Rethinking the Baptism of the Holy Spirit: Part IV

If you’re just joining us, be sure to go back to Part I and work your way up to this post. Each post in this series builds on the previous ones. None are stand-alone articles.

So what is the baptism of the Holy Spirit?

Answer: I believe it is the act of the exalted Christ in which He plunges the believers into the Holy Spirit where He comes in and upon them, affording them with His power and life, and incorporating them as members into the very body of Jesus Christ.

1 Corinthians 12:13 – For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.

Acts 2:32-33 – God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of the fact. Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear.

John 7:38-39 – “He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.’” But this He spoke of the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were to receive; for the Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.

John 14:17 – that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you.

Acts 1:5 – for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” (See also Acts 11:16 and Luke 3:16).

Ephesians 2:17-18 – AND HE CAME AND PREACHED PEACE TO YOU WHO WERE FAR AWAY [Gentiles], AND PEACE TO THOSE WHO WERE NEAR [Jews]; for through Him we both have our access in one Spirit to the Father.[Continue Reading...]

Rethinking the Baptism of the Holy Spirit: Part III

If you’re new to this series, you’ll want to read Part I and Part II first.

I’d also encourage you to read my answers to questions and comments in Part II. We cover a lot of ground that’s not in the posts. And I answer objections.

That said, let me repeat three things:

  1. In this series, I’m merely answering a question that I’ve received numerous times from those who have read my books. So I’m not trying to convince anyone about anything. If you are happy with the classic Pentecostal doctrine of the baptism of the Holy Spirit (which argues that tongues is the initial evidence), you should probably skip this series because your view is going to be challenged. It doesn’t bother me at all if you wish to keep believing the Pentecostal thesis.
  2. I’m not a cessationist. I not only believe that all the gifts and ministries mentioned in the NT are extant (in operation) today, but I also believe in the baptism of the Spirit. I just don’t believe that it’s a second work of grace and that speaking in tongues is the initial evidence. Nor do I believe that all Christians who experience and minister God’s power speak in tongues. As I’ve said in the comments, I have functioned in all the gifts of the Spirit mentioned in the beginning of 1 Corinthians 12. So I’m not challenging a doctrine because I lack the experience it promises.
  3. If you wish to make a comment, be sure to do your homework first. If you make unsubstantiated, inaccurate, or nonsensical remarks, expect to receive some push-back. Just a warning. :-)

What follows are the four occasions in the New Testament where the Spirit fell on new converts in a dramatic way: Acts 2, Acts 8, Acts 10, and Acts 19.

People either spoke in tongues, prophesied, or exhibited some other dramatic gift.

The question is why?

The Pentecostal thesis says that it’s because speaking in tongues is the normative experience or “sign” when people are baptized in the Spirit.

I find this unconvincing because of the reasons I sketched out in my last post. The math doesn’t work. There are Scriptures that just won’t fit the thesis without bending them.[Continue Reading...]

Rethinking the Baptism of the Holy Spirit: Part II

If you just joined us for this series, please read Part I before you go further.

Here is some historical groundwork to set the stage for the rest of the series:

* The idea that the baptism of the Spirit is a second work of grace seems to have been initially put forth by Wesley and his followers. They tied the experience to entire sanctification (holiness).

* R.A. Torrey was a great and dear servant of the Lord. He was a congregational minister who graduated from Yale and joined D.L. Moody in Chicago. He became the superintendent of the new bible school there. In 1895, he wrote a book that popularized the idea that the baptism of the Spirit is subsequent to regeneration (new birth). He taught that it gives a person power to witness and serve, it is received by prayer, renouncing sin, and exercising faith. (The book was called The Baptism with the Holy Spirit.)

* The Welsh revival of 1904-1905 produced many miraculous signs and conversions (reportedly 100,000 conversions). But it deteriorated by counterfeit spiritual experiences.

* The Azusa street revival of 1906 in L.A., California gave birth to the Pentecostal movement. Pentecostalism brought a certain vitality back to the church with passionate praise, worship, and the anticipation for God to do supernatural things. But it was also born with certain birth defects. One of them is a tendency to exaggerate healings and miracles. Another is the pressure to keep the supernatural going, which tends to produce excesses and counterfeits (people start “faking it” to keep it going). Another is to put the Holy Spirit and His gifts on the throne and lose Jesus Christ in the temple. These defects came in at the very outset of the movement, and they have shaped the culture and DNA of Pentecostalism till this day. You can find documentation for all of this in Frank Bartleman’s book about Azusa, mentioned in yesterday’s post.

* The early Pentecostals took Torrey’s teachings and asserted that tongues was the “initial evidence” of the baptism of the Spirit. This is the classic Pentecostal position. A case can be made for this by cutting and pasting certain verses together, but there are problems with it. The entire story of the NT church does not support it. It doesn’t hold up when we interpret the book of Acts in light of the Gospels and the Epistles as we should:[Continue Reading...]

Rethinking the Baptism of the Holy Spirit: Part I

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.[Continue Reading...]

A New Chronological Bible by Tyndale

Earlier this week, I talked about the benefit of chronological Bibles.

Tyndale just sent me a copy of their new Chronological Bible.

And I’m super impressed with it.

Out of all the Bibles I’ve held in my hands, The Chronological Life Application Study Bible is cosmetically the most beautiful.

This is a real work of art, inside and out.

The color schemes, fonts, layout, graphics, timelines, and design are all top-drawer.

For this reason, this Bible makes an impressive gift.

Tyndale Chronological Bible

Some things I love about The Chronological Life Application Study Bible:[Continue Reading...]

Following Jesus Beyond the Culture Wars

I wrote the following post on Saturday, November 3, 2012 . . . 3 days before the world knew who the next USA President would be. And at Jonathan Merritt’s suggestion, I decided to wait and publish it today.

Here it is . . .

Saturday: November 3, 2012

When I publish this post on Wednesday, the United States will know who their next President is for the next four years.

Upon learning this news, one part of my country is so angry right now their eyes are crossing. Others are so depressed they feel lower than a whale’s navel.

Still others are euphoric . . . or relieved.

And then there are those who aren’t paying attention and don’t care two hoots.

A reminder to all: Jesus of Nazareth is still on the throne. Everything is under His control. Whether “your man” won or lost, Jesus is our ultimate hope for this world.

That said, a new book that may help Americans to think through where their country stands politically is Jonathan Merritt’s A Faith of Our Own: Following Jesus Beyond the Culture Wars.

(The title of this post comes straight from Merritt’s book.)

In some ways, Jonathan Merritt’s book is a follow-up to Carl F. Henry’s classic work, The Uneasy Conscience of Modern Evangelicalism, Hal Miller’s seminal piece The Uneasy Conscience of Modern Evangelicalism, and James Barr’s Beyond Fundamentalism . . . only with a stronger political emphasis added to it.

Kirsten Powers, Fox News Political and USA Today contributor, wrote the Foreword to Merritt’s book.

Cal Thomas (USA Today columnist and Fox News contributor), Ed Stetzer (president of LifeWay Research), and Ronald Sider (author of Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger) wrote strong endorsements.

In addition, New Testament scholar Scot McKnight highlighted Merritt’s book numerous times on his blog.

Last week, I interviewed Jonathan Merritt on his new book. Here it is . . .[Continue Reading...]

Election Day

Today is Election Day in the USA.

Many of you, therefore, will be occupied with making your way to the voting booths and tracking the results.

Consequently, there will be no fresh post today.

But you won’t want to miss tomorrow’s post. It’s related to what ends up happening today, even though I wrote it on Saturday.

On another note, if you haven’t subscribed to my Podcast yet, it only takes a second.

Several new episodes have been added and there are many more to come.

Also, Jesus: A Theography has just been added to my Library (which contains all 8 of my titles at a deep discount).

If you’re looking for gifts this holiday season, you may be interested in acquiring this set.

Just click the banner below.

Catch your act tomorrow . . .

Toward a Chronological Understanding of the New Testament

My publisher just mailed me a copy of their new chronological Bible. And, well, I’m super impressed with it. I will be reviewing it later this week.

I’m happy to see that publishers are now coming out with chronological Bibles.

Thomas Nelson created one several years ago. And Tyndale just came out with one last month. (I’ll be reviewing it soon.)

Why a chronological Bible?

Well . . . have you ever read your Bible without understanding what you were reading?

Have you ever read any of Paul’s letters and wondered, What did he mean when he penned this verse? Whom was this letter written to specifically? What were the people like to whom he wrote? Where was Paul when he wrote, and what was he feeling? What events prompted Paul to write this letter in the first place?

Have you ever read through the Book of Acts and thought to yourself, When exactly did these events take place? And at what point in this riveting epic did Paul, Peter, James, John, and Jude pen their letters? How do all of the Books in the NT fit together? What special historical events were occurring during the first century, and what influence did they have on the early church?

To my mind, reading the NT chronologically and narratively has it’s value. Here are four reasons why.

[Continue Reading...]

Standing on the Side of Church History

Thomas Nelson has kindly made available the Appendix of my new book with Leonard Sweet, Jesus: A Theography.

In the original manuscript, the Appendix appeared as Chapter 1 of the book. But our editor felt we should move it the back so the flow of the story wasn’t broken.

Len and I wanted this part of the book in the front because it would let readers know right out of the gate that our basic supposition is firmly rooted in the history of the body of Christ . . . across denominational and religious partisan lines.

The Appendix is called Post-Apostolic Witnesses.

While we don’t agree with everything that the authors we quote ever wrote . . . nor do we agree with every word of some of the quotes we cite (for instance, I don’t agree with C.S. Lewis that only Christ, and not the Bible, is the word of God) . . . we stand with all of them on their main contention that Jesus Christ is the subject of all Scripture – both Old and New Testament – and the Bible is “the book of the church” (as Bonhoeffer put it).

Click here to read it.

Two other things.

1. Christian Books (CBD) recently interviewed me on Jesus, biblical interpretation, and the gospel. Click here to listen to it or hear it on iTunes.

2. I typically don’t post reviews of my own books on this blog. But this one was so remarkable that I wanted to give it some airplay.[Continue Reading...]