Saturday, 2 November 2013

Questions About Holy Spirit Baptism (Part 2 of 2)

Q: If to be baptized with the Holy Spirit is to be “filled with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:4), and all Christians are to “be filled with the Spirit” (Eph. 5:18), does that mean Holy Spirit baptism is for all Christians?
     While all Christians should “be filled with the knowledge of his will” (Col. 1:9), there are still different levels or degrees of knowledge (1 Cor. 8:2; 13:9-12; 2 Pet. 3:18). Likewise, there were different degrees or manifestations of the Spirit. The apostles were “baptized” with the Spirit and were thus filled with the Spirit. Others had the apostles’ hands laid on them and received a miraculous measure of the Spirit (Acts 8:17-19) but were still not able to do everything the apostles did (cf. 2 Cor. 12:12). Finally, everyone who obeys the gospel receives an indwelling of the Spirit (Acts 2:38; 5:32; 1 Cor. 6:19), but nowhere in scripture is this ever called “the baptism of the Holy Spirit.”
     One can be “filled with the Spirit” in a non-miraculous way. John the baptist, for example, was “filled with the Spirit” from his mother’s womb (Luke 1:15), yet he performed no miraculous sign (John 10:41). Letting the Bible interpret itself, we learn that to “be filled with the Spirit” involves understanding the Lord’s will (Eph. 5:17-19), and in a parallel passage we see that it means the same as: “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom” (Col. 3:16), i.e. “be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding” (Col. 1:9). The word of God is “the sword of the Spirit” (Eph. 6:17). Whether one is filled with the Spirit indirectly through the inspired word and/or directly as a seal and a guarantee (Eph. 1:13-14), this is much different than what the apostles received on the Day of Pentecost. Furthermore, Holy Spirit baptism was a specific promise for a special purpose for particular individuals (cf. Acts 1:1-8), whereas the statement in Eph. 5:18 is a command for all Christians. Promises are fulfilled; commands are obeyed.
Q: Is Paul talking about Holy Spirit baptism in 1 Corinthians 12:13: “For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body . . . and have all been made to drink into one Spirit”?
     When examining any passage of scripture, it is important to consider who is speaking and who is being addressed. Paul is writing to the first-century church at Corinth (1:1-2). How had they entered the one body? Acts 18:8 says: “And many of the Corinthians, hearing, believed and were baptized.” This included Crispus, Gaius and Stephanas’ household, whom Paul had baptized personally (1 Cor. 1:14, 16). This was the same baptism spoken of consistently throughout the book of Acts. Those who were baptized at Pentecost were added to the one body–the church (Acts 2:41, 47; cf. Col. 1:18). This baptism required water and was administered by people (Acts 8:36-39; 10:47-48). Holy Spirit baptism, on the other hand, was administered directly by the Lord (Matt. 3:11).      
     The teaching about baptism came by or through the Spirit and was eventually recorded in the Spirit-inspired word (Eph. 3:3-5; 6:17), which affirms that now there is only “one baptism” (Eph. 4:5). In addition to being baptized in water, these early Christians at Corinth had received spiritual gifts (1 Cor. 12:1 ff.), which would have come through the laying on of an apostle’s hands (cf. Acts 8:17-19; Rom. 1:11). In the absence of the completed written word at that time, these gifts were necessary to reveal and confirm God’s message to an infant church. The first-century Christians at Corinth had been immersed in water according to the Spirit’s instructions, and were also empowered with miraculous gifts of the Spirit until God’s revelation was perfected (1 Cor. 13:8-13).
--Kevin L. Moore

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