Spirit Baptism is a doctrine on which entire movements in the Body of Christ are established while being totally ignored or mentioned in passing by other parts. While it is not among the essentials mentioned by Augustine when he said “In essentials, unity. In non-essentials, liberty. In all things, love”, the belief in a second baptism and the resulting display of charisms can become a divisive issue. After recently sharing worship and fellowship with a Pentecostal church in which the gift of tongues was practiced, I’ve been moved to do a series of posts on this doctrine. I’ll look at how various groups within the Church view the work of the Holy Spirit and specifically, how they view the belief in a second Spirit Baptism.
As with all things, it’s important to define terms. Pentecostal and Charismatic are often lumped together but there are important differences that all should recognize in terms of how they view Spirit Baptism and the practice of the spiritual gifts. Pentecostals trace their lineage back to the lat 1800’s or early 1900’s in either the U.K. (Keswick) or the United States (Topeka, Kansas) depending on their historical reach. This movement holds to the doctrines of a second baptism in the Holy Spirit subsequent to conversion, evidence of that baptism through the practice of glossolalia (the Gift of Tongues), and the pursuit and practice of all of the spiritual gifts mentioned in the Bible. Charismatic congregations are a more recent addition to the Body, forming during the charismatic renewal of the 1960s and 1970s. These brothers and sisters seek to practice all of the spiritual gifts mentioned in Scripture including prophecy, healing, miracles, tongues, interpretation, and distinguishing between spirits. They differ among churches on their positions on Spirit Baptism. A third movement has appeared on the scene since the 1980s led by C. Peter Wagner that is often labeled the “third wave.” While spiritual gifts are the focus of this movement, their position on Spirit Baptism is that it is a common event for all Christians and occurs at the moment of conversion.
Spirit Baptism is defined as a dramatic second experience that occurs after a Christian’s initial conversion. Following a water baptism of repentance, this second baptism results for the believer in a new infusion of spiritual gifts, most frequently the gift of tongues. Scripturally, it is supported by John 20:22 which tells of Jesus’ post-resurrection appearance and reads:
And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”
and verses in Acts such as 1:4-5:
On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have hear me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”
The namesake event occurs after the disciples had obeyed Jesus and waited in Jerusalem for ten days. On the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:3-4):
They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.
This event is linked to the gifts of the Holy Spirit mentioned in 1 Corinthians 12.
Should all Christians be reading these passages as normative? How should we consider the experiences of those who claim a second baptism? Glossolalia? We’ll explore these questions and many others in the weeks to come.