Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The Charismatic Movement: A Biblical Critique (Baptism of Holy Spirit)


The Charismatic movement is one of the most popular and growing forces within Christendom today. The major doctrinal distinctives of the Charismatic movement—the baptism in the Holy Spirit, tongues-speaking, prophecy, the gift of healing and the emphasis on having a personal experience—are primary reasons for the movement’s growth and popularity. While growth and popularity are certainly desirable, they cannot be used as a test for truth-claims, because various cults (e.g., Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons) and false religions (e.g., Islam, Eastern mysticism) have also witnessed great popularity and growth. The Charismatic movement is a twentieth-century phenomenon. Since the teachings and practices of the Charismatic movement are different than what orthodox Christians have taught for 19 centuries, we believe it is wise to examine these teachings under the light of Scripture. We are not saying that Charismatics are not Christians. And we are not examining their distinctives because we dislike Charismatics personally (the author was a Charismatic for over three years, and many of his friends are still Charismatic). God commands us to “Test all things; hold fast what is good” (1 Th. 5:21 [1]). We are commanded to “hold fast the faithful word” and “refute those who contradict” (Tit. 1:9 NASB). Thus, we offer this booklet in the spirit of Christian love—love for our brethren, and above all, love for God’s truth. In examining any issue, the most important question is, “What saith the scripture?” (Gal. 4:30 KJV).

Baptism in the Holy Spirit

One of the hallmarks of the Charismatic movement is what is called Spirit-baptism or the “baptism in the Holy Spirit.” The baptism in the Holy Spirit is regarded as an experience that usually happens after conversion. Most Charismatics would say that at conversion a Christian receives the Holy Spirit. But only at the subsequent baptism in the Holy Spirit does the Christian receive the fullness of the Spirit, the full empowerment for Christian service. Many but not all Charismatics believe that Spirit-baptism is always accompanied with the gift of speaking in tongues as evidence for the baptism. Spirit-baptism is considered a second work of grace; that is, one can be a genuine Christian yet not be baptized in the Holy Spirit. The baptism of the Holy Spirit as a second work of grace after conversion is the cornerstone of Pentecostal theology. If this doctrine is unbiblical, we should regard the Charismatic movement as unbiblical.
The Bible is the only infallible rule for faith and practice. Thus, our experiences, impressions and feelings must be subordinated to what the Bible teaches. Does the Bible teach that every Christian should seek the baptism in the Spirit? Or does the Bible teach that the outpouring of the Spirit was a unique historical event related to Christ’s enthronement at the right hand of God the Father? If the outpouring was a crucial aspect of salvation history (like the resurrection and ascension), then we must regard it as a non-repeatable, once-for-all event. Pentecost marked “the final transition from the old era of shadows and types to the new era of fulfillment. Pentecost was the birthday of the Christian church, the beginning of the age of the Spirit. In this sense, therefore, Pentecost can never be repeated, and does not need to be repeated.” [2]
The first reason that Pentecost should be regarded as a unique historical event in salvation history is the fact that the outpouring of the Spirit was a prophesied event. Peter specifically says that Pentecost is the direct fulfillment of Joel 2:28-32: “This is what was spoken by the prophet Joel.” John the Baptist said of Christ, “This is He who baptizes with the Holy Spirit” (Jn. 1:33; cf. Mk. 1:7-8, Lk. 3:16). Jesus Himself said that the Spirit would be poured out after His ascension: “It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you” (Jn. 16:7; cf. Ac. 1:5).
The second reason Pentecost should be regarded as a unique historical event is the way Scripture connects Pentecost with Christ’s glorification or enthronement at the right hand of God. Jesus Christ, as the divine-human mediator, humbled Himself, obeyed the law in exhaustive detail, and suffered and died as a vicarious atonement for the sins of His people. After His resurrection, God exalted Christ and glorified Him as the divine-human mediator (in His divine nature, Christ could not receive any more glory or exaltation, because He was God). An aspect of Christ’s glorification is His baptizing His church with the Holy Spirit. “But this He spoke of the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were to receive; for the Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified” (Jn. 7:39). In his sermon on the day of Pentecost, Peter explains what occurred: “Therefore being exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He [Christ] poured out this which you now see and hear” (Ac. 2:33). The participles “being exalted” and “having received” are both aorist [3]; the verb “poured out” is also aorist. Thus it is evident that Peter was talking about a historical fact not an ongoing process. Christ’s death, resurrection, ascension and pouring out of the Holy Spirit on the church are all treated in Scripture as historical events in salvation-history, never to be repeated.
The third reason Pentecost must be regarded as a unique historical event is the fact that after Pentecost (with the exception of Ac. 8:14-17, which will be discussed later) believing in Christ and receiving the Holy Spirit are simultaneous. The account of Peter’s preaching the gospel to the Gentiles in Acts 10:34-48 reveals that the Gentiles received the Holy Spirit the moment they believed. At the climax of Peter’s sermon, the Gentiles received the Holy Spirit. That Peter equated their baptism in the Spirit with their salvation is clear from the fact that Peter immediately “commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord” (Ac. 10:48). “The norm is salvation and the Spirit at the same time. The Apostle Peter was present and therefore he could report to the church council (made up of Jews) that the Gentiles were true believers. At the same time, the Gentiles would recognize apostolic authority because Peter had been with them and indeed [was] the one who led them to Christ. And both groups knew they had the same Holy Spirit.” [4] Note that the focus of Acts 10 and 11 is not how to receive the Holy Spirit or how to receive a second blessing, for the Gentiles did not ask for or seek Spirit-baptism. The point of both chapters is to show that “God has also granted to the Gentiles repentance to life” (Ac. 11:18).
A passage which has been often used as a proof text for receiving Spirit-baptism subsequent to believing is Acts 19:1-7. The use of this passage by Pentecostals is based on a faulty translation in the King James Version: “Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed?” (v. 2). The passage literally says in the Greek, “The Holy Spirit did you receive, having believed?” The New King James accurately translates the passage: “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” This passage is actually an excellent proof text against the Charismatic doctrine of receiving the Holy Spirit as a second work of grace after salvation. Why? Because Paul’s question assumes that in the normal course of events, salvation and Spirit-baptism occur at the same time. The fact that the disciples of John the Baptist had not even heard of the Holy Spirit indicated that they had not received Christian baptism and were still Old Covenant believers and not yet Christians. The problem for these followers of John the Baptist was not that they needed a second work of grace but that they needed to believe in Jesus Christ. After believing and being baptized they were baptized with the Holy Spirit. Why was it necessary for the Apostle Paul to lay hands on these men? The laying on of hands in Acts 19:6 (like that in Ac. 8:17) is related to the unique authority of the apostles. Otherwise there would have been no need for the Samaritans to wait for the apostles (Ac. 8). “It seems he did it to show them as Jews that it was no longer John the Baptist’s teaching they were to follow but the teaching of the Apostles.” [5]
What about Acts 8:14-17? Does not this passage record that the Samaritans received the Holy Spirit after believing in Christ? Yes, it does. But this passage still does not support the Charismatic doctrine of subsequence as a normal state of affairs. This passage is an excellent proof text against the Charismatic movement. For if what Charismatics teach is true, the evangelist Philip would have encouraged these new believers to pray and seek the second blessing. Philip, who was a great miracle worker (unlike modern Charismatics), did not teach anyone to seek, or plead, or empty himself in order to receive Spirit-baptism. The fact that God did not baptize the Samaritans with the Holy Spirit until the laying on of the hands of the apostles is clearly due to the unique historical situation at that time. Because of the racial hatred between the Samaritans and Jews, it was necessary for both the Jewish apostles and the Samaritans that the laying on of hands take place. The apostles approved the Samaritans as accepted by God in Christ and full partners in the kingdom. The Samaritans recognized that the Jewish apostles were the authoritative leaders in the church. If this passage were normative for the modern church, then we should teach that all believers must wait for the laying on of hands by an apostle before receiving Spirit-baptism. Thus, the only passage which could be used to support a doctrine of Spirit-baptism as a second work of grace after salvation proves too much. If Charismatics were consistent, they would not seek Holy Spirit-baptism but simply wait for an apostle to stop by. The last genuine apostle died almost 1900 years ago.
Not only does the book of Acts not support the Charismatic doctrine of subsequence, the epistles explicitly deny such a doctrine. “For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free—and have all been made to drink into one Spirit” (1 Cor. 12:13). Paul says that all Christians have been baptized in the Spirit. “You don’t need to seek a Spirit-baptism as a post-conversion experience, Paul is saying to the Corinthians and to us; if you are in Christ, you have already been Spirit-baptized!” [6] Some Charismatic writers have attempted to circumvent the clear teaching of this passage by an appeal to the Word “by” in the KJV. They argue that “by one Spirit” is different than “in one Spirit.” The only problem with this argument is that the Greek word en (translated “by” in v. 13) can also be translated “in” or “with.” Thus the baptism in the Spirit in 1 Corinthians 12:13 is identical to every occurrence in the book of Acts. [7] Other Charismatic writers claim that the first part of the passage refers to conversion and the second part to Spirit-baptism. This interpretation is rendered impossible by Paul’s use of the word “all.” Paul says that all members belong to one body. If Paul was referring to two separate groups, he could not have used the word “all.” “Verse 13, then, plainly teaches (1) that all believers share in the gift of the Spirit and (2) that they do so from the time of their incorporation into the body of Christ. This verse is the hard rock which shatters all constructions of the Holy Spirit baptism as an additional, post-conversion, second-blessing experience”  [8]
The teaching that all Christians are baptized in the Holy Spirit at conversion is supported by other passages. Paul spends much of Romans chapter 8 discussing the Holy Spirit. Does Paul ever hint at the idea that receiving the Holy Spirit is a two-stage process? No. Paul clearly says that if you are a Christian, you have the Holy Spirit. If you are not a Christian, you don’t. “Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His” (Rom. 8:9). “To suggest, as our neo-Pentecostal friends do, that the Spirit comes into one’s life only in a small trickle when one is first converted and does not come in His totality until some later time contradicts the plain teaching of this verse. If you’re a Christian, Paul says to us all, the Spirit is dwelling in you. What more can He do than dwell? Can He double-dwell or triple-dwell?” [9] Paul says, “Your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you” (1 Cor. 6:19). He also says, “You are the temple of the living God. As God has said: ‘I will dwell in them...’” (1 Cor. 6:16). We must base our doctrine of Spirit-baptism on the plain teaching of the epistles. Doctrine must be based on the clear, didactic passages rather than on a unique historical event.
While the Bible teaches that everyone who becomes a Christian is baptized in the Holy Spirit, it also teaches that Christians need to be continually filled with the Spirit. We must not confuse these two concepts. Spirit-baptism refers to what occurs when we become part of the body of Christ (the Holy Spirit dwells within us). The filling or fullness of the Spirit refers to the Spirit’s ongoing activity within the believer after conversion. Believers are dependant on the Holy Spirit’s transforming power for growth in godliness and sanctification. The only passage in the New Testament where Christians are commanded to be filled with the Holy Spirit is Ephesians 5:18: “Be filled with the Spirit.” The verb “be filled,” in the original language, is a command (imperative) in the present tense. This means that Christians are commanded to continually, day by day, be filled with the Spirit. How are we to be filled with the Holy Spirit? Is it some mystical experience only for “super-spiritual” believers? The Bible teaches that we are filled with the Holy Spirit by believing in and obeying the Word of God.
You should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind.... But you have not so learned Christ, if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus: that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness (Eph. 4:17, 20-24).
It is not an accident that the parallel passage to Ephesians 5:18, which says, “Be filled with the Spirit,” is Colossians 3:16, which says, “Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly.”
In view of the parallelism involved we are bound to conclude that filling of the Spirit and the richly indwelling Word of Christ are functionally equivalent. That indwelling Word is not some specialized or restricted truth granted only to some in the congregation but “everything I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:20), faithfully believed and obeyed.... The reality of the Spirit’s filling work is the reality, in all its breadth and richness, of the ongoing working of Christ, the life-giving Spirit, with His Word. To look for some word other than His Word, now inscripturated for the church, is to be seeking some Spirit other than the Holy Spirit. [10]
Jesus stressed the importance of the Scriptures: “Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth” (Jn. 17:17).
Charismatics teach that believing in Jesus Christ is not enough for the fulfilled Christian life. They believe that a second work of grace (the baptism in the Holy Spirit) is necessary for spiritual fullness. This teaching is a subtle denial of the sufficiency that we have in Christ; it detracts from the glory due to Jesus Christ and clearly contradicts Paul’s teaching regarding the fullness we have in Christ. “For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; and you are complete in Him...” (Col. 3:9-10). “The work of the Spirit is not some addendum to the work of Christ.... The Spirit’s work is not a ‘bonus’ added to the basic salvation secured by Christ. Rather, the coming of the Spirit brings to light not only that Christ has lived and has done certain things but that he, as the source of eschatological life, now lives and is at work in the church. By and in the Spirit Christ reveals himself as present.” [11] Paul’s teaching is supported by Peter’s: “[Christ’s] divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us...” (2 Pet. 1:3). Both apostles assume that we receive everything we need when we believe in Christ. If a second work of grace is needed beyond Christ, these passages simply could not be true. Thus you need to decide whether to follow the teaching of the Word of God or the teaching of Pentecostalism.
Why is it that Jesus Christ is sufficient? Why is it that, in the epistles, receiving the baptism in the Holy Spirit is never separated from believing in Christ? Why is it wrong to think of Spirit-baptism as something added on to the work of Christ? Because Christians are justified in Jesus Christ. The full guilt of sin that every believer incurred is imputed or placed on Jesus Christ on the cross. And Christ’s perfect righteousness is imputed to the believer. The believer is clothed with Christ’s perfect, sinless life. Thus we ask the question: Does God’s verdict of righteousness upon the fallen sinner qualify him to receive the baptism in the Holy Spirit? Yes, absolutely! The person who believes in Jesus Christ receives Christ’s perfect righteousness as a gift from God. In God’s sight he is just as righteous as Jesus Christ. Is Jesus Christ righteous enough to receive the baptism in the Holy Spirit? If Christ’s work which renders the Christian perfect, sinless, and absolutely righteous (before God the Father judicially in the heavenly court) is not enough to receive Spirit-baptism, then what else is required? Paul says, “Having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise” (Eph. 1:13). He asks, “Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?” (Gal. 3:2).
The doctrine of Spirit-baptism as a second work of grace subsequent to salvation does not have biblical support. The unique outpouring of the Holy Spirit from heaven by Christ was an aspect of Christ’s glorification and, like the resurrection and ascension, is never to be repeated. The New Testament epistles teach that believing in Christ, becoming a part of His body, the Church, and receiving Spirit-baptism all occur at the same time. There are several discussions of the Holy Spirit’s ministry in the epistles, yet in each discussion, Spirit-baptism is never mentioned. Nowhere in the epistles are believers told to seek Spirit-baptism. The Bible teaches that receiving Jesus Christ and submitting to His Word are all the Christian needs to be complete. The Charismatic doctrine of the second blessing (i.e. Spirit-baptism) is a deviation from Protestant orthodoxy. It was not taught by the Spirit-filled Protestant Reformers (e.g., Luther, Zwingli, Bucer, Calvin, Knox, etc.). It was not taught by any of the great theologians of sixteenth, seventeenth or eighteenth centuries (e.g., Gillespie, Rutherford, Owen, Edwards, Turrentin, Hodge, Dabney, Warfield).
The doctrine of Spirit-baptism as a second work of grace grew directly from the heretical soil of the second-blessing holiness movement of the nineteenth century. Many holiness teachers in the eighteenth century rejected the orthodox doctrine of sanctification as a lifelong process of spiritual growth, in which sin is never completely eradicated in the believer. Methodistic holiness teachers taught that Christians could receive a “second blessing” which gave the Christian in one moment “entire sanctification.” The sinful nature was completely eliminated in the believer. And, thus, the believer was perfect and sinless. The second blessing doctrine of entire sanctification, of sinless perfection, is condemned by the Apostle John: “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves; and the truth is not in us” (1 Jn. 1:8). The original Pentecostals took the second blessing doctrine one step further and taught the “baptism of the Spirit” as a third blessing. Although most Pentecostals eventually rejected the idea of entire sanctification, nevertheless the fathers of modern Pentecostalism were heretical.
In 1901 Charles F. Parham carried the prevalent “Pentecostal” insistence on “baptism of the Holy Spirit” (as described in Acts 2) to the conclusion that tongues should still be the sign of a Pentecostal experience. Parham’s student, W. J. Seymour, popularized this new Pentecostalism beginning in 1906 at the Azusa Street revival in Los Angeles, after which this movement grew into its many varieties.... The original Pentecostal teachers, Parham and Seymour, taught a Methodistic Holiness view of a “second blessing” of entire sanctification in which the sinful nature was eradicated. This, they said, was followed by a third blessing, “baptism of the Spirit,” accompanied by tongues. [12]
Within twenty years of the founding of modern Pentecostalism by Charles Parham, many people became Pentecostal who had Baptist rather than Methodist holiness backgrounds. These new Pentecostals rejected the second blessing idea of entire sanctification. Thus, the third blessing, “the baptism of the Spirit” [13] became the “second blessing.” Pentecostal theology has retained the second blessing idea to the present. Pentecostalism and the modern Charismatic movement did not grow out of the careful exegesis of God’s Word but rather out of heretical holiness revivalism.
It is ironic that Charismatics, who consider themselves experts on the Holy Spirit, completely misunderstand the purpose of the Holy Spirit’s ministry. Does the Bible teach that the Holy Spirit came so that we could have a wonderful, subjective experience? So that we could have wonderful religious sensations? So that we could feel electric current in our bodies? So that we could have an exciting, mind-blowing experience? So that our worship services would make people go, “Wow, how thrilling”? Does the Bible teach that the Holy Spirit came so that people would focus on the Holy Spirit? So that people would hang banners with representations of doves in their churches and have seminars on Spirit-baptism, etc.? No, not at all. Listen carefully to what Jesus Christ says about the Spirit’s ministry: “When He, the Spirit of truth, has come...He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you” (Jn. 16:13-14). The Holy Spirit came to point men to Christ and to glorify Christ. After Peter was baptized in the Spirit, did he stand up and tell the crowd about his wonderful experience? Did he say, “Men and brethren, I have just received the baptism of the Holy Spirit, and I want to tell you how wonderful it is. When it came upon me, it was like being thrilled with a vital electric current. I felt such a beautiful love and peace course through my whole body, right down to the balls of my feet”? On the contrary, Peter made no reference to himself or his feeling. His message was Jesus Christ and Him crucified: “Ye men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God...” (Ac. 2:22). [14]

By: Brian Schwertley


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