Saturday, November 25, 2017

Baptism, Rebaptism & the Holy Spirit

It would seem to go without saying that at a Church named for the Spirit of God, we take spiritual things seriously. That’s certainly true when it comes to being filled with the Holy Spirit. In this article I want to clear up some questions many of you have had about Baptism and the Spirit.

I was baptized a long time ago and want to get rebaptized.

Some churches do this sort of thing, and some churches will baptize you if you were not originally baptized in their church. I know some people (like Pastor Henry for instance) who have been baptized more than once. Even so, each church that does this sort of thing explains they are baptizing you because the other ones did not really “count” for one reason or another. That’s because Christians follow the Bible which says: “There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.” [Ephesians 4:4-6 NRSV]

Think of it this way. Baptism is not about what you do so much as it is about what God does in you. He gives you his Holy Spirit in Baptism, forgives you your sins, adopts you as a child, and gives you an assurance of your salvation. (Pretty cool, huh?) To get rebaptized is to say you think God got it wrong the first time, or that what he gave you did not “take” in some way. Only, God doesn’t make mistakes like that.

But I want to recommit myself to God and be filled with his Spirit … What is available for me?

Great! That’s a great thing to want to do. But it’s not really Baptism you need. Instead we offer you some other ways you can be filled again with the Holy Spirit and recommit yourself to Jesus.

For instance, each and every time we have Communion, you can open yourself up, receive the Spirit and commit yourself to Jesus. No need to wait for something else … or in the Sacrament of Anointing you can ask for God to fill you with his Spirit. Our Prayer Teams will pray with you privately and ask for you to receive the Spirit and experience it’s healing power. We also offer you a chance to confirm your faith (in a service called Confirmation) where you can make a public announcement that Jesus is your personal savior.

And then from time to time we offer you a special service in which you can comit yourself to God once more. In the past we have held Immersion Experiences, which included a chance to be fully immersed in water (and in prayer and the Holy Spirit). At other times we hold Recommitment Services, where if you choose, you can:

  • make a new and public vow to follow Jesus as your Lord and Savior
  • come forward, with sponsors if you wish, to kneel with your sponsors laying hands on you to pray for you
  • receive the outward anointing with oil, and the inward gift of the Holy Spirit

For some this will look like an altar call, or it will sound a bit like a Confirmation service, for others it will look like our Baptism service, and to others it will seem a lot like our Sacrament of Anointing. In effect we have rolled all these into one for the Recommitment Services in order to give you a chance to renew your life with Jesus and be filled with his Spirit.

What if I haven’t been baptized, yet?

Well there’s no time like the present. We offer baptism to all those who have never been baptized before. Just let us know you’d like to participate ahead of time.

OK, you say there’s just one Baptism. So what is the Baptism of the Holy Spirit? Is that different?

Here there is a bit of confusion, a difference of opinion and a lot of misunderstanding, even among people of good will. That can happen in the Church, especially over a period of 2000 years. Let me see if I can help …

The Bible uses the Greek word Baptism in a new way, for a new idea. Before this, ritual bathing was common in Jewish traditions, but it was something you had to do over and over again, whenever you did something worng or became unclean. The word Baptism gets used both literally, and at times symbolically, in the Bible. For instance Jesus once talked about the Baptism of suffering (see Mark 10:38 NLT, though other translations just speak metaphorically of a Baptism), but no one believes he was speaking literally. Jesus used the word Baptism metaphorically here, and when we talk about a “Baptism by fire.” The Bible also talks about the practices of John as the Baptism of repentance.

Later, the Bible speaks of the Baptism of the Holy Spirit, and describes a period of time when people were confused about whether they needed a Baptism for repentance and one for the Spirit, or both. For instance we have this encounter in the book of Acts:“Paul passed through the interior regions and came to Ephesus, where he found some disciples. He said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you became believers?” They replied, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” Then he said, “Into what then were you baptized?” They answered, “Into John’s Baptism.” Paul said, “John baptized with the Baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, in Jesus.” On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. When Paul had laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied …” [Acts 19:1-6 NRSV]

The Baptism of John was the prelude to what would happen in and through Jesus. It was not the last word in Baptism. Jesus himself taught that we need both water and the Spirit: “Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit.” [John 3:5 NRSV] That means we need both Baptism for repentance and for receiving the Spirit, and yet they are no longer two Baptisms … for as Paul tells us “there is one Lord one faith, one Baptism, one God and Father of us all.” At the start, though, there was a short period of time when the two had not yet come together. Still, there is no evidence in the Bible we are intended to be baptized twice or in two different ways.

We are all to receive the Holy Spirit in Baptism. And we do. Remember though, that one occasion for receiving the Spirit is not the only one any of us needs. We continually need to be refilled with the Spirit … over and over again. Being “filled with the Spirit” is perhaps a better term here, and one used by Francis MacNutt, noted author and pastor, as interchangeable with what is now called “Baptism in the Spirit” (see article below). By speaking of receiving the Holy Spirit or of unleashing the Spirit or of being filled with the Spirit we do not get this action confused with Baptism, nor do we think of Baptism with the Holy Spirit as a one time deal. Personally, I have received the Spirit many times, in many different ways, and I continually seek to receive the Spirit again and again. Why else do you think I came up with the name “Church of the Spirit”?

Baptism of the Holy Spirit

By Pastor, Teacher, Author Francis MacNutt

In the early days of Christendom, the church began to baptize both adults and children, but after a few hundred years the church began to emphasize the symbolism of the rite and put less and less expectation on what might happen when the Holy Spirit was poured out. As Christianity became the norm, and most babies were baptized, and Baptism was no longer expected to be a Pentecost experience. In the Western Church the service of Confirmation (for adults) was added and separated from Baptism (for children) and yet it was not clear what was expected to happen when people were confirmed. Expectations diminished, and the results of this lack of expectancy remain with us today.

As a onetime Roman Catholic, I personally believe something happens at Baptism and Confirmation. On the other hand, most evangelical Christians comer from Protestant churches that do not hold a rite of Confirmation for adults but rather offer adult Baptism. They may have a hard time fitting what so many people have experienced in the “Baptism of the Holy Spirit” into their theology. They, like those from the Catholic tradition, believe that they have already received the Holy Spirit when they accepted Jesus Christ, so talking about a subsequent Baptism seems to deny the reality of their Baptism or of having had a born again experience. In all of this the basic question beyond all the theological ones is this: “Is there something more that needs to be happen so that I can experience a deeper relationship with God and so that I can be more strongly empowered to help other people?”

I believe something happens spiritually at Baptism and/or Confirmation, but it is usually not at the level we need. Over and over I have seen people experience the graces of Pentecost in life-transforming ways. Many of them were already earnest Christians, but there was more in store for them. Almost all who are filled with the Spirit experienced a much closer personal relationship with Jesus.

But let me add a word of caution: We need to be very careful not to judge the spiritual state of other people. We are so prone to judge (and this is especially true in this area: “Is your pastor Spirit-filled?”) I have known many Christians who have never even heard of the Baptism with the Spirit, but who demonstrate most of the signs of having been filled with the Spirit. Nevertheless, I think we can still say that those who pray to receive the Baptism of the Spirit usually find a big difference in their lives …

For many of us the Spirit has been there all the time but was somehow quenched or bottled up. The Baptism with the Spirit is a release of that Spirit … I have found that for many the Baptism with the Spirit is a peaceful experience. For some it is overwhelming, and a manifest change takes place immediately. For many the change is gradual … In recalling when I was first Baptized in the Spirit I can tell you it occurred in a way that seemed just right and suited for me, and it happened in a way I had not planned but I believe God chose.

– condensed from Healing, The Power to Heal, and The Nearly Perfect Crime, all by F. MacNutt

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