Tuesday, May 26, 2009

My Limp

Now you can see my limp. After all this thinking, I’m left pretty much where I started. The teaching that the baptism in the Holy Spirit is the same as conversion is only partially convincing. It can only become convincing if conversion is viewed as something other than a single point in the journey of a believer. The verses that say that if we confess with our mouth and believe in our heart that Jesus is Lord is sufficient for salvation cannot then be made to cover the whole concept of conversion. There needs to be a baptism in water and a baptism in the Holy Spirit to further the process. Acts 2:38 describes Peter’s message in response to the question of what shall we do. Repent, be baptized, and receive the Holy Spirit. Yet is this conversion?

What of all those people, true believers and lovers of God, who have not done these three? What of the Quakers who do not believe in a literal water baptism? Paul wrote that “Don't you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin— because anyone who has died has been freed from sin.” Rom 6:3-7NIV Can we then say that those who are not baptized do not have new life, cannot be free from sin, and will not partake of the resurrection? The controverted passage in Mar 16 that tells us that those who believe and are baptized will be saved. Are we to tell the Quaker that they are not saved, not yet converted?

Peter, at the home of Cornelius, said after the Spirit had been outpoured, what prevents us now from baptizing these who have received? Was Cornelius and those with him not yet converted? Did they need water baptism to complete their conversion? Why baptize them? They had already received the Spirit. What more do they need?

Yet there is a good reason to be baptized – we are commanded to. I will not say to the Quaker that they are not saved. But I will say that Jesus told us to baptize the nations in making disciples of them in Mat 28:19. You want to be a disciple? Be baptized. I will not speculate on the nature of the relationship between God and the one who, for whatever reason, is not baptized in water. That is stepping onto God’s toes – this is the area of God’s responsibility, not mine.

So too with those who have simply confessed their faith in Christ Jesus, obeyed Jesus’ command and have been baptized in water, I will not say that their conversion is lacking completion. But I will say that God has provided more for you than what you already have. Yet if you don’t know or do not believe you will not receive all that God has promised.

I like the way Luke describes the encounter between Apollos and Priscilla and Aquila. ‘Meanwhile a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was a learned man, with a thorough knowledge of the Scriptures. He had been instructed in the way of the Lord, and he spoke with great fervor and taught about Jesus accurately, though he knew only the baptism of John. He began to speak boldly in the synagogue. When Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they invited him to their home and explained to him the way of God more adequately’ (accurately, carefully). Acts 18:24-26 NIV

Here was a guy who taught accurately and with great fervor, with great results, about Jesus. Yet he only knew the baptism of John. A few short verses later we see that Paul finds some other disciples who are in the same condition – they knew only John’s baptism. Their inadequacy was that they had not received the Spirit when they believed. So Paul re-baptized them in the name of Jesus and laid hands on them for the reception of the Spirit. Do you think that Luke wanted us to see the connection? It is hard to imagine that he didn’t. The implication is that Apollos needed the same correction as those disciples Paul met up with.

You know, we may approach the scriptures as a discerner of truth, but, in the end, the scriptures will be used to discern the truth about us. God has promised much for us in His word. The Spirit is even called the Spirit of promise, that which the Father has promised. So I will not judge your relationship with God. That is none of my business. But God has provided more in the Spirit than what many of us have received. This includes all – even those who claim their baptism in the Holy Spirit and speak in tongues. The Corinthians had the Spirit but really needed a large dose of wisdom. What are we willing to receive? As Paul says, what do we have that we did not receive? And all is ours. So let’s quit quibbling about each others standing in Christ and look to our own life. Are you walking in the fullness of the Spirit, using the gifts that God has given to you to build up the body of Christ (the baptism in the Spirit is for or unto the body of Christ), or are you hardening your heart in unbelief? If you have received the Spirit, then do what the Spirit desires. If you have not received the Spirit, receive it. “How much more will God give the Spirit to those who ask him” writes Luke in Lk11:13. The point isn’t to divide the body of Christ into the have’s and the have-not’s, but that we all might have all that God has given to us all.


Stephen said...

I like your last paragraph. I believe we see the Spirit (or discern the Spirit) in others as the Spirit in us testifies to the Spirit in them. We recognize the work of the Spirit not through the gifts but through His fruit which are evidenced in a Spirit filled life. We recognize Him when we see people surrendering to Him daily every minute of every day knowing that without him they are toast and when they demonstrate that their very lives depend on His life inside of them.

Steven Ganz said...

I think we can recognize the Spirit by both fruit and gifts. Peter knew Cornelius had received the Spirit because he spoke in tongues and prophesied. No time for fruit to develop. Indeed, many people who actually have the Holy Spirit don't always live in accordance with the Spirit. Thank God the Spirit doesn't leave when we sin. Then we really would be toast. As you say, we can depend on Him for our life. He will not forsake us.