part three

BORN AND BAPTIZED OF THE SPIRIT

 

BORN OF THE SPIRIT

 

The Holy Spirit convicts of sin, reveals Christ, draws us to Christ, and bears witness to our spirit when Christ comes to dwell among us. Still, the Holy Spirit does not speak of himself. In all of these ministries, he works quietly and anonymously. Even when he bears witness to man's conversion, he has still not drawn the attention to himself. He has, as Jesus said, glorified him, and made us aware that we are indeed children of God through the salvation provided by Jesus.

Puzzled by what he had heard Jesus teach, a religious man named Nicodemus came to Jesus at night. He wanted to make inquiries into the meaning of Christ's words. Again, Jesus spoke using metaphor to explain the significance of his message.

Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, 'You must be born again.' I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again. (John 3:6, 7, 3)

 

BAPTIZED IN THE HOLY SPIRIT

 

While Christ clearly explained the work of the Holy Spirit in bringing us into the full experience of spiritual birth (what he meant when he said, 'born again'), he also spoke of being baptized in the Holy Spirit. This terminology was used first by John the Baptist, who told his followers as they gathered along the river bank,

I indeed baptize you with water. But one more powerful than I will come . . . He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. (Luke 3:16)

It was not until Christ neared the end of his own earthly ministry, that he acknowledged John's announcement. He told his followers,

John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy spirit. (Acts 1:5)

Some time after Jesus had returned to his Father, Peter visited the house of a man named Cornelius. He called to mind what Jesus had taught, and commented to those gathered in the house,

I remember what the Lord said: John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit. (Acts 11:16)

 

THE NEED FOR POWER

 

What exactly was the meaning of being baptized in the Holy Spirit? Jesus indicated to his followers that such an experience would give them new power - to overcome temptation and live more Godly, Christ-centered lives. Paul often wrote of the weakness of humankind, and our inherent inability to follow God's laws.

Even today this seems strikingly clear: we need more than advice, we need power. The baptism in the Holy Spirit gave Peter that which he lacked before that experience on the feast day called Pentecost. Examining the unique events that took place during the celebration of Pentecost provides us with a vivid insight into the significance of "Spirit baptism."

Prior to the "Pentecost" experience, Peter was a boastful and impetuous man. Most of the time, he seemed to say and do the wrong or inappropriate thing. His actions and his words were always getting him into trouble. All four gospels record the tumultuous events in Jerusalem during Christ's final visit to the holy city. Judas, blinded by greed, and beguiled by evil, had betrayed Jesus to the temple guards. On grounds that were vague and without warrant, Jesus was arrested.

Hours before Christ's apprehension in the garden on the Mount of Olives, Jesus attempted to tell his disciples what was about to happen. At their last supper together, he shared with them the very imminence of his betrayal. But Peter would not hear it. Adamantly he declared how unshakable was his fidelity, saying,

Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death. (Luke 22:33)

That same night, however, Peter was confronted by a servant girl as he warmed himself by an open fire. Jesus had been arrested. The disciples had all been scattered into hiding. Judas had committed suicide. So soon Peter forgot his boasting. His heart crumbled with fear when the girl demanded,

Are you not one of Jesus' disciples? (John 18:17)

Matthew records that Peter denied his knowledge of Jesus with curses and blasphemies. (Matthew 26:74)

But a new day was approaching the horizon. Only a few days separated that dreadful night of sorrow from that glorious day during Pentecost. The followers of Jesus gathered in an upstairs room to pray and ask for divine help. The writer of the Acts describes them as "...being all of one mind."

How can one describe what happened on that day? Surely, our words fall short of those hours of glory. Discouraged and still filled with sorrow, these men and women awaited the promise made to them by the Master whom they loved. Undeniably, they must have felt unified in their love for Christ, just as they clung resolutely to the covenant he had birthed in their hearts.

Into this room something came that was unlike anything they might have expected, and surely more fantastic than anything they had ever known - the sound of a "rushing wind" and "flames of fire" above their heads. Each began to praise God with new voices of praise. A great visitation of the Holy Spirit was experienced by all 120 who had assembled. The promised "Spirit baptism" had come.

Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, was transformed into a very different person. The same man who had cowered from the taunts of a servant girl, now was able to stand before great numbers of people and speak boldly of his faith in Christ. When the temple leaders brought the disciples before them, we read that Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them,

Know this, you and all the people of Israel; It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified . . . Salvation is found in no one else. (Acts 4:8, 10, 12)

It was the baptism in the Holy Spirit that had made the difference in Peter's life, even as we read:

They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly . . . and with great power. (Acts 4:31, 33)

 

OVERCOMING THE EVIL ONE

 

It is made very clear throughout the scriptures that since Eden's garden, the two forces of God and Satan have been engaged a dreadful conflict that takes place in a world fallen under the dominion of Satan. We have noted that Jesus spoke of Satan as,

,,,the ruler of this world comes...but he has no power over me. (John 14:30)

Christ also called Satan the "prince of this world," and Paul the apostle referred to him as the "god of this world." (2 Corinthians 4:3)

When Adam chose to follow Satan in those primordial hours in the Garden of Eden, he lost his place of authority to Satan, and all of humankind that has followed has been born into an earthly kingdom under Satan's jurisdiction. All through the centuries, prior to the coming of Jesus, human history had endured a constant state of Satanic siege. The prophet Zechariah received this vision in 520 B.C.:

God showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the Lord, and Satan standing at his right hand to resist him. (Zechariah 3:1)

Left here on earth without the Holy Spirit's power, such a reality would overwhelm us with ominous and terrifying darkness. Like the disciples before Pentecost, wew would be scattered and in disarray. The apostle Paul makes it clear that Holy Spirit baptism is not given merely to enable us to overcome our own human weaknesses, but also to overcome the very present power of Satan. Standing on trial before the king, Paul spoke of how God had called him to turn from darkness to light, escaping

"...from the power of Satan to God." (Acts 26:18)

Paul realized that for centuries the minds of men and women had been blinded by Satan. He wrote:

If our gospel is hid, it is hid to those who are perishing. The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ. (2 Corinthians 4:3, 4) The apostle could also recall how God sent the devout Ananias to minister to him during those first hours following his conversion. Ananias laid his hands on Paul so that he might

...receive the Holy Spirit, and fulfill the ministry to which he was called...to open men's eyes and turn them from darkness to light. (Acts 26:18)

In his letter to the new believers at Ephesus, Paul would add...

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the spiritual forces of evil. (Ephesians 6:12)

Instead of fear of a powerful adversary, the believer is set free. The chains of dread are broken. In his letter to the Romans, the apostle wrote,

As many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God...You have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear. (Romans 8:14, 15)

God promised he would never leave nor forsake his people. Paul writes to the Hebrew believers,

We may now boldly say, the Lord is my helper, I will not fear what man shall do unto me. (Hebrews 13:6)

Paul certainly knew many occasions when fear would could have undermined his confidence. He traveled the known world, constantly in danger, his life threatened for what he believed. His list of enemies was long. In the city of Lystra, they stoned Paul and threw him out of the city supposing that they had killed him. Some might have fled, but Paul chose to return to the city. Later, he would visit Lystra again, bringing his friend Silas with him to testify of the loveof Jesus that could not be suppressed with words or stones.

In Philippi, Paul was thrown into a dungeon. This time a divinely timed earthquake allowed him to escape unharmed. When called before the magistrate, he was told to, "Depart and go in peace." But Paul answered, saying,

They have beaten us openly, without proper trial, being Romans, and have cast us into prison; and now, do they thrust us out secretly? Let them come themselves, and release us openly. (Acts 16:37)

As we look at the record of Paul's ministry as described by Luke, his frequent companion, there is no evidence that Paul knew what it was to fear neither men nor devils. Neither demons nor dungeons, whipe, stones or mobs would deter him.

Paradoxically, it seems at first, Paul writes to the Corinthian believers that,

I was with you in fear. (1 Corinthians 2:3)

But the fear that troubled Paul was not of oppression or bonds. Paul feared that the new converts that he saw come "into the kingdom" would place their faith in him, or in man's wisdom, and not in the power of God. He writes,

My preaching was not with enticing words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: that your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God...For the kingdom of God is not in word, but in power. (1 Corinthians 2:4, 5; 4:10)

A highly educated man, Paul knew that for centuries humankind had enjoyed access to philosophers and sages capable of offering sound advice. In spite of this combined wisdom, human beings had not been able to follow this advice due to the weakness of the flesh. History records the lives of countless well-meaning men and women who attempted to guide their nations correctly. Ultimately, however, they had not been able even to live their own lives as they longed, and many lives and destinies were derailed by the power of Satan. Paul spoke of the enemy as on,

...who has taken men captive to do his will. (2 Timothy 2:26)

Thankfully, Paul's message was more than advice, more than a pocket guide to some kind of a "do-it-yourself" spirituality. The message of the apostle was nothing short of a living demonstration of God's power. God performed extraordinary miracles through Paul, so that even the handkerchiefs and aprons that had touched him were talen and placed on the fevered brows of the sick, and their illnesses were cured, and the evil spirits left them. (Acts 19:11)

Paul wanted his followers to know this same power of the Holy Spirit. Paul's only fear was, that their faith would rest in the wisdom of their own imaginations, instead of in the power of God. (1 Corinthians 2:5)

 

SPIRITUAL FOOD

 

We exist in a constant state of duality on this earth. On one hand, we must fulfill our physical needs. We sleep to regain strength, and eat when we are hungry. The apostle states,

There is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. (1 Corinthians 15:44)

On the other hand, just as the physical man demands natural food for vitality, so the spiritual man, or inner man, must have spiritual food and drink. Paul speaks of

...those who eat the same spiritual food and drink the same spiritual drink. (1 Corinthians 10:3)

In the Temple at Jerusalem, Jesus reiterated the statements he had made to the Samaritan women. John records them as follows:

If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. (John 7:37, 39)

Equally, there were many instances when Jesus likened the Holy Spirit to food, saying, for example:

Which of you fathers, if your son asks for bread will he give him a stone? or if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him! (Luke 11:11-13)

 

Continue to Part Four

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