Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Baptism of Holy Spirit Part 2 (Jn. 1:24-28)

This is my personal summary of the preaching of Rev. Dr. Stephen Tong on 19 April 2009 in Newton Life. It was preached in Chinese with English translation.

Passage: Jn. 1:24-28

For the first 2000 years, we seem to ignore the doctrine of the Holy Spirit. Then the Pentacostals and Charismatics believe that they have been used by God to revive this teaching. Many people think that you can understand this only in the charismatic / pentacostal.

Doctrine of the Holy Spirit is a very important teaching, next to the Doctrine of Trinity and Christology. The Person who was born in flesh and died on the cross, was He God? How can the Creator be physical? But if Christ was just a man, why did the disciples worship Him? If He was just a natural person, how come He could do supernatural works? He could calm the storm. It is the mark of His divinity. He has always spoken as though He was God. Compare His words with others. Look at the confidence He spoke that surpassed all other men. By the second century, the Gnostics and heretics disregarded Christology. All these demanded that the Universal Church standardized the teaching regarding Christ. The creed of Athanasius declared the Father, Christ and Holy Spirit as being equal in substance, power and glory.

The early Church therefore contributed to the Doctrine of Trinity. But there were heretics called the Montanus. They believed they have received the Holy Spirit. They spoke of supernatural phenomena. They placed emphasis on the Spirit that had raised Christ. They believed you can be elevated during worship. They were sort of the early Charismatics, believing that supernatural phenomena was the mark of the Holy Spirit.

Until the time of Augustine, those teaching had lost its popularity. There was great reduction in this movement. When John Calvin came about, he brought together the whole systematic teaching. His explanation of the work of the Holy Spirit is that the Spirit gives us grace. God the Father prepared the salvation, God the Son accomplished the salvation and God the Holy Spirit delivered the salvation. The Holy Spirit gives the grace and regenerate us to receive salvation. This is the great contribution of John Calvin. Because of the Holy Spirit, we can receive Jesus Christ, confess our sin and return to God. The Holy Spirit uses holy word to illuminate our hearts, prays for us in sighs that we cannot understand and the power of the Holy Spirit enables us to be witnesses of Christ. In every aspect of spirituality the Holy Spirit dynamically moves us towards God. When we study the Holy Spirit, we study how He brought salvation and grace to us. He is the Spirit of truth, holiness and grace. So it is wrong to segregate the Holy Spirit from truth, from holy living or from grace.

The orthodox faith therefore does not look at the Holy Spirit merely from phenomena. The Holy Spirit participates in creation, delivers salvation, inspires the prophets and apostles to write the Word of God. Historically, Jesus Christ was conceived by the Holy Spirit. So it is wrong to say that if you do not see supernatural phenomena, you do not have the Holy Spirit. The charismatics tend to link supernatural phenomena to the works of the Holy Spirit. They are all confused when they talk about the Holy Spirit. In the first wave of the Charismatic movement, the interpretation of the faith of the apostles is wrong. Paul told Timothy to teach the truth to those who can teach others. This involves four generations of teaching. Paul received his teaching from Christ. When a church holds fast to the teaching of the apostles, it is a true church. The first mark of a true church is one that holds fast to the truth.

In 1901, there was only one person that started the charismatic movement. In 1905, it became 5 people in the Asuza street. In 1980s, it had grown to over 200M people. It is the fastest movement in history, so people think it is the century of the Holy Spirit. Not long after that, Toronto blessings began. It was a confusing movement. People moved from consciousness to unconsciousness. To be filled with the Holy Spirit is to be unconscious, confused, and laugh endlessly for hours. They think this is the mark of the Holy Spirit and that they are superior to others. The general direction is wrong. In 1990, Toronto blessings become worse and worse. People began shouting, screaming and barking like dogs or made noises like rooster. They justified that dogs barked at the gate of heaven and rooster reminded Peter of repentance. They attracted more and more people. Numerically they seem to take over the mainstream. When people think about church, they think of these people. When the charismatic movement began, the orthodox church were still ignorant of the threat. They thought they would always be the mainstream.

Many people who do not have the money to see doctor go to the charismatics. They need healing, exorcism and the presence of God. The churches began to grow in size. But many of them were not educated so the orthodox church did not look at them as a threat. In Indonesia, the orthodox churches were built up because of colony. Descendants of first generation charismatic poor later became richer and more educated. The orthodox church that relied on the dutch tradition became weaker.

Within 50 years, situations change. Charismatics place emphasis on international collaboration. They would invite famous charismatic international leaders to come and preach. It affirms their confidence. They would challenge us to say theirs is the real faith.

How do we distinguish? By the word of truth. We cannot abandon this. What we need to do is to stand fast to the teaching of the apostles. This is not only qualitative, but quantitative as well. This is the fiercest challenge. Many reformed people think they already know everything that they do not need to improve.

Many evangelicals believe that unless you become charismatic your church cannot revive. But many orthodox churches believe that they just have to send their people to the best seminaries whereas many evangelicals become humble and learn from charismatics. They do not have the ability to tell right from wrong. On the other hand, reformed people think that only the westerners have the answers. They do not have dynamic fighting spirit.

The error of the Charismatic / Pentacostal is in taking the faith of the apostles as phenomena – exorcism, healing, signs and wonders. They believe the baptism of the Holy Spirit is marked by speaking in tongues. Tongue is first seen as the mark of baptism, and second as one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Hence, other than the gift of Holy Spirit, the tongue is also seen as a mark of baptism. This is a dangerous segregation.

Baptism of the Holy Spirit is only mentioned 7 times in the Bible: Matt 3:11; Mark 1:8; Luk 3:16; John 1:33; Acts 1:5; 10:15-16 and 1 Cor. 12:13.

The first 4 mention is by the same one person, recorded 4 times in all four books of the gospel. Hence these four times are essentially only one mention by John the Baptist. In the Old Testament, the most important teaching on Christology is by King David. In the New Testament, John the Baptist set the most important foundation for Christology. David’s understanding of Christ far surpasses that of anyone else in the Old Testament. He was called the man after God’s own heart. This is not very much lifestyle but he understood Christology so well. God could have referred to him as a person who understand His heart, His salvation plan. Abraham and all other prophets could not compare with him. In the Old Testament, we know that Christ is the Son of God, God Incarnate, would be sold for 30 pieces of silver, crucified, pierced in hands and feet, resurrected, ascended to heaven, sat at the right hand of God, and forsaken on the cross. All this important teaching was recorded in the writing of David. David even wrote that His body did not decay and His bones were not broken. Hence David is the greatest theologian in Christology in the Old Testament.

But John the Baptist is the first one that refer to Jesus Christ as the Baptizer, of the importance of His work in sanctification. John’s name is John the Baptist. But the importance of his baptism declined later on. Paul told the Ephesians that the baptism of John was only symbolic, and even John knew that. It was a temporal measure that the true baptism is not by water. Water cannot cleanse our heart. Our spirit is unseen and cannot be cleansed by physical thing. John the Baptist refered to Christ as the Pre-Existing Christ that transcends history. If you affirm Christ is God, He must pre-exist. If He is not God, He cannot exist in eternity. In early verses of 90th psalms, Moses declared that before the mountains were formed, from eternity to eternity, God is.

Christ exists eternally before Creation. It is the mark of the Divine. David did not give a clear explanation of this. The theology of John therefore surpassed everyone else. Not another prophet ever mentioned this way. Other prophets heard call of God in the middle of their life. But John was filled with the Holy Spirit in the womb. None of the prophets could be compared to him. God has set him apart. John the Baptist was the only one filled with the Holy Spirit from womb to death.

The Holy Spirit makes you holy. But it is not the Holy Spirit Himself that cleanse you. It is God the Son that uses Holy Spirit to cleanse you. If you think that you only need to be baptized by water, you are just a Christian by tradition. This is what we see in Roman Catholicism. They believe that water baptism can save. Yet the book of Acts tells us that the sorcerer Simon was baptized with water, but not with Holy Spirit. When he tried to pay money to get Holy Spirit baptism, Peter rebuked him.

The Son of God is the true Sanctifier. It is impossible for human beings to cleanse the soul. A person is made in image of God and water is made not in image of God hence it is impossible for water to cleanse someone made in image of God. Cleansing must be done by the Son of God. He cleanses those made in image of God. He did not baptize with water, but with the Holy Spirit. By John chapter 4, it was made clear that it was the disciples who baptized with water, not Jesus. Jesus did not baptize with water and could not do so. It seemed to be a custom to baptize at that time. So the disciples baptized.

When Jesus was on earth, He was the Holy One who use the Holy Spirit to make us holy. The Second Person of Trinity use the Third Person to bring us to the First Person of Trinity.

But Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist. Did Jesus need cleansing? John said to repent because the kingdom of God has come. So those that wanted to repent were baptized with water. They confessed their sin and prepared their heart for the kingdom of God. So thousands of people come to the Jordan river to be cleansed. But why would Jesus come? We emphasized baptism as a cleansing. But why must Jesus be baptized?

When Jesus was baptized, was it the same as the rest of the people? God did not want John to misunderstand. So before the baptism, God already spoke to John. And Jesus Christ Himself explained the difference. Heaven was open and there was a Witness. John received a revelation from the Holy Spirit first. Just before baptism, Jesus Himself explained it. And during baptism, there was a testimony from God the Father in heaven.
John was told that the Person upon whom the Holy Spirit descended was the One who would baptize with the Holy Spirit. John’s responsibility was not only to baptize thousands with water, but also to identify this True Person who would baptize with the Holy Spirit. When the baptism was about to start, he saw Jesus coming. He asked why Jesus why He was coming to him, and said that he himself needed to be baptized by Jesus. So John recognized his sin. And he knew that Jesus was the True Baptizer.

Jesus replied that they must fulfil all righteousness. He explained that he did not come because he had sin, but he had to fulfil the law. According to the law, a man could not be a priest before reaching the age of 30. So John started his ministry when he was 30. When John was 30, Jesus was 29.5. John had preached for half a year first.

Why then the baptism? The Law said a priest must go through cleansing with water before starting his priestly ministry. Jesus wanted to fulfil the requirement of the Law. It is not because of sin. In accordance to the Law, it is to set Himself apart for God. From the start, He is already the sinless Holy One of God. The Sabbath Day likewise is set aside for God, and it does not mean that other days should be unholy. All others were cleansed symbolically through water baptism to prepare for the Kingdom. But Jesus is the King of the kingdom. Hence God had revealed to John that there would be affirmation by the Holy Spirit. All that were baptized by John were sinners, except this One Person, who came not because of sin, but sent by God the Father as the Holy One to the world of sin to be a sacrifice for sin and to solve the curse of sin. He was born under the law to fulfil all requirement of the law.

The book of Hebrew mentioned that the Jesus’ baptism by John through water is a priestly anointing. His anointing by Mary through the perfume of myrrh is a kingly anointing. But there was no prophetical anointing. In the Old Testament, none of the prophets had been anointed by men. They were all done by God. The only exception was God commanding Elijah to anoint Elisha. Every day as John baptized thousands of people, he had to observe carefully when the Baptizer would come.

The Holy Spirit descended like a dove upon Jesus and a voice from Heaven declared, “This is My Son, whom I love, in whom I am well-pleased. Listen to Him.” This is the only time God the Father, Son and Spirit appeared together. The Father was in heaven. The Son was on earth. The Holy Spirit descended from heaven to earth.
John knew that Jesus was the Son of God and the Lamb of God. But he did not know that Christ’s responsibility was so great that He will baptize generations with the Holy Spirit. That is why he said that he would not have known unless God revealed to him that the One on whom the Holy Spirit descended would baptize with the Holy Spirit, would cleanse us so that we could live lives pleasing to God.

A Christian is a saint, part of a holy universal church. Our status is changed from sinner to holy saint. Jesus Christ, second person of triune God cleanses us with the Holy Spirit. The gospel of Luke mentioned baptism with fire and spirit. What is the baptism of fire then? Christ made us saints through the Holy Spirit but this is not enough. God wants us to go through persecution and sufferings so that we become saints that have gone through trials. For the few centuries after the ascension of Jesus, spiritual fire continued to cleanse the Church. (To be continued…)


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