Should I Be ‘Baptized’ or ‘Filled’ With The Spirit?: A Theological Examination of a Divisive New Testament Doctrine

“The Baptism of the Holy Spirit is a divinely unique outpouring of the Holy Spirit, however, contrary to popular Pentecostal theology, it has ceased.

[Let me preface this post with a disclaimer that the views expressed below are my own and do not represent the views of Late Night Theology’s other authors.]

 

Is there a difference between the Baptism of the Holy Spirit and the Filling of the Holy Spirit? The simple answer is yes. The much more elaborate and theological answer is what I’m laboring in this post to explain.

Baptism of the Spirit: What it is, isn’t and when it occurred

The Baptism of the Holy Spirit is a divinely unique outpouring of the Holy Spirit. It is when God fills a person with the Spirit and the person begins to speak in other tongues. However, contrary to popular Pentecostal theology, it has ceased. It stopped being. It is no more. In John 20:22 Jesus breathes on the disciples and tells them to “receive the Holy Spirit”. This, I believe to be prophetic of Pentecost.

At Pentecost the believers received the Holy Spirit. What does “receive” indicate? That they did not already have the Spirit. Now, you might say “But every believer has the Spirit today!” and you would be right, you just proved my point! The Baptism of the Holy Spirit ceased sometime during the writing of the NT because in Ephesians 5 Paul commands us to be filled with the Holy Spirit (we’ll handle this in a few minutes).

Why is this distinction important? Because baptism happens once, but a filling happens repeatedly. Take Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 12:13, which was written around AD 53-55, “For in one πνεῦμα (Spirit) we were all βαπτίζω (baptized) into one body… and all were made to drink of one πνεῦμα (Spirit)” [Emphasis mine].

The key to understanding this position is to understand that believers pre-Pentecost did not have the Holy Spirit. We see this in passages like Acts 19 where Paul is at Ephesus (the same church to whom he would pen the Epistle to the Ephesians) and he comes across a group of disciples. He asks them if they had yet received the Holy Spirit (19:2), to which they responded “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” Quite odd, right? You see, John’s baptism wasn’t the same baptism that Jesus commanded us to do in Matthew 28. It was a baptism of repentance (19:4) so Paul baptized them in the name of Jesus and that is when they received the Spirit (19:5).

Now, one might note that these disciples, along with the many at Pentecost, all spoke in tongues. My brothers and sisters in the Pentecostal denominations see this as evidence that tongues should then follow this baptism of the Spirt. However, I would like you to remember that these people did not have the Spirit to begin with. You’ll remember that Pentecost happened after the ascension of Christ, and this is by no coincidence. In order for the Spirit to come Jesus had to leave. So the Baptism of the Spirit was the way in which God poured out His Spirit on the first believers who took the Gospel and began doing the Great Commission (which included baptizing in the Trinitarian form).

 

Filling with the Spirit: What it is, isn’t and when it happens

Since I have (hopefully) persuaded you from Scripture that the disciples and early believers did not have the Holy Spirit because Christ was yet to ascend and make way for the Spirit, I want us now to look at the filling of the Spirit. I said earlier that baptism happens once but a filling happens multiple times. Our primary text for examination will be Ephesians 5:15-21.

The context of this verse is that of a holy life of walking in love. In verse 18 Paul gives us very unique contrast:

Con   Pro
Do not get drunk with wine But Be filled with the Spirit
μὴ μεθύσκεσθε οἴνῳ   μὴ μεθύσκεσθε οἴνῳ
Lit: Never be drunk with wine   Lit: Nevertheless, be filled to the brim with the Holy Spirit

 

Often times the baptism of the Spirit is equated with the ability to live a holy life. I believe this is simply a misunderstanding of terms. You no doubt struggle with sin, as I do, on a daily basis. I daily need to be filled with the Holy Spirit in order to overcome the temptations that I face. So rightly Paul drew a connection between being drunk (i.e. being controlled by alcohol) to being filled with the Spirit (i.e. controlled by the Spirit).

This filling is repetitive, it happens more than once. It is something every believer should seek because they already have the Spirit living inside of them. It does enable one to fight against sin, and it does cause one to live a more holy life.

The question is then: “why, if I already have the Spirit, do I need to be baptized in and then filled with the Spirit?” And the answer is, you don’t have to be baptized and filled. You already have the Spirit, but you have access to more of the Spirit. You have access granted to you for you to grow closer to God your Savior. The commandment is to be filled with the Spirit.

Conclusion

In conclusion I want to reiterate what I have already said and hopefully drive home the winning run, so to speak. John baptized with a baptism of repentance, this is what the early disciples had been baptized into while Jesus was still present. Jesus ascended, thus making a way for the Holy Spirit to come as He had prophesied in John 20:22. In Acts 2 on the Day of Pentecost God poured out His Spirit on the believers (who did not already have the Holy Spirit), thus baptizing them in the Spirit. After that they were commissioned to do what Jesus had commanded them to do in the Great Commission, namely to make disciples and to baptize them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

After the Gospel began to spread and disciples were being made by the dozens, we transition from God pouring out His Spirit on to people who had not yet heard of nor received the Spirit, to God filling Spirit-dwelt believers with more of His Spirit so that they could walk closer to Him and could be bold witness for Him.

I hope that after reading this you are encouraged and challenged. If you are like I was and are curious about what all the fuss is about, I hope that this cleared it up! I hope that now you can see the distinction between the two often confused terms. I also hope that you see that Acts is not so much prescriptive as it is descriptive. In the end, no matter if you side with me, or you side with the brothers and sisters in the Pentecostal tribe, I hope that this is a conversation that we can have for many years to come without letting it hinder our Gospel influence in the world.

Reflections on the Valley of Vision: Sincerity, Part 2: Commentary on the Prayer

reflections-of-sincerity


“You desire truth in the inward being;

Therefore teach me wisdom in my secret being.”
– Psalm 51:6, NRSV

(Full prayer may be read here)

In my last post, I shared some thoughts on sincerity and authenticity, and I ranted about Christians who don’t seem to appreciate authentic Christianity. Maybe they only want authenticity when it’s nice, neat, and doesn’t have to do with struggling with the really dirty sins. Regardless of the reason, I’ll probably rant about it later in another blog post or even on the podcast. Right now, I mostly want to talk about the Sincerity prayer found in the Valley of Vision.

The Elector of Saints


“Elector of Saints,”
Notice how the prayer opens up. It addresses God as Elector of Saints. The prayer recognizes the sovereignty of God in the election and predestination of His people. If you read the Bible and believe in the inerrancy of Scripture then you can’t deny that God is sovereign in salvation and the author of this prayer is making it clear that he is thankful for this divine sovereignty.

Blessed is the Man…


“Blessed is the man whom thou choosest
     and callest to thyself.
With thee is mercy, redemption, assurance,
   Forgiveness;”

When I read this portion of the prayer, my mind immediately goes to Romans 4:4-8 (particularly verses 7 and 8) which reads like this:

“Now to one who works, wages are not reckoned as a gift but as something due. But to one who without works trusts him who justifies the ungodly, such faith is reckoned as righteousness. So also David speaks of the blessedness of those to whom God reckons righteousness apart from works: “Blessed are those whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; blessed is the one against whom the Lord will not reckon sin.” – Romans 4:4-8, NRSV

In this prayer, we acknowledge God as the one who elects His saints, and calls them to Himself by grace through faith. Pay close attention to verses 4 and 5. Verse 4 states something that’s common sense. We know that if someone works then they deserve a wage, and when you give the worker their wage that is something that they have earned by their work. Then Paul contrasts that idea in verse 5 when he says that God justifies the ungodly without works so that when faith is granted to them God counts it as righteousness. I think the NIV communicates verse 5 the best when, instead of using the word, “reckoned,” it uses the word, “credited.” God “credits” righteousness to us according to the very faith that He grants to us.

Now, when we examine justification, we see in Romans 5:1 we see that the only way a person can be justified is by faith. So, where does the faith come from? I believe we just established that faith comes from God.

So, we see Scripturally that God calls us, and justifies us by faith that He grants to us therefore we say with the Puritans in our prayer, “With thee is mercy, redemption, assurance, forgiveness.”

Deliverance from the Pit


“Thou hast lifted me, a prisoner, out of
   the pit of sin
 and pronounced my discharge,
   not only in the courts of heaven,
   but in the dock of conscience;
 hast justified me by faith,
   given me peace with thee,
 made me to enjoy glorious liberty as thy child.”

The beginning of this passage of the Sincerity prayer seems to be inspired by the words of Psalm 40.

“I waited patiently for the Lord;
   he inclined to me and heard my cry.
2He drew me up from the desolate pit,
   out of the miry bog,
and set my feet upon a rock,
   making my steps secure.
3He put a new song in my mouth,
   a song of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear,
   and put their trust in the Lord.”
– Psalm 40:1-3, NRSV

Psalm 40 gives us a picture of God’s delivering power. In the Sincerity prayer we see the author using the idea of a pit to describe sin, and I think it’s important to note that right after he talks about the ‘pit of sin’ he says that God has ‘pronounced [his] discharge not only in courts of heaven, but in the dock of conscience.’ The author has a clear understanding of his assurance. In this prayer the author points out that Christ not only declares us righteous before our Father in heaven, but He speaks to the storm of thoughts that ask these questions:

“What if Christ’s sacrifice wasn’t enough?”
“What if I can’t really be assured of my salvation?”
“What if I have blown it and presumed the grace of God too many times?”

One of my favorite quotes is from Jon Acuff. If you know anything about Acuff you know that he’s a Christian comedian and is very quick with his witty observational humor, but he made a very serious statement: “”It is finished.” May those words land on your bones for the nights when fear tells you the cross was a beginning and you must finish grace.” I almost want to speak in tongues every time I read that. God’s grace is sufficient bring us up from the pit of sin. It is finished.

And notice the last part of this section, the author says that God has made us to enjoy glorious liberty as a child. We’re free. I can spend a dollar on a scratch-off lotto ticket (as unwise as that may be) without some old fart telling me that I’m “scratching my soul into hell.” (Yes, I’ve actually heard that in the pulpit.)

I can have a cigar and a scotch to the glory of God. I’m not free to rebel against God because I won’t want to rebel against God. A circumcised heart has no desire to turn away from the One that has set it free.

Assurance, Sincerity, and the Difference Between These Two Animals


“Save me from the false hope of the hypocrite:
May I never suppose I am in Christ unless I am
   a new creature,
 never think I am born of the Spirit
   unless I mind the things of the Spirit,
 never rest satisfied with professions of belief
   and outward forms and services,
     while my heart is not right with thee.
May I judge my sincerity in religion
 by my fear to offend thee,
 my concern to know thy will,
 my willingness to deny myself.”

The author believes that the standard for sincerity in our religion comes from our fear of offending God, our concern to know God’s will, and our willingness to deny ourselves. No doubt these are good things and these are signs that God is at work in our lives in a positive way. However, let us be careful not to assume that we can look to these things for the assurance of our salvation. Our assurance is only found in Christ. There will always be someone who fears God more. There will always be someone who is more concerned to know God’s will more than we are. There will always be someone who is more willing to deny themselves than we do.

We can’t confuse assurance and sincerity. In the context of soteriology proper, I would say that sincerity is being sure of the substance that supports our profession of faith and assurance is being sure of what Christ has done to give us that substance.

One Thing Needful: Learning at the Feet of Jesus


“Let not my temporal occupations injure
   my spiritual concerns,
 or the cares of life make me neglect
   the one thing needful.”

At the end of Luke 10, we encounter Jesus teaching in the home of Martha. Her sister, Mary is there and she has chosen to sit at the feet of Jesus while Martha does all the work around the house.

“She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying. 40But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me.” 41But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; 42there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.” – Luke 10:39-42, NRSV

Without getting into the revolutionary aspects of the thought of a woman sitting at the feet of a rabbi, we see that Jesus is showing us that the “one thing needful” for us is to learn at his feet. The author of the prayer is praying for empowerment to recognize that nothing is more important than learning at the feet of Jesus, and the first step to learning is admitting that we know nothing.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” – Matthew 5:3, NRSV

““Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
– Matthew 11:28-30, NRSV

Life is a burden and Jesus wants to see that we can’t carry the load on our own. We need Him. The only time we’re going to see any progress in our relationship with God is when we admit that He’s our source of life, our source of salvation, our source of joy. In Psalm 87:7, the New Living Translation poetically says it this way, “As they make music they will sing, “All my fountains are in you.”

To the Laodecian church, in Revelation 3, Jesus says, “I know your works; you are neither cold nor hot. I wish that you were either cold or hot. So, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I am about to spit you out of my mouth. For you say, ‘I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing.’ You do not realize that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.”

How do you convince people that believe they are rich and have need of nothing that they’re actually naked, poor, and blind? Until we can admit that we’re blind we’ll never see Jesus clearly, and we’ll never see that the invitation to sit at His feet and learn is for us.

God’s Dealings


“May I not be inattentive to the design
   of thy dealings with me,
 or insensible under thy rebukes,
 or immobile at thy calls.”

As Christians we have the Holy Spirit living on the inside of us and He is the means by which God deals with our hearts, and we must be sensitive to the voice of the Holy Spirit. Over and over again in chapters 2 and 3 of Revelation we are exhorted, “He that hath an ear, let Him hear what the Spirit saith.”

“And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with which you were marked with a seal for the day of redemption.” – Ephesians 4:30, NRSV

Ephesians 4:30 is one of my favorite verses because it clearly states that the Holy Spirit has sealed us until the day that Jesus comes back. And what Paul, the author of Ephesians, is saying is that we can grieve the Holy Spirit by harboring bitterness towards others in our heart. We harbor bitterness when we remember the pain and grief that someone else has caused us. Instead of listening to the voice of pain and grief, we must listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit and be sensitive, as this prayer says, to God’s dealings with us.

A Holy Art
“May I learn the holy art of abiding in thee,
 of being in the world and not of it,
 of making everything not only consistent with
   but conducive to my religion.”

“Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. 5I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. 6Whoever does not abide in me is thrown away like a branch and withers; such branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned.” – John 15:4-6, NRSV

Abiding in Christ is the intention of God for His elect sons and daughters. According to Ephesians 1, God chose us in Christ before the foundations of the earth. (Ephesians 1:4) God’s choice of our election does not alleviate us of any responsibility to abide in Christ, but at the same time because God has chosen us in Christ, we are held firm by His grasp and can never be removed from His hand. It’s a paradox of God’s sovereignty and our responsibility.

Our abiding in Christ doesn’t come from our own ability to stay in Him because we just don’t have that ability in and of ourselves. As an old hymn writer has said, “Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, Prone to leave the God I love.” Our ability to abide comes from the fact that the Holy Spirit abides in us. If you read John 15 without considering the context of Jesus’s talk about the Holy Spirit abiding with us in John 14, then you’ll walk believing that abiding is entirely dependent upon you.

This is why we pray. We pray because in prayer, God empowers to keep abiding and to lean on him for our every need. This is the holiest of arts.

Why You Should Consider A House Church

We live in a day and age where (especially in America) people work more than forty hours just to make ends meet. Then on top of that their kids play sports, or are part of various clubs and societies. Parents come home, turn the tv on and desperately try to zone out and escape reality. Then, on the weekends they get together with friends and family. The kids play together while the adults bemoan about having to go to church tomorrow. I’ve heard it for years while working in a “secular” job—“I don’t have time for church on Sunday, I just want to rest” (ignoring the fact that 3 out of 4 times Saturday was spent with friends and family doing something that was physically exhausting and thus not resting). So as someone who loves the church, I can’t help but lament at the weight the American church has added to the family. “Join a small group!” “Come out and serve!” “Invite your friends (who are really just as beat and weary as you and likely wont come either)!” And I know churches mean well, and that the program system once worked but, frankly, now it doesn’t.

I say all of that to say this: we need something different. Something natural, organic. Something that alleviates families from the burdensome weight of going to church and gives them the freedom found in the Gospel to be the church. Thus, I am highly favorable of the house church. Below are the pros and cons that I see in the house church model.

Pros

  1. Money is not an obstacle. It’s no secret that planting a church costs money. It is also no secret that ministry often times does not provide substantial amounts of money. But with a house church all the incoming money can go straight to missions—local and otherwise. The house church is able to actually help those in need, and not just direct them to another ministry for assistance.
  2. You meet where people are most comfortable (and open): I personally love having people over to hang out! Even as an introvert, it is some of the most fun that I have. People generally are more comfortable and open to going to someone’s house over and against going to a church building. If we’re completely honest with ourselves, it is really awkward to invite others to church. And most of the time it’s a failed attempt.
  3. Hospitality drives the movement: In order for the house church movement to thrive, the people must be hospitable. You aren’t just gathering together with other believers, but with unbelievers and skeptics who are taking a huge step by coming over to a stranger’s home with a bunch of Christians. If people aren’t hospitable, especially the host family, then the chances of being able to speak Gospel life into the lives of unbelievers become all but null and void.
  4. Teaching is more practical and life-giving: Ideally the teaching becomes less structured (i.e. the meeting is less formal and bound to a schedule) and more organic. As people share about their week and the struggles they’ve faced each person has the opportunity to share Biblical truths with others and that in turn leads into the teaching time. The Gospel becomes incredibly freeing when it is taught in a way that speaks directly to the daily life of a believer and not in a lecture-style sermon.
  5. Believers are encouraged to bear the burdens of others: Galatians 6:2 is a clear command to believers to come beside other believers and walk with them in times of trial. It’s not uncommon for people to join a larger church because they can get lost in the crowd. In a house church, because of its small size, it is imperative for everyone to bear the weight of the daily battle with sin.
  6. Neighborhoods are changed from the inside: It’s not uncommon to hear a pastor say “we have a heart for (insert city name)” and while that is a good goal, it’s a rather large goal. The house church says “we have a heart for our neighbors”, which is a more manageable goal. By changing our own neighborhood, we take steps to changing the city as a whole.
  7. It is elder-led and deacon-served, by nature: Servant leadership comes a lot more naturally in a house church. Elders are able to pastor the flock with more precision and diligence because the flock is a lot smaller. Deacons are also able to serve more easily. This is especially true if the house church is specifically focusing on their neighborhood alone. In that case, ministry by the deacons and elders are able to make visits to the sick and hurting in a quick manner because they are literally living among their sheep.
  8. Spiritual gifts can more be more freely expressed: Obviously Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians about operating orderly when it comes to the gifts is still to be adhered to. However, unlike in a traditional church service where there is a time limit for the service, in a house church believers are free to use their gifts in a more natural manner rather than a in a set time frame. For instance, perhaps someone has a word of knowledge, it is not nearly as distracting to speak this word in a house church setting as it would be to stand up and interrupt the pastor in a traditional church setting.
  9. Evangelism becomes more personal: Instead of the pastor giving a blanket offering of salvation, everybody is encouraged to share the Gospel in one way or another with any unbeliever that is present. Further more, nonbelievers are exposed to the Gospel through real-life situations, and not necessarily through a time of teaching when the invitation to repent is a footnote.

Cons

  1. It’s not “traditional”: It’s not traditional, which means its not going to be highly looked upon as a legitimate church. If you do choose to pursue this model, I would warn you of the probable “but that’s just a Bible study, not a real church” comment.
  2. You won’t become super popular: House churches are by nature a small setting. So while you wont become popular, you will be able to pastor more specifically. Your church won’t grow to a large number, and unless the house churches in the house church network decide to come together periodically for a larger meeting, you won’t be standing in front of a large crowd of people, but rather sitting among the sheep you faithfully pastor.
  3. You won’t reach a lot of people (quickly): Every pastor wants to reach a lot of people and to do that you have to invite a lot of people in. But with the house church you simply can’t do that. And I argue that this is actually a good thing. Obviously you still want to reach people, but you do so by training up other elders to host a congregation in their own home and when they do you joyfully give them some of your flock so that there is more room for new people. So while in the first three years of ministry you might not see a growth from 50 people to 300, you might see 6 elders raised up and sent out and that is a much healthier approach to discipleship.
  4. You will likely be bi-vo: While it is possible to be a full-time house church pastor, it probably isn’t the most practical plan. But again, this is good! Being bi-vocational allows you to have genuine friendships with people you meet everyday at work. Instead of being able to disengage from the culture around you, you are forced to be a part of it and to utilize it for the glory of God!

A lot more could be said in favor of this, like discipleship, discipline and communion but for brevity sake I’ll save that for a later post! However, I am becoming a more strong proponent of the house church model every day. I really believe it is one of the healthiest models. I have included a list of practical resources I have personally benefitted from as I have studied this model.

Resources for further study

  1. The House Church Book (Wolfgang Simpson)
  2. Everyday Church (Steve Timmis & Tim Chester)
  3. Total Church (Steve Timmis & Tim Chester)
  4. Housechurch.org
  5. Thecrowdedhouse.org
  6. Christfellowshipkc.org

Is the Pope of the Roman Catholic Church the AntiChrist?

popeantichrist

 “Many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh; any such person is the deceiver and the antichrist!” – 2 John 1:7, NRSV

In a theological group that I’m a part of on Facebook, Michael Ana asked a few questions about whether or not the Pope was the AntiChrist, and  how we should go about addressing the issue. Here is the post he made:

Wrestling with the “pope is an anti-Christ” line in the various confessions and historic letters from the Magisterial reformers, even in Spurgeon’s sermons. Three questions:

1) On what basis do we define someone as an anti-Christ? I know of various scriptures that define a-c as someone who denies Christ came in the flesh (2 John 1:7)…so, is every Muslim an antichrist? Any secular skeptic? Or only if they teach others their views?

2) How should a church’s statement of faith, properly address antichrists?

3) Considering shifts in ecclesiastical authority, should we have a contemporary focus- affirming against…the United Church, Emergent, etc?
Thank-you for your help brothers.

Here is the answer that I gave:

Here are my thoughts:

1. The anti-Christ is anyone who actively stands against the Gospel; this can include the Pope, it can also include the “Prophet” of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. John clearly stated that anti-Christ was already in the earth when he wrote his letter. The Church didn’t start recognizing the Pope as the “vicar of Christ” until Pope Innocent III, and papal infallibility wasn’t defined until the First Vatican Council in 1870. So, based on that timeline, I think it’s inconsistent to say that the Pope is THE anti-Christ. I think it’s more accurate to say that he is A anti-Christ.

I would also add that anyone who teaches that the Pope is THE Anti-Christ is teaching a reactionary theology that was leftover from the Reformation. Quite frankly, it’s a matter of Luther and Calvin being pissed at the Pope (and rightfully so); so they make outrageous statements about the Pope being the Anti-Christ and try to stretch Scriptures and make them exclusively fit the Papacy.

2. Because the view of the anti-Christ is such a widely debated topic among Christians, it might be best not to include it in a Statement of Faith. But, if you think it MUST be in the Statement of Faith then I would suggest you handle it in very simple terms. Just state what the Bible says and no more.

3. Yes. We should always be able to stand against heretical movements that deny the Gospel and that dismiss the authority of God’s Word. However, we should not do this to the point that those who see us understand what we stand against, but fail to see what we stand for.

I hope this was helpful to those of you who read it. Be sure to ‘like,’ ‘comment,’ and subscribe to the channel on YouTube where we post the Late Night Theology podcast.