Who shepherds us? Whose voice do we listen to? (August 2009, updated April 2022)
"I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father" John10,14-15
This question of who sheperds us is always a fruitful question for us Christians, us followers of Jesus, because it can and will effect our ability to finish the race of our salvation (not to mention the health of His church):
As the Apostle Paul declared and taught:
'Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one who receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preachig to others I myslef should be disqualified." 1Corinthians9,24-27
So if the Apostle Paul, the greatest teacher of scripture (along with John The Revelator) after Jesus Himself- has entertained the possiblity that even he might not get a wreath at the end of His salvation race- whose voice we listen to is a very important question!
Oh my Lord Jesus save the modern church from an unbiblical and overweening presumption of salvation.
Whose voice do we listen to?
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, Spiritually void, business first churchianity-pastorianity. At least "crazies" agree that God can get a word- and sometimes even His Word- in edgewise.
Yes he still 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 Zephaniah 3,20 re. the re-gathering of Israel to Zion from exile), the pouring out of God's Spirit on all flesh, on both gentile and Jew (Acts 2,17-21, 38-39).
Once we have had this unforgettable 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... selah- to recognize God's voice- amid so many other voices, so HE can guide us. John10,27 And help us finish our salvation race.
Justification Is Not Separate From Receiving All that God Has Promised And The Guidance of Holy Ghost Baptism
Most of us have been taught an isolated sense of our justification, of how we get saved, which begins and ends with personal faith at the moment of profession. 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, a new law of the Spirit (James2,10; Romans8,2) and thus listening to him, and yielding to his guidance unto finsihing the race.
How did we mere mortals divorce justification from the sometimes long and bumpy process of getting God fully into us, and actually having a new heart, and thus the capability of being led by God the way HE wants?
Justification isn't finished with "accepting Jesus in our heart" or "getting saved" or at adult water or baptism or Holy Ghost or elsewhere. While I gladly use all these phrases myself, and make salvation prayers at every real opportunity. But strictly speaking wouldn't our often too narrow talk of justification and rebirth be sort of presumptous when we all, teachers and hearers, have to keep running the race with the same personal faith we got saved with?
In fact, if we look at our New Testament bible both more broadly and more closely we would not so readily separate our profession of faith
from the fullness of baptism in the Spirit any more than Christian daters would separate love from marriage. In time, the former and lesser (ie our born again rebirth at profession) leads to the latter and greater infilling and Holy Ghost union and indwelling.
Acts 10 shows 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, apparently before public profession, these dear gentile Romans receive the Holy Ghost baptism, which is clearly a more full version of rebirth. Their justification by faith- professed or not we don't really know- was in no way separate from their baptism in the Spirit. (This is the fulfillment of Joel 3,1.)
Nor was their justification by faith separated from their subsequent adult water baptism which was done- in this instance- immediately after they received the baptism in the Holy Ghost. Acts10,47-48
Faith justification and the infilling of the Holy Ghost is a package deal. Just as Water and Holy Ghost baptism are a package deal per Acts2,36-39 (repent, personal faith, call on the name-get water baptized, and you will receive the Holy Ghost baptism). Holy Ghost baptism can happen all at once upon hearing the gospel like at Acts10,46. Or it can happen after a time of tarrying for it as Jesus commanded the apostles (Acts1,4-5).
But the bigger point for this teaching is that our biblical faith is always meant to culminate with God himself living large in us, and actually guiding us unto salvation now and in the future, and actually washing us of sin, and making our bodies temples of the Holy Ghost. (cf 1Corinthians6,19)
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). At Mark1,7-8 John declares "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."
Again there's always a connection between all the baptisms.
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 its full logic- which is: Jesus' sacrifice takes away the sin of the world not just because it atones for man's sin and satisfies God's demand for justice, which is totally important, but because it opens heaven for the Spirit to come down and also into us by faith and take away the sin nature in each of us, to wash us clean as a human being can get and bring us as close as possible that a human can get to His God and His univresal messiah by that very baptism.
" '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.' " John1,29-34
Let me put it another way, the point of Calvary, or the fruit of Calvary, is washing us clean from sin. But the ultimate cleansing agent of both baptisms is God's Spirit- who takes away the sin of the world and each one of our stony hearts, and gives us a new heart and a new spirit, His Spirit in us, so He can guide us all through our lives unto salvation.
To make justification a theological-philosophical decree, a once and for all imputation at profession or adult water baptism (let alone the unbiblical and non sensical infant 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 our God be), if yet again after his death and resurrection we are left without receiving the necessary new nature, new law, new power and new guidance to overcome the very sin that Christ died to take away? And that taking away of sin is only accomplished by the very Spirit of God!
Scriptural Terms Reveal That Baptism in Spirit Is Best Way To be Guided by God
Having staked the related claims that justification doesn't end with the rebirth- often in seed form- at profession, and that salvation is not ours to humanly decree upon initial profession, but God's to decree at the finish of our salvation race, we can fully turn to baptism in the Holy Ghost as the biblical norm of faith and the best way to be guided by God unto finishing the race of salvation.
Now I'd like to list a few more scriptures that describe and are built upon these related and important bible revelations about Baptism in the Spirit and the needfor God's infilling and guidance:
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- this perseverance in hope will be more difficult.
Again, man's imputation of the fullness of salvation at first profession doesn't always seem plausible, although baptism of the Spirit is certainly possible at first profession. But pastoral experience teaches that baptism in the Holy Spirit is usually, not always, subsequent to first profession or first faith, as it was for those who waited in Jerusalem and eagerly sought it leading up to the first Pentecost enjoyed by Jewish folks who faithed on Jesus as their Lord and Messiah.
1Peter1,23 tells us that we are saved-born again by the imperishable seed of faith, the seed of the Word of God. But please consider friends and evangelicals- a born again seed faith is not the fullness of faith. Seed faith, if bible words mean anything, becomes full faith after it fructifies, so to speak, after it breaks out of its shell, after it becomes more than a reborn seed. So likewise we Christians who are baptised in the Spirit- break out of a seed faith- unto the fruit bearing fullness, and the gift(s) bearing, and the office bearing, and the gospel bearing and the universal priesthood bearing (fullfilling Exodus19,6) of Holy Ghost baptism.
Yes we're born again at profession, but this seed faith in each of us can die (no, the imperisble seed of faith itself does not ever die)- by neglect, by rootlessness, by lack of ongoing faith, by rocky ground, thorny ground, by a scorched earth, and can be stolen by birds (Mt9,5-9), just as a certain amount of seeds actually die in a particular soil and seed of human agriculture.
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, from within us, to bear witness that we are children of God, ie begotten of God who is Spirit.
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 forensically yet folks remain thoroughly unconvinced, asking 'is this all there is' to the Christian faith? And so many folks- saved or not- are left searching for God's actual guidance- and unaware that it is even available.
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, made capable of carrying the Spirit of God (no longer cracked pots because the potter has mended our hearts] by the biggest promise ever made to his first people, which is now ours too, Holy Ghost baptism! And thus, we are 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, sealing suggests we can hold the Holy Ghost baptism in us, then it's harder to get off track than to stay on (Gene Scott), no matter how high the flesh tries to kick 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 innoculation from evil (as if one shot of faith really and forever kill our sin nature?). It brings new life and an actually restored nature, which perfectly describes the flow of one's 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."
Ephesians4,5: "One Lord, one faith, one baptism (the latter of which includes the one baptism of adult water baptism and Holy Ghost Baptism, just as the two were distinctly related at Acts2,36-39, ie get the water baptism in his name and you will receive the holy Ghost baptism, ie one baptism. This way of looking at our "one baptism" answers the charge that adult water bapptism is a work whereas it is biblically speaking a personal repentant profession of faith, that happens to be made in public. Adult water baptism is not a work at all- it is an important step in one's personal and communal faith, that is part of the fullness of the entire command-promise of Acts2,36-39.
This one baptism image is so powerful because it accurately describes the powerful effect of Baptism in the Spirit as the fullness of adult water baptism and the vital correlation between the two. To read this verse 1Corinthians12,13 above as limited to the bodily unity per profession at water baptism, or church membership, or merely the seed of rebirth, is to miss its emphasis on drinking in, ie filling up on, the Spirit, which makes us one, not a forensic group salvation theory or a description of the church membership rolls, but one of Spiritual fact, and fullness.
"One body in a single Spirit" is not a juridic boast to exhort unruly folks to church order, it is an unseen Spiritual reality, the high achievement of the Holy Ghost, the very one Spirit who "does" this Spiritual reality, the one baptism. NB The grace of these two baptisms are not by man's decree but by God's blessing in response to an ardent personal, repentant saving faith.
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.
But please know both baptisms are still important, in that both lead to, and are received from, the single Spirit of God.
As we know, adult water baptism usually precedes Holy Spirit baptism, but not always (Acts10,46).
Both baptisms are necessary and normative. Mark16,16: 'whoever believes and is baptized will be saved..." See also Acts19,2-6 also for the proposition that adult water baptism is necessary and normative. Here in Ephesus, no Spirit was received upon belief, so the believers seek and receive both adult water and Holy Spirit baptisms, in that usually normative order, ie one baptism).
Mark16,16 suggests that in the early church some said "I believe (and profess?) but I am not going to go public and get adult water baptism, ie pay the price in the dominant Greco Roman culture, by publicly demonstrating Jesus is Lord (not Caesar). This may have been a factor as to why the Ephesian believers of Acts 19 did not receive their adult water post resurrection baptism (which is and must be no less than repentant personal faith) and this was also likely a factor why they had never so much as heard anything about the Holy Ghost!
Likewise, seeking and obtaining Holy Ghost baptism is commanded and biblically normative per Acts1,4-5: "Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised."
These scriptures coupled with 1Cor12,13 (all of us "baptized into one body in a single Spirit") verse sheds new light on Paul's unity argument of Ephesians4,5-6 which is also based on this fullness of the Spirit within us: "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 adult water baptism in Jesus' name because they had never received the Holy Spirit, even though they were already believers, already to use our descriptions "saved", "already born again" by the seed of profession, but clearly not enjoying the fullness!
Again the two baptisms in relation to both personal faith cannot be separated and are really one baptism in one Spirit.
Verses 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 its effects, and believe, but have not experienced the Spiritual and Word based 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 born again 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 [water] 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 faithing on Jesus, trusting in His whole Word means getting fully right with God, something more than belief, and leads to Holy Ghost baptism, and thus more and better guidance by God, whereby the Word comes alive and we can more easily persevere in it. John8,31: "If you keep on obeying what I have said then you are my disciples."
How can we keep obeying the Word without the fullness of this "one baptism"?
With just these six scriptures we see that the new revelation is God fully living inside man, terms that perfectly mirror and fit what we Christians know biblically from almost 2000 years of faith history.
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 at some point 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 lives?
How do we hear back from God in praying to God and asking him for all we need on a consistant basis?
How do folks who are born again- but have no knowledge of the baptism of the Holy Ghost (as seed 1Peter1,23 or fullness? Acts2,39), trust in the God who offers to teach all of us all things? John14,26
How can we read the New Testament bible well and with consistant faith and understand its amazing and ongoing and timeless 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 received the 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. Tongues is not the standard. Praise tongues is not the necessary for the promised baptism (it's one of the gifts 1Corinthians12, the manifestation on the day of Pentecost was a language gift, Jewish folks miraculously speaking other languages). Following and knowing the Word, and living it, and following it, and teaching the gospel message of Jesus in Spirit and in truth is the standard of baptism of the Spirit..
Nor am I saying that the cumulative wisdom of churches who resist any conversation of a second 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 early church history and 2000 years of faith history clearly teaches that Holy Ghost Baptism and healing and deliverance and other miracles and great faith and ministerial gifts and various Holy Ghost appointed offices in the church and ongoing prophecy such as the Book of revelation are all normative for all Christians past and present and future. Holy Ghost baptism is there for all those who have the faith to receive it, who want to receive more than a time stamped ticket to heaven, but who receive God actually living (not just as born again seed), fully 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, to know us ans us to know him. Baptism in the Holy Ghost is what makes these and so many promises of God have any sensible and plain meaning and come to pass.
Discussion as to Whom We Listen And How We Best Hear is Worth Having Because It Effects the Salvation Of Billions Of Souls
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, and the vital role of Holy Ghost baptism- as a help to being guided by God- is probably worth some more discussion in the one born again body of Christ.
Surely, those of us who relish the bible depiction of the miraculous first Pentecost, and ongoing Pentecost of Acts2,39 (in the present waning 'time of the gentiles'), and relish Matthew28,19 commanding us to teach all the Lord commanded, ie seeking Holy Ghost baptism), and who relish the upcoming Pentecost in the Kingdom from Jerusalem (Zechariah2,4-5,11-12) https://www.zionpentecostmission.com/knowing-our-prophetic-roots-in-zion-and-that-theres-more-to-come-(1).html) , and who also still believe in the early church offices (for the local church!) of Apostles, Prophets, evangelist, pastor teachers and administrators (Ephesians4,10) can agree that the fullness of God's Spirit- coupled with the WORD itself- is a better guide than customary theology of our modern age.
One such customary modern bit of theology is the 'once saved always saved' doctrine that exempts much of the body of Christ, anyone who has ever professed, from the very real threat of apostasy, whereby the professed seed of faith (cf 1Peter1,23, good for being born again) dies in any of us, just as many seeds die in agriculture, by getting eaten by birds, or dying on rocky ground, or getting scortched. (again Matthew13,4ff)
In this matter of who guides us and Holy Ghost baptism and perseverence please consider as well Zechariah 13,8-9- the winnowing of Jerusalem- only one third makes it through the great tribulation, the time of 'Jacob's trouble', Jeremiah30,7, cf enduringword.com.
This one third making it through Jacob's trouble begs the question of what percentage of us, have a sufficient- saving and born again- faith right now and unto the end, with or without baptism in the Spirit or presuming it, even in these less troubled pre-tribulation time of barely deniable and ever increasing apostasy?
Revelation speaks of this final church age- Revelation3,14-22- the church of Laodicea as lukewarm and wealthy, and overconfident of their salvation, ie not aware that they need anything, unaware that they are spirirually blind and naked, rather than dressed in white salvational garb?
Will God look more kindly on us claimants of Christianity- who already presumably profess Jesus and supposedly know God and follow His WORD- but have become lukewarm, wealthy, presumptious and thus likely apostate in our faith than his dearly beloved first people who will go through the tribulation and miraculously find their salvation in that time?
It would seem that we Christians would bear a keener judgement by God than His first and forever chosen Israel- for we, given our vast modern knowledge of the scriptures and the wisdom of almost 2000 years of Christianity, having seen and are still seeing her apostasies and false doctrines- are now the ones to whom "much has been given and expected"? (cf Luke12,48)
Yes we trust our merciful and just Lord and messiah will judge all fairly and decide whose faith passes the muster of his Word (which I humbly read to require more than a one time profession).
The muster of His Word- as it is written- and look at Christendom's historic failures and all Christianity's past and present difficulties- surely requires the ongoing guidance of the Lord as Shepherd himself, and his Word, guiding all of us, and His promised and empowering baptism in the holy Spirit. These are required to avoid the "birds"- worldy unclean things of all ages- to avoid the rocky places, the rocky hearts of stubborness and pride and religious presumption, and survive the refining and consuming fire of God, who is Spirit, and who wants to cleanse his people and churches of spiritual dross- so that we might endure in faith and finish the race of salvation.
Points To Ponder For Those of Us Baptized in the Holy Ghost
Knowing how important Baptism in the Holy Ghost is, for knowledge, for wisdom, for vision, for guidance of choices, for understanding and loving the Word, for perseverence, how can we moderns and onetime Acts 2 proponents now be so silent about it?
Even in "Pentecostal" churches it isn't much preached, taught or esteemed?
Has past abuse of "Thus saith the Lord" and our lust to keep Pentecostalism's new found "success", its wealth and efficiency, so dulled our spirits to all modern hindrences to the baptism of the Holy Ghost? And so cowed us that preaching baptism in the Spirit is now a bygone burden rather than a valid present challenge?
(I realize that disputes about tongues as the evidence of baptism in the Holy Ghost, or merely one of the evidences (plural) of Holy Ghost baptism also hinders the present teaching of Holy Ghost baptism, but I am going to wait and teach on this at another time. If you are keen on this issue, you might enjoy: christcenteredmall.com/teaching/holy-spirit-baptism-7.htm)
Oh where is the hunger of those like Smith Wigglesworth who 'tarried in Jerusalem' so to speak, and insisted on receiving the Holy Ghost baptism according to the gospel Word, this precious Word providing for an ongoing Pentecost, for the present and future, and in the kingdom, too- so God's blood bought people can serve their Lord with power and effectiveness, and also simply persevere by having a living God, by having a true Shepherd, not burdened by any earthly thinking or acting, unto salvation in the end, which lest we forget is our full and final justification.
The Lord is our shepherd, and His NAME is Jesus!
Oh thank God for his near and dear shepherding, for his gentle and strong voice, guiding us unto the end!
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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...