Who shepherds us? Whose voice do we listen to? This always a fruitful question for us Christians, us followers of Christ. (Aug. 2009)
It could be the voice of our church (but who does our church listen to?); our pastor (take care- no pastor worship allowed); the church board (do they hear and obey, or just quorom?); it could be the voice of custom (the only "law" Mark Twain said us humans consistantly follow); the voice of our flesh (oh be quiet- we know you); or demons (those bad angels on your shoulder, quaint relics most say ); or the the voice of your Uncle Milty (uncles know everything).
Or- now get this- the voice of God-in that most of us anointed ones agree- He still speaks!
I don't know about you, but I'd rather listen to a thousand "God told me so's" from alledgedly crazy folks than the faithless musing of politically correct churchianity. At least "crazies" agree that God can get a word in edgewise.
Yes he speaks and thus guides us, and his word still speaks and guides too. He speaks most clearly to those who have received the outpouring of his Spirit (Acts 2,33-34), who have a new spirit that gives us a new heart per Ezekiel 36,26-27. This "baptism in the Holy Spirit" also fulfills Joel 3,1 (and by the way Zephaniah 3,20 re. the re-gathering of Israel to Zion from exile), the pouring out of God's Spirit on all flesh, both gentile and Jew (Acts 2,17-21, 38-39).
Once we have had this unforgetable experience, we more clearly and consistantly can hear from God. Bernard Smith, a gospel singer from the U.S. Virgin Island, puts it well "I have recognized the voice that draws me near." Oh that is so good-to recognize God's voice- amid so many other voices, so he can guide us.
Justification Is Not Separate From Receiving All that God Has Promised
Most of us have been taught an isolated sense of our justification, which begins and ends at the moment of profession. As if justification is a mere one time innoculation against sin and hell rather than receiving a new heart, a new personhood, with God living inside us, and thus listening to him.
How did we mere mortals divorce justification from getting God fully into us and being led by God the way God wants?
Justification isn't finished with "accepting Jesus in our heart" (scripture?) or "getting saved" (scripture?) at water baptism or elsewhere (cf. Bro. Lary Hale, "The Baptism in the Holy Ghost From Jesus" byonespirit.com, 2) as if the initial profession justification of faith, absent the infilling, could stop us from sinning! No God wanted to fill us with his Spirit, the only ongoing antidote to once and for all taming the beast of our fallen nature.
In fact, if we look at our new testament bible more broadly and more closely we would not separate our profession of faith
from the fullness of baptism in the Spirit than we would separate love from marriage. In time, the former and lesser and distant leads to the latter and greater and union.
Acts 10 proves that justification by faith and baptism in the Holy Ghost are totally connected. Peter, is told by the God living fully in him to preach salvation to a Roman named Cornelius, a non Jew (ie "to those far away" per Acts 2,39). The non Jews were also going to receive this precious promise of the Spirit. And while he is preaching, before public profession, they receive the Holy Ghost, and get totally right with God. Their justification in faith was in no way separate from their baptism in the Spirit. This is the fulfillment of Joel 3,1- those who will get the Spirit poured out on them and escaped judgement are those who simply had faith (v.5), "who called on the name of the Lord to be saved."
Faith justification and the infilling of the Holy Ghost is a package deal. It can happen all at once like here, or it can happen over time, but the bigger point is that faith is always meant to culminate with God himself living large in us and actually guiding us, and actually washing us of sin.
This pattern of faith unto the fullness of baptism in the Holy Ghost is the same when we look at John the Baptist (whose repentance baptism was admittedly a proto baptism). Mark 1,7-8: "After me is coming someone who is more powerful than me, and I am not fit to undo the strap of his sandals. I have baptized you with water, but he will baptise you with the Holy Spirit."
John the Baptist again explicitly links his repentance-water baptism, with the more important and usually subsequent Baptism in the Holy Ghost. Yet what we can miss about this passage is full logic which is this: Jesus' sacrifice that takes away the sin of the world not just because it atones for man's sin and satisfies God demand for justice, but because his sacrifce opens heaven for the Spirit to come down and into us by faith and take away the sin in us, to wash us clean as a human being can get.
Look, there is the lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world. It was of him that I said, "Behind me comes one who has passed ahead of me because he existed before me." I did not know him myself, and yet my purpose in coming to baptize with water was so that he might be revealed to Israel. And John declared, 'I saw the Spirit come down on him like a dove from heaven and rest on him. I did not know him myself, but he who sent me to baptize with water had said to me, "The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and rest is the one who is to baptize with the Holy Spirit." I have seen and testify that he is the Chosen One of God.' John 1,29-34
Let me put it another way, the point of Calavary, or the fruit of Calvary is washing us clean from sin and the fullest way to get washed of sin is not by water, but by baptism in the Holy Ghost, which is the very means by which God takes away the sin of the world, takes away our stony hearts, and gives us a new heart and a new spirit, His Spirit in us, who guides us.
To make justification a theological-philosophical decree, a once and for all imputation at profession or water baptism is to settle for less than the fullness that we were all promised by God's word.
And what kind of justification and salvation have we received (and what kind of God would God be), if yet again after his death we are left without receiving the necessary power to overcome the very thing Christ died to take away?
Scriptural Terms Assume and Reveal That Baptism in Spirit Is Best Way To be Guided by God
Having staked the related claims that justification doesn't end with mere profession, and that baptism in the Holy Ghost is the biblical norm of faith, and the best way to be guided by God, I'll list a few more scriptures that describe these related and important revelations:
1. Romans 5,4-5: "and perseverance develops a tested character, something that gives us hope, and a hope that will not let us down, because the love of God has been poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit which has been given to us."
Note that persevering hope, which most will agree is of paramount importance to salvation, especially in these troubled days, is described in terms that perfectly fit Baptism in the Spirit, "the love of God being poured into us"; If we have not experienced this for ourselves, persevering- following and being guided by God- will be more difficult.
Again, man's imputation of salvation doesn't cut it.
2.Romans 8,14: "All who are guided by the Spirit of God are sons of God; for what you received was not a spirit of slavery to bring you back into fear; you received a spirit of adoption, enabling us to cry out 'Abba, Father!" The Spirit himself joins with our spirit to bear witness that we are children of God."
No one had to tell Paul he was a son of God or that he was a new creature. He knew this because the Spirit of God entered into him and became one with his spirit. The strongest power of God linked up to the most definitive and God-like aspect of man.
How many times have we Christians tried to make this point of sonship philosophically or intellectually and legalistically and yet folks remain unconvinced, and searching for guidance?
3. Ephesians 1,13-14 "Now you too [you non Jews], in him have heard the message of the truth of your salvation and having put your trust in it you have been stamped with the seal of the Holy Spirit of the Promise who is the pledge of our inheritance...' "
Our souls, spirits, and bodies, have been sealed, made whole, by the biggest promise ever made to his first people which is now ours too, Holy Ghost baptism. And thus, marked, branded, authenticated- we are guaranteed that the very God in us will finish the salvation and guidance he started in us. Without such a sealing and authentification, it's way easier to get off track. With such authentification and sealing, it's harder to get off track than to stay on (Gene Scott), no matter how high the flesh kicks up.
4. John 7,37-39: "Let anyone who is thirsty come to me! Let anyone who believes in me come and drink! As scriptures says, "From his heart shall flow streams of living water. He was speaking of the Spirit which those who believed in him were to receive, for there was no holy Spirit yet because Jesus had not been glorified."
Here again simple saving faith is logically and vitally connected to overflowing with the Spirit, to baptism in the Spirit. Faith brings more than just a shot in the dark inoculation from evil (as if one shot of faith really and decisively kills our sin nature?). It brings new life and an actually restored nature, which perfectly describes the flow of ones life after baptism in the Spirit, it's a flow that defines being guided by God and His Spirit.
5. 1Cor.12,13: "We were baptized into one body in a single Spirit, Jews as well a Greeks, slaves as well as free men, and we were all given the same Spirit to drink."
This one baptism image is so powerful because it accurately describes the powerful effect of Baptism in the Spirit. To read this verse as limited to the unity per profession at water baptism, or church membership, is the miss it's emphasis on drinking in the Spirit, which makes us one, not in theory or on the membership rolls, but in fact.
"One body in a single Spirit" is not a juridic boast to maintain church order, it is an unseen Spiritual reality, the achievement of the Holy Ghost, the very one Spirit who does this baptism.
We are all given the same cup of the Spirit to drink, that is we all drink the same thing (the way it should be drunk- fully), thus it has the same effect- we will all be baptized by the single Spirit into one body. Knowing the greater importance of Spirit Baptism over water baptism, coupled with this verse may shed new light on Paul's unity argument of Ephesians 4, which is based on the Spirit and God the Father within us. 4,4: "There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God and Father of all, over all, and within all."
6. Acts 19.1-7: Professing disciples in Ephesus, baptized by John, receive baptism in Jesus name because they had never received the Holy Spirit, even though they were already believers, "already saved." Again the two baptisms cannot be separated and are really one baptism in one Spirit.
Verse 2-7: 'Did you receive the Holy Spirit [it's abundance] when you became believers?' they answered 'No, we were never even told there was such a thing as the Holy Spirit [similar to today, many know the word, and claim it's effects, but have not experienced the the reality of it]. He asked, 'Then how were you baptized?' They replied, "with John's baptism.' Paul said, 'John's baptism [before the resurrection] was [just a] a baptism of repentance [not infilling]; but he insisted that the people believe in the one who was to come after him- namely Jesus.' When they heard this [and wanted the abundance] they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus, and at the moment Paul's had laid hands on them the Holy Spirit came down on them, and they began to speak in tongues and to prophesy."
Clearly here again, fully believing in Jesus, fully being right with God, leads to Holy Ghost baptism, and more and better guidance by God.
With just these few scriptures we see that the new revelation is God fully living inside man, terms that perfectly mirror and fit what we Christians know experientially from 2000 years and from scripture.
How Are We To Be Guided Well If Not Baptized In the Holy Ghost?
How do we decide "if they are not against us they are for us," or if it's worth it to oppose folks?
How did Issac know it was better to move away from the Philistines and dig new wells rather than fight them for destroying his wells?
How do we decide specific and new questions that scripture doesn't pin point?
How do we know which books or prophecies of the bible God wants especially preached today?
How do we decide between two blessed and holy options in our life?
How do we hear back from God on a consistant basis?
How do folks who say they are born again or are told this when they haven't had the full born again experience?
How can we read the New Testament bible well and understand it's amazing revelations if we aren't Baptized in the Holy Ghost?
In sum, how can we Christians say we are guided by the Holy Spirit, or led by the Holy Ghost or "Spirit filled," if we have not experienced baptism in the Holy Spirit?
I'm not saying pastors and church folks and apologists of all stripes couldn't make some passable answers to these questions, or that God can't communicate at all with folks not baptized in the Holy Ghost. Or that the cumulative wisdom of churches who resist Baptism in the Holy Ghost is totally irrelevant. Or that folks are necessarily not going to heaven without being baptized in the Holy Ghost.
But the word and 2000 years of church history clearly teaches that Holy Ghost Baptism is normative for all Christians past and present. It's there for those who have the faith to receive it, who want to receive more than a ticket to heaven, and more than an ability to finesse hard questions, folks who receive God actually living inside them.
He promised that we would all know his voice. He promised to teach each one of us all things, and to shepherd us, to guide us. Baptism in the Holy Ghost is what makes these and so many promises of God come to pass.
Discussion as to Whom we listen to and How We Best Hear is Worth Having
As to doubtful and rather less weighty points like our bellies, Paul has reminded us not to argue (which can cause scandal, Romans 14), but who guides us and how, is probably worth some more discussion.
Perhaps, we Christians could all agree to this discussion, since most of the progress the Christian movement has enjoyed in spreading the gospel came by folks, past and present, who somehow heard from God and did what he said.
Surely, we can all agree that God's Spirit is a better guide than custom.
Points To Ponder For Those of Us Baptized in the Holy Ghost
Knowing how important Baptism in the Holy Ghost is, how can we be so silent about it? Even in our own churches it isn't much preached, or esteemed?
Has abuse of "Thus saith the Lord" and confusion about tongues, and our lust for acceptance-success so cowed us that preaching baptism in the Spirit is now a burden?
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Tobin Hitt is the founder of the Zion Pentecost Mission. He is open to gospel partnership with all, and identifies with Paul's description of our mission as ambassadors for our king, Jesus, urging all to reconcile with God (2Cor.20-21). He resides in Cheshire, Connecticut.read more...