This message is offered as a response to Bart Barber’s request that I offer my “…understanding of the narrative passages in Acts, to refute points that I have tried to make…” Barber made this statement in the comment stream under his post, “The Nature of the Biblical Gift of Tongues: Consideration of Relevant Narrative New Testament Passages“ This is also the message that I preached in Chapel at SWBTS in August 2006 that, in many ways, defined or redefined my relationship with Southern Baptists. I hope this message answers Bart’s questions about my view of the Acts narrative passages as they relate to I Corinthians 12-14. In the comment stream I will be glad to further elaborate if Bart’s question is not sufficiently answered. Succinctly stated I believe we are to learn history from Acts and Doctrine from Corinthians. I believe that Acts is descriptive and I Corinthians 12-14 is prescriptive. I believe Acts is primarily prophesy fulfilled and I Corinthians is pneumatology revealed and functioning in the life of the church. I believe speaking in tongues in Acts is the exception to the rule today—though it occasionally occurs under the sovereignty of God. I believe speaking in tongues in I Corinthians is the standard rule for today. The primary difference in the tongues speaking in Acts is that people spoke in tongues to men the wonderful works of God; in I Corinthians 14:2, 14, 16, 27, and 28, tongues speaking was directed to God. When the Bible speaks of the diversity of tongues in I Corinthians 12:10, this encompasses the tongues of Acts and I Corinthians. In the book of Acts we read about what God did. In I Corinthians we read about what God is doing.
I. WHAT IS THE BAPTISM OF THE HOLY SPIRIT?
There are seven passages in the New Testament which speak specifically of the baptism with the Spirit. Five of these passages refer to the baptism with the Spirit as a future event; four were spoken by John the Baptist (Matthew 3:11, Mark 1:7, 8; Luke 3:16, and John 1:33) and one was spoken by Jesus after His resurrection (Acts 1:4, 5). In Acts 1:5 the expression, “you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit” means that this action was to take place at one particular time. The King James Version tells us that this event was to take place, “Not many days hence.” John the Baptist and Jesus referred to the Baptism of the Holy Spirit as a future historical event. The sixth time we see the term “Baptized with the Holy Spirit” is in Acts 11:16 referring to the baptism in the Spirit as a fulfilled promise. In Acts 11:16 Peter uses the term in reference to Cornelius and his household who had also received the Holy Spirit. Peter viewed the Gentiles receiving the Holy Spirit comparable with the Jews receiving the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost thus fulfilling the promises spoken by John the Baptist and Jesus. The seventh and last time we see the term “baptized by one Spirit” specifically mentioned is in I Corinthians 12:13. This passage speaks about the wider experience of all believers.
We can conclude from these passages of Scripture that the baptism with the Holy Spirit was first of all a prophetic event fulfilled (Matthew 3:11; Acts 2:1-41), a promised gift received (Acts 1:4, 2:38; Ephesians 1:13) and a purposeful experience (I Corinthians 12:13). THE BAPTIST OF THE SPIRIT MAY BE PROPERLY DEFINED AS THAT ACTIVITY OF GOD WHEREBY THROUGH HIS SPIRIT HE BRINGS THE BELIEVER AT SALVATION INTO A RELATIONSHIP WITH CHRIST AND SIMULTANEOUSLY INTO A RELATIONSHIP WITH THE BODY OF CHRIST, THE CHURCH (I Corinthians 12:13).
II. DOES THE BAPTISM IN THE HOLY SPIRIT OCCUR SIMULTANEOUS WITH SALVATION OR SUBSEQUENT TO SALVATION?
In the book of Acts we find four occasions, for sure, and possibly five where the baptism of the Holy Spirit occurred. No one occasion is identical to the other, although there were some commonalities.
(1) In Acts 2:1-4 the 120 believers experienced the Baptism and filling of the Holy Spirit simultaneously accompanied with tongues speaking at Pentecost. Also at Pentecost there were three thousand who received the gift of the Holy Spirit and salvation under the preaching of Peter, no mention is made of them speaking in tongues. The 120 were saved and received the baptism and filling of the Holy Spirit subsequent to salvation. The fact that the experience of the 120 was in two distinct stages was due simply to historical circumstances. They could not have received the Pentecostal gift before Pentecost.
(2) In Acts 8:12-17, we see where the Holy Spirit was received by the converts in Samaria after their water baptism. Phillip “preached the good news of the Kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized both men and women” (Acts 8:12). When Phillip preached in Samaria, it was the first time the gospel had been proclaimed outside Jerusalem, evidently because Samaritans and Jews had always been bitter enemies. Acts 8:16 explains although they were believers and had been baptized, “the Holy Spirit had not yet come upon them.” I believe in this instance God sovereignly withheld the Holy Spirit from them until Peter and John arrived so they might see for themselves that God received even despised Samaritans who believed in Christ. There could be no question of it. Also in Acts 8:26-40, we see the Holy Spirit directing Phillip to go to Gaza to witness to an Ethiopian man. This Ethiopian man like the 3000 on the day of Pentecost received the Word of God and was baptized, but there is no mention of tongues, a second baptism or the laying on of hands.
Acts 2 is often referred to as the Jewish Pentecost. Acts 8:12-17 is often referred to as the Samaritan Pentecost. If in Acts 8:26-40 this Ethiopian man received the “gift” or “baptism” of the Spirit, as I believe he did, in the same manner that the 3000 did on the day of Pentecost this could be referred to as the Ethiopian Pentecost.
(3) In Acts 10:44-48 while Peter was preaching to Cornelius the Italian (Gentiles) and his family and friends the baptism and gift of the Holy Spirit fell on the Gentile Pentecost. Unlike at Samaria when the Holy Spirit was given after water baptism, these Gentiles were baptized with the Holy Spirit while Peter was yet preaching.
(4) In Acts 19:1-7 we find an encounter of Paul with the disciples of John the Baptist in Ephesus. Paul asked them in verse 3, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” Behind the question is the assumption that this was when it usually happened. They pled ignorance of the Holy Spirit, stating they had been baptized into John’s baptism. Paul related John’s baptism to the ministry of Jesus, and they were baptized in water a second time and received the gift of baptism of the Holy Spirit.
To summarize, it is my belief that you cannot look to Acts for a fixed formula or definite pattern as to how one receives the gift of the Holy Spirit. No one has the Spirit of God in a box. It is my belief that Pentecost instituted the Church. Then all that remained was for Samaritans, Gentiles, Ethiopians and Jews who were unaware of the gospel to be brought into the Church representatively. This occurred in Acts 8 for Samaritans and Ethiopians, Acts 10 for Gentiles (according to Acts 11:15) and Acts 19 for belated believers from John’s baptism. Once this representative baptism with the Spirit had occurred, the normal pattern applied – baptism with the Spirit at the time each person (of whatever background) believed on Jesus Christ. Baptism with the Holy Spirit is the initial experience of every believer at conversion (John 3:5-6; Acts 2:38; Romans 8:9 and I Corinthians 12:13).
III. IS SPEAKING IN TONGUES THE EVIDENCE OF BEING BAPTIZED WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT?
The answer is no. I speak in tongues as the Spirit of God gives utterance; so I have no prejudice or bias against tongues. However, I must stand on biblical truth and not popular opinion. I do believe that all the spiritual gifts listed in Scripture are operative today, and by the grace of God some Christians will experience the gift of tongues when filled with the Holy Spirit. Although the teaching that all Christians should experience speaking in tongues as evidence of being baptized in the Holy Ghost is unscriptural, the Scripture does not preclude speaking in tongues for some when they are filled with the Holy Spirit. As the Spirit rushes in the corners of their lives, awakening new desires for prayer and praise, speaking in tongues will naturally flow forward in some. Paul makes it clear in I Corinthians 12:13 that all believers are baptized by the Spirit, but all do not speak with tongues (I Corinthians 12:30). Since all Christians do not speak with tongues, it cannot be proof of the baptism with the Holy Spirit. There is only one baptism in the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 4:5). Being baptized is equated with being a child of God (Galatians 3:26-27). Believers are never commanded in Scripture to be baptized but to be filled with the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 5:18-21). There is the ongoing “filling” ministry of the Spirit for power. There is only one baptism in the Holy Ghost, but many fillings. All born again believers are baptized in the Holy Ghost (I Corinthians 12:13; John 3:5; Romans 8:9, Ephesians1:3).
The purpose of the baptism of the Holy Ghost is to place believers in the body of Christ. Even carnal Christians are seen as having been baptized by the Spirit (I Corinthians 12:13, I Corinthians 3:1-3).
The filling of the Holy Spirit means the full control of the Spirit—the enthronement of Jesus as Lord. When a person receives salvation, baptism with the Spirit or the gift of the Spirit, the Holy Spirit is resident. When a person is filled with the Holy Spirit, the Holy Spirit becomes “president” in the believer’s life. The filling with the Holy Spirit makes one experience Jesus as complete Lord. It is God-intoxication: “…not drunk with wine…but…filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18). Paul wrote of bringing every thought captive of Jesus Christ to acknowledge His authority (II Corinthians 10:5). The fullness of the Spirit is for specific service. The promise in Acts 1:8 was power and the service was witnessing. The report in Acts 2:4 and 11 was that they “were filled” and unbelievers heard “them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.” In Acts 4:31 believers were filled with the Holy Spirit and “spoke the word of God boldly.” Ephesians 5:18-21 states the result of being filled with the Holy Spirit. The fruit of the Spirit is the evidence of being filled with the Holy Spirit (Matthew 7:20; Galatians 5:22, 23). In conclusion, where does the Bible teach that all Christians are to speak in tongues as the evidence of the Baptism with the Holy Spirit? I also believe that non Pentecostal evangelicals must recognize that the gift of tongues is a legitimate spiritual gift that has been and always will be a part of the church until Jesus returns (I Corinthians 13:8). Some believers will experience the gift of tongues and some will not. Pentecostals need to recognize that tongues is not a sign of spiritual power, although it does edify the one who is speaking (I Corinthians 14:4). Baptists and other evangelicals need to recognize the Spirit-filled life and the fact that the Holy Spirit desires to have intimate fellowship with us daily for empowerment, fellowship, service, comfort and guidance (Acts 1; II Corinthians 13:14; John 14:26, 16:13; Romans 8:16). What most Pentecostals refer to as the “Baptism of the Holy Ghost,” I refer to as the filling of the Holy Spirit. However, regardless to what terminology we use, we both agree that we need the fullness of the Holy Spirit to render effective service for Christ, our families and even on our jobs (Ephesians 5:18-33, 6:1-9).
IV. HOW TO BE FILLED WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT.
1. Some things to remember when you seek to be filled with the Holy Spirit:
- The Holy Spirit lives in you now (Acts 2:38; John 1:12; Romans 8:9, 5:5; I Corinthians 6:19; Galatians 4:6-7).
- He will never leave you (John 14:16-18, 23; Ephesians 1:13-14; Hebrews 13:5). Get down on your knees before God and thank Him that He lives in your heart now. Rejoice in Him and in this fact.
- There is no complex formula given in the Bible or certain order as to what you do first, second, and third in order to be filled with the Holy Spirit. “Ask and ye shall receive” is God’s simple word to His children.
- There is nothing to fear in being filled with the Spirit. God blesses, not blasts; helps, not hurts. To be filled with the Spirit is good and will result in your good and God’s glory (Ephesians 5:18-20).
2. It is as simple as this: Ask the Spirit to fill you, believe in Him to do it, obey His counsel.
- To be filled with the Spirit:
- Request Him to fill you
- Repent of your sins as He directs
- Believe Him to fill you
- Receive His filling
- DO THIS DAILY
- Here are several ways Jesus instructs us to be filled with God and His Spirit:
- Hungry? Eat. Be filled. “Blessed are they that hunger and thirst….filled” (Matthew 5:6).
- Thirsty? Drink. Be satisfied (never thirst) (Matthew 5:6; John 7:37-38).
- Heavy laden? Come to me. Give you rest (Matthew 11:28-30).