Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Baptism of Holy Spirit Part 1 (Jn. 1:24-28)

This is my personal summary of the preaching of Rev. Dr. Stephen Tong on 5 April 2009 in Newton Life. It was preached in Chinese with English translation.

Passage: Jn. 1:24-28

In the 20th century, there is an emphasis on the work of the Holy Spirit. The pentacostal churches particularly emphasized the baptism of the Holy Spirit. The church is supposed to be revived by the Holy Spirit. It is often termed as the century of the Holy Spirit, just as the 16th century is the century of Revelation. Is this consistent with the truth? Is this returning to the faith of the Apostles?

From 1905 to 1950, many people say the Church has seen the greatest work of the Holy Spirit. But many horrifying things happened, like the Toronto blessings. Are all these centered on the cross? If this is the focus of the New Testament, then the revival is healthy. If our understanding of God deepens, then it is a rational revival. In true revival, reason will return to the Word. There will be a revival of knowledge resulting in a change of lifestyle. Action comes from what we believe. What we believe comes from what we know. The Apostle Paul said he knew Whom I believe.

Hence true knowledge, true faith and true action come together. Faith becomes our energy. Knowledge becomes the enjoyment of our faith. With faith, comes responsibility and the preservation of holy lifestyle. Faith without deeds is dead. We know what we believe. And from our belief springs true actions, where we will give glory to God.

True revival therefore involves true faith, true knowledge, true action / lifestyle, true ministry, true proclamation of the gospel and true zeal (sanctified passion). Where there is true proclamationn of the gospel, the church is united and no longer fighting among themselves.

But a lot of the so-called revival of the Holy Spirit do not have these characteristics. Many ‘revivalists’ live unholy lifestyle. And they talk about the baptism of the Holy Spirit yet do not link it with a holy lifestyle. In the Bible, it is implicit that revival comes with the call to a holy life.

John the Baptist prepared for the coming of Messiah. The work of the Holy Spirit in John the Baptist is to prepare for the coming of the Lord. John the Baptist had the most profound understanding of Christology. He proclaimed Christ as the Son of God. He knew that Christ must become greater and he must become smaller. He said he baptized with water, but Jesus would baptize with the Holy Spirit. The salvation of Christ was expressed so concisely by John the Baptist. John the Baptist recognized Him as the Son of God and the Lamb of God.

None of the Old Testament prophets reveal Jesus as the Son of God. John the Baptist was not the first one. In Luke 1:35, the angel Gabriel said to Mary that the Son to be born is the Son of the Most High God.

Muslim never accepts that God has a son. Quran stated that the angel Gabriel appeared to Mohammad and told him God could not have a Son. When he was 40, an angel appeared to him to ask him to write. Mohammad said he could not write. The angel appeared to him and dictated to him word by word. Hence the Muslim believe that Quran is God’s direct revelation.

Muslim did not believe God had a son because Gabriel said so in Quran. But in the Bible, the same angel Gabriel said God had a son. Does that mean angel Gabriel contradicted himself? Or maybe one revelation is true and the other is false. How do we know? Recall that the Gospel and the Quran are 610 years apart. All along, the revelation was that God had a Son. Then suddenly Quran proclaimed that God has no son. How could the same Gabriel tell different things? Paul said if we heard a gospel that is different from what we received, whether it is from angel or from them, let him be cursed. The original gospel cannot be changed.

Islam holds that God gave humankind 100 books of revelation, but most of them were lost and there were only 4 left: Quran, Gospel, Psalms, and Torah. Only these 4 are revelation from God. There is commonality between Islam and Christianity. Both claim to receive revelation from God. To Islam, Quran is the greatest revelation because they believe that the later revelation is greater than the former. Hence Psalms are greater than the Law, the Gospel is greater than the Psalms and the Quran is greater than the Gospel. This is Islam’s doctrine of revelation. The later revelation can overwrite the former. Put together, Islam is the last religion, and is the greatest religion than surpass all religions.

But in Christianity, there is consistency. There is no overwriting or contradiction between old and new revelation. Implicit in the Old Testament, John the Baptist proclaimed Christ as the Son of God. All Christians believe He is the Son of God. They believe because they receive the baptism of John. John is great indeed.

John said he baptized with water, but He who came after him, the sandals of whom he was not worthy to untie, will baptize with the Holy Spirit. Our heart needs to be cleansed but water can only clean physically. The true Baptizer is not John, but the Lord Jesus Christ. He baptized with the Holy Spirit. John the Baptist cannot cleanse, but his water baptism is symbolic and remind the people that they need to be cleansed. True transformation happens when Jesus baptizes us with the Holy Spirit.

The greatest error of this century is to think that the Holy Spirit baptizes. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of truth. Any movement of the Holy Spirit is linked to holiness and truth. He revealed the Truth. But many people today use the Holy Spirit as a means for personal gain. They link it with prosperity.

Jesus said that the Holy Spirit will lead us into all truth. But the Holy Spirit is not the Baptizer. He is the One we are baptized with. And surely it is not the pastors who baptize us with the Holy Spirit. The water is representation, symbolic, a preparation. But the spiritual cleansing is from Christ.

Jesus cleansed us with the Holy Spirit. It is not through the sign of speaking in tongues. The cleansing is so that we become saints. Jesus cleansed us with the truth. Jesus cleansed us with His precious blood. This is our sanctification. We go through progressive sanctification until we are perfect. Because of His word, we are cleansed. He prayed to the Father to sanctify the believers with truth, and that God’s Word is truth. Secondly, we are sanctified with the Spirit. Thirdly, we are sanctified by Christ’s blood. So the Word of the Father, the Blood of the Son, and the Holy Spirit cleanse us. John the Baptist understood this.

The Bible recorded John the Baptist, Peter and Paul baptizing withh water, but did not record Jesus baptizing with water. Not only did the Bible not record Jesus baptizing with water, the Bible also explicitly emphasizes that Jesus did NOT baptize with water, but it was His disciples who did it. Christ cannot baptize with water because He is God. It is meaningless for the Creator to baptize creation with water. So we are cleaned by the Word, the Spirit, and the blood. The Holy Spirit is God. The Word is God. What about the blood? In Acts 20, Paul said that wolves would come and deceive, so they had to watch as good shepherds of the flock, who had been cleansed with His blood. The Church of God is cleansed by the blood of Christ and Christ is divine. Hence we could only be cleansed by God, not by physical things.


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