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Last weekend I had the privilege of attending the 300 conference hosted by Jubilee church in Enfield, North London. Terry Virgo, the founder of the network of churches I’m part of, spoke on baptism in the Spirit among other things.
Now, I’m certainly not going to do it justice here so I want to say: watch the videos over here…but I do want to sum up what I got out of the day.
Terry is an incredibly humble man and told his story of becoming a Christian, and discovering the Holy Spirit. He was reading the New Testament and had questions about what had happened to the Holy Spirit, who seemed so active in the early church.
He researched a wide variety of people’s experiences and biblical convictions, and essentially discovered a few different perspectives:
No-one is filled with the Spirit any more
This just doesn’t add up. No-one in their right mind could read the New Testament and draw the conclusion that the Spirit was going away; the Old Testament constantly talks about the future age of the Spirit, where God’s Spirit would be ‘poured out on all flesh’ (Joel 2), so a move from the Spirit being poured out on individuals, to a bunch of Galileans, to no-one…is a bit of a step backward. Some who hold this position point out that the later letters written in the Bible don’t talk about the spiritual gifts so they must have ceased – and that’s simply an illogical argument.
Every Christian is filled with the Spirit at conversion
This theory is essentially that being born again of the Spirit (converted) means being baptised in the Spirit, and that the infilling of the Spirit increases over time through ever-growing fruit of the Spirit. But that’s not what the New Testament seems to say. We are told that the Spirit ‘fell on’ Christians (Acts 10:44) rather than growing from the inside. It’s also particularly noted that being filled with the Spirit is particularly noted as something that happened after conversion – Acts 8:14-17 shows us that the apostles had heard of new Christians, so sent them Peter and John because the Holy Spirit ‘had not yet fallen on any of them’.
We should hold tarrying meetings
This is the traditional Pentecostal position, which says that like the disciples did at Pentecost Christians should hold meetings in which they wait, or tarry, for the Spirit to fall. People who hold this position often claim that the gift of tongues is the initial evidence of being filled with the Spirit. The problem with this is that Jesus told the disciples to wait specifically for the outpouring of the Spirit, so that they would be empowered for mission.
The second blessing
Some talk of the baptism of the Spirit as an experience that happens after you have been a Christian for a while – you have to empty yourself before allowing the Spirit to refill you. But this doesn’t add up either – brand new converts in Acts 10:44 were filled with the Spirit, apparently at conversion!
It’s all about Jesus
This is Terry Virgo’s position. One argument used for baptism in the Spirit happening at some point after conversion is Acts 19; Paul arrive in Ephesus and ask the Ephesians if they had received the Spirit when they believed (a telling question). The Ephesians reply that they have never even ‘heard that there is a Holy Spirit’. This seems to confuse Paul, who then asks what baptism they had received. The answer: John’s baptism.
These Ephesians are called disciples in the Bible text, yet have received John the Baptist’s baptism of repentance without ever realising who Jesus is! So Paul explains to them, ‘John baptised with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, Jesus.’ When they hear about Jesus they are baptised into his name, and it’s only after that that Paul lays on hands and they receive the Spirit.
Terry said that his number one passage for this is John 7:37-39:
Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.
The key to being filled with the Spirit is a thirst to be filled, and the place to go is to Jesus.
I’ve probably miscommunicated some of this so to clarify any misunderstanding I’d really recommend you get a copy of Terry’s latest book, The Spirit Filled Church.