by Phillip Mutzelburg
Most bible based Christian churches would claim to do “Spirit empowered mission” and this claim is not argued as all Christ followers have the indwelling Holy Spirit to guide them in mission from the moment of conversion.
A2A would consider that there is an extra dimension of the Holy Spirit available to every Christ follower, which gives them a dynamic empowerment to do mission.
We believe that Jesus makes it clear that we should wait until we are baptised with the Holy Spirit before we do mission. For this reason, it is worthwhile giving further comment to this important biblical truth.
The Baptism with the Holy Spirit defined
The baptism with the Holy Spirit takes place when a Christ follower who earnestly and diligently desires it, makes themselves available for Jesus to immerse them in the fullness of his power.
Unfortunately, due to the undue emphasis and consequent excesses of some charismatic and Pentecostal groups, this biblical truth is seen in some circles as highly controversial, and even something to be avoided at all costs. For these reasons it is considered important to make some statements about this amazing phenomena which Jesus called a gift.
a. The Baptism with the Holy Spirit is not a relatively recent addition to Christian belief:
The Baptism with the Holy Spirit is not charismatic, Pentecostal, or “third wave” theology; it is New Testament theology which was embedded in the experience of the early church. It has been identifiable through every season of church history since the inception of the church. There have been seasons where it almost entirely disappeared in practise, but in more recent times it has once again been restored since the renewal took place at Azusa Street in the early part of twentieth century.
b. There are several reasons every Christ follower should seek the baptism with the Holy Spirit:
- Jesus was baptised with the Holy Spirit because he needed it to do the mission he was sent to do. He was baptised with the Holy Spirit at the Jordan when he was baptised in water.
- Jesus considered that we needed it for mission. He told his disciples to wait until they received the gift of the Holy Spirit.
- It was a common experience for Christ followers in the early church. There are numerous examples in the book of Acts.
- It is a command. Jesus told the disciples to “wait in Jerusalem until they had received it.”
- The writer to the Hebrews suggests it is an elementary teaching for Christians on their way to maturity. The writer says we must progress beyond the doctrine of baptisms – note the plural. The baptism with the Holy Spirit is one of several baptisms mentioned in the scriptures.
- The baptism with the Holy Spirit is for all in the church age. The prophesy of Joel and the statement by Peter at Pentecost confirm this.
c. The baptism with the Holy Spirit is available to every Christ follower at or subsequent to their salvation experience:
Some Christians are baptised with the Holy Spirit at the time they make their first confession of faith in Christ. Others are baptised with the Holy Spirit subsequent to their salvation experience. Within our churches a Christian who has never had this experience is not considered a “second rate” Christian.
d. The baptism with the Holy Spirit is not the central doctrine of the bible:
The prominence given by some Christian churches to this teaching implies that it is the central doctrine of the bible. We believe all truth is important to our spiritual growth, and we endeavour to teach the whole counsel of God.
We do not believe that being baptised with the Holy Spirit makes you a better Christian. We believe the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit at work within the Christ follower that changes us, and that it is this work evidenced by the “Fruit of the Holy Spirit” in our lives that makes us more like Christ.
e. Speaking in tongues is the most common evidence of being baptised with the Holy Spirit:
Speaking in tongues is the most controversial aspect of this dynamic experience of being baptised with the Holy Spirit. It is controversial because some Christians argue that unless you speak in tongues you are not baptised with the Holy Spirit. Within our churches we are resistant to this being a divisive issue.
f. The baptism with the Holy Spirit is the usual gateway for the Christ follower to operate in the gifts of the Holy Spirit:
This is also somewhat controversial as there is evidence that many Christians who do not claim to be baptised with the Holy Spirit, or speak in tongues, function in some or all of the gifts listed in 1 Corinthians 12. Within our churches we are resistant to this being a divisive issue.
NB: The reader could be frustrated in some regards by the lack of a more detailed explanation of some of these views, and the lack of biblical reference to them all. This paper is not meant to be a comprehensive doctrinal document, but rather an overview of a distinctive of our churches. It is written with the commitment to the celebration of diversity which we enjoy in our movement.
The primary purpose of the baptism with the Holy Spirit is to empower us to do mission
In many charismatic and Pentecostal churches, including those under the banner of the older traditional denominations who have embraced the “charismatic” experience, this primary purpose of the baptism with the Holy Spirit being an empowerment for mission has been ignored.
Instead of the focus being outward, the focus has become inward. In some places the focus is about “my healing”, “my prophesy”, “my word of knowledge”. The mindset is the gifts of the Holy Spirit are for me. We would not suggest that the ministry of the Spirit should not be extended to the already convinced, but in the process of doing this the primary purpose of using this power to reach the masses of unchurched people in our community must not be lost.
Within our movement of churches there will be a constant challenge to use this dynamic power available to the Christ follower who is baptised with the Holy Spirit to do the main thing. And the main thing will always be the main thing, “to go into all the world and preach the gospel and make disciples”.
The baptism with the Holy Spirit without the balance of the Fruit of the Holy Spirit disempowers effective ministry to the unchurched community.
Paul speaks about the gifts of the Holy Spirit and then makes an amazing statement about these dynamic gifts. He says “I will show you the most excellent way” and goes on to talk about the power of love over all the gifts. Becoming a person who loves at all times is a result of the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit.
Love is a fruit of the Holy Spirit. Love must overshadow our ministry in the power of the Holy Spirit. When love is lacking the gifts regardless of how astonishing they may be, are lost in the intrigue associated with anything not easily explained. Without love, we are effectively disempowered in our effectiveness. Love must be evident so that the Spirit of God at work in them can be seen.
Developing a Christlike character must be our first priority if we want the dynamic of the Holy Spirit to do its work in the hearts of the unchurched.
- Do you teach on the baptism with the Holy Spirit often enough to give opportunity for your congregation to be equipped for mission? Remember the work of the ministry is to train up the believers for works of service.
- Do you teach the balance between character and power? Ministry without the love of God only intrigues the unchurched, it does not transform their life.