DAY 2: WHAT IS THE BAPTISM IN THE SPIRIT?
Baptism in water and Baptism in the Spirit are meant to settle forever for the new convert, the question of their assurance of salvation. At our water baptism we put on the uniform of a soldier of Jesus Christ. We have changed sides and joined up. Everyone, men and devils, should now know it. It’s now known to whom we belong, and whom we serve. But it is baptism in the Spirit that gives us the available weapons we are to fight with – “And you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you” (Acts 1:8). The Gk. word dunamis (‘power) – the word used here – is not related to justification or sanctification, but to dynamification.
You cannot be a Christian without the Holy Spirit indwelling you (Rom. 8:9), but you can be a Christian without him empowering you (Eph.5:18). Peter is inviting the crowds who heard him, to receive very soon, even immediately, what he and his friends had waited ten days to receive that Pentecost Day morning – the power of the Holy Spirit. Jesus had told them to wait for this at his Ascension. They waited just ten days, until Pentecost, the Jewish harvest festival. From that day on, they began to ‘reap’ the nations for Christ! John the Baptist had said of Jesus, ‘He will baptize you with the Holy Sprit and with fire.’ (Matt.3:11). That had just happened to them on the Day of Pentecost. Now, it is the birthright of every new believer.
There is no question what Peter’s hearers would have understood by this, for they could see it happening before their very eyes with the first disciples, and all who were prayed for later that day!
The reference to fire was in some sense literal that day, as ‘tongues of fire’ arced and settled on the heads of each of the 120 in the upper room, in a visible sign that the Spirit came and descended upon them.
This is the great need for the entire church now – ministers, elders, deacons, members, Sunday School teachers, youth leaders, vergers, evangelists, prophets. – all need the fire to fall on them! It is not just a need for the church to day, it is surely the need! It marks us out from both mad fanatics on the one hand, and cold formalists on the other. It is more than fervour or a temporary fad, that fades from one day to the next. It is not mere human enthusiasm or excitement that varies according to our emotions and moods. No! This is God on human flesh, doing what only God can do! Setting you on fire. And it is vital for all believers, as early as possible, for several clear reasons:
1. Fire Burns – Holy fire is a threat to anything contrary to its own nature. It has the power to burn up decay, rottenness, darkness, and paralysing cold. Have you looked at the shop window of an Electricity Showroom, and noticed the electric fires? One man was fascinated with the technology and thought the fire effect so convincing, he was sure it was real. He wondered why the heat didn’t crack the window. The sales manager showed him he fire close up. There was no heat, but a very convincing flame – fake fire, with no heat! The manager said, “I’m not surprised you were fooled. Many others have been too. Actually this ‘heater’ gives out no heat at all. It is what we call a ‘cheerer-upper’. It’s for people with central heating who want to see what looks like fire, but at no cost and no effort. It glows at the flick of a switch. It cheers them up. They don’t want a real fire, they just want something that looks like the real thing.” Many Christians are like that too. They want the appearance of fire, just make-believe. They won’t surrender to anything that will really burn. It’s just a ‘cheerer-upper’! God wants us to have much more than mere appearance of power.
2. Fire Spreads – Given the freedom, fire will lay hold of everything in reach or combustible and set it ablaze. The Spirit’s fire is the source of all historic revivals. Major W.F. Batt once spoke of what he called ‘filleted Christians’ – who have no back-bone! They neither stood up for what they believed, nor swam against the tide of popular opinion. We all need to recover our nerve today. Only the Holy Spirit can launch our lives and ministries for God, and then impact man, as the result of God setting us all ablaze with His presence.
3. Fire Lights up – It spreads a luminance and makes a radiant glow. It once possessed a common dried up bush in Sinai, without consuming it, then drew Moses aside in the desert-wilderness to see this A fire that burned, but did not consume or destroy (Exod. 3:1-10). It was God’s presence that then empowered the old shepherd-prince, to take on the might of Pharaoh and Egypt. This so transformed him, that he exposed the darkness and powerlessness of Egyptian demon gods, and the might of Pharaoh and his army, then lit the way to hope in the wilderness, for 3 million freed Hebrew slaves at the Exodus. We need the Spirit to teach, guide, rescue, lead, and inspire us.
4. Fire Empowers – Inside the engine of a truck, car, or railway engine, it releases such force and driving power that it drives and moves the immoveable, speeding and spreading an influence over great distances at a fantastic pace. God can make our life go! – to do its work for God and man. We all need fire! This is the great need of the Church today – the energizing flame of God’s Spirit. The two indisputable effects of the Spirit’s power in someone’s life are A CRY of Assurance (Rom. 8:15-16), and A CONFESSION of Jesus (I Cor. 12:3). The first deepens our relationship with God the Father, the other intensifies our relationship with God the Son. One makes us bold before God. The other emboldens us before men.
The first liberates our worship of God, the other makes us more powerful witnesses for Christ. Too many modern versions of Christianity are so weak they couldn’t fight their way out of a wet paper bag, let alone batter down the gates of Hades! Power for Worship and Witness, are the essentials. But along with those also come all the gifts of the Spirit, the manifestations of God’s Spirit. (Romans 12; I Corinthians 12; Ephesians 4; I Peter 4). These are all the tools necessary for us to get the job done!
The Baptism of the Spirit imparts to us the spiritual weaponry necessary to become Christ’s successful co-belligerents in spiritual warfare. Then hasten Satan’s final defeat on the back of Jesus’ victory already won for us all, at the Cross of Calvary. No wonder the Devil wants us to stay ignorant of, or totally confused about this subject – Baptism in the Spirit. No wonder much of the Church has for so long hung on like grim death for mere survival, with little or no hope, and no expectation of advance and victory in Christ. The Baptism in Spirit changes all that!
The Baptism of the Spirit is a movement of the Spirit in you and on you. It is both a ‘baptism’ and a ‘filling’. It is a movement of God’s Spirit from the ‘outside in’, so that he descends upon you and penetrates your total life, person, and human spirit. It is also a movement of God’s Spirit from the ‘inside out’, so that He pervades every part of your personality – a deluge from above, and a flooding from within. Either way, you are then said to be ‘Filled with the Spirit’ (Acts 2:4; Ephesians 5:18). The normal outlet or overflow the Spirit looks for, is the nearest exit from you – usually your mouth – in praise, prayer, and proclamation of the gospel!