Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Baptism of Holy Spirit Part 3 (Jn. 1:24-28)

This is my personal summary of the preaching of Rev. Dr. Stephen Tong on 26th April 2009 in Newton Life. It was preached in Chinese with English translation.

Passage: Jn. 1:24-28

When the Holy Spirit cleanses us, we can truly be cleansed. The Holy Father sent the Holy Son to use the Holy Spirit to sanctify us. We are sanctified because of what God has done.

There are 7 mentions of the baptism of the Holy Spirit in the Scripture: 4 times in the Gospels, twice in the book of Acts and once in the book of Corinthians.

All 4 gospels were the mention by John the Baptist. The fifth time were said by the Lord Jesus Himself. The fifth mention is very important, because the Lord Jesus Himself affirmed that He baptized with the Holy Spirit. He affirmed that John testified the truth. He also told them when that would happen. In the book of Acts, He told His disciples that they would receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. Once He affirmed that, He ascended to heaven. The Holy Spirit came upon them after 10 days. With the power of the Holy Spirit, the disciples were empowered to become His witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria to the ends of the world.

How should we understand the baptism of the Holy Spirit? Is it the same as the descending of the Holy Spirit? Why is the church so confused today? They paralleled the baptism of the Holy Spirit with speaking in tongues. An important principle is that baptism is to cleanse. Only Jesus Christ did not need to be cleansed. Even John the Baptist acknowledged that he needed to be baptized by Christ. Jesus Christ said they had to fulfil the righteousness of God. Based on the rituals required by the Law, a priest can only be anointed when he is 30 years old. Both Jesus and John waited until they were 30 before starting ministry. And a priest needs to be cleansed. But Jesus Christ does not need to be cleansed. God revealed to John that the Man on whom Holy Spirit descend upon was the Man who would baptize with the Holy Spirit.

Did John know Jesus before? If he did not, he would not have been able to declare He was the Lamb of God. But his understanding of Christ was based on the Old Testament. He knew that Christ was the Son of God, the Lamb of God who died for the sin of the world. He knew both His divinity and humanity. But he was only limited to these two concepts. The third concept which John did not know earlier, also what all earlier prophets did not know, was that Christ is the Savior who would sanctify all humankind. John never knew Jesus in this way. God sent John into this world, and told him that that Man on whom the Spirit descended would baptize with the Holy Spirit. Heaven opened when He was baptized and God the Father declared “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased, listen to Him.” Only Christ could turn a sinner into a saint. All Christians have been cleansed and sanctified. That was a breakthrough from the Old Testament, the beginning of the new era.
On the day of Pentacost, the Church was born, Christ used the Spirit to cleanse the Church. Historically, this event was very significant. When Christ was crucified, it was an appointed time in eternity. The day of Pentacost was also a day appointed by God in eternity. It was the day the Church of Christ was established. They are set apart as holy. The day Jesus was crucified was the day never to be repeated. Likewise the day of Pentacost when the Holy Spirit came upon us was the day never to be repeated. It is God’s eternal plan actualized in history.

What does it mean to share in the death of Christ? His death is once and for all an all-effective sacrifice. What is the relationship between the day we are saved and the day Christ died? The day we are saved is the day when the effect of that day of His death become real in our lives. At the moment of salvation, we share in the death of Christ. It does not mean Christ died all over again. It was a historical past. But we enter into His death, and become united with Him. If we unite with Him in His death, we will also share with Him in His resurrection. The death of Christ surpasses history. It continually remains effective throughout history. All believers in future generations will share in His death.

Just as the one-time death of Christ continues to be effectual across history, the descent of the Holy Spirit also continues to become effectual throughout history. On that particular day, the coming of the Holy Spirit cleanses all generation of saints. So when I receive Holy Spirit in a particular day in my life, in the same way like the death of Christ, that descent of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentacost becomes effective in my life. John the Baptist’s words have been recorded four times, that Jesus would baptize with the Holy Spirit. On the fifth time, Jesus Christ said they would receive the Holy Spirit in a few days. Since then, there is no more mention of the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Holy Spirit had descended for all generations in all nations who would come to faith. In these 5 mentions, it was in future tense.

Other than these 5 mentions, there are 2 more mentions of the Holy Spirit baptism. There the past tense was used. It was in Acts 11. It was not about something to happen in the future, but something that happened already in Acts 1. It is based on their memory in the past. In the book of Corinthians, Paul said we are all baptized with the same Spirit. It is also a past.

It is not biblical for us to say that the Holy Spirit would come upon us. Interpretation can be very unbiblical when it is merely based on appearances. When the Pentacostals/Charismatics grow in numbers, many think that it is because they have the Holy Spirit. Many evangelicals follow the charismatics in the end. While the reformed path is narrow, it is the right way to go. Reformed movement is a challenge, a battle, an invitation to return to the whole counsel of God. It is not something imaginative or emotional. It is faith founded on firm ground.

We need to look at the baptism of the Holy Spirit from general principles of the Bible. Christ’s death and resurrection enable us to be justified. The baptism of the Holy Spirit allows us to be cleansed. The Holy Spirit baptism is not initiated by the Holy Spirit, but by Christ. Christ is the Baptizer. Christ was sent to earth by the Father. The Father initiated the sending of Christ to earth. But Christ initiated Holy Spirit baptism. On that day of Pentacost, Christ collectively sanctified and baptized the Church. Many believers were not born yet. But in our own experience, it is a certain day the Holy Spirit comes to our life. It brings us to share in the collective experience. Bible did not use the future tense, but the past tense, that we are all already baptized.

If the Holy Spirit baptism is that important like the charismatics claim, why is it that most of the Epistles never mention it? Other than the 7 instances, the Bible is silent about this. It is not that it is unimportant, but that it is already completed. The charismatics rarely preaches the essence of the gospel; they often preach their own activities. They hardly talk about Christ’s death and resurrection. They divide conversion and Holy Spirit baptism into two separate events.

Where did this theology come from? John Wesley said that it is not enough for Christians to be saved, but they need a second blessing to enable them to live a victorious life. This 18th century view influenced the 20th century. The charismatics looked at salvation as the first blessing, and the second blessing is the receiving of the Holy Spirit. This interpretation is also taken from the healing by Jesus where the blind was touched the second time to fully see. Hence the charismatics and pentacostals believe they have received the second blessings so they are superior to other churches. They believe the second blessing gives believers power and the mark of that power is the ability to speak in tongues. And they usually take the Pentacost event to support their claim.

From the 60s to the 80s, they started forcing people to speak in tongues. Many people feel pressured to speak in tongues. Gradually these people become comfortable. It became an experience and an arrogance. Then there is a general belief that those who have the Holy Spirit speak in tongues and those that do not have do not speak in tongues. A lot of churches follow this path, not only general Christians, but even elders and pastors too.

From 1905 to 1960, or the period of the first wave, the charismatics get established. The second wave is from 1960 to 1980 where charismatism went into other denominations and influenced deacons, elders, bishops and pastors. In the 1990s, become a movement. Churches become no longer conservative. Leaders determine whether their doors would be open to charismatic movement. They see it as a tool they can use to grow the church. Hence Reformed movement must arise and be courageous to develop a group of people who would be steadfast in the faith.

This idea of second blessing causes people to seek after a second spiritual experience after conversion. Charismatic churches grow but their interpretation is not firm. They do not have strong theology, but their theology is based on over-confidence.

They categorized tongues into two categories. Tongue is a gift as well as the only mark of baptism of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit distribute all other gifts as He pleases, but all who are baptized in the Holy Spirit will receive the gift of tongues. They will refer to the Pentacost event to support this view. But if we read carefully, during that day of Pentacost, the gift of tongues enable the the scattered Jews to understand in their own language. Because of these tongues, those who do not understand now understand. In contrast, many people who speak in tongues today have no idea what they are speaking.

In the book of Acts, 4 instances were recorded where the Holy Spirit descended, does that mean the Holy Spirit baptism happened all 4 times? (To be continued ...)


At 10:46 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Stephen Tong said,

"the gift of tongues enable the the scattered Jews to understand in their own language. Because of these tongues, those who do not understand now understand. In contrast, many people who speak in tongues today have no idea what they are speaking.

He draws some faulty conclusions. On one occasion, in Acts 2, when the disciples spoke in tongues, diaspora Jews recognized their own languages. But the Bible does not specify that this is the 'gift of tongues.'

I Corinthians 14 indicates that the speaker in tongues does not know what he is saying because his 'understanding is unfruitful.'


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