What are your thoughts on the spiritual gifts of Corinthians 12-14 and do you think that the disciples received the Holy Spirit in John 20:22 or was it symbolic of the Spirit's coming in Acts 2?
Thanks for the email. After reading what you said about the commentaries I went home and looked up the one I have (Bible Believers Commentary - William MacDonald) about John 20:22. It started by saying that it was one of the hardest verses in the entire book! Oh great! Not that I am unfamiliar with it.
Just as a bit of background about me (before trying to answer the question)... The churches I went to after getting saved were Pentecostal churches. Apostolic, New Life, etc. I was so sure that I had to have the 'baptism in the Spirit' that I went forward to receive 'it' over 10 times in the first two years of my Christian life. No luck. Although, to be fair, I guess at the time I simply equated 'it' with speaking in tongues or possibly some fantastic feeling or power. Today, when I look back I can see God blessed me in other ways and I now believe differently from how I did in my early Christian life.
I think that it is very important to be balanced on this issue... so for what it is worth, here is what I think. I realise that some of this is not exactly what you asked but it is all part of the bigger picture and I personally believe that most Pentecostals are not balanced on this issue. I will focus on spiritual gifts a bit because Pentecostals do seem to equate 'baptism of the Spirit' with receiving these gifts.
Firstly the definites!
1) There is not one truly born-again believer that does not have the Holy Spirit. (Rom 8:9 like you mentioned, John 7:37,38, Eph 1:13 - receiving the Spirit happens when you truly 'believe' and are saved)
2) When you are saved, you receive all that you are going to get because you receive a person, not a power or simply a spiritual gift. The receiving of the Spirit into your life will be outworked in many different ways through different gifts and experiences... but you have all that you need from day one because you have received God into your life! 2 Pet 1:3-4, Eph 1:4.
3) Gifts of the Spirit, including tongues, prophecy, gifts of healing etc are definitely for today (1 Cor 13:8-10 indicts that these gifts will cease when Jesus returns... not before) and they should be desired (which indicates that the manifestation of the gifts doesn't have to come straight at salvation even though that is when you receive the Spirit. 1 Cor 14:1)
4) Love is more important than any of the gifts! (1 Cor 13)
5) It's the choice of the Holy Spirit as to what gift He gives. Not everyone gets tongues! 1 Cor 12:11,29 (And the sometimes 'less desired' gifts of Rom 12:6-8 are just as important as those in 1 Cor 12,14)
6) This is a biggy - Spiritual gifts don't make you 'spiritual'! (The Corinthian church had all the gifts and they were the worst in their daily lives... Paul calls them 'Carnal'!)
7) The ongoing command of Eph 5 is to 'be ye being filled' (that is the sense in the Greek) with the Spirit. This is not just one experience - continual, daily, relationship allowing him to control/enable your walk.
Now the definite maybes!
John 20:22 -
I think it is clear that the Holy Spirit couldn't come and permanently indwell the believer as He does (and was prophesied to happen many times) until Jesus went back to the Father. Not really sure why this is the case but Jesus said it, so I'm not about to disagree! John 16:7. And the references that Jesus made to the coming of the Holy Spirit, even after telling them to 'receive the Spirit' in John 20 are still future. For example, see Luke 24:49, Acts 1:5
In the Old Testament, we know that the Spirit came upon the prophets and Kings (and others) for temporary purposes and this continued up until the Spirit was given as a permanent resident within us from Pentecost on. I'm sure when Jesus sent the 12 out two by two and gave them power over demons, and the power to heal the sick, that this was the presence of the Holy Spirit that gave them the ability to do such things. Therefore, it could well be that John 20:22 fits into the same category. A temporary empowering and filling just as it had happened many times before. Possibly it was a prophetic act that Jesus did in view of what would happen at Pentecost. Hard to know because it is only one verse without any other qualification.It is clear though that this could not have been the permanent residence of the indwelling Spirit because Jesus had not left yet.
So, technically speaking, I believe that 'Baptism in the Spirit' is the baptism that happens to every believer when they believe and it is a baptism into the body of Christ as 1 Cor 12:13 states. I have no problem with believers desiring spiritual gifts and praying for such. Certainly, there are experiences such as what happened in Acts 2, but God gives them to people for a reason... not just for 'an experience'. (My friend Brett Wilton who does the web site with me had such an amazing experience a few weeks after becoming a Christian - but that is another story.) I believe that God pours out His Spirit in these ways however for a reason and I don't believe that it is necessarily the experience of everyone. In my friends case, He was soon to move back home from University into a house where his mother was fully into the New Age and Indian Gurus and he had all sorts of attacks.
One other point... when you read all the letters of Paul and Peter to the churches and believers, you do not see them dwelling greatly on these things. Sure gifts are mentioned in 1 Cor 12,14 and Rom 12, but there is nothing about urging believers to be 'baptised in the Spirit' etc... the emphasis is on Jesus. What he has done, and who He is in you. On a personal level, it has been this that has changed my life. A daily thankfulness and surrendering to who He is and who He can be through me. No matter what 'experiences' someone has had in the past, it still comes down to a daily walk, a daily filling and allowing Him to control our lives. We don't get more of Him. He gets more of us.
Anyway, that will do. I've probably gone all over the place but feel free to respond and tell me what you think. Nothing wrong with nutting these issues out.
Ok, one last thing. I believe it is important to encourage and tell believers that they have the Holy Spirit within them. I've seen some Pentecostal churches and even the Bible College that I went too, that basically made people that didn't speak in tongues feel like they may not have the Holy Spirit or were certainly missing out and were kind of second class Christian. That's when this emphasis on gifts/Holy Spirit goes really wrong and can damage people.