[Come, put an end to all your skepticism and transform your life for ever!…..]
BAPTISM OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
Receiving the Holy Spirit or indwelling of the Holy Spirit or being filled with the Holy Spirit is an experience summed up as the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. To be baptized with the Holy Spirit is an exclusive experience and a commandment of Jesus Christ not to be trifled with. The sooner we come to this knowledge the better!
It is not the same as coming to the knowledge of salvation or receiving faith or being able to work a few miracles even though they happen absolutely due to the leading of the Holy Spirit, as the following passages from the Gospels reveal:
- Coming to faith or belief (Matt 16:16-17)
- Working of wonders and miracles (Matt 10:6-7; Lk 10:17), and
- Ensuring one’s name is written in Heaven (Lk 10:17-20).
BE BAPTIZED WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT:
As we see, above verses bear testimony to all that the disciples had achieved even before they had received the infilling of the Holy Spirit. The reason is because these are possible even as the Holy Spirit is working on us from the outside. However, it is just a start-up and should not be mistaken for the complete renewal and fruitfulness which is only possible with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
Therefore, further to these experiences, we find, the disciples are taught the exclusive commandment, ‘to receive the Holy Spirit’ or ‘to be baptized by the Holy Spirit’ or ‘to be filled with the Holy Spirit‘ for which they are reminded specifically to tarry and wait until after Jesus was taken up and glorified. Refer Matt 3:11, Acts 1:4-5, Lk 24:49, Jn 7:37-39,Jn 14:12 Jn 14:15-17, Jn 14:25-26, Jn 15:26, Jn 16:7, Jn 20:22, Acts 1:8 and Acts 2:33.
FOR HE LIVES WITH YOU AND WILL BE IN YOU:
Needless to add, but clearly there are further steps involved before we are able to evolve or transform into complete and fruitful children of God. For examples we have the disciples themselves, followed by Saul, Cornelius, people in Samaria (refer Acts 8:14-17), Apollos, to name a few. And more closer home, of ourselves, made undeniably evident by our failures!
Jn 14:17,‘…for He lives with you and will be in you..’. In summation, it is one’s effective spiritual progress beginning from experiencing Holy Spirit with oneself to experiencing Holy Spirit within oneself.
WITH GOD ALL THINGS ARE POSSIBLE:
The exclusiveness or the paramount importance of this commandment can best be perceived from Matt 19:16-26. We find here a man who earnestly seeks not just eternal life (vs 16-17) but also perfection (vs 20-21). Vs 22 shows him failing in his attempt and thereafter backsliding from the wonderful path he had so keenly undertaken to follow.
If in this story the reason was riches, elsewhere it’d be something else. Eg. Matt 8:19-22, Matt 13:18-22 Rev 2 & 3 etc. We might as well join with the disciples and wonder aloud (vs 25 of Matt 19) – “Who then can be saved?”
Jesus’ answer in Vs 26 is clear both in substance and direction: “….with man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” So then, there you are! It is to vanquish these ‘impossibilities of ourselves‘ and accomplish the ‘unquestionable possibility of God’ in us that the Holy Spirit is poured out. 2 Cor 1:21-22 reads, “Now it is God Who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set His seal of ownership on us, and put His Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.”
Strengthened by this understanding, let us move ahead and learn more. Because, only God’s Word can put an end to all confusions. Indeed, we’d be better off equipped and empowered with His infallible Word to combat the lot of false teachings concerning this commandment that is pervading the christian world. To begin with, let us learn:
HOW DOES THE BAPTISM OF HOLY SPIRIT HELP US?:
- Lk 24:49 – Clothes us with power from on high. Zech 4:6(b),“.’…not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit’, says the Lord Almighty.” and Phil 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ Who strengthens me” (kjv). This world can no longer hold its sway over us.
- Jn 7:37-39 – Streams of living water will flow from within us (vs 39), which is the Living Word (Jn 4:10 & 14). Jesus said after which we’ll never thirst (Jn 4:13-14). Yes, our thirst i.e our search will have come to an end at this fountain of life. And we will not be found seeking elsewhere or ever again. For, this spring of water will well up to eternal life (Vs 14(b))in us. Yes, Holy Spirit will continue to nurture us on the Living Word – cleansing us, nourishing us, reviving us, making us fruitful and clothing us with His righteousness (Eph 5:26-27).
- Jn 14:12-14 – We will receive whatever we ask in Jesus’s Name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father (Vs 13(b)). Faith suddenly gathers momentum from ordinary to extraordinary. Eg Barnabas (Acts 11:24(a)). Also refer Jn 7:39. The working of wonders and miracles as the disciples had first-hand experience of in the Gospel verses referred to earlier was just the sampling of the power to come. As Jesus reveals to them in Jn 14:12 “..anyone who has faith in Me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.” Simply put, mere faith in the Lord was enough to do what they did until then but the coming of Holy Spirit after Jesus returns to the Father would open up EVEN GREATER possibilities! And, reverting to Vs 14 above, let us bear in mind that the purpose is to bring glory to God.
[ Please note, Vs 12(b) – “…because I am going to the Father.” ‘Going to the Father’ entails the resurrected and victorious Lord being exalted to the right hand of God and glorified. Acts 2:33 reads, “Exalted to the right hand of God, He has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear”. ]
- Jn 14:16-17 – Holy Spirit will be with us forever. The Perfect Companion. And one needn’t fear being alone ever again!
- Jn 14:25-26 – Holy Spirit will teach us all things. The Lord will also help us remember everything that has been taught (also known as timely remindings).
- Jn 15:4, 16 – Holy Spirit will help us remain in Christ and bear much and lasting fruits.
[ WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO REMAIN IN CHRIST AND TO BEAR FRUITS?:
A. TO REMAIN IN CHRIST:
Heb 6:4-6, Matt 24:24, Jn 15:4, Heb 10:26-31 etc are references which teach us that it is almost impossible for the ‘elect’ to fall away. And that, if it happens then it is impossible for them to be brought back to repentance.
To fully understand the word ‘elect’ used in Matt 24:24, “For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect – if that were possible…”, let us read Heb 6:4-5: “It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the Word of God and the powers of the coming age, if they fall away, to be brought back to repentance….”
B. TO BEAR FRUITS:
As regards bearing fruits, fruits are of two kinds. One, the works of the Holy Spirit. The other, the nature of the Holy Spirit (Gal 2:20).
Firstly, with regards to works, as Jn 15:16 emphasizes, our fruits ought to be lasting. It is possible only if it is produced by the leading and working of the Holy Spirit which is the foundation for all God’s works. Otherwise, one will barely escape as one through the flames which would have burnt up the works (1 Cor 3:10-15).
Secondly, nature of the Holy Spirit has to show forth through the spiritual fruits we are called to bear, i.e the elusive perfection. Let us therefore yield ourselves unto Him and allow Him to work in us the complete transformation towards perfection as He replaces one by one the fruits of our sinful nature (Gal 5:19-21) by the fruits of the Spirit (Gal 5:22-26). Any attempt on our part to produce these fruits without the Holy Spirit will be as temporal as monsoon streams. Let us remember and take heart in the promise, Phil 1:6, “…..He Who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”]
- Jn 15:26 – Holy Spirit will testify about Christ. Acts 9:3-7. Yes, nothing like it when assailed by fears or doubts! We will be emboldened by courage that comes with great convictions. Acts 2:14; Acts 4:8, 13, 19-20 & 31 etc.
- Jn 16:8 – Holy Spirit will convict us of sin, righteousness and judgement, thus ensuring we move steadfastedly on the right track.
- Jn 16:12-13(a) – Holy Spirit will guide us into all truth, the only sure way to guard ourselves from false teachings.
- Jn 16:13(b)-14 – Holy Spirit will reveal to us the deep secrets of God. Also refer 1 Cor 2:10-11; Matt 10:26-27. 1 Cor 2:10-15 shows us how the Spirit of discernment begins to work in us and we are enabled to discern and judge all things without ourselves falling prey to anybody’s judgement (Isa 54:17). But first, let us set our hearts and minds on things above as it exhorts us to in Col 3:1-2 and as exemplified by the disciples in Jn 6:68 & Jn 15:15. Read Amos 3:7, “Surely the Sovereign Lord does nothing without revealing His plan to His servants the prophets.” Thereby, we become instrumental in bringing glory to the Son (Jn 16:14). Yes, revelations or prophecies are meant to glorify the Son.
[ BE WARNED! Jn 16:13(b), 1 Cor 14:3, 2 Pet 1:20-21 teach us that prophecies are revelations of God for the strengthening, encouragement and comfort of the church. 2 Pet 1:21 states that it originates from the will of God and by the Holy Spirit. Eg. Acts 21:9, Acts 11:27-28, Acts 21:10-11, Acts 27:9-10, Acts 27:34(b) etc. and most importantly the book of Revelations. Of course the Old Testament will offer scores more by way of examples.
On the other other hand, Acts 16:16 teach us that there are those who function according to the will of man under the influence of other spirits. They appear to be speaking truth (Acts 16:17, Mk 3:11, Mk 1:24, Matt 4:6 etc) and predict future for financial gains. It is the general lack of discernment that these masquerade openly as prophets of God! ]
- Acts 1:8 – Holy Spirit not only gives us the power, but also the authority to be His witnesses (Matt 28:18). In various capacities: as apostles, prophets, teachers, workers of miracles, etc. Eg. Acts 4:8 & Acts 4: 31 (by preaching), Acts 7:55 (by testifying to visions of God’s glory), Acts 9:17-18 (by healing), Acts 11:28 (by prophesying), Acts 13:9-12 (by rebuking); Acts 19:6 (by tongues and prophecy); Acts 10:45-46 (by tongues and praises); Acts 2:4 (by tongues as in languages of all assembled) etc.
- Acts 9:31 – Holy Spirit will strengthen and encourage us.
- Rom 8:26-27 – Holy Spirit will help us to pray according to His will. Refer Jn 14:12-14 mentioned in item 3 above.
- Acts 15:28, 16:11, 20:22 & 23, – Holy Spirit will guide us, lead us and even warn us of dangers ahead.
- Rom 12:2 – Holy Spirit will reveal the good, pleasing and perfect will of God for us in everything. Thus in spite of ourselves, we’ll be made the perfect beacon of His light, the perfect vessel to bear His beautiful Name and all His wonderful gifts. 2 Cor 4:7 “Treasures in jars of clay”!
- Gal 5:1 – Holy Spirit sets us free from all yokes of slavery like the yokes of sin, flesh, law, curse and death. Also Gal 3:3, 10-11, Col 2:14, Matt 11:28-30 etc. Yes, there is absolute freedom in Christ because we will no longer live by the weaknesses and failures of our flesh but by the Spirit – unto a new ministry, a new covenant (2 Cor 3:6). As Gal 5:1 reasserts, ” it is for freedom that Christ has set us free.“
THE SPIRIT-LED CHURCH:
The Spirit-led church is where the prophecy of prophet Joel as quoted in Acts 2:16-21 is allowed fulfillment. Where, every child of God irrespective of gender, age, race or position enjoys freedom of the Holy Spirit – in everything, particularly in service. Indeed the word allowed is used because sadly (for us) it is possible to :
- Resist the Holy Spirit (Acts 7:51).
- Quench the Holy Spirit (1 Thess 5:19)
- Grieve the Holy Spirit (Eph 4:30), and
- To sin/blaspheme against the Holy Spirit (an eternal sin! Mk 3:29).
By following man-made instructions and teachings, churches inadvertently end up committing such wrongs as above against the Holy Spirit. Even those that claim to have begun with the Spirit! As a result the visible churches have all, without exception, fallen prey to the dominion of flesh. And, instead of freedom we find ourselves bound in a new and terrible kind of slavery!
THE ADVENT OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
Having learnt just how we cannot do without the Holy Spirit taking full control of our lives and our ministry, let us continue to forge ahead and learn further. Let us understand that like Abraham’s chief servant sent forth to bring home the bride of Isaac, Holy Spirit is sent down with the supreme mission to prepare and lead Home the perfect bride of Lord Jesus Christ – which is the Church (Eph 5:26-27).
This takes us to the event, i.e the advent of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost ( Acts 2:1).
THE DAY OF PENTECOST
It was a phenomenal occurrence. The sights and sounds of it could be seen and heard from afar (Acts 2:1-12). Acts 2:2-3 reads “Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them.” Further, Acts 2:4-7, “All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them. Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard them speaking in his own language. Utterly amazed…”. Up close, the gathering of unschooled believers (Acts 1:12-15, 2:7) were found witnessing in foreign languages so that the crowd that had collected(Acts 2:5, 7-11) could hear what was being said in their own respective tongues/languages. By no means a mean task, for over fourteen languages were heard spoken!
Yes, Holy Spirit has come to stay! That’s right. Since that day, the Holy Spirit is here with us, amidst us. In other words, He doesn’t keep returning to reappear in the said fashion as and when children of God invite Him. So all those who prepare themselves to receive Him i.e., the indwelling, should not expect any of the above external manifestations of His outpouring. Any ill-conceived notions should therefore be done away with.
THE HOLY SPIRIT FOR ALL:
This greatest gift of God, further, testifies to the awesome oneness of the Triune God, as in keeping with the prophecy concerning it, the Holy Spirit is poured out upon all people – irrespective of age, sex, race and position. Again, read Acts 2:7-21. Therefore whatever immediate manifestation may or may not follow (as in some cases like Acts 8:17), is possible in all alike. I.e to say if it is by the ‘gift of tongues’, then irrespective of age, gender, race or position, the ‘gift of tongues’ is freely given to anybody. There is no single manifestation / gift categorized exclusively either for men or for women.
THE TWO PRE-REQUISITES FOR A PERSON TO RECEIVE THE HOLY SPIRIT ARE:
- To those who ask (Matt 7:11, Lk 11:13).
- To those who obey (Jn 14:15, Acts 5:32(b)).
Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, chapters 12 to 14, provide more clarity on the subject. To make it simpler, let us follow the question and answer format given below:
Q 1. What are manifestations?
A. The manifestations being referred to here are the gifts of the Holy Spirit. For examples, the message of wisdom, tongues, interpretation, discernment, healing etc. (1 Cor 12:8-10). But they are not all. Truly, the list is endless and His work limitless. Eg. Rev 11:3-4 and 7-12.
Q 2. Why are these given?
A. 1 Cor 12:7 says it all, “Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.”
Q 3. What is the criterion to receive a particular gift?
A. Nothing. We may pray for it. But, read 1 Cor 12:11, “All these are the work of one and same Spirit, and He gives them to each one, just as He determines.” Yes, it is He Who determines!
As reminded earlier, all pre-conceived notions have to be dispelled. Because it is He Who determines what gift is to be given to whom, and definitely, definitely, not everyone will possess all gifts. (1 Cor 12:29-30). Therefore, it is as an utter folly to make ‘tongues’ mandatory, as a sign, as some churches do.
Q 4. How may we hope to add to our gifts?
A. By our faithfulness in trading them profitably. The perception is spiritual and not in terms of material turnover (Matt 13:8). Refer Matt 13:12, Matt 25:29, Lk 16:10 etc. Read Lk 16:10, “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much.”
Q 5. Is there a hierarchical order ascribed to these gifts?
A. Yes. Read 1 Cor 12:27-31. There is an hierarchical order ascribed to these gifts because of the nature of their works (Vs 28).
Mk 10:43-44, “…..whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all.” In the manner of Christ Himself, Mk 10:45, “For even the Son of man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.”
Therefore, we see (Vs 28) apostles rank the highest (also read Rev 21:14, Eph 2:20). Let us get a glimpse of the nature of their work from the passage in 1 Cor 4:9-13, “For it seems to me that God has put us apostles on display at the end of the procession, like men condemned to die in the arena. We have been made a spectacle to the whole universe, to angels as well as to men. We are fools for Christ,..we are weak,…we are dishonored! To this very hour we go hungry and thirsty, we are in rags, we are brutally treated, we are homeless. We work hard…when we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it; when we are slandered, we answer kindly. Up to this moment we have become the scum of the earth, the refuse of the world.”
The spiritual principle of humility in service goes by the dictum – Luke 22:27, “For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves?…But I am among you as One who serves.” Yes, the one who is willing to humble oneself the most in service is deemed the greatest in divine perception.
Q 6. Why is the gift of Tongues ranked least?
A. The gift of Tongues is placed on the lower most rung of the hierarchical order (Vs 28(b)). 1 Cor 14:1-12 explains, why? On its own it edifies the recipient or the bearer alone. It becomes useful for common good only when interpreted.
The three instances in the Scripture showcasing gift of tongues will teach us better :
1. Acts 2:4 – Here, tongues meant being enabled by the Spirit to speak / witness in all the foreign languages of different people assembled there. Thus, interpreted.
2. Acts 10:45-46 – Here, tongues was accompanied by praises as its interpretation.
3. Acts 19:6 – Here, tongues was accompanied by prophecies as its interpretation.
In all three instances, tongues worked to edify both the bearers (recipients) and the assembled because it was accompanied by the gift of interpretation.
Yes, on its own the gift of tongues can only edify its recipient. Paul is therefore found to be encouraging the Corinthians (1 Cor 14:13) to desire the higher gift of interpretation, which obviously they lacked.
A FINAL WORD ON MANIFESTATIONS:
Just as Rebekah could not be held back after being enriched by the gifts she received from Abraham’s chief servant (Gen 24:58), the manifestations or gifts of the Holy Spirit serve as the right impetus for us to joyfully embark on our journey with the Holy Spirit for our ultimate PRIZE OR INHERITANCE! Yes, let us constantly remind ourselves that whatever we receive now is only ‘in part’ and that perfection is yet to come. Read Acts 13:8-10, 12, “…. But, where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophecy in part, but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears…..Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.”
Paul is a great example. Even though he could boast of almost all these gifts, he chooses to confess in all humility to have attained nothing at all in the face of the ‘goal’ that still eluded him (Phil 3:12-14) – “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”
Paul dared to testify of having finally come close to it in the final lap of his life as he awaited impending death (2 Tim 4:7-8) – “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the Righteous Judge, will award to me on that day – and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for His appearing.”
Every step of our partaking of the gifts of the Holy Spirit make for our elevation to newer spiritual heights in our journey forward. Just imagine, mere faith or belief in Him places us above John the baptist in divine perception. Refer Matt 11:11, Jn 20:29 and 1 Pet 1:8-9. Read Jn 20:29, “Then Jesus told him, ‘Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed’.“ Praise God for His Spirit! And thank the Holy Spirit, for life in Him is just as it was prophesied – being able ‘to soar on wings like eagles’.
Christian life or godly life is a spiritual life. Every step forward in christian life demands the infilling of the Holy Spirit. Believe in His unfailing promise, Lk 11:13, “If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!” and receive the infilling. There is no limit to what He can accomplish in you. Your attitude will always be on the go. Therefore, prudently give a free rein to the Holy Spirit in your lives. Bear in mind all that the O T saints have achieved with their limited anointing. The Lord wants us to accomplish more than that, even more than what He showed us could be done. Lo and behold! mountains are yet waiting to be moved!
May God bless you!