Saturday, June 23, 2012

Baptism with the Holy Spirit

In Acts 1:5 (NIV), Jesus said: "For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit." And in v. 8: "But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."

Christians who believe in the baptism with the Holy Spirit, believe that it imparts the power of the Holy Spirit. However, Pentecostals and Wesleyans emphasize different sides of it.

In Acts 2:4, it is written: "All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them." Acts 10:44-46: "44 While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message. 45 The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on Gentiles. 46 For they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God." Acts 19:6: "When Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied."

In these three cases, it is clearly said that when people were baptized with the Holy Spirit, they spoke in tongues. Acts 8:17: "Then Peter and John placed their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit." In this case, tongues are not mentioned, however, in v. 18, it is said: "When Simon saw that the Spirit was given at the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money..." There must be some outward sign that showed Simon that the people received the Holy Spirit and it is quite possible that it was speaking in tongues.

Acts 9:17: "Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord—Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here—has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.”" Again, speaking in tongues is not mentioned. However, in 1 Corinthians 14:18, he wrote: "I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you." So, Paul did speak in tongues, and it is quite possible that he received this gift when Ananias laid his hands on him.

So, it seems that in all the five cases in Acts when people received the Holy Spirit, they spoke in tongues. Pentecostals believe that speaking in tongues is the outward sign of the baptism with the Holy Spirit. I believe that it is a biblical teaching.

Wesleyans stress another aspect. In Acts 15:7-11, Peter speaks at the Council in Jerusalem and describes his visit to Cornelius and other Gentiles: "After much discussion, Peter got up and addressed them: “Brothers, you know that some time ago God made a choice among you that the Gentiles might hear from my lips the message of the gospel and believe. God, who knows the heart, showed that he accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as he did to us. He did not discriminate between us and them, for he purified their hearts by faith. 10 Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of Gentiles a yoke that neither we nor our ancestors have been able to bear? 11 No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.”"

In v. 8, he spoke that God gave them the Holy Spirit. In v. 9, he said that God purified their hearts by faith. So, Wesleyans believe that there is an inward aspect of the baptism with the Holy Spirit which is purification of the heart.

There are many debates regarding the baptism with the Holy Spirit among Christians and regarding its aspects. I am not going to get into these debates here. I just want to testify about my experience.

Over 20 years ago, I was baptized with the Holy Spirit and received the gift of speaking in tongues (and I still have it). I received it directly from God as an answer to my prayer. Nobody laid hands on me and nobody "taught" me how to speak tongues. So, I was always convinced that it was a genuine experience. It was several months after I received Christ as my Savior and was born again.

However, like many Christians, at that time, I did not know anything about purification of the heart through the baptism with the Holy Spirit. One week ago, God purified my heart and thus gave me this aspect of the Holy Spirit. It was also God's direct answer to my prayer.

Holiness Pentecostals, unlike other Pentecostals, believe in both purification of the heart and speaking in tongues. Holiness Pentecostals as well as Wesleyans call the first experience "the second blessing" and Holiness Pentecostals call the second experience "the third blessing." Salvation or regeneration is "the first blessing." 

I received the third blessing several months after the first blessing, but more than 20 years before the second blessing. It looks quite strange, but it is so. Anyway, all these experiences have been very important for me. I am not the same as I used to be.

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