The Baptism in the Holy Spirit

My experience is that this very important topic is nowadays taught very badly in churches, if it is taught at all, and this, often, in the very churches which claim to be ‘spirit-filled’. Recommendations are made here of teaching which is completely clear on the subject; there is a side to it which is controversial and there is certainly room for discussion, but my main recommendation is of books that take the classic line of Pentecostal churches which refers to the Baptism in the Holy Spirit ‘with the evidence of speaking in tongues’; my main reference point for this is that each time in the book of Acts where people receive the Holy Spirit, they speak with tongues.

As per normal, on a subject discussed by Kenneth Hagin, his books are most certainly the best. I can recommend 7 Steps to receiving the Holy Spirit, The Holy Spirit and His Gifts, but above all, the one book to read is Tongues – beyond the upper room; this last focuses very much on the gift of tongues but is very good generally on receiving the Holy Spirit; it is briefly reviewed below. There are good books to read about the Holy Spirit from a non-Pentecostal angle. Watchman Nee in The Normal Christian Life stresses very strongly the point that is so sadly disregarded in many churches, that the Holy Spirit is a Person and that receiving the Holy Spirit is receiving a Person; it is so commonly reduced to mumbling a few words in what is supposed to be the gift of tongues. Jesus made it abundantly clear what the purpose is of being baptized in, being filled with, receiving the Holy Spirit – ‘You shall receive power after the Holy Spirit is come upon you and you shall be my witnesses…..’ With this in mind, a book such as The Holy Spirit by Billy Graham is good to read. One of my favourite authors, Richard Wurmbrand, by no means a Pentecostal, speaks in Christ on the Jewish Road about a ‘mystical’ experience amongst the believers which was life transforming and to which they referred as the baptism in the Holy Spirit; interestingly he also records that under extreme torture he experienced what he calls glossolalia, ie tongues. However, I believe it should be stressed that in the book of Acts, on the day of Pentecost, they all spoke with tongues, and that on each subsequent occasion that is recorded in Acts there was clearly seen something to indicate that people had received the Holy Spirit, and that something logically is the gift of tongues.

It is important to establish that the reception of the Holy Spirit is not identical with receiving Christ; it is separable and can be separate, though I have met people who spoke with tongues as soon as they received Christ. More commonly there are separate experiences; Paul clearly expected this – ‘Have you received the Holy Spirit since you believed’, he asked the people in Ephesus. In my case there was a gap of about 12 years; my appetite was whet by the testimonies of the most beautiful people in the Baptist church I attended in England, each of whom convincingly spoke of the way their lives were transformed after they received the Holy Spirit and spoke with tongues; and by books such The Happiest People on Earth by Demos Shakarian, founder of Full Gospel Businessmen Int’l. Merlin Carrothers, Prison to Praise, was another telling personal account of a man seeking a full Christian ministry and finding it through a pentecostal experience. It might well be worth researching the origins of the Pentecostal movement in the famous Azusa Street ‘revival’ in Los Angles and the subsequent world-wide explosion; Azusa Street by Frank Bartleman is good – he was there and very instrumental. Smith Wigglesworth was among the first in England to receive at a church in Sunderland; his dramatic experience as described in Smith Wigglesworth Apostle of Faith by Stanley Frodsham, is of great interest and the records of his preaching constitute the most outspoken testimony I know on the power of the Holy Spirit. Older Pentecostal books by Donald Gee,  Howard Carter are good, as too Lester Sumrall, some of whose books are gathered together in The Believers Handbook. Nevertheless, it is Kenneth Hagin that I most strongly recommend as a sort of a model and for his comprehensive teaching.

Tongues – beyond the upper room has as its main goal that of encouraging believers to speak in tongues. As background, Hagin gives the scriptural context for the Baptism in the Holy Spirit, tells his own experience of receiving and what the effects were, and gives guidelines on how to receive. This book is probably the most comprehensive among his works that touch on the subject. The personal testimony is very valuable. Hagin was already pastoring, preaching and praying for the sick by faith when the “Full Gospel” people came to town; they prayed for the sick and he wanted fellowship around that. After a bit of a struggle to believe that he had not received the Holy Spirit and that tongues was valid, a struggle he resolved in bible study, he asked the pastors to lay hands on him saying he would receive. Here is the point – he ‘felt’ nothing, in fact felt very dry, but he believed he received and believed he would speak in tongues; he expected words to come and they did and he spoke them out; he was frankly disappointed with the way he felt, but believed he should continue to speak in tongues; then he began to notice change. He told nobody in the church he was pastoring, in part because some of the members had threatened to pull out if ‘that tongue-talking gets in here’; but after a while people began to want to know ‘what has happened to our little preacher’ – there was power, a power that was not there before….and before long the whole church had followed him into this experience. That is what the Baptism in the Holy Spirit is about! That’s it – and in addition, gifts begin to flow. In Hagin’s case as well as praying for people to be healed by faith, there would also be overt demonstrations of the Holy Spirit, what Hagin calls healing by the anointing.

So there we have it – at times  dramatic experience, but an underlying quality of transformational power that pervades one’s life; clear teaching on this needs to be restored. I have appended a post on How to receive the Holy Spirit. See also the article on Speaking in Tongues.