Is the Baptism of the Holy Spirit subsequent to salvation or inclusive in it?…
Even after a hundred years of modern Pentecostalism there are a growing number of people who are sympathetic to the modern availability of the gifts of the Spirit but reject the idea of them being only available to those who have had an experience ‘subsequent’ to their salvation generally referred to as the baptism in the Spirit.
An “Evangelical” is someone who takes the Bible ‘literally’ and regards Christianity as the work of a God who performs miracles, has sent His Son to save lost sinners. Evangelicals believe that God now accomplishes this saving work by the power of the Holy Spirit each time someone is born-again.
Pentecostals also believe this, but they also believe in the baptism with the Holy Spirit. This belief is what sets “Pentecostals” apart from “Evangelicals”. It is the belief that after the regeneration of a person by the Holy Spirit (being ‘born-again’), that there is another experience with a “work of grace” that Holy Spirit can accomplish in a believer. This ‘subsequent’ experience with the Holy Spirit is also referred to as the Doctrine of Subsequence. Most Evangelicals believe that when the Holy Spirit saves a soul that His work in the believer in this life is completed and that He now works on the believer only (we looked at this in our study on ‘Sanctification’).
Pentecostals base their belief that the Baptism of the Holy Spirit is another experience to salvation on three sources: the Scriptures, history, and personal experience.
In the Old Testament, God established the Sabbath celebration and 7 special festivals. Each of these festivals were symbolic of something that Jesus was to do.
|OLD TESTAMENT FESTIVAL||NEW TESTAMENT PICTURE|
|(a) The Sabbath||Foreshadowed the rest from works achieved by Christ’s finished work of atonement|
|(b) Passover (Lev. 23:3)||Foreshadowed the death of Christ as the Ultimate Sacrifice – the Lamb of God|
|(c) Unleavened Bread (Lev. 23:6)||Foreshadowed the period of Christ’s death and the bitterness of soul this caused His followers|
|(d) Firstfruits (Lev. 23:10)||Foreshadowed the resurrection of Christ as the first to rise from the dead forever|
|(e) Pentecost (Lev. 23:16)||Foreshadowed the outpouring of the Holy Spirit establishing a new “Commonwealth” (Eph. 2:12)|
|(f) Trumpets (Lev. 23:24)||Foreshadowed the last Trumpet when Christ shall return to judge everybody|
|(g) Day of Atonement (Lev. 23:27)||Foreshadowed the day of judgment when we shall all stand before God and be judged|
|(h) Tabernacles (Lev. 23:34)||Foreshadowed the resurrection of the Redeemed (2Cor. 5:1)|
The point here is that we can see a separate Festival corresponding to our salvation through the regeneration of the Holy Spirit, that is being born again, and another Festival corresponding to the Baptism with the Holy Spirit.
Within my lifetime I have witnessed an amazing shift in thinking, practice and response to the charismatic gifts. As a boy I remember when Pentecostals were looked down upon by ‘mainstream’ Christians. They were generally regarded as uneducated, ignorant, and gullible. As Pentecostalism birthed its super-preachers, who often boasted in their lack of education and minimal theological training, this stereotype was often reinforced in the minds of traditional Christians. But then came the charismatic movement which began in the 1960s and reached amazing heights in the 1970s when nearly every mainstream denomination had their pockets of ‘charismatics’. Pentecostals were no longer seen as “them” but were increasingly becoming “one of us”. Evangelical leaders, like Billy Graham, were quick to recognise the rise of Pentecostals and warmly embraced them into his city-wide crusades. Pentecostals had arrived.
One hundred years on and the influence of Pentecostal churches upon the mainstream, traditional churches can hardly be understated. Pentecostals now form the largest segment of church-attending, active Christians in the world. It is the only expression of the Church that is generally growing worldwide. Pentecostals now hold positions of influence in politics, media, sport, entertainment, literature and community service groups. Pentecostals are now being noticed.
For the most part, Pentecostals have held a wide range of doctrinal positions from Reformed to Arminian, from Calvinist to Semi-Pelagian, from Modalistic to classic Trinitarian. But the one unifying doctrine which distinguishes them even from ‘charismatics’ is the belief that there is an experience with the Holy Spirit subsequent to salvation called the Baptism in the Holy Spirit which is evidenced by the receipt of a heavenly prayer language called: tongues. But now Pentecostals are being questioned.
Through out Church history there are numbers of documented occasions when believers sought God and were graced by an extraordinary outpouring of the Holy Spirit. In the second century AD, somewhere between 135 AD and 177 AD, there was a group in Phrygia (Asia Minor), led by a man named Montanus, who all claimed that they had received the Baptism with the Holy Spirit subsequent to their salvation. They practised speaking in tongues and especially prophesying. [Source: Wikipedia] Records of Christian groups experiencing the subsequent Baptism with the Holy Spirit continue down through the centuries, of note is the experience of the Moravians from August 13th 1727. These believers gathered to pray and seek God. As they did, there was a physical sense of wind rushing into their meeting place and strange things began to take place. This event has become known as the Moravian Pentecost. [Source] Around 1870 in several parts of the globe, there were numerous reports of similar Pentecostal outpourings and stirrings. Figures such as D.L. Moody, Andrew Murray, C.H. Spurgeon have identified themselves with these events. Around the turn of the twentieth century there were several Christian groups in Wales, Australia and the USA which each experienced what they described as the Baptism of the Holy Spirit where speaking in tongues and prophesying resulted.
Today it is estimated that there are over 600,000,000 Pentecostals worldwide who testify to experiencing a subsequent Baptism with the Holy Spirit to their salvation.
Some people dismiss personal experience as evidence for proving something. But this is quite unreasonable. Courts of Law place a great deal of weight in people’s experiences to determine whether a defendant is guilty or not. My own story is that I came to Christ in what was for me a dramatic conversion. But it was some time after this that I was baptised with the Holy Spirit when I then spoke in tongues and began to experience other gifts of the Holy Spirit.
When Peter and John prayed for the Samaritans to receive the baptism with the Holy Spirit (Acts 8:14-15), something happened which people saw (Acts 8:17-18). If they had received the Holy Spirit and spoken in tongues and prophesied, this would clearly have been visible.
In Acts 9, Saul is converted to Paul. Later, Ananias lays hands on him and prays for him to receive the Holy Spirit (Acts 9:17).
There appears to be two types of ‘tongues’ in the New Testament (1Cor 12, 14). Firstly, there is speaking in tongues which is similar to prophecy. It requires another Holy Spirit gift called the interpretation of tongues. This gift strengthens the whole church when it is interpreted. This prophesying in tongues seems to be what was happening on the Day of Pentecost. These recently Spirit-baptised believers were mostly speaking in known languages – even though they had never learned them.
But there appears to another type of tongues. This is used in prayer (1Cor. 14-1-4). When someone prays in a tongue they are not talking to anyone else except God (1Cor. 14:2). When a person prays in tongues they are strengthening themselves spiritually (1Cor. 14:4).
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What makes someone Pentecostal is not whether they use a certain spiritual gift, or even how they worship, or whether they use choruses or hymns. The distinguishing feature is the belief, promotion, and practice of the doctrine of subsequence. Pentecostals believe, teach and invite people to a subsequent experience with the Holy Spirit variously called being filled or baptised in the Holy Spirit. This is the touchstone of Pentecostalism. Either the charismatics are right- that all of the Holy Spirit in His fullness is given at the point of salvation, or the Pentecostals are right- that one can be saved yet still lacking the ‘Promise of the Father’. Pentecostals are now being challenged.
“What is the baptism of the Holy Spirit? Now there are some, as we have seen, who say that there is really no difficulty about this at all. . . They say that it is simply a reference to regeneration and nothing else. It is what happens to people when they are regenerated and incorporated into Christ, as Paul teaches in 1 Cor 12:13. But for myself, I simply cannot accept that explanation, and this is where we come to grips with the difficulty. I cannot accept that because if we were to believe that the disciples and the apostles were not regenerate until the Day of Pentecost – a supposition which seems to me to be quite untenable.”
GREAT DOCTRINES OF THE BIBLE, Dr. Martin Lloyd-Jones
I’ve been reading the life story of the great Baptist preacher, and one of the world’s most acclaimed Christian essayists, F.W. Boreham. He talks about sitting under the ministry of C.H. Spurgeon, F.B. Meyer, and other great men of God. He describes his dramatic conversion in 1888 when aged 17. But he then goes on to describe his encounter with the Holy Spirit through the laying on of hands in 1890. From that point he experienced a newness in his walk with Christ, a passion for the lost, and a fresh love for God’s Word. He alludes to what we would call today “gifts of the Spirit” operating throughout his life over his many years of ministry, including discernment and prophecy. He even makes mention of the fact that he was prophesied over as a little baby that he would grow to be a very successful writer. His story is one that is repeated multiplied times over throughout history. People who have been soundly converted have then experienced a later encounter with the Holy Spirit which they refer to as either a baptism or a filling with the Spirit.
For those who see no distinction between regeneration and the baptism in the Spirit salvation was not finished at the Cross but at Pentecost. Not until the first believers were baptised in the Spirit on the Day of Pentecost as described in Acts 2 did they simultaneously experience regeneration. The various gifts of the Spirit, including tongues and prophecy, were distributed to believers as the Spirit willed. And this same pattern has continued to the present day. All regenerated believers have whatever spiritual gifts the Holy Spirit has bestowed. It may take time for a believer to discover this gift, but by virtue of their salvation they have already received the fulness of the Spirit and His gifts in their life. This we might call the doctrine of inclusiveness.
But Pentecostals regard salvation as having been finished by virtue of the Cross of Christ. The blessings of salvation, including our physical resurrection and the baptism in the Holy Spirit, come as a result of Christ’s atoning and redeeming work on the Cross (including His resurrection). Thus, to a Pentecostal, a person can be regenerated but not yet physically resurrected. Similarly, a regenerated person may not yet have received the baptism with the Holy Spirit.
“So, according to the Doctor [Martin Lloyd-Jones], the baptism with the Holy Spirit is AFTER regeneration, it’s experiential, and we’re conscious of it, and of course it’s everywhere in the New Testament.”
Pentecostals point to Biblical examples of subsequence. Firstly, the original disciples. At a post-resurrection appearing of Christ He breathed on them and told them to receive the work of the Spirit in their lives – which we might reasonably take to mean regeneration (new birth, salvation). And then 10 days or so later they are waiting for a further encounter with the Holy Spirit which Christ taught was the “promise of the Father” or the “baptism in the Holy Spirit”. Secondly, the Samaritans who responded warmly to Philip’s preaching were clearly saved. But Philip called for the apostles to come from Jerusalem to pray for these new converts to receive the baptism in the Holy Spirit (Acts 8). Similarly, in Acts 19 Paul enquires of the Ephesian believers as to their response to the Holy Spirit subsequent to believing. Upon discovering that they had not yet received the Holy Spirit, he prayed for them to do so – and they did.
It’s therefore one thing to assert that the New Testament teaches that the baptism in the Spirit is synonymous with salvation, and another thing altogether to claim that Pentecostals have no basis for believing that it is a subsequent experience to salvation. The latter claim is at least challenged with the Acts narratives which give Pentecostals support for their position. Either way, it should be the modern believer’s earnest prayer to fulfil Ephesians 5:18.
And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit,
You do not have to speak in tongues to be saved. You do not have to speak in tongues to be a member of this church. If you have been baptised with the Holy Spirit, there is a strong likelihood that you are now open to being used in the gifts of the Holy Spirit (some of which are mentioned in First Corinthians 12). There clearest evidence that someone has been baptised in the Holy Spirit is that they now continually want intimacy with Christ; they want to continually serve Christ; they love the Church and continually want to see it blessed; they have a burden for the lost and work to see them come to know Christ; and, they produce the fruit of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23).
If you have never received the baptism with the Holy Spirit, and experienced the blessing of praying in tongues, you are invited by Christ to seek the Father for this empowerment for service (Luke 11:13).
And if the baptism with the Holy Spirit has merely become for you an historic event in your walk with Christ, then Jesus and the Spirit bid you to come back to the Waters and be filled again (Acts 4:30-31).
© Dr. Andrew Corbett, 17th September 2006