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The Pentecostal Doctrine Of The
Baptism Of The Holy Spirit

Part 2: Analysis

By

Neil Armstrong B.A., M.Div.




The Baptism of the Holy Spirit is one of the most important teachings in the New Testament. In order to analyze this doctrine we are using a four fold approach. This approach involves: 1) presenting several different versions of the doctrine, 2) summarizing the statements made in the doctrines, 3) asking questions corresponding to the statements, and 4) examining the Scriptures to determine if the doctrinal statements have validity. This process is designed to evaluate the Scriptural integrity of this important doctrine.

Questions:

1. Is it necessary for someone to be born again to become a Christian?

"In the Baptism of the Holy Ghost, received subsequent to the new birth..." PAOGOA "This experience is distinct from ...the experience of the new birth." PAOC

Becoming a Christian involves trusting one's life to Jesus Christ. When this happens the person experiences the new birth. The new birth involves many aspects including belief, repentance, faith and receiving the Holy Spirit. The Apostle Peter indicates the importance of this experience when he wrote, "In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead." 1 Peter 1:3 The new birth is one of the most important teachings of Jesus Christ and absolutely essential for admission into the Kingdom of God. The believers experience of entering into the Kingdom of God is salvation. This is accomplished in the Christian through the receiving of the Spirit. Without the Spirit a person is not a Christian, is not born-again and is not in the Kingdom of God. All Evangelicals, including Pentecostals, are in agreement that it is necessary to experience the new birth to become a Christian.

2. Is there a second subsequent experience called the Baptism of the Holy Spirit?

"received subsequent to the new birth..." PAOGOA "This experience is distinct from, and subsequent to, the experience of the new birth." PAOC

Although Evangelicals and Pentecostals acknowledge the importance of the Baptism of the Holy Spirit they are deeply divided on the issue of the Baptism of the Holy Spirit as a subsequent experience. Evangelicals view Pentecostals as introducing a serious error into the Christian faith at the point where it is most critical, just as the new believer is receiving the Spirit at the time of salvation.

First we will look at the Scriptures Pentecostals use to support their claim of a second experience. In their doctrinal statement they use two Scriptures, Acts 8:12-17 and Acts 10:44-46. The first thing we observe when we read these scriptures is that the terms "new birth" and "baptism of the Holy Spirit" are not used in either passage. Furthermore, in Acts 8:16 it says very clearly "the Holy Spirit had not yet come upon any of them" In Acts 10:44 the Scriptures simply say, "while Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message." Since there is no explanation as to what kind of experience is occurring we must ask, how is it possible to claim there is a subsequent experience when neither Scripture provides evidence of a second "distinct" event?

Other than using two very debatable passages Pentecostals have no solid evidence to back up their claims of a second experience. There are no primary [see Article] Scriptures anywhere in the New Testament which say, "the Baptism of the Holy Spirit is a distinct, subsequent experience following the new birth". Neither are there any secondary Scriptures that say something like, "having been born again Christians are waiting for the Baptism of the Holy Spirit." Every Scripture they use is circumstantial and debatable!

Evangelicals believe there is a single experience of the believer receiving the Holy Spirit. This experience may be referred to as either the new birth or the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. There are four major doctrines which Evangelicals use to support this view. These doctrines are: a) the fulfillment of the Kingdom of God, b) the fulfillment of the prophecy of Joel, c) the fulfillment of the Davidic Covenant and d) the fulfillment of Father's Promise. All four of these doctrines are important to a Biblical understanding of the Baptism of the Holy Spirit.

a) The fulfillment of the Kingdom of God.

The timing of the fulfillment of the Kingdom of God is pivotal in determining whether the Baptism of the Holy Spirit is received subsequent or after the new birth. The connection between being born-again and the Kingdom is clear. "Jesus replied, ‘Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.’" John 3:3 Would not a similar association with the Baptism of the Holy Spirit show these two experiences are related?

A connection between the Kingdom of God and the Baptism of the Holy Spirit can be made. In Acts 1:3-8 there are several references to the Kingdom. The most important is the reply Jesus gave to the question about the coming of the Kingdom of Israel. "Then they gathered around him and asked him, ‘Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?’" Acts 1:6 In response to their question Jesus said, "It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you." Acts 1:7-8 The Holy Spirit being poured out on the Day of Pentecost is the fulfillment of this statement by Jesus and the beginning of His Kingdom. Acts 2:1-4. Since both terms, born-again and Baptism of the Holy Spirit, are clearly associated with the Kingdom of God, these two terms must be describing the same experience.

b) The fulfillment of the prophecy of Joel.

This prophecy is important because it is the first indication in Acts 2 of what is happening on the day of Pentecost. When Peter stood up on the Day of Pentecost to explain what was going on, Acts 2:5-15, the first thing he did was to quote Joel 2:28-32. The passage begins with these words, "In the last days God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people...". The passage ends with, "And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved." Acts 2:21 Peter is obviously indicating that the people present are to call on the Lord for the purpose of being "saved". He carries this theme on throughout the chapter explaining the necessity of repenting in order to be saved and receive the Holy Spirit! Acts 2:38-39 There is absolutely nothing else in Acts 2:1-41 to indicate that anything other than salvation is being experienced on the Day of Pentecost.

c) The Davidic Covenant is fulfilled on the Day of Pentecost.

The main body of Peter's message, which he preaches on the Day of Pentecost, has to do with the fulfillment of the Davidic covenant. Acts 2:25-36 The importance of Jesus being the Messianic fulfillment of God's covenant with David is not only essential to an understanding of Pentecost but also of the whole New Testament! By quoting several passages which directly refer to this covenant, Peter is tying together two very important ideas. They are that Jesus is both the promised Old Testament Messiah, the Christ, and Lord. "Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah." Acts 2:36 On the basis of this fact the people understand the seriousness of what is happening and are "cut to the heart". Peter confidently tells them what to do to be saved. Acts 2:37-39 The fulfillment of the Davidic covenant is yet another indication of the spiritual nature of what is happening on the Day of Pentecost. Additionally, it is also the theological basis for the Kingdom of God! The Baptism of the Holy Spirit is not a disconnected "subsequent" event as the Pentecostals teach but an essential aspect of the Biblical plan of salvation.

d) The fulfillment of the Father's Promise.

The Father giving Jesus permission to pour out the Holy Spirit is the central event on the Day of Pentecost. This is known as the "Fulfillment of the Father's Promise". The background to this event is found in Acts 1:4. In this verse Jesus told the disciples to, "wait for the gift my Father promised". They were told specifically that "in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit". Acts 1:4-5 The relationship between the "Father's Promise" and the "Baptism of the Holy Spirit" in this passage is unmistakable!

The fulfillment of the Father's Promise occurs on the Day of Pentecost. When Peter explains to the crowd what is happening he says, "Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the "Father" the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear." Acts 2:33 What they "see and hear" is the Father's promise being fulfilled. This is the same promise which Jesus spoke about in Luke 24:46-49 "He told them, "This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. I am going to send you what my "Father has promised"; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high." Luke 24:46-49 Jesus is absolutely clear that when they are "clothed with power from on high", this will involve, "repentance for the forgiveness of sins" and preaching "to all nations". This is fulfilled on the Day of Pentecost with Peter preaches salvation to people from every nation. Acts 2:5

This is important because it is yet another indication the Baptism of the Holy Spirit is not a subsequent experience but the coming of salvation through the new birth. Until Jesus sat at the right hand and received approval from the Father, salvation was not available. This fact means the salvation could not possibly have occurred previous to the Father's promise being fulfilled. [See Article]

Knowing they must find a previous time when the Spirit was poured out resulting in the new birth, Pentecostals point to John 20:20-22. In terms of this being the first salvation experience, this passage is inadequate for many reasons. Perhaps the most obvious reasons is the physical presence of Jesus with the disciples. We are told, "He showed them his hands and side." John 20:20 Salvation is more than just receiving the Holy Spirit. Through salvation we become the Body of Christ. Yet in John 20:20 Jesus is still physically present on earth!

The Evangelical position is that there is no second, distinct or subsequent experience following the new birth. There is no need for another experience! The new birth is the Spirit coming in power. 1 Peter 1:3-5 This salvation is complete because Jesus Christ, through the Spirit, is now indwelling the believer. Ephesians 3:16-18; 1 John 4:16-18 Evangelicals believe that the two terms, born-again and Baptism of the Holy Spirit are referring to the same experience and may be used interchangeably.

3. Is the Baptism of the Holy Spirit confirmed by the "initial evidence" of tongues?

"as the initial physical sign and evidence." PAOGOA "The initial evidence of the baptism in the Holy Spirit is speaking in other tongues as the Spirit gives utterance." PAOC

Nowhere in the New Testament is there a verse which says, "the baptism of the Holy Spirit is confirmed by the initial evidence of tongues". This is an assertion which is based solely on several circumstantial observations. These are the verses Pentecostals use to support their observations. Acts 2:4; Acts 10:44-46; Act 19:5-7 Other passages where the Holy Spirit comes upon believers and they do not speak in tongues are ignored. Acts 8:14-17; Acts 9:17-18; Acts 16:14-15; Acts 16:30-34 When a doctrinal statement claims that something is an ′initial evidence′ there must be a verse which clearly states this fact. There is no such statement in the New Testament. If there were, Pentecostals would be the first to point to it in support of their doctrine. This is something they are unable to do. Their doctrinal claims must be based on more than just a few circumstantial observations. It is misleading to give the impression that the Scriptures supports the idea that the Baptism of the Holy Spirit is confirmed by the initial evidence of speaking in tongues.

4. Is there a physical sign associated with this experience?

"as the initial physical sign..." PAOGOA "The Baptism of believers in the Holy Ghost is indicated by the initial physical sign of speaking with other tongues..." PAOC pre 1994

There is absolutely no basis in Scripture to support the claim that tongues are "physical sign". The work of the Holy Spirit is spiritual, not physical. Nowhere does the New Testament say tongues are a "physical sign". This is strictly a Pentecostal doctrinal concept. This concept is very dangerous because it leaves open the possibility of the Spirit being manipulated through the speaking of tongues. Trying to gain this kind of influence over the Spirit was what got Simon the Sorcerer in trouble. Acts 8:18-24 Claiming a physical sign for the Baptism of the Holy Spirit is an extremely serious doctrinal error. [See Article]

5. What are the benefits of the Baptism of the Holy Spirit?

"Through this he comes to know Christ in a more intimate way, and receives power to witness and grow spiritually." PAOC

Pentecostals claim spiritual benefits for the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. Nowhere in Scripture are the benefits of "knowing Christ in a more intimate way" and "spiritual growth" specifically connected to the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. Power to witness is associated with the Baptism of the Holy Spirit in Acts 1:8. However, the question must be asked, what is the Scriptural basis for the power of the Spirit? In Scripture the power of the Spirit is always connected to the resurrection. Romans 1:1-4; Philippians 3:8-11 Since salvation is based on the resurrection it must be concluded that the power of the Spirit is received by the believer at the time of the new birth. When someone is born again, by being raised to new life, all spiritual benefits are immediately available. Romans 8:10-11; Romans 6:3-4 A second experience is not needed. This is one more indication that the terms ‘Baptism of the Holy Spirit’ and ‘Born Again’ are referring to the same experience and that all benefits are received at salvation.

6. Should Christians seek this experience in accordance with the command of the Lord?

"Believers should earnestly seek the baptism in the Holy Spirit according to the command of our Lord Jesus Christ." PAOC

Christians are told to seek many things like, God, his kingdom, righteousness, glory, honor and immortality. Hebrews 11:6; Matt. 6:33; Romans 2:7 Those who support this doctrine use Luke 24:49 and Acts 1:4,8 and claim believers should seek the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. Neither one of these verses mention seeking. These verses indicate that a few days before Pentecost Jesus told the disciples to "stay", Luke 24:49, and to "wait for the gift my Father promised.", Acts 1:4, Jesus did not give a command to Christians to seek the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Furthermore, the Pentecostal view of this doctrine teaches there is a second experience of the Baptism of the Holy Spirit with the initial evidence of speaking in tongues. To claim that Jesus gave a command to specifically seek this experience is disingenuous.

7. Why are Pentecostal Pastors not free to question this doctrine?

"We consider it a serious disagreement with the Fundamentals for any minister among us to teach contrary to our Distinctive Testimony that the baptism of the Holy Spirit is regularly accompanied by the initial physical sign of speaking in other tongues as the Spirit of God gives the utterance, and we consider it inconsistent and unscriptural for any minister to hold credentials with us who thus attacks as error our Distinctive Testimony." PAOC pre 1994

Anyone becoming involved in a Pentecostal Church needs to know that the Minister does not have the freedom to openly express another view of the Baptism of the Holy Spirit except the one affirmed by the denomination. The reason they take dissent so seriously is because this teaching expresses the distinct identity of their church. When a Pastor states to the denomination that he no longer believes their view of the Baptism of the Holy Spirit, he is given no alternative but to withdraw from the Church. Many Ministers who deeply love the Lord, the people in their congregation and the Pentecostal Church, have left because they can no longer in good conscience endorse this doctrine Biblically.

Conclusion

When a Denomination establishes a doctrine there is a great burden of responsibility to God and to the people in their churches. Many of the doctrines of the Pentecostal Church are outstanding in terms of their faithfulness to the Word of God. However, to say the doctrine of the Baptism of the Holy Spirit is lacking Scripturally is an understatement. This teaching does not meet even the most basic standards of Biblical inquiry. The lack of integrity which the construction of this doctrine exhibits would be totally unacceptable if it were to exist in any other discipline.

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