Baptism in the Holy Spirit Explored

At the birth of the Early Church a miraculous phenomenon repeatedly took place, in which ordinary men and women were baptised in the Holy Spirit and spoke in languages they never learned.

This occurred on the Day of Pentecost in Jerusalem to 120 people who spoke a wide range of recognised languages in a glorious experience of receiving the Holy Spirit.

It occurred in Samaria when Peter and John laid hands on the converts who had already been baptised so the Holy Spirit would be given to them.

It also occurred privately for the Apostle Paul when he received his sight.

It occurred at the home of a Roman Centurion named Cornelius where a large group of gentiles were baptised in the Holy Spirit and spoke languages they never learned.

It occurred in Ephesus when the Apostle Paul laid his hands on a group of new believers.

Modern Christian thought is divided about this phenomenon.

Some churches teach that the baptism in the Holy Spirit with speaking in tongues is an historic experience which died out after the days of the original Apostles.

Other churches teach that the Baptism in the Holy Spirit is a present day element of the Christian life and is available to all believers throughout the church age.

I believe the Baptism in the Holy Spirit is a present day experience for all believers.

Allow me to explore several New Testament statements about Baptism in the Holy Spirit to show how I see those texts supporting what I believe.

John the Baptist Prophesied the Spirit

The first mention of any significant experience of the Holy Spirit in the New Testament traces to the last prophet of the Old Testament era, John the Baptist, who came as a forerunner to prepare the people to receive Jesus as the Christ.

It is to John that we owe the phrase “Baptism in the Holy Spirit”.

“I indeed baptized you with water: but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” Mark 1:8

Note that John prophesies an experience of the Holy Spirit different to anything identified in the Bible to that time.  And the promise of this “baptism” is to “you”.  It is made to the people in general, not to a specific leader, a king, or a priestly class.

I understand John to be prophesying an experience of the Holy Spirit to all who accept Jesus Christ as saviour.

Jesus Prophesies the Spirit

After His resurrection Jesus prophesied that the Holy Spirit would be poured out.  In doing so He confirmed the prophecy of John the Baptist.

“And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry in the city of Jerusalem, until you be endued with power from on high.” Luke 24:49

“And, being assembled together with them, commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, said he, you have heard of me. For John truly baptized with water; but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days hence.” Acts 1:4,5

Just ten days later the baptism in the Holy Spirit, which is the promise of the Father, occurred for the first time.

Pentecost Outpouring

The outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost is a significant landmark in the history of the church.  It is the birth of the church.

120 believers praying in an upper room heard a sound of rushing wind and saw tongues of fire on each head. They then spontaneously spoke in languages they did not know.

From Dr Luke’s record in Acts 2 we find a number of significant elements.

“And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.” Acts 2:4

People from many lands were in Jerusalem at that time and they reported “we do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God”, Acts 2:11.

Those 120 believers who received the Holy Spirit spontaneously spoke out sounds they could not intelligently control, since they did not know what they were saying.  Yet their words were descriptions of the “wonderful works of God”.  They glorified God in languages they did not know.

Prophecy of Joel

Some in Jerusalem accused the disciples of being drunk.  But Peter stood and declared that what was taking place fulfilled a prophecy by Joel.

“But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel; And it will come to pass in the last days, says God, I will pour out of my Spirit on all flesh: and your sons and your daughters will prophesy, and your young men will see visions, and your old men will dream dreams: And on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they will prophesy” Acts 2:16-18

Peter Explains the Promise of the Spirit

After pointing to Joel’s prophecy Peter continued with his explanation about the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, including explaining that it is Jesus who gave the Spirit and that the Holy Spirit is the Father’s “promise”.

“This Jesus has God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses. Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has shed forth this, which you now see and hear.” Acts 2:32,33

“Then Peter said to them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God will call.” Acts 2:38,39

Cornelius Outpouring

The next most significant outpouring of the Holy Spirit in historic terms is that of the gentiles at the home of Cornelius. This outpouring is specifically linked by Peter to the Pentecost events.

Peter was called to preach to these gentiles, as a first in church history.  Before he even finished his message or fully explained the intricacies of the gospel the Holy Spirit fell on the whole group.

“While Peter yet spoke these words, the Holy Spirit fell on all them which heard the word. And they of the circumcision which believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Spirit. For they heard them speak with tongues, and magnify God. Then answered Peter, Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Spirit as well as we?” Acts 10:44-47

Peter Called to Account

Following this amazing event of Peter preaching to gentiles and them being baptised in the Holy Spirit, Peter was interrogated by the Jews in Jerusalem.

Dr Luke records Peter’s explanation.

“And as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell on them, as on us at the beginning. Then remembered I the word of the Lord, how that he said, John indeed baptized with water; but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit. Forasmuch then as God gave them the like gift as he did to us, who believed on the Lord Jesus Christ; what was I, that I could withstand God? When they heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified God, saying, Then has God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life.” Acts 11:5-18

Interpreting the Accounts

Some churches teach that these events were rare and for that time only.  Do these texts support such belief?  I do not find it so.

So let me tackle a couple of key questions about the Baptism in the Holy Spirit.  Firstly, was this promise from the Father to give the Holy Spirit made only to the early church believers, or to all Christians?

It is clearly made to all believers throughout the church age.

Universal Gift of the Spirit

John the Baptist spoke of the baptism in the Holy Spirit being for “you”, which denotes all his hearers.

“I indeed baptized you with water: but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” Mark 1:8

The Prophet Joel had already given the promise of the Father, of the Holy Spirit poured out on all flesh, including the sons and daughters, servants and handmaids.

“But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel; And it will come to pass in the last days, says God, I will pour out of my Spirit on all flesh: and your sons and your daughters will prophesy, and your young men will see visions, and your old men will dream dreams: And on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they will prophesy” Acts 2:16-18

The Apostle Peter, at the birth of the church, declared that what the people saw happen to the 120 was for all believers.

“Then Peter said to them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God will call.” Acts 2:38,39

At the home of Cornelius Peter saw Baptism in the Holy Spirit and faith in Jesus Christ as intrinsically linked.

“And as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell on them, as on us at the beginning. Then remembered I the word of the Lord, how that he said, John indeed baptized with water; but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit. Forasmuch then as God gave them the like gift as he did to us, who believed on the Lord Jesus Christ; what was I, that I could withstand God? When they heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified God, saying, Then has God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life.” Acts 11:5-18

Repentance and Baptisms

From the Apostle Peter’s perspective salvation through Christ involved repentance, water baptism and being baptised in the Holy Spirit, not necessarily in that order.

Peter had no hesitation promising the same experience of the Holy Spirit to his entire audience on the Day of Pentecost.  And he saw the Baptism in the Holy Spirit at the home of Cornelius as proof of salvation, so he gladly baptised the believers in water.

The Apostle Paul also saw Baptism in the Spirit going along with the salvation experience.  When Paul met believers at Ephesus, he asked if they had received the Holy Spirit since they believed.  Paul clearly expected new believers to have a sovereign experience of the Holy Spirit that could be proven to have taken place.

“He said to them, Have you received the Holy Spirit since you believed? And they said to him, We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Spirit.” Acts 19:2

“Then said Paul, John verily baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying to the people, that they should believe on him which should come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus. When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Spirit came on them; and they spoke with tongues, and prophesied.” Acts 19:4-6

Two Baptisms

While we see two baptisms in the practical examples, we also have a plural reference to baptisms in the letter to the Hebrews.

“Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on to perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God, Of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment.” Hebrews 6:1,2

The writer did not say “the doctrine of baptism”, but of “baptisms.  This is consistent with the New Testament examples where believers were both baptised in water and baptised in the Holy Spirit.

Peter clearly understood two baptisms at Pentecost and at the home of Cornelius.  Paul clearly understood the same two baptisms when he spoke to the believers at Ephesus.  Paul himself experienced two baptisms, by receiving the Holy Spirit and then being water baptised, Acts 9:17,18.

The early church gospel message called for faith and repentance and was followed by two baptisms, one in water by immersion and the other in the Holy Spirit.  If the Holy Spirit did not fall on the new believers, then others would lay hands on them to receive the Spirit.

Died Out With the Apostles

We have seen that the early church saw the Holy Spirit outpouring as a universal experience for all believers.  It not only happened at Pentecost and the home of Cornelius, but was expected to happen in all believers.

But some churches teach that the outpouring of the Holy Spirit and the attendant miracles died out with the Apostles.  Is there reason to believe that from the teaching of the Bible?

The Prophet Joel, who gave the “promise of the Father” centuries before Christ, clearly shows that the outpouring of the Holy Spirit was not just to get the church kick-started, or as a special blessing on the early church.  It was to be part of what Joel called the “last days”.

“But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel; And it will come to pass in the last days, says God, I will pour out of my Spirit on all flesh: and your sons and your daughters will prophesy, and your young men will see visions, and your old men will dream dreams: And on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they will prophesy” Acts 2:16-18

What comes after the “last days”?  All that can possibly come after the Last Days is the End!  Yet Joel prophesied that “in the last days” God will pour out His Spirit on all flesh.  The “last days” is a descriptor of the entire church age.  You and I are still in the last days.  If we are not in the last days, then the end must have already come.

And it is in these days that God is pouring out His Spirit on all flesh.

An Unfair God

Before I realised that the outpouring of the Holy Spirit is as real and available today as it was in New Testament times, I thought of God as incredibly cruel to today’s believers.

Back in those days my church taught me that the Holy Spirit, gifts of the Spirit and miracles were not available today.  As I saw it back then, based on what I was taught, God gave amazing grace to the early church leaders, but is denying us that same grace.  Rather than giving the same salvation and blessing to all God must have created different salvation experiences for different times.

And this made life particularly unfair to us today.  Peter, Paul and James, seeing the miracles, speaking in tongues, using the gifts of the Spirit, healing the sick and raising the dead, were pretty excited about their salvation.  In the glory of all that good stuff they lived at a spiritual level that I saw as unattainable today.

And in their euphoria and wonderful blessing those men wrote the prescription for Christian living.  They invoked such instructions as, “pray without ceasing”, “rejoice evermore”, “in everything give thanks”, “cast your cares on him”, “resist the devil”, and so on.

I complained to God that He had no right to expect me to live to Paul’s standards if He would not give me the same power and blessing He gave to Paul.  And I think that is a very reasonable complaint.

So, has God shown partiality?  Has God created one level of Christian experience for the early church and denied it to you?  Should you be expected to live by the standards set by men who enjoyed graces that are now denied you?

However, because the Holy Spirit is as available to believers today as in the early church, all of that thought of unfairness is resolved.  I can live like James, Peter and Paul, because I have access to the same Holy Spirit that empowered and sustained them.

A Second Experience

Another case against the present day baptism in the Holy Spirit is the argument that all Christians receive the Holy Spirit at their new birth, which is then claimed to be one and the same as the Baptism in the Holy Spirit.

It is true that all believers receive the Holy Spirit at their conversion.  And it is equally true that a subsequent experience of the Holy Spirit is also available to them, apart from their conversion.

The 120 disciples who received the Holy Spirit were already New Testament believers.  They believed that Jesus is the Christ and that God raised him from the dead (Romans 10:9) and so they were saved.  Jesus had already breathed on the disciples and said “Receive the Holy Spirit”

“And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and said to them, Receive the Holy Spirit” John 20:22

So the day of Pentecost was a second Holy Spirit experience.  This time they were Baptised in the Holy Spirit.  They were immersed in the Spirit.  Rather than receiving the Spirit in an unseen internal experience, as all believers experience, this was a publicly verifiable and visible experience of the Spirit.

Paul and the Second Experience

Paul both experienced and expected others to experience a baptism in the Holy Spirit separate to receiving the Holy Spirit at conversion.

It is to Paul that we owe our understanding that every believer has the Holy Spirit, from Paul’s letter to the Christians in Rome.

“But you are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.” Romans 8:9

Yet Paul came to faith on the road to Damascus, three days before he received the Baptism in the Holy Spirit through the laying on of hands of Ananias.  Paul called Christ “Lord” on that first day, Acts 9:5,6.  Ananias called him “Brother Saul” when they met, Acts 9:17.  Ananias also advised him that he was yet to be “filled with the Holy Spirit”, Acts 9:17.

It was Paul who expected the believers at Ephesus to have “received the Holy Spirit” since they “believed”, Acts 19:2.  He later reminded the church at Ephesus that they had an experience of the Holy Spirit after they believed.

“In whom you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after you believed, you were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise” Ephesians 1:13

Peter and the Second Experience

Peter and John also displayed the reality of a second experience of the Holy Spirit for all believers when they travelled to Samaria.  Receiving the Spirit was not something they left up to God, but saw as the birthright of all new sons and daughters of God.

“Now when the apostles at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent to them Peter and John: Who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Spirit: (For as yet he was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.) Then they laid their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.” Acts 8:14-17

Baptism in the Spirit Experience

Some churches teach that receiving the Holy Spirit is a secret, internal experience, unlike the New Testament examples.  It is true that all believers receive the Holy Spirit at salvation, internally and unseen.  But this is not the Baptism in the Holy Spirit which is promised by God the Father to all believers.

So what does the Baptism in the Holy Spirit look like?

The New Testament reveals that Baptism in the Spirit is always publicly attestable.  It is never secret.  It can be verified by the recipient and any witnesses to the event as well.

On the Day of Pentecost there was no doubt about this experience.  All the people heard the disciples speaking in tongues.

At Samaria there was no doubt about this experience.  Firstly it was obvious to Peter and John that the Holy Spirit had not yet fallen on them, because the obvious evidence was not there.  Secondly, after Peter and John prayed for the people, the evidence was so compelling that Simon the former sorcerer wanted to buy the ability to give the Spirit to people, Acts 8:18,19.

At the home of Cornelius there was no doubt about the Holy Spirit being given, because the witnesses heard them speak in tongues.

When Paul met the converts at Ephesus he fully expected them to be able to attest that they had received the Holy Spirit.  After Paul laid his hands on them there was no doubt they had received the Spirit because they spoke in tongues.

Paul speaks on several occasions about being “sealed” with the Holy Spirit, as if something quite discernible has taken place, 2Corinthians 1:22, Ephesians 1:13,14, Ephesians 4:30.

A Miracle of Hearing

Another idea I have heard promoted is that the speaking in tongues was a miracle of “hearing” by the audience.  Rather than the disciples speaking in a new language, they were being understood in the language of their hearers.

This suggestion contradicts the passage from Joel which Peter directly connects with the occasion.  Joel said the people would speak, not that the hearers would hear.

“But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel; And it will come to pass in the last days, says God, I will pour out of my Spirit on all flesh: and your sons and your daughters will prophesy, and your young men will see visions, and your old men will dream dreams: And on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they will prophesy” Acts 2:16-18

The miracle of the outpouring is in the “speaking”, not in the “hearing” of an unconverted audience.  The Spirit is poured on God’s servants, not on the heathen who happen to be watching.

The New Testament record shows that the people “spoke with new tongues”.  They had utterance.  It had nothing to do with the hearers, but all to do with the speaking.

“And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.” Acts 2:4

And at the home of Cornelius there were only the Jews and the local Gentiles present.  The diverse crowd with different language backgrounds was not there.  Yet Peter said what happened there was the same as what happened on the Day of Pentecost.  They spoke out in languages they and even their hearers did not understand.

Tongues to Preach to the Crowd

Another belief is that the miracle of tongues on the Day of Pentecost was to preach to the crowd.  This suggests that the languages spoken by the disciples were chosen specifically for that audience.  And it suggests that the experience is not so important today.

However Paul, teaching specifically about speaking in tongues as one of the Gifts of the Holy Spirit, in 1Corinthians 12-14, refers to speaking in the tongues of men and angels.

“Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.” 1Corinthians 13:1

The Holy Spirit empowers us to speak all manner of languages, including all the languages spoken on earth and the variety of languages spoken by angels.  So the fact that men recognised their own language among the 120 voices speaking is not a matter of preaching in those languages, but simply overhearing people speaking supernaturally in the “tongues of men”.

In the home of Cornelius there was no need for those filled with the Spirit to preach to Peter and the other Christians that came with him.  Yet Peter said what happened there was the same as what happened on the Day of Pentecost.

On the Day of Pentecost those speaking in an unknown tongue were unknowingly speaking “the wonderful works of God”, Acts 2:11.  Cornelius and his friends spoke in tongues and unknowingly magnified God, Acts 10:46.

Rather than tongues being a miracle of preaching it is the Holy Spirit glorifying God through the believer.  All believers can have that experience, even today.  It is not a tool for birthing the church, but a promise by God to His children, for their blessing.

Just Like Us

Peter described the filling with the Spirit of Cornelius and his friends as being just like what happened on the Day of Pentecost.  Yet there were several differences.

“And as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell on them, as on us at the beginning. Then remembered I the word of the Lord, how that he said, John indeed baptized with water; but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit. Forasmuch then as God gave them the like gift as he did to us, who believed on the Lord Jesus Christ; what was I, that I could withstand God?” Acts 11:5-17

Cornelius did not have any experience of the sound of a wind or the sight of fire on their heads, as occurred at Pentecost.  So those manifestations are not an integral part of receiving the Holy Spirit.

What was similar includes that they spoke with tongues and glorified God.  They did this by the influence of the Holy Spirit, not by human cause.  They did this as a consequence of their desire to know God.

Holy Spirit for Today

Not only does the New Testament text attest to an on-going second experience of the Holy Spirit available to all believers throughout the church age, but church history attests to the same thing.

The Holy Spirit is for today.  Theologies that come to a different conclusion do not stack up with scripture.

Yet, the Baptism in the Holy Spirit is not essential for salvation.  It is an element of our eternal inheritance, but rejecting the inheritance does not void sonship.

Self-Control Without Self

I realised something recently that sounds like a contradiction. Imagine “self-control” without any “self” involved! Is such a thing really possible?

Self-control is a major challenge for people. Many struggle for the whole life to rein in their words, addictions, urges, reactions and so on. Most resolutions that people make are probably focused on gaining some new level of control over their actions, thoughts, words, spending, and so on. Self-control is a major component of personal development and making progress in life.

I Will Succeed

We admire people with strong wills, who can overcome obstacles and achieve things that others cannot win over. Losing weight, getting fit, quitting smoking and slugging through difficult studies are just some of the areas in which people have shown their determination to succeed.

self-controlDetermination and self-control by sheer willpower is seen as a great achievement and a true credit to those who display such things. These are the people held up as examples to us all.

If It Is To Be …

The saying goes, “If it is to be, it is up to me!”

That catch-cry is meant to rally people to improved resolve of will to push ahead and make the changes that need to be made. They are told not to rely on others or to dump their challenge onto some other person, but personally persist, until they get the breakthrough.

It’s great stuff. We applaud those self-reliant people who know that it is up to them to make things happen, and who get off their chair and get things done.

But, In The Bible…

However, despite the popular human notions of self-will and self-reliance, leading to self-control, the Bible has something to say about this stuff. And what the Bible has to say is quite surprising. It is the Bible that suggests to us the idea of Self-Control without “self”.

Let me show you where I get this from. Self-Control is shown to be a “Fruit of the Holy Spirit”.

When the apostle Paul wrote to the church in Galatia, he listed a bunch of things that were the fruit coming from the work of the Holy Spirit in people’s lives. Self-control is listed as one of them.

Fruit of the Spirit

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, self-control: against such there is no law.” Galatians 5:22,23

The King James Bible uses the word “temperance” in that text, while modern translations use the updated term we are more familiar with: self-control.

So, self-control is a “fruit of the Spirit”. Self-Control does not come from “self”, but rather comes from the work of an agent separate to our “self”. It comes from the work of the Holy Spirit of God.

It is Not Up To Me!

Imagine that! If it is to be, it is NOT up to me. If it is to be, it is dependent on God. If self-control is to be part of my life, I am dependent on the work of the Holy Spirit to create that fruit within me!

That does not mean that I am relieved of the responsibility to gain self-control. What it does mean is that the best way to get self-control is not through the determination of my own will, but through yielding to the work of the Holy Spirit in my life.

I have seen many people whose personality and character has been transformed as the Holy Spirit worked in their life. Anger and hardness gave way to joy and peace. Explosive reactions and addictions fell away and a quiet spirit emerged instead. When the Holy Spirit is allowed to work in a life the fruit is really sweet.

Fruit not Sweat

Notice that self-control is listed among the “fruit” of the Holy Spirit. Trees don’t groan and struggle to pop their produce at the end of the limb. You do not get kept awake at night by the sound of fruit trees grunting to grow their fruit. You do not see fruit trees in a lather of sweat as they struggle to be fruitful.

Fruit just grows. It starts small and gradually fills out until it is ripe and ready to be eaten.

And that’s how it is with self-control in our lives. When we yield to the Holy Spirit and allow God to minister into our lives we develop lovely, fresh fruit. There is no sweat or struggle. We don’t curse ourselves and chant encouragements to ourselves to keep pressing on. It just happens naturally and almost unseen on a day to day basis.

Self-control is a Fruit of the Spirit, not a Work of the Flesh.

Worship Will or God

The apostle Paul, writing in a letter to the church in Colosse, used the term “will worship” (Colossians 2:23). He referred to those who become committed to human rules and religious ordinances. They display great discipline in neglecting themselves and maintaining the various rules they have adopted.

People caught up in such things, however, are not living in the freedom purchased for them by Christ. If you have chosen to follow Christ, then you won’t be party to those things and the will worship that goes along with them.

Serving religious duties can cause those with strong wills, who keep the rules most diligently, to look better than others. But all that counts for nothing. We are not to worship our will, but to worship God.

Gain Self-Control

I want you to gain self-control. I want you to have so much of it that you rule your own spirit and are stronger than the mighty ones who capture whole cities.

“He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty; and he that rules his spirit is better than he that takes a city.” Proverbs 16:32

Don’t build up your self-control by reliance on your own self-will. Build self-control by looking outside your “self”. Find it in the work and ministry of the Holy Spirit in your life. Be filled with the Spirit. Be baptised in the Holy Spirit. Be led by the Spirit. Do not quench the Spirit. Soak in Bible truth for it is the sword of the Spirit. Walk in the Spirit every day. Pray in the Spirit and sing in the Spirit. Stay under the anointing of the Holy Spirit.

As you let the Holy Spirit into more and more of your life you will discover that self-control is developing within you, without any demands upon your self-will. And along with it will be “love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, meekness and faith”. Now, that’s a pretty good deal, eh?

Holy Spirit in the Church Age

God is a Trinity

The Bible reveals to us that while we have only one God, our God is a ‘trinity’. That means He exists in three separate parts in the one being. God is Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

We see the reality of the trinity in several places. Note what happened at Jesus’ baptism. Jesus, the Son of God, was baptized. The Holy Spirit came down upon Him like a dove. At the same time God the Father spoke from heaven and said “This is my beloved Son”.

“And the Holy Spirit descended in a bodily shape like a dove upon him (Jesus), and a voice came from heaven, which said, You are my beloved Son; in You I am well pleased.” Luke 3:22

The Trinity at Work in History

A look at Bible history reveals a pattern of involvement by different parts of the Godhead at different times.

We know that Father, Son and Holy Spirit were all present at creation.

“In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.” Genesis 1:1,2

“In the beginning was the Word (Jesus the Son of God), and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.” John 1:1-3

From Creation to Christ was the time of the Father’s main role on earth. He walked in the garden of Eden (Gen 3:8), met Abraham (Gen 18:1), showed Himself to Moses (Ex 33:17-22), and spoke to David (2Chron 3:1), Solomon (1Kings 3:5) and Elijah (1Kings 19:11,12).

But even during this time both the Son and the Holy Spirit were present. Joshua met a man that we know had to be Christ (Josh 5:13-15). The Holy Spirit also came on Samson (Judges 15:14), Saul (1Sam 10:10, 11) and David (lSam 16:13). So in Old Testament times it was God the Father at work on earth, with the assistance of God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.

Then when Christ (God the Son) came He told us that the Father was in heaven (Matt 6:9). This was the time of the Son’s main role on earth and the gospels document some of the miraculous works He did. Historically this was a short time, but it was pivotal in all history. So in the time of the Son’s main role the Father was in Heaven, but we know that God the Holy Spirit was also on earth. At Jesus’ baptism the Spirit descended on Him (Luke 3:21,22).

The Holy Spirit’s Time

During Jesus’ life He taught that the Holy Spirit was yet to have His day. Jesus spoke of sending the Spirit, baptising people with the Holy Spirit and people receiving power from the Holy Spirit  John 14:16, 17, 26, 16:7-14, Luke 24:49).

On the day of Pentecost a new age was born. The Father had done His work upon the earth and the Son had finished His. Now it was time for the third part of the trinity to work on earth. Scholars have said that the book called Acts should be renamed Acts of The Holy Spirit, because all the early church accomplished was through the Spirit’s outpouring and power.

The Last Days are the Holy Spirit’s Time

On the Day of Pentecost Peter declared that the outpouring of the Holy Spirit was in fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy that in the “last days” the Holy Spirit would be poured out.

“But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel; And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams” Acts 2:16,17.

Now, let me ask you a question. What comes after the “last” days? If the Holy Spirit was given for the “last days” and the end has not yet come, then we must still be in the ‘last days’! The Holy Spirit outpouring on the Day of Pentecost, at Samaria and on Cornelius’ household, upon Saul of Tarsus and at Ephesus is something that is part of the Church Age. The Church Age is the Age of the Holy Spirit.

We Live in the Time of the Holy Spirit

We are living in the age of the Holy Spirit. The gifts and fruit of the Spirit, the convicting work of the Spirit, the teaching and pointing to Jesus done by the Holy Spirit are all key expressions of God on earth during this age. Without the Spirit of God we are out of touch with the Godhead. With the Holy Spirit we are exploring the very purpose of the age in which we live.

That does not mean that the place of God the Father and God the Son is not vitally important. We are to worship God, place our faith in Jesus the Son of God, make Jesus our Lord, pray to the Father in Heaven in the name of Jesus the Son, obey the will of God and live by faith in God’s Son. At the same time we are baptized into Jesus’ body by the work of the Holy Spirit; baptized in the Holy Spirit; filled with the Spirit; led by the Spirit; quickened by the Spirit; given supernatural gifts by the Holy Spirit; growing spiritual fruit by the Spirit; putting the flesh to death with the Holy Spirit’s help; comforted by the Holy Spirit; given ability to pray more effectively by the Holy Spirit and healed by the presence of the Holy Spirit in our bodies.

I challenge you to enter into all that God the Father has prepared for you. Be filled with the Spirit and live in the power of the Holy Spirit, so you can effectively witness to the Son and bring others to be children of the Father.

This article first appeared as sermon notes for a message preached on February 15, 1989. The notes have been updated and presented here as a resource to the broader Christian community.

Holy Ghost Encounter July and August 2008

During July and August I am giving special attention to ministry on the topic of the Holy Spirit. Sunday nights at 5pm, at FGA Melbourne’s Community Service, I am conducting a series of sessions to bring people up to speed on the ministry and power of the Holy Spirit.

In coming weeks other speakers include Larry Sebastian, Danny Nalliah and Russell Sage. We will also host Impartation Nights where people receive prayer from a large ministry team, so everyone is prayed for multiple times.

These are public meetings – all are welcome. No charge. A free-will offering is taken.

Steps To Release

Nearly 40 years ago I journeyed through a process of being set free from a variety of personal problems. Insecurity, fear, pride, immorality, attitudes and other things were brought to my attention and graciously dealt with.

The eventual end result of that process is the Steps to Release which I formulated as my ministry tool for helping others and myself step into personal freedom. What I want to do is share those steps with you, as part of the Christian Counselling material that you can apply to yourself or in helping others.

The Steps to Release are taught in my first book, Family Horizons, available from http://familyhorizons.net/html/shop.html

Several things prompted me to define these steps into a workable process which I can apply widely and share with others. While at Bible College in 1978 I shared my testimony of release and inner restoration with some of the students. Two girls, Janet and Jean, asked me to explain how God had set me free. I was unable to do so. They taunted me with the challenge that I had no right to share about my freedom if I couldn’t also show others how to enter into freedom too.

When I reflected on their challenge I remembered a discussion I had with my older brother. We had both encountered the infilling of the Holy Spirit at about the same time. A year or so later I said to my brother, “You know how God gets inside your life and starts dealing with you once you’ve received the Holy Spirit?” He looked at me and told me he had no idea what I was talking about. I tried to explain myself but he could not relate to my descriptions of having God convict me and reveal things to me. Up to that point I had assumed that everyone who received the Holy Spirit had the identical resultant experience.

So, when those fellow students challenged me to define God’s dealings in my life I went to prayer. I asked God to remind me what it was that He had done in me and how He had done it. I had no clear idea at first. I just took it all for granted and expected that everyone else was on the same journey of transformation which I enjoyed. Now that I knew each of us were on uniquely personal journeys and that my journey had produced some fruit others wanted to sample, I looked to the Lord to remind me how He had done His work in my life. There had been about seven years of various impacts, so I had to revisit that journey.

Piece of piece God began to awaken my memory. I began to remember specific preachers and sermons which were part of God’s work. I recalled various Bible verses which touched me at a deep level. I also remembered my responses to what God seemed to be saying deep within me.

My journey had been a deeply personal one. It touched my fears, pride, selfishness, vulnerabilities, inner pains, insecurities, shame, hurts and more. But as I recalled God’s gracious dealings a clear pattern began to emerge. God had taken me on a journey. It was a profound and personal venture that led me through my own personal quagmires and ruins into the glorious light of a new day in His presence.

There are many anecdotes I could share about the various stages of that journey, and in time I may well use them as illustrations here and there. What I think I should do is give you a summary of the overall journey then take the time to give you a more detailed description of the various steps in future posts. So for now, here is a summary of the landmarks that have become my Steps to Release.

1. The first thing I had to do was admit my need. This did not come easy, but I now see it as an essential element of the journey.

2. The second thing I had to do was identify the real problem, not just the symptoms. In the process I found it extremely valuable to uncover the root cause of the problem, such as an initiating event, if at all possible.

3. Once the problem had been identified I was led to take three important steps to deal with it. So the third thing I had to do was to repent of any part I had in bringing the specific problem into my life.

4. The fourth thing I had to do, and so the fourth step in my Steps to Release, was to forgive all those who were part of the problem. This includes those who caused the problem and those who added to it after the fact.

5. Then the fifth thing I was led to do was to renounce the evil of the situation. This is effectively the legal process of breaking the connection between the problem and me.

6. Having attended to those three steps of responsibility, repentance, forgiveness and renouncing, I could then enter into the spiritual warfare process of resisting the evil. This is the sixth step. I would break the power of the evil associated with the problem.

7. The final, seventh step is to fall at the feet of God. Another way to describe it is to cast my cares on Him, because He cares for me. This is the process of giving to God the ruin of my life and all that remains as a consequence of the problem which existed in my life. God is invited to take charge and to heal, restore and re-invigorate my life for His purposes.

8. If, after going through those steps the issue was not completely resolved I would see two things to do. One is to repeat the process, looking for even greater insight into what the problem is and where it came from. I would also be more diligent in working through the related steps. The other thing to do is to join forces with another Christian of strong faith who would add their faith to mine in working through the issue.

Well, that’s an introduction. I’ll elaborate at some time in the future. Meanwhile there is enough in this summary to empower you to tackle some of your problems. So go to it.