The Present-Day Ministry Of The Holy Spirit
Many years ago as a young Christian, I atttended a church in the Baptist denomination. During my frequent times of Bible study, I noticed a topic that no one talked about. Both John the Baptist and Jesus referred to something called “the baptism in the Holy Spirit”. As I studied the subject, I found that the New Testament refers to this experience using other terms and phrases that mean the same thing. This confuses the average Bible student.
John the Baptist told his audience,
“I indeed baptize you with water; but One mightier than I is coming, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to loose. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire." (Luke 3:16)
Jesus, referring to the same event said,
"But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses TO ME in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)
At that time, I had a yearning for Biblical truth -- and still do. I wanted to learn as much as possible about this subject. After Christ’s wondrous salvation, I discovered that the baptism in the Holy Spirit is the most incredible Divine blessing in the Bible. Contrary to the way I was taught, it was not something that automatically happened when I was “born again”. I wondered why my church didn’t teach these things. It didn’t take long to get my questions answered.
The argument could be made that we should ignore negative things and concentrate on the importance of this blessing. I wish it were that easy. This is certainly a subject that shouldn’t be tainted with bitter arguments and heated debates. However, like other provisions of Christ’s salvation, there are many wrong ideas taught by the church about Holy Spirit baptism. For this reason, you must address and confront these wrong beliefs. God calls His Spirit, the HOLY Spirit. When you are “baptized in the Holy Spirit”, Jesus immerses you in His Holiness for the purpose of empowerment. There is no doubt that this teaching is sacred -- and HOLY. Yet, many in the Christian Church are taught to reject this blessing. Popular pastors, ministers and evangelists continue to criticize and discredit these things because that’s the way they were taught by their instructors in seminary. As a result, wrong doctrine, which is taught as God’s Word, is transferred to their congregations. For this reason, I made the choice to do what Jesus did. He taught in a way that challenged the false religious ideas that replaced His Father’s truth. Jesus made a way for truth by first exposing false understandings and perceptions. Many times you have to reveal what something is not -- before you can teach what it is. Unfortunately, this necessary approach upsets a lot of church-going people.
I had no idea of the consequences that would result from this spiritual pursuit. It was never my intention to be divisive or to cause trouble. Yet, confrontation over false religious beliefs occurred almost everywhere Jesus ministered. Any believer in Christ should expect the same thing. Without meaning to, I stepped into the middle of a spiritual battle zone that has raged for over a century and is still very active in many churches today. The opposition and outright hostility I encounter from other professing Christians and their leaders continue to astonish me. Jesus said that the baptism in the Holy Spirit equips the Christian believer with power. It makes me wonder what motivates some Christian people to reject God's power the way they do? You have to read between the lines for the answer. Jesus commonly taught in a way that upset the wrong theology of overly religious people. I learned that many of these folks don’t want their traditional beliefs upset -- even if Jesus is the one doing the "upsetting". Isn’t that a strange reaction from people who claim to represent Christ? When you look at the modern Christian Church today, they obviously lack the kind of power the first century church possessed nearly 2000 years ago. Of those early believers it was said, “These who have turned the world upside down have come here too." (Acts 17:6) Gone are the days that the world says that about us. Why? Christian leaders make outlandish excuses to explain their embarrassing lack of power. They tell us, "God doesn't do those things anymore" -- and they consider the problem solved just because they say so. Why some Christians and their leaders take such extreme measures to discourage God’s people from learning about the enormous benefits of Holy Spirit baptism constantly puzzles me.
The preaching of Christ’s Gospel in the early church included receiving the Holy Spirit's power. The first century apostles considered it a mandatory ministry practice following a person’s salvation. Jesus felt it was important enough to repeat on the day He ascended. Peter told those gathered in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost that this experience involved what the prophet Joel foretold when God "poured out his Spirit upon all flesh". Some critics attempt to limit the baptism in the Holy Spirit to something given only to the Jews. If that doesn’t work they have hundreds of ways to convince you that this truth isn’t for us today -- all “seemingly” based on Scripture from the Bible. But Peter, some seven years after Pentecost, announced that the Gentiles at Cornelius’ house (Acts chapter 10) received the exact same experience that the Jewish believers received when the Holy Spirit arrived on the day of Pentecost in Jerusalem (Acts chapter 2). The Bible tells us about this monumental event when God poured out His Holy Spirit, for the first time, on the Gentiles. This Heavenly act shocked all the Jewish believers that accompanied Peter on his evangelistic mission.
"While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who heard the word. And those of the circumcision (the Jews) who believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also. For they heard them speak with tongues and magnify God." (Acts 10:44-46)
Receiving Holy Spirit baptism equips the believer with power and is a totally separate event from the “sealing with the Holy Spirit” we get when we are saved (Ephesians 1:13, 4:30). It is not something given only to Christ’s disciples or the Jews in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost. It's commonly left out of the modern day evangelistic Gospel message.
Jesus Gives Us A Special Calling
Toward the end of His earthly ministry, Jesus made an extraordinary statement.
"Verily, verily, I say unto you, HE THAT BELIEVETH ON ME, THE WORKS THAT I DO SHALL HE DO ALSO; AND GREATER WORKS THAN THESE SHALL HE DO; BECAUSE I GO UNTO MY FATHER. And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it." (John 14:12-14)
What works did Jesus do? Wherever He preached -- the sick were healed, the blind received their sight, the lame walked, demons were cast out, the dead were raised and thousands were fed from a few loaves of bread and some fish (with basketfuls left over). Jesus considered these works an important part of preaching the authentic Gospel. He said that these things glorified the Father. Strangely, very few churches today attempt to preach the Gospel this way. But, Jesus went on to say that the Christian believer would do even greater works than the ones He did -- after He returned to the Father following the crucifixion. Why is this return to heaven important? The Holy Spirit (also known as “the Comforter”) could not come to earth until Jesus went back. (read John 16:7)
It takes supernatural empowerment to obey Christ and perform His miraculous works. Mere human beings cannot operate in these things. Only “new creatures in Christ” (2 Corinthians 5:17) meet the qualifications for this assignment. The kind of power to perform miracles comes from God’s Holy Spirit. Why don’t we see these supernatural works today? One reason is that the baptism in the Holy Spirit, which is the doorway into God’s power, has been removed from the gospel message of the Church. A vast majority of believers are spiritually "robbed" and don’t know it. The loss is a costly one. Church leaders tell us that God doesn’t do these things anymore. However, this is only an excuse as to why they do not possess the power that Jesus said His “believing people” would have. The inability to do the works of Christ is one reason the world has lost its respect for the Christian Church. Our Sunday sermons, yearly conferences, social events and “fair speeches” are void of power and do not get the job done. Jesus tells us how real spiritual power is obtained. Aligning ourselves with His instruction on this subject is the only way true spiritual power comes. Only sincere repentance and a return to the truth of Christ’s new covenant Gospel will fix this problem.
These studies examine this important Divine provision. We attempt to give the hard Scriptural facts along with a firm, yet loving response to those who attempt to dissuade believers from seeking this New Covenant blessing. As stated in several places on this website -- the preaching of the Gospel involves two primary responsibilities. First, we tell others about Christ’s great salvation. Second, we attempt to expose cleverly designed wrong teaching that can deceive and entrap new and inexperienced Christian believers. Almost no church or ministry today practices the second evangelistic responsibility because it offends too many people. Yet, Jesus and His first century apostles practiced both.
Many churches teach their congregations that “the baptism with the Holy Spirit” is something the modern-day Christian receives at the same time they are “saved” or “born again”. For this reason, church members are told that it is wrong (some preachers call it a sin) to seek any additional "experience". While these provisions can be received simultaneously in some situations, the New Testament declares that receiving Christ’s salvation -- and “receiving Holy Spirit baptism” are two separate and distinct events AND SHOULD BE TREATED AS SUCH. There is a fundamentalist movement in the Church that tries to discredit the spiritual gift of "speaking with tongues", which usually accompanies Holy Spirit baptism in the New Testament. The gift of healing receives the same treatment. They oppose these gifts because they sincerely think that God no longer uses them in the modern church. Some theologians refer to those who teach this doctrine as “Cessationists”, because they believe that several of the nine New Testament spiritual gifts, discussed in 1 Corinthians 12, have “ceased”. Yet, the Bible does not teach this anywhere. Cessationists are not necessarily centralized in any one denomination or church organization. But, there are several denominations that uncompromisingly embrace this doctrine. The movement’s influence can extend, in varying degrees, across all denominational lines.
At this point the reader might ask, “So . . . what’s the real problem here?” The controversial and offensive subject of “tongues” is the problem. Here’s why. In nearly every situation recorded in the New Testament, “speaking with tongues” is the confirmation that follows those who have genuinely received the baptism in the Holy Spirit. The New Testament teaches that these two things go “hand-in-hand”. We see it in the Biblical accounts of both Acts chapter 2 in Jerusalem, and Acts chapter 10 at the household of Cornelius. I’ve heard some professing Christians say, “Don’t talk to me about that “tongues nonsense" -- I’ll never believe in that stuff!” Yet, the Bible declares that this “tongues nonsense” (as some call it) is part of our necessary “spiritual equipment” that Jesus gives the believer living in the current “Church Age”. We can never be successful (in the way God intends) if we follow the counsel of some preachers that mislead us into rejecting the gifts that Jesus gives us for our benefit.
Here is the real problem that few professing Christians will acknowledge.
Some churches and denominations poison their congregations with religious misinformation (out of context Bible teaching). This is usually done in ignorance. It is both common and unfortunate. Many choose to ignore the problem because they love the traditions and social life of their church more than the truth of God’s Word. Jesus commands us to conform our lives (He uses to term “abiding in Christ” to describe it) to His values and priorities. As our Lord and Master, He has the absolute right to make this request. He does not ask that we conform to Him only in the areas that meet the approval of our Christian peer group. The real test of our devotion to Christ occurs when He asks us to obey something from His Word that initially offends us or threatens our reputation (or position) at church -- or in our immediate family. If you’re a new Christian, don’t make the mistake of thinking that God will never ask you to make these sacrifices. He will. (Read Matthew 10:34-39 and all of John Chapter 9) Our Lord Jesus was rejected by the religious establishment of His day and executed on a cross as a criminal because of the truth He preached and the miracles He performed. Scriptural truth always upsets and angers religious people and the church organizations they attend. As a Christian who has pledged their devotion to Jesus, don’t expect to be treated any better than your Lord. Many church members fail to see this simple, yet costly aspect of following Christ.
Why am I making these comments? I’ve seen this very popular toxic doctrine that opposes Holy Spirit baptism evolve into anger and disdain toward the gifts of God’s Holy Spirit. It tends to cloud and even block all efforts to discover the real Biblical facts. This kind of reaction should never exist among those who claim to follow Christ -- but it does. Anyone who wants to discover the truth about Holy Spirit baptism should be aware of the sacrifices involved. If you decide to embark on this great adventure into the knowledge of Christ, it can literally turn the Christian world you think you know, upside down. Prepare yourself for major change. When Jesus empowers us with His Holy Spirit, it is for the purpose of CHANGE. It involves a change from what we are now -- to being conformed to the image of Christ (Romans 8:29). Jesus initially accepts us “just as we are”, but He doesn’t intend on leaving us in that condition. Do you really think that this kind of human transformation occurs without power? John called it a “baptism of fire”. Fire tends to burn away what we are so that Christ can shine through. This Godly process threatens the theology and power structure of most churches, which is why some of them make great efforts to stop the source of the change -- even if they have to redefine parts of the Bible to do it. Isn’t that strange?
I shudder to think of the unintended negative consequences that these wrong beliefs will bring upon those that either oppose or attempt to explain away these Godly provisions. They will be cheated out of the extraordinary truth and liberty found in these blessings -- and will never discover why God refers to them as “gifts” that He gives to His children.
Sadly, ministers that routinely misinterpret and redefine Scripture to propagate their false denominational traditions cause most church members to miss out on these incredible blessings. The apostle Paul constantly warned first century believers not to allow anyone to cheat them out of the blessings of Christ (Colossians 2:8). Below is a Scripture that is wrongly redefined by many in the “cessationist” movement. This practice results in those church members under their teaching being cheated of tremendous blessing, while being led to believe that they’re faithfully obeying God’s Word.
"Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away. FOR WE KNOW IN PART AND WE PROPHESY IN PART. But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away. When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but THEN SHALL I KNOW just as I also am known." (1 Corinthians 13:8-12)
Cessationists commonly attempt to use the words of the apostle Paul to defend their beliefs. You’ll hear them say, “See, even Paul said “tongues will cease”. Oh really? Is that what Paul actually said? Let’s take a closer look. First of all, we see that not only will tongues cease, but also “KNOWLEDGE WILL VANISH AWAY”. Has knowledge vanished away yet? If not, then tongues haven’t ceased. They conveniently leave this fact out of their argument. What is Paul really saying here? By reading his words carefully, you will see that Paul is talking about two kinds of KNOWLEDGE and how the future return of Jesus Christ changes these things.
The natural human kind of knowledge that we currently possess is greatly limited. Paul used phrases like “in part” or “looking through a glass (window) darkly” to describe it. This state of “limited knowledge” is the reason the spiritual gifts of tongues and prophecy are needed. These gifts, if we embrace them, give us the supernatural ability to leap over these limitations. However, at some future time, Jesus returns and we will all stand before Him “face to face”. At that “face to face” encounter with our Lord, we receive “perfect knowledge”. Paul describes this “perfect knowledge” by saying, “then shall I know just as I also am known”. When Jesus returns, then “that which is perfect (Christ’s knowledge) has come and that which is in part (imperfect human knowledge) will be done away”. Only when this “perfect knowledge” comes at the return of Christ will tongues and prophecy (and the other unmentioned spiritual gifts) cease. Until that time arrives, all nine “gifts of the Spirit”, recorded in 1 Corinthians chapter 12, remain in operation as far as God is concerned -- whether you agree with it or not -- and whether your church teaches it or not. It would be wise to follow the instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ and align yourself with these truths, whether the leadership of your church agrees or not. The choice of which position to take is up to you.
Paul gives us a directive in 1 Corinthians 12:1 by saying:
“Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I do not want you to be ignorant:”
Further down in the chapter Paul lists all nine of these spiritual gifts:
“There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all. BUT THE MANIFESTATION OF THE SPIRIT IS GIVEN TO EACH ONE FOR THE PROFIT OF ALL: for to one is given the WORD OF WISDOM through the Spirit, to another the WORD OF KNOWLEDGE through the same Spirit, to another FAITH by the same Spirit, to another GIFTS OF HEALINGS by the same Spirit, to another the WORKING OF MIRACLES, to another PROPHECY, to another DISCERNING OF SPIRITS, to another DIFFERENT KINDS OF TONGUES, to another the INTERPRETATION OF TONGUES. But one and THE SAME SPIRIT WORKS ALL THESE THINGS, distributing to each one individually AS HE WILLS. For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free—and have all been made to drink into one Spirit. For in fact the body is not one member but many.” (1 Corinthians 12:4-14)
Notice that two of these nine gifts involve “tongues”. Our Heavenly Father placed these things in His Word for a reason. We would do well to learn why He considers them important. Yet, some Christians and their leaders just arbitrarily toss them out because they offend their intellect and disturb their traditions. We don’t want to spend too much time on this problem in our introduction. However, a dangerous bias or resentment against this particular gift, or any of the nine spiritual gifts listed in 1 Corinthians chapter 12, can block you from receiving these blessings and cripple your relationship with Jesus Christ. In the New Testament Church, the Holy Spirit uses all nine of these gifts today. Cessationists, while possessing good intentions, unknowingly do great damage to Christ’s Church by attempting to “shut down” these areas of the Holy Spirit’s ministry. New Christians should be aware of these efforts. The baptism in the Holy Spirit is the doorway into the “gifts of the Spirit”, providing us the power to do the works of Christ. It should not surprise us that our enemy makes extraordinary efforts to keep new Christians away from this glorious truth?
Some books are listed at the beginning of each section. If this topic is new to you, we recommend getting these materials for a more enjoyable introduction to a most holy and sacred truth. It can change your life.
The Mystery Of The Baptism In The Holy Spirit (Pt. 1)
The Mystery Of The Baptism In The Holy Spirit (Pt. 2)
Clearing Up The Confusion Over Speaking In Tongues (Pt. 1)
Clearing Up The Confusion Over Speaking In Tongues (Pt. 2)
Common Arguments Against Speaking In Tongues
Other Suggested Resources
Empowered By The Spirit--By Harald Bredesen
Read Jim Bramlett's new book about how Christians
can receive and walk in God's power today
We also suggest the following books as a way to learn more about this exciting subject:
- "Commissioned With Power" by Gordon Lindsay (Subject: The Gifts of the Spirit)
- "The Spirit And Glory" by Dr. Jack Hayford (Subject: The Spirit-filled Life)
Both can be obtained on the Internet at: Impact Christian Books
Also available at: Amazon.com
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