Friday, April 20, 2012

2 Baptisms?!?

The point of the Samaritans’ secondary experience was to promote a change in the visceral contempt the Jews traditionally had for their “half-brothers” in the Hebrew lineage (“for Jews have no dealings with Samaritans”- John 4:9, note Luke 9:54 as well). Furthermore then, the equality of the Gentiles is expressed in chapter 10 as God’s Spirit shows He is no respecter of one group of Christians over another as they also shown have all the same gifts given to Jews in Acts 2:John 1:32-33 And John bore witness: "I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. (33) I myself did not know him, but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, 'He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.'

Much ado has been paid the baptism of the Spirit, first referenced here by John the Baptist, in “anything goes” charismatic teaching. They indicate a second baptism for believers, wherein the Spirit pours out a special anointing. They presume upon the events at Pentecost to promise believers something more than the trifling Christian call to simply repent & believe. They put great stock in the outside of the cup- signs & wonders- as a witness to God’s power, instead of the true miracle of an inwardly changed life.

John 14:16-17 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, (17) even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.

Christ here explicitly describes believers’ interaction with God’s Spirit as heretofore along the same lines of the OT faithful, one where He impacts them from a peripheral position exterior to their soul. But the Savior speaks as well of a future time where the Spirit’s influence will seemingly be much more intimate.

I think we can all agree this dwelling “in” came about on Pentecost in Acts 2 (see John 14:17). But the debate centers on the question of whether this “spiritual” baptism of the 12 apostles, who clearly already had belief in Christ, was an atypical & seminal moment for the church, or did this baptism, coming distinctly after their repentance & belief in Christ, portend a standard for all believers to come.

The day of Pentecost is also known as the Jewish festival of Shavuot & marks a pivotal point in their history, the giving of the Law of Moses at Mt. Sinai. On Passover, the Jews mark their freedom from Pharaoh’s enslavement, while Shavuot marks an ensuing re-enslavement to the Law of God (Gal 3:23), as well as the point in time they became a nation wholly separate & distinct from all others. Clearly, both original moments in Jewish history. Likewise, it can be shown at that Passover seven weeks prior to Acts 2, Christians were freed from bondage to the Law of Moses by Christ’s finished work, wherein God “passed over former sins” (Rom 3:25-26, aka- justification); with Pentecost then marking the new covenant & the point in time a wholly new nation is birthed by & for God. Truly, a seminal point for the new Christian church in marking its departure from Rabbinic Judaism.

This is reason for all the drama of Acts 2- just as we make a big deal of the birth of our children, God is making a big show of the birth of His church within these 12 “seeds”. They, as well as the one “untimely born” (Paul- 1Cor 15:8) would go on to nurture this new “body” of Christ in their unique gifting as apostles (Eph 2:20).

But in Acts 8, we read of yet another similar outpouring of God’s Spirit upon the Samaritans:

Acts 8:14-17 Now when the apostles at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent to them Peter and John, (15) who came down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit, (16) for he had not yet fallen on any of them, but they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. (17) Then they laid their hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit.

The point of the Samaritans’ secondary experience was to promote a change in the visceral contempt the Jews traditionally had for their “half-brothers” in the Hebrew lineage (“for Jews have no dealings with Samaritans”- John 4:9, note Luke 9:54 as well). Furthermore then, the equality of the Gentiles is expressed in chapter 10 as God’s Spirit shows He is no respecter of one group of Christians over another as they also shown have all the same gifts given to Jews in Acts 2:

Acts 10:34-48a So Peter opened his mouth and said: "Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, (35) but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. (36) As for the word that he sent to Israel, preaching good news of peace through Jesus Christ (he is Lord of all), (37) you yourselves know what happened throughout all Judea, beginning from Galilee after the baptism that John proclaimed: (38) how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. (39) And we are witnesses of all that he did both in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree, (40) but God raised him on the third day and made him to appear, (41) not to all the people but to us who had been chosen by God as witnesses, who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. (42) And he commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one appointed by God to be judge of the living and the dead. (43) To him all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name." (44) While Peter was still saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word. (45) And the believers from among the circumcised who had come with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out even on the Gentiles. (46) For they were hearing them speaking in tongues and extolling God. Then Peter declared, (47) "Can anyone withhold water for baptizing these people, who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?" (48) And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ.

1 Corinthians 12:13 For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body--Jews or Greeks, slaves or free--and all were made to drink of one Spirit.

Note Paul’s language here in his sole mention of the Spirit’s baptism. Rather than giving imperatives to believers to receive some vital secondary ritual, he instead gives an indicative that “all” of us “werealready baptized in God’s Spirit! For the statement to be factually correct- that all believers were baptized in the Spirit, demands us to accept that such an event must be contemporaneous with the very moment of belief itself!

Also note of Paul’s use of ecumenical language in course of indicating the Spirit’s baptismal work- the fact that “Jews or Greeks, slaves or free…all were made to drink of one Spirit.” This further evidences the concept stated earlier- that the intent of the Samaritans’ & Gentiles’ overt witness in Acts 8 & 10 was to promote egalitarian acceptance of these peoples who were formerly spurned.

One of the most poignant arguments against this subsequent spiritual baptism is the complete dearth of Biblical instruction by any blessed scribe towards initiating this action. Sometimes what Scripture does not teach is as notable as what it does teach. Since all who believe in it also teach that it comes either by a specific laying on of hands, or by the believer’s own effort, where is the teaching by Paul, Peter, John, James, or Jude on such an extremely important subject? We believe in a closed corpus of Scripture- that all we need to know has been recorded & preserved in the 66 books of the Bible. They press us again & again with all we need to know about Christ & our sinful nature. They give clear directives towards repentance & faith. They give abundant instruction on all the fundamental truths- like God’s mercy, grace, election, & call, Christ’s justification by faith leading to His adoption of us as sons, & the Spirit’s work of conversion, sanctification, perseverance, & glorification. All these important topics have not one, but several passages that give us indicatives as to the sovereign works of God; where imperatives are necessary, they too, are in abundance. Indeed, Christ’s message is summarized by the twin imperatives to “repent & believe”. Elsewhere, we see copious imperatives to be physically baptized; we must then pose a most provocative question the Pentecostal: where, pray tell, is to be found the inspired scribes’ imperative to be baptized “in the Spirit”? Surely they must erred by leaving this out supposedly basic instruction! Maybe some of Paul’s copious writings slipped behind the desk, it should be supposed!

Yes, Pentecostals would have us determine doctrine, not by specific instruction, but instead by mere implication, based solely upon what are clearly both singular & seminal events in the book of Acts. They turn the indicative of Acts 2, the birth of the Christian church, & the indicatives of Acts 8 & 10, which speak to the equality of all believers within that church, into imperatives for all believers, for all time. This is a great miscarriage of justice, for it has sent many an infant believer searching for something they cannot find, a quick fix for their lack of maturity in Christ.

But let us go way out on a tenuous limb here & accept this chief argument of Charismatics in favor of a post-faith spiritual baptism, the one qualification is that we then get to use the same line of reason as well. If they can use the empirical evidence of past peoples to build up their doctrine, then we should likewise be able to tear down their doctrine, also based on the empirical experiences of great saints of God. Where are the records this most necessary event in the records of the lives of most of the great saints of nearly two millennia? Charismatics speak of a special “baptism in the Spirit” & speaking in tongues as fundamental to the accomplishing of any real degree of work in His service; where then, are the records of Tyndale’s, Luther’s, or Calvin’s special “baptism in the Spirit”? How about John Wesley, George Whitefield, Dwight L. Moody? This must be some kind of conspiracy if all these folk got a special baptismal blessing & chose to conceal it from the history books. William Carey? No such record, but then again, he only brought the Gospel to the entire nation of India nearly single-handedly. Billy Graham? Sixty years of bringing the Gospel to billions & an open door to every U.S. President since Truman, but no testimony of a distinct “spiritual” baptism. I guess they must think his life was just a wasted opportunity without that “special” anointing.

The danger in this doctrine is thus: Christians trying to “shortcut” the arduous process of discipleship. If a “Hebrew of Hebrews", this former Pharisee, someone with such zeal that he had entire books of the O.T. memorized, had to spend three years subsequent to his receiving the Holy Spirit (Acts 9:17, Gal 1:17) growing towards spiritual maturity, who are we, beginning with much less knowledge, to think that ability to accomplish great things for God can come with nothing more than a special “laying on of hands”. Paul got just such a laying on of hands at Damascus, yet he still required three years in Arabia to come to maturity in Christ. Three years, to be sure, filled with much time in prayer & study of the very same Scriptures which he already knew so well.

Many a babe in Christ have instead followed the poor example of the early Corinthian church, who, though well endowed with all manor of the Spirit’s gifting, continued in an infantile level of maturity for far too long (1Cor. 3:2).

"The conversion of the soul is the miracle of the moment, but the manufacture of a saint is the task of a lifetime." -Alan Redpath

1 comment:

Even So... said...

Actually, Dwight L. Moody does make much of a second experience he had that he does call a baptism in the Spirit. However, it didn't have anything to do with speaking in tongues, and the article is still true.