As we start to build a theology of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer, we need to look at the first of 2 misconceptions I have come across over the last 10 years. Indeed these are misconceptions that are not merely intellectual and arbitrary, but are misconceptions that effect the believers joy, security and peace.
Misconception 1: There is a two tier Christianity
This is the belief that Pentecost in Acts 2 is a model for all Christians. That the disciples waited for a powerful experience and they entered a new level of faith – and so we too should wait for our very own Pentecost.
How many of you have had that feeling of being a second class Christian because you have not had a specific experience and cannot speak in tongues?
Do your remember tarry meetings?
In the diagram above we see three stages: Non Christian; Normal Christian; and Spirit Baptised Christian.
Is that what Pentecost teaches? That we need a special second experience – a baptism in the Spirit? That there are two types of Christians?
No! You see Pentecost is not so much about the individuals involved and setting a prescription for us – but rather it is about a massive change in the life of all believers and the age in which we live – it is a description of that event.
The whole point is that Pentecost ushers in a new age – the age of the Spirit, when all believers will have the Spirit.
Pentecost is a one time event for all Christians just as the Cross is a one time event for all Christians.
Have a look at this diagram:
In the OT, pre Pentecost, we see that the Holy Spirit was in existence and at work, but He was so in a less powerful way. For example, Israel was never empowered for massive mission success; only certain believers had the Spirit for certain times. We can read of the Spirit coming upon Kind Saul and empowering him and then leaving him. Through out the OT there is a desperate cry and prophesies for an age where the Spirit would be on all believers in power. In fact, on the day of Pentecost Peter quotes a prophecy from Joel.
On Pentecost we see this fulfilment of prophecy and an outpouring of the power of the Spirit in an amazing way. Pentecost was the beginning of a new age. The age Jesus had promised in John in his farewell discourses – an age where the Spirit would be the other counsellor.
We now have the Holy Spirit in power for all believers for all of time. What an amazing age to be living in, What an awesome privilege!
So, all Christians are baptised into the Spirit at the point of conversion and so there is no subsequent baptism in that sense.
What about people who have experienced a ‘second baptism’?
What am I saying? That these people are deluded? Even worse, led by the devil?
No not at all. Let’s be clear on spiritual experiences;
- Experience is always second to scripture
No matter what happens in the name of the Spirit it must always be tested and approved by the word and sword of the Spirit – the Bible. And the Bible is clear that Baptism of the Spirit happens at conversion.
- Experience can be missed diagnosed
It could be that people have miss called a big experience. I can remember many powerful experiences in my life – but they are not ‘baptism’. They are ‘fillings’, etc. But we’ll come back to that.
I would never take away from the person their experience, but I would guard the flock entrusted to me from attempting to experience someone else misdiagnoses.
We have been baptised once for all at conversion.
In the next instalment we’ll ask if we can lose the Holy Spirit.