Table Charismata Matters

Monday, June 22, 2015

The Baptism of the Holy Spirit and the Doctrine of Subsequence

(last updated 4/15/17)

I have been a theological continuationist (AKA continualist) regarding the charismatic gifts of the Spirit for over 25 years. For most of those years I've been willing to accept the label Charismatic (despite its often negative and misleading connotations) partly because I wasn't aware of the term continuationist till the 1990s (at which point I welcomed it). But in all that time, I had never completely settled on the topic of whether the Baptism of the Holy Spirit occurs at conversion or subsequent to conversion. I would flip flop back and forth from the Baptism of the Holy Spirit occurring at conversion or subsequent to it. Though, I always leaned toward it being subsequent. However, lately I've started leaning toward it being at conversion. As I understand it, among continuationists, it is believed there have been three waves of the Holy Spirit in modern times.

1a. The First Wave Classical Pentecostalism
1b. The First Wave (simply) Pentecostalism [what I'll call (*basic*) Pentecostalism]

The Second Wave Charismatics

The Third Wave

Classical Pentecostalism and (basic) Pentecostalism share a common history. While (basic) Pentecostalism and the Charismatic movement (in general) agree in their denial of the Classical Pentecostal position that the necessary and sole physical evidence of being baptized in the Holy Spirit is speaking in tongues, along with the continued ability to speak in tongues throughout one's Christian life. The Charismatic movement (broadly speaking) and (basic) Pentecostalism are open to the possibility that the subsequent baptism of the Holy Spirit may manifest in ways different from speaking in tongues. Though, all three agree that Spirit baptism is distinct from and SUBSEQUENT to conversion (even if immediately afterward). The doctrine of SUBSEQUENCE is the key distinctive and difference between those three groups and Cessationists and Third Wavers. Ironically, Cessationists and Third Wavers agree that Spirit baptism occurs at conversion, but disagree on whether the charismatic gifts are still in operation. While Third Wavers, (basic) Pentecostals and (many) Charismatics agree that speaking in tongues is not the necessary initial evidence of Spirit Baptism or that it results in the lifelong ability to speak in tongues [contrary to Classical Pentecostalism].

This blogpost deals with the key and pivotal issue of whether the Baptism of the Holy Spirit is SUBSEQUENT to or CONCURRENT with conversion. If the latter, then that also refutes the position that tongues speaking is the initial evidence of Spirit baptism. Otherwise, no one who hasn't spoken in tongues could be saved. Something which even Classical Pentecostalism denies. Though, the heretical sect of Oneness Pentecostals do deny the salvation of those who haven't spoken in tongues. They also heretically deny the doctrine of the Trinity and affirm a form of "works salvation."

In this blogpost, for simplicity's sake, I may use interchangeably phrases like "baptism OF the Holy Spirit," "....IN the Holy Spirit," "....WITH the Holy Spirit," "....BY the Holy Spirit" et cetera. Besides, I'm not convinced that the distinctions made by subsequentists on the differences in those phrases is actually Biblical. In my limited studies, I get the feeling that those who actually know Koine Greek dismiss those distinctions, and usually it is those who don't know Koine very well who advocate such distinctions. From what I can tell, the better scholars prefer to translate the word as "IN", as in "Baptism IN the Holy Spirit". They usually see the Holy Spirit as the Element of Spirit baptism, not the Agent (who is Christ).

What got me doubting the doctrine of subsequence include the following resources and reasons:

- Undervaluing Pentecost by R.C. Sproul (video message)
Though Sproul is a cessationist, he makes some good standard points arguing for Spirit baptism being concurrent with conversion. I HIGHLY, HIGHLY RECOMMEND watching the lecture. Ironically, this video is from the 2013 Strange Fire conference which criticizes continuationism. Another example of irony is that if Sproul's points are correct, then the examples of subsequent Spirit baptisms in the book of Acts were for the sake (and purpose) of affirming the unity of believers. Whereas the modern doctrine of subsequence often results in a division in the church doctrinally (between those who subscribe to it and those who don't), as well as a division of claimed experience, or lack thereof (the "Haves" and the "Have Nots"). Not to mention the division that can arise between subscribers of Subsequence (e.g. is tongues the only the sign of Spirit Baptism or not?). Some subscribers of Subsequence can sometimes have an elitist attitude because they are among the "Haves", while others who subscribe to the doctrine but haven't apparently had the experience can have an inferiority complex because they're still among the "Have Nots." Even among cessationists, some of them can look down on subsequentists as being deceived and/or doctrinally naive. Or even being (likely or actually) unsaved. I suspect and wouldn't be surprised if some cessationists have taken such a position precisely because they "failed" to have the experience when they were continuationists. So, they might in fact hold to the right position regarding Subsequence, but for the wrong reasons (viz. because of a lack of experience).

- The Baptism of the Holy Spirit by R.C. Sproul (audio message that's an older and more succinct version of the lecture above)

- The materials of Wayne Grudem and Sam Storms who are Calvinists and continuationists like myself, yet deny subsequence.

See their books. Also their online materials like:

- Baptism of the Holy Spirit Part I by Sam Storms
- Baptism of the Holy Spirit Part II by Sam Storms

- "Be Filled With The Holy Spirit" Eph 5:18 video message by Wayne Grudem

- Dr. Wayne Grudem Resources on the Charismatic Gifts

- The materials of well known and highly regarded Pentecostal New Testament scholar and exegete Gordon Fee. Despite the fact that Gordon Fee grew up as a Pentecostal and continues to identify as a Pentecostal, Fee nevertheless denies all three distinctives of Classical Pentecostalism.

See especially, "Baptism in the Holy Spirit: The Issue of Separability and Subsequence," in Pneuma: The Journal of the Society for Pentecostal Studies, 7:2 (Fall 1985):87-99.

Sam Storms nicely sums up the three elemental distinctives of Classical Pentecostalism:
First, there is the doctrine of subsequence. Spirit-baptism is always subsequent to and therefore distinct from conversion. The time intervening between the two events may be momentary or conceivably years (nine years, for example, in the case of Paula).

Second, there is an emphasis on conditions. Depending on whom you read the conditions on which spirit-baptism is suspended may include repentance, confession, faith, prayers, waiting (“tarrying”), seeking, yielding, etc. The obvious danger here is in dividing the Christian life in such a way that salvation becomes a gift to the sinner whereas the fullness of the Spirit becomes a reward to the saint. But all is of grace. All comes with Christ.

Third, they emphasize the doctrine of initial evidence. The initial and physical evidence of having been baptized in the Spirit is speaking in tongues. If one has not spoken in tongues, one has not been baptized in the Spirit. According to this view, Paula was certainly saved when she accepted Christ at church camp. But she wasn't baptized in the Spirit until college, the proof of which is her experience of speaking in tongues for the first time when her friends prayed for her.
[Again, surprisingly, Pentecostal scholar Gordon Fee—who is highly regarded even among cessationists—rejects all three Classical Pentecostal distinctives!!!]

- The materials of John Wimber. Apparently, for the majority of the latter part of his ministry he denied subsequence and affirmed the Baptism of the Holy Spirit occurs at conversion. [See this video starting at 33:40 for about 15 minutes]

Wimber stated:
At this point in time I have come full circle from an evangelical theology of filling of the Spirit, through an experience and a theology that embraced what we would call classic Pentecostal... now I've come back to a place where I think I started theologically, but I've added a dimension of experience.
My perception is that every born-again Christian can manifest any gift that he wants to, because with the coming of the Holy Spirit you have the Source of all gifts.
I had to get to a point where I understood that all the gifts were available to me....But I'm convinced at this point at times that all the gifts are available to every Christian....But in any case, I believe all the gifts are available to everyone. And that any born again Christian can learn to manifest them all. Release them all. Of course, they come by the Holy Spirit. He's the resource. And He will initiate. But all you have to do is be receptive. "Lord I don't know what this person needs, but I want you to give it to me to give to them." All I am is a conduit. All I am is a messenger. I don't send the messages. I don't send the blessings. I just deliver them. As God gives them to me, I give them away.
While I agree with Wimber that any Spirit Baptized Christian can potentially exercise any spiritual gift, I reject Wimber's view that (essentially) denies people are given and assigned specific spiritual gifts which they will be able to operate in better (and with greater efficiency) than other gifts. Wimber's view doesn't make sense of many passages. For example, 1 Cor. 12:14-26 and Rom. 12:4-8. Given Wimber's view, there would be no possibility for people to sinfully boast on the one hand or feel inferior on the other.

I eventually had to ask myself the following questions and try to give honest answers.

Where in any of the New Testament epistles is there evidence of the Baptism of the Holy Spirit being subsequent to conversion? [The prooftexts used in Acts to support subsequence have been answered by both cessationists and Third Wave theologians in my opinion.]

Where in any of the epistles are there described Christians who have not yet been baptized in the Holy Spirit or who are still waiting for the baptism of the Holy Spirit?

Of all the places in the epistles where an apostle addresses sanctification or is dealing with sin within the Church does not an apostle bring up the issue of the baptism of the Holy Spirit, and counsel local church leaders to make sure everyone in their congregations has been baptized in the Holy Spirit (especially those Christians who are morally struggling or are new believers)?

How could Paul [in Rom. 8:9] so nonchalantly say in passing that anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to Christ if he was aware that some people in some local churches are still waiting and tarrying for the baptism of the Holy Spirit? All the while knowing that people would interpret not belonging to Christ as being unsaved.

How could Paul say what he does in 1 Cor. 12:13 without creating similar confusion? ["For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body---Jews or Greeks, slaves or free---and all were made to drink of one Spirit."- 1 Cor. 12:13]

If the reference to "drink[ing] of one Spirit" in 1 Cor. 12:13 refers to Spirit baptism, then wouldn't the spiritual drinking in 1 Cor. 10:1-4 be referring to the same thing? If so, then the typology would imply that all Christians would be Spirit baptized with the same universality under the New Covenant as the Israelites were "baptized" under the Old Covenant.

1 For I want you to know, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, 2 and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, 3 and all ate the same spiritual food, 4 and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ.- 1 Cor. 10:1-4
Just because this passage says they drank of Christ doesn't preclude the possibility that the typology refers to the baptism of the Holy Spirit since He is the "Spirit of Christ" (cf. Rom. 8:9; Gal. 4:6; 1 Pet. 1:11). Besides, the doctrine of circumincession or perichoresis would also allow for the typology to refer to Spirit baptism.

How could Paul say [in 1 Cor. 12:3], "Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says "Jesus is accursed!" and no one can say "Jesus is Lord" except in the Holy Spirit," if he knew that not everyone saved is baptized in the Holy Spirit?

It seems to me (and to other Third Wavers) that all these questions and the problems I've posed are easily answered and solved if baptism in the Holy Spirit occurs concurrently with conversion. In other words, these problems quickly disappear if we simply removed the assumption of the doctrine of Subsequence. In fact, such questions are actually nonsensical given a Concurrence view of Spirit baptism. Such problems are unnecessary and only arise from the mistaken notion of Subsequence.

Was the Ethiopian Eunuch in Acts chapter 8 baptized in the Holy Spirit? There's no evidence he received a baptism of the Holy Spirit that resembled the one that occurred at the day of Pentecost (or like that of the Samaritans) before or after he was water baptized, even though it was the Holy Spirit Himself who directed Philip to share the gospel with the eunuch in order that he might be saved. Contrary to Classical Pentecostal expectations, it appears that before anything else could be done the Holy Spirit transported Philip away from the eunuch in order for him (Philip) to minster to other people at a distant location. This makes sense if upon conversion the eunuch had immediately received the baptism of the Holy Spirit without the need for any extraordinary supernatural manifestation or having hands laid on him by Philip or an apostle.

A similar instance is related in Acts chapter 2 when Peter preached to a crowd of thousands.
37 Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, "Brothers, what shall we do?" 38 And Peter said to them, "Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself." 40 And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, "Save yourselves from this crooked generation." 41 So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.- Acts 2:37-41
Notice that Peter promised that reception of the Holy Spirit would be included in their conversion (v. 38). Yet in verse 41 three thousand are said to have been converted THAT VERY DAY. If they had received the baptism of the Holy Spirit that day and spoke in tongues (or experienced some other manifestation(s)), that would have been an amazing miracle that would (almost) certainly have been recorded in Scripture. Just imagine 3,000 people speaking in tongues simultaneously (or near simultaneously) in one day. That would have been more memorable and more noteworthy than the speaking in tongues that took place earlier in the day that caused a commotion. It's true that the (approximately) 120 disciples may not have all spoken in tongues all at once since it was as the Spirit gave them utterance. But it caused enough of a commotion to attract the attention of many Jews. How much more would 3,000 converts speaking on tongues (in waves or in turn) or some other supernatural manifestation do so? I've repeatedly mentioned "some other manifestation" since the doctrine of subsequence allows for 1. the Classical Pentecostal view of the necessity and sole evidence of Spirit baptism to be tongue speaking, and 2. a doctrine of subsequence that doesn't require the manifestation to be tongue speaking but can be some other experience or manifestation of a spiritual gift.

Some might object and argue that when it says that all were baptized that it doesn't necessarily mean all 3,000 were water baptized that very day. The logistics of baptizing 3,000 people in one day would be very daunting. These objectors may argue that the statement they were all baptized describes what eventually happened in the coming days. Therefore, (the objectors would argue) maybe many of the 3,000 were eventually baptized in the Holy Spirit with some supernatural manifestation sometime soon after that day of Pentecost. That's true that the baptisms may have taken a few days to complete. But by the same token, would not Luke have described how many of the 3,000 people who were converted that day were subsequently and eventually baptized with the Holy Spirit with with some supernatural manifestation? Especially since it was the greatest mass conversion recorded in the book of Acts. How many of those 3,000 successfully received the baptism of the Holy Spirit with some  evidence? And how many continued day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year waiting for the baptism of the Holy Spirit? Many modern subscribers and advocates of the doctrine of subsequence waited years to finally be "baptized in the Holy Spirit" (or what they believed to be the baptism of the Holy Spirit). While other Christians are still waiting for it, or had lived and died never having received it (or so they thought).

Luke doesn't record how many easily received the subsequent baptism of the Holy Spirit or the controversy, commotion and tension that would have erupted by the fact that some people had difficulty or failed to receive Spirit baptism. As is the case in many modern denominations and local churches that believe and teach the doctrine of subsequence. Assuming that the experience of modern advocates of subsequence parallels that of the Apostolic church, why didn't Luke, Paul, John or any of the other apostles discuss the problem of the "Haves" and the "Have Nots" regarding Spirit baptism? Surely, if such a problem occurred, then the New Testament would have addressed it and given instructions to facilitate and quicken the reception of the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Modern subsequentists write entire books on what are and how to fulfill the conditions that are conducive towards receiving Spirit baptism.

Again, the theory that best explains what's recorded in Luke in this incident is that the 3,000 were baptized in the Holy Spirit upon their conversion and were assumed to have been so Spirit baptized by everyone (including in the minds of the apostles and original disciples). That they were Spirit baptized that day regardless of whether they had (that day, or some future day) spoken in tongues (or exhibited some other manifestation) as evidence of the subsequent second work of the Holy Spirit.

Notice too that in his sermon Peter quotes the book of Joel which prophesied that God would pour out His Spirit upon "ALL FLESH." This was obviously understood to have been fulfilled in the Church. All flesh doesn't include non-Christians. Presumably, this pouring out of God's Spirit upon "all flesh" refers to (and is synonymous with) the Baptism of the Holy Spirit (cf. Acts 1:4 with Acts 2:33).  Yet, if the doctrine of subsequence is true, then there will always be instances of genuine born again (regenerate) believers who have not yet had the Holy Spirit poured out upon them. Many of them are still waiting, or don't even believe in such a second work of the Holy Spirit (e.g. cessationists who reject it). In which case, Joel's prophecy fails. How so? Because Joel prophesied ALL BELIEVERS (i.e. "all flesh") would be Spirit baptized. Both men and women, young and old. But the teaching of subsequence IN FACT (i.e in practice) denies the perpetual actuality that ALL BELIEVERS would in fact be Spirit baptized. Subsequence makes it potential, but never actual. At least not for any long period of time. Imagine the hypothetical scenario that a minute ago every true believer received the subsequent baptism of the Holy Spirit. If 10 more converts to Christianity were added soon afterwards, it would cease being the case that all Christians had the Holy Spirit poured out upon them until everyone of the 10 new converts were baptized in the Holy Spirit. It's logically possible that one or all of the 10 would fail to receive Spirit baptism for many years afterwards (just as it is the case in virtually all modern subsequentist churches). So, despite the hypothetical that hundreds of millions of Christian are now Spirit baptized, 10 new converts not being Spirit baptized would nullify Joel's prophecy.

John Piper noted:
Acts records at least nine other conversion stories, but never again mentions a two-step sequence with tongues (8:36; 9:17–19; 13:12, 48; 14:1; 16:14; 17:4, 34). This shows how difficult it is to establish a norm from the way things happened back then.

If the two-step Subsequence view is true, then Jesus' promises of the Holy Spirit as the water of life in John 4:10, 14 and John 7:37-39 aren't yet true of those not yet Spirit baptized. Yet, there's no reason to assume that Jesus is referring to a subsequent work of the Holy Spirit in those verses. Jesus' only conditions were to simply come, ask and believe. Nor would the promises in Rev. 21:6 and 22:17 be dependable despite the fact that they state one can receive the water of life FREELY by merely coming. The implication being that it is relatively easy to receive the water of life.

Someone holding to the Subsequent view of Spirit baptism might say that these are merely referring to being Born in the Spirit that comes with initial salvation. However, Jesus' description of receiving the waters of life seem to better fit with Spirit baptism because of Jesus' language of the abundance of overflowing water. The Lord says, "The water that I will give him will become in him a SPRING of water WELLING UP to eternal life." And, "Out of his heart will flow RIVERS of living water."

So, on account of all the things I've mentioned above, I've now tentatively concluded that the distinction between being 1. "Born in the Spirit" and 2. "Baptized in the Spirit" is a distinction that's not actually found in Scripture. It's a theological distinction created by well meaning Pentecostals and (many, not all) Charismatics that's not actually an inference derived from Scripture (deductively or inductively) .

If Subsequence is a false doctrine, then how should continuationists interpret the claims of subsequentists of having received the Baptism of the Holy Spirit some time after their conversion? The answer would seem to be that what actually occurred was a present filling of the Holy Spirit rather than their misinterpretation of it being their initial Spirit baptism. That at that time they actually received the kind of filling that Paul encourages us to seek after on a continual basis (Eph. 5:18). Some even translate Eph. 5:18 as, "be being filled with the Holy Spirit." Or ""Be ye, being filled with..." or "keep on being filled with..."

The New Testament records various kinds divisions or distinctions in the Apostolic church. Some were problematic and others were real but resolved by the Gospel. Yet, the New Testament doesn't record a division of the "Haves" and the "Have Nots" regarding those who had successfully received the Baptism of the Holy Spirit and those who had yet to receive it. This is assuming that not everyone in the 1st century church easily and quickly received the baptism of the Holy Spirit just as it is the admitted experience in the case of modern groups who subscribe to subsequence. Here are a list of various divisions or distinctions within the Church specifically described in the New Testament.

- There was the distinction between Jews and Gentiles, slave and free, males and females ( Gal. 3:28). These distinctions are said to no longer matter (at least) with regard to salvation (Gal. 3:28b-29; Eph. 2:11-22).

- Acts 6:1 describes a dispute that arose among Hellenistic Christians and Hebrew Christians because the former claimed their widows were being neglected in the daily distributions.

- 1 Cor. 1:10-16 describes the divisions within the Church because some were followers (or "fanboys" to use a contemporary term) of Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas or some other leader.

- The book of Galatians describes the division between the Galatian Judaizers and those who maintained Paul's gospel of grace.

- Luke 9:49-50 describes a distinction between those 1. who followed Jesus and His immediate disciples and 2. those who didn't yet were able to successfully cast out demons.

- The book of Acts describes the distinctions between 1. Jewish Christians, 2. Samaritan Christians, 3. Gentile Christians who were formerly "God fearers," and 4. Gentiles who were formerly pagans.
With all the above divisions and/or distinctions in the Church mentioned above (and more could probably be listed), why did no New Testament author record the division and distinction between those who had already successfully received the baptism of the Holy Spirit and those who hadn't and were still waiting/tarrying for the baptism? A reasonable answer is that there was no such division because they didn't believe in the doctrine of Subsequence which grounds and forms the basis for such a division/distinction.

It also seems to me that all the waiting/tarrying for the baptism of the Holy Spirit that goes on in Subsequentist circles doesn't comport with the Lord Jesus' statement in Luke 11:11-13 (cf. Matt. 7:9-11 which has "good things" for "Holy Spirit").

11 What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent;12 or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion?13 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!"- Luke 11:11-13
Like the passages on receiving the water of life/living waters, the Lord here makes it appear that the reception of the Holy Spirit is a relatively simple matter. A matter of simply asking. Yet, that's not the experience of many Subsequentists who exert much effort (sometimes for years) trying to attain the spiritual high of what they think is Spirit Baptism. Subsequentists focus on evidence and experience rather than focusing on the exercise of faith [read as "focusing on God's faithfulness"] that leads to evidence and experience. Faith doesn't look to itself to see if one has faith (or enough faith). Faith looks to God's faithfulness to His promises. Genuine faith fixes it's gaze on the adequacy of God's faithfulness rather than on one own self, or the adequacy or inadequacy of one's faith.

Some may argue that Luke 11:11-13 actually supports Subsequence since Jesus refers to the people who are asking as already being God's children. However, that's an anachonistic interpretation of our Lord's words. Retrofitting post-Ascension apostolic theological terminology and categories to our Lord's statement. A statement that itself might be tweaked by Luke to be make more applicable to post-Ascension/post-Pentecostal Christians. So, we can't derive too much theology from the statement. The statement as found in Luke is consistent with increased additional filling with the Holy Spirit. It's also consistent with a request for true conversion. How? In our theological precision we rightly point out that only genuine Christians are the children of God. However, the Lord was speaking to mostly Jewish believers who were already in the Mosaic covenant. In which case, there was a sense in which Jesus could legitimately say they were already God's children. While at the same time encouraging them to become (the true) children of God. This is why Jesus was able to indiscriminately tell His hearers to consider God as their heavenly Father (e.g. in the Lord's Prayer) without always qualifying it with the statement that only true believers are the true children of God.

I'm convinced that what made this issue so difficult for Christians to agree on is that the topic deals with the mysterious work of the Holy Spirit which requires the use of different distinctions and senses which include the visible and the invisible activity of the Holy Spirit along with the degrees of activity of the Holy Spirit. With the ontological/metaphysical presence or absence of the Holy Spirit. Also with the metaphysical and ontological mechanics of the activity of the Holy Spirit versus the experiential and phenomenological activity of the Holy Spirit as it affects our psychological state, character and the gifts of the Spirit.

Given the fact that most denominations affirm (and are in agreement with) a rejection of Pelagianism and Semi-Pelagianism, it is the belief of historic branches of Christianity to say that without the grace of God no one can come to God. It requires some sort of initiating grace. For example, for Catholics they have the concept of operating grace. For Arminians it's prevenient grace or enabling grace. For Calvinists it's sufficient grace or efficacious grace. This means, that before anyone can accept the gospel, the grace of the Holy Spirit must already be working on a person.

Then there's the fact that under the Mosaic Covenant some people were believers in the true God and were saved by God's grace by the Holy Spirit even though the New Testament contrasts the coming of the Holy Spirit under the New Covenant to be so much better and fuller that by contrast Old Testament saints didn't have the Holy Spirit.

Then there's the distinction between the Holy Spirit gracious activity among Old Testament saints for their salvation and the Holy Spirit's gracious activity among Prophets, which differed from His activity among Priests, which differed from His activity among Kings.

Then there's the activity of the Holy Spirit convicting the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment (John 16:8).

Then there's the Lord's statement in John 14:17 where He states regarding the Holy Spirit, "...for He dwells WITH you and will be IN you."

Then there's the level of the Holy Spirit's presence that's referred to in John 20:22 that states, "And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit."

That reception of the Holy Spirit in John 20:22 is distinct from the Church's reception of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost itself.

Then we have the Baptism of the Holy Spirit upon different groups (as R.C. Sproul explain in his lecture above). That is, the different objects of activity of the Holy Spirit.

Then even among believing Christians there's the Holy Spirit's effect on one's character in sanctification (i.e. the FRUITS of the Spirit).

Along with the the Holy Spirit's effect on the ability of Christians to perform supernatural feats (i.e. the GIFTS of the Spirit).

Then there's the activity of the Holy Spirit in regeneration. Something which most everyone agrees is distinct from the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. This is true whether one is a Calvinist or an Arminian, cessationist or continuationist. And whether one believes regeneration occurs after, or is (or can be) simultaneous with, or even before conversion. Calvinists for example, believe regeneration occurs before conversion.

And though saved for last, we have the foundational and primary (in the sense of "first") activity of the Holy Spirit in creation and in creation's preservation/conservation/sustaining (Job 33:4; Ps. 33:6; 104:30).

Notice how I've listed about 14 or 15 or 16 (depending on how one counts) distinctions regarding the Holy Spirit's operation and activity. Is it any wonder that Christians can disagree with each other on the topic of the Holy Spirit? Such disagreements often occur because of an overly dogmatic and/or overly precise theology of the Spirit's activity and presence. When the Bible's descriptions aren't exhaustive or philosophical, but often metaphorical and phenomenological. We get into trouble when we try to tease out of Scripture more than is actually there.

Scripture uses spatial metaphors to describe spiritual relations. Since the Holy Spirit is immaterial, He is physically illocal. He doesn't have extension in space or time. Yet, the Bible teaches that the Holy Spirit is, in some sense, omnipresent everywhere (Ps. 139:7). Similarly, the doctrine of God's immensity refers to how wherever God is, all of God is there present. God is never partially present anywhere He's at. Yet there's also a sense in which the Bible describes the Holy Spirit as being specially "within" believers.

This is why it can be said that even non-Christians "have" the Holy Spirit because as the omnipresent God, "in Him we live and move and have our being" in some metaphorical (maybe even metaphysical) sense.

Above I listed many different senses of the Holy Spirit's activity and presence for another final reason. Namely that:

The debate about the Baptism of the Holy Spirit boils down to two things:

1. an over emphasis and fixation on the Bible's metaphors of activity, presence and timing.

2. More importantly, a neglect of the actual personality of the Holy Spirit. The Baptism of the Holy Spirit is not about timing, presence, volume, amount or physical distance/nearness. It's about RELATIONAL distance or nearness. Just as two human beings can be relationally and emotionally near despite their physical separation, so the Baptism of the Holy Spirit is a matter of PERSONAL ACQUAINTANCE with the Holy Spirit and His acquaintance with and love for us. That kind of acquaintance that goes beyond the propositional and refers to an intimate loving knowledge.

"But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God..."- Gal. 4:9 "But if anyone loves God, he is known by God."- 1 Cor. 8:3
" only have I known..."- Amos 3:2;
; "...Adam knew Eve..."- Gen. 4:1"...I never knew you..."- Matt. 7:23; 
 This is also why the the continual infilling of the Holy Spirit involves fellowshipping with Him (2 Cor. 13:14) and not grieving/vexing Him (Eph. 4:30; Isa. 63:10). That's what "walking" in the Spirit means (Gal. 5:16, 25). "Do two walk together, unless they have agreed to meet?"- Amos 3:3.

Having made the above conclusions regarding the Baptism of the Holy Spirit, I do think that Christians ought to continually seek to be repeatedly filled with the Holy Spirit as Paul instructs in Eph. 5:18. That we must not let our belief (and knowledge if true) of Spirit baptism having been concurrent with our past conversion to lead us into a spiritually apathetic state. But rather press on to greater and fuller empowerment for holiness an service. See for example, an excellent introductory lecture on being filled with the Spirit by Wayne Grudem below.

"Be Filled With The Holy Spirit" Eph 5:18 video message by Wayne Grudem

Wayne Grudem deals with the issue of subsequence in chapter 39 of his Systematic Theology

Gordon Fee deal with the issue of subsequence in chapter 7 (starting page 105) of his book Gospel and Spirit in Hermeneutics


  1. May I recommend the new book from Paternoster, Ritual Water, Ritual Spirit?

    1. Thanks for the recommendation. Reading the Amazon page, it seems you're a Pentecostal, so I'm assuming you do think the Baptism in the Holy Spirit is subsequent. Maybe it is. I'm not dogmatic either way. However, while previously I leaned toward subsequence, I now lean away from it for the reasons I gave above. Among which include:

      1. The logic of Sproul's lecture.

      2. The fact that the well respected Gordon Fee (a Pentecostal scholar) rejects it.

      3. Other Calvinistic Continuationists who I respect also reject it (along with their reasons). For example, Wayne Grudem, John Piper, Sam Storms.

      4. John Wimber's testimony that seems to undermine subsequence. In the lecture I linked to above Wimber states:

      Wimber stated:

      At this point in time I have come full circle from an evangelical theology of filling of the Spirit, through an experience and a theology that embraced what we would call classic Pentecostal... now I've come back to a place where I think I started theologically, but I've added a dimension of experience.


      My perception is that every born-again Christian can manifest any gift that he wants to, because with the coming of the Holy Spirit you have the Source of all gifts.


      I had to get to a point where I understood that all the gifts were available to me....But I'm convinced at this point at times that all the gifts are available to every Christian....But in any case, I believe all the gifts are available to everyone. And that any born again Christian can learn to manifest them all. Release them all. Of course, they come by the Holy Spirit.
      He's the resource. And He will initiate. But all you have to do is be receptive. "Lord I don't know what this person needs, but I want you to give it to me to give to them." All I am is a conduit. All I am is a messenger. I don't send the messages. I don't send the blessings. I just deliver them. As God gives them to me, I give them away.

      Other Christians have said similar things that Wimber has.

      Re-scanning my blogpost, I realize I should update it. I'll do that right after posting this comment. One of the things I'm going to add is how I think the best translation is the "baptism IN the Spirit" rather than, "by" or "with". That the Holy Spirit is the element of baptism, not the Agent (who is Christ).

    2. I agree, 1Cor 12:13 should be translated "in" - the Spirit is the baptismal element of the ritual initiation process.
      I don't hold to subsequence, if by that you mean separation from Christian initiation. Initiation is liminal, that is, a process that takes time. Spirit reception is experienced as part of a liminal Ritual process. Spirit reception and Bsptism in the Spirit have virtually the same meaning.

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    4. If I understand you correctly, then we might be in agreement. But I'm not sure what you mean by "Ritual process" and why your capitalized the "r" in "Ritual".

      Maybe you're referring to the "ritual" of the laying on of hands among Pentecostals and Charismatics
      for the purpose of the prayees receiving the Baptism in the Holy Spirit through the intercession of a pray-er. I generally have no problem with that so long as the pray-ers are truly godly. The reason I say that is because I'm still unsure what to believe about the possibility of the transference of evil spirits through the laying on of hands. There are a lot of rumors, superstitions and anecdotes regarding this phenomenon among continuationists. I've heard that Lester Sumrall used to say something like, "Flies don't land on a hot stove". The implication being that if we're "on fire" for God and spiritually strong, that demons can't enter. That brings up another controversial issue. Namely, whether genuine Christians can be demon possessed or seriously "demonized". I think Christians can be seriously "demonized". Possession has to do with ownership, and if the person is a Christian, then he's owned by God. I could say more, but I've already deviated from the topic.

      Back to the topic of the laying on of hands for Spirit baptism. If I'm right about the error of subsequence, then the Christian prayees already had been baptized in the Holy Spirit as part of their conversion process (without realizing it). They're seeking for something they already have. Nevertheless, if something happens during such an event through the laying on of hands (say speaking in tongues etc.), the Christian really didn't get Spirit baptized for the first time, but merely got a greater present infilling of the Holy Spirit. Something we should be periodically seeking (either corporately or individually). Just as Paul commands us to continually "be being filled" with the Holy Spirit in Eph. 5:18.

  2. The link to R.C. Sproul's lecture "Undervaluing Pentecost" was dead. I replaced it with a new link. Hopefully, it lasts longer.

  3. I've just found Gordon Fee's article, "Baptism in the Holy Spirit: The Issue of Separability and Subsequence," in Pneuma: The Journal of the Society for Pentecostal Studies, 7:2 (Fall 1985):87-99.

    Here's the link (which I'll add to the main blogpost too):