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The Baptism With the Holy Spirit

Rev. Angus Stewart



Having summarized the history of the three waves of modern charismatic Christianity or renewalism from the early nineteenth century onwards (Pentecostalism, Charismaticism and Neo-Charismaticism), as well as their precursors in earlier church history (including the Holiness Movement, John Wesley, Edward Irving and the Catholic Apostolic Church, the French prophets, elements in Anabaptism and Roman Catholicism, and Montanism), in our two previous articles, we now turn to the major distinctive doctrines and/or practices of modern renewalism. Logically, the Pentecostal and Charismatic teaching on the baptism with the Holy Spirit as a second blessing subsequent to conversion is the place to begin.

This idea of a second blessing has a very bad history. Contrary to biblical and Reformed teaching, some Puritans held that assurance was a sort of second blessing. The last article pointed out that John Wesley and the Holiness Movement, which flowed from him, taught that the second blessing was entire sanctification. For various revivalist preachers, such as R. A. Torrey and D. L. Moody, the second blessing was “power for service.” The Pentecostals and Charismatics took the idea of a second blessing and poured new content into it, identifying it as a post-conversion baptism with the Holy Spirit, evidenced by tongue speaking.

We should distinguish three main aspects to the baptism with the Holy Spirit of Pentecostalism and Charismaticism. The first is subsequence, that is, this baptism occurs after (i.e., subsequent to) conversion. A person is saved and then, at some time in the near or distant future, he or she may receive the baptism with the Holy Spirit. Second, there is the initial evidence of the baptism with the Holy Spirit to prove that one has been so baptized, namely, tongue speaking. Third, there are the conditions, the things one must do or desire or be in order to be baptized with the Holy Spirit so that one speaks in tongues. These include, although they are listed and expressed in various ways, seeking, yielding, praying, purifying your heart, etc.


I Corinthians 12:13 and the Three Aspects

I Corinthians 12:13 presents the Christian position against all three aspects of the Pentecostal and Charismatic teaching on baptism with the Holy Spirit: “For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.”

First, this verse explodes the myth of subsequence because it teaches that the believer is “baptized” by the Holy Spirit when he is made part of Christ’s body and, therefore, of Christ Himself. Thus he is baptized with the Holy Spirit at his regeneration and union with Jesus Christ, and not after it. Since the child of God is baptized by the Spirit at his regeneration and not after it, there is not a single true believer—not one!—who was baptized with the Holy Spirit after his regeneration. The text lays great emphasis upon this: “For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.”

Second, I Corinthians 12:13 also addresses the evidence of this baptism. The evidence of being baptized with the Spirit is not speaking in tongues. Even the Pentecostals and Charismatics would have to grant this, if they follow the exegesis of this verse, because even they do not believe that every child of God speaks in tongues. The evidence or proof or result of being baptized of the Holy Spirit is, according to I Corinthians 12:13, drinking the Holy Spirit and so drawing from Him all our refreshment, life and salvation, because He brings to us Christ's salvation. Those who are baptized by the Holy Spirit live by faith in Jesus Christ crucified as Saviour and Lord. This, and not speaking gibberish, is the evidence of a person who has been baptized into Christ and His body.

Having looked at the Pentecostal and Charismatic view of baptism with the Holy Spirit in terms of subsequence and evidence, we turn, third, to its view of conditions. There are no conditions for our being joined to Jesus Christ as members of His body. If there were such conditions, all of fallen humanity would perish, for how could dead sinners ever perform such mighty works as raising themselves from the dead and uniting themselves to the risen Christ? It is the Spirit of the Lord alone who regenerates us, lifts us from spiritual death and engrafts us into our Saviour. It is “by one Spirit” that we are “all baptized into [the] one body” of Christ (I Cor. 12:13)—not man's supposed free will, not his cooperation with God and not his fulfilling conditions. Unconditional election leads to unconditional regeneration, which is equivalent to unconditional baptism by the Holy Spirit.

This internal spiritual baptism is signified and sealed in external water baptism. The message of water baptism is that the all powerful, sovereign God not only washes away all the sins of His people but that He also regenerates all His elect, giving them new life in Jesus Christ by baptizing us into Him and His body. The Pentecostal and Charismatic view of the baptism with the Holy Spirit strips us of the real meaning of the sacrament of baptism.


II Peter 1 and the Christian Life

In connection with I Corinthains 12:13, we should also consider Peter's words on the growth of our Christian life in II Peter 1:2-7:

(2) Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord, (3) According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue: (4) Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. (5) And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; (6) And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; (7) And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity.

This beautiful passage states that “grace and peace” come to us through knowing God in Jesus Christ (v. 2). It adds that God’s divine power has given us “all things that pertain unto life and godliness” (v. 3). Since in our regeneration or baptism with the Spirit of Christ, we have “all things that pertain unto life and godliness,” we do not need any second baptism. But what we do need—and to this the text calls us—is to grow in knowledge and add to our faith both virtue and knowledge (v. 5), as well as temperance, patience and godliness (v. 6), and brotherly kindness and charity (v. 7). In keeping with this calling, we are given “exceeding great and precious promises” that, through faith, we may more and more partake of the divine nature, in terms of God's communicable attributes (v. 4).

In regeneration, the believer is united with Jesus Christ, so he must walk in holiness each day, and seek more and more to be filled with the Spirit by God's grace. Whereas a drunken man is filled with alcoholic spirits and so comes under their intoxicating influence and behaves accordingly, the believer who is filled with the Holy Spirit comes under the Spirit’s influence and so thinks, speaks and walks in a godly manner, according to the pattern set forth in inspired Scripture.

On the other hand, the baptism with the Holy Spirit of Pentecostalism and Charismaticism flows from and expresses a false doctrine of salvation: salvation by the free will of the sinner. It belittles regeneration and union with Jesus Christ as merely the first steps. The emphasis is placed on another greater baptism which must be sought and which is only experienced by some elite Christians. It, therefore, creates a two-tiered system of Christians: the “haves” and the “have nots.”

In so doing, the renewalist baptism with the Holy Spirit militates against the unity of the church. It attacks the church's oneness not only by its false doctrine (for all heresy attacks the unity of the church) but also because it teaches two baptisms: the first baptism for salvation and the second baptism being the baptism with the Holy Spirit. Yet Ephesians 4:5, which specifically deals with the unity of the church, teaches there is “one Lord, one faith, one baptism.” Therefore, two baptisms flow from and lead to two faiths and two lords.

On top of all this, and at a very practical and personal level, those who have sought the baptism of the Holy Spirit—I was once foolishly among their number—have lost precious time and energy which, to put it mildly, could have been spent on much better things. Some have even lost their sanity, because their great zeal for this “blessing” was coupled with an honesty which kept them from faking it by letting their tongue roll around in their head (as they were told to do) and pretending that now God had blessed them with a miraculous gift. It is for some of these reasons and others that the third of the three modern renewalist waves, Neo-Pentecostalism, has dropped, or, at least, does not insist upon, the Pentecostal and Charismatic doctrine of baptism with the Holy Spirit.


Acts 2, 8, 10 and 19 and the Historia Salutis

The objection from Pentecostal and Charismatic circles is, “What then about the outpourings of the Holy Spirit in Acts 2, 8, 10 and 19? Do not these chapters prove the renewalist doctrine of subsequence, that since these people were baptized with the Holy Spirit after their conversion so too may people today?”

The answer is that these passages are not to be understood as teaching the ordo salutis, that is, the order of salvation for the individual believer. These four chapters do not establish, and were not intended to establish, the order of salvation: first, one is converted and, afterward, one may receive the baptism with the Holy Spirit. Instead of the ordo salutis, Acts 2, 8, 10 and 19 deal with (another Latin term) the historia salutis, that is, the history of salvation. The historia salutis is not the history of salvation for the individual but the history of salvation for the church.

On the day of Pentecost in Acts 2, the Old Testament Jewish church was baptized by the Spirit of the risen and glorified Christ so that it is now grown up like a child who has matured and entered into the father’s inheritance. This is the argument of Galatians 4:1-7. Acts 8, 10 and 19 are to be understood as extensions of Pentecost and not repetitions. These three chapters indicate that [1] the Samaritans were also saved with full New Testament Messianic salvation (Acts 8), as were [2] the Gentiles in Cornelius’ house (Acts 10) and [3] the followers of John the Baptist in Ephesus who had been unaware that Christ had come (Acts 19). All were baptized into the body of Jesus Christ, the exalted Lord, like us too, “whether we be Jews or Gentiles” (I Cor. 12:13)!