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. Instead, 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