In my Pentecostal upbringing, I
really wanted the Holy Spirit baptism, but didn’t receive
it for seven years. It wasn’t until I reached a point of
desperation for what only the Spirit could provide that I finally
received. For all those years I wanted the Holy Spirit baptism
for the wrong reason. I wanted it simply so I could say I had
it. For the most part, the purpose of this wonderful blessing
escaped me. I wrongly viewed the Baptism as a point of arrival
instead of what it is — a point of entrance into a life
of Spirit-empowered witness for Christ.
He ascended to heaven, Jesus promised His disciples, “You
will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and
you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea
and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.”1
The last of Jesus’ words
recorded by Luke are these: “That repentance for forgiveness of sins
would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.
You are witnesses of these things. And behold, I am sending forth the promise
of My Father upon you; but you are to stay in the city until you are clothed
with power from on high.”2
It would seem that a task so great,
proclaiming Christ’s message to all the nations, should commence immediately.
But Jesus told the disciples to wait in the city to be “clothed with
power from on high.”
Remember the American Express commercial?
A person is on a trip away from home without the necessary resources and is
advised, “Don’t leave home without it!” Jesus was telling
His disciples essentially the same thing — that they should not begin
their mission without being equipped to accomplish their task.
Jesus clearly stated that the essential purpose of the Spirit’s empowerment
is to be Jesus’ witnesses. The Holy Spirit baptism is a promised gift
to all believers.3 But receiving the gift is not a guarantee that the promised
power will be used for its intended purpose.
I heard an intriguing fact on the
radio: 95 percent of all sport utility vehicles sold in the United States
are never taken off the road. Of course, during Minnesota winters, four-wheel
drive is a great help in snow and even on city streets. But why would someone
need four-wheel drive on the freeways of Southern California? These vehicles
were equipped for a purpose for which most are rarely, if ever, used.
I believe this illustrates many
people’s experience concerning the Holy Spirit baptism. They receive
this wonderful gift, yet they don’t put it into action or may not even
fully understand the purpose for which this equipping power was given.
Jesus’ promise to His followers
was that they would be His witnesses wherever they went. Unfortunately, many
equate being a witness merely with their speech, or what has come to be termed
“witnessing.” But effectiveness in reaching the spiritually lost
requires a witness beyond words.
The apostle Paul wrote to the believers
at Thessalonica: “Our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also
in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction; just as you know
what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake.”4
Paul’s witness was not merely
what he said (“not … in word only”), but also how he said
it (“in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction”)
and who he was (“you know what kind of men we proved to be among you
for your sake”).
Our witness is comprised of what
we say (vocal), how we say it (vital) and who we are (valid).
and Answers about the Holy Spirit
Hal Donaldson, Ken Horn, & Ann Floyd
the Bible Says about the Holy Spirit
Stanley M. Horton
Holy Spirit: A Pentecostal Perspective
Anthony D. Palma
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Our message is Jesus. It is the Christ-centered message the Spirit
will honor and use. Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would
glorify Him.5 After the Day of Pentecost, the first Christians
boldly and clearly witnessed about Jesus as He promised they would.6
In Acts 2, the multitude was amazed
because they heard those who had been filled with the Holy Spirit speaking
in the languages of the unbelievers who were gathered. When they asked what
was happening, Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, stood and explained that
this was the fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy in the Old Testament concerning
the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.7 Then he clearly and boldly preached Jesus
Christ, and about 3,000 people were added to the church that day.
In Acts 3, Peter and John were
going to the temple to pray, and a man lame from birth was healed. Peter again
used the opportunity to proclaim Jesus, and about 5,000 believed the message.
In Acts 4, the priests, captain
of the temple guard and the Sadducees were so disturbed that they put Peter
and John in jail. The next day the rulers, elders, scribes and high priests
challenged them: “By what power, or in what name, have you done this?”8
Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, spoke boldly about Jesus: “There
is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that
has been given among men by which we must be saved.”9
When the Early Church was born,
the message of the believers always focused on the person Jesus Christ. As
they boldly and clearly proclaimed Jesus, great numbers believed.
Today this same message —
Jesus — must be clearly communicated to the spiritually lost of this
world. The life of Jesus Christ is the turning point of all history. The world’s
calendar is hinged on His birth. He is thought of by many as a teacher, a
philosopher, or even a prophet, but every person must be confronted with the
reality of who Jesus truly is — the sinless Son of God who gave His
life to pay the penalty for our sins. They must be given an adequate witness
and opportunity to accept His offer of forgiveness and everlasting life and
personally submit to His lordship.
Our words must have vitality. How we say things communicates as much as what
we say. Passion is contagious. It is not necessarily conveyed by volume, but
rather through evident sincerity and conviction. To be convincing we must
first be convinced. If we’re not moved by our message, it’s unlikely
we will move anyone else.
Our emotions, attitudes and actions
are as much a part of our message as our words. In his letter to the Colossians,
Paul said, “Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making
the most of the opportunity. Let your speech always be with grace, as though
seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person.”10
The apostle Peter wrote, “Always
be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason
for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping
a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good
behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.”11
Notice that both Paul and Peter
emphasize a witness that includes more than mere words. Paul says our speech
should “always be with grace.” Peter says we should speak “with
gentleness and respect.”
The validity of our witness is related to the credibility of our lives. Effective
witness depends on character. This has always been true. But in a culture
that is increasingly skeptical of Christianity, it is even more critical.
The content of our message will be greatly hindered if our manner and actions
are inconsistent with our words. With many people, especially those we know
personally, our own testimony of the difference Christ has made in our lives
and its consistent proof through our actions will be what compels them most.
In many countries, Christianity
is not a prominent religion. The Christian population is small, and Christian
media do not exist. This can offer a great advantage in evangelism, because
the first witness unbelievers in those countries receive is from someone they
know personally whose life has greatly changed after receiving Christ. They
do not have to overcome negative perceptions that come from knowing people
who communicate a Christian message but whose lives do not affirm it.
In a society in which people are
rapidly losing faith in the integrity of leaders in government and the business
world, the personal credibility of Christians is not merely an added blessing
in witness, but an essential requirement.
People often think of the Holy Spirit’s
empowerment only in terms of signs and wonders and spiritual gifts. But the
word translated “power” in Acts 1:8 is wonderfully comprehensive.
It simply means “ability” and applies in practical ways to everyday
The Holy Spirit supplies whatever
it takes to help us accomplish what is needed. That is all we really need
— whatever it takes. The Holy Spirit enables ordinary people to do extraordinary
The Holy Spirit empowers our witness
in what we say. As He did for the New Testament Christians after the Day of
Pentecost, the Spirit gives us the internal motivation to speak about Jesus,
confident in His (the Spirit’s) convincing work. The early Christians
prayed for that kind of help: “Grant that Your bond-servants may speak
Your word with all confidence.”12
The Holy Spirit also helps us in
how we speak — to communicate Christ as Paul did “in power and
in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction.”13 The Spirit moves us
in our witness with a sincere, compelling passion.
And the Holy Spirit enables our
character to become what God has called us to be as the fruit of the Spirit
— the nature of Jesus Christ — becomes evident in our lives.
The power Jesus promised His followers
is for every aspect of Christian living, enabling us to do and
be whatever our Lord has purposed in our lives. The Holy Spirit
baptism opens the way to a life of effective witness for Christ
in what we say, how we say it and who we are.
Hurst is commissioner of evangelism for the Assemblies of God.
E-mail your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
All Scriptures are from the New
American Standard Bible [unless otherwise noted].
2. Luke 24:47-49
3. Acts 2:39
4. 1 Thessalonians 1:5
5. John 16:14
6. Acts 1:8
7. Acts 2:16-18; Joel 2:28,29
8. Acts 4:7
9. Acts 4:12
10. Colossians 4:5,6
11. 1 Peter 3:15,16, NIV
12. Acts 4:29
1 Thessalonians 1:5