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)
Fourth in a multipart blog series….
So, how did we get from the sacrament of confirmation or chrismation, from the early church, to contemporary Pentecostalism? The key to this is understanding the idea of a “second blessing” experience, in the life of a believer. The “second blessing” has a history stemming back to the founder of Methodism, John Wesley. Wesley had been an Anglican missionary in the early 18th century, in the English colony of Georgia. But in these early years, he considered himself to be mostly a failure, even from the very start.
On the ocean voyage across the Atlantic from England, Wesley’s ship was in a severe storm. But there was a group of Moravian missionaries on board that same ship, who calmly sang hymns and songs to God, praying for their safety, as their boat began to groan and crack under the beating of the pounding waves and swelling sea.
Wesley, on the other hand, was a nervous wreck. This missionary was completely scared to death. He and the Moravians survived the storm, but Wesley knew that they had some kind of peace and spiritual courage that he lacked. It was not until Wesley returned a few years later to England, where at a Bible study lecture, he felt his heart “strangely warmed.” He was never the same after that moment, experiencing great power in delivering hundreds and hundreds of sermons that fueled the fires of the Great Awakening in England.
John Wesley, the 18th century evangelical leader, whose heart was “strangely warmed,” years after he had committed himself to follow Christ.
The Holiness movement in 19th century followed the theological lead set by John Wesley, and they began to speak of an experience with the Holy Spirit after conversion as a “second blessing.” It is therefore no surprise that William J. Seymour, and other leaders of the 20th century Pentecostal revival, built their theology of “the baptism in the Holy Spirit” on the foundations of the Wesleyan inspired Holiness movement. It bears repeating that these early, pre-Pentecostalism advocates of a “second blessing” were not “charismatic” in the sense of possessing the gift of “speaking in tongues,” or other miraculous gifts of the Spirit.
Furthermore, as briefly mentioned in the last blog post, these Holiness groups were not the only ones who believed in “the baptism in the Holy Spirit” as a “second blessing.” Prior to Wesley, various Puritan thinkers in the 17th and 18th centuries also made a distinction between becoming a Christian and “the baptism in the Holy Spirit.” Even though the Holiness movement, through groups like the Nazarenes and the Church of God, directly led towards contemporary Pentecostalism, in a way that the Puritan movement did not, it is helpful to examine this particular Puritan theology in some detail. A more recent example of this early, Puritan-inspired view can be found in the great 20th century Welsh pastor, Doctor Martyn Lloyd-Jones. Continue reading