What does it mean to be baptized by the Holy Spirit?

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J. Budziszewski

What does it mean to be baptized by the Holy Spirit?

May 03, 2001 |J. Budziszewski

I was wondering what you think about being baptized by the Holy Spirit (speaking in tongues, having divine power to heal people, and so forth). I joined a Christian group on campus which believes in that stuff, but I'm not sure what to think.


All Christians believe that the Holy Spirit continues to grant "ministry" gifts, including our talents. As to "manifestation" gifts, such as tongues, opinions vary. Some Christians are "charismatics," meaning they believe that the manifestation gifts have continued right through today. Apparently your group is charismatic. Other Christians are "cessationists," meaning they believe that the manifestation gifts ended once they were no longer needed — after the Church was founded and the canon of Scripture was complete. The cessationist view would imply that most of the alleged manifestation gifts we see today are not authentic; that they result, for example, from emotion rather than from the Holy Spirit.

So far as God's power is concerned, He could still give someone a manifestation gift like healing, tongues or prophecy; this is up to Him, not up to us. No doubt He even does still give such gifts upon occasion. The disagreement concerns whether that is one of His usual ways of working in the present age. Arguments are given both ways. I think this is an issue about which Christians should be able to debate without dividing.

Whichever view is true, however, two things ought to be accepted by both sides. The first is that even if an alleged present-day manifestation gift is authentic, it should be used only in accord with God's own regulations, for example the ones stated in 1 Corinthians 14:27-28 (no speaking in tongues without an interpreter, never more than one at a time, and no more than two or three altogether). The second is that every alleged manifestation gift should be tested for authenticity. Testing is not unfaithful, for God Himself commands it; as Paul said, "Test everything" (1 Thessalonians 5:21). Quite a few tests are mentioned in Holy Scripture. For example, do the alleged manifestation gifts conform to God's word as revealed in scripture, rather than conforming to the outlook of the world? Do they exalt God? Do they specifically exalt Christ as incarnate Lord? Do they make prophecies that fail to come true? (Notice that the test is not whether their prophecies did come true — this could have happened by chance.) Do they bear good fruits? (Many Christians seem to think this is the only test, but all the tests must be passed.) Do those who oversee the congregation, or who have mature spiritual discernment, confirm their authenticity? Are they compatible with good order in worship? Do they edify the congregation — build it up? Do they avoid evil, and even the appearance of evil?

Both God's tests and His regulations are crucial. Unfortunately, though some Christians honor them, other Christians ignore them.

Grace and peace,

Copyright 2001 J. Budziszewski. All rights reserved.


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