You do desire to see signs and wonders
wrought in the name of Jesus.
This baptism then, is your first great need.
– William Booth
My childhood years were influenced by an orderly and conservative Anglican tradition. Signs and wonders were not for today and any who spoke in tongues were considered extremists belonging to a strange cult. You could imagine the furore when the assistant rector spoke in tongues!
I was converted in 1966 and commenced attending the Salvation Army in 1972. At that time I gave little or no thought to the charismatic question, except that I noticed in my occupation as a funeral director that services conducted in Pentecostal churches were joyful.
My first serious encounter with the charismatic issue occurred during our first appointment in 1980. The Salvation Army was invited to share in an interdenominational campaign, with the key evangelist and speaker an Anglican priest. He was the rector of a rapidly growing church, contrary to the declining trends of other Anglican churches.
A team accompanied him and, as an ecumenical community, we welcomed them at a special tea. I spoke with several team members. One spoke to me concerning my own conversion and then asked me the question, ‘Have you been baptised in the Holy Spirit?’
I had no idea what she was talking about and felt most indignant. My enthusiasm for the campaign dwindled because of the charismatic tone of this group.
As the week went on, I noticed a freshness and vitality about their Christian faith that I had rarely witnessed. They had something I didn’t have and I reacted with anger. I sought to find fault with them, an attitude which they responded to with love and humility.
I believed that divisions were caused by charismatic people. It was bad enough that the Anglican church had been infiltrated. Imagine my horror when I learned that there were charismatic Christians even in the Salvation Army!
In 1987 we reluctantly accepted an invitation for our corps cadets (youth Bible group) to lead a worship meeting at a neighbouring corps which had a strong charismatic flavour. Much to my surprise, the meeting was a delight to lead. The same freshness and vitality that I had witnessed in 1980 was present in that meeting. There was a real body ministry present in that corps.
I returned later to our own corps and sat in on a meeting. The contrast between the two congregations was clearly evident and for the first time I was confronted with the question I had so long wanted to avoid. These people whom I considered so strange had something that was lacking in my own Christian life and ministry and in the lives of Christians in general.
The years following were difficult for our family. By the end of 1990 I was broken both spiritually and emotionally. Yet again I was requested to lead a meeting of worship in another corps that had a charismatic emphasis. I had never felt so hypocritical in my life. Here I was leading worship of a group of people who had a love and passion for God that was absent in my own life.
Their faith was fresh and enthusiastic. That day was 7 July 1991 and later that evening I knelt down in our sitting room and asked God to make me clean. He answered my prayer! The purity and cleanliness of the Holy Spirit flooded through my innermost being to every joint in my body. I wanted to get up and skip and dance. I loved God and I loved everything around me.
That night I was baptised in the Holy Spirit. Almost overnight I found myself on the other side of the charismatic fence and the question took on a new dimension.
The division is sad and I am not so naive as to suggest that charismatic Christians have not contributed. However to blame charismatic people almost exclusively is, as I have discovered, inaccurate and untrue.
Many non‑charismatic Christians have claimed to be made to feel inferior, confused and hurt and I don’t doubt this to be the case.
The other side of the coin has been feeling shut out; accused of having an experience of the devil; being told I am a ‘weirdo’ ‑ and I have even had invitations to lead worship mysteriously withdrawn.
The charismatic question is more than simply the unwanted intrusion of charismatic Christians into the life and style of a non‑charismatic church. If we look at it in that light we tread on very dangerous ground as we are effectively limiting the movement of the Holy Spirit.
Every denomination has charismatic Christians who speak in tongues. So if we are serious in wanting God’s kingdom to be advanced, rather than divided, we need to understand the charismatic question rather than simply condemn it.
The baptism of the Holy Spirit is one that raises many issues, such as full salvation, sanctification, and being filled with the Holy Spirit. The title we give it is not important; the experience is important.
All four Gospels record the promise that Jesus will baptise with the Holy Spirit (Matthew 3:11; Mark 1:8; Luke 3:16; John 1:33). Jesus himself promises that we will be baptised in the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:5), a promise not limited to the believers at Pentecost (Acts 8:17; 9:17; 10.44 and 11:16; 19:6).
Baptism in the Holy Spirit is the activation and release of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer (Acts 1:8). The disciples received the Holy Spirit on the evening of the resurrection day (John 20:22). Likewise we too receive the Holy Spirit at the time of conversion (Romans 8:9; Galatians 3:2; 1 John 3:24). However, the Holy Spirit’s release in our lives, although possible and in fact desirable at the time of our conversion, is quite a separate experience.
Scripture indicates that the release of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer may be at the time of conversion (Acts 10:44) and also on later occasions (John 20:22; Acts 2:1‑4; 8:12‑17; 9:3‑19; 19:1‑6).
The founder of the Salvation Army, William Booth testified to this fact in a letter to Dunedin Hall corps reproduced in a Christian Mission Paper in 1869:
I desire to give a few brief practical hints, and, first and foremost, I commend one qualification which seems to involve all others. That is the Pentecostal baptism of the Holy Ghost. I would have you settle it in your souls for ever, this one great immutable principle in the economy of grace, the spiritual work can only be done by those who possess spiritual power.
I would not have you think that I imagine for a moment that you have not the Spirit. By your fruits I know you have. No men could do the works that are being done in your midst except God was with them. But how much more might be done had you all received this Pentecostal baptism in all its fullness!
Experience in the last 300 years, with various revivals, testifies to baptism in the Holy Spirit being a distinct and separate experience and together with signs and wonders has been a common part of revival.
It is interesting to look at the growth, in the last 90 years, of the Pentecostal/charismatic churches which give particular emphasis to baptism in the Holy Spirit.
In the early part of the 20th century 34.4 per cent of the world population were practising Christians. Of this number 3,700,00 were Pentecostal which was less than one per cent of practising Christians.
In 1995, 33.7 per cent (over 1291 million) of the world population were practising Christians. However, significantly, of this number over 460 million (approximately one third) were Pentecostal/charismatics. Between 1980 and 1995 the worldwide number of Pentecostal/charismatic Christians rose from 158 million to more than 460 million (Statistics from David Barrett in World Christian Encyclopedia and annual reports in International Bulletin of Missionary Research).
In his book about religious beliefs in Australia entitled Many Faiths One Nation, Ian Gillman observes that in Australia the Pentecostal movement grew by 200 per cent between 1972 and 1984. He further noted that the growth in Pentecostal/charismatic churches between 1976 and 1981 was 87.9 per cent, which is 75 per cent higher than the nearest traditional denomination.
These trends, I imagine, would be similar in other countries. As we ponder on these figures of fruitfulness for the Kingdom of God, the words of Jesus (Acts 1:5) promising the baptism in the Holy Spirit for all believers, need to be understood and appropriated.
Perhaps the most critical point is the assertion by many Pentecostals that the initial sign for being baptised in the Holy Spirit is to speak in tongues. From a biblical perspective, I believe there is overwhelming and compelling evidence that in the early church, the initial signs of baptism in the Holy Spirit was to speak in tongues (Mark 16:17; Acts 2:4; 10:46; 19:6).
Two other accounts do not directly indicate that they spoke in tongues ‑ Acts 8:17; 9:17. In the first account something observable happened, even though not the signs and wonders which occurred earlier in Acts 8:6,7.
According to many reputable Bible scholars this observable sign was speaking in tongues. In the account of Acts 9:17 when Paul was filled with the Holy Spirit, although it does not say specifically that he spoke in tongues there and then, we do know that he did speak in tongues (1 Corinthians 14:18).
With this Biblical perspective, what about today? Is it possible to be baptised in the Holy Spirit and not speak in tongues? My own opinion is an overwhelming Yes!
Many Christians, spiritual giants with powerful ministries, have never spoken in tongues. I personally did not receive the gift of tongues until some months after the experience of baptism with the Holy Spirit.
Michael Harper shares this view and gives three reasons why people baptised in the Spirit may not speak in tongues:
Firstly, not knowing: I did not know how to speak in tongues. In fact I believed the Holy Spirit spoke through me. I often had the urge to praise God with strange syllables but stopped myself because it wasn’t what I believed was speaking in tongues. When I finally discovered that I had to speak, the unknown language flowed.
Secondly, fear: unfortunately tongues has been misused in the past as was the case with the Corinthian church. This has caused genuine fear in some people.
Thirdly, prejudice: some are blatantly against speaking in tongues. They hear negative things about it and so are brought up, as I was, to reject it.
I would add a further reason and that is there are many who are not personally opposed, and are happy for others to have the gift, but don’t wish to appropriate it for themselves.
Another very contentious issue is whether tongues is universal for all Spirit‑filled Christians? I believe that tongues, although not appropriated by all Spirit‑filled Christians, is an available gift. I base this on a number of reasons.
Firstly, it is a glorious gift that deepens prayer life and relationship with the Lord. I have also witnessed many answers to prayers in tongues. I find it difficult to believe that God would give such spiritual benefits to some and not to all.
Secondly, speaking in tongues and praying in the Spirit are clearly identified as the same in 1 Corinthians 14:2, 13‑18. There are a number of references in Scripture to ‘praying in the Spirit’ and each appears to point to a universal use of tongues, for example, Romans 8:26; Ephesians 6:18; Jude 20.
In the book of Acts where believers prayed in tongues after being filled with the Spirit, it does not say some prayed in tongues. It is more probable that all prayed in tongues.
Thirdly, the main biblical objection to the universal use of tongues, it is claimed, is found in 1 Corinthians 12:10 – ‘to another, speaking in different kinds of tongues’. On initial reading this would appear to be the case. The argument hinges on the different Greek words use for another.
In this passage the word ‘another’ appears eight times, but it translates two quite different Greek words. The Greek words are allos ‑ meaning ‘another of the same kind’ and heteros ‑ meaning ‘another of a different kind’. So the passage reads: ‘to another (allos) the message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another (heteros) faith by the same Spirit, to another (allos) gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another (allos) miraculous power, to another (allos) prophecy, to another (allos) distinguishing between spirits, to another (heteros) speaking in different kinds of tongues, to still another (allos) the interpretation of tongues.’
For all gifts, except faith and tongues, Paul uses the Greek allos. For faith and tongues he uses heteros. No one would suggest that only some have faith because the gift of faith is different. Similarly, we cannot claim that because heteros is used, the gift of tongues is only available to some.
Likewise, there are two kinds of tongues. C. Peter Wagner describes these differences as private tongues and public tongues. Private tongues is a personal prayer language, whereas public tongues, which 1 Corinthians 12 speaks about, is one which can be used publicly with accompanying interpretation.
Finally, the aspect charismatic people must beware of is spiritual pride. We have been saved, and are what we are, purely by the grace of God and none of us, charismatic or non‑charismatic, has anything to boast about (Ephesians 2:8,9).
A timely warning was given by Charles Widdowson:
Don’t go overboard with the power and the gifts at the expense of the person and the fruit. I want to underline that in the early days of the charismatic movement in the late sixties and early seventies, all you heard about was the Holy Spirit and the gifts of the Spirit. We heard very, very, little, comparatively, about Jesus and love. Now that has been balanced, I believe. We’ve got to keep our eyes on Jesus. We have the fullness of the Holy Spirit, and the fruit of the Spirit is love and nothing of the power is to be exercised apart from the fruit of the Spirit which is love.
I endorse these remarks. Any gift possessed and exercised without love amounts to nothing, as Paul says in 1 Corinthians 13.
Something of William Booth’s own attitude to gift of the Spirit can be gauged from the following letter, published in The East London Evangelist, 1 April 1869:
Letter from William Booth
TO THE BRETHREN AND SISTERS LABOURING FOR JESUS
in connection with the
Dunedin Hall Christian Mission, Edinburgh
BELOVED FRIENDS ‑ Though I have not been privileged to see you in the flesh, yet I have heard with great thankfulness from time to time of your work of faith and labour of love: and I rejoice greatly in the abundant blessing granted to your labours, and bless God for every brand plucked from the everlasting through your instrumentality. I earnestly pray that you may be made a hundredfold more useful in the future than you have been in the past. The work in which you are engaged is the most important that can engage the attention or call forth the energies of any being…
Success in soul‑winning, like all other work, both human and divine, depends on certain conditions… If you want to succeed you must be careful to comply with these conditions…
I desire to give a few brief practical hints…And, first and foremost, I commend one qualification which seems to involve all others. That is, the Pentecostal baptism of the Holy Ghost. I would have you settle it in your souls for ever this one great immutable principle in the economy of grace, that spiritual work can only be done by those who possess spiritual power. No matter what else you may lack, or what may be against you, with the Holy Ghost you will succeed; but without the Holy Spirit, no matter what else you may possess, you will utterly and eternally fail.
Many make mistakes here. Aroused by the inward urgings of the Holy Spirit, they endeavour to comply with the call which comes from the word and the necessities of their fellow men; but being destitute of this power, they fail, and instead of going to the Strong for strength, they give up in despair. Again aroused, again they resolve and venture forth, but having no more power than before, they are as impotent as ever. And fail they must, until baptised with power from on high.
This I am convinced, is the one great need of the Church. We want no new truths, agencies, means, or appliances. We only want more of the fire of the Holy Ghost. …
O what zeal, what self‑denial, what meekness, what boldness, what holiness, what love, would there not be? And with all this, what power for your great work? The whole city would feel it. God’s people in every direction would catch the fire, and sinners would fall on every side. Difficulties would vanish, devils be conquered, infidels believe, and the glory of God be displayed…
You do desire to see signs and wonders wrought in the name of Jesus. To see a great awakening among the careless crowds around you….
This baptism then, is your first great need. If you think with me, will you not tarry for it? Offer yourselves to God for the fullness. Lay aside every weight…
Hold on! Though your feelings are barren, your way dark, and your difficulties be multiplied, steadily hang on the word of God.
Expect the baptism every hour; wait if he tarry. ‘This kind goeth not forth but by prayer and fasting’; and the Lord whom you seek shall suddenly come to his temple.
I have more to say to you, but must wait another opportunity. Yours in the fellowship of the Gospel.
These are strong words. Every Christian today needs this baptism in the Holy Spirit. We must, if we are serious about the kingdom of God, teach this to our people and pray for revival power to return to our church communities.
Renewal in the Church
by Stan Everitt
Lieutenant Colonel Stan Everitt wrote as the Divisional Commander of the Salvation Army, South Queensland Division.
God’s Holy Spirit is being
poured out upon his people
‘In the last days I will pour out my Spirit upon all people.’
I am not sure if these are the last days, but I know God’s Holy Spirit is being poured out upon his people, bringing new life to the individual and eventually to his church.
Looking back on thirty years in ministry, there is no doubt in my mind that we have entered a time of spiritual renewal which, I believe, is but the beginning of a mighty worldwide renewal. As I see it, the priorities of many Christian are moving on to Bible study, prayer, and concern for the unconverted. This is happening amongst my own people as they become aware of the fact that the promise given so long ago is for each of them as individual people.
The testimony of a new Christian strengthened my belief that the Spirit of God is at work when I heard her say, ‘Knowing nothing about the Holy Spirit, I was nevertheless made aware of a new overwhelming sense of God’s presence, bringing a peace that I have never known before.’
While the organised church becomes more and more caught up in discussion on doctrinal matters and liturgical processes, individual church members are responding to the challenge of the Holy Spirit to strengthen their own faith, and in doing so, being able to communicate better with needy people in the community who are hungering for the Word of God.
As a believer, there is no doubt in my mind that the true worldwide church of God (whatever tag sections of it may wear because of traditional and doctrinal stances) will never be abolished. The true church in many developing countries founded upon the risen Lord is growing by thousands every day and is yet to have its more glorious era, as the name of Jesus is uplifted.
Although there are signs of corporate renewal, most churches in the so-called western countries, particularly in Australia, have become so much like the organised religion of Jesus’ day that our effectiveness in the community is minimal.
One gets the feeling that a monumental percentage of the clergy’s time is spent on administration and, in the light of eternity, things that are so insignificant. This is at the cost of deepening one’s spiritual life and the pastoral ministry to our people and the needs of the community.
All is not lost, I believe, but it seems that in so many places the individual Christian, often without any help from the pastor or priest, is setting the pace in areas which should be the concern of the organised church, and areas in which Jesus would be ministering if he were here in person.
In conclusion, I make a plea that we, as church leaders, might humble ourselves in God’s presence, and pray that the promise made so long ago might become a reality in our lives, making us more dependent upon the Holy Spirit than upon the organisation and ritual of the structured church of the 90’s.
© Renewal Journal 6: Worship, 1995, 2nd edition 2011
Reproduction is allowed with the copyright included.
Now available in updated book form (2nd edition 2011)
Renewal Journal 6: Worship – discounted in eStore
Amazon – Renewal Journal 6: Worship
Amazon – all journals and books