There are two opposing views on this subject. Charismatic theology posits that the baptism of the Holy Spirit is a “second experience” and evidenced by speaking in unknown tongues. Evangelical theology teaches that believers are baptized in the Holy Spirit or “receive” the Spirit at the moment of conversion. They simply need to “release” more and more of the Spirit who is already in them to flow from within them in order to minister to others.
Each of the two traditions will provide scriptures to support their position.
In this article we will not favor one side or the other, but rather address this debate from the perspective of the primary purpose of the baptism of the Holy Spirit. In Acts 1:8 Jesus promised:
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
We submit to you that the primary purpose of the coming of the Holy Spirit upon believers is for them to become witnesses of Jesus Christ to the world. When we receive the Holy Spirit we will share the gospel to the lost locally and to the ends of the earth in the context of the Great Commission as the Lord leads us.
In the life of Peter we see a dramatic change after the Holy Spirit came upon him on the day of Pentecost. Before he received the Holy Spirit, Peter feared for his life and denied knowing Jesus three times after the Lord was arrested at Gethsemane. Earlier in Matthew 17 he and the other disciples failed to cast out the epileptic spirit out of a boy because of their little faith. On another occasion recounted in Matthew 14, Peter eventually sank as he attempted to walk on water as Jesus had commanded him. He sank because he doubted and had little faith. Moreover, Peter’s unspiritual mind could not grasp the truth when he rebuked Jesus for speaking of his suffering and death in Matthew 16.
These instances describe Peter in the gospels before the Holy Spirit came upon him according to Acts 2:4. How do typical Christians today compare to Peter before he was baptized in the Holy Spirit?
Typical believers today resemble Peter before Pentecost more than we would like to admit. How many Christians today would fear and be tempted to deny Jesus if our physical lives depended on it? (A very well-known American pastor, whose life was not at all in danger—only his nationwide popularity—practically denied Jesus and what He taught on national TV by hedging on the truth that He is the only way to the Father.)
Recalling the failure of the disciples to heal the epileptic boy, how many Christians today have the faith to cast out a spirit of epilepsy and heal the person?
Recalling how Peter failed to obey the command of the Lord to “come” to him on the water on the Sea of Galilee, we can equally ask the following. How many believers today successfully obey the commands to the Lord to “heal the sick and tell them, ‘the kingdom of God is near to you'”? The reality is that some believers know how to pray for the sick, but extremely few can heal the sick as Jesus commanded his disciples in the gospels.
How many believers are able to understand and accept the central message of the New Testament? The primary concern for most believers can be expressed as “God, what can you do for me today and how can you bless me?” The central message of the New Testament is rather: in view of what God has already done for us through Christ, we should now love Him, fear Him, and please Him by obeying His commands—looking forward to receiving our inheritance in His kingdom. But relatively few Christians have such a focus. Like Peter before he received the Holy Spirit, our thinking is mostly carnal, focusing on earthly things and blessings.
Most believers today resemble pre-Pentecost Peter much more than Peter after he was baptized in the Holy Spirit.
On the very day that the Spirit came upon him, he stood up before a large crowd of Jews and with extreme boldness proclaimed the Christ to them. As a result, about 3,000 souls repented and accepted Jesus that day. This was the very same cowardly Peter who denied Jesus three times several days earlier.
How many typical believers have such fire and boldness to preach the gospel? Extremely few do.
Based on Acts 1:8 which teaches that those who receive the Spirit will receive power to be witnesses for Christ—and which we have just seen is precisely what happened to Peter at Pentecost—can we conclude that most Christians are already baptized in the Holy Spirit? No.
Can we excuse ourselves by saying that Peter was an apostle, and therefore very special and different from us ordinary believers? Can we say that we are now in a “different dispensation” where such things as happened to Peter no long apply? Can we say that what is recorded in Acts is simply “description, and not prescription”?
Those are all indeed excuses to cover up something which is definitely lacking in the Church. If we are not witnessing boldly and fruitfully for Jesus Christ, then we know that something is missing. Charismatic theology holds that such a believer might not yet be baptized in the Spirit. Evangelical theology on the other hand teaches that we need to surrender and “release” more of the Spirit who already lives in us. Regardless of the position to which we may hold, something is missing in our lives. In the Retreat we will ask the Lord to provide what is missing.
Moreover, how many believers have been able to put to death the misdeeds of the body and live a holy life as the Lord commands us?
Romans 8:13 …if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.
Colossians 3:5 Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.
If we are unable to put to death the works of our flesh by the Spirit, then could it be that we are not yet filled with the Holy Spirit or have not yet “released” the Spirit to lead us and control us?
It is a question believers need to consider seriously, especially in view of someday our appearing before the judgment seat of Christ.
2 Corinthians 5:10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.