Spiritual Gifts

From a question about Speaking in Tongues presented on January 26, 2006.

Continuing Answer
There are two ways by which this gift is thought to be received. First, the gift is given subsequent to salvation. In some denominations one must speak in tongues (a gift listed in 1 Cor. 12) as the initial evidence that the Gift of the Holy Spirit has been received. We must remember that the idea of a second work of the Spirit has its roots in the Wesley Revival and serves as the basic foundation for the teaching among modern Pentecostals who find their roots in Wesley.

It should be noted for clarity that the language filled with the Spirit in Acts 2 is identical to the language in Luke 1 and Acts 4.31. The conclusion you can draw is that subsequent is not a theological mindset, but is arrived at either because of our experience or the experiences of others. It is a good idea to allow Scripture to nudge our presuppositions toward a more theological mindset, as we consider any topic in Scripture. Subsequent does not seem to be in the mind or heart of God. Second, the Gift of the Holy Spirit is given at conversion. In an article by Clark Pinnock in Perspectives on the new Pentecostalism edited by Dr. Russ Spittler, (186) he says, “Baptism is a flexible metaphor, not a technical term. Luke seems to regard it as synonymous with wholeness (Acts 2.4, cf 11.16). Therefore, so long as we recognize conversion as truly a baptism in the Spirit, there is no reason why we cannot use baptism to refer to subsequent fillings of the Spirit as well. This major experience or experiences ought not to be tied down in a tight second blessing schema, but should be seen as an actualization of what we have already received in the initial charismatic experience which is conversion.” The focus of this statement suggests that conversion is the first baptism in the Spirit and that there are many baptisms which will follow. All of these continuing experiences are only an actualization of what was completely given at conversion. This understanding provides us with liberating knowledge: there are no second-class believers, some who have and some who have-not.

When you go shopping at a supermarket to buy food, there is often no difference in some of the foods available except the label and price. The ingredients are the same and even the taste is the same. Some of us are given to purchasing only labels while others purchase content. Baptism in the Spirit is a label. In Fire and the Fireplace, Hummel says, “The Church often faces the problem of the medicine bottle and its label. It is possible for a person’s experience of God to be better than his doctrinal explanation of it. Unfortunately, the reverse can be true. Orthodox theology is often affirmed with little Christian character and service. Good medicine may be incorrectly labeled, while an accurate label can adorn an empty bottle” (185). We spend far too much time debating over the phraseology of this gift and too little time reaping the benefits of the gift. We have to call this experience something and we have all sorts of Christianese at our disposal. We could call it baptism, infilling, empowerment, a special touch, being zapped, overwhelmed, or any number of other metaphors. For Paul and Luke it seems clear that one baptism, many fillings is an adequate way to understand this gift. In the book of Acts there is no one model for how an individual comes to fellowship with God through Jesus. There is no specific sequence of events lined out for everyone to follow. What one can say is that the Spirit blows where he desires. Russ Spittler says, “Completeness and not subsequence strikes me as a better category by which to understand the arrival of the Spirit in Acts” (Reflections…. 5).

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