Allen Jackson - Spirit Baptism - Part 1
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Well, we have been doing a study on spiritual things. And I want to continue that, God willing, we'll have this session and two more. And then we'll change topics at least for a season. I don't think we have exhausted this but there's some other things we want to pick up for a bit. And so we're gonna continue this notion of spiritual things. And in this session, I wanna pick up the topic of Spirit baptism. And I'll tell you my objective is to not bring division. It's not my only objective, but that is one. You know, the baptism in the Holy Spirit, Spirit baptism, the baptism in the Holy Ghost, whichever tradition you come from, whatever language. To me, I'm gonna use those terms interchangeably as if they were synonymous.
And I'll give you a couple of definitions at the beginning and then I wanna walk through some Scripture and begin to invite you to think about it. And you can arrange it, you can organize it, you can, but I'll give you the definitions that I'll be working from. When I talk about the baptism in the Holy Spirit or Spirit baptism, I'm talking about an experience with the Spirit of God that's subsequent to, that follows, salvation. So that salvation would be the prerequisite. Through which the believer is empowered to pray in a language that they haven't learned, okay? You know, the Bible talks about being baptized into repentance, into the kingdom of God, into the Spirit.
Again, this doesn't make you Pentecostal or Charismatic. My opinion, and it's my opinion. You can disagree with me, we could both go to heaven. I believe Spirit baptism is intended to be available to every believer. I believe it's intended to be available to the most immature, the newest Christians. It's not a Spiritual merit badge, it's not a stamp of achievement or accomplishment. It's a gift. And therefore, it isn't about our merit. It is an expression of the grace of God. Now, we're gonna look a great deal at the why, but before we got to the why, I just wanted you to understand clearly what I'm talking about. And if you say, "That's not for me," I trust you and the Lord to work that out. You know, can I have the baptism in the Holy Spirit and not speak in tongues? I know some very high profile Christians, many of whom I interact with that say things similar to that and I'm not inclined to argue with them. But I would tell you that as I read the Scripture, they go together.
So if I'm gonna be just as honest with you as I know how to be, if you want the biblical pattern, you don't have to, but you can. And I'll tell you the decision I made long ago and with God's grace I'll continue to stand in that place: I want everything that God makes available to me. And I wanna hurry to the line. I'm just kind of, at this point in my life, especially, I'm like, "Yeah, let's go". And so that's as clear as I know how to be with where I'm beginning. Now, when I talk about the baptism of the Holy Spirit, I'm talking about a personal private prayer language whereby the believer allows the Holy Spirit to make intercession through our lives. It's not for public demonstration. I would make a distinction between Spirit baptism and the manifestations of the Spirit, 1 Corinthians 12, or the gifts of the Spirit that are enumerated in multiple places in the New Testament.
So I would make that distinction. Again, you may not agree with me but Spirit baptism for me is a part of your personal devotional prayer life. We'll look at that in some other details. Therefore it doesn't require interpretation. Sometimes perhaps the Lord will invite you to that but it's not a requirement of that experience. So with that bit of definition I just want to begin to walk through some Scripture with you. We good so far? Have I gotten your blood pressure up? Good, just hold it right there. That's a healthy thing. It won't hurt you. John chapter 20, in verse 19, is Resurrection Day. It's the evening of Resurrection Day. And the disciples are hiding.
Now Jesus has told them multiple times what's going to happen to him when they get to Jerusalem, of his arrest, his betrayal, his trial, his execution, his Crucifixion, his burial. He's told them over and over and over again of that, and they have not been able to process it. That's important for us. You can spend years with exposure to things and not be able to process them until God brings them alive to you. It was true for Peter and James and John and Mary and the crew that was closest to Jesus. And I believe it's true of the people closest to Jesus in the 21st century. So if your journey is such that you find God opening new doors to you, rather than be offended by that, how about taking your place in alignment with our heroes in our Bible? Nobody had seen more miracles of Jesus than the disciples. No one had had closer mentoring than they had. Jesus had told them privately what's going to happen. They understood the words because Peter rebuked him and said, "Lord, may that never happen to you". Remember?
So they understood the dialog. It wasn't going past them. And Peter said, "May that never happen to you," and Jesus rebuked him and said, "Get behind me, Satan. You don't have in mind the things of God". So it wasn't a cognitive lapse or a failed memory. They couldn't comprehend it. And I have lived long enough, I've followed the Lord long enough, to know that he invites us into this ongoing understanding of who he is and how to have a relationship with him. And in our own carnality, in our own human nature, we want to arrive at a destination or a set of experiences and say, "I have it all". Baloney, it's a Greek word which means, "I disagree".
And so from whatever tradition you come, if you come from a Pentecostal tradition and speaking in tongues is old news to you, there are things about the Lord and your relationship with the Lord that are as new to you tonight as the experience of Pentecost would be to someone who's never heard it. Let's humble ourselves before the Lord and say, "I would like to grow". Folks, whatever it is we've been doing, it hasn't been working. Our culture is plunging into paganism. Our children are being gobbled up by the darkness. Resurrection Day, that's where I started. The disciples are hiding. They're afraid. "On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them". C'mon. "And he said, 'Peace be with you!' And after he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. And the disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord".
I would submit to you that's a bit understated. John says, "You know, the disciples saw Jesus that evening and they were overjoyed. Bless our hearts. Look, Pete, it's the J-Man". I don't think it was like that at all. I think they were hilariously, uproariously, ecstatically overwhelmed with the presence of a living Jesus. Just... They saw him tortured to death. Saw him horribly beaten. The man who spoke to the wind and the waves and cast out demons and raised the dead and opened blind eyes, they watched him tortured to death by pagan Roman soldiers. I can't imagine the dissonance that brought to them, the tension it brought. How can that be? Why? Who? Something. So they're hiding. And then he steps in the room. And John said, "They were overjoyed". "And Jesus said, 'Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.' And with that he breathed on them and he said, 'Receive the Holy Spirit.'"
Now I wanna ask you a question. It's a bit of a technical question but at that point would you admit the disciples into fellowship in the church? If the new birth is prerequisite for membership in the church and it should be, would you admit them into fellowship? I would. They've had a personal encounter with the resurrected Christ, and he's made a point and in the language, it's a bit nuanced, we don't need to look at it, but the implication is he breathed on them individually and said, "Receive the Holy Spirit". When you're born again, when you make a profession of faith in Jesus, when you acknowledge Jesus as Lord, when you believe in your heart and confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, "the Holy Spirit," the Bible says, "takes up residence within you". You become a new creation. "Behold, old things have passed away, all things have become new," it says in Corinthians.
I would submit to you that's what happened to the disciples on Resurrection Day. And there's a logic to me that makes me smile. After Jesus is alive and he goes and finds his friends, he wants them to experience what he came and gave himself for. He said, "I came to seek and to save those which were lost". And he goes and finds his closest friends and says, "Welcome into the kingdom". Come on. It's an amazing scenario. And some of you will remember that for 40 days after his Resurrection, we're told that he taught them about the kingdom of God.
Now we have very little information about that which, to me, seems like a terrible omission. But I trust the Lord, he gave us what we needed. I have enough trouble, to be honest, practicing what he's told us. You know, people say to me, "Can you interpret for me this chapter from the book of Revelation"? I say, "Well, I could but I'm still stuck over here on, you know, loving my neighbor as myself". 'Cause about half the time I'm just praying for a new neighbor. And so often, I wanna move to the obtuse or the difficult passages so I don't have to deal with the ones that I can fully understand. I'm sure you're not like me.
Now, the book of Acts. In Acts chapter 1, Jesus is going to ascend back to heaven so we're approaching chronologically the end of that 40-day period. So we're gonna move beyond Resurrection Day. In Acts chapter 1 and verse 4, Jesus is giving some instructions to the disciples. He says, "On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command". And I would circle that word. He doesn't make a suggestion, he doesn't give them a hint. It's not a prompt. It's a command. We have ten of those in the Old Testament. This is a resurrected Lord at the end of a 40-day seminar on the kingdom of God, giving his closest friends a command. They recorded it that way. So I'm a little interested to know what he's commanding them about. "He says, 'Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you've heard me speak about. John baptized with water, but in a few days you'll be baptized with the Holy Spirit.'"
So that's the commandment: Don't leave Jerusalem until you're baptized with the Holy Spirit, wow. Three years of mentoring by Jesus, personal encounter with the resurrected Lord, he's breathed on 'em and said, "Receive the Holy Spirit". And he says, "Stop. Don't do anything until..." Now, their understanding is still not particularly clear. "When they met together, they said, 'Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?'" The question is are you gonna put the Romans out? You gonna restore our autonomy? The Messiah, the long-awaited Messiah, was intended to restore by this point, in the minds of the Jewish people, political autonomy to the Jewish people. And they're an occupied nation. "Are you gonna restore the kingdom to Israel"? And watch Jesus answer. "He said to them: 'It's none of your business.'"
Well, I mean, that's what he said. "It's not for you to know the times or the dates the Father has set by his own authority". "You're focused on the wrong thing," he said. Look at the next sentence. "But you will receive power". "Are you gonna restore the kingdom? Gonna throw the Romans out"? "That's really not any of your business. Let's come back to the topic. You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you'll be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth". Now, wait a minute, they have had an experience with the Holy Spirit. But in verse 4, he commands them not to begin their ministry until they're baptized in the Spirit and now in verse 8 he said, "You'll be empowered". So what's the purpose of Spirit baptism? You'll be empowered to be witnesses for me. We'll look at it again in a moment. "And after he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight".
One of the principles that adheres across cultures and times is that last words have a unique importance. The last thing Jesus said to his disciples before the ascension back to heaven is you'll be empowered to be witnesses for me when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. Those were his last words before the Resurrection. So he can't be talking about what happened on Resurrection Day. Or at least, to me it seems that he couldn't be. Now, Acts chapter 2 is the fulfillment of that promise and I'll read it to you but I'm not gonna spend a great deal of time commenting on that tonight. We'll look at it in some more detail in the future, but, "When the day of Pentecost came". In the New Testament, Pentecost is not referring to Pentecostals. It's 50 days after Passover. Pent is the Greek word for 50, so it's a holiday that comes, it's a Jewish holiday that comes 50 days after Passover. So it's like saying when Valentine's Day came, you know that you're 6 weeks past Christmas.
"When the Day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. And suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. And all of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them. Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. When they heard this sound, the crowd came running in bewilderment, because each one heard them speaking in his own language. Utterly amazed, they said: 'Are not all these men who are speaking Galileans?'" You might miss the slight. Galilee is the rural part of Israel. It's like saying, "They came from the South. Aren't these all hillbillies"? "Then how is it that each of us hears them in his own native language"?
And they list the countries from which they've gathered. After all, it's a holiday and they've come from all over the empire to Jerusalem. "Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia and Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia, Pamphylia, Egypt, the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome (Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs, we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues"! So, one deduction we can make without reading anything into the text is the language that the Galileans were speaking were languages from the empire, but they weren't languages that Peter and James and John had learned. In fact, it tells us in verse 4 that they spoke as the Spirit enabled them to speak. And then in verse 12: "Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, 'What does this mean?' Some, however, made fun of them and said, 'They've had too much wine.'"
I would submit to you that 2000 years later, the responses to Spirit baptism are not greatly dissimilar. Some are amazed, some are perplexed, and some will make fun. You'll have to decide which response you will choose. Just be certain it's your response because you'll give an account for your response. You won't give an account based on whether or not I do a good job of the presentation. You won't be asked to give an account if you agree with me. But you will give an account for what you choose to believe about the Word of God. I don't say that as a threat. It's a promise. Be an early adopter. Decide to embrace it. And some just made fun and said, "Oh, they're drunk". I didn't put it in your notes. I didn't wanna, but Peter stands up to address the crowd. It's his first public presentation of Jesus post Ascension, and he said, "No, we're not drunk. It's only 9 o'clock in the morning. It's a little early for us". I'm not gonna unpack that.
Now, I wanna highlight something for you because I think it's significant. In each of the Gospels, all four Gospels, Jesus is introduced to us with the same phrase and I would submit to you that there is some significance in that. There are very few parts of Jesus's life or ministry that are reflected in all four Gospels. It is a way of adding emphasis or highlighting something. The birth narrative, how Jesus was conceived and born, is not repeated in all four Gospels. So there are some very significant aspects of his life that are left to a Gospel or two Gospels. We can explain this in terms of how they were written and who had which and which was first, but anything that's picked up in all four Gospels, I would submit to you carries with it some unique significance. And with that in mind, in Matthew chapter 3, this is John the Baptist speaking, he said, "As for me, I baptize you with water for repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, and I'm not fit to remove His sandals; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire".
So Jesus is introduced to us as the one who will baptize us with the Holy Spirit. That's significant to me. Think of all the things you could say about the incarnate Son of God. He will suffer for your sins. He will enable you to be born again. He'll usher in a new kingdom. He will defeat the kingdom of... I mean, there's a myriad of enormously significant things that could have been said about Jesus. And what the Holy Spirit gave us through each of the Gospel writers, is he will baptize us with the Holy Spirit. Now, I would submit to you we need to understand what that means. And let's not just sidestep it and go, "Well, it's talking about being born again".
No, words have meanings. When it was time to talk about being born again, Jesus used those words very plainly. Let's not behave as poorly as some in our culture do to manipulate with language. In Mark's Gospel, in chapter 1: "As he was preaching and saying, 'After me One is coming who is mightier than I, and I'm not fit to stoop down and untie the thong of His sandals. I baptized you with water; but He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.'" Luke's Gospel: "John answered and said to them all, 'As for me, I baptize you with water; but One who is coming is mightier than I, and I'm not fit to untie the thong of His sandals; He'll baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.'"
The Matthew, Mark, and Luke are the Synoptic Gospels. They share a great deal of common material. John wrote a different story. Not about a different person, but his means of reporting is different, the way he tells the narrative is different, it's a completely different structure. It's not our point today, but he did keep this: "John testified, 'I've seen the Spirit descending as a dove out of heaven, and He remained upon Him. I didn't recognize Him, but He who sent me to baptize in water said to me, "He upon whom you see the Spirit descending and remaining upon Him, this is the One who baptizes in the Holy Spirit". I myself have seen, and have testified that this is the Son of God.'"
Now that fascinates me. John the Baptist says, "This is the Son of God". But listen to what he said. He said, "I didn't recognize him. I would have missed him. But the One who sent me to baptize in water said, 'He upon whom you see the Spirit descending and remaining upon Him, this is the One who will save Israel from their sins. This is the One the prophets prophesied about. This is the One who baptizes in the Holy Spirit.'" So it's abundantly clear that the Spirit of God wanted us, as readers, to understand Jesus is the One who will baptize us in the Holy Spirit.
Too often, I think we imagine sin in terms of a category of behaviors, things that I don't do, things I won't drink, things I won't watch, words I won't say. And it may fit into those categories but the reality is, I think in its fundamental essence, that sin is a spiritual disease. And it isn't something we want to toy with, because when you invite a disease process into your physical body, you invite destruction. When we invite sin into our spiritual life, we invite destruction. So I want to pray a simple prayer with you, ask God forgive us of our sins and help us see anything in us that's spiritually unhealthy. Are you willing to do that? Let's pray:
Father, I thank you that through the blood of Jesus we have been redeemed out of the hand of the devil, that he has no power over us, no authority over us in Jesus's name. Forgive me of my sins, and if there's anything that limits my wholeness in you, help me see it, in Jesus's name, amen.