Let me say a few words of introduction for this series.
First, my early Christian life was in the Pentecostal church. I was taught the classic Pentecostal doctrine on the baptism of the Spirit and handed the typical proof texts from Acts to prove that speaking in tongues was the initial evidence of the baptism of the Spirit and it is a second-work of grace or subsequent to salvation (or words to that effect).
Admittedly, the Pentecostal line of argument is quite convincing and I purchased it. But that was before I learned to read the New Testament chronologically. And without a chronological understanding of the New Testament, well, you can prove almost anything by proof texting.
Many years ago I became unconvinced of the Pentecostal viewpoint, while still holding to the belief — as well as experiencing it — that the Holy Spirit hasn’t gone to sleep and all the gifts of the Spirit are still in operation today.
Two things caused me to begin doubting the Pentecostal version:
1. I witnessed firsthand many people who were strongly coached to speak in tongues. So much so that it was close to forcing them to do so. This was very different from how I envisioned it in Acts. I never saw any evidence that the apostles coached or forced people to speak in tongues. Rather, speaking in tongues always happened spontaneously in Acts without human intervention or facilitation, beyond the laying on of hands.
2. Some of the most powerful people in the Spirit that I’ve ever met or known never spoke in tongues. These people clearly had the power of God and were very effective in evangelism as well as possessing deep spiritual insight.
Second, many scholars have pointed out that the phrases “baptism in the Spirit,” “baptism with the Spirit,” and “baptism of the Spirit” are all synonyms in the New Testament. You can’t convincingly slice these up into different baptisms by using the Greek and that’s why different translations use of/with/in for the same texts.
Third, many Christians have bitterly divided over their understanding of the baptism of the Spirit. In some movements, the so-called “baptism of the Spirit” has become a gimmick, a product to sell, and an elite experience that has separated God’s people into the “have’s” and the “have-not’s.”
In other quarters, certain teachings on Spirit baptism have created counterfeit spiritual experiences, exaggerations, and many excesses which have hurt the body of Christ. (You can learn more about this by reading on the accounts of the Welsh Revival and the Azusa Street Revival. See Frank Bartleman’s book, Another Wave Rolls In for the story of Azusa.)
In this series, I’ll share some of the conclusions I’ve reached from my study of the New Testament, my observations, and my personal experience.
I’m monumentally disinterested in a mindy debate over this subject. I realize that some people will disagree and that’s fine with me. I don’t get paid for convincing anyone. I’ve just been asked this questions dozens of times from readers and now I’m finally getting around to answering them.
If you happen to challenge what I write (which is fine), be prepared to get some push-back from me, especially if you’ve not done your homework. And realize that this is a series. So all of it will unfold in due course. Resist the temptation, therefore, to jump the gun too early.
At the same time, I could be completely wrong in my views. I claim no immaculate perception . . . and neither should you.
Part II tomorrow . . .