Comment on 'The Ephesus 12'

There is absolutely no doubt that:

  • The Ephesus twelve were genuine Christians.
  • All genuine believers become so through the work of the Holy Spirit.
  • It is impossible to be a Christian without receiving the Holy Spirit.

There is no set pattern for being baptized with the Spirit. Sometimes in scripture it was before water baptism, sometimes after, but clearly, as you say:
'Baptism by the Spirit was the norm in the early church.'
'A baptism of the Spirit such as occurred at Pentecost is not the same thing as the gift of the Spirit that all Christians receive.'

I was baptized in water, 47 years ago (I have just been using the concordance my Aunty Hilda gave me on that day 10.3.57). If I had been asked then: had I been baptized in The Holy Spirit; I think I would have said 'yes' because my church had not taught me your statement in red above. If they did teach it, I had not grasped it.

I think they taught that when you had been converted and baptized in water that was it. There was no further special experience to seek. I do not recall any member of Zion, New Cross claiming to be baptized in the Holy Spirit as a separate experience after conversion. No pastor taught we should seek it. They would say it was another term for receiving the Holy Spirit at conversion.

So that was the line I generally took for about 30 years or so from 1961 when I became the Bible Class Leader and later preacher amongst SB then GB churches.

For most of those years I would have taken the negative view that these things dropped out of general use when the last full stop of Scripture writing was completed. That is, in the First Century. By 'these things' I mean a Baptism of the Holy Spirit after conversion and the manifestation of the more supernatural 'Gifts of the Holy Spirit'. So the gifts of 'showing mercy' or serving or being generous were OK but speaking with tongues or doing miracles were out!

Then I entered a more tolerant phase. These things may occur today from time to time. If God chooses to send them, fine, but we will not go out of our way to seek them, preach for them, or expect them. God does not generally pour out great blessings if we take this half-hearted or neutral position - but, as you say, He sometimes does. Finally in the year 2000 at the age of 60 I became convinced from Scripture that the negative and neutral positions were wrong. I came to believe that scripture teaches that The Gifts of The Holy Spirit should be eagerly desired. If the Bible says the Gifts are like power tools which do good and add power to our churches, many of which you fairly describe as 'pitifully small piles of barely smouldering embers', then I thought we should go for them. I quote below form a paper I wrote to try to convince Courland Grove of this. I failed. Did I ever send you a full copy? I will e-mail all 9 pages if you wish. It talks of seeking The Gifts rather than seeking The Baptism of the Holy Spirit. Of course it is more important to seek The Giver than to seek either. But these seeking aims converge, because to find more of the operation of The Holy Spirit in personal life or in the life of one's church is to know and experience more of God.

QUOTE BEGINS

'The Bible does not give a single and complete list of all the gifts of the Holy Spirit. In I Cor. 12 we may identify 9 gifts of the Holy Spirit, given 'for the common good'.

They may be grouped in threes:

Gifts of speaking. (for FELLOWSHIP)

            TONGUES v. 10
            INTERPRETATION v. 10
            PROPHECY v. 10

Gifts of doing. (for POWER)

            HEALING v. 9
            MIRACLE v. 9
            FAITH v. 8

Gifts of knowing (for REVELATION)

            DISCERNING SPIRITS v. 10
            WORDS OF KNOWLEDGE v. 8
            WORDS OF WISDOM v. 8

Since these gifts are given for the good of the church, to add power and effectiveness to its ministry, we are foolish to neglect the gifts and only preach about the fruits of the Spirit.

(The fruits in Gal. 5 : 22 are a separate and distinct set of 9: LOVE, JOY, PEACE, PATIENCE, KINDNESS, GOODNESS, FAITHFULNESS, GENTLENESS and SELF CONTROL (discipline); we will discuss the relation between the 9 fruits and the 9 gifts later.)

Let us first demolish some common objections to seeking the 9 gifts today:

Objection 1: They were only meant for the early church.
Answer 1: Why does the Bible devote space to describing the gifts and giving specific instructions for their use if they are only temporary?

(See I Cor. 14.) The Bible nowhere says they are only temporary. The passage that some argue from is I Cor.13 : 8 - 12. But this passage tells us that tongues and prophecy will endure till Jesus comes again. How else can we interpret the 3 phrases which define when the gifts end? These are:

      (a)'when perfection comes',
      (b) when 'we shall see face to face',
      (c) when 'I shall know fully even as I am fully known'.

These phrases clearly refer to the perfection and completion of the Church when we shall see the Saviour face to face. They cannot refer to the completion of the writing of Scripture. Otherwise we are saying not only that we now know more than the Apostle Paul did then, but that we know as much about ourselves now as God does. For a more detailed demolition of this objection, see Deere of whom Dr R.T. Kendall, Minister of Westminster Chapel, says: this thesis is 'irrefutable'.

Objection 2: Gifts cause divisions in the church by making some Christians feel second class.
Answer 2: The bible tells us that not all Christians will get all the gifts.

(I Cor. 12 : 30). Each Christian should view every other Christian as more important than himself (Phil. 2 : 3). Gifts are given by the Sovereign will of God; they are not earned. A 'present' may or may not be earned. A 'gift' arises purely from the good grace of the giver. Note, however, that if you are presented with an unearned gift, you still have to put out your hand to receive it! So a Christian with a particular spiritual gift should never look down on another who lacks that gift. Nor should he teach that every one must have that particular gift (though he may lovingly encourage the pursuit of further gifts in general, as I am seeking to do now!) The fact that some Pentecostals may have gone wrong here in the past should not stop us pursuing gifts. That would be like saying 'I don't use cars because I had an old Ford once and it let me down.' We don't give up evangelism because we heard of some phoney evangelists!

Returning to I Corinthians.

The Corinthians were 'eager to have spiritual gifts' but they had gone over the top with them. Paul needed to give principles and instructions for orderly worship (14 : 26 - 40): everything to be done decently and in order; no more than 2 or 3 to speak in tongues; tongues must be interpreted; prophecies must be weighed. Note that this discipline is possible because (v. 32) 'the spirits of the prophets are subject to the control of the prophets.' That is: although the gifts of tongues and prophecy are given by the Holy Spirit, the Christian has control over when or whether he brings them to the church.

The Corinthians had gone out of control in their enthusiasm for their new found gifts, but Paul only wishes to instruct them in their proper use. He does not wish to stop them. In fact he says (v. 5): ' I would like every one of you to speak in tongues.' The balance is clearly found in vv. 39, 40: 'be eager to prophesy, do not forbid speaking in tongues', but be orderly. Because some charismatics went over the top in the 1960s, Grace Baptists have shunned the 9 gifts completely. This is a pity because the gifts are meant to edify the church. We did not stop using money when we heard of counterfeit bank notes!

QUOTE ENDS

You write:
'The church at Corinth could not have been more different from my own Grace Baptist Church at Brockley. It was a growing, vibrant and unruly fellowship where the members exercised their supernatural gifts with exuberance. It was hard to keep people quiet during the services. Everyone wanted to talk or pray at once. Needless to say my church is not a bit like that. But the Brockley church is not without dedicated Christian men and women'.

True, there are many noble, loyal, hard-working Christians in churches that do not practise all the Gifts of the Spirit. They may have graces and fruits of the Spirit and 'stickability' that some charismatics lack. No one is saying they are inferior Christians. But if the Bible offers something as the norm which would fan your 'smouldering embers' into a flame, dare we ignore it? If The Holy Spirit does not pour out some extraordinary blessing, what will be the state of the Grace churches in 25 years time?

I like your analogy of your coal fire. It fits your position nicely. But I do not think it is supported by Scripture. Do not confuse Revivals (which are rare) and The Day of Pentecostal Outpouring (which was unique) with Baptism of the Spirit which should be normal Christian experience). I agree that Revivals have come as isolated instances in the history of the church. There was a revival in Lowestoft in 1921 and in Pensacola, Florida in the 1990s. Julia asked for 1000 of her inheritance from me to fly out and be present there; I think she would say her life was changed. Such Revival may only occur once in a life-time. For similar reasons, I believe, MLJ's parents sent him by train to witness the Welsh Revival as a small boy. When he asked what station he should get off at, he was told he would know by The Presence of God over the town. He did. Such things happen rarely. I believe Lowestoft fishermen miles out at sea could likewise sense Almighty God's presence over the town.

Then there was the occasion when heavenly music was heard by some over the Pioneer Camp field! It did not come from the marquee but from Heaven. A considerable group of staff heard it. It was heard chiefly by those who had been baptised in The Spirit and not by those who hadn't. So I did not hear it though Marion did. Now that was not 'Revival' but it was, I believe, a supernatural Divine manifestation. Returnng to your article, I am broadly with you till you get to: 'Peter wrote: Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy. 1Pet1v8. Martyn Lloyd-Jones asks, "Of how many Christians in the UK is this true?" Inexpressible and glorious joy cannot be hidden. It is the emotion engendered by a Pentecostal baptism of the Spirit - something felt and something shown.'

I am not sure what you are suggesting here. Peter appears to be speaking mainly of 'new birth' (v. 3) and of the present continuous aspect of 'salvation' (v.9) rather than of Baptism by the Holy Spirit. True, he uses the term 'filled' which may imply he was assuming filling with the Holy Spirit as the norm. Further, he and you may be implying that being filled with the Holy Spirit is the key to possessing continuous exceeding joy. Perhaps you are suggesting that if UK Christians today generally do not keep topped up on radiant joy then they cannot have had a 'Pentecostal baptism of the Spirit'. Maybe not, because clearly the Day of Pentecost was unique and special. But a baptism of the Spirit after Pentecost was still the norm. Look at the passage you are considering.

Also, Peter's readers were experiencing persecution. Amazingly that generates heavenly joy in a Christian. Read Brother Yun, 'The Heavenly Man', Christian Book of the year 2003, telling of his torture and imprisonment in modern China. I met him recently.

The fact is that, in this fallen world, Christians often lose 'the blessedness (they) knew when first (they) knew the Lord' and Christians filled with The Holy Spirit leak and need to be refilled. This observation does not deny the need for Baptism in The Holy Spirit today any more than it denies the need for salvation.

Your most amazingly outrageous or uninformed paragraph is:
'I also believe that there are isolated instances of Christians being baptized with the Holy Spirit between revivals. I don't think it happens as commonly as the charismatic wing of the church suggests but it does occur.'

People are being baptized in The Holy Spirit all over the World all the time. Even if you think some are not genuine, they are by no means 'isolated instances'.

You write of 'joy, assurance, confidence, boldness and effectiveness. I lack all of these too!' I am sure that like most of us you wish you had more of these blessings but when I have heard you preach, you are not lacking in confidence or boldness! Neither are you without joy. Although, like many, you must sometimes be overcome with gloom and despair, I believe you have a deep joy in the Jesus who loves you and shed His blood for you. My experience was similar to yours. 'I hardly know when I became a Christian - so I was scarcely much different after becoming a Christian.' I could have written that. Nor had I ever been baptized by the Spirit. I still hold that a 'gradual' conversion is perfectly valid. But an event you can hardly put your finger on is hardly a Baptism with the Holy Spirit. If you have been baptized in water, you know it! Similarly, I figured, if I had been baptized in The Holy Spirit I would know it. So clearly I had not been, but I became convinced that this was the normal part of Christian birth and life that God intended (even if you concede that the baptism may not be as dramatic as on the Day of Pentecost).

So I resolved to 'earnestly seek'. This involved humbling myself and taking an appointment with a pastor who specialized in dealing with stubborn old Strict Baptists like me. He had previously, like me, in Baptist churches, preached against Baptism with the Holy Spirit being for today. (I had previously said I would not go there and if I needed any spiritual help I would go to a Grace pastor!) In his lounge I believe I received the Baptism of The Holy Spirit although the language I used was that I was seeking and then received the Gift of Tongues. I did not receive the 'liquid love' that you mention both with regard to Finney and Jim Jones but I did feel a slight breath of air on my forehead. It is interesting that your article mentions a gentle breathing also. I suppose everybody's baptism experience is different just as conversions differ.

My experience is that, if one asks God for a spiritual gift while holding a cessationist or even neutral view about that gift, no such gift will be given. If however, one earnestly desires, believing that it can and will be given, then - at least in the case of tongues - before long it will be and it will never be taken away (unless perhaps it is 'quenched' by non-use over a long time.) It is like being given the ability to swim or ride a bike. Like the others, this ability is a Gift of our Sovereign God. The other Gifts, however, are at the disposal of God's sovereignty every time they are exercised. If someone has been given a Gift of Healing that has worked once or even many times, say for someone with cancer to be healed by God, they may not presume that it will be successful next time. Similarly for prophecy, etc. God is Sovereign!

You write: 'It is here that I take issue with Martyn Lloyd-Jones. He states in his book that the experience of the early church was the norm. It is what we should expect. The low state of the church in Western Europe is abnormal.'

I agree with MLJ rather than you, here. At about the time I changed my theology on The Holy Spirit I also changed on eschatology. I no longer believe Jesus will return to a shabby weak dying collection of local churches, faithfully just hanging in there till they are relieved, like Mafeking at His Appearing. We know that the church will finally be presented glorious to the Father but before that it will be something more glorious on earth than it is today. This does not deny a great Tribulation. If the church is more powerful in the world it will also suffer great persecution.

Whitefield and the early Mission pioneers had a 'hope' for great advances in the church on earth before the Lord returns. After seeing thousands converted, Whitefield still said (1763) that the Scriptures encourage us to 'expect, hope, long and pray for larger and more extensive showers of Divine influence than any former age hath yet experienced'. Rather than accepting a 'diminution' in the work of the Holy Spirit in this world as we approach The Second Coming, he expected a glorious time when we will be filled with all the fulness of God and "the earth will be filled with the knowledge of God as the waters cover the sea". Isaac Watts wrote (1719):

            'Jesus shall reign where'er the sun
            Doth his successive journeys run;
            His Kingdom stretch from shore to shore
            Till moons shall wax and wane no more'.

while William Carey (1792) preached 'Expect great things for God, attempt great things for God'.

In the last 50 years or so, most evangelical Christians have let their hopes diminish. They would agree with me that God can still do great things and they will pray for the success of the Gospel. But they do not really believe we shall see those blessings which the Puritans and the brethren above spoke of. They have postponed the fulfilment of that 'hope' to the Millennium or the final state of glory. By so doing they subconsciously dim their expectation of what God can and will do in this age. We acknowledge that all blessing comes at the will of a Sovereign God, but might that not include that His people should expect more, attempt more and then receive more? I concede that it is difficult to be dogmatic about which scriptures shall be fulfilled in the church age, which in the Millennium and which in the final state of glory. I believe in a future Millennium but I submit that there is plenty in scripture to encourage us to expect more blessing from the Holy Spirit in the present age than we are now experiencing. In short, I have abandoned 'Custer's last stand' theology in favour of my version of 'The Puritan Hope'. The former says just a few of us will be hanging in there, being faithful in our churches of 2 or 3 when the Lord finally relieves us with His return. The latter says the Lord will return to a glorious church - not yet perfect, but telling out God's glory in a much more effective way than it is now, more noticed, even envied by the world. The former talks a lot about the 'day of small things' and 'God bless our LITTLE church' (because we don't really want it to change or grow bigger!). The latter prays for a mighty outpouring of The Holy Spirit upon the church. The prospect of Gospel success, the church being more noticed and effective in the world, brings with it the prospect of great persecution and tribulation also!

You continue: 'Martyn Lloyd-Jones believed that all Christians should be longing and praying for a baptism of the Spirit with accompanying revival. He rather suggests that an outpouring of God's Spirit is conditional upon us praying for it. In this he resembles Charles Finney who claimed that if certain conditions were fulfilled - such as prolonged and passionate prayer - God had to send revival. He could do no other.'

I agree with the first sentence but I do not believe that if we are faithful, God will necessarily do anything. He is SOVEREIGN. He will act if and when and how He wills. I would say that generally those who do not EARNESTLY ASK for these things will not get them (though sometimes they do). Those that do ask, MAY receive. One can ask earnestly and faithfully and still not get a particular Gift or blessing. However I believe that in the case of tongues, the earnest seeker will not have to wait very long for this gift provided he is willing to open his mouth. As you rightly said tongues is the easiest or lowest gift to start with, but not to be despised.

Neither must we despise or neglect prophecy which is a higher Gift and clearly differs from preaching (but that's another story).

Near the end you make reference to the Great Commission. You say that it adds to conversion and baptism, obedience and discipling. You do not stress that it also says to do greater works than I have done - supernatural works, like using The Gift of The Holy Spirit in healing. For the Great Commission, Grace Baptists usually prefer to read from Matthew, but in Mark 16 we have:
15 And He said unto them. Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. 17 And these signs shall follow' them that believe; in my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; I8 They shall lay hands on the sick and they shall recover. (KJV) Why do we not expect such things when we preach the Gospel and people respond?

When Jesus sent out His disciples to preach the Gospel (Matthew 10 : 8), He added:
Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils.

I am not aware that He ever withdrew this command. Nor did He give any suggestion that it was only for the First Century. In fact, when He gave the Great Commission, (See Matthew 28 : 19 -20) He set up a cascading system that was meant to last till the end of the world.

After the familiar words of v19: Go ye therefore, and teach all nations,.... He added: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alvay, even unto the end of the world. Amen. v20. (KJV)

That is, the original disciples were not just to get people converted, but to MAKE DISCIPLES of their converts AND teach them to do whatever things they had been told to do. This must include the miraculous things mentioned in Matthew 10:8 above and the Great Commission itself. Hence the cascading continuation of miracles.

I think I have gone on long enough. You asked for a critique. I hope this will do.

Conclusion

You may argue that our churches can do without the Baptism and supernatural Gifts of The Holy Spirit if they are blazing away fruitfully (as you say they did in the 1920s). But when they are smouldering towards apparent extinction, they cannot afford to!