Is it necessary for a person to “experience” the Baptism of the Holy Spirit, after s/he has accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior, in order for that person to be a “real” Christian? Does a Christian have to speak in tongues in order to be “filled with the Holy Spirit”? If a Christian has “enough” faith, can s/he be healed of his/her sickness? Can 21st Century Christians “perform” healings and miracles, just as the 1st Century Christians did? My Charismatic/Pentecostal brothers and sisters answer all these questions with a “YES!” These “Sign Gifts” prove that a person truly has had a “Conversion Experience”. Christians like me, who are not Charismatic/Pentecostal will say, “No, not necessarily.” All you have to do to be ‘saved’ and be “filled with the Holy Spirit” is to believe [trust] in Jesus Christ” (See Acts 16:31). Romans 10:8-13 says this:
“But what do you say? ‘The Word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,’ that is, the Word of Faith we are proclaiming: That if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. As the Scripture says, ‘Anyone who trusts in Him will never be put to shame.’ For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile – the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on Him, for, ‘Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’”
With Romans 10:8-13 in mind, why do Charismatic/Pentecostal Christians believe in the “Baptism of the Holy Spirit” as evidence that one is truly “filled with the Spirit” and why do they elevate the “Sign Gifts” (speaking in tongues, the interpretation of tongues, prophecy, miracles, and healings) as more important than all of rest of the Gifts of the Holy Spirit?
Charismatic/Pentecostal Christians place a heavy emphasis on Mark 16:9-20, especially on verses 16-18: “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will accompany those who believe: In My Name [Jesus] they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well.” My New International Version of the Bible has in brackets, above Mark 16:9-20, this qualifier: “The earliest manuscripts and some other ancient witnesses do not have Mark 16:9-20.” So, what does this mean? Why have it in the Bible at all? I believe, as do my other Non-Charismatic/Non-Pentecostal brothers and sisters, that this portion of Mark should be taken from a historical point of view and not from a doctrinal point of view. That is, someone, other than Mark, was describing the unique Gifts of the Holy Spirit given to the 1st century Apostles to authenticate that God was doing a New Thing: – the creation of the body of Christ called the Christian Church. Once the Christian Church was established by the 1st century Apostles, these “Sign Gifts” became less and less the norm. That is not to say that God has stopped performing sings and wonders and healings and miracles. It is to say God is not limited to certain people doing these signs and wonders and healings and miracles.
Wikipedia gives this definition of “Baptism with the Holy Spirit”: “(alternatively ‘Baptism in the Holy Spirit’ or ’Holy Ghost’) in Christian theology is a term describing baptism (washing or immersion) in or with the Spirit of God and is frequently associated with the bestowal of spiritual gifts and empowerment for Christian ministry. While the phrase ‘baptism with the Holy Spirit’ is found in the New Testament and all Christian traditions accept it as a theological concept, each has interpreted it in a way consistent with their own ecclesiology and Christian initiation. One view holds that the term refers only to Pentecost, the ‘once-for-all’ event for the whole Church described in the second chapter of the Book of Acts. Another view holds that the term also refers to an experience of the individual believer distinct from salvation and initiation into the Church. Before the emergence of the holiness movement in the mid-19th century and Pentecostalism in the early 20th century, most denominations believed that Christians received the baptism with the Holy Spirit either upon conversion and regeneration or through rites of Christian initiation. Since the growth and spread of the Pentecostal and Charismatic churches, however, the belief that baptism with the Holy Spirit is an experience distinct from regeneration has come into increasing prominence.”
I believe that the very instant a person gives his/her life to Christ s/he also receives the Holy Spirit. Titus 3:4-7 states, “But when the kindness of God our Savior appeared, He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of His mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, Whom He poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by His grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.” God our Savior, God the Holy Spirit, God our Savior Jesus Christ is one God in three persons. When we receive Christ as our Savior we receive the Triune God Who comes to live in us. This is not to say we don’t have to discover what our spiritual gifts are and grow and learn how to use them for “the glory of God and for the good of all the Church”. But, we need to know and understand that we are not alone in our learning and growing. The Holy Spirit indwells us and helps us learn more about our gifts and teaches and enables us to use them for His kingdom.
“His divine power has given us all we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness. Through these He has given us His very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires” (II Peter 1:3-4).
It is important to know and understand that even in the times we don’t “feel” or “experience” the Holy Spirit in our lives, He is always with us and He is always working in us for our good: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose“(Romans 8:28)..
It is also important to know that Jesus was both fully human and fully God when He came to save us. Some Christians look at Jesus’ baptism as the time when He was filled with the Holy Spirit, but I believe Jesus was always filled with the Holy Spirit:
“Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John. But John tried to deter Him, saying, ‘I need to be baptized by You, and do You come to me?’ Jesus replied, ‘Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.’ Then John consented. As soon as Jesus was baptized, 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 lighting on Him. And a voice from heaven said, ‘This is My Son, Whom I love; with Him I am well pleased’” (Matthew 3:13-17) [Also in Mark 1:9-11 and Luke 3:21-22].
Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist not because Jesus needed His sins forgiven. Jesus had no sin. Jesus submitted Himself to baptism to identify Himself with sinners, Whom He came to save (See Mark 2:17 and Luke 5:32). Jesus was baptized by John not because John was greater than Jesus (See John 1:26-27). Jesus submitted to John’s baptism, so that John could recognize Him as the Christ, the One for Whom he called everyone to “Make straight the way for the Lord” (See John1:23b and Isaiah 40:3). Jesus was not baptized in order to receive the Holy Spirit. Most importantly, Jesus was baptized so that all who were there could hear and see the Triune God. Jesus did not need to be filled with the Holy Spirit. Jesus was the One Who had the “fullness of His [Fther’s] grace [which] we have all received one blessing after another” (See John 1:16). I believe it is inaccurate to say Jesus received the power of the Holy Spirit at His baptism because that would make Jesus dependent on the Holy Spirit and that would make the Holy Spirit more important than Jesus, which the Holy Spirit would never want to promote (See John 15:26-27). Jesus’ baptism was an appropriate time to mark the beginning of His public ministry.
Besides putting a heavy emphasis on Mark 16:9-20 and on personal experiences and feelings, Charismatic/Pentecostal Christians place a heavy emphasis on the Book of Acts. More on this next time.