Baptism in the Holy Spirit, Part Six
P. G. Mathew | Sunday, May 23, 1999
Copyright © 1999, P. G. Mathew
Jesus Christ has given to his church the task of preaching the gospel throughout the world. In this study we will consider the gifts of the Holy Spirit and their role in aiding us in this task. First, though, we must confess that we do not know much about spiritual realm and the spiritual methods God wants us to use in spreading the gospel. We know something about intellectualism. We know something about emotionalism. We know something about fanaticism. We know how to get politically connected and be politically active. We know how to seek the favor of people who are high and mighty. We know how to appear on television and bring our case before people. But we do not know much about the realm of the Spirit of the living God.
When we rely on worldly methods to spread the gospel, we are like David, clothed in Saul's armor, trying to deal with the defiant Philistine giant, Goliath. Worldly methods didn't work for David, and they won't work for us. But there is a way for us accomplish the task God has given us: it is the way of the Spirit of the living God. In this study we want to learn how to wrestle against principalities and powers using the spiritual gifts and spiritual equipment given to us by the Holy Spirit. When we follow God's way, we will bring glory to him through the evangelization of the world and the edification of the church.
Our Need for Spiritual Gifts
When we speak about spiritual gifts, technically known as charismata, we are not speaking about salvation, but about the gifts the Holy Spirit gives to those who are already believers, as taught especially by Paul in 1 Corinthians 12-14.
Jesus Christ commanded his apostles and all his disciples, including us, to preach repentance and forgiveness of sins in his name to all nations. Many years ago some people thought this was a command only for the apostles. These people said that when the last apostle died, the task of evangelization was done and there was no longer any need to send out missionaries. This was the orthodox position at the time of William Carey in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century.
Christians today do not believe these things; rather, we realize that spreading the gospel is the responsibility of all Christians at all times. The church is responsible for evangelizing the world, and that responsibility continues until the second coming of Jesus Christ.
Baptism in the Holy Spirit is essential for the fulfillment of this task. As Jesus told his disciples, "You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses. . ." (Acts 1:8). We need power today if we are to obey Christ's great commission, and that power is from the Holy Spirit.
However, as we said, we do not know much about the spiritual realm. Even theologians and seminaries don't know much about spiritual realm. Thus, when we read the scriptures which speak about these matters, we need to pay attention.
The Spirit Gives Gifts to Each One
The first point we want to examine is that whenever Jesus pours out his Spirit upon the church, the Spirit of God in turn divides to each believer spiritual gifts for the ministry as he sovereignly wills.
We see this demonstrated on the day of Pentecost. In Acts 2:4 we read, "All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Holy Spirit enabled them." Here we see baptism in the Holy Spirit and the division of gifts by the Holy Spirit to the disciples so that they could do the work of the ministry as commanded by the Jesus Christ.
We see this also in Acts 2:17, where we read, "In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy. . ." The gift of prophecy is a direct result of the baptism in the Holy Spirit. I want to mention that some people have a problem with this verse because it says that daughters are allowed to prophesy, but these people must remember that this is the word of God. If you are a daughter of God, this verse is speaking about you.
In Acts 19 we read about the twelve disciples Paul found when he came to Ephesus. After Paul preached the gospel to them, they believed in Jesus Christ and were baptized. Then Paul laid hands on them, and in verse 6 we read, "When Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied." Here again we see the Spirit of God dividing gifts to these disciples.
Paul spoke about the dividing of gifts in 1 Corinthians 12. In verse 7 he wrote, "Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good." To each one! I don't think Paul meant to each one of the ordained male ministers only. No, the gifts of the Holy Spirit are for all believers. Again, in verse 11 he states, "All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them"--the word means to divide them-- "to each one, just as he determines."
We see this idea of the gifts being given to all believers when we study worship in the early church. In 1 Corinthians 14:26 we read, "What then shall we say, brothers? When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation." Each person should have something to contribute to the service. And what is the purpose of these contributions? "All of these must be done for the strengthening of the church."
Have you ever gone to a church in which this was practiced? I am sure not many of us have. Why? We modern Christians have regulated everything now. The ordained minister leads all the worship now. He alone speaks and prays and does everything else while the congregation follows along. But I think such a service is a little different from what Paul was writing about. We speak of priesthood of all believers, but in many churches the congregation contributes nothing. In fact, in many places the congregation has been told it has nothing to contribute.
The Holy Spirit divides spiritual gifts among the members of the church for the benefit of the entire church. The members of the church of Christ are like the members of a body in which each member has a specific function. Each should function in his or her given capacity for the common good.
Have the Gifts Ceased to Exist?
The second point we want to examine is how long the gifts of the Spirit are to last, or the perpetuity of the gifts. This is a subject of controversy among evangelicals; thus, we must see what the Bible says on this issue.
I would say that as long as the need of evangelization and edification continues, the gifts will continue. In Matthew 24:14 we read that evangelization is going to continue for some time: "And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come." In other words, evangelization is going to continue until the second coming of Christ. Therefore, we may reasonably assert that the equipment, the enablement, the gifts of the Spirit of God must continue till the end of the world unless we are specifically told otherwise in the Scripture.
In 1 Corinthians 1:4-9 Paul speaks about the gifts, saying, "I always thank God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus. For in him you have been enriched in every way--in all your speaking and in all your knowledge--because our testimony about Christ was confirmed in you. Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed. He will keep you strong to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God, who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful."
When are we going to be blameless? On the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. When will the need for evangelization come to an end? At the same time. Do not believe it if someone tells you that God's enablement for evangelism, the gifts of the Holy Spirit, are not for today. Nowhere in the Scripture is it stated that the gifts of the Spirit, the charismata, will cease before the second coming of Christ. I join with the late Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones in making this assertion: Only rationalistic, higher criticism can concoct such a prejudiced dogma as the doctrine of the cessation of gifts. The intellectuals, professors, theologians, preachers and writers who would tell us which scripture is for today and which is not are, in effect, sitting in judgment of God's word. This is a sin of which they must repent.
The Imperfect Age
First Corinthians 13:8-13 teaches that love lasts forever and gifts will cease. Love lasts even into the age to come, but spiritual gifts, like prophecy, knowledge, and speaking in tongues shall be rendered useless and done away with. Certainly there is agreement among Christians on that, because that is what the text says: love lasts forever; gifts will cease.
In 1 Corinthians 13:8 we read, "Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away." Then in verse 9 we read, "For we know in part and we prophesy in part. . . ." The Greek word is ek merous, which means imperfectly, in part, not fully, not perfectly. That is the nature of this age, the nature of the now. When Paul says "we" he includes himself. So Paul is saying, "We know imperfectly and we prophesy imperfectly." Then he continues, "But when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears." When will the gifts pass away? When perfection comes. That word perfection comes from the word telos, which means "end."
If you read this passage carefully, you will notice that in this age, which is now, we know imperfectly, we prophesy imperfectly, and we reason and speak like babes. That is the analogy that Paul uses. Then he says in this age, in this period, at this time we see "but a poor reflection, as in a mirror," making an analogy which the Corinthians would have clearly understood. The quality of the polished metal mirrors made in Corinth was high, yet because they were made from metal, the reflection was dim compared to modern mirrors.
In verse 12 Paul said, "Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known." Here Paul, the great theologian, says he knows imperfectly. That doesn't mean what he wrote in his letters is untrue. It just means it is imperfect, meaning not complete.
This passage tells us when the gifts are going to be done away with. When is it? When perfection comes. The idea is, when sin shall be completely done away, when we are glorified at the Lord's coming, there will be no need of these mediums. There will be a knowledge that is direct--pros˘pon pros pros˘pon--face to face.
Look again at 1 Corinthians 1:7-8: "Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed." Paul understood that we need the gifts of the Holy Spirit until the day Jesus Christ is revealed, saying, "He will keep you strong to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ."
When we are glorified and blameless, with all sin removed, we will see him as he is, face to face. Then we shall not see imperfectly. Then we will not need the gifts of the Spirit. We shall see him face to face, directly--a vision of God! Then we shall know fully--epignosis. Then we shall know as we are known by God. But this intense, full, direct knowledge must wait. Perfect knowledge of God must wait until the end comes. Then we shall see him face to face.
We find this idea of having direct knowledge of God in Genesis 32 where we read about a wrestling match between Jacob and a man. In verse 30 we read, "So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, 'It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared.'" We also find an example in Exodus 33:11 where we read, "The Lord would speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks with his friend." This is direct interaction, without any intermediary. And 1 John 3:2 John writes, "Dear friends, now we are children of God, and we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears," meaning the second coming or revealing of Christ, "we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is."
When will perfection come? When we see God face to face. Only when sin is totally removed will knowledge be perfect. Only then will we know as we are known by God, and only then will the Holy Spirit cease to bestow his gifts on believers.
Has Perfection Come?
There are some Christians who say that this perfection is the New Testament, but I disagree with that also. Why? Simply because it is not found in the Bible. Such people have brought this idea from somewhere and read it into this passage, which is called eisegesis--reading into the text that which is not there.
I am sure you have heard the argument. These people say that the term "perfection" means the twenty-seven books in the canon of the New Testament. They would say that the early church did not have Scriptures, although I disagree with them on that point also. The church had the Old Testament writings as well as the epistles of Paul. But these people say that when Paul wrote the letter to the Corinthians, the Scriptures included in the canon of Scripture had not yet been written, so perfection means the complete canon. And because the canon was incomplete, the apostles needed the gifts of the Spirit.
There is one problem with that view: The text does not say that. Now, we believe in the absolute authority of the Old and New Testament, and we affirm that the canon is complete. We will fight for these doctrines, but we will also say that the idea that perfection referred to by Paul in 1 Corinthians 13 is the canon of the New Testament is not right. If perfection is the canon of the New Testament, we would have to agree that tongues, prophecies, and even knowledge ceased, passed, were done away with, made null and void at the death of the last apostle, or when the canon was complete, both of which happened before the end of the first century. We cannot agree with that.
Additionally, if we agreed with this view, we would have to say that the apostles themselves only knew in part and imperfectly. That would mean that we who are living subsequent to the apostles know more than they knew because the perfection of the Scriptures has come! We would thus be saying that we are superior to the apostles and that we now know fully, even as we are known by God.
Dr. Lloyd-Jones had only one word to describe this view: Nonsense! That is right, because this view does not make any sense. It is eisegesis. It is not true. It is prejudice. It is rationalism. It is higher criticism. It is intellectualism. It is twisting of the Scripture. It even encourages some theologians to say that if we exercise any spiritual gifts today, we are demon-possessed, because the gifts have supposedly ceased. This is sheer audacity.
The Need for Gifts Today
The third point we want to make is that we need the gifts of the Holy Spirit today just as much as in New Testament times. Why? First, because the needs of the world and of the church are the same today as in New Testament times. (PGM) The world still needs the gospel, does it not? And the church still needs edification, encouragement, and comfort, which is one purpose of the gifts, as we read in 1 Corinthians 14.
Second, enmity still exists between the world and Satan and the church. The world stands opposed to the gospel and the church just as much as it did in New Testament times. Satan and his demons are just as active as they have ever been. Doesn't Peter warn us that our enemy, the devil, "prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour"? (1 Pet. 5:8) And don't we still experience all kinds of temptations and trials? I don't think the devil is bound and locked up. No, the devil and his demons are still very active.
When we read the sixth chapter of Ephesians we gain a little understanding of the spiritual realm of which we do not know very much. In Ephesians 6:10-12 Paul writes, "Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms."
There is an evil spiritual realm as well as a Holy Spirit realm. Jesus Christ understood it, and Paul and the other apostles understood it. That is why Jesus told his disciples to wait until they received power from on high. That is why we need the baptism and gifts of the Holy Spirit today.
Quench Not the Spirit
What are people doing when they assert that the gifts of the Holy Spirit are not for us today? To put it very bluntly, they are quenching the Spirit, as we read in 1 Thessalonians 5:19. Now, when you read that verse, does it say, "Do not put out the Spirit's fire until the death of the last apostle"? No. There is no time limit mentioned. Paul merely wrote, "Do not put out the Spirit's fire," meaning "Do not quench the Spirit."
Sadly, however, today's church is fully equipped with many Holy Spirit-extinguishers in the form of theologians and preachers. Such people generally have very limited spiritual experience, and they interpret Scripture according to their low spiritual experience. Now, rather than attempting to misinterpret the Bible and quench the Spirit according to their limited experience, they could come to God and say, "O God, I realize that I am a pauper, spiritually. I am in serious trouble and need a revival. O God, pour out your Holy Spirit upon me as we read about in the Bible." Instead, such people usually say, "Ours is the normal Christian life."
Those who negate the perpetuity of gifts also say that we must not look for doctrine from the book of Acts and thus they dismiss the idea of baptism in the Holy Spirit and the distribution of the gifts of the Spirit. But notice where the instruction, "Do not put out the Spirit's fire" is written. It is from Paul's epistle to the Thessalonians! Paul is teaching about the baptism and gifts of the Holy Spirit here, in other words. And let me ask you, is this epistle written to the devil or the world? No! It is written to the church. Professors and teachers and preachers and theologians, it is written to us. Why? Because the church has the habit of putting out the Spirit's fire. We like our controlled situations. We want to do everything "decently and in order." We really don't want God to come into our midst because we do not know what he will do! So Paul was instructing the Thessalonians church, "Do not put out the Spirit's fire," as a warning not to quench the work of the Holy Spirit in their midst.
In Paul's second epistle to Timothy, he wrote, "For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands" (2 Tim. 1:6). Here, at the end of his life, Paul was encouraging Timothy to stir up, fan into flames, the gift he had received at the laying on of hands. That gift is the Holy Spirit.
Again, in Paul's first epistle to the Thessalonians, he wrote, "Do not treat prophecies with contempt" (1 Thess. 5:20). The Greek word used is exouthene˘, meaning to make something less than zero. In other words, Paul was saying, "Do not mock the gifts of the Holy Spirit." When we make prophecy nothing, we are treating the Spirit of God with contempt--he who graciously divides his gifts to us because he understands that we need them. In Ephesians 4:30 Paul wrote, "And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption," and in Hebrews 10:29 we read a warning to those who would insult the Spirit of grace.
In 1 Corinthians 14:39 Paul wrote, "Do not forbid speaking in tongues." Why do you think he said that? Because we are embarrassed about this gift. We are not embarrassed about any of the other gifts, but we are embarrassed this one. But who gave us the ability to speak in tongues? The Holy Spirit. Thus, if we forbid speaking in tongues, we are again quenching the Holy Spirit.
In 1 Corinthians 14:18 we are introduced to a man who says he spoke in tongues more than everyone else. Who is he? The apostle Paul. "I thank God" Paul says, "that I speak in tongues more than all of you." And earlier in that chapter he writes, "He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself" (v. 4). Paul recognized that the one who speaks in tongues may not understand what he is saying, and yet as he speaks mysteries unto God, he is edified. He who speaks in tongues speaks with his spirit to God, and so in verse 15 Paul says, "What shall I do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will also pray with my mind; I will sing with my spirit, but I will also sing with my mind."
Who are we to despise speaking in tongues or any other gift that the third Person of the Trinity gives us? Are we so perfect in our knowledge and understanding that we can now stand up and mock the Spirit of God? If speaking in tongues was good for Paul, I say it is good for us also. Let us not quench the Spirit!
Eagerly Desire the Gifts
The fifth point we want to make is that we must earnestly desire spiritual gifts. In Paul's first epistle to the Corinthians we read, "But eagerly desire the greater gifts." The Greek word used is zŕlou˘, which means "to seek with burning desire." This word is used in the imperative, which means it is a command, not just of Paul but, ultimately, of the Lord Jesus Christ. We must seek, strive, and desire earnestly with burning desire the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
We find another command in 1 Corinthians 14:1: "Follow the way of love and eagerly desire spiritual gifts." Again, the Greek word is zŕlou˘. You see, we need both the fruit of the Spirit and the gifts of the Spirit. It is not a case of possessing one but not the other. Some people say, "We don't speak in tongues or practice any of those other gifts, but we major in love." Sadly, in many churches where this is said the people do not even say hello to you when you visit. But my point is that we need both the gifts and the fruit of the Spirit. It is not an either/or situation.
So Paul commanded us to earnestly seek the gifts of the Holy Spirit. In 1 Corinthians 14:13 we read about a man who spoke in tongues but didn't have the interpretation. The Bible tells us that if you are going to speak in tongues in the church, you must interpret what you say. Otherwise, you must keep quiet and pray to God. So in verse 13 Paul writes, "For this reason, anyone who speaks in a tongue should pray that he may interpret what he says." In other words, that person should pray for the gift of interpretation. Here again the Bible is commanding us to covet earnestly, pray for the gifts of the Spirit. How can we go against that?
In 1 Corinthians 12:11 we read, "All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one just as he determines." When we consider the gifts of the Holy Spirit, we must understand, on the one hand, that God himself sovereignly distributes the gifts, and we can do nothing about that. But, on the other hand, there is our human responsibility to covet, pray, desire earnestly spiritual gifts. Both must be there--God's sovereignty and our responsibility.
Miracles for Today
Does God still perform miracles today? Yes. As we said before, some people believe that any time God performs a miracle, there has to be a new book written and added to the Bible. Now, we know that the canon of Scripture is complete; thus, such people say there are no miracles possible today. To such people I say, "You just made that idea up."
We fully believe that the canon of Scripture is complete. The apostles produced the Scriptures as we know them, and their job was finished long ago. But God still gives gifts, and even though miraculous gifts are not producing new books of the Bible, God is still working and performing miracles through his people.
Suppose God heals somebody or performs a miracle in the midst of the congregation as the gospel is being preached. What would it prove? Simply that the gospel is true. That is all. Modern miracles confirm the gospel, not cause new books to be written. I have believed these truths about the baptism in the Holy Spirit and the gifts of the Spirit all my life, yet I haven't written any books that can be added to the Bible.
If God is performing miracles in the midst of us, those miracles are telling us that the Lord is compassionate toward his people, especially those who don't have insurance and a 401(k) plan! There are people in the world who have nothing, you know. They are God's people, and God helps and heals them sometimes through miraculous means. Such miracles merely demonstrate God's compassion toward his people.
What else do modern miracles mean? That the Spirit of God is in the midst of us and that the kingdom of God has come in its power. Additionally, modern miracles done by the power of the Holy Spirit glorify the Lord Jesus Christ, to whom all authority in heaven and on earth is given.
In John 14:12 we find an embarrassing scripture for those who want to say miracles have ceased. Jesus said, "I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing." Then Jesus continues, "He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father." Greater things than these! I am sure this includes miracles.
The Greatest Miracle
What is the greatest miracle we can experience? Being born again into God's kingdom.
When I was at seminary, I discussed the perpetuity of gifts and miracles with my professors, some of whom did not believe the gifts are for today. At one point I asked one professor the following question: "Professor, do you believe in the total depravity of man, that man is dead in trespasses and sins?" He agreed with me on that point. Then I asked, "What, then, is regeneration? Do you think that is a miracle to make a dead person alive by the mighty operation of the Spirit of God? That is what happened to Saul of Tarsus. He was a blasphemer, a violent man, and a hater of Christ, but he was made alive and born of the Spirit!"
Regeneration is one miracle that God has continued to perform even after the death of the last apostle. To me it is a much greater miracle than a physical healing. Why? If we want to enter the kingdom of God, we must be born again.
Are You Equipped by God?
In 1 Samuel 17 we read about David being clothed in Saul's armor in preparation to fight with Goliath. He put everything on, but after walking around, he said to Saul, "I cannot go in these because I am not used to them" (v. 39).
Then David "took his staff in his hand, chose five smooth stones from the stream, and put them in the pouch of his shepherd's bag and, with his sling in his hand, he approached the Philistine." He said to the Philistine, "'You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied'. . . . As the Philistine moved closer to attack him, David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet him. Reaching into his bag and taking out a stone, he slung it and struck the Philistine on the forehead. The stone sank into his forehead, and he fell facedown on the ground" (vv. 40, 45, 48-49). David used spiritual equipment to fight Goliath. The weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but spiritual.
That is what we must have. Baptism in the Holy Spirit and gifts of the Holy Spirit are for the purpose of bearing witness in the world. The Holy Spirit distributes his gifts to each believer, men and women, as he wills. It is sheer unbelief and bold arrogance to assert that the gifts ceased with the deaths of the apostles. The gifts of the Holy Spirit belong to this age of imperfection and they will not cease until the perfection comes, which means when the Lord Jesus Christ comes again and we shall see him as he is.
Therefore, until Jesus Christ comes again, let us learn something about the spiritual realm. Let us ask God, "O God, pour out your Spirit upon us and divide your gifts among us, to each one as your Holy Spirit wills. We confess we do not know much about the spiritual realm, but we know there is a devil, there is the world, and there is demon activity. And we also know from the Bible there is a counterpart to these things: the Holy Spirit of God. Spirit of the living God, fall afresh upon us that we may covet earnestly your gifts, your spiritual equipment, that we may evangelize with confidence and competence, that we may face the Philistines by saying as David did, 'I come in the name of the Lord.' May we use the spiritual gifts you give us to defeat your enemies and the enemies of your church. May we use them, not to promote ourselves and to feel proud, but to build up the church. Grant us a hunger and thirst for you, O God!" Amen.
Thank you for reading. If you found this content useful or encouraging, let us know by sending an email to email@example.com.
Copyright © 1999, P. G. Mathew
Scripture quotations marked (NIV) are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® (1984 version). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com The "NIV" and "New International Version" are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™