Thursday, February 16, 2006

Baptism in the Spirit?

I've been reading my friend Chris's blog and reader comments on 'Tongues and Pentecost' with some interest. In response to one of my comments, Chris used the phrase 'I was baptised in the Spirit...' and went on to talk about his experience of speaking in tongues. This started me thinking.

I have never heard anyone speak about being 'baptised in the Spirit' and not go on to immediately talk about speaking in tongues. To me, this suggests:
  • Speaking in tongues is considered to be the mark of one who has been 'baptised in the Spirit'
and the contrary:
  • Those who don't speak in tongues have not been 'baptised in the Spirit'
I've never been totally comfortable with this line of reasoning.

Firstly, it implies to me that being a Christian is not enough - there is a deeper level that the believer should aspire to. Without attaining this deeper experience, you're somehow not a proper (or indeed, complete) Christian. This strikes me as being almost slightly gnostic - that there is a 'hidden' religion within the church which only the elite are part of, something not for the masses, but only for the inner circle.

Secondly, it doesn't tally with my experience of the Spirit Himself. I've been a Christian for a long time now and have experienced times of being 'filled' with the Spirit and 'empowered' to do various things in the service of the gospel. But this has never manifested itself in the gift of tongues.

There are many spiritual gifts. Why is this one apparently singled out as the mark of spiritual experience?

Or maybe I've got all this wrong. Please comment and discuss...


simo said...

Here, here! Lots of people do seem to put the gift of tongues down as the mark of being filled with the Spirit, however I do see this in my reading of the bible, it is a gift, but no more important or useful or special than any of the others. The Bible talks about the fact that we will be given gifts that we need, we will not all get all, we do not need to have a basic set to be included, the Lord gives us what we need, sometimes just for a time while we need it, so even if we have a gift there is nothing to say we have got it for ever. We just trust God and praise him for what he gives us, we should pray for those who have an elitist view of certain gifts, those of us that do not speak I tongues are no less of a Christian just as those of us that teach, or whatever our gifts are are no greater, as a Body our gifts compliment each other and work together not set us apart.

Karuna said...

I can understand what you're going through, I was in the same situation before. I met people from the church who were even proud that they spoke in tongues and I could not. However, I met a group of people who helped me understand the importance of speaking in tongues and how that can help me. Its not a secret thing available to only a few christians. It is for all-but very few want it or have the right understanding of this gift.Now that I have the experience of speaking in tongues and being baptised in the spirit I know what they mean.
It does make the relationship with the Lord a little deeper. Many times after praying in tongues, I have felt I have prayed for more than what I needed and feel peace.
Well all I can say, that speaking in tongues is not intelligent to our minds so we cannot comprehend and get it immediately, but with practice and guidance from the right people you can also be blessed with this.
I'd also say that, its good to speak in tongues but then its good to grow our other spiritual gifts as well especially LOVE. "1 Corinthians 13:1 says "If I speak in the tongues [ Or languages] of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal."

Chris Hamer-Hodges said...

Hi Ricky, I only have a moment now, so I'll write more later. For now, here's a question to ponder.

Imagine you met a Christian who had never taken Holy Communion. How would you explain to him that this was something important without implying to him that either being a Christian wasn't enough, or that somehow his walk with the Lord thus far had been deficient?

Ricky Carvel said...

Whoa, Chris! Are you really saying that those Christians who haven't been 'baptised in the Spirit' or spoken in tongues (i.e. the majority!) are 'deficient' in their Christian walk?

Chris Hamer-Hodges said...

No, exactly the opposite in fact! As I hoped the question would convey... but obviously not.

There are a number of things that we should do after we become Christians: pray, worship, fellowship, break bread, be baptised in water, share our faith, encourage one another, etc. I have never heard anyone complain when any of these things are taught that it implies that being a Christian is not enough, or that the fact that some may not be practising these things to the same extent implies a "two-tier" Christianity.

Take the breaking of bread as an example. God never intended to create a two-tier Christianity, between those who partake and those who don't. It's a means of grace that is available to all.

The same is true about the gift of the Spirit. We all have a measure of the Spirit, but no-one, baptised in the Spirit or not has all that God is able or willing to give. We should all be eagerly desiring more of the Spirit, his fruits, and his gifts, whether we have previously moved in the gifts or not.

Baptism in the Spirit, is not a "charismatic" idea. It is a biblical doctrine available for all to see, and for all to receive.

...and, yes, I do believe that it will be accompanied by speaking in tongues. Because that again is the only pattern we see in the Scriptures; not because there are no other gifts, nor that those who don't speak in tongues don't have a measure of the Spirit.

I hope that brings some clarification. :-)

Ricky Carvel said...

Sorry Chris, if you look at the time stamp on that comment you'll see that I read your comment quite late at night. Yawn. Hence the lack of comprehension on my part.

Although, being part of the Scottish Episcopal Church (which celebrates communion every week), I know a number of folk who would say that the sacraments of baptism and communion are essential for the Christian and anyone who does not partake is, indeed, deficient. Hence my confusion.

Just to satisfy my curiosity, you say that baptism in the Spirit will be accompanied by the gift of tongues - what does it bring in addition to this?

Chris Hamer-Hodges said...

No problem, Ricky.

This is a subject that is always prone to misunderstanding, and as one of your commenters has already mentioned, I don't think there is anyone who has been in a traditional church, and gone on the receive the baptism in the Spirit who has not first had to tackle the questions you raise.

On what else the baptism in the Spirit should bring... in a word: POWER! Speaking for myself, the power of the Spirit was something I only intellectually assented to before I was baptised in the Spirit. I knew that the Spirit came to give us "dunamis" (dynamite power) but had never really experienced it.

It was this power that Jesus commanded his disciples to wait for. It was this power that transformed them from an isolated group in fear for their lives, into bold witnesses who both proclaimed and demonstrated the risen Christ.

simo said...

It’s a while since I first came in on this conversation, but I feel a need to speak up again. Firstly thinking back to Godzheart, your comment about “with practice and guidance from the right people you can also be blessed with this.” Are we talking about a gift here or not? If it is a gift you can only be given it you cannot learn it! You can be helped to learn how to use it if it is a gift you have, but that doesn’t mean we all have it or are all going to get it. Chris hh your comment “I do believe that it will be accompanied by speaking in tongues. Because that again is the only pattern we see in the Scriptures” we see lots of people working and serving God through the power of the Holy Spirit, could you say that Paul didn’t have a the gift of teaching, but we don’t read of him speaking in tongues. If we read 1 Corinthians 12:7-11 we see quite clearly it says “to one is given ……to another…… All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines”. I think this is quite clear, I’m not down on the gift of tongues at all, I think it’s great for those that have it, but I get fed up with people implying that those of us that don’t are in some way inferior in our Faith or the Spirit. To one is given, no gift does it say is given to all, no gift is superior to another, the Spirit gives gifts he chooses to enable people to live and worship the way he desires from that person.

Anonymous said...

I think that a lot of us have this problem, when I was a young student, half a century ago, I was often asked 'Have you been saved?' What is needed here is a large dose of humility, I have many weaknesses, which is a pity, but that is how God has made me. A largely literalist mind, that is the tool God has given me so I must just get on with what I have got. At various times God seems to reveal to me ideas that are new is my experience, thank you God, one with the next problem. One day I shall know even as I am known; that is enough for today.

simo said...

Hi Ricky, I felt this is a great debate you’ve got going here and so just had to post a brief comment on my blog to try and get a few more people across to join the debate, hope you don’t mind. PS the FAF stuff over at onmebus is also still growing with more comment and a couple more posts recently.


Anonymous said...

simo, I don't know if I misread your comment, are you saying there is not biblical evidence that Paul spoke in tongues? 1 Cor 14:18 suggests otherwise.

simo said...

Ok I forgot about that one, fair enough. But it think the rest of my argument still stands.

will said...

I found that article interesting.

Its something i have been thinking about tonight. I have involvements with a pentecostal church and was discussing this tonight.

I dont think not being baptised in the spirit means you are not a christian but it does mean you miss out on a gift from God. Its not salvation its empowering.

Toungues in the bible were assosiated with baptism in the spirit in acts - toungues and prophecy these were also present in the old testamant when the spirit decended on people greatly. The difference is when the spirit decends on us it stays (in the ot it was tempoary e.g. king saul). That is why its valuable for a christian to have experienced.