Wednesday, June 26, 2013

John Piper: How to Receive the Gift of the Holy Spirit – April 29, 1984

Just when I thought I was done with Ignatius of Antioch, behold, I start reading the pseudonymous letters written under his name.  The spurious letters have very much the same themes of Ig, but the style is completely different.

I will try to review all 8 of those on one post.  Today, I will debate John Piper about his stance on baptism by the Holy Spirit.  Tabletalk  is teaching on the Spirit this week, and they referenced Piper’s sermon series on him in 1984.  It is mostly wonderful as is to be expected of Piper.  This one sermon, however, shows more of the denominational differences between him versus me and R.C. Sproul.

John Piper is a Baptist, and that makes a huge difference in how he defines all baptisms.  He also is apparently a continuationist, meaning he believes the gift of tongues and miraculous signs continue today.  However, I am Presbyterian, paedo-baptist, and mostly take the cessationist view – that the signs have stopped after the apostles died.  I’m not going to say they never happen on some fringe of the planet that still does not know Jesus, but it is certainly not the norm.
For this exercise I will type the different headings in this sermon and then write what believe.

1. What Is Receiving the Gift of the Holy Spirit?

Piper quotes from a book written by an Episcopal priest, Dennis Bennet, and his wife, Rita.  “What if I don’t speak in tongues?  Can I receive the Holy Spirit without speaking in tongues?”

The good news is that the Bennets believe you can be saved and even baptized by the Holy Spirit without speaking in tongues.  Even if the gift still exists, not all people have it.

The bad news is that they see a difference between a regenerated Christian and a Christian who has been baptized by the Holy Spirit.  John Piper mostly agrees with this.

Tongues and Baptism in the Spirit in Acts

Con: Piper thinks the Bennets are wrong to make tongues a part of the package of baptism in the Spirit.  In Acts 1:5, Jesus tells the disciples that John baptized with water, but later they will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.  In verse 8, our Lord tells them that they will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on them.  This happens on Pentecost in chapter 2.  They all speak in tongues, and Peter boldly proclaims the truth when before he denied Christ.

In chapter 8, apostles preach in Samaria and those people speak in tongues.

In Acts 10, Peter visits Cornelius, preaches the Word, and then the Gentiles speak in tongues.  It’s not just for Jews anymore, but for non-Jews

Acts 19 is the biggest conundrum between credo-baptists and paedo-baptists.  This is where Paul meets disciples of John the Baptist who had not heard of the Holy Spirit.  Paul baptized them in the name of the three members of the Trinity, and then they spoke in tongues.

In the credo view, first, you hear the word, then you are baptized in water to proclaim your faith, and finally the Spirit baptizes you at a later point when someone prays for you to receive him.

My view is that first you are born, then you hear the word, then you make a public profession of faith.  If you have not been water-baptized already, you will be baptized with water.  To be a regenerate Christian is the same thing as having the Spirit.  If you have not been baptized in the Spirit, then you are not yet a Christian.  Later on, you grow and mature in the faith gradually knowing more doctrine and slowly becoming able to boldly proclaim Christ’s name.

Tongues Not Necessary to Being Baptized in the Spirit

Piper and I agree that tongues are not necessary to being baptized in the Spirit.  In 1 Corinthians 12:30, Paul himself says that not all speak in tongues as a gift of the Spirit.  The difference is that from my view, if Pentecostals are right about having to have tongues to be baptized in the Spirit, then you would have to have tongues to be a Christian in general.  Praise God, I believe that is wrong.

Stressing the Experience of Baptism in the Spirit

Con: Piper agrees that it is right for the Bennets to stress the experiential reality of receiving the Holy Spirit.  True Christians will boldly experience change and confidence in Christ that they do not necessarily have when first accepting Christ.  However, in my belief, that does not mean they received the Spirit at a later date.  It just means they started young and then they grew up.  Piper and the Bennets would make as much sense to say that a baby is born, but when he finally learns to talk, then he’s super-born. 

No, the baby is simply older and knows more.  He is not more born than he was before.  He’s just older.  In the same way, a bold Christian is older and more experienced.  He already had the Spirit when he was reborn in the faith.  He can’t possibly be more reborn.

Four Reasons Why It is Right to Do so

Piper has four reasons why it is right to stress the experience of being baptized in the Spirit.  I give a hearty amen, because true Christians will bear fruit.  If they are not learning theology, the Bible, trusting Christ even in the face of ridicule or persecution, then there is something seriously wrong.  They may not be getting the correct Bible teaching, or they are simply not attending church as they should.

1. Terminology

The very term "baptized in the Holy Spirit" (1:5; 11:16) implies an immersion in the life of the Spirit.”  Agreed, but that also means the person is saved.  He would not be saved if he had not been immersed in the Spirit.

2. Power, Boldness, and Confidence

“This is an experience of boldness and confidence and victory over sin. A Christian without power is a Christian who needs a baptism in the Holy Spirit.”

Again, there are no Christians who have not been baptized in the Holy Spirit.  One implies the other.  There are simply younger Christians, and more mature Christians whose power, boldness, and confidence have grown with time and attention.

3. The Testimony of Acts

“In fact the third reason I think this is that when you take your concordance and look up every text in Acts where the Holy Spirit works in believers, it is never subconscious.”

I could tell you from experience, that I have consistently lived in the Spirit since 1996.  I believe that is when I truly became a Christian, even though there is no time when I did not know or believe in Jesus.  I can’t tell you my conversion date, but I can tell you I started caring exclusively about Christ in 1996, and so if people ask when I became a Christian, I tell them that year.

I could not have sustained my faith through high school with friends who decided other people were more important than following the Lord.  I was a lonely, social outcast.  It improved in college, but I went through depressions and confusions.  After that, I was confused about finding a job and a husband.  I have both on the horizon yet still get discouraged.  I would not be alive or sane today had not the Spirit baptized me in 1996 and sustained me the whole time.  However, I can tell you that I am more bold and confident now in the Lord than I was in 2003 or even 2007.

4. The Consequence of Faith

“The fourth reason we should stress the experience of baptism in the Holy Spirit is that in Acts the apostles teach that it is a consequence of faith not a subconscious cause of faith.”

He uses Acts 11:15-17 as proof.  Peter reported on how the Spirit fell on Cornelius just as on the Jews at Pentecost.  If that is true, then that was the point where he came to proper faith in Christ.  The new Church needed the visible sign of tongues then to show that their words are true.  These days, they do not.  God needed to show them a sign that they were indeed in the true invisible church.  Whether the baptism of the Holy Spirit started with boldness and power, or whether it grew as a seed, that point is when you became a regenerate believer.  There are no Christians who have not been baptized in the Spirit.

Receiving the Spirit Is a Life-Changing Experience

A hearty amen to that.  It is life-changing.  If your life doesn’t change, then you have not experienced receiving the Spirit.  However, it is at different paces for all different people.

Two Things that Characterize this Experience

1. A Heart of Praise

Yes, something all believers have.  It may still be growing, or it could be very obvious.

2. Obedience

You may not follow Christ perfectly, but now you care about offending him and you do what you can to obey out of love for him.  Also, something you do without having to have the mature boldness.

2. How to Receive the Gift of the Spirit

Here is where I agree with Piper.  Peter, in Acts 2, says this is for all believers and their children, which is why the Presbyterians include infants in baptism.

The Word of God Must be Heard
The Sovereign God Must Call Men and Women
We Must Receive the Word

Those three steps all happen at the same time when a person comes to salvation.  He must have all three of those at once.

We Must Express Faith Through Water Baptism

We must be baptized, but in the Holy Spirit.  Water baptism is the outward sign of being a member of the visible church.  We do need to do that if we have not already.  However, you must have the Holy Spirit baptism to be part of the invisible church and to be a child of God.

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