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The Baptism With the Holy Spirit
By David A. DePra
(click on link to quickly go to Part desired)
Part 1--What is the Baptism With the Holy Spirit?
Part 2—Born Again From Above
Part 3—One Blessing
Part 4—Christian Experiences
Part 5—Complete in Christ
Part 6—Witnesses Unto Christ
Part 7—When the Comforter Comes
Part 8 --Jesus is Lord
Part 9--The Promise of the Father
Part 10--The New Covenant
Part 11 -- The Purpose of the Baptism with the Holy Spirit
Back to Contents
What is the Baptism With the Holy Spirit?
And, being assembled together with them, commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, said he, you have heard of me. For John truly baptized with water; but you shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence. (Acts 1:4-5)
The promise of the Father was the Holy Spirit. All through His ministry, Jesus continually promised His disciples that the Comforter would come, and that, "When the Comforter comes….etc." There was ONE promise of the Father – the baptism with the Holy Spirit.
The fulfillment of that promise is found in Acts 2. Jesus ascended to heaven, and ten days later the day of Pentecost came. It is then that the promise of the Father was given, and the baptism with the Holy Spirit took place.
It is important for us to understand what actually happened in Acts 2. What was – and what IS -- the baptism with the Holy Spirit?
Controversy and Division
The baptism with the Holy Spirit is an issue over which there is much deep division in the Body of Christ. It is today perhaps one of the greatest points of division. This division is generally between charismatics and Pentecostals on the one side, and much of the Body of Christ on the other.
About the last thing I wanted to do was discuss this topic. Doing so is going to chase more people away from this book than it will draw – for Christians are quite polarized on this matter. But we must discuss it. We are answering the question, "What is Christianity?" This issue of the baptism with the Holy Spirit really strikes at the heart of what Christianity is, and what life in Christ is all about. What I believe about the baptism with the Holy Spirit, especially in light to today’s growing charismatic movement, is going to greatly define how I interpret God’s purpose in my life, and how He works with His people. Thus, it would be difficult to move forward in this book without a proper foundation on this matter.
Let me say upfront that I recognize that this subject, like so many, has been hashed over at length. Neither side – and there ARE sides – hardly ever budges an inch. But as we discuss this topic through the next several chapters, we will hopefully see that tens of thousands of Christians are dead wrong about what they believe about the baptism with the Holy Spirit. Entire denominational positions are wrong. Some entire ministries are operating in error on this matter. And right now, it does not appear that things are going to change soon.
And yet the Truth on this matter is not hidden. It is right there -- in scripture – and anyone who goes on with Christ ought to come to terms with it. Do we really think that God is happy about the division over this vital matter to exist in His Body? And do we really believe that error on this fundamental matter of the baptism with the Holy Spirit does not carry with it consequences – if nothing else, the consequence of not seeing the Truth and being set free?
Most people who hold to a position on this matter of the baptism with the Holy Spirit do so because they have been taught that position – and have probably been warned against the opposite position. Most tend to affirm the teaching they have received with their experience with the baptism, or lack of experience. And often, little regard is given to what the Bible says about the baptism with the Holy Spirit.
But this is not supposed to be the way to discover Truth – to simply believe what we have been taught, or to rely on experiences, to the disregard of the Word of God. Ever. Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would guide us into all Truth. Doesn’t it seem certain that the Holy Spirit would seek to reveal to us the Truth about, "the baptism with the Holy Spirit?"
God ALWAYS wants His people to know the Truth. The fact that the Body of Christ is divided on this matter simply shows how devoted we are to our principles and beliefs ABOUT Christ – instead of to Christ Himself. Let us therefore approach the subject with an open heart, and put aside all demand that what we have believed must be true. If it IS the Truth, then God will only confirm it. If it is NOT the Truth, then we will find ourselves rejoicing that He loved us enough to bring us on into the Truth. Either way, if we are to understand the full meaning of the question, "What is Christianity?," we have to see the Truth on this very important matter of the baptism with the Holy Spirit. Therefore, we are going to deal with it upfront, at the start of this section.
I realize that there could be an entire book written on this matter. So the chapters spent on this issue will address only what I believe are the root issues upon which each of the two general positions are based. To begin, I want to give a brief review of what the TWO positions are on this matter of the baptism with the Holy Spirit. I will speak in general terms – I realize that there are always gray areas, and people who hold to those areas. But generally, there are TWO opposing positions about the baptism with the Holy Spirit – and then, of course, there are the many roads down which each of those positions take us.
First, the charismatic position. It is commonly taught in charismatic and Pentecostal churches that the baptism with the Holy Spirit is a SECOND experience – in addition to salvation. We must note that and be clear about it – for the insistence upon the baptism with the Holy Spirit as a SECOND BLESSING is fundamental to the charismatic position.
What this means is that the charismatics teach that the baptism with the Holy Spirit is NOT received at salvation or the new birth. No. Rather, it is a SECOND experience received after you are born again.
But there is more. Because the charismatic position teaches that the baptism with the Holy Spirit is not received at salvation, but is received in addition to salvation, it also teaches that it is possible to be fully saved and born again, and yet LACK this second blessing of the baptism with the Holy Spirit. Indeed, those that hold to this charismatic position openly teach that there are many Christians who have been born again, but have not been baptized with the Holy Spirit.
Again – the baptism with the Holy Spirit as a second and separate experience from that of salvation is fundamental to the charismatic position.
Here is what they do teach: They say that when we are saved that Christ comes to dwell in us through the Holy Spirit. They refer to this as an INDWELLING. They believe that we are fully saved -- but they don’t believe that we have received, "Holy Spirit fullness." For that, we must seek this SECOND experience of, "the baptism WITH the Holy Spirit." This second experience adds to the INDWELLING of Christ we have received at salvation with a fullness or OVERFLOW. Included in the overflow of this second blessing are many spiritual dimensions of the Christian experience – but I don’t want to get into those here.
In addition, the charismatics say that at salvation we are baptized IN the Holy Spirit – that is how Christ comes to INDWELL us. But the additional blessing is the baptism WITH the Holy Spirit – and that is how we receive Holy Spirit fullness, i.e., the overflow. The distinction between being baptized IN vs. WITH the Holy Spirit is also fundamental to the charismatic position.
That is the charismatic position in a nutshell. The baptism with the Holy Spirit is an ADDITIONAL gift from God that is not automatically included in salvation. They teach that it is possible to be INDWELT by Christ through the Holy Spirit, but not to possess Holy Spirit fullness, because you never received this second experience. Thus, in their eyes, there are millions of non-charismatics who are born again, but who have never received this, "second blessing" – and everything that is included in it.
Now to the, "non-charismatic" part of the church. Much of the rest of the Body of Christ do not believe that the baptism with the Holy Spirit is a SECOND BLESSING – one that we must seek in addition to salvation. No. They believe that the baptism with the Holy Spirit is not only received at salvation, but they believe that it is salvation received. They believe that everything God has for us is received through the new birth, and that there is no need for a second blessing or experience.
Can we now see why we must discover the meaning of, "the baptism with the Holy Spirit?" How can we truly understand the real meaning of Christianity if we don’t know the Truth about this? We are actually discussing the meaning of salvation itself – and whether we receive all things in Christ. I would not suggest that if we remain in the dark on this matter that we cannot be saved, or live fruitful Christian lives. But do we want Truth or don’t we? Truth sets us free from error, and protects us from error. And I do have to believe that in the church today this matter is going to become HUGE – bigger than we can imagine.
If that were the only division on this matter – whether the baptism with the Holy Spirit is a second blessing, or received at salvation – it would be bad enough. But from that point, the division only widens.
For example, if you believe that the baptism with the Holy Spirit is a SECOND blessing, you almost certainly believe that all of the spiritual gifts are included in that second blessing – and ONLY in that second blessing. And you almost certainly believe that all the spiritual gifts are for today – including those gifts that have come to be know as, "the sign gifts" -- such as tongues, healings, words of knowledge, etc. These, you likely believe, are given in the second blessing, and not at salvation. Therefore, if you have received the second blessing, you have those gifts. If you deny the second blessing, you don’t have them. This is almost universally the position held by those who believe in the necessity of a second blessing.
Conversely, those who do not believe that the baptism of the Holy Spirit is a SECOND blessing believe that the spiritual gifts are received at salvation. But they tend to reject the notion that all of the spiritual gifts are for today. They believe that some of the gifts, especially the more supernatural ones, like tongues, were done away when the canon of the Bible was finished. They believe that those who claim to have received such gifts through a second experience are deceived.
So GENERALLY – and I realize that there ARE exceptions -- what you believe about the baptism with the Holy Spirit determines what you believe about the spiritual gifts. If you believe that the baptism is a second blessing, then you probably believe that all the gifts are for today, and only received IN that second blessing. But if you don’t believe in the necessity of a second blessing, you probably don’t believe that all the gifts are for today. Indeed, you likely believe that those who manifest some of the, "sign gifts," are deceived.
This is the general division that exists in the church over this issue today. It touches on the very meaning of salvation, whether we are complete in Christ at salvation, and with the spiritual gifts that God has given us as the Body of Christ. Quite a division. But do we really believe that something this important – an entire dimension of our Christian experience, and THE VERY PURPOSE for which God sent the Holy Spirit – is a topic about which God is unclear? And yet millions of Christians are wrong about this – for BOTH views cannot be totally correct.
Again I ask: Would not the Holy Spirit seek to guide us into the Truth about the baptism with the Holy Spirit? Certainly.
At some point, we must ask: What does the Bible actually say about this issue? Isn’t that what matters? Let’s put aside what we have been told, and what we have experienced, or have NOT experienced, and let’s look to the Word of God. Let’s put aside what our church teaches or practices. Let’s realize that no matter what we have believed to this point that it is never a bad thing, but a freeing thing to KNOW THE TRUTH.
Now, at this point, lest anyone fear that I am misrepresenting what those who hold to the charismatic position teach, I want to quote directly from their literature. I want to copy and paste a section of a booklet titled, "The Spirit and the Glory," by Jack Hayford. Hayford has managed to avoid many of the extremes of the current charismatic movement. So despite the fact that he does associate with those who practice those extremes, I think that using him for a source is a more balanced representation of the charismatic position. If you read this section I’m pasting, you will see that everything that I have claimed is taught by second blessing proponents is accurate:
(all that is in blue is pasted verbatim)
Note the biblical difference between:
A. Baptism of the Holy Spirit:
Everyone experiences this at the time of salvation — 1 Corinthians 12:13 "By one Spirit were we all baptized into one Body." The Holy Spirit is referred to as the One doing this "baptism."
He first convicts us as God draws us to Jesus (John 16:7-11). Then, He is the One who immerses us (baptizes us) into Christ’s Body (Ephesians 1:4-11; Romans 3:21-26; 5:1-2).
[Take special note of Pastor Hayford’s illustration of who the agent is in each case: (i) the Holy Spirit’s baptizing a believer into Jesus Christ; (ii) a pastor/elder baptizing a believer in water; and (iii) the Lord Jesus Christ baptizing the believer in the Holy Spirit.] Separate from our new birth and entry into Christ’s Body, there follows the promise of—
B. Baptism with the Holy Spirit:
This is the overflowing and empowering of the Spirit subsequent to salvation (John 1:29, 33). Here, Jesus is the One who is the Baptizer.
Acts 1:5 "You shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now."
John 7:38-39a: "Out of his heart will flow rivers (Gk., Potamoi) of living water. But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive."
Example of subsequent experience: Acts 8:14-17 — Peter and John lay hands on the Samaritans and they receive the Holy Spirit after Philip led them to salvation.
III. DISTINGUISHING TWO PROMISES
Begin by seeing the contrast between "a well" and "rivers" in John’s record of Jesus’ ministry and teaching.
A. The indwelling joy of salvation:
Jesus promises "a well" of indwelling grace to satisfy you when you come to know Him as Savior —"But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain (Gk., pege) of water springing up into everlasting life" (John 4:14).
B. The overflowing power of the Holy Spirit:
Jesus promises rivers of grace to flow out from you to others (John 7:37-39). With the overflowing of the Spirit, there are distinct qualities that have proven to take place in the experience of many:
• New power to serve/witness — "You shall be witnesses" (Acts 1:8)
• New pursuit for growth in the Word — The Scriptures become more precious; "The Comforter
will show you…" (John 14:26); "Spirit of wisdom and revelation" (Ephesians 1:17-18).
• New potency in prayer — "Praying in the Spirit" (Eph. 6:18); "Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us" (Rom. 8:26).
• New passion for worship — desire to worship from inner being. 1 Cor. 14:15 — "pray with the spirit … sing with the spirit" refers to intimacy and release in worship. (See also 1 Cor. 14:1; Phil. 3:3; Acts 2:11b.)
(The Spirit and the Glory -- Study Notes, by Jack W. Hayford, pages 6-7)
The main thing point we need to see is that Hayford claims that certain dimensions of the Christian life are only received in the second blessing – and so if you haven’t received the second blessing, you LACK everything contained in the second blessing – DESPITE HAVING CHRIST IN YOU. Note that. You will lack these things even if you have Christ in you. That is exactly what Hayford states in the above. The conclusion is therefore inescapable: Christ does not carry these blessings. They are in addition to Christ.
But let’s ask: What ARE these blessings that Hayford says are included in the second blessing? – blessings that we would LACK if we have not received it? Well, according to the above quote, we lack new power to serve and witness. We lack a new pursuit in the Word. We lack the potency in prayer that we could have. We lack passion for worship. We LACK all these things, mind you, NOT because we are still unsaved. No. We LACK them despite the fact that we ARE saved -- and have CHRIST IN US. We lack them because they are included in a second blessing we have not received.
But there is more that we lack, according to Hayford:
In a very real sense the concept of receiving the baptism with the Holy Spirit is like saying to God, "I not only want the person of Jesus made real in my life by You Holy Spirit, but I also want the power of Jesus to happen through my life by You."(Grounds for Living, by Jack Hayford, p. 157)
Notice what he is saying: If you are saved, you DO have, ‘the person of Jesus made real in your life." But if you don’t go on to receive the second blessing, you don’t have, "the power of Jesus happening through your life." That is an amazing statement. I mean, if I don’t have the POWER OF JESUS happening in my life – because I didn’t receive the second blessing – I would suggest that I am LACKING a great deal of what Christianity IS! If I don’t have the power of Jesus happening through my life – I have little more than a legal position before God of being saved. I barely have anything LIVING about me at all.
I said earlier that the division on this matter was great. I also said that we can barely understand the real definition of Christianity if we don’t discover the Truth on this matter of the baptism with the Holy Spirit. I think we are beginning to see WHY!
No Second Blessing
Before moving on to what the Bible teaches, I will tell you what I believe about this issue up front – just in case it hasn’t been evident. I believe that the Bible absolutely teaches that there IS a baptism with the Holy Spirit. I also believe that included in this baptism is everything God has for us – including ALL of the spiritual gifts – even the so-called sign gifts. But I do NOT – I said I do NOT – believe that the baptism with the Holy Spirit is a SECOND or additional blessing. Rather, I believe that the baptism with the Holy Spirit is the new birth – it is Christ in us being received. Thus, we receive ALL when we are saved in Jesus Christ.
Now, just in case that wasn’t clear, let me repeat it: I do NOT believe that the baptism with the Holy Spirit is a second blessing. Rather, I believe that we receive ALL THINGS IN JESUS CHRIST – and having received Christ, we are COMPLETE IN HIM. And I include in what we receive at salvation ALL the spiritual gifts – including the possibility of the, "sign gifts."
I speak as one who has been involved in charismatic churches and groups for years. Years ago, I was prayed over FOR the baptism with the Holy Spirit and, at that point in time, believed I had received it. I have had many wonderful spiritual experiences, and have manifested spiritual gifts, included the sign gifts. But it always troubled me greatly that I could not prove that there was a second blessing from the Bible. It troubled me that the charismatics, who claim to have this ADDITIONAL experience from God, were slipping more and more into great error on so many things, all the while increasing in numbers and money. I asked, "How could those who claim to have the FULLNESS of the Spirit – a fullness that others DO NOT have – how could THEY not be the prime teachers of TRUTH, if they really were filled with the Spirit of Truth?" Indeed, how could they instead seem to be producing more and more error? In the end, I had to ask myself, "What are the fruits here?" And just as importantly, I asked, "What does scripture REALLY say about this issue of the baptism with the Holy Spirit? About a second blessing?"
I found that scripture says NOTHING about a second blessing – because there is no second blessing. I listened to many of the experts who teach on the second blessing and was amazed at the contradictions in their teaching – contradictions that they seemed to just pass right over. Instead, they were pointing to experiences and manifestations, and their interpretations of those experiences, and reading them back into the Bible. Above all, they were basing much of their teaching on the assumption that they were in THE move of God, specially called of God to lead, "the end time revival," and therefore they insisted what they believed HAD to be the Truth, for God could not possibly allow them to be deceived.
But then, on the other side of the argument, are those who think that anything having to do with the charismatic movement is of the Devil. I have heard their arguments as well. They are correct in saying that the Bible does not teach the necessity of a second blessing, but then they go on to reject the spiritual gifts. They reject outright the, "sign gifts." And in many cases, they speak of the other gifts of the Spirit as if they are little more than the product of academics, natural talents, and theology. By the time they are done, they suck the LIFE out of the reality of the Holy Spirit in us.
So I came to the conclusion that that ONLY thing that mattered was what the Bible taught. Jesus and the apostles warned that there would be such deception in the end times that, "even the elect," could be deceived. They warned about REAL miracles, signs and wonders – which were all to be part of a deception. And above all, the Bible teaches an end time APOSTASY rather than a REVIVAL. Add all of this up and you MUST return to scripture. Unless we take the view that all things must be tested in the light of the Bible – in conjunction with prayer – we are going to be deceived. In the final analysis, I can honestly say that I do not care what miracles are claimed, or actually happen, and I do not care how big and seemingly prosperous the charismatic movement – or any movement – becomes. I don’t care if the dead are raised, or if fire is called down from heaven, and actually comes. All the matters is whether TRUTH is being taught – and whether the Holy Spirit is doing what Jesus said He would be doing when He came. The Bible itself tells us that this is what matters, and we would do well to heed the warnings.
I believe that God has given us ONE blessing, and ONE baptism, and therein we receive Christ. I believe that we are COMPLETE IN HIM. There is NO second blessing. However, I also believe that within the one and only blessing of receiving Christ through the Holy Spirit, are all of the spiritual gifts – all of them, including the POSSIBILITY of the so-called, "sign gifts." This, I believe, is what the Bible teaches. And I believe that anyone through whom the Holy Spirit is working is going to do what the Holy Spirit does – center on the reality of Christ in us, preach the Truth that sets people free, and glorify God.
But let’s go on to see what the Bible teaches about the baptism with the Holy Spirit, not only about WHEN we receive the baptism with the Holy Spirit, but WHAT we receive.
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Born Again From Above
Let’s turn to Acts 2. Here we find the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the disciples in the upper room. If there is one event that ought to show us the meaning of the baptism with the Holy Spirit, it is this one. Here we find the very first time that any people were baptized with the Holy Spirit.
The question here is simple: Is Acts 2 describing a second blessing – one we must receive in addition to the new birth? If so, then the disciples of Christ were already born again BEFORE Acts 2. Right? Sure. Otherwise, Acts 2 is describing THE new birth of these disciples -- meaning that before that day they were NOT born again!
We cannot have it both ways. Either the disciples were born again BEFORE Acts 2, or they were born again IN Acts 2. Either Acts 2 describes a second blessing in addition to a new birth that they already had, or it describes their new birth itself. Solve this problem and you have DEFINED what the baptism of the Holy Spirit is, and you have answered many of the questions about the second blessing.
The charismatic position is that the disciples were born again BEFORE Acts 2. And as we have seen, this HAS to be their position if Acts 2 describes a SECOND blessing. In fact, they teach that everyone upon whom the Spirit falls in Acts, subsequent to Acts 2, was already born again – and is merely receiving this ADDITIONAL overflow.
We will discuss those instances in Acts later. But for now, the task at hand ought to be very clear. We must discover whether the disciples were born again before Acts 2.
What Does the New Birth Mean?
Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God…..Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again. (John 3:3,5-7)
Jesus gave Nicodemus a rather clear definition of HOW to be born again. Incidentally, a quick check of the Greek tells us that the phrase, "born again," can be translated, "born from above."
How did Jesus say we must be born again? He said, "Except a man be born -- of water and of the Spirit." He is here talking about death and resurrection – death being symbolized by the water of baptism, and resurrection being the result of the Spirit coming to dwell in you. But this immediately raises a big question about Acts 2. If the disciples were actually born again BEFORE Acts 2, how was it possible to be born, "of Spirit," BEFORE the Spirit was given in Acts 2? Jesus said it wasn’t possible. So right off the bat we see a problem here if we say that the disciples were already born again prior to Acts 2.
My point is this: The new birth is the result of receiving new life through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, if we say that the disciples were already born again before Acts 2, we must say they were indwelt by the Holy Spirit before Acts 2 – but the Holy Spirit was not given UNTIL Acts 2. The only conclusion is that they were not born again prior to Acts 2, but that Acts 2 WAS their new birth through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.
There is another problem. Jesus said that we must be born FROM ABOVE. In other words, you must receive a NEW LIFE from above – you must receive it on the inside of you FROM the outside of you. Sure. Salvation and the new birth are the results of NEW LIFE – not merely the results of a new religion. In Acts 2, the Spirit fell upon the disciples from above. Are we to believe that they were already, "born again FROM ABOVE," prior to this, and that this was merely a SECOND blessing? Are we to believe that they were already indwelt by the Holy Spirit – by Christ Himself – which is the ONLY WAY to have new life in you?
You see the problem. Eternal life is CHRIST IN US through the Holy Spirit. You cannot be born again any other way except that you receive the very NEW LIFE of Christ through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. So if I believe that the disciples were born again BEFORE Acts 2, I am saying that before Acts 2 they had Christ in them through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. There is no escape from this necessity if I believe that Acts 2 was a second experience, rather than the new birth for those disciples.
Now, add to all of this a passage from II Corinthians:
Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. (2 Cor 5:17)
Paul is saying that to be, "in Christ," is equal to being a, "new creature." Therefore, he is clearly talking about the NEW BIRTH. The charismatic position, if you recall, is in agreement with the fact that we are born again if Christ is in us. But they insist that we still must go on to receive the second blessing. The problem here is that if the disciples were born again before Acts 2, this mandates that they already had Christ in them, and were new creatures – because this is what Paul says it MEANS to be born again. Only if this was true could Acts 2 be a SECOND blessing.
Let’s pin this down. Were the disciples, prior to Acts 2, already IN CHRIST? Were they already NEW CREATURES? If so, how did they get that way? – seeing as how it is through the INDWELLING of the Holy Spirit that we are born again? Again, we cannot avoid the conclusion: If Acts 2 was a second experience, on top of their salvation, we must find proof that the disciples were indwelt by Christ through the Holy Spirit before Act 2 – because THAT is what salvation IS!
We are going to see that these disciples were all saved prior to Acts 2 – but only under the Old Covenant. They did have the Holy Spirit WITH them – Jesus said so -- but prior to Acts 2, the Spirit had not come to dwell IN THEM. Therefore, Acts 2 was NOT a second blessing, but was the very coming of the Holy Spirit to dwell IN THEM, resulting in their new birth.
The New Covenant
The clear evidence of the Bible is that the disciples of Jesus Christ were NOT born again before Acts 2. In fact, NO ONE was born again before that day. But as mentioned, this does not mean they weren’t saved. No, they were saved. The disciples of Jesus, as well as the OT saints, had all been saved under the Old Covenant.
Under the Old Covenant you were not born again, did not have Christ in you, and were not indwelt by the Holy Spirit. How could you be? The Holy Spirit, Jesus said, had not yet been given! – and would not be until after He ascended to heaven and completed Redemption. But under the Old Covenant you were legally saved – on the basis of repentance for the remission of sins.
The OT sacrifices pointed to Christ. They were a, "shadow of things to come, but the substance was CHRIST." (Col. 2:17) Now ask: If the OT saints were actually born again, just like we are today, then why bother with, "the shadow of things to come?" – for if Christ were actually IN THEM, the, "substance which is Christ," was already in them! In that case, you don’t NEED the shadow, because you HAVE the substance! You can see the problem. No. The saint of the OT, and everyone else until Acts 2, were saved under the Old Covenant, but they were NOT born again. The Holy Spirit was not IN THEM – but instead, was WITH THEM. We will see conclusive proof of this in a moment.
Now note: This is not – as some protest -- ANOTHER WAY of salvation. No. It is still salvation through Christ. But it is under the Covenant BEFORE Christ, and thus, looked forward to Him. It is all still salvation – but the difference is the experience of the believer in this lifetime. It was not until Christ died, was raised, and ascended, that the Spirit could be sent, and that there could be any INDWELLING NOW – which is what the new birth IS.
This Truth is central to the understanding of the Covenants. Notice what God says about the difference between the OLD and NEW Covenants:
Behold, the days come, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah: Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they continued not in my covenant, and I regarded them not, says the Lord. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people: And they shall not teach every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest. (Heb 8:6-11)
This passage clearly states that the NEW covenant was NOT LIKE the old. But what was the difference? It is plainly stated in the passage. The OLD covenant did not involve an INDWELLING. But everything about the New Covenant had to do with an INDWELLING. Can we see that? It is the whole point of the passage – it is what God is trying to tell us has changed because of Jesus Christ.
The New Covenant is about CHRIST IN US. Colossians says this was never possible before Christ.
Even the mystery which has been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints: To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. (Col 1:26-27)
CHRIST IN US was never possible before the ascension of Christ. It was not possible before Acts 2. But it came to pass in those disciples in Acts 2 when the Comforter came. Jesus came to dwell in them through the Holy Spirit. This is exactly the new birth.
This is just one proof that before Acts 2, no one was born again, or had Christ in them through the Holy Spirit. Prior to Acts 2, those disciples were saved in the only way possible to that point: Legally, through the baptism of John, under the Old Covenant. Thus, it is conclusive that what happened that upper room was the first time anyone had been BORN AGAIN. Thus, Acts 2 is not describing a SECOND blessing! It is describing the inauguration of a new age – that of CHRIST IN US through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. It is describing the very first time anyone had been born again OF the Spirit!
Coming of the Holy Spirit
All that I have stated to this point is easily proven from the Bible. It does not require a deep study of theology, or any sort of deductive reasoning. All we need to do is READ. Jesus continually spoke to His disciples about the PROMISE of the Father; about when the Comforter would come. Jesus stated directly that the Spirit had not yet come. In fact, He stated that the Spirit COULD not come, and WOULD not come until after the ascension.
He that believes on me, as the scripture has said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. (But this spoke he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.) (John 7:38-39)
Nevertheless I tell you the truth, it is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you. (John 16:7)
Nothing could be stated more clearly. According to the Bible, the Holy Spirit had NEVER BEEN GIVEN before Acts 2. Ever. But what does that mean? The Holy Spirit is mentioned before Acts 2. The Spirit is mentioned all through the Old Testament. So how was the Spirit given AFTER Acts 2 that differs from the work of the Spirit before Acts 2, and throughout the OT?
Jesus told us DIRECTLY what the difference was:
And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it sees him not, neither knows him: but you know him; for he dwells with you, and shall be in you. "(John 14:16-17)
There is our answer. The Holy Spirit had been WITH people in the past – and had been WITH the disciples of Christ. But the Holy Spirit had never been IN people. THAT is what began in Acts 2 -- Acts 2 marks the FIRST TIME the Holy Spirit ever came to INDWELL anyone.
Jesus had told them directly, "The Spirit has been WITH you, but He will come to be IN you." He also told them, "The Comforter cannot come while I am here." Put these two statements together and you will see that in Acts 2, The Holy Spirit, for the very first time ever, descended to dwell IN God’s people. In short, an indwelling of Christ through the Holy Spirit was impossible before the ascension.
I’m not sure what could be more clear. Since the new birth is the result of the INDWELLING of Christ through the Holy Spirit, no one was born again before Acts 2. Thus, these disciples were NOT born again before Acts 2. Indeed, Acts 2 WAS their new birth, and was NOT a second blessing.
Now, can we see that this completely devastates the charismatic teaching of the second blessing? – a teaching that is based in large part upon the erroneous assumption that the disciples had been born again PRIOR to Acts 2? Sure. Once we admit the neither the disciples, nor anyone else for that matter, could have been INDWELT by Christ before Acts 2, and therefore could not have been born again, we must conclude that Acts 2 is NOT a second blessing. It is the one and only blessing – being inaugurated that day by God in His people.
Furthermore, we see that there is no distinction between merely an, "indwelling," in the Bible, verses an, "overflow." There is NOT one promise of salvation, and then another of, "Holy Spirit fullness." No. In Christ is both salvation and fullness. In Christ we have both the indwelling and all of the potential, as we grow in Him, for an overflow. In other words, just as the Bible says, "We are complete IN HIM." (Col. 2:10)
The Spirit is Equal to Christ in Us
The charismatic position is that we are born again through an INDWELLING of Christ through the Holy Spirit. But unless we receive a second blessing – the same one the disciples received in Acts 2 – we will not have the fullness or the overflow of the Spirit of God. This position is based on the assumption that the disciples were already born again before Acts 2, making Acts 2 a second blessing.
We have already seen devastating proof that the charismatic position is wrong. We have seen that it was impossible for anyone to be INDWELT by Christ or the Holy Spirit before Acts 2. Indeed, we have seen that it was in Acts 2 that the Spirit DID come for the very first time to INDWELL God’s people. These facts are undeniable.
Now, let’s add even more devastating proof that the charismatic position is wrong. If we can prove that Christ was not IN THEM before Acts 2, it will prove that the disciples were not born again before Acts 2 – for even the charismatic position agrees that we are born again because Christ comes to dwell IN US.
We saw that this is the charismatic position from the quotes by Hayford. He states that at salvation we receive an INDWELLING of Christ through the Holy Spirit. But he states that we still LACK Holy Spirit fullness. For that, he says, we must seek the baptism with the Holy Spirit – which is the second blessing. According to this position, if we are ONLY born again, our condition agrees with the disciples prior to Acts 2. But once we receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit, we have then experienced what they experienced in Acts 2 – the fullness of the Spirit through the second blessing.
So all we need to do is prove that Christ was NOT dwelling in these disciples prior to Acts 2. This would mean they were not born again before Acts 2. And it would prove that Acts 2 was their new birth – and not a second experience on top of their new birth.
Once again, Jesus spoke clearly on this matter. Not only did He say that He WOULD come and dwell in them – showing He was NOT YET IN THEM – but He spoke of all three of the Godhead coming to dwell IN THEM through the baptism with the Holy Spirit which was to happen in Acts 2:
Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him. (John 14:23)
These things have I spoken unto you, being yet present with you. But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you. (John 14:25-26)
Can we see the clear Truth in these passages? Jesus spoke to these disciples in terms of WHAT WAS TO COME – a clear reference to Acts 2. But in these passages, He not only promises that the Holy Spirit would be sent in His name, but He makes the indwelling of the Holy Spirit absolutely EQUAL to the indwelling of HIMSELF and the FATHER.
My point is this: Jesus is saying that the Comforter would come in Acts 2, and He makes this equal to HIMSELF coming to, "make His abode with them." If that is true, then can we see that Acts 2 was the first time Christ Himself ever came to dwell in those disciples? And that this proves that Christ was not IN THEM before Act 2? – meaning that they were NOT born again before Acts 2? What more proof do we need that Acts 2 was NOT a second blessing, but the very inauguration of the new birth – the very first time anyone was ever INDWELT by Christ through the Holy Spirit?
Really, you cannot separate the Trinity. The indwelling of the Holy Spirit is equal to CHRIST IN US – indeed, it is through the Spirit that Christ is in us. Is this not eternal life? – for it is through the Spirit that we are BORN AGAIN, and through the Spirit that we are alive forever.
This Truth is found all through scripture. One of the passages that shows that Christ in us is equal to the Spirit in us is found in Romans:
But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his. And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwells in you. (Rom 8:9-11)
Read this passage ten times if you have to. It leaves no doubt that the Holy Spirit in us IS Christ in us. For Christ is in us BY the Holy Spirit. The Trinity is as one.
According to Jesus, He would not come to dwell in the disciples except through the coming of the Comforter – the promise that would be fulfilled in Acts 2. Now once we see that Acts 2 -- the baptism with the Holy Spirit -- IS the means by which Christ is in us, we cannot avoid the conclusion that the baptism with the Holy Spirit births us anew – and is not a SECOND blessing. In other words, the baptism of the Holy Spirit is how we receive CHRIST IN US. Thus, there are NOT two separate experiences. There is only ONE. Through Christ at salvation, we receive ALL that God has for us.
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Acts 2 BEGAN much. By definition, that day also ENDED much. There was a distinct LINE drawn that day – nothing would ever be the same again. That day the Comforter came – the promise of the Father was fulfilled. That day, for the first time ever, there was an INDWELLING of the Holy Spirit – the new birth. We saw how this had never been possible until Jesus ascended. Thus, in Acts 2 we have the beginning of CHRIST IN US.
Now, if you are reading between the lines, you will see that if the new birth began in Acts 2, then everything else that is dependent upon the new birth began. Certainly, central to this would be the CHURCH – the Body of Christ. Of course. The Body of Christ began when the new birth began, and when Christ came to dwell IN people. You cannot be in the Body of Christ unless Christ is IN YOU!
Now, let me point out another important fact. Almost no one, no matter his or her position about the baptism with the Holy Spirit, denies that the church began in Acts 2. Everyone agrees that when the baptism with the Holy Spirit occurred in Acts 2, the church was born at that point. But ask: If the church began in Acts 2, does this not prove that the new birth began in Acts 2? Does it not prove that Acts 2 was the first time Christ ever came to dwell in anyone? Sure, for the church is comprised of those who are born again through CHRIST IN THEM!
Are those who believe that the disciples were born again in Christ BEFORE Acts 2 prepared to say that the Body of Christ began before Acts 2? I hope not. But you cannot have it both ways. Truth is a unit. It is all or nothing.
So more and more we are seeing that there is only ONE experience God has for us. And in that one experience, we receive Christ. But having received Christ, we do not still LACK another experience, with all of it’s dimensions for Christian life. No. Once we receive Christ we have HIS LIFE! What do we think we LACK at that point? No. Christ is everything -- for we are complete in Him.
Received You the Holy Spirit?
We have hopefully laid a strong foundation on this matter of the baptism with the Holy Spirit – what it is and when we receive it. But there are other issues related to it that we must address. For example, there are events in the gospels, and especially in the book of Acts that are often used to prove that the baptism of the Holy Spirit is a second blessing. What was happening there? Despite everything we have already seen, do these events prove that there is a second blessing we must receive in addition to salvation?
To start with, let’s look at one instance in the gospel of John:
And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and said unto them, Receive you the Holy Ghost: (John 20:22)
This passage is usually one that the charismatics point to for proof that the disciples had an indwelling of the Holy Spirit before Pentecost, and therefore, they say it proves that Pentecost was a second blessing. Now, of course, in order to believe this, you must completely put aside everything we have already seen. You must put aside the clear fact that Jesus stated that the Comforter COULD NOT COME until He ascended. And you must completely ignore the fact that Jesus said the Holy Spirit was only WITH them, but could not yet be IN them until Pentecost. Then, having put those clear statements aside, you would have to point to this one verse and establish from it that the disciples, before Acts 2, were born again through the INDWELLING of the Holy Spirit.
What about it? Jesus is telling them to receive the Holy Spirit – weeks before Pentecost. Wasn’t that a FIRST blessing? – a new birth? And therefore, doesn’t this prove that what they received on Pentecost was a second blessing?
This event in John 20:22 isn’t a first blessing, or a new birth, at all. If you read the verse in context, it is a benediction that Jesus is pronouncing upon them -- to comfort them and assure them. He is really telling them that the Holy Spirit is WITH them, and will be IN them. He is telling them that they can take comfort in that promise.
Now, as a verification of this, we need only pay close attention to exactly what Jesus did. John writes, "He breathed on them." Can we see that this is much different than breathing INTO them – such that there would then be an INDWELLING of the Holy Spirit?
We have already seen that before His death and resurrection Jesus had made the distinction to His disciples between what was and what would be – concerning the Holy Spirit. He said the Holy Spirit was presently WITH them, but would be IN them – once the Comforter came. (Jn. 14:17) And when did the Comforter come? Not in John 20! No. In Acts 2, after the ascension. Therefore, John 20:22 cannot be describing any kind of indwelling at all. No. Jesus breathed the Spirit ON them, and when He said, "Receive the Holy Spirit," He was referring to the Holy Spirit being WITH them. Only when Pentecost came, would the Holy Spirit be IN them.
Now, again -- this MUST be true because, as mentioned earlier, Jesus clearly stated that the Holy Spirit could NOT come to dwell IN THEM until He ascended. Therefore, since He had not yet ascended, John 20:22 cannot be talking about an indwelling. Rather, He is talking about the Holy Spirit being WITH them. This is the only interpretation that does not cause a contradiction with the rest of what Jesus said and did.
These are facts that must be faced. I mean, what are we to say, that the Holy Spirit could not come to dwell in them until Jesus ascended, but somehow did come to dwell in them when Jesus breathed on them? Do we actually believe that the Holy Spirit somehow came and dwelt in those disciples in John 20, but then came – what, AGAIN? – in Acts 2 to give them power for service? No. The facts are that the Holy Spirit had NOT YET come, and was therefore INDWELLING no one. He was merely WITH the disciples. This is what is being described in John 20:22.
Note that in John 20:22 that Jesus is wishing them peace and telling them that He is sending them out. He also tells them about certain authority they will have once He does send them out. But ask: Did they get up and GO out? No. Did they exercise any spiritual power at that point? No. In fact, Jesus would later, right before His ascension, tell them to tarry in Jerusalem and WAIT for the promise of the Father. They had to wait until the Holy Spirit came to INDWELL them for the first time in Acts 2.
I believe that when Jesus breathed on them and told them to receive the Spirit that He was telling them to presently embrace the Holy Spirit’s presence with them – for they were troubled and had barely begun to understand what was going on. They had just seen Jesus Christ crucified, and now here He was, appearing to them, off and on. He was teaching them about Himself from scripture, and they were only beginning to grasp His purpose. Even in Acts 1, right before His ascension, they still didn’t get it. They still thought He was going to establish an earthly kingdom. They needed encouragement and to know the Spirit was with them.
The fact that the charismatic position resorts to John 20:22 as a proof text – despite everything else that Jesus clearly stated about coming of the Holy Spirit – out to tell us that they have very little else to grab onto for, "proof." John 20:22 does not indicate that disciples were already born again, or had the Spirit IN THEM – making Acts 2 a second blessing. The whole of scripture on this matter makes that clear.
We have read the clear words of Jesus to the effect that the Holy Spirit could not come to dwell in anyone until AFTER Jesus ascended. (see again -- Jn. 7:39, 15:7, and 14:17) Indeed, it was the ascension and enthronement of Jesus as Lord of all that made it possible for the Comforter to come. Seeing WHY this was so also proves that Acts 2 was not a second blessing, but the ONE and ONLY blessing of God.
The Holy Spirit could not come before Jesus ascended to take His place at the right hand of God because Jesus’ ascension was the consummation of His Redemptive work. He had lived, died, and been raised. Jesus’ ascension seated Him as Lord of all. It was then, and only then, possible to send forth the Spirit -- TO MAKE HIM LORD OF US.
Get that. Jesus accomplished redemption. Then He ascended and took His place as Lord of all. But all of that, until the Spirit came, was OBJECTIVE. It was historical fact based on actual events. But it had to become SUBJECTIVE and EXPERIENCED – through an actual INDWELLING. This could not happen until AFTER the ascension, and DID happen in Acts 2. The Holy Spirit came to take everything Jesus did, and everything Jesus IS, and to make those realities real and livable IN and THROUGH us.
Can we see this? Only if Jesus ascended and was seated as Lord of all could the Spirit descend and begin making Him Lord of US! – through an INDWELLING. Thus, any sort of indwelling was impossible until after the ascension – impossible until Acts 2. Indeed, it is this indwelling in Acts 2 that resulted in the new birth for those disciples, and began the Body of Christ. Acts 2 was NOT a second blessing! It is THE blessing – everything that God had for His people through Jesus Christ.
Jesus continually said that He must ASCEND before the Spirit could DESCEND. We are now seeing WHY: The coming of the Holy Spirit WAS the coming of Jesus as Lord. Jesus came back BY HIS SPIRIT. He could not do this while still physically here! He had to first ascend, and then come to indwell His people through the Spirit.
By the way, I’m not saying that Acts 2 was the literal Second Coming. No. Jesus has yet to return physically – someday He will. But I am saying that the sending of the Spirit was Jesus coming back spiritually to dwell in His people. It was Jesus, now seated in heaven as Lord, coming back as Lord IN HIS PEOPLE.
The work of the Holy Spirit is to reveal, glorify, and teach us of Jesus Christ. Christ is in us through the baptism with the Holy Spirit, and Christ is revealed to us by His Spirit, and we eventually become witnesses unto Christ through this SAME baptism. It is all ONE experience, although carrying many dimensions and many gifts.
It ought to be clear that Acts 2 began a new age – the church age. Never before had there been a new birth – or an indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Before Acts 2, people were saved under the Old Covenant. They were baptized unto repentance for the remission of sins. This was, at the time of the gospels, "the baptism of John."
We need to look at this, "baptism of John," because it was the basis for salvation under the Old Covenant. Understanding it will help explain the instances in Acts where people seem to have already been saved, but still needed to be baptized with the Holy Spirit. One place the baptism of John is mentioned is Acts 1:
And, being assembled together with them, commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, said he, you have heard of me. For John truly baptized with water; but you shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence. (Acts 1:4-5)
John the Baptist essentially said the same thing -- that he baptized with water unto repentance, but that Jesus would come and baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire. (see Matthew 3:11)
From these statements we clearly see that there is a distinction being made between the baptism of John, and the baptism with the Holy Spirit. The baptism of John was NOT the same as the baptism with the Holy Spirit – this passage from Acts is essentially saying, "You did receive the baptism of John, but NOW you are going to be baptized with the Holy Spirit."
Proponents of the second blessing jump all over this distinction. They often point to the fact that the baptism of John was distinct from the baptism of the Holy Spirit – and say that this proves that the baptism with the Holy Spirit is an additional experience to salvation.
The error here is to make John’s baptism equal to the NT new birth. John’s baptism was not the new birth – John baptized BEFORE Acts 2, and we have seen that the Holy Spirit had not yet come to dwell in anyone UNTIL Acts 2. The Truth is, John’s baptism was exactly what the John himself said it was – a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins. John’s baptism was under the Old Covenant – it pointed towards Christ’s death as the believer’s own. But it did not impart NEW LIFE within.
The baptism of John provided for NO indwelling – because before Acts 2 there WAS NO indwelling. The Holy Spirit could only be WITH believers. This is precisely why John’s baptism is contrasted to the baptism with the Holy Spirit and fire – which was to BE an indwelling. The baptism of John could not provide what the baptism with the Holy Spirit would bring in Acts 2.
But once the events of Acts 2 took place, and the Holy Spirit came, and those in that upper room were baptized with the Spirit, and born anew from above, can we see that John’s baptism ENDED? It is never mentioned as adequate again. After Acts 2, the baptism with the Holy Spirit replaces the baptism of John – for the indwelling of Christ was then a reality.
Once people try to say that John’s baptism corresponds to salvation under the New Covenant, and the baptism with the Spirit in Acts 2 is a second blessing, everything is thrown out of whack. John’s baptism does not correspond to salvation under the New Covenant. It was salvation under the OLD Covenant. John’s baptism did not impart an INDWELLING of new life through the Holy Spirit. Rather, it imputed a legal salvation to the believer, in anticipation of the Savior.
Do those who hold to the charismatic position actually believe that those who have NOT received what they call, "the second blessing," continue to be saved under John’s baptism – or the equivalent? Do they believe that this results in Christ in us? – but that we still lack everything that they say is carried in the baptism with the Holy Spirit? Actually, yes they do say that – although I’ve never heard any of them compare, "salvation without the second blessing," to what you got through John’s baptism. But it would boil down to exactly that in the end.
At some point, we are tempted to ask what those who hold to the charismatic position believe the new birth IS? According to Jack Hayford, as we quoted, it is an indwelling of Christ through the Holy Spirit. It is also power to have Jesus made real to me. But it is NOT the fullness of the Spirit, or the potential for the power of Jesus to happen through me. In short, the charismatic position teaches that you are be born again a new creation in Jesus Christ, and LACK the fullness of spiritual life. My question, of course, would be, "If the fullness of spiritual life isn’t found in Christ, then where is it found?" In a second blessing?
Hopefully, we are beginning to see some potential dangers in the charismatic position. Once I turn any part of the Christian experience into one I must find outside of the living Christ who dwells in me, I am heading down the wrong path. And we see evidence of that wrong path everywhere today. The work of the Spirit has become a MOVEMENT -- a THING God is doing – instead of a PERSON God is revealing and building in each one of us. Christianity is CHRIST IN US. It is not an experience, even of the Holy Spirit, that is apart from Jesus.
The In-Between Condition
Now, all of this Truth about the baptism of John is vital to grasp if we are to understand some of the other events in the book of Acts. For example, there were people in the books of Acts, after Acts 2, who had been saved, but who had not received the baptism with the Holy Spirit. Some of them had never heard of the Holy Spirit. What about them? And what does their condition tell us about the baptism with the Holy Spirit?
The reason it is important to see this is that those who hold the charismatic position almost always point to these people as proof that the baptism with the Holy Spirit is a second blessing. They say that these people in Acts were saved – already had Christ in them. But they were not baptized with the Holy Spirit – the second blessing. They often say that this shows that such a condition is possible for Christians today.
Well, we simply need to read the accounts. It clearly states that the salvation these folks had received was John’s baptism. So we are not dealing there with people who were saved by receiving Jesus Christ, and as a result, already had Christ dwelling in them through the Holy Spirit. No. We are reading about people who were saved under the Old Covenant – through John’s baptism – and had received the legal standing before God that this baptism had afforded them. But they still needed -- not a SECOND blessing – but for the Spirit to birth them anew for the FIRST time through the INDWELLING that was now possible since Acts 2.
Just briefly, let’s look at these accounts:
Account #1: Cornelius and the Gentiles of Caesarea
While Peter yet spoke these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word. And they of the circumcision which believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost. For they heard them speak with tongues, and magnify God. Then answered Peter, Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we? And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. Then prayed they him to tarry certain days. (Acts 10:37-48)
I want to add to this passage, Peter’s own account of it when he told it to others:
And as I began to speak, the Holy Ghost fell on them, as on us at the beginning. Then remembered I the word of the Lord, how that he said, John indeed baptized with water; but you shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost. Forasmuch then as God gave them the like gift as he did unto us, who believed on the Lord Jesus Christ; what was I, that I could withstand God? When they heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified God, saying, Then has God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life. (Acts 11:15-18)
There is nothing in this account that even mentions the possibility that the Gentiles in question were already born again. Cornelius was said to be a godly man – but the fact that after the Spirit came upon them they still needed baptism by water shows that these folks were not even saved by John’s baptism under the Old Covenant. How could they be? They were Gentiles.
The order in this account is reversed – baptism with the Holy Spirit first, and then baptism in water. This certainly shows that it is not the water baptism itself that saves, otherwise the Spirit could not have fallen on them before water baptism – when they believed on the Lord Jesus. God looks at the heart of faith, not at the outward testimony of baptism.
This account does present a problem for the charismatic position. You will notice in Peter’s account of this event in Acts 11 that he says that God had granted the Gentiles, "repentance unto life," when they, "believed on the Lord Jesus Christ." But if you just read his account it becomes clear that he is saying that they received this LIFE when the Spirit fell on them – indeed, he is referring to this GIFT OF NEW LIFE as the result of, "the Holy Ghost falling upon them, as on us at the beginning." Clearly, Peter knew that the baptism with the Holy Spirit was LIFE WITHIN -- an indwelling that resulted in the new birth.
The problem here for the charismatic position is that there is no mention of these folks being saved before the Spirit came upon them. Rather, the Spirit coming upon them is spoken of AS their salvation. They heard the Word, believed on Christ, and the Spirit came upon them. THEN they were baptized in water.
Account #2: Disciples of John the Baptist at Ephesus
He said unto them, Have ye received the Holy Ghost since you believed? And they said unto him, We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost. And he said unto them, Unto what then were ye baptized? And they said, Unto John's baptism. Then said Paul, John verily baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying unto the people, that they should believe on him which should come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus. When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Ghost came on them; and they spoke with tongues, and prophesied. (Acts 19:2-6)
These disciples had not received the Holy Spirit since they believed? But WHAT did they believe? Well, they tell us – they believed John’s baptism. So they were saved under the Old Covenant at this point, but had not even heard about salvation through the new birth. Once they did hear the Word, they believed on Christ, and were baptized in water. They were then given the gift of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit – new life in Christ.
Account #3: Those of Samaria
Now when the apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John: Who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost: (For as yet he was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.) Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost. (Acts 8:14-17)
This account is a little more difficult to understand, given the fact that it says that these people, "were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus." This was obviously water baptism, because the whole point was that they still needed to be baptized with the Holy Spirit. But the question is -- Why could they be baptized in the name of Jesus, and yet still need to receive the Holy Spirit? Doesn’t this prove that the baptism with the Spirit is a second blessing, wholly distinct from salvation?
This passage does NOT say these people were, "saved in the name of Jesus." It says that they were BAPTISED in His name – and baptism, even in the name of Jesus, doesn’t birth anyone from above, even today. The fact that the passage never mentions salvation seems significant. The point is, they were NOT born again – under the New Covenant – for they had NOT yet received the new birth from above. They had simply received the Word of God, and had been baptized in the name of Jesus – which was nothing more than John’s baptism.
But note: What we have here is really proof that it is entirely possible to pass through baptism as a religious exercise, but to not be born again because you really don’t see the whole Truth about Jesus Christ, or put your faith in Him. These folks may have put their faith in the religious exercise of their baptism, instead of in the Person of Christ. Even today people do this very thing.
If we had never heard of the teaching of the second blessing, and therefore didn’t read that doctrine into this passage, I truly believe that the explanation I have just given would be the only conclusion possible. It makes sense. These folks had received what amounted to John’s baptism – in their case they had been baptized in Jesus’ name. But they had not truly come to Christ and been born again until later.
Water baptism never saves anyone. Indeed, we saw earlier that it is even possible to be born again by the Spirit, but not yet be baptized in water. Cornelius and his Gentile friends were born again first, and then baptized in water later. They were saved, "by grace through faith in Christ," but they had not yet passed through the SYMBOLIC ACT of being baptized in water. But this PROVES that baptism in the name of Jesus does nothing to save you. Thus, there is no basis upon which we can demand that these people of Samaria were truly saved, simply because they were baptized in the name of Christ. Indeed, if we read the passage, it really PROVES they were not saved at all. That is really the whole point of the passage – they still needed to be born again. Once we stop trying to use this passage to support the doctrine of the second blessing, it really isn’t that difficult to explain.
These three instances in Acts are the ones used by the charismatic position to prove that it is possible to be saved, but to still LACK the baptism with the Holy Spirit. But you can see that these accounts do not prove anything close to that. Couple this with the fact that not once in the epistles is the need for a second blessing mentioned, nor is any teaching given to encourage Christians to seek it, and you have what amounts to dead silence from the Bible on a doctrine that millions are right now believing. Indeed, you have much teaching and many examples that absolutely contradict the doctrine of the second blessing.
A Transition Time
Just imagine if you were a Jew of that day who had known only the baptism of John. Or perhaps you were a Gentile who had been denied access to even that provision. Add to that the fact that you had not been among the 120 in the upper room. What would be your spiritual condition?
Well, you would be lacking the baptism with the Holy Spirit that God gave to those 120 in the upper room. You may have received John’s baptism for the remission of sins under the Old Covenant, but you would be ignorant that there was anything MORE or NEW that had come about through Jesus Christ. And if you were a Gentile, you would be totally ignorant of of these Truths.
Get what I am saying. What was given in the upper room was THE BLESSING – not a second blessing. It was the coming of the Comforter – the coming of Jesus Christ through the Spirit to INDWELL His people. It was the new birth of those people, and consequently, the birth of the church. But you weren’t there. Maybe you had never heard about it. So you perhaps did receive the baptism of John, and had received legal salvation. But that is all you know. You aren’t born again – you don’t have Christ in you.
Now what are you supposed to do? Well, you have to receive the baptism with the Holy Spirit, don’t you? Sure. But is this a second blessing? No. Why? Because you were never born again – you never received THE BLESSING. Thus, what you need to do is see the Truth about new life in Christ and receive the one and only blessing He wants to give you. This is exactly what those 120 people did in the upper room, and it is exactly what those people received in the accounts we read from the book of Acts – they came out of the Old Covenant provision for salvation and entered into new life through Jesus Christ.
Of course, it is now easy to see the charismatic error. They have taken what happened in Acts and completely misinterpreted it. In error, they have made salvation under the Old Covenant in Acts correspond to today’s new birth, and have made the baptism with the Holy Spirit in Acts correspond to what they believe is a second blessing today. But once we see that salvation prior to Acts 2 was under the Old Covenant, and is NOT the same as the new birth today, everything else becomes adjusted, and in fact, the charismatic position collapses completely.
The Truth is, if you were not in the upper room in Acts 2, you were not born again. You still needed the baptism with the Holy Spirit – but not as a SECOND blessing. You needed it as THE BLESSING. You needed to put your faith in the Person of Jesus Christ and become born again through the Holy Spirit.
We have already seen three examples in Acts where people did do this. I want to look at one more:
And a certain Jew named Apollos, born at Alexandria, an eloquent man, and mighty in the scriptures, came to Ephesus. This man was instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in the spirit, he spoke and taught diligently the things of the Lord, knowing only the baptism of John. And he began to speak boldly in the synagogue: whom when Aquila and Priscilla had heard, they took him unto them, and expounded unto him the way of God more perfectly. And when he was disposed to pass into Achaia, the brethren wrote, exhorting the disciples to receive him: who, when he was come, helped them much which had believed through grace: (Acts 18:24-27)
Apollos was, "mighty in the scriptures." He was, "instructed in the way of the Lord." He was likewise, "fervent in the spirit," meaning his own human spirit. He taught many. But it says that he knew ONLY the baptism of John. So he was saved under John’s baptism, under the Old Covenant, but knew NOTHING of the new birth through the baptism with the Holy Spirit.
Clearly, there were quite a few people in this condition. They were NOT born again in Christ, but were still under the Old Covenant provision of John’s baptism. They had some, "catching up to do."
Now what this tells us is that much of the book of Acts records events during a time of transition in the plan of God. God didn’t just go, "zap!," and reprogram people’s thinking and their traditions. In fact, it was quite a struggle to get even converted Jews to discard the trappings of the Old Covenant. How much more difficult it was to get them to accept Gentiles into the church! This was going to take some time. And Acts records that time -- roughly between 30 A.D. and 65 A.D.. As we are seeing, part of this process was to bring people over from the basis of John’s baptism – which gave them legal salvation under the Old Covenant – to bring them into the reality of new birth through the Spirit in Jesus Christ.
You never read of a new birth in the Old Testament. You read only about the Holy Spirit being with people, or upon people, but never IN PEOPLE. Now, the new birth is pictured in the Old Covenant in types and shadows. But it is never a reality for people IN THIS LIFE.
This does not mean, as some have protested, that the Old Testament teaches another way of salvation. No. The OT teaches the same way of salvation through Jesus Christ. But the experience of God’s people IN THIS LIFE was not what it would be after Acts 3. Go back and once again read Colossians 1:26-27. Christ in us was a Truth and an experience not known before Acts 2.
So with regards to this second blessing question, Acts describes events that happened during an, "in between time" – a transition time -- in the plan of God. In Acts, people were not receiving a SECOND blessing in addition to salvation. No. They were receiving salvation itself through the new birth in Jesus Christ. This was the ONE and ONLY blessing.
These people were in a unique condition -- a condition that would never be possible again. For once everyone who had only been baptized for the remission of sins by John finally discovered and received the baptism with the Holy Spirit, there would no longer be anyone who was in this, "in between," condition. Thus, everyone who was saved AFTER that could receive the full baptism of the Holy Spirit from the start – resulting in the new birth. They could receive the ONE and ONLY blessing in Christ.
The baptism with the Holy Spirit – which is the coming of the Comforter – is our baptism into Christ. It is the means by which Christ is in us. It is salvation, the new birth, and our baptism into the Body of Christ. It is also the means by which we receive all of the spiritual gifts, empowerment for service, and the dynamic by which we are formed together with Christ, and become His witnesses. To try to break up this ONE baptism into separate experiences is not only error, but it causes great division among the people of God. Likewise, to reject any part of what this ONE baptism holds, such as the spiritual gifts, causes harm to the Body of Christ. God wants us to realize that we are, "all one in Christ Jesus." (Gal. 3:28)
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Christianity is an experience. It had better be. If you have repented and been born again, you have had the single greatest experience possible. You have been born again from above. That is an awesome thing. And there are going to be dimensions of that experience that continue to grow all through your lifetime.
There is much about the Christian experience that we must accept by faith. By that I mean that there is much that we might not be conscious of, and much that we might not be able to say we have tangibly experienced. And yet we believe it is the Truth because the Bible says so, or because God has made us to know it is the Truth. But this does not mean that we will never be able to experience real evidence in ourselves that Christ is in us. In fact, the Bible says that THE evidence of the Truth is Christ in us. This tells me that at some point we are going to be conscious that Christ is in us – we are going to notice change, and going to notice life. This possibility is, of course, a matter of growth over the course of time.
Let’s face it, if we are to KNOW HIM – we are going to be conscious of Him to a greater or lesser degree. How could you KNOW Christ – the way the Bible means it – but never really be conscious that He is in you? Sure, you could know facts about Him – in which case your whole Christian experience would be in your brain. But to KNOW HIM, according to the Bible, means to experience Him. That tells me that despite the great need for faith, that there is a very real experience for the Christian – one that is fully Biblical, but an experience nevertheless.
The trouble is, we are entirely capable of being mistaken about our experiences. It is possible to sincerely believe an experience is of God, when it is NOT. It is likewise possible to misinterpret an experience which IS of God, and make it mean something other than God intended. And it is possible to experience God, but to be so doubtful of our own perception, that we don’t dare believe it is God. Of course, it is also possible for God to deal with us, but for us to be so hard of heart that we refuse to admit it was God. All these and more are possible for anyone of us. But in the end, our Christian walk is to be based on faith – and not on experiences. But – experiences DO happen, and when they do, we have to deal with them, and interpret them. How? We need to start by realizing that we must never interpret the Bible through our experiences. Rather, our experiences are to be interpreted by the Bible. This is so, no matter how much this may clash with our personal agenda or religious teaching.
Certainly this is the case with the doctrine of the second blessing. If the Bible does not teach that we need a second blessing, then it does not mean that those who believe in it, or think they have experienced it, are not Christians. It does not mean they are possessed by an evil spirit. But it does mean that they are WRONG about what they believe on this matter. They are wrong no matter how profound an experience they have had. The experience may have been real, but in that case, they are wrongly defining it. They need to get back to what the Bible says.
Some Christians cannot face the ramifications of admitting they could be wrong about these matters. To them, that would mean that God allowed them to be deceived on a matter of great importance, and if that is the case, then WHAT ELSE might they be deceived about? Such a suggestion shakes the faith of many Christians, and they recoil back into whatever position makes them feel comfortable.
But we need to ask: Do we want the Truth or don’t we? And if we DO want the Truth, we need to realize that initially the Truth is going to disturb our errors and wrong interpretations! The Truth is going to disturb US! What else do we think is going to happen? If Christianity were merely a list of teachings to follow, it would be difficult enough to admit error and accept the Truth. But we are here talking about the very life that is in us. Truth is going to disturb that – our life; our basis for living – our entire concept of God Himself. It is going to cut through US. But this is not bad news. It is good news. Instead of growing fearful or resentful because we were deceived, we ought to give God thanks because He has shown us the Truth.
If I lose faith in God because I now realize that I was deceived on some important matter, then my faith was not really in God, but in my beliefs about Him. Many Christians set up their principles, religious agenda, and beliefs about God as the object of their faith. And when the Holy Spirit begins to disturb those, they get fearful, angry, or shaky. But these things are never to be the object of our faith. My religious beliefs are not the Truth. Jesus Christ is the Truth. My faith is never to be in what I believe ABOUT God. My faith is to be in God Himself. Much of what God is doing in these important matters is to adjust us upon the right basis. He wants to show us the Truth, and He wants to center our faith in the Person of Christ.
We are seeing that there is no second blessing. Thus, if you and I have had experiences that seem to affirm that there is a second blessing, we do not necessarily need to completely discard the experience, or chalk it up to deception. No. We simply need to redefine it. We need to redefine it according to the Bible.
In this chapter I want to talk about Christian experiences. I want to talk about why, despite the fact that there is NO second blessing -- why some Christians seem to have an experience, or a touch of God, when they pray for it. And I want to talk about why some Christians seem to have NO discernable experience in such cases. And I want to talk about experiences in general – and how God wants us to approach them.
God is Loving
God wants to reveal Himself to us. He wants us to experience the fullness of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, if this is what WE desire, I don’t think God is going to wait and demand that our theology is perfect before He will bring us on in Christ. I’m not suggesting that if we are walking in rank heresy, that God won’t care. No. But I am saying that often God will give us a revelation or a touch of Himself – in order to encourage us -- even if we don’t truly understand how the Bible defines our experience.
Actually, we have good precedent for saying this. Do we really think that the disciples knew what was about to happen to them in Acts 2? No. They knew that they were to tarry for, "the promise of the Father," the Holy Spirit. But did they really understand what this meant? I don’t think so – for on the Mount of Olives, only ten days before the Spirit did come, they were still thinking in terms of a physical kingdom. Furthermore, do we really think they had a clue about speaking in tongues? No. This was all new to them – for it was the first time the Spirit had ever come to dwell in anyone.
Of course, once Acts 2 arrived, the disciples went to the Bible for God’s explanation of what was going on. That is what we are supposed to do. Thus, even if we initially do not understand our experience, or perhaps interpret it in error, we are still to go to scripture. We are to seek God for His mind on the matter – rather than insist that we know.
So we see that God wants us to know the Truth. But sometimes, if He sees our heart is right, He will give us an experience – even if we misinterpret it at first. Sometimes He will bypass our ignorance if He sees it suits this purpose in our lives.
Here we find one explanation of why people pray for a second blessing, and sometimes DO seem to receive a touch of God. God may indeed have touched them. But if God does touch them, it is not a second blessing. He is just encouraging them to walk in the Holy Spirit fullness that was ALWAYS in them from the start.
God is so loving. Because we are not taught correctly about the baptism with the Holy Spirit, we may approach Him with a wrong definition of what we are praying for. And God may touch us – He may honor our desire for Him. But in that case, if we are saved, our problem was not that we LACKED Holy Spirit fullness. No. We just lacked the knowledge, and maybe even the faith, to be able to walk in it. So God bypasses our ignorance or error and blesses us. But again, this is not a second blessing. It is nothing more than a moving of God to encourage us to walk in the fullness we received when we received Christ.
Now, it is also possible that God will NOT touch us. This is not because there is something wrong with us. There may be NO explanation – but in that case God did not want to give us what we prayed for. Maybe He wants us to see the Truth about Holy Spirit fullness being given at the new birth, and not touching us is the way He sees will serve that goal the best.
It is also possible that God has NOT to touched us, but because we expect Him to touch us, or because we have been taught HOW TO ACT on such an occasion, that we will react in a way that makes it seem as if we have received a touch of God. Perhaps we will get very emotional, or even mistake a soulish response for the Holy Spirit. This happens more than we think.
It has been my observation that most people act the way they do when they think the Spirit is on them because they have been taught to act that way. They haven’t necessarily been coached by others directly – but even THIS has been done. Usually the way they learn is by observing others who act the same way. This pattern just goes on and on, and before you know it, it is THE WAY people by the thousands act when they think the Holy Spirit is upon them. In time, it becomes what amounts to a learned pattern. It becomes, "the way people act when under the Holy Spirit."
One good example of this is the practice of being, "slain in the Spirit." Many people fall down because they believe they are supposed to fall down. Sometimes they just don’t want to stand there as the only one who doesn’t fall. Other times, they think that if they don’t go down they are resisting the Holy Spirit. And then there are the very REAL times that people do fall down – but it is not necessarily the Holy Spirit doing this to them. There is great power in the psychic realm and often this comes into play – and it feels like it is the Spirit of God.
But all of this being said, we dare not set up our experiences, or our interpretation of them as Truth. It doesn’t matter how real our experience SEEMED, or how real it actually WAS, the Bible tells us to, "test the spirits." The first way to test them is by asking, "What does the Bible say about this?" Obviously, if we are told in the Bible, "to test the spirits to SEE if they are of God," it is possible that we could have experiences that were NOT of God!
You will notice from above that I mentioned three important questions about experience: First, are they of God? Second, even they are of God, have I interpreted them correctly? And third, have I reacted to any experience according to the Truth? I want to discuss these questions about experiences having to do with the baptism with the Holy Spirit.
First, is my experience OF GOD? Whether an experience is of God is a vital question. When we ask that question, we are really asking, "Is God in this? Did He do something? Is God touching people?" That is one question. As it pertains to those who claim dramatic results in praying for the baptism with the Holy Spirit, the question is, "Was my experience REAL. Did Jesus actually baptize me?"
Those who claim dramatic experiences as the result of praying for the baptism are usually convinced, on the basis of their experience, that they WERE baptized, and thus, the baptism of the Holy Spirit MUST be a second blessing. After all, they usually reason, they asked God to baptism them with His Spirit, and something happened! But this is a classic example of how to read your experience INTO the Bible. God does only that which is in agreement with the Bible, and therefore if you want to know what your experience means, you must go there. If you do, you will find that there is no second blessing. Your experience, if it really was of God, was merely His encouragement to get you to walk in the fullness of the Spirit that you already had in Christ..
If you doubt this, you must come to terms with WHY many who pray for the baptism with the Holy Spirit have NO discernable experience. NOTHING seems to happen. How about them? If your experience PROVES there is a second blessing, then their lack of experience would prove there ISN’T – unless you want to say God refused to give them the second blessing! Again – the only way to define these things is by going to the Bible.
In my younger days, I saw many people who prayed for the second blessing claim a great touch of God, while many others claimed they felt NOTHING. In fact, I have been present when three or four people were all together in one place, and were all prayed for at once for the second blessing. In one case, one of them went into, "a holy fit," while the others sitting right beside him felt nothing! This was the same prayer, by the same people, at the same occasion. How do we explain this if EXPERIENCE is the proof?
We can’t. The only answer is that the experience of people on those occasions PROVES NOTHING. And once we admit that fact -- that the experiences people have, or don’t have, prove NOTHING – we must return to scripture. For it emerges in its rightful place as our final guide for all that purports to be of God.
So our first question was: Is our experience of God? We now see that the experience itself cannot be used to test the experience. No. We must test the experience against the Word of God – with an open heart, in prayer. Only then will we have our answer.
This means that if I have had a dramatic experience that I thought was a second blessing, it was NOT. That doesn’t mean I don’t have Holy Spirit fullness, or that I am terribly deceived. Not at all. All it means is that I now know the Truth about what happened when I prayed in ignorance. And that is something for which to give God thanks. He is showing me the Truth!
The Second Question
This really brings us to the second of our three questions: How do I interpret my experience, or lack thereof? Usually, I will interpret it the way I’m taught to interpret it. If I’m told that God is going to baptize me when I pray, then I’m going to expect that, and if I get dramatic results, well, then I will believe I got what I prayed for. I will be convinced that I received the baptism with the Holy Spirit – and I will probably set this up as a doctrine in which I believe.
But as we are seeing, there can be many other explanations for such an experience – but one of them is NOT that there is a second blessing. One possible reason for my reaction to what is happening might be emotions. People have reactions at rock concerts that are similar to those that some Christians have at prayer meetings. This has nothing to do with whether God is doing something, nor does it define WHAT He is doing. It doesn’t mean it is of the Devil either, but is perhaps in the soul realm – which is more possible and REAL than any of us can imagine.
Now, don’t misunderstand. I’m not saying that emotional reactions are evil. No. If God actually touches you, it is ok to react emotionally. But what I am saying is that we ought not mistake our emotional reaction for the Spirit of God. No – emotions are reacting elements. Our emotions may REACT TO a touch of God, or to what we think is a touch of God. But our emotion feelings are not God! The danger is when we begin to think that they ARE God. We might substitute for the Spirit of God with our emotions. This can lead to deception on a number of levels.
Emotions are of the soul, or psychic realm. There are signs, wonders, and powerful manifestations possible on a PSYCHIC level. You can feel as if you have been touched by God, become all tingly all over, and even feel great elation – and it is nothing more than the psychic realm. It is you reacting to what you think is happening – whether it is or not. This doesn’t mean there are evil spirits directly at work. It just means that it is quite easy for any of us to mistake soul for the Holy Spirit.
Again – how are we to interpret our experience? By what we are told? By how others act? By what we feel? No. We are to interpret our experiences by the Bible. Stray from that and we are on dangerous ground without an unbiased witness of the Truth.
The Charismatic Movement
Let’s step aside for a moment. Most who call themselves, "charismatic," will not be willing to initially accept what I am writing about the second blessing. To them, if there is not a second blessing, then the whole charismatic movement is in question – and to them, this is an unacceptable possibility. Many have been taught the charismatic position on this matter, and will not consider that it could be wrong. Even more importantly, they may have had some wonderful experiences that they believe were of the Holy Spirit. They may interpret what I am saying about the second blessing as an invalidation of those experiences. Or they may grow fearful of what it might mean if they do open to the possibility that what I am teaching is the Truth. I have known of folks who have lost faith in God because they could not accept that He would allow them to operate under error on these matters. For some reason, it escapes them that ought to be thankful that He is now showing them the Truth.
Do we actually think that this is the ONLY matter about which we can be wrong? I’ve got news – there may be much more where that came from. We are at least totally ignorant on so many issues.
The idea that if God is faithful, and my Christianity is real, that God would never allow me to be deceived is nonsense for a number of reasons. First of all, it isn’t God’s fault. Deception, and what draws us into it, is already IN US. Sometimes God allows it because it is the only way He can take us right where we are, and show us the error that is in our hearts. Then we can get free. Furthermore, it is silly to think that God never allows His people to be deceived. On this matter of the second blessing it is clear that SOMEONE is deceived, because the positions are at opposite ends of the spectrum. And yet all would claim that God has told them the Truth.
The point is this: Before we complain to God about the fact that He allowed us to be deceived, we need to ask ourselves whether we actually read the Bible. Or did we just go along with the crowd, or trust our experiences? And more importantly, when there began to be doubt in our hearts about what we believed, did we seek the Truth from God with all of our hearts, no matter the cost? Or did we just fall back into what felt comfortable? Either way, if God has allowed us to be deceived on any matter, it was not because He was trashing us. It was because it was necessary in the long run – that through the folly of our own blindness we might repent and see the Truth.
To be wrong about the second blessing does not necessarily invalidate your experiences with God. It just redefines them – it means none of them were a second blessing. So what? Aren’t you still able to be the same you, walking with the same God, only now you know the Truth about this matter? I would suggest, with all due respect, that if my faith falters because I discover I was wrong about the second blessing, that this proves my faith was not really in Christ, but in my beliefs about the second blessing! Our faith is only as strong as the foundation upon which it is built. If your faith rests in Christ, you will stand despite discovering you have been in error on ANY MATTER. Besides, the Christian life is one of unlearning error and seeing the Truth. We have to come to terms with these possibilities.
Furthermore, I would never say that if someone is involved in the charismatic movement – even if they are involved in some of the extremes – that they are an evil person. No. They are simply deceived on certain matters. They need the Truth. Furthermore, there are many wonderful charismatic Christians and leaders. They may believe error about the second blessing, but many nevertheless walk in the fullness of the Spirit.
In contrast, those who reject the charismatic movement often cannot say that they walk in the fullness of the Spirit. They often walk in dead religion. They reject many spiritual gifts, and reject any experience as possibly of God. They are as much deceived as are those who wrongly live in experiences – for they are living in their refusal of experiences. And often, they are very arrogant about it.
So my point is this: Are we walking with Christ? Are we seeking the Truth? That is what is important – even if we think we received a second blessing. Even if we haven’t.
Now, it is true that the current charismatic movement is becoming a melting pot for heresy and error. Because the Person of Jesus Christ has taken a back seat to the movement itself – to the movement as a THING God is doing -- and because spiritual experiences have taken precedent over Biblical Truth, the enemy has gained a foothold. You see, once you say that we are not complete in Christ, and seek an additional experience, you are opening yourself for that which is NOT of Christ. This is the warning of Colossians. And this is the real danger of believing there is a necessary second blessing – that Christians will begin to live in that which is NOT of Jesus Christ – but which is of another spirit.
Now, someone is bound to say, "How can you say that things like the Welch Revival, and the revival of Azusa Street, were not of God?" I’m not saying that. I am saying that those things were not a second blessing. Those portions of those revivals that WERE of God were a manifestation of God, and a move of God, for that time in those people. There were also portions that definitely were NOT of God! God does not deposit Himself into THINGS or movements. No. Rather, God is in people through Christ.
The point is this: God does not start a, "movement," and then commit Himself to IT – no matter what. God is not in THINGS called, "movements." God is in His Son – and His Son is in us. Therefore, even if God did start any of these revivals and movements, the moment they forsook the centrality of Christ, God was no longer working in them. The trouble is, people try to keep them going regardless. They point back to all the things God did at the beginning and think that this proves He is still doing those things NOW. This is utter nonsense because it is precisely what it means to turn God into a movement. It is why people end up being filled with error and hurtful spiritual deception.
Do we realize that despite the fact that God began the church in Acts 2, that in less than fifty years, much of it had gotten totally off the track? The PERSON of Christ had become decentralized, and religion about Christ had taken over. People organized into groups, movements, and churches – and thought that this was IT! They had the right THING. God has begun IT, and He would always we in IT. But there is no, "IT." There is only Christ in US. And once Christ in us is no longer the concern of people, God is not with them. And it doesn’t not matter how big of an IT or a THING they have built in the name of Christ. If this could happen to the early church, we need to warm up to the concept that it can happen NOW.
One of the greatest enemies to the life of Christ is when people turn a church, or a movement, into a THING. This is what the early church did and it became a religious monster within 250 years. When people make the life of Christ into a THING – even if they say the THING is of God – the THING will begin to replace Christ the Person. People begin to get excited about the THING, instead of Christ in them. Then THING begins to be what God is doing, instead of God’s real goal: Christ.
We MUST get away from the, "movement mentality." God does not do THINGS or start MOVEMENTS that you must JOIN, lest you miss out. Today many charismatic leaders talk as if they have IT, and you have to come to them to get IT – to be imparted with IT. Where is the PERSON of JESUS – in each individual -- in all of this?
I think that it is in this, "movement mentality," that we find a real danger in the doctrine of the second blessing. Once I divorce any part of the Christian experience from the Person of Christ, I am turning it into a THING God is doing, instead of a dimension of the Person of Christ. It can then take on a life of it’s own – because it is not a product of HIS LIFE. In time, great error will characterize any movement that becomes a THING – it will become error because it has been separated from the Truth Himself.
In the charismatic movement today, people are convinced that IT – note that word: IT – people are convinced that IT is of God because of the success. And because they are part of a successful IT, they believe that they are chosen of God, blessed of God, and could not possibly be deceived. And yet the error here is at the root: There is no IT. There is just HIM, and us. Indeed, Christianity is CHRIST IN US.
This Truth, Christ in us, is the very definition of Christianity. But it has been almost completely discarded within the charismatic movement today. They do speak of Jesus in terms of Savior. And they do talk about THINGS that God will do for you. But how often do you actually hear them teach about the reality of Christ in us? Especially as THE priority of God in His people? No. Rather, the emphasis is by far upon the THING God is doing, the movement He has them in, and the power they all have for signs and wonders. And more and more we are hearing about a THING called, "the anointing," that they can impart to you, if you plug into their ministry.
This is all deception. And really, it is the only place things CAN go once you turn Christianity into a THING you have, or an IT that you have – in the form of a second blessing that others do NOT have. God would have us obey Colossians and come back to the Person of Christ, and realize that there is NOTHING outside of Him that God has for us. We are complete in Him.
God has never done a new THING – not since Acts 2. Since Acts 2, God has been doing the SAME THING – seeking to reveal Christ to us. Christianity is not a THING or an IT or a MOVEMENT. Christianity is CHRIST in us. And since Acts 2, Christ is ALL God has been concerned with. Thus, unless Jesus is the GOAL and CENTER of a supposed movement, then it cannot be OF GOD! Unless the end product of a movement is to, "present each person mature in Christ," then it is NOT of God.
I don’t know if we really grasp that – grasp the absolute necessity of Christ as the center. The NT is filled with it – as teaching, warnings, and as the very test for where the Holy Spirit is working.
The Third Question
Ok. Back to our questions. So far we’ve talked about whether our experience is of God, and we’ve talked about how we interpret it – even if it is. The third question is: How do we react to our experience?
It is here that we can come back to these prayers for the second blessing – or really to any supposed work of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit does not cause anyone to have a dramatic emotional reaction. The Holy Spirit doesn’t ACT UPON PEOPLE and make them react. The Holy Spirit never takes anyone over and cause compulsive reactions No, no, no. Dramatic reactions are caused by people – people react to what God is doing for them, or to what they THINK God is doing. This is ALWAYS the case – even if those who react say otherwise. Again -- the Holy Spirit NEVER takes a person over, or makes them do things. Thus, even if God is touching someone, they are producing the reaction, not God.
Paul told the Corinthians, "The spirit of the prophets is subject to the prophets." He told them this as part of his correction to them about all the confusion going on in their church. People were speaking in tongues all at once and God knows what else. Paul was telling them that God was not the author of this confusion. He was telling them that they COULD stop this, and that they MUST stop it. He said, "Do all things decently and in order."
I submit that Paul would not give them this command if they were not able to control themselves. Indeed, I submit that he would not give them this command if they were not SUPPOSED to control themselves. You bet they were able to stop reacting in a way that caused confusion! And that command stands for us today. We do not have to react emotionally in a way that causes confusion – or in a way that substitutes for the touch of the Holy Spirit. And despite the fact that it is ok to feel – we are not supposed to act like crazy people.
Once we see this, we will see that it is possible for all kinds of crazy things to happen – and God may not have anything to do with those reactions. They are of people. And I’m talking here about those occasions where God is actually touching someone. It is also possible for dramatic reactions to take place when God isn’t doing ANYTHING! – because again, the people produce the reactions!
What this clearly tells us is that REACTIONS are not proof of anything. And really, do not our reactions constitute most of our experience? Sure. Thus, reactions and experiences prove nothing. They are mostly produced by people in reaction to what God is doing – if, in fact, God IS doing anything at all on that occasion.
Our third question is, "How do we react to our experiences?" Do we react according to the Truth? – in other words, is our reaction a witness to what is really happening at that point, or is our reaction, "lying," about what God is doing, or not doing? Is it out of control? Does it portray error – does it make God look like He takes people over and makes them act like fools? We need to be focused upon Jesus Christ in these matters, and not on the experience as a THING. If we are, our reaction will be according to the Truth.
Central to our Christian experiences in the Body of Christ are the practice of spiritual gifts. But we do need to come to terms with what the Bible teaches about them. The Bible teaches that all the spiritual gifts are possible where the Holy Spirit dwells in people. The Holy Spirit has not changed. You cannot get around that. I am thoroughly aware of the arguments of those who teach that the so-called sign gifts ceased when the Bible was completed. I’ve read all the books on this and have gone through the Bible. Their arguments don’t hold any more weight than do the arguments of those who claim that the baptism with the Spirit is a second blessing! I have yet to be convinced that this idea that the gifts are done away is even remotely taught in I Cor. 13, as is usually demanded by those who believe they have been done away. And I have yet to be convinced that God inspired entire chapters on spiritual gifts (such as I Cor. 14) when those gifts were to cease even before those chapters could be read by many Christians. I have yet to be convinced that God listed gifts of the Spirit in His inspired Word that He never intended to survive the first century.
I have had people get angry and indignant at the suggestion that tongues, prophecy, or healing could be for today. Most of the time these people base their objections to these gifts upon the abuse and antics of the charismatics. But this is a lame objection for a number of reasons. First of all, those who object to the gifts usually accuse the charismatics of relying on experience rather than scripture. This is a valid charge. But those who object to the gifts are doing exactly the same thing! They are relying on their experience – in this case, upon their LACK of one. They don’t practice or experience the gifts, and so, they assume, those gifts cannot be valid. Furthermore, they are also relying on their experience rather than scripture – because they are denying the possibility of gifts that are listed, taught, and explained in the Bible.
What compounds the problem with these gifts is that despite the fact that all the gifts are possible today, because the Holy Spirit has not changed, it is nevertheless possible for people to be operating in a counterfeit. The fact that all the gifts are POSSIBLE for today does not mean that they are necessarily NORMAL and WIDESPREAD. For example, I do not believe that all people who think they are speaking in tongues are doing so. I base this on the fact that most people who claim to be speaking prophecy end up being wrong, and most people who claim to be healing others are not doing so. So why should I believe that most people who claim to have the gifts of tongues actually do speak in tongues?
The flip side of the counterfeiting of the gifts is found in many non-charismatic churches. They usually reject the possibility of the sign gifts. But if you examine what they believe about the other gifts, you will see that they are operating in a counterfeit! I have been amazed to find that the idea some of these folks have about some of the gifts of the Holy Spirit are nothing more than natural gifts – personality traits, and abilities found in any person, saved or otherwise. Thus, while the charismatics, in their zeal for spiritual experiences, often operate in a counterfeit, the non-charismatics, in their zeal to avoid any spiritual experience, often operate in a counterfeit. BOTH are error and dangerous, because neither are the Truth.
Now, of course, all of this confusion about gifts, and whether they are real, could be cleared up at once if we simply go back to the list of things Jesus said the Holy Spirit would do when He came. Jesus said what the Holy Spirit would do when He came, and therefore, this is what the gifts of the Spirit would do – all working toward producing the fullness of Christ in each believer. THAT is what the gifts DO! Once we test all things by what Jesus said, we will be able to know whether something is real, or a counterfeit.
The Holy Spirit came to glorify, testify of, and reveal Jesus Christ – not only to us, but IN US. The Holy Spirit did not come to reveal Himself. Or to glorify THINGS called, "signs and wonders," or to create emotional experiences. The Holy Spirit came to make Jesus Lord. Period.
All Christian experiences, if they are of God, are intended by God unto that end – Christ. We must test them by the Bible, and not by our reactions. Christianity was never about anything else, or anyone else except the Christ who lives in us.
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Complete in Christ
If I am saved, Christ is in me. Indeed, I am saved BECAUSE Christ is in me. He is MY LIFE. And if I am in Christ, I am a new creation. Old things are passed away, and all things have become new. (see I Cor. 5:17) But according to doctrine of the second blessing, I still lack MUCH. I have no power for service – and I do not have the power of Jesus happening in and through my life. Despite being born again from above, I am NOT complete. Unless I go on to seek a second blessing, I will spend the rest of my life never realizing Holy Spirit fullness.
I mentioned earlier that we are really addressing the very meaning of the new birth. Indeed, we are discussing what it really means for Christ to be IN US. According to the charismatic position, you can have Christ in you, but LACK an entire dimension of God’s intention for you. Now, anyway you want to slice it, this position is saying that we are NOT complete in Christ.
You cannot have it both ways. If it is possible to have Christ in us, yet continue to LACK ANYTHING that God has for us, then we are NOT complete in Christ. The charismatic position is therefore a denial that we are complete in Christ alone. But this is not the Biblical position. My Bible states that we are COMPLETE IN CHRIST. In fact, the Bible makes a point of saying that we need to know that Truth, and stand in it, lest we drift off into error.
Complete in Him
For in him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily. And you are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power. (Col. 2:10)
The epistle to the Colossians was written by the apostle Paul to combat any error that would suggest that we are not COMPLETE IN CHRIST. Paul emphasizes that it is precisely because Christ is IN US that we are COMPLETE IN HIM.
What does it mean to BE COMPLETE IN CHRIST? This is a good question, seeing as how most of us can testify to the fact that we seem to be anything but complete – even as Christians.
The Greek for, "complete," here in Col. 2:10, means, "to be made full. Complete. Not lacking." Nothing too surprising there. And if you read this epistle of Paul, you will see that this is exactly what he wants his readers to understand about Christ in them. He wants them to know that in Christ they possess everything – because HE IS OUR LIFE.
Practically, Paul tells the Colossians that they need not go elsewhere to find answers. They need not turn to the world’s thinking, or to the world’s ways. But he wants them to see even more than that. Paul is addressing BELIEVERS. And a big part of his warnings have to do with believers looking elsewhere for SPIRITUAL solutions. He wants his readers to understand that because Christ is in us, then we have in us all that is in Christ. In each believer, even though it is only potential, and must be developed, there is all that belongs to Jesus Christ.
But what DOES belong to Jesus Christ? Well, plenty. Paul tells us that IN CHRIST are, "all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge." (2:3) We are told that IN CHRIST is all the fullness of God. (1:19, 2:9) In Christ there is VICTORY over the flesh (2:11, 3:5), victory over the enemy (2:15), and the power of the new birth (3:10). These are the realities that are potentially ours in Christ, if we grow in His grace and knowledge.
Note that that these are not merely THINGS God gives us. No. God gives us Christ, and IN HIM are all these things!
Now, it is at this point that we must stop and ask a very important question as it pertains to the charismatic position of the second blessing. We have seen that this position insists that our new birth in Christ is a distinct experience from that of Holy Spirit fullness. In other words, we can be saved – which they rightly define as Christ in us. But we might still lack Holy Spirit fullness because we have not received the second blessing. However, we are reading from Colossians that IN CHRIST are, "all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge." We are reading that we are COMPLETE IN HIM. So let’s ask – if Christ is in us, and we have not received the second blessing, what exactly is it that we LACK?
Well, we don’t lack any treasure of wisdom or knowledge. Nope. For those things are in Christ, and if we are saved, they are in us. Ok. But what about POWER? This is a big item according to the charismatic position. The charismatic position claims that we LACK the power of Christ if we have not received the second blessing. How about POWER?
Well, Paul calls, "Christ, the power of God, and the wisdom of God." (1 Cor 1:24) So, Christ IS power. So if Christ is in us we don’t lack power. Indeed, Christ said that ALL power was given unto Him. In fact, Paul goes on to tell us that CHRIST, "who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption: (1 Cor 1:30)
It doesn’t sound as if we LACK anything if Christ is in us, does it? It sounds as if we really ARE, "complete in Him." And yet the charismatic position continues to claim that Christ in us is distinct from the baptism with the Holy Spirit – and that if we do not receive this second blessing that we will lack POWER for so very much in the Christian life. I think that we are seeing that this is NOT the Truth.
The charismatic position completely contradicts itself on this matter of power – indeed, it is proven to be total error. They say that we lack power if Christ is in us, but we have not received the second blessing. But the Bible states that CHRIST IS POWER! Therefore, it is conclusive that when we receive POWER FROM ON HIGH we are receiving Christ – and this is the one and only gift that God has for us. In Christ we are complete. There is nothing received outside of HIM.
Why is that so difficult to see? Well, it is difficult because people are blinded by their experiences, or what they have been told those experiences mean. We need to realize that the Bible is supposed to interpret our experiences, rather than the other way around. If we would do that, things would become quite clear in a hurry.
Conspicuous by It’s Absence
NOT ONCE in the New Testament epistles do we see any mention of the possibility that we might be saved, but not have the fullness of the Spirit. Not once. Not once is it suggested that there are capacities possible for us only through Holy Spirit baptism, but not possible if we have merely received Christ. No. Why? Because Paul knows that Christ is in us THROUGH the Holy Spirit. We are COMPLETE IN CHRIST. There is no second blessing.
Let’s be honest and practical. If the charismatic position is correct, then right now there are millions of saved people – Christians with Christ in them – but Christians who have NOT received the second blessing. Indeed, if the charismatic position is correct, the majority of Christians during the last two-thousand years have been in exactly that condition. All of these millions have Christ in them, but LACK the fullness of the Spirit – LACK so much that goes with that fullness. Now ask: Is it likely that God would not have directly addressed this possibility if it were, in fact, a possibility? I don’t think so.
For example, in reading the epistle to the Colossians, which is an epistle written to emphasize the Truth that we are complete in Christ, we never find even a hint from Paul that once we receive Christ we need to go on to receive an additional experience of the baptism with the Holy Spirit. No. In fact, the whole point of the epistle is contrary to that thought – Paul wants us to realize that we are COMPLETE IN CHRIST.
The NT epistles address so many possible problems. Romans addresses the problem of being under the law – legalism. Corinthians addresses tons of problems found in the Body of Christ. Galatians talks about falling from grace, and talks about some problems similar to those talked about in Romans. And then there is Colossians, which warns against denying the Truth that we are complete in Christ alone. And some of the other writings, especially of John, show the dangers of not having the Person of Jesus Christ as our life – as our reason for being here. But NOT ONCE do any of these epistles suggest even the possibility that we could be saved, but LACK a second blessing. If such a thing were possible, would God fail to address it? – especially since if it were possible, millions are right now do LACK it? Again – I don’t think so.
But wait. Let’s be fair. The Word of God does not suggest the possibility that we could be saved -- but LACK Holy Spirit fullness through a second blessing. But what about the charismatic error of thinking that you need a second blessing? – what about THAT error? Where is THAT addressed in the Word of God?
Well, almost everywhere. Colossians tells us RIGHT UP FRONT that we are complete in Christ, and that we need to pay heed lest any one tell us otherwise. What in the world do we think that means if it does not mean that we are to beware of teachings exactly like the charismatic position? What do we think that means if it does not mean that we are complete in Christ – and need beware lest anyone tells us we STILL NEED Holy Spirit fullness?
The whole purpose of Colossian is to make us realize we are complete in Christ. God would not leave out the fact that we need to receive an additional experience after receiving Christ – if that were the Truth. Indeed, Colossians was written to combat that very suggestion! When we receive Christ, we receive ALL that God has for us. That is why we are complete in Him.
All In Christ
Clearly, the charismatic position of an additional blessing from God does NOT jive with what we are reading here from God’s Word. No. Christ in us is ALL. There is ONE experience, ONE promise of the Father, and ONE Spirit.
There is one body, and one Spirit, even as you are called in one hope of your calling; One Lord, one faith, one baptism, One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all. But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ. (Eph 4:4-7)
Does it sound like there are TWO experiences? Notice also that the Father is said to be, "in you all," and that immediately, this is also called, "the gift of Christ." Again – there are many terms in the Bible for the SAME experience – the ONE and ONLY experience of salvation. When we receive Christ, we receive ALL – because all is in Christ. We are complete in Him.
I am aware that the charismatic position tries to get around this passage by saying that Paul is talking about the, "baptism OF the Holy Spirit," rather than the, "baptism WITH the Holy Spirit." But that is utter nonsense, and frankly, a lame attempt to read INTO the Bible what isn’t there to begin with. How likely do we think that Paul would say, "There is ONE baptism," if there are really two?
For further verification that the Bible uses all these terms interchangeably to describe the one and only gift of Christ, we need only quote Romans 8:
But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his. And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwells in you. (Rom 8:9-11)
This is a great passage. Note that Paul uses SIX different terms (in boldface) to describe the SAME thing – not different experiences, or different baptisms. No. All of them are describing CHRIST IN US.
The fact that we are complete in Christ, and that there is NO second blessing, was clear right from the start in the book of Acts. In Acts 2 we find the sermon Peter gave – the very FIRST sermon ever given after the baptism of the Holy Spirit. To get the context, however, notice that the sermon was prompted by a question from the crowds. They had seen the miracle of tongues that day, and the other commotion. And so they asked, "What does this mean?" – in other words, they wanted to know what had happened to the disciples of Jesus that day.
Note Peter’s immediate answer:
THIS IS THATwhich was spoken by the prophet Joel; And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams: (Acts 2:16-17)
Peter tells the crowds that what they see and hear is THAT which was prophesied by Joel – that God will, "pour out His Spirit," upon all flesh. Get that. Acts 2, according to Peter, is the fulfillment of that promise of the Father. But let’s continue. What does Peter do next? He preaches a sermon that essentially points out the sin of those people. In fact, you find the essence of the gospel of Jesus Christ all through Peter’s sermon. And the people DO respond. They ask, "What shall we do?" It was a cry for help. Peter’s sermon had brought them to their knees:
Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ. Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? (Acts 2:36-37)
Now, let’s stop for a second. Here was a moment of great crisis. Only a short time before, the disciples had been baptized with the Holy Spirit – the very first time this had ever happened. This caused a big stir. They began to speak in tongues and manifest other signs. The people saw this and wanted to know what was going on. Peter stood up and preached the very first sermon of the church age, and the Holy Spirit brought that big crowd to the point of crisis. They asked, "What shall we do about our guilt?" In effect, they were asking, "What shall we do to be saved?"
How does Peter answer? Does it make sense that he would give an incomplete answer? Or tell them only part of the story. Certainly not. God added to the church that day three thousand of those people. So let’s read precisely what Peter gave them as the answer to the pivotal question, "What shall we do to be saved?"
Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. (Acts 2:38)
Carefully read again Peter’s words. He preaches to them Jesus Christ crucified, raised, and ascended. It is upon THAT basis that He tells them to repent and receive the gift of the Spirit. ONE PROMISE. ONE experience. Repent and receive Christ and YOU WILL receive the Holy Spirit. Period.
We see in Peter’s answer NO hint of the need to first repent, receive Christ, receive an INDWELLING, and then, in addition, the need to receive yet another baptism WITH the Holy Spirit! No. The crowds asked, "What shall we do?" Peter says, "Repent, be baptized, and you shall receive – in other words, IF you repent and believe, this is what is going to happen – you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit."
Do we actually think that Peter would have left OUT the need for a second blessing – if what was happening in Acts 2 WAS a second blessing? And remember – those who teach that the baptism of the Holy Spirit is a second blessing say that the disciples were already born again before Acts 2, and that Acts 2 WAS that second blessing! But this is not what Peters suggests. He suggests that what was happening that day was a fulfillment of God’s promise to pour out His Spirit FOR SALVATION – for an indwelling of CHRIST. There is no thought at all of this being a second blessing. No. It is all about receiving CHRIST through this Holy Spirit baptism.
These people had never been saved to that point. They weren’t asking for a second blessing. They were seeking salvation itself. Peter’s answer is God’s answer to THAT heart cry.
It is utter nonsense to suggest that Peter was offering these people an indwelling without an overflow, or to say that he was offering them an overflow only. They were not saved! What he offered was salvation – which included BOTH the indwelling and the potential for all overflow. Can we see that ALL is being offered in ONE blessing at salvation? All. And why wouldn’t all be offered? Any suggestion otherwise is error.
Note what Peter goes onto say after he tells them to repent and receive the Spirit. He says:
For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call. (Acts 2:39)
Again, ONE promise to those God calls. ONE. Now anyway you want to slice it, if you say that the baptism of the Holy Spirit is a second blessing, and that this is what is happening in Acts 2, you will then have to admit that there is not ONE promise, but TWO. There would be the promise of salvation, but then the promise of the second blessing. Read Acts 2 all over again. Does it really suggest that? No. There is ONE promise – THE promise of the Father – and Peter says that THIS is what the crowds are seeing. He is telling them that this ONE promise is also offered to them. They need to repent and believe, and they will receive that ONE promise.
As I stated in the last chapter, the Bible teaches that there is a baptism with the Holy Spirit. But rather than a, "second blessing," the Bible teaches that the baptism with the Holy Spirit THE ONE AND ONLY BLESSING. It IS SALVATION received WITHIN – that is, the baptism of the Holy Spirit is the reception of CHRIST IN US.
To be BAPTIZED WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT means to be fully immersed in everything Jesus is, and Jesus did, and Jesus wants to do. The Holy Spirit takes everything that is of Jesus and makes Him real in and through us. The end result is that we are witnesses unto Christ. Jesus is Lord to us personally – not just as a fact – but in practice. Included in this is power for service, and all of the potential for spiritual gifts.
Now, there is nothing about any of that purpose that is ADDED to salvation. No. It IS salvation – it is precisely what salvation brings us. If you are saved, you have Christ in you. And if you have Christ in you, you have the fullness of the Holy Spirit – the indwelling and the potential for overflow.
Do we actually think that we could receive the living CHRIST IN US at salvation, but be incomplete? Have no power? My goodness, what do we think receiving Christ means? – nothing more than Old Covenant legal salvation? Unfortunately, many people do think that. But the Bible does not teach this. It is simply not possible that there is an entire dimension of Christian that we continue to lack if ONLY receive Christ. No. Once we possess CHRIST IN US, we possess all that belongs to eternal life – and to say that we don’t is utter nonsense.
Thus, we have this great Truth. The baptism of the Holy Spirit is what you and I receive when we are saved – indeed, it is salvation received. It is CHRIST IN US. There is NO, "second blessing." But this does not do away with a single one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. In fact, what it does is show that the gifts are possible for everyone who is saved.
Have we recognized that the baptism of the Holy Spirit is not a THING we receive? Not an experience? No. It is a PERSON.
The Holy Spirit is the very life of Christ ministered IN US. The Holy Spirit takes everything of Jesus and reveals Him to us, and makes Him able to be experienced. One word captures all of this: Resurrection life. But again, resurrection life isn’t a THING. It is a Person. Jesus said, "I am the resurrection and the life."
Christianity is ONENESS or UNION with God through His Son, Jesus Christ. It is not a legal classification, or a position only. It is LIFE IN CHRIST – because we are one with Him. All of this is ministered by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
Now, I’ve stated all of that to get to this point: When we are born again, it is because we have received a PERSON. When we are baptized by, with, or in – pick your term – the Holy Spirit, we are NOT receiving POWER as a, "THING!" No, we are receiving a Person, whose presence in us IS POWER.
Here’s what I’m getting at: Is it possible to have Christ in us -- resurrection life -- and yet no power? I mean, sure, we might not have power because we are not believing and obeying. But I what I am asking is whether Christ in us – and Him alone -- carries the potential for power? I would hope so. So then why do we need MORE power? – a second blessing? And how, as the proponents of the second blessing claim, is it possible to have power in Christ to the effect that He can be seen in us, but no power to work through us?
If power were a THING, maybe we could say we don’t get it all at salvation. But power is a PERSON, and salvation is that same PERSON. Thus, if we receive the Person of Christ at salvation – and Christ said, "ALL POWER has been given to me, " – then we have all POWER in Him. Sure, we still have to come under His Lordship – we have to live and move practically under His power. But nothing needs to be added – we must live in what we have already been given. We potentially have received all when we receive Christ.
The reason people don’t exhibit power is because they aren’t under the Lordship of Jesus. They are saved, but still living on their own terms. It isn’t a second blessing that they need. It is faith and obedience – and the CROSS – that they need. This is what the Bible teaches.
Another question: Is it possible to receive PART of a PERSON? In other words, can we receive an indwelling of Christ, but not have the POWER? Or the gifts? This is exactly what is being taught by those who demand a second blessing. They are saying that we can be born again, and indwelt by the Holy Spirit – the Person in whom there is all power of resurrection life in Christ – and yet NOT have the fullness. Or much power. We must go on to seek more.
You see, there just isn’t any argument – logically or from scripture – that holds up here. There isn’t a single indication in any of the epistles that remotely suggests that you can receive an indwelling, but not an overflow, or that there is a difference between the baptism OF the Spirit, and the baptism WITH the Spirit. There is not a suggestion that there is less than ALL POWER in Christ.
Furthermore, we NEVER find a hint in scripture to the effect that some Christians HAVE a fullness of the Spirit that others do not have. But what we DO find are Christians who are not living in the fullness of the Spirit that is already given them – because of unbelief, deception, or disobedience. We DO find Christians who are in legalism and dead religion. We find some who are grieving the Spirit, or who have hindered the freedom of the Spirit. But never are we told that any of these problems can be traced back to having received ONLY a first blessing, but not a second. This is because there is NO second blessing to miss. There is only a first blessing – and some people stifle it’s fullness.
I am not invalidating anyone’s experience. There are saved people who pray for the baptism of the Holy Spirit and something happens. But they are not receiving a second blessing. They are experiencing a touch of God, indeed, a release of the Spirit that is already in them. The problem, therefore, is not necessarily a false experience – although I’m sure people have those too. The problem is our interpretation of the experience. Once we put aside what we have been taught and ask, "What does the Bible REALLY teach about this?," we will find that the Bible NO WHERE teaches the baptism as a second blessing. It is always spoken of as synonymous with salvation.
The Holy Spirit is a Person, in whom there is the resurrection power of Jesus Christ. The baptism of the Holy Spirit is therefore not a THING to experience. It is a PERSON to experience – we experience Jesus Christ in the Holy Spirit. We are IMMERSED in the Spirit of God – born of water and Spirit – and as born again creations, sons of God, we inherit ALL that God has for us. And as Paul says to the Colossians: You are COMPLETE IN CHRIST.
In Christ, we receive ALL that God has for us – including Holy Spirit fullness. Of course, the question is bound to arise as to why many Christians don’t seem to manifest Christ, Holy Spirit fullness, or power. This is because in Christ we receive only the potential for all these things. It is only as we grow in Him that we come to actually manifest Him. We have to come under the power of His Cross, and only then is the power of His resurrection released in and through us.
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Witnesses Unto Christ
And, being assembled together with them, commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, said he, you have heard of me. For John truly baptized with water; but you shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence. When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, will you at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel? And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father has put in his own power. But you shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and you shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth. (Acts 1:4-8)
Hopefully, I have clearly stated my position on the baptism with the Holy Spirit. I believe that the baptism with the Holy Spirit is the means by which we receive CHRIST IN US, and that by it all believers are born again. We are complete in Christ, and there is no other experience that God offers. I have also stated that I believe that this baptism with the Holy Spirit carries ALL of the spiritual gifts listed in the Bible, including the possibility of the sign gifts. But now I want to move on into more of what the Bible reveals is the purpose of this one and only blessing of the baptism with the Holy Spirit.
We return to Acts 1, and find Jesus speaking to His disciples of THE PROMISE OF THE FATHER. Jesus told the disciples that day on the Mount of Olives, "You shall receive power when – or, because -- the Holy Spirit comes upon you." We need to understand what Jesus meant, and exactly what the Holy Spirit wants to do in our lives.
You will notice, first of all, that Jesus did not mention one thing the disciples were required to give to God. No. Rather, they were to RECEIVE from God. It is probably accurate to say that most Christians define their Christianity based on what they have to GIVE to God. We think about our service, our works, and our spiritual growth. But while those things are not to be disdained in their proper place, they are NOT the means of receiving from God. They are the RESULTS of HAVING RECEIVED from God what Jesus is promising to His disciples.
A person is not born again – not a Christian – because they have something to give. They are born again because they have RECEIVED something – something eternal with which they were NOT born into this natural world. Everything else in the Christian life is the RESULT of having been born again FROM ABOVE.
Jesus used the word, "power," in this passage. The word Jesus used for POWER was, "dunamus," which basically means, "ability." Jesus was telling them that there would COME UPON THEM – from the outside – POWER. But what POWER? And POWER for what purpose? Jesus told them directly, "You shall receive power because the Holy Spirit comes upon you – power to BE MY WITNESSES."
The common interpretation of this passage is that when the Spirit came the disciples received power for service – i.e., power to witness for Christ. This is often concluded because Jesus said they would be His witnesses – and so we think they were to go out and witness. But the POWER that was promised by Jesus was not merely a power to DO things – like miracles or service for God. It was actually POWER TO BECOME.
Remember: The disciples went out and ministered even before Jesus died – and even cast out demons. They witnesses for Christ. So they didn’t need the baptism with the Holy Spirit for that at all. What they now received in Acts 2 was not power for service, or power to witness. Again -- it was POWER to BECOME A LIVING WITNESS UNTO JESUS CHRIST.
Think about it – I have said that when the Spirit came down in Acts 2 that this was the very first time that the Spirit indwelt anyone. It was, in fact, Jesus Christ Himself coming and making His home in them, through the Holy Spirit. This day was the inauguration of the reality of CHRIST IN US. Now, ask: Isn’t CHRIST IN US the very power that is necessary to become a living witness unto Christ? Sure. We receive Christ in us, and this is supposed to result in Christ being seen through us. That is a witness – Christ seen through us.
Power to Become Witnesses
As I mentioned in an earlier chapter -- POWER is not a thing, but a PERSON. Sure. Christ IS the power of God. Let’s once again quote this verse from I Corinthians:
But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God. (1 Cor 1:24)
Christianity is CHRIST IN US. So why would we think that God would give us POWER for ministry and service, as a THING independent of Christ in us? No. Again, power is not a THING. Power is the resurrection life of Jesus Christ – which is HIS LIFE IN US. His own life through the Holy Spirit was the power that Jesus was promising His disciples would come upon them, "not many days hence."
The ramifications of this Truth are great. For once we see that power is not a THING God hands over to people, but is the LIFE OF CHRIST in us, then we will see that we have NO POWER – except for the will of God. Sure. What? – do we think that the life of Christ in us is going to operate through us CONTRARY to the will of God? No way. Therefore, the power of God is only present for the will of God. Therefore, any power that seems to be present when the will of God, or the Truth of God, is NOT present, is not the power of God. The Holy Spirit came to guide us into all Truth, and to glorify Jesus. Where error is permitted, and man is glorified, or a movement is glorified, there is no power of God. There is only the power of man, or worse.
However, if the power of God through Christ in us will only be present for the will of God, it shows another necessity: That we be personally brought into conformity with the will of God. Now, don’t misunderstand. I am not here talking about DOING the will of God – although that would certainly happen. Rather, I am talking about BECOMING the will of God – about being transformed inwardly to where I function AS a living example of the will of God. And yet isn’t this exactly what it means to be a WITNESS UNTO CHRIST? Sure.
The idea that God hands out power to Christians to use is utter nonsense. No. To use the power of God you have to come under the power of God. But that is really a bad way of saying it. Rather, we ought to that to BECOME a vessel through whom God’s power can flow, you must first submit yourself to God’s power – the power of the Cross. In other words, we have to become those whom God can trust.
In order for us to become living witnesses unto Christ, the Christ within us must be Lord of us. This, we saw, was the very purpose for which the Holy Spirit was given – to make Jesus Lord of us by transforming us inwardly. God is not going to have a bunch of people running around using a THING called, "the power of God," who have not come under the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Boy, is THAT a Truth people need to see in this day and age.
Dependence and Devotion
A witness unto Christ is living evidence of His resurrection. A witness is a living epistle. But don’t think of this in terms of OUR whiteness or good works – because if you do, you will never grasp this. No. A living witness for Christ points to Him. Indeed, there is a POWER in your life that points to HIM.
Didn’t Jesus say that when the Holy Spirit would come, that, "He would testify of Me?" Didn’t He say the Holy Spirit would glorify HIM? Sure. So that’s what the Holy Spirit does in and through us. That is what a WITNESS TO JESUS does!
To BE a witness to Jesus Christ means that you are defined by your relationship to HIM. Sure, it means that people see your good works, and all those kinds of things. All of that is included. But not so YOU can be admired as a great Christian. No. Our lives won’t shout, "Look what a wonderful witness I am for Jesus Christ!" Rather, we will proclaim, "Look what a wonderful Savior He is."
Once we understand this, we can see that a witness unto Christ is defined by their WORSHIP and DEVOTION to the Person of Christ. A witness will manifest a DEPENDENCE upon God, and a living FAITH in Christ. At the root, to BE A WITNESS of Jesus Christ means that your life is stamped with His name. To use the vernacular, your life has Jesus’ name written all over it.
As stated, none of this is possible unless we have RECEIVED something from above. Human effort, talents, gifts, and brains can DO things for God. But only if we have received something of God can we BECOME something in Christ. Only if we receive the POWER of Christ in us through the Holy Spirit can we actually BECOME a witness unto Christ.
So the power they received – which was ability to live IN CHRIST – was because of Person of Christ who was now in them. It was a power, yes, that would enable them to do things in the name of Christ, but more than that, it was a power that enabled them to BECOME HIS WITNESSES. In short, when they received the baptism with the Holy Spirit, they were born again. And inherent in that new birth was the ability to grow to BECOME living witnesses unto Jesus Christ.
And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. (Acts 2:1-4)
We have stated again and again that Pentecost in Acts 2 was the day when the Holy Spirit first came and dwelt in human beings. Of course, the Holy Spirit had been WITH people before. There had been many VISITATIONS of the Holy Spirit. But not like this. No. This was NEW. This was not a VISITATION, but a permanent HABITATION. As we have been seeing, this was something that had NEVER happened before.
That HABITATION happened in Acts 2. This was the coming of Christ to dwell in them through the baptism of the Holy Spirit. They would be born anew – from above. And with that, they were given POWER TO BECOME SONS OF GOD.
But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. (John 1:12-13)
Can we see that the power to become sons of God IS the power to be witnesses unto Christ? Sure. If we grow to become mature sons of God we will be living witnesses unto Christ, for we will bear His likeness. And can we see that this is only possible if we have Christ in us through the baptism with the Holy Spirit? Absolutely. Thus, once again we see that the power they received in Acts 2 WAS Christ in them through the new birth.
Wind and Fire
As the disciples were gathered together in that upper room, Luke records that, "there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind." Note that there was not a wind blowing through the room, but the SOUND of a rushing mighty wind. And it was a sound FROM HEAVEN. Thus, the disciples heard this sound – that of a great wind – but did not actually feel anything.
What is this telling us? Throughout the New Testament, the word for SPIRIT is the same word as WIND or air. This is no accident. For Jesus told Nicodemus, "Marvel not that I said to you, that which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. You must be born again. The wind blows where it wills, and you hear the sound thereof, but cannot tell where it comes from, and where it goes. So is every one that is born of the Spirit. " (John 3:6-8)
Jesus is speaking of ANOTHER REALM – the realm of, or kingdom of, GOD. He is saying that from the perspective of THIS realm, the realm of the Spirit can be likened to the wind. There is no way to put boundaries or limits on it. There is no way to completely identify where it is, or where it is going. The realm of the Spirit is not the fleshly or physical realm. No. It is completely other than that. Just like the wind, it is UNSEEN, yet always moving. God’s realm is right here, now, and ever present. You may be in a fleshly body, but if you are born of God, you are IN the realm of the Spirit – that is – you are OF IT. You have access to it, and it has access to you.
That day of Pentecost, the heavens opened, and the realm of God pierced this realm of darkness. The Spirit of God rushed into this realm. Power really DID come upon those disciples – the power of God’s Spirit invaded – and the sound of the Holy Spirit was like that of a mighty wind.
One cannot help but remember that when God created Adam He BREATHED into him the breath of life! This was God once again breathing into humankind the breath of life – the life of the HOLY SPIRIT. This time it was the life of a brand new creation and a brand new birth. This was the life of God through His Son Jesus Christ, being given to believers through the ministering agency of the Holy Spirit.
The SOUND from heaven that was heard that day, like a mighty wind, was signaling that God was once again BREATHING into His people the breath of HIS LIFE. Not just breathing ON them. Again – this was no mere VISITATION. It was a permanent HABITATION. The sound was an indication that the realm of God had invaded the realm of darkness.
But there was more than just a SOUND that day, wasn’t there? There was also a visible SIGN – that of, "tongues like as of fire which sat upon each of them." Again – note that the tongues were not actual fire. They were, "like as of fire," that is, this was the appearance of them which sat upon each of those present that day.
So we have TWO manifestations of ONE baptism with the Holy Spirit that day. First, that of the SOUND of a mighty wind. This was the baptism of the Holy Spirit. But second, we have the appearance of tongues of fire. This was the, "baptism of fire."
What is God getting at in manifesting the Holy Spirit in this way? Well, John the Baptist helps us here. He prophesied what happened on Pentecost. He said that Jesus Himself would be the one who would baptize us in the Holy Spirit AND fire. And he told us what the purpose would be:
I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but He that comes after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire: Whose fan is in his hand, and he will thoroughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire. (Matt. 3:11-12)
Here, in this prophecy, we see both WIND or SPIRIT, and FIRE, don’t we? Sure. John speaks of Jesus baptizing us, "with the Holy Spirit and fire" But then he elaborates. He tells us how Jesus will do this, and the effects of it.
John describes this baptism and it’s work by using the picture of a threshing floor. He says that in this baptism, Jesus can be pictured as having a, "willowing fork in His hand." This fork, in the processing of the wheat, was used to throw up the trodden grain, so that it would separate from the chaff in the wind. The wheat would be gathered into the barns. But the chaff would be burned.
Immediately we remember that Pentecost actually began the wheat harvest! John uses the SAME picture. But John is telling us the REAL MEANING – the spiritual meaning in the plan of God. He is telling us that the baptism of the Holy Spirit is for the purpose of separating the wheat from the chaff. The wheat will remain. The chaff will be burned.
Now, don’t think of the wheat as the good guys, and the chaff as the bad guys. No. Both the wheat and the chaff are part of the same wheat crop – each wheat stalk has chaff. Do you see what is being pictured here? Not, "good guys vs. bad guys," but the good vs. the useless in EACH ONE OF US. Both wheat and chaff are in each ONE of us! The baptism of the Holy Spirit is for the purpose of separating wheat from chaff in each ONE of us as individuals.
Sure. As the ongoing process of separating the wheat from the chaff continues in each one of us, the wheat remains and the chaff is burned – assuming we are walking in faith and obedience. And what emerges is a WITNESS unto Christ. We become conformed to Christ and point to Him with our lives.
The Holy Spirit will purge you and I. On the one hand, we have the aspect of the Holy Spirit which BUILDS US UP in Christ. We receive eternal life, the gifts, and all the other benefits of the Spirit of God. But then there is the other aspect: The TEARING DOWN of all that is not of Christ. This is the baptism with FIRE – which burns up all that is not of Christ.
Think about it. When we are saved, we receive CHRIST IN US. But to become a WITNESS unto Christ, Christ must come to live through us. Well, Christ isn’t going to live through us except by using us. We must move in concert with Him – be ONE with Him. He cannot bypass us to live through us! And yet how will this come to pass? It can only come to pass if what hinders is removed. This is the work of the Cross, or as in the above, the baptism of FIRE.
What is vital to see here is that the baptism with the Spirit IS the baptism with FIRE. It is not another baptism, but the same baptism. Once we see that, we see that the baptism with the Holy Spirit was NOT to simply give power to serve. It was a baptism which included a purging and a burning – the work of the Cross -- to burn up everything in us that was not of Christ so that Christ could be seen in us. When is the last time you heard THIS preached?
This necessity of being purged should not be surprising. For we all START OUT as someone who is not compatible with the Holy Spirit. So once we are baptized in the Spirit, the Holy Spirit will begin a, "harvest process," which will separate the wheat and chaff in each one of us. The Holy Spirit will build us up in Christ, but also, as the result of that building up, will separate and BURN UP all that cannot remain if we are to get far in God’s plan for us.
The entry of the Holy Spirit into this realm began a harvesting. The Holy Spirit divides and separates that which is OF GOD, from that which is NOT. That which is of God remains and is built up. That which isn’t is, as it were, burned up – discarded forever as chaff.
On that day of Pentecost, God saw to it that the baptism of the Holy Spirit carried with it the SOUND of wind, and the APPEARANCE of fire. Wind invades, rushes in, and separates the wheat from the chaff. The fire burns up the chaff, and sets us free of it. It makes us pure.
The Holy Spirit does HOLY things. The word, "holy," means, "to separate for God’s use." It also means, "to purify and make complete." Just as wheat must first be purged and purified to be useful, so the Holy Spirit is doing a work in each believer so that the person might be set free to worship and experience God.
Through the baptism of the Holy Spirit we RECEIVE power to walk with God through this process. It is POWER to become sons of God. (see John 1:12) It is what the Holy Spirit is seeking to do in each one of us.
The baptism with the Holy Spirit is one of Spirit and fire. The Spirit carries the very life of Christ. Included in Christ is much power and all the gifts. But the fire aspect will burn up all that is in us that is not of Christ. That is the negative, but vital work of the Spirit. It is all so that we might BECOME witnesses unto Jesus Christ. And once we are becoming that, all of the good works, service, and spiritual gifts, and all else, will fall into place as the outcome of this power living in and through us.
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When the Comforter Comes
The fundamental purpose of the baptism of the Holy Spirit, according to Jesus, is that we BECOME WITNESSES for Jesus Christ. (see Acts 1) But as we have seen, this means more than merely an, "ability to witness." It means that we are DEFINED by our relationship to Christ, and wear it for others to see. This means we are defined, not so much by our own character, but by our dependence upon Christ, and by our unconditional devotion to Him. (This IS our character, if we understood the term!) It also means that we are in the process of being conformed to HIS image and likeness. And of course, all of these dimensions fall under the purpose that the Holy Spirit wants to make Jesus Christ our personal Lord.
Now ALL OF THIS is impossible unless Christ is in us. Thus, when Christ came to dwell in those disciples in Acts 2 through the Holy Spirit, they were the FIRST LIVING WITNESSES unto Jesus Christ.
In this chapter, I want to get a bit mechanical, and discuss the specific things that Jesus, and the apostles, said that the Holy Spirit – the Comforter – would do when He came. Of course, He DID come in Acts 2. So what we are about to list are those works the Holy Spirit wants to do right now. In contrast, where these things are not happening, the Holy Spirit is not being allowed to work.
1. Comes to dwell IN us.
And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it sees him not, neither knows him: but ye know him; for he dwells with you, and shall be in you. (Jn 14:16-17)
You will note that Jesus calls the Comforter, "the Spirit of Truth." The Holy Spirit is never in anything that is not the Truth. Furthermore, Jesus promises that the Spirit will come to dwell IN US – something not possible before He ascended. The Holy Spirit dwells IN us because it is IN US that He begins His primary work of making Jesus our Lord, and of bringing every dimension of our being under the redemptive power of God.
2. To give us comfort.
I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you. (John 14:18)
Despite the fact that the Holy Spirit will often have to disturb us, and convict us of sin, He is nevertheless said to be the source of comfort. He IS called, "the Comforter," is He not? Note also that Jesus makes Himself ONE with the Holy Spirit in this verse. The indwelling of the Holy Spirit is CHRIST IN US.
3. Teach us all things.
But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things. (John 14:26)
The Holy Spirit wants to teach us all things about Jesus Christ. He will also, because we know Jesus Christ, give us discernment about everything else. Unless we see Jesus, we will never see anything the way God sees it. But again – there is a negative aspect of this work of the Spirit. If He is to teach us all things, we are going to have to UNLEARN much, and this will often require us to recognize how wrong we have been, and thus, part of this work is to expose our pride, and set us free from it.
4. Bring things into our remembrance – or to make us mindful of the Truth.
But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name he shall … bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you. (Jn. 14:26)
The Holy Spirit is able to apply the Truth to any situation. If Christianity is Christ in us, God wants Christ to live through us. For that, we will have to know some Truth, and make our decisions based on our knowledge of God. The Holy Spirit will show us how to do this. But again – there is a negative to all of this. How can any of this actually happen unless our wills are surrendered to God? The Holy Spirit never bypasses us in order to live through us. He lives THROUGH us, and that requires our cooperation through faith and obedience.
5. Shall testify – bear witness to and make real – Jesus Christ.
But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceeds from the Father, he shall testify of me: (John 15:26)
The Holy Spirit is able to make us know where Jesus is in a situation. In other words, the Holy Spirit gives us discernment. Discernment is not simply the ability to see what is wrong with something. It is the ability to see how it stacks up to Jesus Christ. Only if you know the GENUINE, will you be able to spot the counterfeit.
6. Shall guide us into all Truth.
Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth (John 16:13)
To guide us into all Truth, the Spirit must set us free from all error. Truth is never doctrines and academic theology – those things merely state the Truth. Truth is a Person. God wants us to hold to sound doctrine. But He wants us to know His Son. This is what the Holy Spirit seeks to do in our lives – reveal to us Jesus Christ.
7. Shall show us things to come – make real God’s eternal purposes.
Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come…for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will show you things to come. (John 16:13)
This is not a promise to know the future, although that could happen once in awhile. Rather, it is a promise of revelation regarding God’s overall, eternal purposes. Unless we see life here with eternity as a backdrop, it will not mean much. Seeing God’s eternal purposes in Christ gives life meaning and value.
8. Shall glorify – make central – the Person of Jesus Christ.
He shall glorify me. (John 16:14)
This simple statement means that Jesus Christ will always be exalted as Lord, and that the Holy Spirit will continually point each believer to Christ. Contrast this over and against pointing to people or churches. No. The Spirit glorifies Christ. Beware when the Spirit seems to be glorifying Himself, or men. Something is wrong.
9. Take everything of Jesus Christ and make them real and living.
For he shall receive of mine, and shall show it unto you. All things that the Father hath are mine: therefore said I, that he shall take of mine, and shall show it unto you. (John 16:15)
The Holy Spirit seeks to take every dimension of Jesus and reveal Him to us, and make Him real in us and through us. Christianity is not a dead religion. Christianity is Christ in us, and the impact of Christ in us. The Spirit will do this great work.
10. Convict the world of unbelief (the sin), and show His righteousness and judgment.
And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: Of sin, because they believe not on me; Of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and you see me no more; Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged. (John 16:8-11)
Here we see that THE SIN that the Spirit most often wants to convict the world of is UNBELIEF. Unbelief is THE SIN of the world. The Spirit likewise convicts of righteousness – in that Jesus has finished His work, and has gone to the Father and then sent the Spirit down to convict us of all that is NOT righteous – so that we might turn to Him as Savior. And the Spirit convicts of judgment because there is no longer any reason, once you see the light, NOT to believe – for all victory over the enemy has been won by Christ.
The Bible also adds to this list the following functions of the Holy Spirit:
11. Gives a living internal witness of our relationship with God.
The Spirit itself bears witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: (Rom 8:16)
In the final analysis, we know we are children of God, not because the Bible says so, but because there is a witness to that effect within. This is how real the indwelling of the Spirit is meant to be.
12. Distributes supernatural gifts according to the will of God.
Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which works all in all. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal. For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit; To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues: But all these works that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will. (1 Cor. 12:4-11)
The purpose of the gifts are to edify in Christ – to build our relationship with Him. All of the gifts, Paul says, are from the same Spirit.
13. Makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God.
But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it. Likewise the Spirit also helps our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. And he that searches the hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because he makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God. (Rom 8:25-27)
14. IS a down payment and seal of everything God has for us in Jesus Christ.
In whom you also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory. (Eph 1:13-14)
15. Carries power, love, and sound mindedness.
For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. (2 Tim 1:7)
16. Carries FRUITS – if we allow Him to become manifest.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. (Gal 5:22-23)
17. Always exalts Jesus as Lord.
Wherefore I give you to understand, that no man speaking by the Spirit of God calls Jesus accursed: and that no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost. (1 Cor 12:3)
18. Manifests Jesus through human beings, not just through theological precepts.
Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: And every spirit that confesses not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world. (1 John 4:2-3)
19. Is the means by which all Christians have fellowship with each other, and with God Himself.
For through Him (Jesus) we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father. (Eph 2:18)
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. (1 Cor 12:13)
20. Makes us HOLY unto God.
For God hath not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness. He therefore that despises, despises not man, but God, who hath also given unto us his Holy Spirit. (1 Thes. 4:7-8)
But we are bound to give thanks always to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth: (2 Thes. 2:13)
If we look at this list of things that the Bible teaches that belong to the Holy Spirit, we see that signs and wonders are only a small part. Most of the work of the Holy Spirit is to reveal Jesus Christ to individuals, and to minister to us HIS LIFE.
This is vital to understand. For so many people today get caught up in signs and wonders because they LOOK supernatural. Many of them are not supernatural, nor even of God. We need to look at what the Bible teaches the Holy Spirit will do, listed above. That will answer our question as to whether the Holy Spirit is present – are those things happening?
Now there is another side to this coin. There are many people today who, in an over-reaction to churches that focus on experiences, disdain all experiences. These folks seem to think that Christianity is a big Bible study, and that the Christian life is doing mission work. I’m not putting either of those things down, mind you, but I want to make a point. Christianity is CHRIST IN US. And the Living Christ will be the focus of the work of the Holy Spirit.
The main focus of many of these churches is the church as a THING. The main focus of many charismatic churches that dwell on experiences is the Holy Spirit. But the Bible never teaches that our focus ought to be either. The Holy Spirit never glorifies the church as a THING, or points to HIMSELF. The Holy Spirit constantly centers on the Person of Jesus Christ, and seeks to fill to the full the measure of Christ in both individuals and the Body of Christ.
The Centrality of Christ
The above list of functions and purposes of the Holy Spirit carry one theme: The centrality of Jesus Christ – being worked IN us, and manifested THROUGH us. Do you see that? The Holy Spirit takes everything of Jesus Christ and makes Him real and functional – both IN US and THROUGH us. Thus, included in that is the on-going redemptive work INWARDLY in each individual, as well as the results of that work, as the Holy Spirit flows OUTWARD to others.
But if you were to try to find one word that would describe this work of the Holy Spirit, you would not have to look far. Just look at the name of this Person: HOLY Spirit. There you have it. The HOLY Spirit does a HOLY work. HOLINESS is the goal of the Holy Spirit – holiness in us and through us. Jesus in and through us.
But what does it mean to be made HOLY? Well, the word, "holy," in the Bible is the Greek word, "hagios." In the Biblical context, "hagios," means, "to be set apart for God’s use." Therefore, in the vernacular, we might say that, "to be holy," means TO BELONG TO GOD. It means to BELONG TO GOD – and thus, to grow to LOOK like it, and ACT like it.
If you will notice, we are right back to the idea of BECOMING A WITNESS to Jesus Christ, aren’t we? Yep. People who are witnesses to Jesus Christ are people who manifest the fact that they belong to Him. Again – they are DEFINED by their relationship to Him. Defined by the fact that they are dependent upon Him.
Not us, But Him
All too often when we talk about being witnesses to Christ, we emphasis our works, and our service. We get the idea that WE…WE…WE…are supposed to be such specimens of whiteness, that others will fall on their knees before Jesus because of OUR whiteness. They will be so impressed by our obedience, faith, and righteousness, that they will turn to Christ. Well, there is a place for some of this, of course. We are to obey God, and let our lights shine. But somehow in the mix, we have lost sight of what it really means to be a witness to Jesus Christ. We have gotten out of focus as to what it means to be DEFINED by our relationship to Him. In the final analysis, a real witness has little to do with US, but everything to do with Him.
We may not realize it, but if we think that OUR whiteness is what stands as a witness to Christ, we may be betraying the fact that we still think our standing before Christ depends on that whiteness. Why else would we present it to others as the witness they need? But if we see that we stand only because of Jesus, and do so in DEPENDENCE upon Him, then we are going to present, not our whiteness as our witness, but our DEPENDENCE. We will point to Christ as the One who is our all.
A witness to Jesus Christ is someone who, as stated, is DEFINED by their relationship to Christ. So what is our relationship to Christ? Is it based on what we do for God? On our own whiteness? It better not be. Our relationship to Christ needs to be based on what He has done for us, and upon the fact that we are totally dependent upon Him for all things.
Note that this means that people should see, not so much my wonderful faith, but my utter dependence upon HIS faithfulness. They should see, not my righteousness, but my devotion to HIM. In other words, yes, we ought to have good works, a good attitude, and a great example to others. But in the end, a witness never testifies to himself. He points to another, and tells the Truth about Him – both in words and deeds.
I am telling the Truth about Jesus Christ, and therefore, am a faithful witness to Him, if I show how faithful HE IS. I don’t do this by denying my failings. I proclaim His faithfulness DESPITE my failings. Contrast this to the mistaken notion that I am a good witness only by impressing others with my whiteness – even if I present my whiteness in an attempt to show what Jesus can do for a person. No. Again -- a true witness for Christ never says, "Look how faithful I am." Rather, he says, "Look at how faithful Jesus is."
"Belonging to God," i.e., to be set apart for God’s use – holiness – always carries with it a DEPENDENCE and DEVOTION. Always. If I am not dependent upon God, I am probably still using myself for my own purposes. And that certainly isn’t devotion. It is independence.
The Holy Spirit, not surprisingly, wants to do HOLY things. Jesus spoke about many of those holy things: To guide us into all Truth, to make Jesus central in every way. But when everything is said and done, HOLINESS – belonging to God – is shown by my DEPENDENCE upon Christ, and by my unconditional DEVOTION to Him. The Holy Spirit, and the manifestation of the spiritual gifts always tend toward making us dependent and devoted to the Person of Jesus Christ.
These are many of the things, and more, that Jesus said the Holy Spirit would do when He came. Well, He did come in Acts 2. Therefore, we now have what we need to recognize where the Holy Spirit is working – He is doing these things. And we now have what we need to recognize a counterfeit – these things are NOT the outcome. How faithful it is of God to saturate His Word with Truth we can trust.
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A foundational purpose of the Holy Spirit is our lives is to make JESUS LORD. But in a practical, living way. The Holy Spirit seeks to make Jesus our PERSONAL Lord – on every level of our lives, inwardly and outwardly.
This is why the baptism with the Holy Spirit is described as a, “baptism with the Holy Spirit and with FIRE.” This is the SAME baptism. The Holy Spirit is the very life of Jesus Christ in us. Thus, when we are baptized with the Holy Spirit, we are baptized into CHRIST. That is all positive. But there does need to be a purging work – the work of the Cross. This is the negative dimension of the same baptism. The FIRE will purge us of all that hinders the life of Christ in us and through us.
Actually, this is nothing more than the work of the CROSS. Just another way of describing the same thing. Yet all of it adds up to one thing: To make JESUS OUR PERSONAL LORD. That is where it all goes in the end. That Christ may take His rightful place as Lord of all – in every heart.
Unfortunately, this is rarely taught today. Instead, we are told that the purpose of the Holy Spirit is
to, “make us better people.” Or,
“to do things for us.” Or, “to
empower us to serve the Lord.” Or,
“to work signs and wonders.” Ask
the average Christian who believes that they have received the baptism of the
Holy Spirit, “What is the purpose?,” and you will rarely be told that the
Holy Spirit wants to make Jesus Lord of them in every way.
What does it really mean for Jesus to be Lord?
I mean, of me, personally? For
many of us, for Jesus to be our Lord means that we have to do what He says.
So we limit this Truth to obedience.
And frankly, once we hear that the work of the Cross will make Him our
Lord – that is – if we submit to the Holy Spirit – our negative thinking
continues on this matter. This is
why today many are pushing away the Cross and embracing the gospel of
self-esteem. They view this kind of
a message as one that is going to DEPRIVE them.
Well, first of all, I don’t read anywhere in the
Bible where we get to decide how God works.
Despite the fact that the real Truth of the work of the Cross is not
negative at all, even if it was, are we prepared, as Christians, to tell God
that we have a better idea of how to do things?
Not only that but the irony here is amazing.
We are talking about how God makes Jesus Lord of us, and we are going to
be, “the lord,” of how it works? I
don’t think so.
The Truth is, if we resent the notion of Jesus as Lord, or think that the
work of the Cross is a negative work of deprivation in our lives, then I would
suggest that we are still comfortable with our lives, still in love with them,
and still consider them our own. To
be in love with this world simply means that you are in love with your life in
this world. Most of us do this as Christians without even realizing it
– or realizing the life in Christ that is still beyond us.
Sorry to be so blunt. But
this is the Truth. It is why one of
the things the Holy Spirit must do to begin the process of setting us free is to
DISTURB us, and DISRUPT our comfort zone. We
aren’t going to budge much otherwise.
It is also one of the reasons why when He does, that perhaps we resent it
and wonder how God could do such a thing if He is really faithful! Disturb our lives! Cause
unrest? If God wants us to be happy
how could He DO that? He could do
it and does do it precisely BECAUSE He wants us to be happy – for the right
things, and in a way that will harmonize with His eternal purposes in Christ.
It is amazing how we betray the fact that we still think we belong to
ourselves, and that the purpose of the Holy Spirit is to service US!
Subtle but true. But God
knows better. Indeed, God wants us
to get to the place where we see how deceived we have been, and how needy we are
for freedom from this old creation. God
wants us to say, with Paul, “Who will deliver me from this body of death?”
And then He wants us to answer, “Jesus
Christ my Lord!”
Well, back to the question at hand:
What does it mean for Jesus to be my personal Lord?
It means more than the fact that He has saved me.
It means more than the fact that in Him is all my victory. It means more than the fact that I need to obey Him.
It includes all of these things, but means more than that.
For Jesus to be my Lord means that I am living for Him – indeed, it
means that I belong to Him. It
means that there is no part of myself – internally or externally – that
belongs to myself, but all of me belongs to Him.
Now, functionally, this is going to take a lifetime to work out.
But I can surrender myself in a moment and keep surrendered. I open the door at salvation and close it behind Christ.
Then the work begins with CHRIST IN ME.
When I accept Jesus as my Savior, I was inviting Him in to make Himself
my Lord. The Bible knows of NO
OTHER KIND of salvation, or relationship with Him.
Do we actually think it is possible to accept Jesus as Savior, and to
actually BE saved, but to consciously refuse Him as Lord?
We may have not realized the fullness of what we were doing when we
accepted Christ, but we really were, “giving our lives to Christ!” When Christ comes to dwell in us, He comes to be Lord of us.
becomes my Lord, I will become more and more free in my relationship with
Him. Fear will dissipate and I will
grow to KNOW HIM. I can do nothing
but personally benefit if Jesus Christ is in His proper place in my life.
This adjusts everything to God’s will and makes me whole.
If we truly want to FIND our lives, we must lose our own lordship, and we
will find HIS life in us, and His Lordship over us.
We saw in an earlier chapter that in John, chapters 14-16, Jesus stated a
number of things that the COMFORTER would do when He came. Thus, we need not be in the dark as to the purpose of the
Holy Spirit in the life of the believer. Jesus
told us what that purpose was, as did some of the apostles in the epistles.
The Holy Spirit will reveal Christ, testify to Christ, glorify Christ,
and show us the Truth about Christ. Add
them all up, and the conclusion is that the Holy Spirit takes Jesus Christ and
makes Him real TO US and IN US. Or,
to put it another way, the Holy Spirit makes Jesus Christ our personal LORD.
Always beware when any movement begins to glorify the Holy Spirit, and
focus on the Holy Spirit. The Holy
Spirit never does this. Thus, if it
is being done, something is wrong. The
Holy Spirit ALWAYS points to Jesus Christ – and points to Him as our Lord.
is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will
not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you. (John 16:7)
that believes on me, as the scripture has said, out of his belly shall flow
rivers of living water. (But this
spoke he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive:
for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet
glorified.) (John 7:38-39)
I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he
may abide with you for ever; Even
the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it sees him not,
neither knows him: but ye know him; for he dwells with you, and shall be in
you. (John 14:16-17)
Jesus continually told the disciples that the coming of the Comforter was directly tied to His ascending to heaven. Note that: Jesus had to ascend, so that the Comforter could descend. Jesus ascended in Acts 1, and we know that the Comforter came in Acts 2. In was on the day of Pentecost that the Comforter did come for the very first time. For the first time on that day, the Holy Spirit came to dwell IN people.
We have seen that when the Comforter came, this was equal to Jesus coming back spiritually. The baptism with the Holy Spirit in Acts 2 was the inauguration of CHRIST IN US. But can we now see more clearly WHY Jesus had to do His redemptive work and ascend to heaven BEFORE He could come back and dwell in us through the Holy Spirit? It was because He had to FIRST ascend to take His place at the right hand of God as LORD OF ALL. Only then could HE descend and dwell in us as LORD OF US.
We must grasp this Truth: The coming of the Comforter was NOT POSSIBLE as long as Jesus was on earth. This makes it plain that the ascension of Jesus UP to heaven, and the outpouring of the Spirit DOWN to His people, are linked. Through the ascension Jesus was made Lord of all -- in the heavens. He was seated at the right hand of God. Only then could the Holy Spirit be sent forth INTO people and make Jesus Lord of THEM PERSONALLY. Because Jesus IS Lord truly, He can be MADE Lord – practically.
Obviously, Jesus could not INDWELL people through the Holy Spirit as long as He was here bodily. No. Jesus had to first ascend to heaven in order to come back through the Holy Spirit to INDWELL His people. If we really look at this, we see just how REAL the life of Christ is that dwells in us. The Holy Spirit within is not simply a metaphor or a doctrine. It really IS CHRIST HIMSELF. So much so, that Jesus said that as long as He was here on this earth, the Comforter could not come back and dwell in us.
Now, as an aside, can we see why this adds additional proof that the disciples could not have had CHRIST in them – be born again – before Jesus ascended? What are we to say, that Christ dwell in them even though He was still physically with them? Furthermore, if we say the disciples were born again before Pentecost then we must say Christ was in them by the Spirit, but not yet Lord of them – because He had not ascended.
Of course, this is all nonsense. We would have to utter ignore so much of scripture to believe that the disciples were born again, or had Christ in them, or had the Holy Spirit in them, before Pentecost. It is ground we have covered. The Truth about the ascension simply cements it even more.
The Holy Spirit is absolutely sovereign and intent on making the Christ within us LORD OF US. The Spirit wants to invade every dimension of our being and bring into those territories the Redemption of Jesus Christ. He wants to topple our kingdom and make Jesus Lord of us in every way. This work was only possible once Jesus ascended.
Kingdom of God
So if you think about it, we now see what Jesus has been doing the last two thousand years. He has been sitting on His throne as Lord of all, and putting together His kingdom. But His kingdom doesn’t consist of THINGS. It is made up of PEOPLE. His kingdom consists of people in whom His kingdom is being established – in other words, it consists of people in whom JESUS IS LORD.
You cannot truly inherit the kingdom of God unless the RULE OF CHRIST is established in you. Jesus must be Lord – of YOU. This is so important to see, for as we mentioned earlier, false teaching has always suggested that you can inherit God’s kingdom all the while you remain on the throne of your own kingdom. No. To be IN the kingdom means you must come UNDER the rule of that kingdom – the Lordship of Jesus Christ.
Some Christian teaching tries to separate SALVATION from the need to come under the Lordship of Jesus Christ. The Bible makes no such distinction. As I said before, salvation IS a matter of coming under the Lordship of Jesus.
Think about it: What are we supposed to do to be saved? Repent and believe. Right? Well, repent of what? Repent of SIN. Of SINS, yes, but of THE SIN. We are to repent of THE SIN of running our own lives – even if we have run them in a nice, religious way. Or, if you see the point, we are supposed to repent of the sin of our own kingdom and lordship. And if we do, then what happens? Well, if we repent of being our own lord, then obviously, the next step is that we surrender to Jesus as Lord. The two always are as ONE.
We say this in our common language about salvation. We say, “I surrendered my life to Christ.” Well, doesn’t that mean that we have repented of owning our lives, and have now surrendered our lives to Him?” Isn’t that equal to coming under His Lordship – and consequently, coming into HIS KINGDOM? Sure.
Salvation is LIFE. But by definition, it is life as Jesus as Lord. It is really the only kind of eternal life there is. What? Do we think that God has made provision for eternal life WITHOUT Jesus as Lord? No.
Here again we see that the only purpose of the Holy Spirit – which IS the life of Christ in us – is to make Jesus our Lord. The life of Christ within us is going to push out OUR agenda, and OUR kingdom – with a divine invasion. All of it must go down under the Cross. We must surrender to this invasion – we must live out the once for all surrender we made when we gave our lives to Christ. And as we do, His kingdom and His rule becomes more dominant.
The kingdom of God in us is the life of Christ within us – through the Holy Spirit. And there is no such thing as a salvation without Jesus as Lord, and there is no such thing as the kingdom of God without Jesus as Lord. These are all ONE – and to make them a reality in us is the purpose and function of the Holy Spirit.
Measure of Christ
is one body, and one Spirit, even as you are called in one hope of your calling;
One Lord, one faith, one baptism, One
God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.
But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the
gift of Christ…And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some,
evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;
For the maturing of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the
edifying of the body of Christ: Till
we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God,
unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ…
speaking the truth in love, may grow up into Him in all things, which is the
head, even Christ: (Eph 4:4-15)
It should be more than obvious that if the purpose of the Holy Spirit is to make Jesus the Lord of each individual, that this would be the purpose of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Sure. And this is exactly what we read in the above passage from Ephesians.
Paul says that ALL MINISTRY that is of the
Holy Spirit – the purpose of all the gifts -- is “for
the maturing of the saints for the work of the ministry, and for
the edifying of the body of Christ.” But
unto WHAT purpose? “Till we all
come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto
a mature man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ…may
grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ.”
Can we now see why, “no man can say Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit?” Can we know see that the purpose of the Holy Spirit is to reveal Christ TO us and IN us – that we might be filled with Christ? That Jesus be our HEAD in all things – our personal Lord – to the extent that we are living witnesses unto Him?
This is what the Holy Spirit wants to do in His church. Contrast that to the goal of building big churches, keeping people happy and entertained, and getting rich. No. Christ is the goal and purpose. And with Christ, there will come many blessings, spiritual and material, as they suit the sovereign purpose of God under Jesus as our Lord.
Paul’s obsession was Jesus Christ in believers – but not just the FACT. No. Rather, Paul wanted Christ to be formed in us:
little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in
you. (Gal 4:19)
whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among
the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.
Whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that
we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus. (Col 1:24-29)
Christ in you, the kingdom of God within you, and eternal life in you – all the same Truth by the Holy Spirit. And certainly, if Christ is in us, He will not be less than sovereign Lord OVER us, will He? He should not be, although we CAN refuse Him.
The Holy Spirit will evermore strive and invade us with the reality of Jesus Christ. He will seek to make Christ know to us as Savior, Redeemer, and make God known to us as our Heavenly Father. But all of this comes down to the necessity of saying, knowing, and living in the Truth of Jesus as our personal Lord.
Jesus Really IS Lord
The apostle Paul makes a statement in one of his epistles that seals the
deal on this purpose of the Spirit. In
fact, Paul declares this Truth as the foundation for his discussion on spiritual
gifts. Of course!
The spiritual gifts are not merely displays of God’s power.
They are not entertainment. They
are not THINGS. All spiritual gifts
have behind them the same purpose as the Spirit to whom those gifts belong:
To make Jesus Lord.
concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I would not have you ignorant.
You know that you were Gentiles, carried away unto these dumb idols, even
as you were led. Wherefore I give
you to understand, that no man speaking by the Spirit of God calls Jesus
accursed: and that no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost.
(1 Cor. 12:1-3)
Paul is drawing a contrast between pagan idol worship and the worship of
Christ. He is drawing a contrast
between error and the Truth. In
pagan religions, the one being sacrificed to the false god was called, “accursed.”
This meant that the sacrifice was, “devoted to destruction,” at that
hand of the wrathful, pagan god. Of
course, this sacrifice was offered to appease the anger of that false god.
False gods are generally not very nice, and really, this is because most
false gods have a very real demon behind them.
Paul is saying that Jesus is not, “accursed,”
that is, devoted to destruction at the hand of the Father.
This is significant for reasons off our topic, in that many Christians
continue to think that this is exactly what happened on the Cross – that Jesus
was devoted to destruction at the hand of God’s wrath.
They think that redemption is the result of God pouring out His wrath
upon Jesus instead of upon us. But
that is error, and another story. Sufficient
for this topic is the fact that Paul goes on to say no, that this is not the
Truth about Jesus Christ. Jesus is
Now, the point is this: Paul
says that no one can say that, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit.
Notice what this means: First,
it means that the Holy Spirit in an individual will bring that person to
personally declare the Truth that Jesus is Lord – both in word and by our
lives. In other words, He will be
our Lord – that will be our relationship with Him.
Secondly, this means that ONLY the Holy Spirit can do this work in a
person. No one can say Jesus is
Lord except the Holy Spirit make that possible.
Religion cannot do it. The
Holy Spirit must do it by changing us.
Thirdly, by default, this means that any suggestion of Christianity that
does not exalt Jesus as our personal Lord is NOT of the Holy Spirit. This is because all that the Holy Spirit does is geared
toward making Jesus Lord. There is
no compromise with this purpose.
The ramifications once we realize the purpose of the Holy Spirit to make
Jesus Lord of US cannot be overemphasized.
At the top of the list, if Jesus is to be Lord of us, then can we see
that WE cannot be Lord of us? Thus,
it isn’t simply a matter of the Holy Spirit charging in, teaching us the
doctrine of Jesus as Lord, and then us easily moving forward in the purposes of
Rather, it is a matter of the Holy Spirit – through the power of the
Cross – bringing us down off the throne in every aspect of our lives, so that
Jesus can truly function as our Lord.
This is vital to see today, for so many in this day and age preach, “Jesus
as Lord,” and emphasize only the blessings and the benefits of Him as our
Lord. Those blessings and benefits
ARE real, and not to be despised. But
today we hear a message that suggests that the blessings which come as the
result of Jesus as Lord can be ours even though we are still on the throne.
This is not directly preached, but really, preached by omission.
For once we neglect preaching the Cross of Christ, the reality of sin,
and the need for repentance, we may be preaching, “Jesus as Lord,” as a
doctrine, or a banner, but we are not preaching the MEANS by which He becomes
Lord, nor are we preaching what this will mean for us in a practical way.
Jesus cannot become our Lord unless we
are no longer our lord. And the
reality is, we ARE our own lord, our own boss, and fully on the throne of our
lives. That is what SIN IS – by definition. The Holy Spirit will be – not MIGHT BE – but WILL BE in
the process of dealing with this sin. Parallel
to making Jesus our personal Lord is the necessity that everything about us that
hinders Him from being our Lord must be brought down to a death.
If the Holy Spirit is going to guide us into all Truth, then the Holy
Spirit must first expose all of our error – not just doctrinal error – but
all of our MORAL error. He must
expose all of the errors in which we have LIVED in our relationship with God. Chief among these is the error of sitting on the throne and
assuming that God is going to pronounce a benediction upon our kingdom and our
agenda. No. God is going to bless us by DETHRONING us and setting us free
from our kingdom – which is really our prison.
The Holy Spirit wants to make Jesus our Lord, and it is ONLY by the Holy
Spirit that any of us can come to the place where we truly say, “Jesus is
The conclusion of all of these facts is really simple: Holy Spirit fullness is the result of Jesus being my personal Lord -- not the result of receiving a second blessing. Through the new birth I receive ALL in Christ. And the work of the Holy Spirit, from that point forward will be to make Jesus MY Lord. As this is accomplished -- as Jesus becomes my personal Lord -- Holy Spirit fullness is achieved. Thus, do you want Holy Spirit fullness? Surrender to Jesus as Lord!
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Promise of the Father
The classic Pentecostal / charismatic position on the baptism with the Holy Spirit splits the ONE promise of God into two promises. This position states that when we are saved, we receive an indwelling of the Holy Spirit, and that this fulfills God’s promise to us of SONSHIP. That is supposedly the FIRST promise. But then they say that we must go on to receive a SECOND promise. Some call this second promise, “the FULLNESS of the Spirit.”
Jack Hayford explains the classic charismatic position in the same book we quoted in an earlier chapter:
III. DISTINGUISHING TWO PROMISES
Begin by seeing the contrast between “a well” and “rivers” in John’s record of Jesus’ ministry and teaching.
The indwelling joy of salvation:
promises “a well” of indwelling grace to satisfy you when you come to
know Him as Savior — “But the water that I shall give him will become in
him a fountain (Gk., pege) of water springing up into everlasting life”
The overflowing power of the Holy Spirit:
Jesus promises rivers of grace to flow out from you to
others (John 7:37-39).
Spirit and the Glory, Jack W. Hayford, p. 7)
First of all, the distinction between, “a well,” and “a river,” is simply a good example of reading into a text a doctrine you want to prove, and frankly, a lame one at that. More importantly, note that Hayford makes the admission that the charismatic position DOES claim there are TWO promises. Sure. They MUST say that. Otherwise, everyone receives ALL in ONE promise when they receive Christ – and this is precisely what the charismatic position does NOT teach. They teach the necessity of a SECOND promise or blessing.
But the Bible teaches ONE promise – SONSHIP received in Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit. And this ONE promise has a name: The Promise of the Father. In this chapter I want to focus upon what Jesus called, “The Promise of the Father.” For once we discover the meaning of The Promise of the Father, the charismatic doctrine of the second blessing collapses.
The Promise of the Father
The first thing I want to do is to prove that, “The Promise of the Father,” was received in Acts 2. This is easy. Jesus said this directly as He stood on the Mount of Olives, minutes before He ascended:
behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry you in the
city of Jerusalem, until you be endued with power from on high.
There is no confusion or uncertainty here.
Jesus was standing on the Mount of Olives, after His death and
resurrection, and only minutes before His ascension. And according to Jesus, “The Promise of the Father,” was,
at this point in time, NOT YET GIVEN. On
this occasion, He said, “I WILL send the Promise of the Father….and so wait
in Jerusalem unto I do.” This
agrees completely with all of the passages we have already cited in previous
chapters, showing that the Spirit had not yet been given, and could not be
given, until Jesus ascended.
If we had no other passages to prove that The Promise of the Father was
given in Acts 2, that one would be sufficient.
But just to seal this proof, we need only read Acts 1:
being assembled together with them, commanded them that they should not depart
from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, said he,
you have heard of me. For John
truly baptized with water; but you shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not
many days hence. (Acts
Again we see that according to Jesus, what was going to happen in Acts 2
was The Promise of the Father. Not
only that, but Jesus calls The Promise of the Father, “the baptism with the
I want us to get this clearly in mind.
Everything else depends upon our certainty, from the words of Christ
Himself, that what was about to happen in Acts 2 was the fulfillment of THE
PROMISE OF THE FATHER – and that fulfillment was the baptism with the Holy
Spirit that happened to those disciples on that day.
Meaning of The Promise of the Father
I don’t think anyone would try to deny that The Promise of the Father
was given in Acts 2. Not even those
holding to the charismatic position would deny that Acts 2 was the fulfillment
of The Promise of the Father. No.
In fact, go back again to the above quotes from the book by Hayford.
He would agree that The Promise of the Father was given in Acts 2.
But he teaches the classic charismatic position – that this Promise of
the Father given in Acts 2 was the SECOND of TWO promises.
Sure. The charismatic
position states that the disciples were given the FIRST promise BEFORE Acts 2,
indeed, before Jesus ascended. According
to this position, that FIRST promise was the new birth – through the
indwelling of Christ through the Holy Spirit.
Acts 2 was therefore, according to the charismatic position, the SECOND
promise – the promise of the baptism with the Holy Spirit which they say was
ADDED to the salvation of the disciples, and added to Christ, who was already in
If you will remember a few chapters back, the charismatic position claims
that the disciples received the indwelling of the Holy Spirit – the new birth,
Christ in them, and sonship -- prior to Jesus’ ascension in John 20:22.
Remember? It says there
that, “Jesus breathed upon them and said, ‘Receive you the Holy Spirit.’”
They claim that this verse proves the disciples, at this point, weeks
before Acts 2, had Christ in them through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, and
were already sons of God through the new birth.
They say that this was the FIRST promise.
Acts 2 – The Promise of the Father -- therefore must be a SECOND
It is right here that we see the entire question – the answer to which
completely devastates the charismatic position.
That question is this: What
is the meaning of, “The Promise of the Father,” that Jesus said would be
given in Acts 2?
Why is the answer to this question so crucial?
Perhaps you have already seen why: If
The Promise of the Father is actually the new birth, the indwelling of Christ,
and sonship, then those gifts were NOT given before Acts 2, but were given IN
Acts 2 – for The Promise of the Father was given in Acts 2.
Can you see that? But in that case, it would mean that Acts 2 was NOT a SECOND
blessing or a SECOND promise. No.
Rather, it would mean that Acts 2 was exactly what we have been seeing:
The ONE promise of the new birth, of Christ in us through the baptism
with the Holy Spirit, and the giving of the Spirit of sonship. And if that proves to be the case – and IT DOES -- then
there is NO second blessing, and the charismatic position collapses completely.
Promise of Sonship
The Promise of the Father was given in Acts 2.
So how you define Acts 2 is how you define The Promise of the Father.
And visa versa – how you define The Promise of the Father is how you
define Acts 2. This is inescapable.
The Promise of the Father and what happened in the upper room in Acts 2
are ONE and the SAME event.
So the question is: What is
The Promise of the Father? If we
can prove that The Promise of the Father is the new birth through the baptism
with the Holy Spirit, we will have proven that Acts 2 was not a second blessing,
but the ONE promise and blessing of sonship through Christ. And that is exactly what we are GOING to prove.
Indeed, the proof on this matter is so clear, and so widespread in God’s
Word, that it is amazing that anyone could dismiss it and continue to believe
that Acts 2 was a SECOND promise.
Let’s begin by going back and
discovering where the term, “The Promise of the Father,” came from.
This will not be hard. The
Promise of the Father is precisely the promise that God made to Abraham.
I’m not going to go through the entire
story of Abraham. It is well known. God promised Abraham a son, and Isaac was eventually born.
Then Abraham was called upon to sacrifice Isaac, and when God saw that he
was willing, God pronounced a further blessing upon him.
God promised that, “the seed of
Abraham,” would bless the entire world:
myself have I sworn, says the LORD, for because thou hast done this thing, and
hast not withheld thy son, thine only son:
That in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply
thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea
shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies;
And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed;
because thou hast obeyed my voice. (Genesis
Now, Paul declares that Abraham’s seed is, in fact, Jesus Christ:
to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He says not, And to seeds, as of
many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ.
So, when God said to Abraham, “And in thy seed will all the nations of the earth be blessed,” God was NOT talking about Isaac. No. He was talking about Jesus Christ. Christ was THE SEED OF ABRAHAM – He was The Promise of the Father – that God originally made to Abraham. Yes, Isaac would be the son of Abraham, but it was through Isaac that the real SEED would eventually come -- Jesus Christ – and all would be blessed through Him.
Originally, the blessings of Abraham would be restricted to the nation that was born of him. Isaac gave birth to Jacob, and Jacob to the twelve tribes that eventually became Israel. But eventually, the real SEED, the Messiah, would come from that nation, and carry all of the spiritual promises of God. But not just for Israel. No. God had a bigger plan – one that could not be limited to Israel. God sent Christ to redeem the entire world, and to release the promise to all.
The NT teaching on how this works is clearly shown in Galatians. Paul says that if you have your faith in Jesus Christ that you ARE a child of Abraham. You are a child and a seed of Abraham because, by faith, you are, “born again in Christ – and Christ is THE SEED and child of Abraham.
Paul says this directly:
you therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham…..And
if you be Christ’s, then are you Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to
promise. (Gal. 3:7, 29)
Now ask: How
do you become Abraham’s seed? By
faith in Christ – or to elaborate – by being BORN AGAIN in Christ.
Sure. We are all born, “in
Adam,” through natural birth. But
through death and resurrection, we are born again in Christ.
And if we are born again, we are a son or daughter of God – IN Jesus
Christ. But Paul tells us what the
means: If we are IN Christ, then we
are, by the ONENESS we have with Him through the new birth, Abraham’s seed.
WE are that because HE is that, and WE are in HIM!
This makes us SONS of God and means that we are heirs according to
promise. What promise? The Promise of the Father – going all the way back to
This is all ONE package, indeed, ONE promise.
You cannot divide it up into TWO promises.
Notice: Faith in Christ =
the new birth = son of God IN Christ = Abraham’s seed = heir according to The
Promise of the Father to Abraham.
Now at this point, we absolutely MUST see that if all of these things –
the new birth, Christ in us, and the Spirit of sonship -- are exactly what
constituted The Promise of the Father that Jesus said would be fulfilled in Acts
2, then Acts 2 is NOT a second blessing – but the very first time that anyone
was born again, indwelt by Christ, or became a son of God through the Holy
Spirit. Therefore, Acts 2 was not a
second blessing. It was The one and only Promise of the Father.
The doctrine of the second blessing therefore falls to the ground.
God promised Abraham that, “his seed,” would inherit the promise.
Jesus Christ is Abraham’s seed. But
if we are born again, we are IN HIM, and that makes US Abraham’s seed as well
– it makes US sons of God -- and therefore makes us joint heirs with Christ.
We have already seen that The Promise of the Father was given in Acts 2.
No one denies this. Therefore,
the question is what The Promise of the Father IS.
Lest anyone continue to doubt that The Promise of the Father was the very
same promise given to Abraham, we need only read a few more passages:
the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ;
that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.
For the promise, that he should be the heir of the world, was
not to Abraham or to his seed through the law, but through the
righteousness of faith. For if they
which are of the law be heirs, faith is made void, and the promise made of none
effect: Because the law works
wrath: for where no law is, there is no transgression. Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace; to the
end the promise might be sure to all the seed; not to that only which is
of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham; who is the
father of us all. (Rom
if the inheritance be of the law, it is no more of promise: but God gave it to
Abraham by promise. (Gal 3:18)
It is impossible to read these verses and
miss the fact that The Promise of the Father was the promise God gave to
Abraham. They are the SAME promise
– the ONE promise. As we have
seen, that promise was embodied in Jesus Christ, and given to the disciples in
Acts 2. And once we see this, it
means that Acts 2 could not have been a second promise – on top of the new
Acts 2 was the new birth, because the new birth is The Promise of the
The Promise of the Father to Abraham was of a son, yes, but sonship is a
matter of INHERITANCE. Read Genesis
12 and on. You will clearly see
this. God promised to GIVE to
Abraham an inheritance – one that could be passed on to his heirs.
Aside from the physical fulfillment of this promise, we have seen that
the entire thing has a greater spiritual application.
The true heir of Abraham – who is the only one who can inherit the
promise of the Father TO Abraham -- is Abraham’s seed:
Jesus Christ. Thus, the only
way for US to become an heir of Abraham – the only way for US to become the
seed of Abraham—is through the new birth IN CHRIST.
By being made one with Christ through death and resurrection, WE are
Abraham’s seed, and joint heirs according to The Promise of the Father.
(see again Gal. 3:29)
Can we possibly see that the entire Promise of the Father is found in the
Person of Jesus Christ? The Promise
of the Father is NOT a second blessing. It
is CHRIST IN US through the Holy Spirit – and all that He carries.
We MUST see this. For once
we do, and remember that Acts 2 is when The Promise of the Father was fulfilled,
it will prove to us that Acts 2 was not a second blessing in addition to Christ,
but rather, was when the disciples received Christ HIMSELF!
The meaning of inheritance proves the same thing.
Inheritance is based on the family into which you are BORN.
We are all born, “in Adam.” But
there is NO inheritance for anyone in Adam.
No. Adam lost everything when he rejected God.
But Christ redeemed it all. Therefore,
the only way for us to inherit what God has for us is to be BORN AGAIN in Christ
Jesus, and become Abraham’s seed. But
again, since Acts 2 was when The Promise of the Father was fulfilled, this means
that it was Acts 2 when the disciples were BORN AGAIN in Christ.
Acts 2 fulfilled The Promise of the Father.
Acts 2 was the new birth. Acts
2 was Christ in those disciples. Acts
2 was NOT a second blessing, or a second promise, but the ONE promise and ONE
blessing of God of Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit.
Acts 2 was the inheritance God promised to Abraham being given to his
in the dispensation of the fullness of times he might gather together in one all
things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him.
In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated
according to the purpose of him who works all things after the counsel of his
own will: That we should be to the
praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ. In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of
truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, you
were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise,
Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the
purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory. (Eph 1:10-14)
According to this passage, it is IN CHRIST that we receive an
inheritance. The Holy Spirit in us
is a down payment, or, “earnest,” of that full inheritance – because in
this life, in this body, we cannot fully experience it.
But the down payment nevertheless represents the whole. In fact, it is by the Holy Spirit that we are SEALED.
he which established us with you in Christ, and hath anointed us, is God;
Who hath also sealed us, and given the earnest of the Spirit in our
hearts. (2 Cor 1:21-22)
And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. (Eph 4:30)
Promise of SONSHIP
The Promise of the Father is essentially a promise of SONSHIP.
But included in SONSHIP is really everything Christianity IS. For
you cannot be a son of God unless you are BORN AGAIN – so The Promise of the
Father includes the new birth. And
if you are born again, you are in line for the inheritance of a son – which
means that inheritance is likewise included in The Promise of the Father, or
sonship. And of course, most
important of all, sonship is the result of being in THE SON.
As we have been seeing, it is only because we are IN Christ that we are
sons – Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to PROMISE.
Thus, we see that God’s promise to Abraham was the promise of eternal
life through Jesus Christ.
And so I say again – if all of this is what The Promise of the Father
MEANS, and The Promise of the Father was clearly fulfilled in Acts 2, how can
anyone continue to claim that the disciples were saved before Acts 2? How can anyone continue to make Acts 2, “a second promise,”
in addition to sonship? That is
impossible – and anyone who wants to see the Truth on this must agree.
The reason you and I are sons of God is because we have received Jesus Christ – who is the seed of Abraham – by faith. This births us anew and brings us into a relationship of a SON with the Father, and make us joint-heirs with Christ.
when the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman,
made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might
receive the adoption of sons. And
because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your
hearts, crying, Abba, Father. Wherefore
thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through
Christ. (Gal 4:4-7)
as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.
For you have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but you
have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit itself bears witness with our spirit, that we are
the children of God: And if
children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be
that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.
The Promise of the Father is embodied in the Person of Jesus Christ, and therefore, if we have CHRIST IN US, we have The Promise of the Father. In Christ, we are Abraham’s seed, and HEIRS according TO PROMISE. In Christ, we are SONS – indwelt with the earnest of our inheritance, the Holy Spirit. There is NOTHING ELSE to receive.
Once we see that The Promise of the Father is embodied in Jesus Christ, it means that Acts 2 was not a second blessing in addition to Christ, but the very Promise of the Father, who IS CHRIST! When we receive Christ we receive ALL – because ALL is in Christ.
Are we really prepared to say that The Promise of the Father was NOT Jesus Christ? That The Promise of Jesus Christ was NOT a promise of sonship? Well, if you believe the disciples were sons of God through the new birth BEFORE Acts 2, you are saying that – because The Promise of the Father was given in Acts 2. Yet this is exactly what the charismatic position teaches.
No. There are not TWO promises, as suggested by Jack Hayford. Read again all of the passages from Romans, Galatians, and Ephesians. Do you see even a hint that there are TWO promises? No. There is only ONE – THE Promise of the Father through Jesus Christ.
The question for those who have believed that there is a second blessing is this: Are you wiling to believe what the Bible clearly teaches, even if it flies in the face of your interpretations and your experiences? Are you willing to say, “My life in the Spirit continues to be real. It is not invalid. Christ is in me. But I had a wrong idea of how I came to receive the baptism with the Holy Spirit. I misinterpreted many of my experiences. Praise God for showing me the Truth!”? What could be wrong with that? Do we, or do we not, want to see the Truth of God? The fact is, until we are willing to expose our traditions, experiences, interpretations, and even our reputations, to the Word of God, we aren’t going to get far. Instead of feeling threatened by the Truth, we ought to realize that it will set us free, and thank God for it.
The New Covenant
It would seem that one of the biggest confusions in the Christian church has always been the distinction between the Old and New Covenants. In fact, many Christians see no difference at all. Some Christians continue, as did the Galatians, to live under the law. Despite being saved, they lack understanding as to what salvation in Jesus Christ MEANS.
This is not an insignificant problem. For example, Paul told the Galatians, "Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; you are fallen from grace." (Gal 5:4) Now, that is a dangerous situation – for Christ to have no effect unto you! Yet this is what happens if you continue, despite being saved, to live under the law. God inspired an entire epistle to address this dangerous possibility.
Other Christians have a completely wrong idea as to what happened to the disciples in Acts 2, when God poured out the Holy Spirit. These folks think that BEFORE Jesus ascended to heaven that the disciples were already born again, and had Christ in them through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. They believe this despite the fact that Jesus said this was impossible, and they believe it despite the fact that the entire plan of God from Genesis to Revelation tells them that this could not be. Consequently, they believe that in Acts 2 the disciples received a SECOND BLESSING.
This is also not an insignificant problem. First of all, it means that it is today possible for millions of Christians to have received ONLY Christ, and ONLY the first blessing – but to lack this supposed second blessing. But just an importantly, it means that everything Jesus promised the Comforter would do when He came is not included in CHRIST IN US, but is included only in this second blessing – a fullness of the Spirit that only SOME Christians have today received. It means we are NOT, "complete in Christ," but must go on to receive a second blessing if we are to be complete, and have the fullness of the Holy Spirit.
Some Christians don’t care about these issues. Indeed, they will say you are causing division if you address them. I always think that is a bit humorous, seeing as how all you have in the church today IS division – much of it CAUSED by these very errors! But people don’t want their particular theological position disturbed. Or their faith is so anchored in their experiences, or their interpretations of their experiences, that they won’t consider anything else. But in the end, we have to go back to the Bible. If we won’t, we cannot expect God to protect us from error and it’s consequences.
I don’t know how many Christians realize the Truth about what I just said. God has given us His written Word as a standard for Truth. If you ignore what it says, God is not going to protect you from deception – indeed, the Bible is His great protection from deception. This is not maybe. You can bank on it.
It is really easy to know what the Bible SAYS. But the Holy Spirit wants to reveal to us what it MEANS by what it SAYS. This is why we must have an open heart to God, and to allow Him to do with us whatever is necessary to reveal to us Jesus Christ. See Christ and you will begin to understand the Bible. Indeed, you will never understand it any other way. That is also something you can bank on.
Get this distinction: We must see Christ, and not just understand theology. See Christ and the Bible becomes a living Word. And the Bible itself tells us this very thing.
If you are a born again believer, you already know that the Bible is the Word of God. If you don’t believe the Bible is the Word of God, I’d question my conversion. But assuming you do know that, do you really believe that you are at liberty to ignore God’s written Word? The Holy Spirit is going to be in the process of guiding you into all Truth. This Truth will need to come to you by revelation – that is a fact. But the Truth that is revealed to you will ALWAYS agree with scripture. It will NEVER conflict with it. Thus, whatever we feel God has revealed to us must always be taken back to the Bible. In the final analysis, it does not matter what I believe is the Truth, and it does not matter how I think God has confirmed it as the Truth – it MUST be in the Bible. And if we ignore the Bible on these matters, our deception is not going to be God’s fault. It is going to be ours.
One of the biggest needs in the Christian church today is to see the difference between the Old and New Covenants. To see this difference is to see the difference between the law, which was a shadow, and Jesus Christ, who is the substance. And it is important that we see exactly when, how, and why the New Covenant came when it did.
God’s Own Definition
In His Word, God Himself has told us the number one distinction between the Covenants:
But now has he (Christ) obtained a more excellent ministry, by how much also he is the mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises. For if that first covenant had been faultless, then should no place have been sought for the second. For finding fault with them, he saith, Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah: Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they continued not in my covenant, and I regarded them not, saith the Lord. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people: And they shall not teach every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest. For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more. In that he saith, A new covenant, he hath made the first old. Now that which is decayed and waxed old is ready to vanish away. (Heb. 8:6-13)
Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the LORD: But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. And they shall teach no more every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know the LORD: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the LORD: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more. (Jer. 31:30-34)
Hebrews 8 is a reference to a prophecy from Jeremiah 31. God is announcing that He intends to make a NEW covenant – one that replaces the OLD. But note upfront this vital fact, right from the mouth of God: God clearly states that the NEW covenant will be one that is, "NOT ACCORDING," to the OLD. "
Do you see that? The NEW is NOT LIKE the OLD – it is different. God Himself said so. So we are not left to guess at WHETHER the Covenants differ. They do. And God Himself is going to tell us the difference between the Old and New Covenants.
God says that the biggest difference between the NEW covenant and the OLD is this: "I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. And they shall teach no more every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know the LORD: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the LORD: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more."
Do you see the difference? The NEW Covenant would be INWARD. It would contain a work whereby people could BECOME – rather than just DO. In short, God is really speaking here of the NEW BIRTH.
Hebrews says much the same thing. Jeremiah reads just a little bit different, howbeit in harmony with the quote from Hebrews: "I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people: And they shall not teach every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest. For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more."
God is saying that the New Covenant will be one of a NEW BIRTH. Indeed, the New Covenant offered the possibility of CHRIST IN US. The Old never offered this, and could not have offered it.
Christ In Us
According to God, the fundamental difference between covenants is that the NEW covenant will be INWARD. The OLD covenant was OUTWARD. Now, that is a rather simple way of stating this difference. When we finally get into the New Testament writing, it is explained much more, and it is revealed as to the MEANS by which this New Covenant will be possible. It is possible through CHRIST IN US.
Whereof I am made a minister, according to the dispensation of God which is given to me for you, to fulfill the word of God; Even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints…..which is Christ in you, the hope of glory: (Col 1:25-27)
We enter fully into the New Covenant when we enter into Christ, and thus, Christ enters into US. Get that. CHRIST IN US is the fullness of the New Covenant.
Read again the passage above from Colossians. Christ in people was NOT possible – indeed was a reality HIDDEN from ages and generations before Acts 2. Sure. Christ could not be IN people, through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, before Christ came and finished His redemptive work. Jesus Himself said so. He said:
And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; Even the Spirit of Truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it sees him not, neither knows him: but you know him; for he dwells with you, and shall be in you. (John 14:16-17)
In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. He that believes on me, as the scripture has said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. (But this spoke he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.) (John 7:37-39)
Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you. (John 16:7)
It is inescapable that CHRIST IN US is the fullness of the New Covenant – when He enters into us, we enter into the New Covenant. And how does Christ dwell in us? Through the Holy Spirit. And WHEN did this become possible? When the Comforter came in Acts 2. Not before. Jesus could not dwell in people through the Holy Spirit before He ascended to heaven. He said so. The Bible says so. And consequently, we had better believe so.
And yet there are millions of Christians who believe that the disciples were indwelt by Christ through the Holy Spirit prior to Acts 2. They believe that Acts 2 some a second blessing on top of that – a greater fullness. But if you believe this, it should be clear by now that what you are saying is that the New Covenant was in effect BEFORE Christ ascended, indeed, before He even died and was raised. This is impossible.
I have known Christians who have actually assumed – without checking out the Bible – that the disciples of Jesus, not to mention all of the Old Testament saints, were born again. They believe that the Holy Spirit was IN them, and that Christ was in them. But once we understand that the fundamental difference between the Old and New Covenants – the difference that God Himself points out – is CHRIST IN US, then this reasoning is shown to be error. Christ could not dwell in anyone before Acts 2. Thus, there could be NO new birth before Acts 2, because we are born again through Christ in us. Only when the New Covenant began could any of these things happen in God’s people.
The New Covenant was ushered into the experience of people starting in Acts 2. Not before. And therefore, it is conclusive that everything that the New Covenant made possible – Christ in us through the Holy Spirit being the main thing – was not possible BEFORE Acts 2, and was fully possible after Acts 2. This is as certain as the Covenants themselves. Therefore, Acts 2 was the END of the Old Covenant – the end of being under the law. And Acts 2 was NOT a second blessing. It was the first time the ONE and ONLY blessing was received by God’s people.
The Baptism of John
Some of the confusion on this matter is because we don’t understand the mission of John the Baptist, or the meaning of what is termed, "John’s baptism."
For example, in the book of Acts, after the Holy Spirit was poured out in Acts 2, there are a number of individuals who say they had received only, "John’s baptism." They still needed to receive the Holy Spirit. The disciples usually pray for them, lay hands upon them, and they receive the Holy Spirit. What is going on here?
Those who believe that Acts 2 was a second blessing often point to these occurrences as proof that Acts 2 was a second blessing. They say John’s baptism was the FIRST blessing, wherein people received Christ in them. This would mean that receiving the Holy Spirit on top of that – as a second blessing – could not equal receiving Christ all over again, but would have to be a SECOND blessing in addition to Christ. So the question becomes, "What did people receive under John’s baptism?" Did they receive CHRIST IN THEM through the Holy Spirit?
Well, we have already quoted John 14:16-17 where Jesus Himself clearly said that the Holy Spirit was only WITH them, but would be – future tense pointing towards Acts 2 – IN THEM. That ought to be enough. But let’s find more proof that John’s baptism did not result in an indwelling – that it did not provide for Christ in people through the Holy Spirit. In fact, upon further study, we really find that John’s baptism was fully representative of salvation, not under the NEW Covenant, but under the OLD.
Note the clear contrast made between John’s baptism, and what Jesus would make possible through His Redemption:
I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that comes after me is mightier than I,whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire: (Mat 3:11)
For John truly baptized with water; but you shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence. (Acts 1:5)Now, if we get nothing else out of these verses, what we do see is that the baptism with the Holy Spirit that Jesus would bring is NOT THE SAME as John’s baptism. Can we see that? The two are being contrasted, and Jesus’ baptism is stated as SUPERIOR. But how so? Well, the Bible gives a description of John’s baptism:
The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God; As it is written in the prophets, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee. The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. John did baptize in the wilderness, and preach the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins. And there went out unto him all the land of Judaea, and they of Jerusalem, and were all baptized of him in the river of Jordan, confessing their sins. (Mark 1:1-5)
John’s baptism was never said to indicate NEW LIFE. It is simply a baptism that indicated that a person had relinquished their old life – through repentance. In fact, these people had come under the fullness of the Old Covenant.
John the Baptist was the last Old Testament prophet. In fact, he embodied the Old Covenant. His ministry was to make a path in the wilderness for the Lord, which is exactly what the Old Covenant did. John brought to fullness everything God provided under the Old Covenant. His baptism symbolized salvation under the Old Covenant, which was a legal salvation, based in faith in the future Savior. But John’s baptism could not give you a NEW BIRTH, any more than the Old Covenant could give you a new birth. No. That was possible only through the New Covenant, and the baptism with the Holy Spirit.
There is perhaps no clearer a statement to this effect than the one that Jesus made about John:
Verily I say unto you, among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist: notwithstanding he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. (Matt. 11:11)
This statement tells us that even John himself was NOT born again into the kingdom of God. Do you see that? John was the greatest of all ever born of woman – of all those ever born into this world through natural birth. Yet, the LEAST of those born again into the kingdom is greater than John! Thus, John could not have been born again. He was saved under the Old Covenant, indeed, was the full embodiment of it.
John will be in heaven, as will all the OT saints. But the, "this life experience," of salvation was not the same for those under the Old Covenant as it was for those under the New. They were all saved by the same Jesus, and the same Blood. But for THIS LIFE, they were not born again. They couldn’t be. That was possible only once the New Covenant came to pass.
Now, the conclusion here is inescapable. If John, the greatest ever born of natural birth was NOT born again – because the New Covenant had not yet begun – then neither was anyone else born of natural birth ever BORN AGAIN – up until that time! Neither were the disciples of Christ, and neither were any of those people in the book of Acts who said that they had received only, "the baptism of John." Thus, when they did receive the Holy Spirit, it was NOT a second blessing. It was not a second blessing any more than what the disciples received in Acts 2 was a second blessing. Rather, they received CHRIST IN THEM through the Holy Spirit – they received the fullness of the New Covenant.
John the Baptist brought the fullness of the Old Covenant, and provided a salvation under that Old Covenant. Jesus brought the fullness of the New Covenant, and provided a salvation under the New Covenant. The change of Covenants was made possible through the Redemption of Jesus Christ – culminating with His ascension. But the reality of this NEW Covenant actually came to pass in Acts 2 when Jesus, having ascended, sent back down everything He was, and everything He did, in the Person of the Holy Spirit. When those disciples received the Holy Spirit in Acts 2, it was the first time anyone had been born again. It was the fullness of the New Covenant – that was NOT ACCORDING to the Old – coming to pass IN THEM through the indwelling of Christ through the Holy Spirit.
The Coming of the Spirit
And, being assembled together with them, commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith he, ye have heard of me. For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence. When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel? And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power. But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth. (Acts 1:4-8)
The coming of the Holy Spirit in Acts 2, as Jesus spoke of above, was NOT a second blessing on top of Christ in them, which is exactly what New Covenant salvation IS. Rather, it was the inauguration of the NEW COVENANT. The disciples, before Acts 2, did not have Christ in them, did not have the Holy Spirit in them, and were not born again. None of that was possible, and Jesus said so, until Jesus ascended. Only once Jesus ASCENDED to heaven, could the Holy Spirit DESCEND – and only then could everything that Jesus is, and what Jesus DID, be made real INSIDE of people – which is exactly what God said He would make possible through the New Covenant.
We see further proof of this in Jesus’ description of what would happen to them in Acts 2. He said, "You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you shall be witnesses unto Me."
Under John’s baptism – under OT salvation – there was no power. There was merely a legal salvation. Sure, the Holy Spirit did lots of powerful things through people in the OT, and even through the disciples themselves during the ministry of Jesus. But the power that Jesus was talking about was not the same. Jesus was talking about the POWER TO BECOME. To become what? To become, "witnesses unto Me."
Can we see that Jesus was talking about an INWARD power – a power that was the fulfillment of God’s promise to write His law in our hearts and minds? This was not a power to DO things, like ministry, or good works. No. It was the power of the Holy Spirit within them, that would cause them to BECOME living witnesses to Christ.
John the apostle said the same thing:
But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. (John 1:12-13)
You cannot BECOME a son of God – that is, you cannot grow into everything that this means – unless you FIRST receive Christ and are born again. Then you have the POWER to become what God desires. But this POWER is not a, "thing," or a, "force." No, the power is LIFE. It is Christ within you.
This is the power about which Jesus spoke. He was telling them that when the Holy Spirit came upon them, that they would have a power that they could never have under the Old Covenant. They would have the power of resurrection LIFE in Christ. They would have the power of the Holy Spirit. This would give them power to become sons of God – to become living witnesses unto Him.
Can we see that this is the New Covenant that God promised? – a covenant that was UNLIKE the old? That this New Covenant was first INWARD? A matter of BECOMING due to a new LIFE within? This New Covenant was the result of CHRIST HIMSELF coming to dwell in people through the Holy Spirit. Christ is the power. Christ is the life. Christ is the light. He is the personification of the New Covenant. And it all began in Acts 2.
Baptism With the Holy Spirit
Jesus told the disciples that the Holy Spirit would come upon them – earlier He had used other language – He had said they would be BAPTIZED with the Holy Spirit. The result of this baptism with the Holy Spirit, Jesus said, would be that they would BE, or BECOME, witnesses unto Him.
If all we think this means is that the disciples were empowered to SERVE, we are going to miss the point. In fact, if that is what we think Jesus was promising, His promise was rather after the fact, because the disciples, during the ministry of Jesus, had been sent out by Jesus, and they had worked miracles, cast out demons, and certainly witnessed about Christ. They came back rejoicing about it. Therefore, what Jesus is promising in Acts 1, just before His ascension, cannot be the power to serve in ways they had already served. He was promising them something much more.
We have already seen that the Holy Spirit had been WITH the disciples, as He was WITH the saints of the Old Testament. This is not a little thing. Many mighty things were done. It is an incredible thing to have the Holy Spirit WITH you! But we have likewise seen that the Holy Spirit had never been IN the disciples. Despite all of the miracles they had done in the name of Jesus, this was so – they had never had Christ in them through the Holy Spirit. This is the promise Jesus was making to them. The Holy Spirit would come to be IN THEM -- and it was going to result in them receiving POWER to become His witnesses.
Can we see that it is essential for the Holy Spirit to be IN US if we are to BECOME? You cannot BECOME – grow in Christ – unless you are born anew from above. Jesus said so. He said you cannot even SEE, let alone ENTER, the kingdom of God, unless you are first BORN from above. Thus, what God said was the big difference between the Old and New Covenants is clearly essential for us to both understand and experience. Until Christ is in us through the Holy Spirit we are NOT under the New Covenant. Until Christ is in us we are NOT born again. Until Christ is in us, we are NOT in His church. Until Christ is in us we cannot be witnesses unto Him, or become a full grown son of God.
Christ is in us through the Holy Spirit, received through the baptism with the Holy Spirit. The baptism with the Holy Spirit is immersion into Christ – the Holy Spirit being the agency by which we receive everything Christ is, and has done. It is not an experience in addition to receiving Christ – it IS receiving Christ. But because it is, in Christ we are COMPLETE. (Col. 2:9-10) In Christ through the Spirit are included ALL that God has for us, including all of the spiritual gifts.
Never try to separate the Holy Spirit from Christ in us. The two are as one. We don’t receive Christ at one point, and the Holy Spirit at another. We receive Christ THROUGH the Holy Spirit. When the disciples were baptized with the Holy Spirit in the upper room in Acts 2, they were receiving Christ IN THEM through the Spirit, were born again, and became the first to come under the NEW Covenant. They then had within them the power of His resurrection life.
Old vs. New Covenant
Under John’s baptism, you came to God on the basis of the Old Covenant, and received a legal salvation – somewhat equal to the NT justification by faith. Of course, this would have been in anticipation of Christ, not in retrospect. But through this, you could be imputed with righteousness, in the way Abram was declared righteous because he believed God. But note: Justification by faith is LEGAL. It is not LIVING. Being declared righteous doesn’t make you righteous – inside. You still have not been BORN AGAIN, simply because you have been legally declared righteous. No. You must still be, yes IMPUTED with righteousness, but more importantly, you must be IMPARTED with life. You cannot be born anew otherwise. This was impossible under the Old Covenant. Christ had to first die, be raised, and ascend. Then everything Christ did could be sent down through the Holy Spirit, and made to DWELL IN YOU. Then, you would come under that power of life within you, and BECOME a witness unto Christ. All of this was possible only under the New Covenant.
The fact is, if it was possible to be born again BEFORE Christ ascended, then all of the Old Testament saints would have been born again. Some people mistakenly think they were. But ask: If they were born again BEFORE Christ, then why did two covenants? If the Old Covenant provided essentially the same as the NEW, then there is no real difference between the two, and they are as one. But no. God had TWO covenants. And He Himself told us the difference between them – He said the NEW is unlike the OLD in that it provides for INWARD LIFE, which is a NEW BIRTH. In effect, if it were possible to be born again before Christ, there would be no need at all for two covenants. Indeed, the possibilities bound up in the New Covenant would have been in effect from the start. Thus, the very existence of an Old Covenant proves that it could not provide the new birth found in the NEW.
As we saw, this was as different a baptism from that of John’s baptism, as the New Covenant was better than the Old. In fact, we might, at this point, display the contrasts between the Old and New Covenants:
John’s baptism for remission of sins
Baptism into Christ by Holy Spirit
The Cross of Christ
Animal sacrifices continually
Once for all death of Christ
Types and shadows of Christ
Christ in us
Laws to obey
Power to become
Imputed legal righteousness
Imparted resurrection life
If ye love me, keep my commandments. And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it sees him not, neither knows him: but you know him; for he dwells with you, and shall be in you. I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you. Yet a little while, and the world sees me no more; but you see me: because I live, you shall live also. At that day you shall know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. (John 14:15-20)
In this passage, Jesus affirms just about everything we have been talking about. Note first of all that He speaks of the Comforter’s coming in FUTURE terms. Sure. The Comforter had NOT YET come – and therefore NOTHING the Comforter would bring was possible until Jesus ascended. All through John Jesus speaks of the coming of the Comforter as only possible once Jesus ascended. The Promise of the Father would not come while Jesus was still physically on the earth -- we saw that earlier. So right up front, from this passage, we see complete affirmation that the Holy Spirit had never yet come, proving that Acts 2 was the first time that He did come.
A second thing we see is that Jesus absolutely cements the Truth that the Holy Spirit had never come to dwell WITHIN anyone to this point. He was only WITH them. This defines what Jesus always means when He says the Comforter WILL come – He means He will come to DWELL IN YOU. Again, Jesus could not say that the Holy Spirit was WITH them, but would be IN them, if the Holy Spirit could already be IN them before His ascension.
Incidentally, there are those who teach that the Holy Spirit came to dwell IN the disciples after the resurrection, but before the ascension, making Acts 2 a second blessing. Often they point to John 20:22 as evidence that the disciples received the Holy Spirit WITHIN THEM. This is nonsense. Jesus simply breathed UPON them on that occasion, not IN THEM. Furthermore, Jesus had already plainly told them the Holy Spirit could not DESCEND until He ASCENDED. Saying that they received the Spirit IN THEM before the ascension is a direct contradiction to those words, and really, a contradiction to the entire story of The Promise of the Father given in Acts 2.
A third thing we see in this passage from John 14 that Jesus makes Himself ONE with the Holy Spirit – He says, "I will come to you." In fact, just a few verses later, in John 14:23, He says that He and His Father will come and make their dwelling place with us. The fact is, you cannot separate Christ from the Holy Spirit, or Christ from the Father. The Trinity is ONE. Thus, in Acts 2, when the Comforter came, Jesus came to dwell in those people. Christ in us is Christianity, and Christianity began on the day in Acts 2.
Once we see that Christ Himself came to dwell in people in Acts 2, it completely does away with any notion of a second blessing. It proves that they received Christ IN THEM in Acts 2, and therefore could not have had Christ in them before that, meaning Acts 2 could not have been a second blessing.
A fourth thing Jesus reveals in this passage is easy to miss. He says, "Because I live you shall live also." Again – He is speaking in future terms, of what is going to happen WHEN the Comforter comes. Can we see that when He says, "because I live you shall live also," that He is telling them that they shall have NEW LIFE in Him? That this IS the new birth? That this is Christ in them -- resulting in Christ AS their life? Yes, it is all of those things – and Jesus speaks of all of them as YET TO COME – as being the result of the coming of the Comforter.
A fifth thing Jesus says is, "At that day you shall know that I am in My Father, and you are in Me, and I in you." Note the introductory phrase, "AT THAT DAY." Again – a day that is YET to come for them. It would be at that future day that they would know that they were IN HIM, and that He was IN THEM. This is clear affirmation that Christ was not in them until Acts 2. He would come to dwell in them through the Holy Spirit only after He ascended.
Every one of these facts – these promises of Jesus – was the promise of the New Covenant. They are all bound up in the prophecy we read from Jeremiah, as quoted in Hebrews. God promised that there would be a NEW covenant, NOT LIKE the old. The difference would be, "for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest." The New Covenant would be first and foremost based upon an INWARD LIFE – made possible through death and resurrection in Christ. CHRIST IN US would be the essence of the New Covenant.
But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision avails any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature. And as many as walk according to this rule, peace be on them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God. (Gal. 6:14-16)
The Purpose of the Baptism With the Holy Spirit
The purpose of the baptism with the Holy Spirit – the ONE blessing we receive at salvation -- is to take everything that Jesus is, and everything that Jesus does, and make it real and living in each who receives Him. That is why it is called a BAPTISM. We are immersed, or made one with Christ through the Spirit.
This starts with salvation. But as we have been seeing, salvation is not a SEPARATE thing, or a SEPARATE blessing from the other purposes of God in the Christian life. No. Salvation carries all of those purposes in the Person of Christ. It’s just that once we receive Christ we must go on to grow, experience Him, and come under this work of the Spirit. Thus, it is all ONE blessing – really – all one PERSON, Christ. We receive Jesus through the baptism with the Holy Spirit and everything else in the Christian life emerges from HIM; from His life in us.
If you had an apple seed in your hand, it may not look like it, but POTENTIALLY you really have an apple tree in your hand, with big red apples hanging from the branches. Sure. The fact that you have not yet planted the seed or seen growth does not take away from the potential in the seed. So it is with life in Christ. When we receive Christ at salvation, we receive EVERYTHING God has for us. We are COMPLETE IN HIM. (Col. 2:10) All the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are in Him. (Col. 2:3) Indeed, Christ in us is UNTO US wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption. There is no SECOND blessing – nothing more to receive. No. There is only the unfolding of the ONE and ONLY blessing that we receive of Christ Himself in us through the baptism with the Holy Spirit.
But note: This doesn’t mean that immediately we experience it all, or are able to live it all. No. Not any more than an apple tree grows from a seed in a minute. Rather, Christ must become enlarged in us through a process – and the same process will reduce US. As we yield to God and die, Christ will be enlarged in us. We will begin to experience all of Him, and all that He carries. This will take a lifetime. But we have to come under this work of the Holy Spirit – the work of the Cross – so that Christ might be known by us, and that we might become witnesses unto Him.
Jesus is Lord
Fundamental to this growth process is that we might come under the government of God – which is equal to coming under Jesus as our Lord. When we give our lives to Christ for salvation, we DO surrender to Him as Lord – I hope we know to do that – but this surrender alone does not immediately make us able to live under Him as Lord. No. Our surrender simply opens the door for the Spirit to begin a work to make us able – to reduce us and exalt HIM. It is a great thing to ask God to do whatever it takes in you to bring you into alignment with Jesus as your Lord. It is a prayer God will always answers – even if it takes years.
It is important to see that we can surrender to God in a minute. But we are not necessarily able to execute and put into practice what our surrender means. In other words, surrender isn’t so much a promise that we will live with Jesus as our Lord, as it is a surrender to the Spirit to MAKE US INTO PEOPLE WHO CAN. Get that. Hopefully, we already see that we will fail if we simply promise. No. We must surrender.
It is so vital to see this. Are we willing to completely surrender ourselves into the hands of God to the extent that He can so whatever it takes to make Jesus Lord of us – not in theory, and not potentially, but REALLY? This is where the Spirit wants to bring us, and then this is the work the Spirit wants to do.
Now, until we come to this place of the surrender of ourselves, we are not going to get far in Christ. But hopefully we are seeing another vital point here with regards to the error of the second blessing teaching. Ask: Do we really believe that God would pour out His Spirit upon people and give them all kinds of power and gifts, to the exclusion of making Jesus their Lord? To the exclusion of making sure that they are surrendered to Christ, and would not abuse that power and gifts? The Bible teaches that God would never do this. And yet the doctrine of the second blessing teaches that He would, and does. You almost never hear anything taught about the second blessing which mentions the Cross, or the necessity of being fully governed by Jesus as Lord.
Most who believe in the necessity of a second blessing do not speak of it in terms of a coming under Jesus as Lord. Now, many years ago, there was an association made – the second blessing was considered to be a work of sanctification, which equals Jesus being my Lord. This was error because Jesus as Lord doesn’t come through a second blessing. But today even that is usually neglected. Instead, mostly gifts and power to serve God are said to be what is given in the second blessing. There seems to be a complete disregard to whether a person receiving all of these eternal, holy gifts, is even in a relationship with God wherein those gifts can operate and move to God’s glory.
But it is here, on this point, that we are able to ask some rather revealing questions. First, if a saved person comes to the place where they surrender all to Christ as Lord, then why would they need a second blessing? Are we to say that this person continues to lack so much of what God has for them? Nope. The fact is, if you surrender to Jesus you experience Jesus. There is nothing to add. In that case you don’t need a second blessing – you are coming into an experience that was always potentially there in Christ. On the other side of the coin, if a person thinks they have received a second blessing, but has never surrendered to Jesus as Lord, then are they better off than the person who supposedly hasn’t received the second blessing, but HAS surrendered all of themselves to Christ?
Of course someone is liable to say that it is the surrender to Jesus as Lord that results in receiving a second blessing. But no. This surrender may result in a wonder spiritual experience – which is a release of the Spirit in you. It may result in a new awakening and a new spiritual aptitude. That is great. And if you have been taught you need a second blessing, you may think that it was through that second blessing that you received all of these things. But this is not so. The fact is, ALL THINGS are in Christ, and Christ is in us from salvation. All of those things were therefore POTENTIALLY there – just needing a release through surrender. It is when you surrender to Him as Lord that it is all released and you begin to experience it.
Jesus said that anyone who believed in Him – that out of their inwards parts would flow rivers of living water. Picture Christ in us as a great well, potentially wanting to flood ALL OF US, and flow THROUGH US. But there is much debris clogging things up. Well, when we surrender to Jesus as Lord, all of these dams begin to burst. The Spirit can flow in us because we are no longer out to have our will or our life. The Spirit now has the freedom to do whatever God wants to God’s glory. Sometimes in the beginning of this people can have wonderful spiritual experiences. They have moved on into a new season with Christ.
Notice what I just described. I did not say God adds a second blessing to us. No. I said that in Christ there is already a great reservoir of LIFE. But WE are in the way of the flow, even as saved people. Yet IF we yield to the work of the Spirit and are taken out of the way, then His LIFE can flow. It can flow through gifts, ministry, and especially as a manifestation of the character of Christ – because now we have no agenda or flesh clogging things us. God is free to flow and we are free to benefit and be used.
The Holy Spirit is not going to continue on for long flowing through a person who is not surrendered to Christ. He can’t. That person will take the things of God and use them for his own agenda – just like Ananais and Sapphira in the book of Acts. And yet if the way in which all of these wonderful things are received is through a second blessing – to the disregard of whether the person has surrendered to Jesus as Lord, God would actually be sanctioning such a thing. And this could never be.
What I am getting at is this: Christians do not need a SECOND blessing. No. Rather, Christians need to fully surrender to the Christ they received in the one and only blessing. Surrender to Christ and everything God has for you will come into your possession and experience – over the course of your life. Don’t surrender to Christ and you will never move ahead, and it won’t matter how dramatic your supposed second blessing was, or how manyother spiritual experiences you think you have had.
Jesus said, "Seek you first the kingdom of God – Jesus as Lord – and all things will be added." He meant material things for sure, but think about it: If you seek Jesus as Lord what you get is Jesus and everything that is found IN HIM.
An Important Issue
Can we possibly see that the key issue to experiencing all that God has given us in Christ is unconditional surrender to Christ, and not a second blessing? And can we also see the danger and the deception in neglecting surrender to Christ, and thinking that we experience all that God has in Christ by receiving a THING called, "the second blessing?" The fruits of such a deception need not be open to guess work. Look at the charismatic movement today.
There are, of course, many fantastic charismatic people. Some of them have come into wonderful things in Christ. Many think they have done so through a second blessing. But this isn’t true. What they have done – if their maturity is real – is unconditionally surrender to Christ. The fact that they were taught to seek a second blessing brings confusion as to the source.
When I surrender all to Christ, I am able to be trusted by God, used by God, and will come into everything that is IN CHRIST. In short, if you give yourself to Jesus as Lord, what you get is Jesus as EVERYTHING. This cannot be received by some second blessing. But if you have been taught that you can, you may get these things mixed up and misunderstand what the Bible teaches.
Thank God He honors our hearts and faith! I mean, think about it. Do we suppose that a person who has fully surrendered to Christ is going to lack the fullness of the Spirit, just because he wasn’t taught to seek a second blessing? Or because he grew up in a non-charismatic church? Or do we think that someone who has not surrendered to Christ is going to experience that fullness, simply because he did seek a second blessing? Or because he found a church that taught him to seek it? The answer ought to be obvious.
The pivotal point is surrender of all to Christ. You will not get far with God unless you do. Indeed, the Holy Spirit is going to be pushing you to that – but you will determine whether you respond. If you don’t yield, you will still be saved, but you will settle for much less of the full inheritance that God has in mind for you. Your, "apple seed," if you will, will remain only a seed with potential. But if you do yield, and Jesus becomes your Lord in practice, then you will move on into the deeper things of God. The Christ you received at salvation, and in whom are ALL things that God has for us, will have freedom to enlarge and expand in you. The husk of your apple seed will, in that case, be broken – i.e., your flesh – and everything in Christ will come into your experience. A second blessing has nothing to do with this at all.
You will not find a single place in the Bible where the solution to any problem – and so many spiritual and church problems are addressed – is ever said to be a second blessing. Never is there even a suggestion that someone could lack a second blessing, or that someone has settled, "only for Christ," and not gone on to receive a second blessing. No. Rather, believers are continually told that they are neglecting, disobeying, not believing, or walking in error, with regards to the Christ in them, and the work of the Spirit.
The solution to all of our problems begins with surrender to Christ – yes, the on-going surrender that is needed to Jesus as Lord for SAVED people. This is equal to surrender to the Cross. Die that death, and the new life that is released will be of Him, with Him as Lord. You will know Him more because the LIGHT is in the LIFE. And you will experience Him more because you are now in greater fellowship with Him.
Today we have Catholics who claim to have received the second blessing. The problem here is that if they have, the Spirit of Truth would be leading them OUT of that church to one that teaches the true gospel of Truth. Likewise, we have homosexuals – I’m talking about those who celebrate their homosexuality as a gift from God -- who claim the same second blessing. Some of these folks speak in tongues and issue prophecies that celebrate homosexuality. Believe it. It happens. We also have television evangelists who claim to have received the second blessing, who say they have a great anointing, and who seem to operate in some spiritual realm – but who are openly using all of this to get money, and who are also teaching great error about Christ. Do we truly believe that the Spirit of Truth would operate in these people? Is Jesus really Lord of them – would they teach and preach as they do if He was? Again – the answer is right in front of us if we would just be honest.
The doctrine of the second blessing suggests that there are millions of saved people right now who don’t even have the potential for spiritual fullness, because they have not received the second blessing. And frankly, they never explain why God would have made this situation possible – why God, in His plan, would make it possible to, "merely be saved," and to, "merely have Christ in you," but to lack what they would say is the fullness of the Holy Spirit. Rather, they say you can have Christ fully in you, but not have the fullness of the Spirit.
Worse, even teachers like Jack Hayford give no reason why God would actually give you the second blessing rather than someone else. He says, "You must be open to the fullness of the Spirit," or that, "you must ask God for the baptism." Does he really believe that everyone who is a non-charismatic is not open to the fullness of the Spirit? That all it takes to get it is asking God? Just like that? I would have at least thought he would have said you need to surrender all to Jesus. But no. I suspect what he really means is that you must be willing to speak in tongues and become a charismatic to receive a second blessing. I have always thought it significant that, for the most part, only charismatics receive the second blessing, but others don’t. It looks to me as if you are in the right church, saying the right words, and going through the right motions – or if you lack all of these – that THIS is what determines your fate on this eternally important issue.
Of course, there is the mentality that God never intended for many to have the second blessing, and that it is only now, in this last time, that He is pouring it out. Well, that’s nonsense, and not Biblical – despite attempts to prove otherwise. Especially when you examine what is supposed to be IN the second blessing. Are we to believe that Christ died and was raised and was ascended, yet only a relatively few Christians at the end of more than two-thousand years were ever intended to fully benefit from what He did?
The fact is, if the doctrine of the second blessing were the Truth, and it was possible to have Christ in you, but lack the fullness of the Spirit, then there would need to be REASONS why you were in that condition – REASONS why you don’t have the second blessing. And since the Bible NEVER ONCE addresses that condition even as a possibility, we are really left to human reasoning for answers.
Ironically, many never see that the problem is with the presumption that there is a second blessing. There are no reasons for losing out on the second blessing because there is no second blessing. Indeed, the only way to lose out on the things of God AS A SAVED PERSON is by refusing to surrender all to Jesus as Lord. Funny how it keeps coming back to that. It always does and always will.
In this brief writing, we have barely touched on this subject. We have not discussed, for instance, the nature and definition of the Old and New Covenants – and how those clearly straighten out this issue of the second blessing – because Christ could not be in people until the New Covenant began. We have not given hundreds of more examples that could have been given to show that what is often mistaken as spiritual can be of the natural realm. And we have not discussed the absolute necessity of obeying the Word of God and, "testing the Spirits." But hopefully we have gotten to the core of this issue and shown that no matter what our experience is, that we must take it to the Word of God. God will never do anything that is not in harmony with His written Word – not even by His Spirit. He has promised that.
Man cannot apprehend the things of God through human intellect. That is impossible. But once God does reveal Truth to us in the only way possible – from His Spirit to our spirit – then if it is to be of value in life and understanding, it must eventually be understood by us on a moral and intellectual level. God wants us to have understanding. Otherwise, Truth will mean nothing as far as ability to live, and in renewing our minds. And there could be no teaching. Hopefully, those who read this work will realize that this is not a theological or intellectual study. It is a study of what God has revealed through His Word and His Spirit, and that the words used are merely tools and vehicles – inadequate as that – but they are what God has given and which He Himself has always used to tell us the Truth.
In the end, this issue is not about poking holes in a doctrine, or about promoting a theological argument. It isn’t even so much about discovering a WRONG. Rather, it is about coming into the Truth – Truth that sets us free – about the Person of Jesus Christ. Christianity is CHRIST IN US. And when all of these others issues are brought down to their purposes in the mind of God, they all come back to being about the glorifying of Jesus. As we said to start this final chapter, the work of the Holy Spirit – no matter how you think you receive Him – is going to come back to focusing, not on experiences, visions, or gifts -- but upon Jesus Christ, who is our life.
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