This week, we take on the discussion fo a topic that has surrounding it, a measure of controversy – the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. The point of controversy has to do with whether this baptism is an ordinary work of the Spirit or an extraordinary one. In other words, some Christians say hat this baptism is simply part of the conversion experience. When a person comes to faith, they come under the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit and are “born again” to start life anew as a believer. Just as they are baptized by water, symbolizing a cleansing from sin, so they are baptized by the Spirit, regenerated inside.
This explanation of the baptism of the Holy Spirit contends that all who have been converted have received the baptism of the Holy Spirit. This phrase is just another way of telling the events of conversion.
There is another branch of Christian thought that separates the baptism of the Spirit from the conversion process and then holds it out as an additional work to be accomplished by the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer. This subsequent, or second, work is supposed to be quite obvious and dramatic, the Spirit coming upon the person with much greater power giving them significantly greater boldness and ability. A person who has been baptized by the Holy Spirit is better able to live victoriously, and witness with more effectiveness.
Those who hold this second position almost always link the baptism of the Holy Spirit with the appearance of some sign. Amongst Pentecostals, the sign looked for is that of speaking in tongues, interpreted as non-human language. Those who speak in tongues are seen to have been blessed with this second work of the Spirit. Those who do not, struggle along as some kind of lesser Christian hoping one day to be blessed. They often live with a sense of guilt for sins yet in their lives.
The on-going struggle between these positions arises from the fact that the Bible has verses that are not entirely unambiguous. However, the preponderance of evidence seems to go to the first position. Several things we should note:
- The result of the pouring out of the Spirit was that those who heard were “pricked in their hearts.” Those who heard did not see produced in their lives some dramatic sign. They came under conviction of sin and repented.
- Why would the Spirit leave a work as significant as the second blessing is supposed to be out of the lives of people? Would that not make salvation too hard?
- In I Corinthians 12:1-13, we have the major passage tied to the baptism of the Holy Spirit. This instruction arises from the contention over the Holy Spirit among the Corinthian Christians. They were at considerable odds over the Spirit. Paul wrote to them of the great unifying and uniting power of the Holy Spirit. By the Spirit, they were all baptized into a single entity, the Church that Paul likens to a body.