DAY ONE: THE BAPTISM IN THE SPIRIT
Pete, the leader of our Students & Twenties group asked me to put together a simple article on Baptism in the Holy Spirit, for the benefit of Chapel’s young people, and in response to some questions he’d been receiving.
I’ve gathered my thoughts into a short booklet on the topic, which you can download here, and will be posting this booklet as a blog in three installments over the next three days; the first of which is below.
The great 19th Century Baptist preacher C. H. Spurgeon once said, “We need to learn once again what it means to be baptised in the Holy Spirit.” And commenting on the elements of ‘wind’ and ‘fire’ on the day of Pentecost contemporary USA theologian J. Rodman Williams wrote, “To be filled with the Spirit is not so much to have something ‘more’ as it is to be in a new, wonderful and at times fearful situation of having the Spirit of God break into the whole round of existence and pervade it all. As a result of this crisis experience, which can become the steady and driving power of a mighty dynamo – the empowering of the Spirit of the Living God.” Yet, we have to say that some Christians not only act like salt that’s lost its saltiness, but pepper that has lost its pep!
This is why the apostle Peter was at pains to get his new, potential converts off to the best possible start and launch them well. The ’Challenger’ space shuttle disaster of Jan.28th 1986, saw the shocking death of seven crew members, all killed in a fiery catastrophic explosion. This powerfully illustrates the wisdom and necessity of a proper launch. The NASA scientists involved warned of ‘technical problems’ on the run up to the day, but pressure to meet deadlines and please the tax-paying public led them to go ahead anyway, and ignore their reservations. The result was a disaster that shook the world and set back the space program significantly. It was caused by a fuel leak that damaged an ‘O’ ring seal on one of the massive rocket boosters, that exploded 73 seconds after take-off. This was an inadvertent error, but it still cost them their mission and their lives! We all need to experience a safe and thorough launch into our new life with Christ. We dare not inadvertently miss anything that God deems necessary for a long, safe and effective flight in our service for Christ.
This is the point of this pregnant passage here in Acts 2:37-41. What Peter directed and told his converts to do that day has become known as ‘The Peter Package’ of salvation. Every item in it has been the subject of argument, debate, and controversy, as the Devil has tried to blind new believers to their inheritance by throwing a great deal of dust in the eyes of already blind or confused Christians concerning their need of the Holy Spirit’s power, which available to all believers. Lively churches are made up of lively Christians. We should then helpfully challenge the carnality, disunity, disaffection, and disillusionment of many prematurely birthed believers, who need the ‘full treatment’ God has for them if their lives are to move in his power. This requires checking their spiritual foundations again. Did they get off to a good start? We dare not inadvertently overlook anything the Lord has promised to give us, to enable our mission together with Christ, however much others try to tell us “It doesn’t really matter.” Believe me, it does! But if you don’t believe me, believe the apostle Peter. He could build a vibrant ‘cooking on gas’ church far better than anyone I know.
So the next directive he gave his hearers was, ‘And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit’ (v.38). This cannot be a reference to the Spirit’s initial miracle of regeneration, nor even the indwelling of the Spirit that accompanies being ‘born from above’, for that is assumed by Peter when he saw his hearers ‘cut to the heart’ by God’s word (v.37), for it was the Spirit who leads us to Christ and enables us to repent, and believe the gospel in the first place. Peter is now offering something as a subsequent experience to all that – namely, ‘Receiving the Holy Spirit as an endowment of power for living’, just as the 120 had experienced on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1-13). This is therefore not the same initial experience we had of God’s Spirit as God sovereignly pursued us, and we passively encountered the Holy Spirit in an involuntarily invasion or regenerating work of the Spirit that initiated our conversion.
‘Baptism’ or ‘Filling’ with the Spirit, is actually a subsequent, actively sought, voluntary reception of the Spirit’s power for everything else that new converts are now qualified to receive. The first experience, regeneration’, is our ‘vivification’ making us spiritually alive and enabled to believe. The second is our ‘electrification’ or ‘dynamification’, enabling just about everything else. One is for making us alive, the other for empowering that life. Dr D.M. Lloyd-Jones once wrote, “There is nothing, I am convinced, that so quenches the Spirit as the teaching which identifies the baptism of the Holy Spirit with regeneration or new birth.” So we need to be very clear on this issue. And if someone asks, ‘Surely we got it all automatically when we believed?’ I answer again in the words of Dr. D.M. Lloyd-Jones, “If you have got it all why are you so unlike the N.T. Christians? Got it all? Got it all at your conversion? Well, where is it I ask you?” This challenge is just as relevant to us all today.
All the apostles taught the necessity of this ‘filling’, ‘sealing’, or ‘baptism’ in the Spirit’, to cite similar descriptions of this divine encounter. Speaking at HTB in 1996, Pentecostal N.T. scholar Dr.Gordon Fee said, ‘For Paul the Spirit was an experienced empowering reality. Paul would not have understood most historic Protestantism. I know that sounds unkind, but it is true. The reason he would not have understood it is because he would not have understood a Christian faith in which the experienced life of the Spirit was not the key to every dimension of that life.”