This week a number of our Living Churches (cell groups, house groups, life groups, put your particular name here!) have been studying the Holy Spirit. Having been in three of these groups this week, the same questions have come up again and again. It’s one of those areas where confusion abounds because of so much tradition and religion. And it’s where we need to go back to the Bible and get answers from the Bible.
Let’s start by separating the two experiences of being born again and being baptised with the Holy Spirit. They are utterly separate experiences.
Being born again is when your human spirit – the spirit that is inside you as a human being, the core of your being, the part of you that was breathed into your great, great grandfather Adam by the Lord Himself (Genesis 2.7) – is transformed from sin into righteousness, from death into life, from darkness to light. This process is the reverse of the fall where Adam’s spirit went from life to death and light to darkness.
That transformation occurs when you believe that Jesus is risen from the dead and you confess with your mouth that He is Lord (Romans 10.9-10) and the end result of that process is you are saved.
To believe that Jesus is risen from the dead, you have to obviously believe that He died. To believe that He is Lord, or Kurios in the Greek, you have to believe He is fully God. So, when you believe that Jesus died on the cross, that He rose again, that He is fully God and fully human, then you realize and see that He took your sin and selfishness on the cross, then a divine exchange takes place and all the life in the spirit of Jesus is transferred into your spirit. A transformation so dramatic and life-changing that Jesus calls it being born again. From the moment you are born again, your human spirit is holy, blessed, anointed, pure and sealed. It is the exact image of Jesus’ spirit (1 John 4.17).
Notice there is no filling of the Holy Spirit at all in the new birth. You can argue that the Holy Spirit has a place in the new birth, either in initiating the process or in convincing you that Jesus died for our sins (John 16.7) but you cannot argue that the new birth gives you a measure or portion of the Holy Spirit.
In fact, I want to discourage very strongly any use of analogue language in reference to the Holy Spirit across the whole Tree of Life family. He is not a force, He is a person. I know that a lot of charismatics talk like He is a force: “Well, I need more Holy Spirit”, “I need another dose of the Holy Spirit”, “I have some Holy Spirit, I need a fresh filling because I leak”. None of that is true. Either you are full of the Holy Spirit or you are not. It’s digital, not analogue. There are two kinds of people in the world: those filled with the Spirit and those who are not. There is no gradation or increasing measure or partial filling.
Now, you might live in the light of it in an increasing measure. You might get distracted and harden your heart and forget about Him, but once you are baptized with the Holy Spirit you get 100% of Him and He will never leave you or forsake you after that happens.
I personally believe the reason why you will hear many Pentecostals say things like “You get some of the Holy Spirit when you born again, but you then need more with the baptism” is because they are afraid of upsetting evangelicals by pointing out to them that they need the Holy Spirit and do not have the Holy Spirit. Of course, that is further aggravated by the Scripture saying that “if you do not have the spirit of Christ, you are none of his” (Romans 8.9) and people confusing the human spirit of Christ with the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is not the Spirit of Christ, and this reference in Romans is talking about the new birth. At the new birth, your human spirit becomes one spirit with Christ (1 Cor. 6.20) and you have the spirit of Christ, a spirit that is righteous, pure and holy. You do not immediately have the Holy Spirit.
Jesus was not afraid to say to his born again disciples that they needed the Holy Spirit, and nor should we. Paul was not afraid to ask the question “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” (Acts 19.6).
You see the moment that Jesus met the disciples after rising from the dead, they believed in their hearts that He was risen from the dead and they confessed Him as Lord. They were born again. They were Christians. But they did not have the Holy Spirit. In fact, Jesus said you could not even get the Holy Spirit until He had ascended. So for a few weeks, the disciples were born again and not baptized in the Holy Spirit.
The baptism of the Holy Spirit is for power (Acts 1.8) and is accompanied by speaking in tongues (Acts 2.4). There is no incidence of anyone getting baptized in the Holy Spirit in the New Testament who did not speak in tongues. We must not ignore and must not minimise speaking in tongues. We absolutely must not forbid it for to do that is to directly disobey Scripture. Now, Jesus told the disciples not to go and minister until they had that power. Evidently three years of being discipled by Jesus Christ Himself was not enough – they needed to be filled with the Spirit and speak with other tongues before being permitted and commissioned to preach the gospel and pastor and minister.
Tree of Life is a tongue talking church, and we want everyone who comes to our churches to be baptized in the Holy Spirit and speak in tongues just like the book of Acts. It’s that simple.
I wish I could go to every Bible College in the country and say what Jesus said to people: until you are filled with the Spirit and speak in tongues, shut your mouth. Do not go and preach. Do not pastor. Do not go anywhere. It is that important. It is the way Jesus said to do things. Save us from ministers who do not have power! Save us from false doctrines about the Spirit that cripple the church and make the kingdom all about talk without power!
So in recapping here: being born again is an encounter with the risen Christ and transforms our human spirit and the purpose of being born again is righteousness. The baptism of the Holy Spirit is an encounter with the ascended Christ and filled us and immerses us with the Holy Spirit and the purpose of the baptism is power to witness.
They cannot be the same experience. Sometimes they are virtually simultaneous in time (like in Acts 10), other times there is a gap between them (like in Acts 2, Acts 8 and Acts 19). The phrase “filled with the Spirit” is synonymous with baptised in the Spirit. You do not need a third (or fourth or fifth) experience or blessing. You do not need to be being filled. Once you are baptized in the Holy Spirit you are filled.
If someone is not born again, my number one goal is to get them to be born again. If they are born again, but not baptized with the Holy Spirit, my number one goal is to get them baptized in the Holy Spirit. If they have both, my number one goal is to get them to renew their mind and guard their heart.
You need to be born again. You need to be baptized in the Spirit. You do not need a fresh touch and fresh fillings all the time after that, you just need to live in the light of what you have received.
Finally, let’s talk about tongues quickly. I could say a lot more but the truth is that praying in tongues is for every single Christian. God wants you to speak in tongues. It’s that simple.
Not every Christian has a ministry in tongues – of giving messages to the church in tongues, but all of us should be speaking in tongues to edify ourselves, build ourselves up and open the door in our life to the supernatural. Tongues is the Holy Spirit bypassing our minds and speaking through our mouths. That is life changing. It is impossible to describe how life changing this is.
Every Christian should be speaking in tongues as part of their personal prayer and devotional life. Every church service we have, Celebration or Living, should welcome and encourage people to speak and sing in tongues to the Lord.
We are truly a church full of the Spirit! Let’s celebrate that and never be ashamed of it.