• Eric Carpenter

Recovering the Biblical Ministry of Baptism in the Holy Spirit, Part 3: PATTERN

I decided to take a risk on Mike. He was not your typical leader, no formal training, but great ministry experience through YWAM. Mike was passionate and thoughtful about the things of the Spirit and I knew he would bring a different culture to our Youth Ministry.

The early ministry days were rough for Mike. A lot of the students already attending did not connect with his style or emphasis. Our Youth Ministry got pretty small. Yet, we stuck with Mike and allowed the seeds he was sowing to take root and grow. At the end of the first year, we experienced growth, especially in the form of “discipled” (i.e. trained/equipped) leaders and students giving their lives to Christ, not just attending meetings. We began baptizing the kids in our main services. Eventually, because we had so many baptisms, we even had to adjust the length of our services. In my 20 years of ministry, I had never seen such significant growth, especially from new conversions.

What were the key factors for this growth? There were many, of course, but the foundation was what I call three invitations. Mike and his young leaders invited the students to receive Christ (1), to experience baptism (and subsequent fillings) in the Holy Spirit (2), and to be discipled or equipped for ministry (3). This was the foundational pattern of our youth ministry. Despite some missteps along the way, it became a dynamic channel for life transformation.

This pattern of ministry was not original to Mike. He simply sought to replicate what he saw in the New Testament. I can see the pattern clearly laid out, but many of us have missed it. In this article, we will focus on how the first two invitations fit together.

Spirit-Born and Spirit-Baptized (Invitations 1 & 2)

Jesus spoke often of the vibrant ministry of the Spirit. The Spirit’s foundational ministry is, of course, salvation – people born again. To Nicodemus Jesus explained how to enter the Kingdom of God, that is, how to become a disciple.

Spirit-Born: “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.” John 3:5-6

This passage is commonly misunderstood. When Jesus said “born of water” he didn’t mean water baptism, but physical birth. Flesh (our moms) give birth to flesh (you and me, our birthdays). When he said “born of … the Spirit,” he meant salvation. “… [B]ut the Spirit (the Holy Spirit) gives birth to spirit (our spirits within).” This is new life; this is what it means to become a Christian. When we confess Christ, his Spirit enters into us and produces new life. This spiritual reality is represented by the physical picture of water baptism. Salvation means we are Spirit-born.

Salvation, therefore, is a major work of the Spirit. Paul said that without the Spirit, new life is not possible: “And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ.” Romans 8:9

Spirit-Baptized: This is another work of the Spirit. Jesus promised power and authority to his disciples: “’I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.’” Luke 24:49

God fulfilled this promise at Pentecost. Peter spoke about it as a promise and a gift: “’And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off – for all whom the Lord our God will call.’” Acts 2:38b-39

In Titus, Paul referenced both spirit birth and spirit-baptism: “He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal [emphasis mine] by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior….” Titus 3:5-6

The Model of Jesus

Jesus modeled both of these experiences for us. In the birth narratives, Luke clearly states that in the incarnation Jesus was born of the Spirit.

Jesus Spirit-Born: Speaking to Mary, the angel said, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.” Luke 1:35

In the previous article, we noted that Jesus didn’t start his public ministry until after he was baptized with the Spirit, when the dove descended upon him. Yes, he was Spirit-born but in his manhood, not yet Spirit-baptized.

Jesus Spirit-Baptized: (Jesus at age +/- 30) And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him…. Matthew 3:16

Why did the Spirit of God come upon Jesus if Jesus was already Spirit-born? We probably all know the answer; he needed to be anointed and empowered for ministry. Remember, it was after his baptism that Jesus began to teach and heal.

The Experience of the Original Twelve Disciples

To identify when exactly the Twelve experienced salvation is a bit difficult. Was it when they first began following Jesus? For example, “Then Nathanael declared, ‘Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel.’” John 1:49

The Disciples Spirit-Born: John wrote that prior to Pentecost, the disciples received the Spirit. This would be a post-resurrection event, but prior to the ascension. Jesus appeared, “And with that he breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.’" John 20:22-23

There is not much consensus by scholars regarding this passage. To me this event seems more significant than simply a “foretaste of Pentecost.”[1] Since Jesus actually breathed on the disciples, I see a strong connection with Genesis 2:7, “Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.”

Because the Genesis moment was about life, and all the disciples knew it, Jesus could have meant his breathing upon them to be the same.[2] The disciples had received new life from their association and connection with Christ when he walked the earth. Now with Jesus about to ascend to heaven, he breathed the Spirit into them. This was their new life after Jesus’ ascension to the right hand of the Father.

Yet, even after this incredible moment when the resurrected Christ breathed the Spirit into them, there was more. Jesus told them to wait.

…he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised….For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” Acts 1:4-5

The Disciples Spirit-Baptized: All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them. Acts 2:4

This moment was about power for life and ministry. Look at Acts 1:8: “’But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.’”

Jesus had also given power to His disciples when he first sent them out. They needed His power and authority in order to minister like Him.

When Jesus had called the Twelve together, he gave them power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal the sick. Luke 9:1-3

Why did the disciples need Pentecost if they had been empowered by Jesus earlier? They received their initial power from their association with Jesus when he walked the earth. Pentecost was their post ascension empowerment. Jesus would no longer be with them in the flesh.

The Experience of the Early Church

We have now seen that the Apostles experienced salvation (spirit-born new life) and empowerment (spirit-baptism) as distinct occurrences. Apparently, they understood this to be a pattern to follow as they shepherded the growth of the early church.

The initial gospel presentations recorded in Acts by the Apostle Peter don’t just mention salvation and the forgiveness of sins, but also the promise, the gift of the Spirit. Peter gave a two-fold invitation: “’…Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And (emphasis mine) you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.’” Acts 2:38-39b

This also helps us to make sense of Peter and John’s recognition that the Samaritan believers had not been both Spirit-born and Spirit-baptized.

The Samaritans Spirit-Born: But when they believed Philip as he preached the good news of the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were [water] baptized (as a sign of their believing), both men and women. Acts 8:12

The Samaritans Spirit-Baptized: When they (Peter and John) arrived, they prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit, because the Holy Spirit had not yet come upon any of them; they had simply been baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus. Then Peter and John placed their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit. Acts 8:15-17

In Paul’s Experience

After Paul met Jesus and was struck blind, we see both the language of salvation (Spirit-born) and empowerment or filling (Spirit-baptism). Ananias ended his explanation about why he came to Paul with “‘…Jesus… has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.’ Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized (with water)…” Acts 9:17b-18

Paul brought this two-fold understanding to the disciples in Ephesus.

The Ephesians Spirit-Born: While Apollos was at Corinth, Paul took the road through the interior and arrived at Ephesus. There he found some disciples and asked them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” They answered, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” Acts 19:1-2

The Ephesians Spirit-Baptized: When Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied. There were about twelve men in all. Acts 19:7-7

The Experience in Caesarea

Now let’s explore the remarkable story of Cornelius and his family. Their experience reverses the order of the pattern. Peter doesn’t even have a chance to give them an invitation to new life (Spirit-birth) before they received Spirit-baptism:

Cornelius (and others) Spirit-Baptized: While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message. The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles. For they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God. Acts 10:44-46

Cornelius (and others) Spirit-Born: Then Peter said, “Can anyone keep these people from being baptized with water? They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have.” Acts 10:47

Peter caught some flack when he returned to Jerusalem because he had water-baptized Gentiles. Notice his defense:

“As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit came on them as he had come on us at the beginning. Then I remembered what the Lord had said: “John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” So if God gave them the same gift he gave us who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to think that I could stand in God’s way?” Acts 11:15-17

In other words, since the Gentiles had received Spirit-baptism (like the Apostles did at Pentecost), they most have already been Spirit-Born. So Peter is saying, who is he deny them the sign of salvation, water baptism? In all of the examples above, the early church understood these two ministries of the Spirit as distinct yet connected. I think this is an important insight!

As I understand this, the early church recognized the baptism of Jesus as two-fold. People also then, not only experienced water baptism as a physical representation of new life within (Spirit-birth) but also received Spirit-baptism to be empowered for ministry. These two experiences formed a clear pattern in the early church.

Mike, the Pattern of Three Invitations and Churches Today

So how have things turned out for Mike? He has now planted a new church. He brought this pattern of the three invitations with him. A beautiful ministry has unfolded. The new church has received a vision from God to be a hub for church planting around the world. The Spirit has already blessed them with a church plant in Kenya, and the establishment of their own school of church planting there.

For some churches today, however, all three invitations are absent from their ministry. How sad! For others, there may be one invitation, sometimes two. Often good evangelical churches have both the invitation to Christ and the invitation to discipleship. But the vast majority of churches I know of are not actively pursuing the second invitation as listed at the beginning of this article, to be baptized with the Holy Spirit (and subsequent fillings, to be discussed in another article). Or, if they do give this second invitation, they often insist that people should speak in tongues, something the early church did not require. As mentioned in a previous article, the reason for this insistence on speaking in tongues is often because of two misunderstandings in interpreting scripture. It is to these two misunderstandings that we will turn in the next article.

[1] “When Jesus breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit,’ it is best understood as a foretaste of what would happen when the Holy Spirit was given at Pentecost (Acts 2). This does not mean that the Holy Spirit had no presence in the disciples’ lives prior to this point.” ESV Study Bible: English Standard Version, Crossway Bibles, 2008, p. 2070.

[2] “There is life in the breath of God. Man was created but did not come alive until God breathed into him the breath of life (Genesis 2:7). God’s first breath made man different from all other forms of creation. Now, through the breath of Jesus, God imparted eternal, spiritual life.” Life Application Study Bible, New International Version, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. and Zondervan, 2005, p.1788.

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