Thursday, 2 July 2009

Thursday Thoughts

A few months ago I was talking to a senior Pentecostal theologian. He commented that most churches, in his opinion, didn't preach or emphasise baptism in the Spirit any longer.

His assessment caused me to think. There certainly isn't the emphasis these days on tarrying to receive the Spirit. And speaking in tongues as initial evidence of the baptism in the Holy Spirit doesn't seem to be the issue that it used to be, perhaps not because we have reached a consensus on it relationship to baptism in the Holy Spirit, but because, if my friend is right, we're not too concerned about baptism in the Holy Spirit.

Is it the case that baptism in the Spirit has become a doctrinal relic of an earlier Pentecostal? Should we set it to one side and talk more in third wave language about a release of the Spirit with any of the fruit or gifts of the Spirit seen as evidence of His work within us? Or is baptism in the Holy Spirit, as Martyn Lloyd-Jones maintained, a major component of revival?

Would love to know your thoughts.


Keith said...

If we are to be bible christians our emphasis should follow God's word ... John made clear Jesus would baptise in the spirit ... Jesus said to wait for it ... Luke 24 .. the apostles understood it as a quite separate baptism to that of water ...; Acts 1 & 2 refer to it as a distinctive experience ... Acts 8, Acts 10 also ... Acts 19 & the CHRISTIAN disciples (converts of apollos?) who needed to be baptised into Jesus & who then spoke in tongues is quite interesting in that respect

As long as they are emphasized in your church brother James! . ...

Hebrews 5:12 ff foundational truths:
Repentance from ...
Faith towards God
Baptisms ... plural
Laying on of hands
eternal judgement

Keith said...

Three books I've recently read point to it being key still. Bishop jonathan southhall "leading a church in the age of the spirit" (2002 or so), Miracles do happen by sister briege mckenna & springtime in the church by Barry Kissell (both mid to late 70s books). All 3 have renewal via the Holy Spirit & release\baptism\whatever at the heart of God moving & christians enterning into a greater fullness of life. Actually what I've said above may be a bit harsh? And as an anglican I should be able to speak about vauge terminology because we do it so well! Because charismatic renewal has so permeated most churches the end result ... being baptised/drenched/released in the spirit/receiving(controversial!) is seen as happening under a variety of theological perspectives. That's ok ... the end result is what matters. But there must still surely be a price to be paid for obsuring the simple truths of the NT. As an anglican I rejoice at the opportunities to evangelise, bless, exort, challenge and encourage ... at an infant baptism ... a very beautiful & blessed thing ... but in large measure side stepping the dramatic commitement embodied in adult baptism by the new disciples of John or of Jesus .. or by & large of the early christians upto the time of cyprian & explained in passages such as Romans 6 . So I suppose what I'm saying is that personally I'm not too concerned about the terminology & even pneumatology(to some extent!) undergirding (or not) whatever approach one takes to it not being focused on ... providing the end result is there ... people are recognising that speaking in tongues in private prayer is of vital importance (or Paul would not have said that he was glad he did it more than all of the corinthians) for the individual ... & prophecy & the other gifts for the church. We are commanded 3 times in 1 Cor 12-14 to earnestly seek all of God's charisms or gifts of grace to enable the church to be equipped & blessed & serve. As long as this is being done ... nowone should lose too much sleep over the terminology. The church and the world need to see the same things today that they always did ... A God who is the great I AM not the great I WAS. A good who heals and speaks and intervenes ... Acts 29 should be us ... & there should be joy because of what we see and hear of God doing. Best wishes from Dublin, Keith

James said...

Keith - thanks so much for your comments. No-one who reads them will fail to be provoked to think and reflect on this most important of issues.

My own feeling is that my theologian friend is on to something. I just wonder if there is more of an emphasis on baptism in the Spirit in the developing world than in the west. That might go some way to explaining why the Western church is so weak comparatively.

Perhaps the number of comments on this post indicates that baptism in the Holy Spirt isn't such a big issue as it used to be.

Keith said...

Hi James, well the great commision was to make disciples and teach them to do all that the apostles were commanded. So if churches are failing to preach from whatever theological perspective ... the necessity to receive\get baptised in\be released in\welcome\the Holy Spirit ... are they obeying Jesus' command? I've been thinking about this ... how much of what Jesus did was done indepentant of the Father & the Holy Spirit? According to John 5 Jesus said he could do nothing of himself ... v19 "I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does." + v30a 30By myself I can do nothing; ... & John 8:28; John 14:10; ... How much did the apostles do & actually acheive anything ... apart from the Holy Spirit? .. Acts; If Jesus lived a life of complete dependancy on the Father & the Holy Spirit as reflected in those aspects of his prayer life visible once he began his public ministry (Luke 5:18or19... often withdraw) ... & anything that really made a difference in the Acts is as a result of their dependance on Jesus & the Father... through the Holy Spirit ... & Jesus said of us that (John 15) apart from me YOU CAN DO NOTHING ... is the subtext that churches don't believe they need to rely on God? Revival will come ... but when it does we need to have disciples whose hearts are well ploughed up so that they are good seed ... that understand perseverance, endurance, faithfulness ... through prayerfulness and dependance on God .... Best wishes my friend,

MikeK said...

Recently I have been in Acts again for teaching beginnings.

Although I haven't got as far as BITS as a subject of exposition in this series yet, I have gained a fresh perspective of how mission is a clash of real authority and power and hence the need for BITS for those engaged in mission.

I must say that prior to my own experience of BITS at age 23, I did not consider the matter so much as essential to mission as the gaining of an experience. Not good: I did not see BITS so much as a mission necessity as I do now and this is still growing on me.

I saw this in new depth last week when just writing down the minor and major characters in the Philippian mission in Acts 16.

I also went through this exercise with the congregation, asking them to write down the major and minor players in Luke's account.

They all missed to include "Jesus Christ" and "the Most High God" (NIV) in their list!

However, when They are NOT left out it is evident that there is a huge conflict of authority here, plus there is a real contrast in the attributes or characteristics of the two authorities discernable.

Not only so, there is a contrast in the confidence that the apostles have in the authority of their God, compared with the bondage of the jailer.

(This is cued up front with the deliverance of the slave girl, which the Greek calls a pythia (the same term used of the Oracle women at the Temple of Appollo in Delphi).

Implied here, I suggest, is a need for those engaged in mission to recongise that in the fallen state we are in bondage to a godless authority. Consequently, we are unable to provide salvation for ourselves because we do not naturally have the power or the authority to do so (another perspective of the so called free will debate?!).

Moreover, whether or not God sent the earthquake or used one that was due to occur (Philippi was abandoned in the sixth century because of earthquake damage), we observe that the jailer perceived that he had sinned against Paul and Silas'God and became contrite before them, I suggest, because of the deployment of His power and because of the apostles' confident and ethical witness.

There is also a contrast of the injustice of the worldly authority (represented by Rome), which has one standard for Roman citizens and another for the rest. This contrast is observed as the jailer benefits from the compassionate justice of Paul and Silas' God, which is implied by their sharing the "Word of the Lord" with the him and the huge change in his demeanour (filled with joy).

Although Luke is not explicit, is BITs implied by this degree of joy that had come to be experienced by the jailer and his family? The text is silent, but I wonder if it really is stretching things too far when we take into account Luke's tendency not to repreat details in his accounts.

What is clear is that all this tranformed the jailer and his family as it released him from the bondage implied by his suicide attempt and resulted in being filled with joy.

This passage helps me to see in a new way that not only did the jailer need the compassionate justice of the authority of Paul and Silas'God, but he also needed the power of their God to deliver him from bondage. This was ministered to him by men who were already practically confident in the authority and power of their God to deliver what He had sent them to do.

It brings fresh perspective to the "All authority" aspect of the great commision as well as the "I will be with you" until the end of the age part.

Salvation, therefore, is not just coming to accept certain truths, but requires the deliverance of the One who has all authority in heaven and earth. Hnce there is no such thing here as Mission without power and hence without BITS.

Keith said...

One can be annointed with the Holy Spirit without being baptised in the Holy Spirit. John brought revival (without miracles of healing) ... & preached with the same spiritual annointing that was on Elijah. Apollos as implied by Acts 18/19 had a great ministry "boiling over" with enthusiasm & fervant love for God ... but didn't seem to understand much about the Holy Spirit until instructed more accurately by Priscilla and Aquaila - Pauls co-workers.

We can try to be too neat sometimes. While speaking in tongues may be the only sure evidence of the baptism ... there are a variety of models for when one receives & benefits from God's power - all of which have some merit. So whether Simon in the temple, David singing Psalms or Paul & Silas proclaiming God's praises in adversity and God's power manifest ... God is able to do exceedingly abundantly more than we ask or think.

Best wishes,

MikeK said...


Not sure what your comments about annointing without BITs are directed towards?

I observe that, generally speaking, pre-Pentecost outpourings of the Spirit were just not upon "all flesh".

My comments were particularly relating mission in Acts to the Baptism, that is all. In this respect, Luke's motif in Acts associated with being filled with the Spirit is 'overflow'.

Moreover, my comments were not directed to tongues at all though, personally, I would include them as expected eveidence of the BITS.

Keith said...

Well regarding equipping or annointing or baptism with the Holy Spirit & mission ... I'm just making the point that God used people regardless. Apollus didn't understand about the Holy Spirit until instructed more correctly by Priscilla & Aquila but was still a great help to the church even though theologically limited.

MikeK said...


Point taken. However, regardless of what God chooses or does not choose to do in His sovereign will, I am coming from an Acts 1:8 context where it is explicit that there is a context of the "promise of the Father" as equipping for mission.


Keith said...

Point also taken. Spiritual deliverance means a release from captivity and spiritual warfare. However regarding your qualification ... "God choosing to do" ... I think you're missing the obvious in that thoughout most of the early part of Acts the church ISN'T fulfilling its mission at all. It is staying in Jerusalem because of the false view of the gentiles that peter & the other apostles had. Acts 10\11 ... Peter 3 times refusing the command of God on the basis of his view of what was before him being "unclean" & 3 times being told not to call unclean what God had cleaned ... The gospel didn't spread beyond Judea becuase of the apostles but because christians fleeing the persecutino after Stephens death ... preached it to the samaritans. Later again it is not the apostles who preach to the greeks but christians who fled the persecution. We need to understand that God's will can be limited, frustrated and impeded by our thickness. We also need to understand that it was not the prayers of the church but of a Gentile God fearer - cornelious ... that lead to the cataclysmic shift in worldview ...

Keith said...

Actually cataclysmic might imply it was a bad thing when it was the most liberating & wonderful thing ... : )
- A paradigm shift might best describe it. Peter had a different worldview\outlook\understanding after visiting Cornelius & witnessing their complete acceptance ... & so did the church Acts 11 once they understood God's witness & confirmation that the gentiles were fully accepted.

MikeK said...


No, respectfully, I wasn't missing the point.

I already appeciate very well the points you are making about the what ACTUALLY happened in the outworking of mission in Acts. I focussed a lot of my masters studies in Acts, plus the Pauline letters, particularly 1 Corinthians and 1 Thessalonians.

While we (by "we" I generalise meaning today's UK church) still have a track record of not learning from the lessons of mission in Acts, or living up to what we call "the Great Commission", I want to learn from what is recorded there so as to benefit from what they learned from their mistakes.

Anyway, the discussion began with James' question about a neglect of the BITS today and my intent was just to say that I think there is a neglect. Moreover, that BITS still needs to be understood as a needed enduement for mission, as Jesus said in Acts 1:8. Just because the early missioners in Acts were on various mistake making learning curves does not mean we should ignore Jesus' Acts1:8 prescription, because He knows best.

God Bless, Mike

Keith said...

Agreed 100%

: )

MikeK said...


I think the sobering reality for many of us about the points you have well made about the way the early mission in Acts made mistakes, is that we also take a lot of time to understand what has been said to us.

My own contribution this week, for example, testified to seeing something for the first time that has actually been there all along!
I have been in that passage many times and noticed other stuff, but not the authority motif to the degree that impressed me this time.

It seems to me that the more I grow to understand, the more I perceive how little I actually know. Thank God for revelation!

James said...

Thanks guys. What an intoxictaing discussion. I wonder what some of our Pentecostal theologians would make of these reflections from the coal face of real ministry? I might just point some of them in this direction!

I think we'll return to the subject sometime in the future. So pleased that some people are still passionate about baptism in the Spirit.

lynn said...

Just to say (if this isn't a man-only discussion) that the best work I have ever read on this subject is in Clark Pinnock's Flame of Love. I just LOVE that book.

Charles Finney describes a powerful experience where he was endued with power distinct from and subsequent to his conversion. While the term “the second blessing” can be ambiguous, Finney has described something common to many Christians today; where they have most definitely made a decision to become a follower of Christ and have received the Spirit of sonship at conversion but feel lacking in power, dry and desperately still in need of God.

“Finney saw the Christian life as involving a series of baptisms in the Spirit, bringing the believer into ever-higher levels of Christian experience.” He wrote that baptism in the Spirit is a gift for every believer and that it is “supremely easy to receive this gift from God” . He referred to Luke 11:11-13 (as does the modern day Alpha course ) as an example of God’s willingness to give good gifts to his children.

heh heh, you can imagine what kind of bother I get in my job working with children :-)....

James said...

Thanks Lynn for gate crashing what had shaped up as a "guy only" discussion. Thanks too for the Finney quote. I am sure that some of these past masters of the spiritual life have so much to teach us today.

So glad you're making these things available to children. I think that if we don't talk about them with children we kind of create an unhelpful mystique that can make the experience of the Spirit's power seem out of their reach - even when they are more mature. I can however imagine that this might raise a few eyebrows!