The meaning of Pentecost
I read someone this week said of the Pentecostals/Charismatics: all heat, but no light = they are passionate, joyful and committed, but they seem to seek experience and excitement; feeding on God’s word is not as much of a priority. On the other hand, there are the Mainline churches: all light but no heat = knowing the truth is a priority, the scriptures are their food, but passion and joy and fervency and boldness in reaching the lost seem to be lacking.
Read Acts 1:5-8; 2:1-4
The matter of the work of the Holy Spirit in the church can get confusing and often makes people feel uncomfortable. I will try and bring clarity to some of the confusion, but I can’t help you with the discomfort. If fact we should expect it: what else should we feel when the supernatural encounters the natural, when the God invades a human life, when the Almighty, all knowing, all good God makes his home in finite and fallen human beings. At the same time, I deeply desire the power of God would thrash through my life and lift it into the supernatural, AND I am scared to allow Him in because He is not in my control.
Receiving the Spirit
There are two ways that the church in general have interacted with this question:
· Belonging to Christ means you have the Spirit
Mainline churches (by enlarge) have taught that if you have put your faith in Christ, trusted him for forgiveness of sins and a righteousness standing before God then you have the Spirit. The view is supported by Romans 8:9b “And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ.” The verse therefore teaches that, if you belong to Christ, you have the Spirit.
· Baptism in the spirit happens at salvation
Mainline churches have also said 1Cor 12:13 “For we were all baptized (with) [by] one Spirit into one body–whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free–and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.” The context is referring to the sovereign work of the Spirit in uniting all believers into the body of Christ. They say, “when you believe in Christ, when you are born again you are baptised with the HS. They take this as the controlling verse with regard to baptism in the Spirit: there is no need for a second experience.
· History of mainline denominations
Today the churches that are mostly in decline are the mainline churches. And the growing churches are, by enlarge the ones that have Pentecostal and Charismatic leanings. But that does not mean that God was not and is not still at work in churches that hold these positions. There are many examples of churches that have a theological position as I outlined above that see conversions and growth. At the same time, there are too many who do not.
The Bible certainly teaches that all believers have the Spirit (John 3:5) – it is the Spirit that leads us to faith and repentance. But for too many Christians the Holy Spirit is a doctrine to be understood not than the third person of the Trinity to be experienced. When you read the NT you certainly get the impression that receiving the Spirit is an experiential reality – an experience that is far from the life of many Christians today.
As a Second Blessing
The Charismatic and Pentecost churches teach a “second blessing” accompanied by tongues. What can we learn from them? Firstly, (not enough time) tongues certainly doesn’t need to accompany all believers who are filled with the Spirit. Second, as we look at the book of Acts
· The language of Acts
John the Baptist seems to have coined the phrase “baptised in the Spirit”. You find it in all the gospels (Matt3:11, Mark 1:8, Luke 3:16, John 1:33) as John compares what he is doing with water to what Jesus will do with the Spirit. It appears three other times in the NT: twice in Acts (1:5 and 11:16) where Luke quotes the words of John the Baptist. The other time is the 1Cor 12:13 that I referred to earlier. Paul seems to be using the phrase to refer to regeneration, being born again. We must never assume that a particular phrase means exactly the same thing when used by two different authors. The context most often helps us determine what the author means. Paul: united to Christ and his body, born again, regenerated. Luke: the experience of being filled with the Spirit, clothed with supernatural power for life and mission.
The book of Acts uses six different words to refer to the coming of the Spirit on a believers life: Baptised (1:5, 11:16), Comes on you (1:8, 10:44, 11:15, 19:6) , Filled (2:4, 4:31, 6:3, 6:5,7:55, 9:17, 13:9, 13:52), Pour out (2:17, 2:18, 2:33, 10:45), Received (2:38, 8:15, 8:17, 10:47), Gift given (8:18; 5:32; 15:8 (as we); 11:17 (gift: 2:38; 8:20; 10:45; 11:17). The Spirit also pours out, fills, falls, is received, is given as a gift, clothes with power from on high.
You don’t get the idea from Acts that the Sprit sneaks into your life when you’re saved, that it is a quiet experience. Even the word baptism -immerse, dunk, dip doesn’t give you that idea!
· The occurrences in Acts
When you consider the testimony of Acts you get a clear picture that the coming / falling / baptism / pouring out of the Spirit was a life changing experience for those people. They were never the same again. For some of them it happened at the same time they were saved, for others it happened afterwards; some prayed in tongues others did not. But it was never a subconscious silent occurrence.
· The purpose of power
At the end of Luke (23:46-49) Jesus says that the Disciples should wait in Jerusalem to be “clothed with power form on high” which is linked to the gospel going to all nations. At the beginning of Acts (1:5-8) the Disciples are promised baptism in the HS which will empower them to carry the gospel from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth.
The testimony of Acts continually tells us that the filling with HS resulted in special boldness, conviction, empowering for ministry, miracles, obedience, passion and joy.
o Acts 2:4, 41
The Disciples are filled with the Spirit at Pentecost. Peter stands up to preach the gospel with remarkable clarity and boldness and the result is that 3000 people were saved. Supernatural empowering for Christ-exalting life and witness.
o Acts 4:8
Peter is again filled with the HS and endowed with the boldness to confront the killers of Christ who could so easily do the same to him. And the leaders are amazed at this uneducated man! Supernatural empowering for Christ-exalting life and witness.
o Acts 4:31
The disciples were praying, the HS shook the room and filled them again “and they spoke the word of God boldly”. Supernatural empowering for Christ-exalting life and witness.
o Acts 6:5, 10; 7:55
When the Apostles are appointing Deacons they choose Stephen who was “full of the Spirit and wisdom”. The next chapter tells how Stephen confronts the religious elite. His message is so clear that they have to shut him up by throwing stones at his body until he is dead. Supernatural empowering for Christ-exalting life and witness.
o Acts 9:17
When Ananias comes to minister to Paul he that God is going to open his blinded eyes and fill him with the Holy Spirit. The result is that Paul become the “apostle to the gentiles”. His boldness and passion and dedication and pioneering has never been exceeded! Supernatural empowering for Christ-exalting life and witness.
o Acts 11:24
Barnabus is described as a “good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith” and under his ministry a “great number of people were brought to the Lord”. Supernatural empowering for Christ-exalting life and witness.
o Acts 13:9
Paul is confronted by the sorcerer Elymas. Paul is “filled with the HS” and pronounces blindness of Elymas for a season. Supernatural empowering for Christ-exalting life and witness
John Piper, with great give this logical sequence: (a) God clothes the disciples with power from on high when he filled them with the HS for the purpose of supernatural life and witness; (b) the task of world mission has not ended; (c) we should full expect and desire the filling with the HS, the church supernaturally powered for completion of this task.
Holy spirit for today (Eph. 5:18)
So, I don’t know where you stand with regard to your belief in the second blessing or concurrent with salvation. This matter becomes divisive when we ask: are you baptised in the HS?
Rather we should be asking, “Are you full of the HS?” Or another way to ask the same questions is, “Do you want to be supernaturally empowered for Christ-exalting life and witness?” I believe all Christians should seek the out pouring of the HS upon us completely so that we are filled with joy, victory over sin, passion, enthusiasm and boldness to witness.
I want to close with a passage in Ephesians 5
Ephesians 5:15-20 Be very careful, then, how you live–not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. 18 Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit. 19 Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, 20 always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The key to understanding this passage is drunkenness. What happens when people get tispy and drunk? The loose their inhibitions, they become happy and joyful and carefree, they start to sing bar songs. Paul contrasts the dishonouring use of alcoholic spirits which is numbing, hiding and temporary with the work of the Holy Spirit. When we are full of this Spirit we have joy unspeakable forever, we feel free to be the witnesses we want to be, we are not controlled by earthly fears and anxieties – and it results in us singing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs to each other.
Do you want supernatural joy, freedom and peace?
Please use / augment / discard these questions so that your group has a fruitful discussion
- Grant suggested the Pentecostal/Charismatic churches tend to be all heat and no light but that the mainline churches tend to be all light and no heat. Do you agree or disagree?
- Grant put forward the “mainline” position on baptism with the Holy Spirit:
- Read Rom 8:9 and 1Cor 12:13 and John 3:1-8.
- What do we learn about the HS from these passages?
- Grant also put forward the (moderate) Pentecostal/Charismatic position:
- Luke uses the terms: Baptised (1:5, 11:16), Comes on you (1:8, 10:44, 11:15, 19:6) , Filled (2:4, 4:31, 6:3, 6:5,7:55, 9:17, 13:9, 13:52), Pour out (2:17, 2:18, 2:33, 10:45), Received (2:38, 8:15, 8:17, 10:47), Gift given (8:18; 5:32; 15:8 (as we); 11:17 (gift: 2:38; 8:20; 10:45; 11:17). to describe the coming of the HS in believer’s lives.
- How does this help broaden our understanding of the work of the HS in believer’s lives?
- Some people desire an experience (warm fuzzy feeling / falling over / slain in the Spirit etc). Grant gave a list of seven passages where the HS specifically equips believers for life and mission. Why is it wrong to seek and experience and what should we be seeking?
- Read the following passages: Acts 2:4, 41; Acts 4:8; Acts 4:31; Acts 6:5, 10; 7:55; Acts 9:17; Acts 11:24; Acts 13:9
- What do we learn about the purpose of being filled / full of the HS?
- Read Ephesians 5:15-20.
- Compare and contrast what it means to be drunk on an alcoholic spirit and what it means to be ‘filled with’ the Holy Spirit.
- Some people resist prayer and filling with the HS. Paul commands it “be filled continually” (the verb is in the continuous present tense). Why do you think some people resist?
- Spend some time praying for people to be filled with the Spirit as they are open and receptive.