Tag Archives: baptism in the holy spirit

Where Did the “Baptism in the Holy Spirit” Come From? (#2)

Fired up by enthusiasm, the theology of “the baptism in the Holy Spirit,” is taking over the globe. But what is it exactly? (photo credit: Getty Images, Economist magazine)

Second in a series of blog posts

When my friend from high school asked me if I had received “the baptism in the Holy Ghost,” I had no idea that this question was a culmination of hundreds of years of church history, as Christians over the centuries have wrestled with what the Bible teaches regarding the Holy Spirit. I talked with various pastors and read several books. It really is a fascinating story.

The “Spirit of God” is first referenced in Genesis 1:2, right at the beginning of creation. But the doctrine of the Holy Spirit is not developed extensively within the pages of the Old Testament. But the Holy Spirit makes a big splash in the New Testament, particularly in the writings of Luke, notably the Book of Acts.

For example, we read in Acts about the Samaritans who came to faith in Jesus

14 Now when the apostles at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent to them Peter and John, 15 who came down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit, 16 for he had not yet fallen on any of them, but they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 17 Then they laid their hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit.“(Acts 8:14-17 ESV)

Within the first few hundred years in the church, Christians generally took this “receiving of the Holy Spirit” to be part of the initial experience of the believer, someone who came to have faith in Jesus as the Messiah. Just as Peter and John “laid hands” on these new believers, that they might receive the Holy Spirit, so did early church leaders lay their hands on new disciples of Jesus, that they might be confirmed in their faith.1

This gave rise, particularly in the West, to the practice of confirmation, whereby these church leaders, who would mostly be called “bishops” within a few centuries, would visit different churches within their jurisdiction, meeting with new disciples in the growing Christian movement to make sure they had been properly instructed in the Christian faith.  Confirmation was always closely associated with baptism, namely water baptism (as with the Samaritans, being “baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus”). But it was also associated with the initial inward experience of the Holy Spirit, otherwise known as the “baptism in the Holy Spirit.”

How did this theological idea develop? Continue reading


What is the “Baptism in the Holy Spirit?” (#1)

Fired up by enthusiasm, the theology of “the baptism in the Holy Spirit,” is taking over the globe. But what is it exactly? (photo credit: Getty Images/Economist magazine)

“… Have you ever been baptized in the Holy Ghost?”

Over the next few blog posts, I want to walk you through how a simple question lead me to a test of faith, and how the Lord, through an informed study of the Scripture, eventually led me through that crisis.

I was a sophomore college student in the early 1980s, having only been an active follower of Jesus for a few years. I did not know much about the Bible, but what little I had learned from my Bible teachers, I had trusted. So, when I went to visit some friends at a neighboring university, I was unprepared for the question I would receive.

It was a sunny, spring Saturday, and the local campus fellowships at Virginia Tech were putting on a Christian music festival.  A bunch of friends of mine had hopped into a car, going down the road to Blacksburg, Virginia, to check it all out.

There I bumped into a slightly-older friend from my high school, who was finishing up at Virginia Tech. I did not know her that well. She was known to be a bit of a party-animal back in my high school, while I was a nerdy book kid. But it was to our mutual delight that we learned that we had both become Christians in the intervening years. We spent about twenty minutes swapping stories, sharing with one another how we had both come to faith. We both spoke of the joy of having a relationship with the Savior, and the confidence we shared in Jesus. Everything was very encouraging, until she stopped for a moment, pondered what she might say next, and then dropped the bombshell.

Clarke, have you ever been baptized in the Holy Ghost?

I can still remember my puzzled web of thoughts. Though she spoke in the terms of the old King James Version, of the “Holy Ghost,” and I understood her to be asking me as to when I received the “Holy Spirit.” The question from my friend confused me, as we had been sharing how we had both become Christians. Surely, we were both “baptized in the Holy Spirit” when we both became believers. At least, that is how I was taught in my Bible-believing church:

“For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit”(1 Corinthians 12:13 ESV)

There is but one Spirit, and one baptism in the Spirit, into the one body of Christ. The Apostle Paul had settled the matter. We receive the Spirit upon conversion to having faith in Christ. That being the case, what was my friend from my days in high school talking about?

Doubts and questions flooded my mind: Was she implying that I really was not a believer in Christ, at least, not yet?

Or was she indicating that she had a type of “second blessing” experience of the Holy Spirit in her life, something that I had not experienced in my journey with the Lord, but needed to? She did talk about so-called “speaking in tongues,” but what did that have to do with the “baptism in the Holy Ghost/Spirit?” Could I really trust what I had been previously taught about the Holy Spirit?

I was confused.

The day in Blacksburg had been a lot of fun, with fellowship, great music, and times of praise to the Living God. But as I rode back along Interstate 81, to my college dorm that evening, I kept thinking about that awkward conversation with my high school friend. I had no clue what she was talking about, but I was determined to search the Scriptures to find out. It was a bit of a spiritual crisis for me, and I needed some answers.

Over the next few blog posts, I hope to show you what I learned in sorting this all out. I acknowledge that not everyone will agree with me, as to where I finally landed. All I ask is that you sift through the content of this series and line it up with the Word of God. I may not get everything right, but I know that His Word is True.

But first, we need to gain some historical perspective, that I will explore in the next blog post in this series.


Pentecost! Why the Charismatic Movement Freaks Out “Respectable” Evangelicals … (and What We Can All Learn)

Fired up by enthusiasm, the theology of “the baptism in the Holy Spirit,” is taking over the globe. But what is it exactly? (photo credit: Getty Images, Economist magazine)

Do you experience the presence of the Holy Spirit in your life? Would you say that you live a “Spirit-filled” life? Do you long for the power of the Holy Spirit to permeate your Christian walk and witness?

Or does a lot of talk about the Holy Spirit give you the “heebie-jeebies?” Have you ever been to a church meeting, where you heard “speaking in tongues,” saw people “slain in the spirit,” or claimed “faith healings,” and you felt a little bit… er…. uncomfortable?

What are we to learn then from the miracle at Pentecost?

When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance (Acts 2:1-4).

My evangelical church has a wide set of backgrounds. Some have a Pentecostal or charismatic movement background, with positive views towards those experiences, bearing testimonies of the Holy Spirit working in incredible ways, that push us beyond rational, naturalistic categories. Others have had some exposure to such movements, but eventually left with a bad taste in their mouth.

Everyone else I know are in a group I call the “respectable” evangelicals. They generally maintain a low profile in church, though some will lift up their hands while singing worship songs, but not too high, less they feel self-conscious.

“Respectable” evangelicals are freaked out by “charismania.” They have heard of the abuse, ranging from phony faith healers to money-addicted, promoters of the prosperity gospel. There is now even this “New Apostolic Reformation,” whereby people think that God is restoring today’s church with real, live apostles, just like in the days of Peter and Paul.

It can be a real mess. Continue reading


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