Dear Tom (Pastor at Calvary Chapel, Boise, Idaho),
I want to thank you for taking the time to write and to express your (Calvary Chapel’s, CC’s) view of what you term the “second blessing,” which is centered around what CC promotes as “Baptism of the Holy Spirit,” an experience CC teaches that is subsequent to the baptism by the Holy Spirit into the body of Christ (1Cor. 12:13) “For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body –whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free –and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.”
I appreciate very much your own heart attitude and the manner in which you have responded and I would therefore like to briefly respond to some of your statements, presuppositions and expressed Biblical interpretations concerning this issue…. providing you the opportunity to hear the mind and heart of a fellow believer who has also served as pastor-teacher over these past 20+ years.
I will set apart your words with a space and present my responses in italics.
TOM writes: I know that there are many Christians, indeed many of my dearest friends and colleagues (I teach at a local Christian school) as well as some solid Bible teachers (e.g. John MacArthur Jr.) who do not believe in the doctrine that is often referred to as the “second blessing” (a term that I don’t really like but will use for simplicity sake) but I have to say that I have never heard many arguments put forth against this view and so I am not able to easily anticipate responses that might be leveled against it.
Mike responds: Interestingly, there is a myriad of exegetical material available written by many trusted and revered evangelical Christian theologians, scholars, pastors and teachers who are mature men of faith and practice, skilled in the original languages of Scripture, the historic cultures represented in Scripture, and are gifted men of God who have been set apart as a gift to the Church to servant lead by exhorting, encouraging and equipping those who belong to God, while testifying and witnessing to those who have yet to come to Christ, and refuting those who oppose God and teach false doctrine in the church (please don’t think I in anyway place you or CC in this category. I believe in my heart that the pastors here at CCB love the Lord and want to serve Him honorably in grace and truth and love).
I believe there are abundantly more apologetic writings (by reputable Christian pastor-teachers) against the “second blessing” doctrine and/or “baptism of the Holy Spirit” (as is taught by CC), than there are for it. I would be glad to introduce you to some of these in the future, if you are interested.
TOM writes: Furthermore, I really don’t know how people who do not believe in the Baptism of the Spirit interpret the passages that in my opinion promote this doctrine. And so this email will not be helpful in explaining how we would respond to arguments against our interpretations of various passages that promote the “second blessing”. Rather, my point in this email is not to give a full defense of the second blessing doctrine but to show that Calvary Chapels are certainly not teaching a doctrine that cannot be found in the Scriptures. We may be wrong about it, but we are not simply making a doctrine up out of thin air. If we are wrong, it is because we have misunderstood something that the Scriptures are saying, we are not projecting some hopeful idea onto the Scriptures.
Mike responds: Wow! Interestingly enough I would say, I don’t know how anyone could possibly promote the “baptism of the Holy Spirit,” as is presented by CC, aside from an inappropriately formed theology or misunderstood interpretation of the Scriptures. I don’t mean this in any mean spirited way, please know that; and I am not judging you as a Christian in any way… But, the integrity of God’s Word and the accuracy and attitude with which it is taught is of utmost priority to me.
I believe you and I both would agree that our priority and purpose is to bring honor and glory to God, and that His Word is the sovereign authority in all that we do, think and say, as reflected in these verses:
2Tim. 2:15 Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.
2Tim. 3:16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
2Tim. 4:2 Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage –with great patience and careful instruction.
TOM writes: The action of being “baptized in the Holy Spirit” is referenced five times in the New Testament (Matt. 3:11, Mark 1:8, Luke 3:16, Acts 1:5, Acts 11:16), each time Jesus is being quoted telling people that although they had been baptized with water he would baptize them with the Holy Ghost.
Mike responds: It is indeed interesting that not until the 20th century did theologians pay any real attention to the phrase the baptism of the Holy Spirit. One reason may be that the precise wording of “the baptism of the Spirit” (or Holy Spirit), does not occur anywhere in the New Testament.
I would like to note (for accuracy) that the only references from your list above, where you say, “Jesus is being quoted telling people that although they had been baptized with water he would baptize them with the Holy Ghost,” that are genuinely quoted from Jesus, is the one reference in Acts 1:5 and its repeated quote in Acts 11:16. The Matt., Mark, and Luke references do not quote Jesus speaking, but instead the speaker is clearly John the Baptizer who is being quoted.
The truth is, there are only three different references to the subject of being baptized in or with the Holy Spirit: Matt. 3:11 (and the parallels of Mark and Luke)) where John the Baptist proclaims that Christ will baptize in [or with] the Holy Spirit; Acts 1: 5 (and its restatement in 11:16) where our Lord Himself promises that the disciples will be baptized in [or with] the Holy Spirit; and 1Cor. 12:13 where Paul affirms that all Christians were baptized in [or with] one Spirit.
There is considerable direct evidence in the New Testament that all believers experience Holy Spirit baptism, e.g., the universality of the gift of the Spirit was one of the main points in the prophecy of Joel (2:28-32), of which Pentecost was the fulfillment. Prior to the coming of Christ, the Spirit and His gift were distributed only to special individuals within the people of God. This limitation, says Joel, would be done away with in the last days (during the time of Christ), for the Spirit would be poured out on all flesh. Their sons and their daughters would prophesy, their young men would see visions and their old men would dream dreams. The Spirit would come not only on the esteemed, but on servants and maid-servants. Moses’ longing for God’s Spirit to be revealed in all of God’s children (Num. 11:29) would be fulfilled: All God’s people would be proclaimers and witnesses of the wonderful works and words of God.
Luke’s account of Pentecost makes it clear that this is exactly what happened: All the believers were baptized in the Spirit (Acts 2:4). The all is so clearly defined that it does not allow us to believe that any single believer was excluded. The whole church described in Acts 1:13-26 (consisting of every genuine believer) was said to be “all with one accord in one place,” and when the baptism came it came on all of them. There was not a single believer in the world who was not baptized in the Spirit, and yet, there is no mention in Scripture that any of them were seeking or praying for this baptism.
Then there is the description of the experience of the 3,000 converted at Peter’s preaching. Peter promised that those who responded to his message would receive the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38), not as something additional to the experience of salvation; but instead, the gift is said to be a direct and immediate effect of conversion: “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Clearly, forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Spirit go together. Every genuine believer –every forgiven sinner –has undergone Holy Spirit baptism.
Rom. 8:9 You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ. 10 But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness. 11 And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.
1Cor. 12:13 For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body –whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free –and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.
Holy Spirit baptism is only one of several designations for that all-important initiatory experience by which the Holy Spirit comes to take up residence in the believer. All believers are members of the one body and as such all are baptized, and immersed in the one Spirit. And this is the normal pattern as taught in the Scriptures concerning salvation and baptism in or with the Holy Spirit.
TOM writes: Acts 1:5 is especially interesting here since Jesus commands them specifically to wait for the baptism of the Holy Spirit even though Jesus had already resurrected from the dead and according to John 20:22-23 the Apostles had already received the Holy Spirit (I know some might argue with this interpretation, but it should be clear that somebody who read that passage would be perfectly justified in walking away thinking that it is saying that they indeed received the Holy Spirit). If our understanding is correct, this would mean that the Apostles were commanded to wait for a second, different type of outpouring of the Spirit. I mention these passages first since they specifically refer to the baptism of the Holy Spirit, however they are not the principle passages that shape our doctrine.
Mike responds: Acts. 1:5 is clearly a foretelling of what will occur 10 days from that point (“not many days from now”), at Pentecost, when they will be baptized in [or with] the Holy Spirit. I do not believe it can be said that John 20:22-23 gives conclusive evidence that the disciples received the Holy Spirit at this time; but instead, in the context of this passage it is more appropriate from an interpretive position to say that this passage does not allow conclusive evidence nor provide a clear directive that the Holy Spirit was given. It is worth mentioning that as Jesus taught in John 14:16-17, the Holy Spirit was with them (the disciples) in Christ, but as Christ said, the Holy spirit would be in them [later] (at Pentecost).
I believe you would agree that this passage in John is a difficult one, and it is worth considering that it has no direct parallels and so it is difficult to know exactly what it means. One thing is clear, at least to me, is that this is an obscure passage and one would never attempt to develop any major teaching based upon obscure passages, but only those which are repeatedly referenced and/or paralleled to give clarity and understanding.
I believe it is much more likely and true to the text here to assume that this is a reference to a future event and a foretelling of when they would receive the baptism with the Holy Spirit promised in Acts 1:5 and fulfilled in Acts 2:4.
Let me interject something at this point that may help give clarity to some differences we may have in reference to definitions of terms or perhaps semantics…
I do not believe that the language of the New Testament will allow us to distinguish between being baptized in the Spirit and receiving the Spirit. These––and other terms––are used quite interchangeably in the Scriptures. For example, in Acts 1:5 Luke foretells the day of Pentecost as an experience of being baptized in the Spirit. In Acts 2:4 he describes it as being filled with the Spirit. We cannot, in the face of these statements, go on to say that being filled and being baptized are two different experiences for the same experience is described in both ways. Also, the same experience is foretold in Acts 1:8 as the Holy Spirit coming upon them; and described in its fulfillment in Acts 2:38 as receiving the Spirit.
It should be noted that the way Luke describes the experience of Cornelius and his household is equally significant. He sees it as an exact parallel to Pentecost (according to Acts 11:15) and as a precise fulfillment of our Lord’s promise (according to Acts 1:16), “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.’
Notice that in a later Scripture describing this event, Luke says the Holy Spirit fell on them (Acts 10:44), that the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out on them (Acts 10: 45) and, most significantly of all, that they simply received the Holy Spirit (Acts 10:47).
Comparing Scripture with Scripture it becomes quite clear that having the Spirit come upon us, receiving the Spirit, being filled with the Spirit and being baptized in the Spirit are one and the same experience, and it would be inaccurate for anyone to claim the authority of the New Testament for making any other distinction based upon the Biblical record.
TOM writes: The Passage that probably most clearly supports our view can be found in Acts 19 when Paul came upon some disciples who had not yet “received the Holy Spirit” and who were baptized in the name of Jesus and began to speak with tongues once Paul had laid hands on them. These people were described as “disciples” before Paul had spoken with them. If they were truly disciples then they must have received the Holy Spirit in the sense that they must have been regenerated and indwelt by him. But they did not receive an empowering from him until Paul laid hands on them.
Mike responds: Firstly, I must dispel the notion that just because the word disciple is used we must assume genuine belief and salvation of the bearer of that name:
John 6:64 Yet there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus had known from the beginning which of them did not believe and who would betray him. 65 He went on to say, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled him.” 66 From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him. 67 “You do not want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve. 68 Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. 69 We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.”
These followers were all called “disciples” but clearly some of them were not genuine believers. We cannot presume that the term disciple is synonymous Christian or “born again believer.”
Secondly, I must simply ask you to consider a thorough study of this passage (Acts 19:1-7), and conclude that what these disciples of John had received was simply a water baptism of repentance; but they clearly had not believed upon the Lord Jesus Christ and therefore were not saved and therefore had not received the Holy Spirit which is given at the point of conversion in the life of every Christian (i.e., Eph. 1:13-14, 4:4; Acts 2:38-39; 1Cor. 12:13).
Paul presented the gospel to them and they now believed on Jesus Christ, and just as the converts of Peter in Acts 2 believed and received the gift of the Holy Spirit, so these disciples were born again by God’s Spirit, for now they realized and believed that Jesus of Nazareth, the One to whom John’s baptism pointed, was indeed the Christ. Paul’s instruction would have followed the Biblical mandate of the Gospel and they would have been instructed to believe and receive Jesus Christ (Acts 2:21) “And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
TOM writes: This (Acts 19) seems to be akin to what happened to Paul in Acts 9 when it truly seems that he was converted on the road to Damascus, calling Jesus “Lord” in verse 6, yet we find Ananias commanding him to be filled with the Holy Spirit some time later in verse 17. It appears to me that Paul was converted – born again – regenerate – whatever you like to call it, when he called Jesus “Lord” but it seems he was not “filled with the Spirit” until Ananias laid hands on him.
Mike responds: I have to admit this is a perplexing section of Scripture and it needs to be clarified by other Scriptures. First let me say that one cannot make too big of a point out of Paul calling Jesus Lord. Lord was a designation of subjection to or recognition of a higher or more powerful authority. It would not be a far stretch for Paul to assume a submissive posture to a voice that had accompanied a bright light that basically caused Paul to fall to the ground where he was questioned by Jesus about persecuting Jesus.
Based on the text of Acts 9:3-18 alone, I do not believe it can be concluded that Paul was “born again” prior to receiving [being filled] with the Holy Spirit; he may have been, but I do not believe there is enough information given in the text to substantiate the conclusion that Paul was saved just because he used the word Lord in addressing Jesus.
The Holy Spirit may have been convicting Paul of his own rejection and lack of relationship with Jesus Christ, and the truth that Jesus is the LORD. It is also likely, given the text, that the experience Paul had with Christ on the road to Damascus, and the proclamation by Christ — that Paul was (v.15) a chosen vessel to bear Christ’s name before Gentile kings and the sons of Israel (Jews) and to suffer much for Christ’s sake — and all of these happenings (his encounter with Christ, his blindness, and the restoration of his sight) were instrumental in bringing Paul to genuine belief and salvation confirmed through the Holy Spirit.
It would seem clear from the text that Paul was immediately changed, as verse 20 states, he began to preach in the synagogue and (v.21) all who heard were amazed.
Let me make one minor correction though in something you wrote, as Ananias never “commands” Paul to “be filled,” but instead the Scripture says, Acts 9:17 Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord –Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here –has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.”
There is no instruction here in the text for Paul to receive, pray for, or seek the “baptism of the Holy Spirit,” as CC teaches. I believe the Scriptures reveal clearly that Paul’s belief, understanding, and teaching about the Holy Spirit’s filling, indwelling, baptizing, etc., is something that happens (most generally, normally, as the pattern in New Testament teaching) at genuine conversion and not subsequent to it (i.e., Eph. 1:13-14; 4:4-6; Rom. 8:9; 1Cor. 12:13).
There is in fact no instruction in the New Testament that would promote or direct a believer to seek or to pray for the “baptism of the Holy Spirit,” not one verse of instruction! And yet, the New Testament is full of instruction (repeated admonitions and exhortations) concerning actions, attitudes and practices that Christians should and should not entertain and/or engage in. This begs the question, why then? If “baptism of the Holy Spirit” is something that should be sought after or practiced by God’s people, why are we not instructed to do so? And if we aren’t so instructed, and it is clear that there is not one verse of Biblical instruction for God’s people to seek this experience, nor is there any doctrine even alluded to (as claimed by CC) in the New Testament that would substantiate our seeking or practicing this “baptism of the Holy Spirit.”
TOM writes: Aside from these examples of course there is the command in Ephesians 5:18 for Christians to be “filled with the Spirit”, this seems to imply that Christians can be in a state of not being filled with the Spirit. Furthermore, aside from these points, you also have many examples in the Old Testament of the Spirit of the Lord “coming upon” people (e.g. Judg. 3:10, 6:34, 11:29 etc., 1 Sam 10:10, 16:13, 16:14) etc.
Mike responds: Actually, the most validated and acceptable interpretations of Eph. 5:18 would dispel any connection between the phrase “be filled with ” and “baptism of.” This is clearly talking about taking in God’s Word — feeding upon the Bread from Heaven being nurtured by the Living Water. Paul is saying we should live continually under the influence of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth, the Spirit of Christ, the Spirit of God.
We are told in Eph. 5:18 “to be filled with the Spirit”, in Col. 3:16 we are directed to “let the word of Christ dwell in you richly”, and in Gal. 5:25 we are encouraged to “live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.” These are all different ways of stating the same truth — that we Christians are to live under the control of the Spirit of God, in direct harmony with the Word of God, in a pattern reflecting the Son of God, that the character of God is exemplified in our daily life.
We are to meditate upon and apply God’s Word to our life, obedience to God’s precepts is what is being taught in this passage as can be seen from the context of the greater passage teaching us about the Christian’s walk or life and how we are to show our belief by our behavior in the marriage relationship, as parents, as servants as masters, etc. (Eph. 5:15-6:9).
TOM writes: Anyway, I don’t necessarily think that these points will change the mind of the man who is firmly opposed to second blessing doctrines of any kind, but I do hope that it does demonstrate that people who do believe in second blessing doctrines do so because that is what they think the Bible is saying. We may be wrong, we may even be wrong-headed, but we are not holding to something that is clearly unbiblical. Thanks again for the question Mike, and please let me know if you have any follow up questions or if I can be of any other service to you.
Mike responds: I believe in my heart that we both are seeking doctrinal clarity and purity, and although you may honestly believe that there is a “second blessing doctrine,” and CC has made it out to be something that should be practiced by believers and promoted in the church. With all respect in your right to have your own opinion, I must say that there is not one verse in all of Scripture that instructs us as Christians to pray for or to seek this thing that you teach is a doctrine.
I do not believe you are “wrong-headed,” although I do believe you have misunderstood what the Scriptures clearly teach on this issue and have attempted to make a doctrine out of a few obscure, unclear, and unparalleled passages of Scripture.
It is very hard for me to understand why a body of believers (CCB) that is so right in expressing grace and love to all those who come through its doors, and so diligent about serving Christ through a diversity of ministries that reach out to a wide variety of people and many areas of need, with a group of servant leaders who sincerely seem to strive to honor and glorify the Lord…. why then? — Why make this “baptism of the Holy Spirit,” a phrase that is never used in the New Testament, a practice that is never taught as something we should seek to promote or experience — Why promote this as something that should be sought, saying that it is clearly taught, when it indeed is not? Why say this is something that is taught as a pattern in the New Testament (Bob wrote an article making that statement), when the Scriptures simply do not teach conclusively any such thing?
Will this keep me from fellowship at CCB? Of course not? But it does, at this point, cause me some caution in reference to whether or not I would want my children to be in the School of Ministry or the School of the Bible, or even sent to a CCB Camp (which we were considering sending our eleven yearold daughter Ruth to, even though we can’t really afford it at this time) if there is a possibility that they might be encouraged to seek or practice doctrine that the Bible doesn’t promote or instruct us to seek or do.
Please know that I mean this in a most sincere and loving way, and I am not trying to be critical or divisive in any way, but only to honor and please God by accurately handling the Word of God, while discussing differences with a Christian brother.
I do hope I have given you some food for thought, I know that I have enjoyed very much this time of study (which is really a small portion of a treatise that I am working on for my own study on this subject of “the Baptism of the Holy Spirit”).
In His Grip, by His Grace, for His Glory….
mike hale <> <