mardi 15 mai 2012

Baptism with the Holy Spirit?

A friend of mine has sent me a long email from an acquaintance of hers who kind of mocked the current teaching and doctrinal standings on the  baptism of the Holy Spirit as defended by Pentecostal theology. Well, i shared my views in brief to her and i thought sharing that with you too. Hope you like it. If you disagree with me, it is ok. You have the right to disagree with me. :)

Have a nice weekend in Jesus' name.
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Hello dear xxxxxxx,

Thank you for sharing with me the letter of your friend. Reading it has just reinforced in me the necessity of writing my new book, 'BETRAYAL - The consequences of forsaking the teaching ministry'.

 It is just shocking and astonishing what people can write and say. And all this while they really think they even know or understand what they are talking about. It is sad.

Bon, i came late and as you can imagine i am a bit sleepy hence i can't go through a point by point refutation, correction and clarification of the biblical doctrine that he abused. However let me just touch few points here and there and i am sure that you can find the remaining one's or if there are some specifics you want me to deal with - please let me know i'll be delighted to respond to them when i'll be fully awake. :)

Let start with the first point.

I. He is right when he said we need the holy Spirit to live the Christian life. That is quite correct. This is pretty much all i can wholly agree with him with few exception here and there though.

II. " 1. Being born again and 2. Being baptized in the holy spirit. Now most church say this, but when you study the scriptures, you find out this is not what the bible says. And those who put it this way,are the ones who are seeking more power all the time from God. They're are the ones who are praying and fasting and crying for power. Because they have their Theology mixed up.In no where in the scriptures, does it make the baptism of the holy spirit a 2nd experience!"

Well, let me correct this. After Jesus resurrection and before the Jewish feast of the Pentecost, Jesus gave the Spirit to the disciples by breathing to them and said, "Receive the Holy Spirit" John 20:22. So according to the account in the gospel of john the disciples received the Holy Spirit when Jesus breathed on them. This was the first experience. However, before Jesus left the disciples in order to be assumed in Heaven, he said to them, Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit ...  Butyou will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on youand you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Acts 1:4-5, 8. If you look at this portion of Acts 1, Jesus is no longer talking about receiving the Holy Spirit, for that was already done in John 20:22, but he is talking about receiving the promise of the Father. What is the promise of the Father? The baptismal with the Holy Spirit in few days. But is the baptism with the Holy Spirit? It is the reception of power when the Holy Spirit comes on you. Not the reception of the Holy Spirit (John 20:22) but the reception of Power (Acts 1:8).

(NB: I emphasis this distinction now because later on i'll use verses where this distinction is not recognized by the author of Acts. Matter of fact it will become clear that 'receiving the Holy Spirit' may mean more than one thing. It may mean receiving Jesus' spirit as at the conversion, or it may mean receiving the power).  

Is the distinction I am making real or just artificial? Maybe the book of Luke can shade some lights, " I am going to send you what my Father has promisedbut stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.” Luke 24: 49. Again what was the promise of the father? The clothing with power! Again, the purpose of the promised of the Father, also called the baptism with the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:5), is the reception of power or the clothing with power.

 On Pentecost day, which is believed to have been after 10 days after Jesus' ascension to heaven -which reminds us what Jesus said, 'in few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit ...' (Acts 1:5) - it was reported in Acts 2:4 that the disciples, " All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.". Here we see that the word baptized with the Holy Spirit is not used but rather the word filled with the Holy Spirit. This context suggest that the two words are a description of the same even. Which event? The event of the reception of power. In this situation, the first power that was manifested was their experiences with the speaking in other tongues to the amazement of those who heard them (Acts 2:12).

The story of the disciple denies the assertion that, "no where in the scriptures, does it make the baptism of the holy spirit a 2nd experience!". On the contrary, it was well a different experience with the Holy Spirit than the one they had when Jesus breathed on them. The book of revelation speaks of the seven spirit of God (Rev 1:4; 3:1; 4:5; 5:6), which can well mean that the Spirit can manifest itself in more than one way on earth. Matter of fact, even Jesus experienced the presence of the Spirit on him differently twice. Here is an example, 1. "Jesus, full of the Holy Spiritleft the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness," (Luke 4:1) and 2. " Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about him spread through the whole countryside" (Luke 4:14). An attentive read will realize that when Jesus was baptized on the Jordan river he received the Holy Spirit and he was full of the Holy Spirit (verse 1). However when he left his 40 days of fasting and temptation victoriously, he had then the power of the Spirit (verse 14). 

Is there other text that can help us understand this distinction? Yes, there are. Philip preach to the Samaritan (Acts 8). They believed the message Philip was preaching. They got baptized with water (Acts 8:12). However they received the power (here again the Tongues as the primary manifestation) through the laying of hands of Peter and James (Acts 8: 15-18) when they came from Jerusalem to witness the fact that the Samaritans had already received the word of God and converted. It is clear here that their conversion (via Philip) was different from their experience of the new power (via Peter and James). Certainly they received the Holy Spirit at their conversion when Philip brought them to the obedience of the Gospel. So in one sense they received the Holy Spirit for without the Spirit there can not be a new birth and a regeneration. But in another sense they had not yet received the Holy Spirit for they still had no power yet. Remember the biblical illustration of the seven Spirit of God. This may mean a diversity in the way the Spirit manifest himself. When Jesus spoke of the Holy Spirit as a counselor in John 14 he used a masculine pronoun as if he was a person. But when Jesus spoke of the Holy Spirit in Acts 1 he used a neutral pronoun as if he talked about a thing (the power). The Jehovah witness prefer the Acts 1 usage of the Holy Spirit when they discuss about him. In a sense they are right. In another sense they are wrong. They are right when they emphasize his power, but wrong when they ignore his personality. We can't apply just one criteria especially when the context prevent us to do that. Because the same word is used doesn't mean that it is talking about the same thing. The context will teach us to recognize what is going on here/there.

III. "The baptism of the holy spirit is actually what is meant by the NEW BIRTH. Now for several people,this will completely kick their theology and they'll be like: oooohh what am I hearing??? And you found out all the people who say this never really studied the subject concerning the Holy Spirit."

I have already shown that this is an non careful way to read the scripture. Actually these verses in Acts 8 will show that this is not true:

"12 But when they believed Philip as he proclaimed the good news of the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptizedboth men and women. 13 Simon himself believed and was baptized. And he followed Philip everywhere, astonished by the great signs and miracles he saw.
14 When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of Godthey sent Peter and John to Samaria. 15 When they arrived, they prayed for the new believers there that they might receive the Holy Spirit,16 because the Holy Spirit had not yet come on any of them;they had simply been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.17 Then Peter and John placed their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit."

The Samaritans were new believers for the accepted the word of God (verse 14-15) but the Holy Spirit had not yet come on any of them yet! This is a biblical example that shows that this really happened, and i see no reason why it can't happen again in our century. The context inform us that the Holy Spirit they had not yet received is in fact the power of the Holy Spirit, for when they received the Holy Spirit there were a visible things that was happening to the people as witnessed by even Simon when the disciple placed their hands on them (verse 18).

And in the incident of the disciples in Ephesus that Paul met, contrary to what we were told, the reason Paul might have asked, "Then what baptism did you receive?" in Acts 19:2, when the disciples said to him, "No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit." it is because It appears that during the Christian baptism the name of the Holy Spirit is pronounce as recorded in Matthew 28:19 "Therefore go and make disciples of all nations,baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit," So even if they never heard of a teaching on the Holy Spirit, at least we know they should have heard at least once in their lives that there is such a thing or such a person as the Holy Spirit on the day of their baptism if their baptism followed Jesus model and teaching. So saying they 'never even heard of the Holy Spirit' was really astonishing. Hence Paul wondered what kind of baptism did they receive?

However this is not even the most troubling aspect of this story. The aspect that is really revealing is the fact that Paul asked this question when he first met these disciples for the first time, "Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?" (Acts 19:2) -- It is as if Paul is assuming that it is even possible for someone to believe without receiving the Holy Spirit at the same time. We have to grant this point when reading the text, otherwise this would have made Paul questionnonsensical if that was not possible in any case to believe and not receive the Holy Spirit! So we also have to learn from this apostolic experience to assume that we can meet with Christians who have not yet received the Holy Spirit. And here again, the expression is used not with regards to receiving the Holy Spirit as part of the conversion but receiving it as part of the power that was promised. The context show that they received the ability to prophesy (verse 6) when they received the Holy Spirit indicating by this that Paul meant by receiving the Holy Spirit - the experience of receiving some power as promised by the Father - namely the baptism of the Holy Spirit (remember the discussion on Acts1 above). 

The rest of his discussion is at best tangential to this issue of the timing of the baptism of the Holy Spirit when he converts or at worst irrelevant to the issue. All this shows is that your friends confuses things and do not understand the elementary issues of Christian doctrines, particularly this one, 

"Therefore, leaving the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ, let us go on to perfection, not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, of the doctrine of baptisms, of laying on of hands, of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment.And this we will[a] do if God permits." (Hebrews 6:1-3)

Notice that the point 3 in the elementary principles is the doctrine of baptisms (in plural). The New Testament speaks of different form of baptisms namely, a. water baptism (Acts 8: 36-37), b. baptism with the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:5), c. baptism in body (1 Corinthians 12:13), d. baptism of suffering (Luke 12:50), e. baptism of fire (Matthew 3:11). Your friends seem to have a real hard time to distinguish between some of them. And this is just the elementary stuffs of christian principles. How can you expect him to have a developed theology on systematic theology? Impossible. It is clear by his writing that he is just a novice thinker of biblical doctrines who hasn't taken the time sharpen his views notwithstanding his self-congratulating pose. He is just thinking higher about himself than he should have. He still have a long way to go before he start presenting a mature pneumatology even less again a coherent soteriology.

But at least he is trying to think out of the box. Pas mal. I am curious to read what he is going to send you again. :)

I hope my small reaction will help you frame the debate in a more fruitful context with him.

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