Recently a man to whom I had given one of my books, God’s Solutions to Life’s Problems, asked me the following question and since it is a question that is very relevant in many parts of the world but especially in South Africa I decided to include the question and my answer in one of my blogs. I do not claim that my answer is as comprehensive as it might be, but I do believe it is a biblical answer to the question my friend asked. So here goes.
Question: Do you believe that subsequent to being born again and after having received the indwelling Spirit, that the ‘baptism in the Holy Spirit’ (as described in Acts chapter 2 and elsewhere in Acts) is ESSENTIAL for every Christian in order to witness and minister effectively?
Answer: My personal conviction based on I Corinthians 12:13; John 1:33; Luke 3:16; Mark 1:8; Acts 1:5; Acts 2:38; Acts 11:16 is that a person is baptized in the Holy Spirit at the time of his new birth. He doesn’t get Jesus on the installment plan (i.e., he doesn’t get part of Jesus; he gets all of Him at the time of his new birth) and he doesn’t get the Spirit on the installment plan either (part of Him then and another installment later). The Spirit baptizes us into the body of Christ and comes to dwell in us at the time of the new birth and in connection with our repentance and faith. Romans 8:9 tells us that if a person doesn’t have the Spirit of Christ, he doesn’t belong to Christ. To be baptized in the Spirit means that we are enveloped, immersed in the Holy Spirit. All of Him comes to dwell in us. It’s not that some people have a bucket full of the Spirit and others have an ocean of the Spirit. He unites us and identifies us with Christ and with the body of Christ. And as such according to I Corinthians 12 He gives different gifts (different abilities to be used for the glory of God and the good of God’s people). This, of course, means that some (depending on the gifts they have been given) will be equipped to be more effective in one area of ministry than others, In fact, according to I Corinthians 12, it means that some who have the same gift or gifts will be more effective than others who have the same gift(s).
It’s true that some people are are more under the control of the Spirit who is in them and others are less under that control, i.e., they submit themselves to the will of the Spirit as found in His Word and are consciously dependent on the Spirit who is in them. This is what the Bible calls the filling of the Spirit. What then is the filling of the Spirit and how does it relate to the baptism of the Spirit? Well, when Ephesians 5:18ff is connected with Colossians 3:16ff we see that to be filled with the Spirit is to be filled with God’s Word. So, to be filled with the Spirit is the same as being filled with the Word of God. Both of these expressions mean that we allow ourselves to be under the control of the Word of God (i.e., our actions, thoughts, desires, words are in accordance with the desire and power of the Holy Spirit who is the author of the Word of God – 2 Peter 1:20, 21). In a sense, it doesn’t mean that we get more of the Spirit; it means that He gets more of us as we surrender, trust, obey and depend on Him. To be baptized is really a once for all thing which happens when a person becomes a Christian. However, the filling of the Spirit is something that may take place on numerous occasions depending on our becoming aware of areas of our lives (thoughts, desires, behaviors, activities, etc.) that should be and need be placed under the Spirit’s control. This filling can happen again and again in that as we grow in the Christian life God opens our understanding of areas in which we have not been living in obedience to His Word (i.e., areas in which we have not been living in the way the Spirit wants us to live, areas that we have not consciously been under the control (been filled) with the Holy Spirit. (I think you will find chapter 10 of our book God’s Solutions to Life’s Problems helpful in respect to this subject. There are also some chapters in our book Life in the Father’s House that deal with the subject of Spirit given gifts.)
Obviously, if as I am convinced it is, the baptism of the Spirit occurs at the time of the new birth and in connection with a person repenting and believing on Christ, the answer to your question about whether the baptism is necessary for a person to be effective in witnessing and ministering is what we call a “no brainer.” If salvation and being baptized by the Spirit are part of the same package, the question – does a person have to be a Christian to be effective in witnessing and ministering is really the same question. The answer obviously is “yes”. God may, for His own purposes, use someone who is not a Christian as a witness and in ministry, but that is not His usual way of doing it and we have no biblically based reason for thinking that He will do it that way.
One more thing, in your question you asked, Is ”the ‘baptism in the Holy Spirit’ (as described in Acts chapter 2 and elsewhere in Acts) is ESSENTIAL for every Christian in order to witness and minister effectively?” By the words “As described in Acts chapter 2” I’m assuming you are referring to the speaking in tongues issue? I’m not going to take up a lot of space to answer this question. There are whole books that have been written on this issue, one of them being a fine book by John MacArthur. Briefly, let me say that the Greek word used here and elsewhere in the Bible for speaking in tongues is a word used to describe actual languages, not some unintelligible kind of vocal sounds. There were people who spoke many different languages from many parts of the world in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost and the early Christians were given the ability to communicate to these people in their own languages. Also I would encourage you to compare what Ephesians 5:18 – 6:19 and Colossians 3:16 – 4:6 mention as evidences of the filling of the Spirit. Speaking in Psalms, and hymns and spiritual songs, giving thanks are mentioned as evidences or results of the filling of the Spirit, but speaking in tongues is never once mentioned.