This article is meant to accompany the article, Baptism of the Holy Spirit as a kind of retraction, but not an exact retraction so I didn’t want to entitle it as such. I also want to remind readers that I am still on a kind of personal break from writing new content so I can work on my own spiritual issues, but being on break does not keep people from reading content on the site or asking questions (Nor should it. I welcome anyone to ask questions or just reach out anytime). I saw that someone had read the Holy Spirit Baptism post and so I feel it’s necessary to clarify some things I have learned since writing it.
As part of my personal journey and things I am learning now, I am seeing a shift in priority in the way I approach Christians. It used to be all about doctrine and fighting falsehoods. I came out of that to a degree then became sucked back in, causing me to reevaluate Where I Stand. First and foremost, I do not want to hinder the faith of anyone who might be struggling with doubt. Secondly, I do not want to be an accuser of the brethren or a legalist.
With these things in mind, how do I approach the teaching of the Holy Spirit Baptism? For one, I do not want people who have trouble accepting this, or who have asked for the Spirit and have not received it, to feel as second-class Christians or like they are not accepted by God. I do not want to make anyone question their salvation, but rather encourage them to seek the fullness of what that salvation has to offer them. I also understand that we cannot look at things from a strict letter of the law sense.
Anytime we tell people that they must experience, perform, or believe just as we do in order to be a Christian is legalism. Of course, we need to believe the basics. Jesus is God and the Son. Jesus was killed and resurrected. Jesus is the lamb of sacrifice for remission of sin. Jesus is the only way to God. However, we often have doctrines that we hold to such a high esteem that we ostracize people from the faith if they believe differently. I believe Paul the apostle called this “doubtful disputations.” We should avoid this as much as it is possible. So, with these things in mind:
Are We Required to Experience Holy Spirit Baptism to be Saved?
The main thing I want to address is the “requirement” for the Holy Spirit baptism. Until recently, I believed that every Christian should experience something similar to what I had experienced, otherwise they would not be saved because they were not “born again.”
Since then, I have realized the error in that line of thinking. It is a kind of legalism of the Spirit. I believe that we should seek the baptism of the Holy Spirit, and I do believe that when this happens there will be evidence of this experience given to the person being filled. I do believe that simply making a declaration of faith and assuming you have the Spirit in you is an unfortunate and massive error. However, I do not believe that everyone must experience things just as I did.
For example, many will tell you that unless you spoke in tongues, you did not receive the Spirit. I do not believe that. I believe that our experience depends on which gifts of the Spirit we are being filled with. I believe our experience should be powerful and life changing, but can vary a great deal from person to person.
This is one of those things that all Christians should seek as a sign of good conscience towards God, just like the water baptism. If it makes us more like Jesus and we love him and we mean it when we call him Lord, then it’s just not something we would want to refuse. However, there are many who might not learn of this, or otherwise do not have the opportunity for one reason or another. For example, the thief on the cross had no ability to live out the Christian life, but Jesus was merciful towards him. Had he gone on to live a long life with the gospel being preached, then it might have been required of (or rather given to) him. I hope this makes sense.
We need to be careful when laying down things that “must” happened in order to be saved because we do not know the individual circumstances people face and the mercy the Lord might show them. However, if we are of sound mind and have ability, if we are not putting on a show of faith or have not been confused by things like the corruptions of the Charismatic Movement or some other issue that Jesus might respond mercifully towards, we should and would seek to experience this.
The Difference Between the Spirit “With” You and “In” You
I wrote above that simply believing that the Holy Spirit is in us does not make it so. I think there is confusion about the difference between the Spirit being with is and IN us. We know that Christians cannot declare Jesus as Lord without the Holy Spirit, right? So one might think that when they believe in Jesus, they are fulled with the Spirit. They “ask Jesus into their heart.” Right? Does this mean he is obliged to adhere to our commands? I don’t think so. That would be work based salvation.
Along with my own experience and growth, these scriptures speak to what I am thinking at this time:
Wherefore I give you to understand, that no man speaking by the Spirit of God calleth Jesus accursed: and that no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost. – 1 Corinthians 12:3
Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. – John 14:17
Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me. – Revelation 20:21
When Jesus died, his Spirit went out to the world. Those whose hearts are prepared by God to hear the gospel will hear and “accept.” At this point, Jesus dwells “with” us. However, he is knocking at the door of our hearts, and we have to open the door so that he can be “IN” us – and when this happens, we are receiving greater assurance of our salvation, and as Paul the apostle wrote, “the earnest of our inheritance.” Such an important event would come with something tangible.
It is the seed of Jesus within us, a power that provides us with the ability to overcome sin and walk after things of the Spirit. However, because of the mercy of Jesus, many do bring forth fruit and grow when they seek the Lord who is “with” them, though maybe not “in” them. I cannot say for sure what happens there; all I know is what is possible and I want to encourage Christians to get the most out of the faith so we can be more effective for the kingdom of God.
And when he was demanded of the Pharisees, when the kingdom of God should come, he answered them and said, The kingdom of God cometh not with observation: Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you. — Luke 17: 20-21
Is There a Fake Holy Spirit?
I want to touch quickly on this. I cannot say much because I know very little, but I know there are things that happen within Charismatic churches that do not seem truly Spirit led. I want to be cautious here, because I can’t say for sure what happens when people are “slain in the spirit” or have some strange “tongues” experience that seems more like confused babble than an actual language. However, I know these things greatly deter many from seeking the baptism of the Spirit and a negative social stigma is often associated with those who believe in the present activity and power of the Spirit today.
So, though I cannot say much about what is happening in these cases that seem off to myself and many others, I do want to say that I hope these things will not keep you from something that is real and is of God. Is there a false Holy Spirit as some claim? I do not know. I do know we are told to test the spirits. I also know that we should look at the fruit being shown. I also know that you do not have to have hands laid on you to receive the Spirit, and there is no special steps to take. Just ask. I also know that Jesus rewards those who seek him diligently, and it’s not uncommon for us to ask him for many years before the Spirit is given – and with power, as I still believe to be true. Power to overcome sin. Power to understand the bible. Power to have greater faith. Power to speak in tongues – there are many things we might see as “fruit” of this event.
In any case, I do believe it to be something that changes your life towards seeking Jesus and placing him as Lord of your life—not just in word—but in deed and change of nature from one who brings death to one who brings life through he who is Life.