Thursday, August 16, 2007

Confusing the Gift with His Gifts

A modern and "safe" approach to the baptism in the Holy Ghost is to confuse the Gift with His gifts.

When the baptism in the Holy Ghost revisited the Church in a powerful way in 1906, and onward, the resistance from disbelieving Protestant churches was in the form of this objection, that this, along with healing, miracles, etc, passed away with the Apostles. This failed, however, to prevent the global revival promoted by Pentecostals, and Pentecostalism. Since then, Pentecostalism has made deep inroads into Mexico, Central, and South America-traditionally held by Roman Catholicism, and has spread around the world in continents as diverse as Africa and Asia.

Today, however, there is a new attempt by disbelieving circles to quell, if not quench the fires of Pentecost. This view has a wider audience then the Protestant denominations, but embraces much of evangelicalism, as well as Charismatic Christianity. In fact this view has come to define the Charismatic movement, separating it, at least in its approach to Pentecostal gifts, and Holy Ghost baptism.

Before we look at this view, what is the traditional approach to the baptism in the Holy Ghost held to by Pentecostals? Before we answer, we have to exclude from this consideration the Oneness Pentecostals of the Apostolic denomination. Their theology differs from most Pentecostals on the fundamental levels of the nature of deity: their denial of the Threeness of Persons; and the nature of salvation: their insistence on "Jesus' name only" water baptism, and the Holy Ghost baptism as some necessary "third step" toward salvation, (as if the cross or belief in Jesus were not enough).

Pentecostals believe that the baptism of the Holy Ghost, as promised by John the Baptist, and the Lord Jesus Christ (Jn 1.33; Acts 1.4-5), is a second gift from God, salvation in Christ being the first. And to be sure, the Holy Ghost Himself is that Gift, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.- Acts 2.38; and, ...that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost.- 10.45b. The evidence of having received this Gift is the speaking in other tongues. This is attested to by several verses of Scripture. We will cite a few examples:
1) The 120 believers- And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.- Acts 2:4.
2) The believers of Samaria (though here the evidence is inferred)- Now when the apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John: who, when they were come down, prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Ghost: (for as yet he was not fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.) Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost. And when Simon saw that through laying on of the apostles' hands the Holy Ghost was given, he offered them money.- 8.14-18.
3) The Gentiles of Cornelius' household- While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word. And they which were of the circumcision were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost. For they heard them speak with tongues and magnify God.- 10:44-46a.
4) The twelve believers at Ephesus- He said unto them, Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed? And they said unto him, We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost...And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Ghost came on them; and they spake with tongues and prophesied.- 19:2, 6.

The view held to by today's post modern churches, those who adhere to a "safer" approach to the baptism of the Holy Spirit, is this that "tongues" are one of the gifts of the Spirit, Whom we all have any way, and all speak with tongues?- 1Cor 12.30. And to be sure, this passage refers to a "gift" of tongues. But here is the crux of the matter. For here we can see in the text which so many twist, and distort to their own interpretations, that actually there a difference emerges between the Gift Who is the Holy Ghost, and the nine gifts that He gives. Lets observe the language of the following texts: Now there are diversity of gifts, but the same Spirit...But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal. For to one is given by the Spirit...diverse kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues...Have all the gifts of healing? do all speak with tongues? do all interpret? But covet earnestly the best gifts- 1Cor 12.4, 7-8a, 10b, 30-31a.

And so the Holy Spirit Himself is the Gift after salvation, and to receive Him is evidenced by speaking in other tongues. This has been the experience of millions of Spirit baptized people the world over since 1906. The confusion comes by assuming that whoever believes on Christ has the Holy Spirit too. And, as they think, how dare we assume otherwise. But there is a confusion in their thinking toward this text, But ye 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. And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteouness.- Rom 8.9-10. The Greek text shows a difference here between three references to 'spirit': the Spirit that belongs to God, which will determine whether a believer is in the flesh or Spirit; the Spirit that belongs to Christ, which will determine whether or not we even belong to Christ; and the human spirit, as there is no Greek possesive suffix (-ou) attached to the last instance of pneuma-spirit in the text above. This last instance should not have been capitalized by the translators. Oh well, sorry KJV only people- But this human spirit is alive with zoe-eternal life because of its state of righteousness.
Thus, fundamentally, what is at issue is, Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed?- Acts 19.2b. The question would've been a moot point if matter-of-fact everyone who believes receives the Holy Spirit. True, all believers, if they are that, have the Spirit of Christ, which is to say, they have Christ. And equally true that their spirit is alive for eternity with God's life because of the righteousness they enjoy by faith. But if they already had the Holy Spirit, then why would Jerusalem send Peter and John to the Samaritan new believers? And why would Paul ask such a question of whom he assumed were Christians in Ephesus?
The Holy Spirit Himself is the Gift, and when He comes upon us in Pentecostal baptism, we speak in other tongues as evidence of receiving that Gift. Then with Him, comes at least nine gifts, prophetic tongues, diversity of tongues, and their interpretations are some of the gifts He gives as He wills according to our position or calling within the Body of Christ. So then not all will manifest the same gifts in the Church at every given moment
Let us not then confuse the Gift and His gifts.