ.  Maybe you even handed your life over to Him, but for some strange reason that's as far as you went.  Maybe you were like the Ephesian men in Acts 19.  Maybe you had poor or bad teaching.  Maybe you knew little to nothing about the Holy Spirit.  So, when you finally understood the place of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer, you asked Him into your life.

 

If this is the case with you, receiving the Holy Spirit was a second work of grace in terms of believing, not in terms of receiving the Spirit.  This being said, I do have one word of caution when thinking along these lines.  

 

 

22 Romans 8:9

 

The Apostle Paul makes a simple and brief statement in Romans 8:9 that we must not ignore when thinking these things through.  He simply says that he who does not have the Spirit of God does not belong to God.

 

In light of what I've just said in the last section, where do Paul's words fit in?  If one has true faith but does not have the Holy Spirit, does he belong to God or not.  According to what Paul says here, you might wonder.

 

This is a tough question to answer.  Here is my attempt to answer this question.  I believe that what I call "initial salvation" is a process of three things.  You must first repent.  Only after genuine repentance can you believe in the New Testament sense of the word.  Only after you have valid faith, can you receive the Holy Spirit.  Therefore, the process of salvation is to repent, believe, and receive.  As Paul said, the Holy Spirit is a seal that proves we belong to God. (2 Timothy 2:19, Ephesians 1:13)  Once you are sealed with the Holy Spirit, you are saved.

 

It's my thinking that your initial entrance into salvation is not complete until you receive the Holy Spirit. If you die before receiving the Holy Spirit, only God knows where you will end up.  This I know, you cannot stay in a state of limbo without the Holy Spirit long.  Without the Holy Spirit you will slip back into your sin. 

 

When Paul said that he who does not have the Holy Spirit does not belong to God, I believe that it was beyond his comprehension that one could be a believer for ten years without the Holy Spirit

 

 

23 Genuine Faith Acts 2:38

 

The Apostle Peter on the Day of Pentecost said a very short but profound statement.  He said that if you repent and are baptized, and, I believe baptized here is evidence of faith, then you will receive the Holy Spirit.  What Peter says here isn't hard to figure out.  Genuine repentance and faith means the Holy Spirit will come to you.  He may be delayed a week or two as was the case in Acts 8.  He may be delayed three days as with Paul in Acts 9.  He may be delayed for one reason or another, but true faith does produce the Holy Spirit.  If the Holy Spirit never comes, then that is evidence that there was never true faith.

 

 

In Conclusion

 

One problem with the traditional thinking concerning the Baptism is that it limits the Lord.  It's packaged way too neatly, and things aren't normally that neat and tidy.  As I've pointed out, there is no consistency in the five experiences in the book of Acts that is supposed to prove the Baptism of the Holy Spirit as a second work of grace in terms of the Holy Spirit.  If there is no real consistency, then there is no pattern to build a fixed doctrine on. 

 

I believe a good hermeneutical point to consider here is that you cannot build doctrine solely on experience, even if it is experiences recorded in the Bible.  You first build doctrine on clear Biblical teaching, and then you see how Biblical experience fits into the teaching.

 

Another problem I see with the traditional thinking is that it places too much emphasis on experience.  As with the case with me, I kept on seeking an experience.  It wasn't until I gave up on the experience and just sought out Jesus, that I received the gift of tongues, and, by the way, I believe the prerequisite to receiving the gift of tongues is simply having the Holy Spirit in your life.

 

What I've set forth here may be confusing to those who have never thought these things through, for those who merely accepted what they've heard.  Pentecostals might well think this to be heretical.  Some non-Pentecostals might agree with me while others still may differ.  It seems to me that when it comes to much of my Biblical thinking I'm stuck between two ways of thinking, but as one Bible teacher once told me, "the truth between two opinions often lies in the middle".   That's where I believe I stand, and that's where I believe the Bible stands on this issue.   

 

So, I'm a Pentecostal by experience because I pray in tongues.  I'm not a Pentecostal by doctrine because I believe that what Pentecostals call the Baptism in the Holy Spirit takes place when one receives the Holy Spirit into one's life.  It's not a second work of grace in terms of the Holy Spirit.  It is however, a second work of grace in terms of believing in Jesus.   

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