Tuesday, May 12, 2009

You Can Lead a Horse to Water

Recently I have been wrestling with the Lord. Like Jacob, I’m trying to pin the Lord down. And like Jacob, I have a limp for all my trouble. I have been trying to pin the Lord down on an understanding of the baptism in the Holy Spirit. Simple, you might say. Why bother with something so obvious…?

I started out as a simple Pentecostal. I met Jesus and was completely changed. I was healed of drug abuse, my behavior radically changed, and all I wanted to do was pray, read the Bible, and tell others about Jesus. Six weeks after I met the Lord I was baptized in the Holy Spirit, shouting in tongues until I was hoarse.

Everything was simple. The few people I came across who believed that the gifts of the Spirit died out with the Apostles I quickly dismissed. We needed the word confirmed to us as much as they did and the perfect won’t come until Jesus returns. Simple.

But as I read more and more and did my best to come to an equitable understanding of scripture I began to notice things. I noticed that there was no verse that said that you must speak in tongues – and that there was no proof that speaking in tongues was the evidence that someone had received the Holy Spirit. The only verse that even indicated that tongues was an evidence of the reception of the Spirit was in Acts 11, where Peter is explaining to the leaders in Jerusalem how he knew the Gentiles had received the Spirit and could therefore be baptized. I also noticed that according to Romans 8:9 NIV “ if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ.” At first this was a non-issue. After all, everyone I knew believed that the Spirit lived in a person when they were born again. When you were born again your spirit and the Holy Spirit were conjoined. As far as I knew, only those radical Pentecostals who didn’t think you were saved until you spoke in tongues believed that you did not, in some sense, get the Spirit when you believed.

But we all believed that having your spirit made new by conjoining with the Holy Spirit was not the same thing as receiving the Spirit in the baptism in the Holy Spirit. In recent years this has come under attack. Bruner, Dunn, Fee, Turner and others have all claimed that you are baptized in the Spirit at conversion. They have done some real scholarly work. The non-issue has become an issue. If what I understood about my experience is incorrect, I want to know. I need to able to teach the truth.

In this controversy I see two pivot points. For the Pentecostal side, this verse is crucial. 1 Corinthians 12:13 NIV “For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body — whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free — and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.” For the conversion/baptism in the Spirit side, Acts 8, the incident at Samaria.

In the next post I’ll look at 1 Cor 12:13 and the following post I’ll take on the implications of Samaria.

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