Our most recent family pic with only Andrew missing

Friday, March 18, 2016

Spirit Baptism

Last Sunday I taught on Water Baptism (read it here). This week we look at Spirit Baptism. My text is still Acts 18:23 - 19:10 where both are encountered. 

I am going to make 5 assertions which have guided me in my preparation. You may or may not agree with them, but they set out up front my starting point and assumptions:

1. Spirit baptism / baptism in the Holy Spirit is a New testament reality.
2. It most often occurs at or after water baptism ... but not always
3. It is sometimes accompanied by some kind of overwhelming physical manifestation ... but not always
4. In present day Evangelicalism there are varying beliefs regarding what constitutes Spirit Baptism ... most of the 20th century the focus fell on the importance of speaking in tongues ... then other charismatic manifestations were stressed ... and the century closed with the Toronto Blessing phenomenon/controversy
5. All of the above have led to a situation in many Christian churches where the free move of the Holy Spirit is feared and even circumscribed in that people decide "This is how the Spirit will move/manifest in our church" 

Those are my presuppositions which are based on my personal experience over 23 years of full time Christian ministry.

Two quotations have guided my thoughts as I've work through a number of texts on the subject. The first is:

"The Christian life is not hard to live
 - it's utterly impossible to live !
Only One can live it ! 
Let Him ! In you."
(from Pebbles to Slay Goliath by Arthur Burt)

The Christian life is impossible to live: surely anyone whose been a Christian for some time knows that! Last week we heard Jesus say to us:
 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. Mt 5:48
This morning we heard God's words:
Be holy because I, the Lord your God, am holy. Lev 19:2

So, "The Christian life is not hard to live - it's utterly impossible to live ! Only One can live it ! Let Him ! In you."

We cannot live the Christian life on our own, but, as the Scripture says:
I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Phil 3:14 and Jesus taught that the way Christ strengthens us is by giving us a Helper, who is called the Holy Spirit. 

So much for my first quotation, "The Christian life is not hard to live - it's utterly impossible to live! Only One can live it ! Let Him ! In you."

The second is from the man called and used by God to lead the 18th century British and American Evangelical Revival, John Wesley, expressing his fear for the revival movement, who had mockingly become known as Methodists although they never existed as a separate denomination in his lifetime:

‘I am not afraid that the people called Methodists should ever cease to exist either in Europe or America. But I am afraid that they might only exist as a dead sect, having the form of religion without the power'

I have long believed that we modern and post-modern evangelicals are fulfilling Wesley’s prophetic concern for the evangelical movement, worrying endlessly about the form of our religion, while neglecting the power of that accompanies God's grace?

Power is meant to accompany the preaching of the gospel. Paul says this on a number of occasions:

My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.1 Cor 2:4-5 ?apostolic time

For the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power. 1 Cor 4:20 ?

 ... our gospel came to you not simply with words but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and deep conviction. 1 Thess 1:5

I hope by now that if you needed convincing of the need for the Holy Spirit in your life, that you are more convinced. 

The question arises regarding when, how, and how often we receive the Holy Spirit? 
Do we receive a full measure of Him for the rest of our lives at conversion, or do we need to be "re-filled" over and over again ... and will these refillings or fresh annointings always be the same, or will they differ? 
Does God's economy of "daily bread for daily needs" apply to the Spirit? Do I have to have a demonstrable manifestation when the Spirit comes upon me ... must something physical/visible take place?

This last one is an important question because many have come to call this physical, sometimes overpowering, manifestation of the anointing of the Holy Spirit ... they've come to call this "baptism in the Holy Spirit", implying that if you don't have such an experience (crying out in tongues, or falling down, or prophesying) then you haven't actually received the Holy Spirit ... and sometimes make you feel as if you're somehow a second class Christian citizen.

This is really why these particular verses from Acts are so serendipitous because they've called us to look at baptism and to draw our context from what baptism means. And what does it mean: plain and simply to be immersed in. Our baptism in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit is our willful, in other words our choice, to become immersed into them, into God, into His way, His life, His truth ... surrendering, turning from, repenting of our ways, our lives and our truths. As I said last time, although we use the language of inviting God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit into us ... it is far more accurate to see the Christian life as a life lived in Him, caught up in Him and in His ways … His way for the church …. Not your or my way for the church … His ideas regarding what should happen here when we worship like this, not our ideas of what should and shouldn’t happen here during a time of worship.  

So, there are a whole lot of texts which speak into our subject this evening. I was going to work through them and try and “convince you” but I sensed the Lord saying “Let me do the convincing Cedric”. So, they are all still on my blog, but I’m not going to look at them … you can (they are immediately below this sermon). I’m going to jump to my summary: 

If you are a Christian, the Holy Spirit already dwells within you. When you purchase a mechanical item that runs on batteries, frequently the notice "Batteries Not Included" is printed on the box. The Holy Spirit -- your source of power for living -- is "included" when you receive Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord. Therefore, you do not need to invite the Spirit to come into your life as a separate prayer from your salvation prayer. He came to live within you when you became a Christian, and Jesus promised that He will never leave you.

The moment you received Christ, the Holy Spirit not only came to indwell you, but He imparted to you ... spiritual life, causing you to be born anew as a child of God.
There is but one indwelling of the Holy Spirit, one rebirth of the Holy Spirit, and one baptism of the Holy Spirit -- all of which occur when you receive Christ… but … because of sin, we leak …  and because of God’s economy we only get daily provision for our needs and He taught us to ask for our daily bread.

Being filled with the Holy Spirit, is not a once-for-all experience. There are many fillings, as is made clear in Ephesians 5:18 and these can be experienced in many and varied ways. Sometimes these are such overwhelming experiences that folk will identify these as their Baptism in the Holy Spirit and unfortunately sometimes come to believe that those who have not experienced such sudden and powerful experiences have not yet received the Spirit. This is simply not true ... they are rather the ones in the gentle mist who experience the Lord over a long period of time and get just as blessed as those who suddenly step into the torrent of the Spirit's presence … but both happen. Personally, I have had both experiences and have come to believe that the overwhelming experiences can be a pitfall since so many people who have experienced them long for them again, almost to the point of putting the validity of their faith in the experience instead of the clear teaching of the Word of God. We must allow God to move as He sees fit and when we do, we will hear a tongue from someone, someone else might have an interpretation, someone else might have a word of knowledge which when shared brings physical healing to someone else, and someone else might start prophesying … and so on and so on.

This may come as a surprise to you, but here at Meadow Way we have an excellent document setting out where we stand on these issues. We encourage the private use of the gift of tongues and I have heard some of you doing that quietly while we worship or pray ... we realise that if this occurs aloud in worship, we should wait for an interpretation ... we correctly are puzzled at the phenomenon of falling over backwards, but recognise and won't be surprised if folk sometimes just fall ... we acknowledge the reality of words of knowledge and ... I quote "The elders will look at additional opportunities to incorporate the gift of prophesy into our services.

So it might well be that we have the form of religion and the forms to prove it ... but perhaps not the power, the power of prophecy, the power of knowledge, the power of an interpreted tongue and so on (you have been here much longer than I, so you will have a better answer than I)... and not because the power isn't here, not because the Lord doesn't want to move in a unique way here at Meadow Way, certainly not because we aren't Christians ... but simply because we haven't created an environment where we encourage, explore and open ourselves up to what God might want to do. We need to believe, have faith, that God wants to move in this way in our midst; otherwise we become like Jesus’ hometown, where He could do little because of their lack of belief. Do you believe, with the elders, that God can move in this way in our midst? I'm not asking if you want Him to move (because I know that the things I mentioned at the start, especially some of the abuses might mean that you don't want Him to move, if that’s what moving means) ... I'm asking if you believe that God can move in our midst in a way that manifests His power and (again in the words of the elders) "builds up His church." Hopefully the belief will overcome the "not wanting" or the fear. 

This evening let’s decide to not go one day more without asking God daily, for the daily bread and water of His Holy Spirit. It is in the context of asking for the Holy Spirit that Jesus, in Luke, teaches us to ask, seek and knock and I close with the words of Jesus 

‘So I say to you: ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. ‘Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!’  Luke 11:9-13


Let's look at some Scriptures for more truth regarding our baptism in the Holy Spirit. 

John answered them all, ‘I baptise you with water. But one who is more powerful than I will come, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptise you with the Holy Spirit and fire.'
Jesus will baptise with the Holy Spirit. This is not some new charismatic or Pentecostal idea. Baptism in the Holy Spirit is as old as the gospel.

As soon as Jesus was baptised, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him.
Jesus was baptised in the Holy Spirit ... His whole ministry was immersed in the power of the Spirit.

Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.’ By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified.
Jesus' references to water are often references to the Spirit ... and here we see an important illusion to thirst which we will feel over and over again and which needs to be quenched on a daily basis, otherwise we will surely wither and die. You know that many Christians are withered and dried up don't you? Now you know why? You must drink regularly.

Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.
I'm a great believer that the Word of God generally means just what it says ... we get onto very dangerous ground when we start saying: "Well, it doesn't mean what it says, it actually means something else." This verse should just make us thirsty for the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives 

When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place …  All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.
All of them ... all of them ... (now don't shout out because you might embarrass yourself) ... how many disciples were there on the day of Pentecost ... 11 ... 12 ... no, in Acts 1 we are told there were 120. All of them receive the Holy Spirit. Have you?

Peter replied, ‘Repent and be baptised, 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. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off ...’
Have you received the gift of the Holy Spirit ... you and your children?

‘When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them. When they arrived, they prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit, because the Holy Spirit had not yet come upon any of them; they had simply been baptised into the name of the Lord Jesus. Then Peter and John placed their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.’
It would seem it might be possible to not receive the Spirit at conversion and baptism, but at a later stage. Have you received the Holy Spirit.

While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message. The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on Gentiles. For they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God. Then Peter said, ‘Surely no one can stand in the way of their being baptised with water. They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have.’
Here some people receive the Spirit after conversion but before baptism. 

‘While Apollos was at Corinth, Paul took the road through the interior and arrived at Ephesus. There he found some disciples and asked them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” They answered, “No, we haven’t even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” So Paul asked, “Well, what baptism did you receive?” “John’s baptism,” they replied. “Paul said, “But John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance. He told the people to believe in the one coming after him, that is, in Jesus.” On hearing this, they were baptised into the name of the Lord Jesus. When Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied.’
Here we have a group, a church, who have come to belief, but have not been baptised in Christ or in the Holy Spirit, and so Paul baptises them into Christ and then, through the laying on of hands, they receive the Holy Spirit.

Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit,
Paul here is talking to Christians who have been baptised into Christ and in the Holy Spirit, but he says regarding the Spirit, carry on being filled (in the original Greek, "be filled" means "keep on being filled constantly and continually.")

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