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Monday, January 28, 2013

Baptism of the Holy Spirit

Baptism of the Holy Spirit

What has gone before...

Simon the Magician was a big fish in the small pond of Samaritan mystics, but that all changed when Philip came to town. Now it was Simon's turn to be amazed.

"But when they believed Philip as he preached good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. Even Simon himself believed, and after being baptized he continued with Philip. And seeing signs and great miracles performed, he was amazed." Acts 8:12-13 (ESV)

Philip's preaching transformed Samaria.

Moving on...

BELIEVED: pisteuo (to have faith, to credit or entrust); from pistis (persuasion or credence; conviction of truth or reliance upon; constancy); from peitho (to convince by argument, whether true or false; to pacify or conciliate; to assent to or rely upon)

Philip preached about the kingdom (the royalty, rule and realm) of God and the name (history, teaching, reputation and fame) of Jesus Christ. The people were convinced that Philip was speaking truth, and they accepted that truth as the framework of their lives from that moment on. They declared their faith in Christ by public baptism, and Simon himself joined in that belief.

Simon attached himself to Philip, following him from house to house, from town square to synagogue, amazed by signs and miracles performed by Philip. Soon, the apostles remaining in Jerusalem were hearing news of the new converts in Samaria.

"Now when the apostles at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent to them Peter and John, who came down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit, for he had not yet fallen on any of them, but they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then they laid their hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit." Acts 8:14-17 (ESV)

Despite their faithful act of baptism, the believers in Samaria had not yet been given the Holy Spirit.

RECEIVE: lambano (to take, to get hold of)

FALLEN: epipipto (to embrace or seize); from epi (superimposition or distribution; over, upon, rest at, rest on, towards, upon) and pipto (to fall); probably akin to petomai (to fly)

BAPTIZED: baptizo (to make whelmed, fully wet); from bapto (to whelm, to cover wholly with a fluid; to moisten or stain)

Confusing.

Why could Philip not have prayed for the new believers? Why didn't the Holy Spirit come at the moment of belief, or at the moment of baptism? What made the apostles think the new converts were not filled with the Holy Spirit?

What did the apostles know of the Holy Spirit? What experience had they of the Holy Spirit falling upon them?

It is likely that the apostles of Jesus first learned from John the Baptist the truth that God's Holy Spirit indwells people.

"I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire." Matthew 3:11 (ESV)

The apostle John recorded a much more detailed account of the Baptist's teaching concerning Jesus and the Holy Spirit:

"Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! This is he of whom I said, - After me comes a man who ranks before me, because he was before me. - I myself did not know him, but for this purpose I came baptizing with water, that he might be revealed to Israel. - And John bore witness: - I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. I myself did not know him, but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, - He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit. - And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God." John 1:29-34 (ESV)

John the Baptist performed baptisms as a public testimony or witness to repentance.

REPENTENCE: metanoia (compunction for guilt and reformation; reversal of a decision); from metanoeo (to think differently, to think afterwards, reconsider or feel compunction); from meta (accompaniment, "amid", association or succession) and noeo (to exercise the mind, to observe, comprehend, heed); from nous (the intellect, the mind's thought, feeling or will; meaning); probably from ginosko (to "know" absolutely)

"Compunction" might be an unfamiliar word to many. It means guilty uneasiness, remorse, regret for something done wrong. The word evolved from Latin "com" (with) and "pungere" (to prick or sting).

John the Baptist was daily performing water baptism. Each person baptized was publicly announcing his repentance, his desire for God's mercy and forgiveness that had been motivated by the prick of guilt.

WHAT DO YOU THINK? From what did Jesus repent? In what way was water baptism a fitting announcement of His change of heart and mind? What painful, uneasy "compunction for guilt" did the Lamb of God experience?

From the very beginning, the disciples and apostles of Jesus would have understood from John that baptism was only a physical act, a declaration or witness testifying to a person's change of mind in response to their sin. Baptism represented a person's dependence upon God for forgiveness and mercy, a request to be washed clean of their guilty regret.

Baptism was a witness to a changed heart and mind, but it in itself was not sufficient. John helped believers get baptized with water, but he told them to expect something more from Jesus: God's Holy Spirit and fire.

WHAT DO YOU THINK? What has been your experience with baptism? Did you believe first, and then get baptized? What purpose do you remember having in getting baptized? How has your understanding of baptized changed over the years? In what way did water baptism seem insufficient for you?

John taught the disciples that water baptism was only a statement, although an important statement of one's faith and dependence upon God. But he told them to expect something more from Jesus.

That "something more" took a long time in coming. Jesus spent three years with His disciples, teaching and protecting them, until He was murdered by crucifixion. Three days after His death He rose from the tomb and returned to His disciples, staying with them for forty more days until His ascencion into heaven. Even then, that "something more" had not been given.

Shortly before leaving earth and returning to His Heavenly Father, Jesus reminded His disciples of that promise of "something more":

"It is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high." Luke 24:46-49 (ESV)

Luke recorded this same promise again in his Book of Acts:

"Wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, - you heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now." Acts 1:4-5 (ESV)

That "something more" was unmistakeable in its power and effect. About ten days after Christ's ascencion into heaven, His disciples, led by the twelve apostles, experienced an incredible immersion into God's Holy Spirit:

"Suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance." Acts 2:2-4 (ESV)

Peter recognized this experience as fulfillment of the promise given by Jesus, supported by Old Testament prophecy:

"This is what was uttered through the prophet Joel: - And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; even on my male servants and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy. And I will show wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke; the sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the day of the Lord comes, the great and magnificent day. And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved...This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing." Acts 2:16-21,32-33 (ESV)

This was the experience of the apostles, and they taught others to expect the same pattern.

"Peter said to them, - Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself." Acts 2:38-39 (ESV)

God calls Whom He chooses, softening their hearts and minds toward Him, pricking them with pangs of guilt and remorse and a desire for merciful forgiveness. They believe Jesus is their Saviour, and they gladly declare their faith by being baptized in water, and then, only then, and perhaps only after a time of waiting, will they receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Perhaps immediately, perhaps later, but they will receive the Holy Spirit's baptism.

The apostles expected believers to receive divine power to speak and teach, help and serve, but they also expected a delay between the moment of belief and the moment of the Holy's Spirit's baptism.

The apostles spoke powerfully, and thousands heard and believed (Acts 4:1). But there is no mention of the experiencing a baptism of the Holy Spirit.

So, it seems natural that Philip would preach powerfully, the people responding in repentance and gladly being baptized in water, yet with no immediate sign of the Holy Spirit coming upon them. That had been Philip's experience, as well as that of the the other apostles. Once the Christians remaining in Jerusalem had heard of the Samaritan revival, they would naturally assume that the new believers had not yet experienced the filling of the Holy Spirit. They would calmly send a couple of apostles to Samaria to lead the believers on to the next stage of their journey of faith in Christ.

It seems likely that Philip, although quite able on his own to pray for the new believers, purposely waited for the Jerusalem leadership to be part of it, as a way of confirming the start of the Samaritan Christian church.

WHAT DO YOU THINK? Many Christians have lived a life of faith without experiencing a powerful baptism of the Holy Spirit, yet they are convinced that they are indeed filled with God's Spirit. From what we've studied so far, does it seem that there is such a thing as a "quiet" baptism of the Holy Spirit, one lacking signs and wonders such as speaking in tongues, healing or miraculous power? What has been your experience concerning the baptism of the Holy Spirit?

The manner in which the Holy Spirit comes upon believers does not always follow the pattern experienced by the apostles: repentance, conversion, water baptism, and filling of the Holy Spirit (after some time has passed).

Cornelius, a centurion, invited Peter to preach to his entire household of family and friends, all non-Jew Gentiles.

"While Peter was still saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word. And the believers from among the circumcised who had come with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out even on the Gentiles. For they were hearing them speaking in tongues and extolling God. Then Peter declared, - Can anyone withhold water for baptizing these people, who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have? - And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ." Acts 10:44-48 (ESV)

In this instance, the Holy Spirit fell upon the believers instantly and vividly.

Peter connected this event directly to the promise given by Jesus:

"As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell on them just as on us at the beginning. And I remembered the word of the Lord, how he said, - John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit. - If then God gave the same gift to them as he gave to us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could stand in God's way?" Acts 11:15-17 (ESV)

The believers saw the Holy Spirit's empowering new believers as evidence that God had worked in their hearts and minds:

"They glorified God, saying, - Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life." Acts 11:18 (ESV)

Greek-speaking Christians who fled persecution spoke to other Gentiles far from Jerusalem:

"And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number who believed turned to the Lord." Acts 11:21 (ESV)

Luke made no mention here concerning the Holy Spirit, implying that the converts did not experience an immediate, powerful filling spiritual baptism.

Paul preached in a synagogue, with Jews rejecting the message and Gentiles gladly rejoicing in it, but again, there is no mention of a baptism in the Holy Spirit, nor any baptism at all. (Acts 13:48)

Challenged by Jewish religious rulers, Peter defended his ministry to Gentiles by referring to that one singular event in the recent past where the Holy Spirit instantly and powerfully fell upon the believers:

"After there had been much debate, Peter stood up and said to them, - Brothers, you know that in the early days God made a choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe. And God, who knows the heart, bore witness to them, by giving them the Holy Spirit just as he did to us, and he made no distinction between us and them, having cleansed their hearts by faith." Acts 15:7-9 (ESV)

Notice Peter's use of the past tense: God "bore" witness (once, in the past) just as he (God) "did" (once, in the past) to us.

This is not to say that the Holy Spirit did not repeatedly fill believers as needed when facing the need for divine power. But the context implies that there was a single instance in the past, both for the Jews and for the Gentiles, when God baptized the believers in a striking way, a way meant to introduce or confirm the beginning of His work in their lives.

Apollos was a Jew, converted to Christianity, and given by God an ability to teach and preach. He ministered in Ephesus, and preached solid truth about Jesus, except he knew nothing of the baptistm of the Holy Spirit. All he knew of baptism was that it was a public declaration of repentance from sin and a desire for God's mercy and forgiveness. (Acts 18:24)

Priscilla and Aquila met with Apollos and "explained to him the way of God more accurately", implying a better understanding of the Holy Spirit's ministry, but still, there is nothing recorded here to suggest that Apollos, or the other believers in Ephesus, had experienced a powerful, miraculous filling of the Holy Spirit.

Shortly after, Paul came to Ephesus and asked the believers directly, "Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?

"And they said, - No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit. - And he said, - Into what then were you baptized? - They said, - Into John's baptism. - And Paul said, - John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, Jesus. - On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began speaking in tongues and prophesying." Acts 19:2-6 (ESV)

There is no doubt that the people in Ephesus were believers, yet the Holy Spirit did not powerfully and vividly fill them until much later after their conversion, until Paul had specifically prayed God to grant them this spiritual gift.

Paul prayed for the believers to be baptized into the Holy Spirit, but he did not institute this practice as part of his legacy to other pastors:

"I know that none of you among whom I have gone about proclaiming the kingdom will see my face again. Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all of you, for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God. Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood...I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified...In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, - It is more blessed to give than to receive." Acts 20:25-28,32,35 (ESV)

If a specific experience of being publicly, miraculously filled with the Holy Spirit were essential to Christianity, it seems that Paul would have referred to it as he left instructions, for the last time, to the church which he loved.

There is no doubt that Paul taught the filling of the Holy Spirit, but in the letters that followed Luke's Book of Acts, all of the references seem to become less dependent upon a single, miraculous experience of divine power. Paul's references to the Holy Spirit become connected to larger, wider goals:

"May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope." Romans 15:13 (ESV)

"You were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God." 1 Corinthians 6:11 (ESV)

"Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom." 2 Corinthians 3:17 (ESV)

"The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control." Galatians 5:22-23 (ESV)

"Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us. By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit." 1 John 4:11-13 (ESV)

WHAT DO YOU THINK? Has there been a noticeable change in you since you first repented of your sinful condition and sought God's mercy and forgiveness in Jesus? What "big things" have changed in your heart and mind, things listed as "fruits of the Spirit"? How do you explain non-Christians who seem to display similar strength of character?

When Paul does refer to signs and wonders, it is to confirm his own ministry given him by God:

"In Christ Jesus, then, I have reason to be proud of my work for God. For I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me to bring the Gentiles to obedience-by word and deed, by the power of signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God - so that from Jerusalem and all the way around to Illyricum I have fulfilled the ministry of the gospel of Christ." Romans 15:17-19 (ESV)

"I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God." 1 Corinthians 2:3-5 (ESV)

"It was declared at first by the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard, while God also bore witness by signs and wonders and various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will." Hebrews 2:3-4 (ESV)

It seems reasonable, therefore, to conclude that the manner in which the Holy Spirit fills a believer, as well as the times in which it happens, is entirely up to God Himself. The experience may be astounding and miraculous, or it may be peaceful and unseen. It may occur immediately upon conversion or much later. It may be rare or frequently repeated.

But it is always under the direction of God.

Most likely, the Book of Acts records instances of astounding, miraculous baptisms of the Holy Spirit because this was a new work of God in the world. The apostles were confirmed as genuine prophets and servants of God by signs and wonders. As churches grew and spread, the work of the Holy Spirit became less of a sign and wonder, and more of a relationship, more as a Helper and Encourager for every individual Christian.

"I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you." John 14:16-17 (ESV)

"The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all." 2 Corinthians 13:14 (ESV)

WHAT DO YOU THINK? Have you ever prayed specifically for a miraculous, divine filling of the Holy Spirit? What was the circumstance and what was the result? Have you ever been disappointed or frustrated by a seeming lack of God's Holy Spirit working in your life? What part does the Holy Spirit have in your faith and Christian walk? What seems to accompany times in which you feel forsaken by God's Spirit?

BAPTism by Don & Tonya Christner, Creative Commons License