Monday, June 15, 2009

Baptism of Holy Spirit Part 4 (Jn. 1:24-28)

This is my personal summary of the preaching of Rev. Dr. Stephen Tong on 3rd May 2009 in Newton Life. It was preached in Chinese with English translation.

Passage: John 1:24-28

What is the baptism of the Holy Spirit? Is it a ritual? Is it something we can see? Is it the Holy Spirit who baptizes?

God sent His Son Jesus Christ who used the Holy Spirit to cleanse us and to give us the salvation. All saints have been baptized by Christ with the Holy Spirit to become part of the Universal Church. All in the Universal Church are saints and have been baptized by Christ with the Holy Spirit. And it is not the Holy Spirit, but Jesus Christ who is the Baptizer. John the Baptist who baptized with water said that Christ would baptize with the Holy Spirit. Hence Christ, with the power of God, baptized those who are made in God’s likeness.

There are only 3 things that would make us clean: Word, blood and Spirit. That is, the truth, the blood of Christ and the Holy Spirit. If we do not accept that the Word became Christ, we have been deceived by Satan. We are also deceived when we misunderstand the baptism of the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit gives us the Bible by inspiring the prophets and apostles to write the Word of God, and the Holy Spirit leads the Church into all truth. People who speak a lot about the Holy Spirit seem to be glorifying the Holy Spirit, but they segregate Him from the truth and His purpose of lifting up Christ. So instead of trusting in Christ, there is a constant talk about the Holy Spirit. The true purpose of the Holy Spirit’s coming has been lost. Yet when mainstream churches become smaller and smaller, they feel insecure and think that following charismatics is the only way to bring revival.

Since the reformation, reformed theology follows the path of Sola Scriptura. We believe the Holy Spirit is the Spirit that inspires the Bible, and He is willing to use the Bible to reveal God’s work. The Charismatics will deny this, saying that we should not constrain the Holy Spirit with the Bible, that in the Spirit there is freedom.

But true freedom, where the Spirit is, where the truth is, and when the Son of God sets you free, you are free indeed. So only in these 3 is there freedom. And these 3 cannot be segregated. So it is unbiblical to say the Holy Spirit’s freedom is beyond the Scriptures. When we look at phenomena, we are easily deceived. We have to understand the truth from the general principles of the Bible.

Jesus prophesied two main things about the future. The first is that the Holy Spirit will come soon. Second is that He Himself will come soon. These two future comings are promised by Christ. Both did not have their specific dates told. Christ did not say that the Holy Spirit would come in 10 days. He did not say He would come again after 2000 years. It is not good for Him to tell us the exact date because He wanted us to pray and be watchful. If we know when it is, we would be lazy until the last day. He said “soon”, but would not tell when. And history shows that it is not 10 days, but it has been 2000 years and He still has not come. He wants believers to be aware and always ready.

But why would He say “after a few days” regarding the coming of the Holy Spirit? Before Moses died, he once said prophesied that there would be a coming prophet among the Israelites. There was no date given. 1500 years later Jesus came and fulfilled that prophesy. Moses was not the last prophet, so he prophesied another prophet would come. The Old Testament is to prepare for the new. But the time ends with the Christians.

But Muslim do not believe this and claim that Jesus Himself promised another one to come, which is Mohammad. How is it explained that way? They would not use Acts 1, but they would use John 14. Here Jesus Himself prophesied the coming of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit was not only sent by God, but also by Christ. So all apostles would speak based on what Christ said. Jesus said He had to go so that the Holy Spirit would come, He is another Counselor. The Person of the Son is different from the Person of the Holy Spirit. The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are three different Persons of the Triune God. In Greek’s word, Parakletos means Comforter who is right beside. This Person will bring us to the truth. The Muslims believe this person is Mohammad. He will teach us to praise God. They believe that Jesus helped us understand God, but it is the last one (Mohammad) who bring us all into the truth to complete the religion of the world.

The Muslims believe the Bible records things of God, but not the entire Bible. They believe there are 104 books but 100 have been lost and it is impossible to find them back. 50 books are given to Adam, and the other 50 are given to Abraham, Methuselah, etc. After 100 books are lost, 4 remain. The first is Torah, the Book of Moses. The second is Sabhu, the Psalms of David. The third is Injil, the Gospels of Jesus. And the last one is the Quran. The one given later is more important than the first. Hence Psalms are more important than Torah. Gospels are more important than Psalms. And Quran is more important than the Gospels. They propose 96 errors in the Bible, so the 4 Gospels are not reliable. They believe in Jesus, in His gospels, but they believe that the gospels in the Bible are not the same as the original ones. Jesus promised that another Comforter, the word has the pronunciation similar to Mohammad. So they believe that Mohammad is the one promised by Christ.

When the Holy Spirit inspired the writing of the book of Acts, it was recorded that Christ said the Holy Spirit would come in a few days. So we could not accept that the Promised One is Mohammad who only came after 600 years.

In the book of Acts, we do see that the promise came to pass within a few days. So the baptism of the Holy Spirit was mentioned 7 times in the Bible, and the first 4 times were the same event, spoken by John the baptist. The second person to say this was Christ. The third person was Peter and the last person was Paul. John the Baptist spoke once and was recorded 4 times. Christ spoke of it as a future event. Peter and Paul spoke in past tense, refering to baptism of the Holy Spirit as a past event.

So the Baptizer is Christ, those who were baptized are all saints who were saved, and Christ uses the Holy Spirit to baptize us. It does not mean we are captured by the Holy Spirit, but it means we receive the saving grace. The coming of the Holy Spirit happened at Pentacost. It seemed like there are tongues of fire resting on them. Is this the incident Jesus referred to earlier? It must be, because apart from Acts 2, there are no other references in the Bible related to the incident after “a few days” spoken by Christ.

Moses refered to Jesus Christ before he died that another Prophet would come. The coming of Christ in history is for the fulfilment of salvation, after which, the coming of the Holy Spirit, we become saints and He guides the Church into all truth. This is God’s eternal plan, where God the Father, God the Son an God the Holy Spirit work together.

How many times did the Bible record the Spirit coming down? In the Old Testament, there are a few recording. The Holy Spirit would come for a time for a very specific purpose. Those receiving the anointing of the Spirit of God would become bold and spoke the words of God. They received inspiration of the Holy Spirit. But when the task was completed, the Spirit of God would return. When David sinned, he was afraid that God’s Spirit would leave him, recorded in Psalms 51. This is the difference between the Old and New Testament. In the New Testament, the Holy Spirit was promised to come to dwell in the hearts of believers forever.

In the Old Testament, the Spirit of God would come upon whom God chose to preach His Word. There are more than 6000 times mention of “Thus saith the Lord.” But when the Holy Spirit came, the day of Pentacost, the Spirit of God forever would live in the hearts of those who believe. After His resurrection, Jesus breathed into the lives of the believers, “receive the Holy Spirit.” Jesus just affirmed the way it was in the Old Testament. They were still to wait for the promise of the Holy Spirit at the Day of Pentacost.

How many times did the New Testament record the descent of the Holy Spirit? It is four times in four different places to different people. But why only 4 times and not more?

Is the descent of the Holy Spirit the same as the baptism of the Holy Spirit? If it is the same, why was the coming of the Holy Spirit not confined to just once in Jerusalem? Isn’t it supposed to come just once and for all?

To understand this, we can think about the Son of God’s coming as well. Only once the Word become flesh. But before He came in the flesh, He appeared before many times in the Old Testament, e.g. when Adam saw God in the garden of Eden, when Abraham met the Messenger of God, and when Moses saw the back of Jehovah. God the Son appeared many times. He appeared in the physical human form, but not in the flesh. So this is the appearance of God in humanly form, also called theophany. So it is not surprising that while the Bible said nobody has seen God, the Bible also said Moses saw God and Abraham spoke to God. They have seen God the Son, not God the Father. The Son of God came only once in the flesh, but appeared in humanly form many times.

In the same way, the Third Person, the Holy Spirit, only came once on the Day of Pentacost. That Day is the Birthday of the Church.

Christ only died once and resurrected once. He defeated death through His resurrection. He died to prove that He cannot die. In the book of Revelation He said he died, but now He is alive forevermore. In the first place, He is the Eternal One. So by coming in the flesh, He entered physical death. He came to die, to prove He had victory over death. If He never died, He would not be resurrected.

Jesus died at the day appointed by God. His birth was on the day appointed by God. It could not be sooner or later. This is the Day that the Lord has made. It was exactly 24 hours from the Last Supper to the Garden of Gethsemane, His 6 trials throughout the night, His crucifixion to the time His body was taken down. All these happened in 24 hours. The days of the Jews began from the moment the sun set. They do it this way because that is the way the Scripture said, “There was evening and there was morning.” God set darkness before the light so that we enjoy the light after the darkness.

As believers, we died and resurrected with Christ. But it did not mean Christ died and resurrect another time. The Holy Spirit brings us back to that day of Christ’s death where we died with Him. The effectiveness of His death last forever.

Similarly, Holy Spirit came only once on the day of Pentacost. He came and that was forever. Christ came as flesh once, but in the past (the Old Testament) He appeared many times. In the same way, the Holy Spirit came once, and in the future a few more times. There are 4 times the Spirit came down in the book of Acts: In Jerusalem (Acts 2), Samaria (Acts 8), the house of Cornelius (Acts 10), and Ephesus (Acts 19).

Why are there 4 incidents of the Holy Spirit’s descent in the book of Acts? Standard wise the Holy Spirit only came once. Acts 2 shows how the Holy Spirit came and united the Church. However, there are 3 regions that are representative of the whole world. Christ said they are to be His witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and to ends of the world. So the coming of the Holy Spirit is recorded 4 times to show that the Church started in Jerusalem, but it is to be universal. In Jerusalem, it was the first time the Spirit descended and it was where the Church was born. The other 3 times represented 3 other regions Jesus spoke of. Apart from these, the Bible did not record how Holy Spirit descended in all other places.

There are direct relationships in all these 4 incidents. But in all these 4 times, we also want to observe 4 differences: Whether there are gospel preaching, laying of hands, water baptism and speaking in tongues / signs and wonders.

The charismatics only emphasized one thing. They believe the baptism of the Holy Spirit is necessary as a second blessing to make us complete Christians. And this baptism is marked by the speaking in tongues. In the end, many churches follow this path.

Acts 8 seems to be the procedure the Charismatics follow. There were laying of hands, and the Holy Spirit descended upon the people. In Acts 2, about 120 people received the Holy Spirit baptism during the Day of Pentacost and they spoke in tongues. But the people who heard them spoke in tongues understood what was spoken. Those filled with the Holy Spirit want to preach the gospel; they were no longer thinking of their own lives and safety. When they preached, miracles happened. And people from 15 regions understood the gospel. The Spirit came not to proclaim Himself, but Christ.

Do not believe in those who keep talking about the Holy Spirit day and night, but believe those whom with the power of the Holy Spirit, keep preaching the gospel of Christ. Christ said the Holy Spirit comes to bear witness of Him. The Holy Spirit did not come to preach Himself, but to magnify Christ. Why was tongue given? It enabled the gospel to be preached, to prove that the gospel was not to be monopolised by the Jews. It is for all nations and languages. It is to enable those who do not understand to understand.

In contrast, Charismatics glorify personal experiences and tongues. It becomes the other way round. The tongues were not to enhance gospel preaching. Those who understand become confused. Is this the work of the Holy Spirit? When we boast of ourselves and praise our own name, we are creating the Tower of Babel. We want to tell the whole world that we are great. We keep building towers after towers. At financial crisis, everybody stopped. All these towers show us that we are the descendents of the builders of the Tower of Babel. God confused the tongues of the people because they are trying to build their own name. But on the day of Pentacost, they all preached Jesus and God blessed them. This is the first time there was unity in the Church.

There is no unity in the church because every church is preaching itself. When the church is preaching Christ, there will be unity. There will surely be breaking up when people preach themselves. There are very few people who truly understand reformed theology, even less who understand unity through the preaching of Christ. May God have mercy on us and revive us. Tongues are not meant to divide but to unite.

But the tongues of the Charismatics bring confusion and end up in preaching their own experience. As a result, many people start to think that Christians are crazy.

In chapter 2, before and after the descent of the Holy Spirit, nobody was baptised in water because these people had believed earlier. But in Samaria, there were a lot of sorceries, so those who turned away and believed in Christ were baptised. Phillip was able to convert many people in a land filled with sorcery. But Phillip is not an apostle so he was not authorized to establish a church. Hence Peter and John were sent to establish his work. So the believers were asked if they believed in Christ, and they said they did by the preaching of Phillip. Then they were asked if they had received the Holy Spirit, and they said not yet. So the apostles prayed for them and the Holy Spirit came upon them. So the Charismatics took this as a procedure. We need to be baptized in water but it is not enough, we also need to be baptized with the Holy Spirit. How is it done? By the laying fo hands, like what the apostles did. So they believe Christians today lack this last step.

Is that procedure meant to be prescriptive? In Acts 10, when the Holy Spirit came, the people had not believed and had not been baptised yet. When Peter was still speaking halfway, the Holy Spirit just came upon them. They have not heard the gospel or even been baptised with water. Why is it that in Acts 10 the Holy Spirit came before water baptism? And why is it that in Acts 19, the believers who had been baptised by John were re-baptised in Jesus’ name?

In Samaria, Phillip is not an apostle, so his preaching and baptism were not enough, so he needed apostles to come. So the charismatics teach that tongues and water baptism are not enough, there must be laying of hands to get Holy Spirit baptism or else we are not complete Christians. Since the charismatics are not apostles, what authority do they have to lay hands for people to get Holy Spirit baptism if even Phillip had no authority to do it? Then the charismatics also anoint apostles. But these are self-ordained apostles. The true apostles are those who are directly selected by Christ. These are the people who have the right to lay hands to release the power. Imitation of the preaching of the Bible is not the same as the actual teaching itself. May we be built upon strong foundation. But what about our churches today? We have no living apostles as well. Are our churches truly established then? (To be continued…)


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