This is Part Four, the last of a series on Holy Spirit baptism. Until now it has only touched on a couple of the doctrinal issues which are ordinarily raised in any discussion of the topic, or of the related topics of spiritual gifts, speaking in tongues, and/or the offices of prophet and apostle beyond the first century AD. Be sure to read the previous parts to get a full sense of the topic and why I write as I do about it.
Part Three left off at West Lauderdale Baptist Church, where very few kids were left in the youth group after the mass departure of our former youth pastor and the majority of the kids and young adults who followed him to “the church in Fort Lauderdale.” A few of them returned within a year or so, broken and confused; and many more appeared to leave the Christian community entirely. The fruit of the Shepherding / Discipleship movement was horrific and damaging to those who got caught up in it, and many strayed far from the Lord after a period of exuberance followed by massive, cultish exploitation.
But we were not entirely safe from exploitation even in a somewhat accountable Southern Baptist church that strayed far from the word of God to embrace ear-tickling charismatic fables. Following the exodus of many members to the new “church in Fort Lauderdale,” West Lauderdale was left at less than half its former size and still dealing with spillover from the excessive of charismania in the larger movement. There was, for example, a “prophecy” given by “a reliable, proven prophetess” that a great tsunami would wipe out South Florida in the following year, as God’s judgment against the cities for the explosive growth of homosexuality there. Her prophecy was published in a couple of charismatic magazines and caused quite a stir. The only defense our new youth minister could come up with was God’s promise following Noah’s flood never to destroy the earth with water again. Really? There have been countless tsunamis and floods since that was written, so that verse was little comfort to us. What did provide some comfort, though, was a “vision from God” that our pastor shared with the congregation:
“God has shown me what the future holds for West Lauderdale Baptist Church,” the pastor said. “Five buildings will occupy these grounds and the surrounding property. At the center will be a huge sanctuary and administrative offices to oversee ministries in the other four buildings: A Christian school, a home for unwed mothers, a theological school like Samuel’s ‘school of prophets,’ and a music ministry school for psalmists” that would produce a great wealth of new songs, hymns, and spiritual songs for the Church. So at the very same time that some were fleeing the city to escape a prophesied tsunami, our church was fund-raising like crazy and buying up homes and real estate for about a square mile around the church. The year was 1973. Forty years later, this is what West Lauderdale Baptist Church looks like:
The property surrounding the church was purchased and either demolished or used for meetings or whatever, and then abandoned. The entire neighborhood was ruined. And the original sanctuary on Davie Boulevard still stands. The grand vision never became a reality. But like most groundless “visions from God,” this one wasted thousands of dollars and destroyed the credibility of the church.
I graduated from high school at 17 and got the heck out of there as fast as I could. Too small and delicately built (at the time) to qualify for the military, I determined to take the first job that offered room and board, preferably in another city. That job was on a sailing ship – a three-masted schooner – as a member of the crew, and the only kid aboard with a bunch of 30-something guys who couldn’t make it in “real” jobs. Another perfect setup for another tragedy. But that’s a whole ‘nother story. Following that whole mess I attempted college, and when the money ran out I found a job with an ambulance company back in Fort Lauderdale again, which was still there. No tsunami had destroyed it and nothing was ever said about the “prophetess” whose “vision” must have been at least as damaging to others in South Florida as my pastor’s “vision” had been to his church and the surrounding neighborhood. It’s curious in the extreme that when prophecies fail to come true, especially with all the damage that they often cause, that nothing is said; and if you say anything then you’re “being judgmental and condemning.” What?! In bible times, these false prophets would have been put to the sword (see Deuteronomy 18:20)! And I’m judgmental and harsh if I simply ask about false prophecies? Yet for all that, I still didn’t open my bible much, except in church, or when I wanted to impress someone with how spiritual and knowledgeable I was.
I had prided myself on instructing others in seeking Holy Spirit baptism, and even in my backslidden condition I continued to do so, and when someone told me had “the gift of discernment” because I hadn’t followed Andy and dared to ask questions about failed prophecies, I fed off of that little bit of affirmation and taught whoever would listen. I had passed my state tests and got certified as a firefighter and began what would become a 30-year career. I met a Pentecostal girl and “converted” her to my charismatic beliefs, and we got married at West Lauderdale Baptist Church, attending there until the fruit of the pastor’s failed “vision” gave us cause to move to a new Charismatic (Presbyterian) church in Pompano, just North of Fort Lauderdale.
In the lessons I taught on Holy Spirit baptism, I liked to use examples from the Old Testament as well as the New. Saul, for example, became “a Charismatic” when Samuel anointed him as king of Israel, and received the gift of prophecy (1st Samuel 10:1-12). Verse 6 is pivotal:
Then the Spirit of the Lord will come upon you mightily, and you shall prophecy with them and be changed into another man.
I simply failed to mention that Saul’s appointment as king was an act of judgment against Israel for rejecting God and desiring a king like the other nations (see verse 19 of the chapter), and that the prophesying was a sign of that coming judgment. When Samuel anointed David as king in Saul’s place, “the Spirit of the Lord came mightily upon David from that day forward (1 Samuel 16:13),” and “the Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the Lord terrorized him (verse 14).” It looks like Holy Spirit baptism was revocable in those days, doesn’t it? But in neither of these examples is the term “baptized in or with the Spirit” employed to describe the Lord’s anointing on them. I simply misapplied the term to those Old Testament examples. I did the same with Elijah and Elisha in 2nd Kings chapter 2. The other prophets witnessing the sign said, “the spirit of Elijah rests on Elisha (verse 15).” This was God’s anointing for a specific office for a specific time. The ministries of Elijah and Elisha also represented God’s judgment upon those in rebellion against Him.
“Jesus had the anointing in His day,” I taught. “Just as Elijah threw the mantle on Elisha, so Jesus, ascending to heaven, ‘threw His mantle on the Church!’ See it fall upon them in the second chapter of Acts!”
Now doesn’t that sound all scholarly and feel all “anointed?” In truth, though, only the examples in Acts 2 and Acts 11:16 are described as “baptism in/with the Holy Spirit (see Acts 1:5).” Subsequently there were many “fillings” with the Spirit (4: 8 and 31, 7:55, etc)) and people described as “full of the Spirit,” like Stephen (Acts 6:3). But for Charismatics, Acts 8:14-17 is among the proofs that “receiving the Holy Spirit” is a separate and distinct experience from conversion to Christ.
For He had not yet fallen upon any of them; they had simply been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then they [Peter and John] began laying their hands on them, and they were receiving the Holy Spirit (Acts 8:16-17).
The text doesn’t say for sure that these people were genuine converts to Christ, but it is a safe assumption because “they were receiving the Holy Spirit.” The text also specifically states that “He had not yet fallen upon any of them,” so one might rightfully assume that these baptized converts to Christ did not, in fact, have Holy Spirit baptism as in Acts 2. But since regeneration precedes faith (John 3:3-8, 1 Corinthians 2:10, 12:3, Eph 2:4-5), it is safe to say that they were born of the Spirit and thus “had” the Holy Spirit living within. What was “missing” was the peculiar powers conveyed by the Holy Spirit which were available only through the laying on of hands by an Apostle. Otherwise Philip the evangelist would have done so himself, having brought the gospel to Samaria and harvested many souls there. None of the Samaritan converts had given evidence of the gift of tongues, which most frequently (but not always) accompanied the laying on of the Apostles’ hands (see 10:45-46). This “impartation,” or anointing, was only at the hands of the Apostles; and only they had authority from God to do so. Acts 19 demonstrated Paul’s Apostolic authority when the Ephesian converts received the sign-gifts of tongues and prophecy by the laying on of Paul’s hands. It was distinctly a sign of apostleship (2 Cor 12:12) and did not continue after the Apostles died.
As in the Old Testament examples I used above, these special powers were conveyed to a limited number of people for a limited amount of time and for a specific purpose. In Acts we see Spirit baptism among non-Jewish converts as a sign to the Church that God was making no distinction between Jews and Gentiles (Acts 10:47, 11:15-18, and 15:9), and the gift of tongues as a sign to the single generation of unbelieving Jews (1st Corinthians 14:21-22) that had betrayed and murdered their Messiah.
All believers have the Holy Spirit, dwelling in their hearts by faith (2 Corinthians 1:22, Galatians 4:6, Ephesians 3:17). Indeed it is not even possible to become a Christian unless one is born of the Holy Spirit. “Baptism in the Holy Spirit,” with accompanying signs and gifts, was a strictly first-century phenomenon with a strictly first century purpose. It was a sign of the end of the Old Covenant, superseded by the New. It was a sign of apostolic authority; and the oft-accompanying covenant sign of tongues portended the destruction of the Temple and the end of the Jewish sacrificial covenant. These were prophetic signs, warning of events that occurred in 70 AD. There was no reason for the warnings to persist after the judgment they warned about had come to pass!
When I see “signs and wonders” performed by such hucksters as Benny Hinn, Jesus’ tragic words, recorded in Matthew 7 come instantly to my mind:
Not everyone who says to Me, “Lord, Lord” will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me on that day, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophecy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?” And I will declare to them, “I never knew you; depart from Me you who practice lawlessness (Matt 7:21-23).”