29/05/2007

How important is the Baptism in the Holy Spirit?

{Edit 2013:  The documents and blog that inspired this post originally are no longer available. However, the point that Jesse makes is still very interesting, so I am leaving this post up (minus the original links, which no longer work)}

What a glorious day! This morning I did my usual check of the various blogs in my favourites and found this! {Edit 2013: link removed as it no longer works.}

Jesse Philips, newly graduated from the SGM Pastor's College, has given us his paper on the Baptism in the Holy Spirit (a college assignment) to read. The title itself - "Subsequence: a biblical-theological defense of Pentecostal pneumatology"- was enough for me to know I had to read it at once.

Over the last few days, since I posted on how important is the Holy Spirit, I have been thinking about the question of the doctrine of the Baptism in the Holy Spirit. What impact does it have on our experience of the Holy Spirit if we reject the Pentecostal teaching that the Baptism is subsequent to conversion?

Jesse answers this question in his introduction:

"My motive for this study is as follows: the maintenance of a biblically significant charismatic dimension to Christianity. It is not mere coincidence that the Pentecostal revival, to which the contemporary church historically owes much of its charismatic experience, held as one of its main theological tenants the view of a subsequent baptism in the Holy Spirit. There is something pro-Charismatic about the Pentecostal view of the Spirit’s baptism, which has a proven track record of producing experientially charismatic churches unmatched by other pneumatologies.

"The Third Wave position, while not at all cessationist concerning the spiritual gifts, and even held by a few prominent charismatic leaders (i.e. John Wimber), has not shown itself to be quite as prolific as the traditional Pentecostal view in producing churches that are able to maintain a robust pneumatology and a distinctively charismatic experience over a long period of time. The primary reason for this is that the Third Wave position has a somewhat cessationist interpretation of Acts. What I mean is that Cessationists and ‘Third Wavers’ agree that what is seen in Acts should not be normative for today. Therefore, since most of the biblical data about the baptism in the Spirit is contained in Acts, we should not be surprised the Third Wave perspective of the Spirit baptism tends not to produce experiences that are quite as charismatically prolific as the Pentecostal view."

In other words, it does make a difference. And it goes back to our understanding of Acts. I stand with Jesse on this one. Acts is normative. We are not only reading history, we are reading glorious examples of how God is able to work with equal power today, through the same means of a people clothed with power from on high.

Jesse concludes:

"I hope that this exploration of Luke-Acts will assist the reader in reading the Bible with new eyes and an expectant heart, engaging the text and engaging God, experiencing all that God has made available through Christ to the believer, by virtue of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. May the church continue to suffer the influence of Pentecost."

Amen and amen.

{Edit 2013: I am looking again at this issue.  Is Acts normative?  I still believe, "yes."  It shows us how the early church functioned and how God moved in power.  There is nothing in the book itself that tells us that all this glorious activity should stop.

At the same time, it is clear that we are not living in the days of Acts. We are not seeing miracles on this scale.  Those who claim to regularly move in such miracles have larger (although not exclusively) been exposed as false teachers.

However, abuse should not mean disuse.  Preaching is abused but we don't stop preaching; we preach correctly and we teach young pastors and trainees to rightly divide the Word of Truth.

At the same time, the decline of a doctrine or a practice should not mean that the thing is regarded as un-Biblical.  Otherwise, why would we ever have accepted the recovery of justification by faith?  Why would the practice of believers' baptism ever have regained acceptance among many believers?

So, we search the scriptures.  Miracles are present today, but not as much as in Acts.  We should neither manufacture false miracles, nor create an interpretation of Acts that locks the miracles in a box for then.

Instead, it is time to seek the Lord!  We need fresh dynamic gospel preaching and faithful apostolic teaching.  We need fresh outpourings of the Holy Spirit to awaken sinners (so that they are cut to the heart), to stir holy zeal in the hearts of His people and to demonstrate the present reality of God through healing.

Will you not revive us again, that Your people may rejoice in You?" (Psalm 85v6)}


PS: It is interesting that yesterday Dan posted a transcript from Life in the Spirit 1997 - with Michael Eaton and RT Kendall conversing on the Baptism in the Holy Spirit. It can be read here.

2 comments:

Baxter's Boy said...

What continues to fascinate me is that Charismatic/Pentecostals tend to attract the charge of being unfaithful to Scripture and resting on experience alone whereas Third Waver/Cessationists tend to pride themselves on being doctrinally orthodox.

This issue of the cessation/normative nature of the book of Acts is so key to how we live our Church life and I struggle to see how anyone can explain away the fact that "all Scripture is God breathed and is profitable for our teaching, our instruction" etc.

To consign an entire book of the Bible to historical narrative alone surely flies in the face of that Scriptural truth!

There may be some Charismatics who are guilty of the excess that Jesse refers to but all those I have ever encountered are characterised by a genuine desire to honour the Word of God and truly welcome the Holy Spirit of God in ALL His fulness in ALL their and our lives.

Long may it continue and long may we continue to suffer the influence of Pentecost!!

Peter Day said...

Absolutely. In one sense we are guilty of a form of theological liberalism if we treat scripture with such a "cut and paste" attitude.

Acts shows us what church should be. Let us not settle for anything less.