I became a disciple of the Lord Jesus at the age of 30. My first church experience was in a Pentecostal assembly whose leaders soon instructed my wife and I on the necessity of being ‘baptised in the Holy Spirit’. As a fresh and excited new believer I took every opportunity of speaking about the new spirit-filled life in Christ. I remember a long conversation I had with my mother. She was an old school Methodist who was suspicious of ‘born again’ believers, a little condescending of ‘happy clapies’, and traditional in her ideas of worship and church life. “But mom”, I remember protesting “you need to be baptised in the Holy Spirit!” She arched one eyebrow and explained patiently how long she had been a Christian, what she had done in the church, and how she felt no need to be a ‘Pentecostal’. I could see I was getting nowhere so changed tack by asking her when she had been ‘born again’ – another ill-chosen expression. “Oh” she said, “I came to know Jesus as my saviour at a very early age.” Then she paused and reflected for a moment before adding, “But it was much later that I realised my need to be empowered by the Holy Spirit.”
That was a good lesson for me. It doesn’t so much matter what terms we use, but rather that we experience the reality we are seeking to describe. ‘Baptism in, by, or with the Holy Spirit’ are just words we use to express our acknowledgement that we need to be empowered by the Holy Spirit for life and ministry. The word ‘baptism’ is best applied to immersion in water, and so ‘filled’ by and with the Holy Spirit is probably a better word to describe the ‘Pentecostal’ reality.
When Jesus was baptised in the Jordan River the Holy Spirit came upon Him and ‘anointed’ Him. The Holy Spirit filled Jesus with spiritual power. The word ‘anointing’ well describes this empowering. In Old Testament times Priests and Prophets were anointed with oil to symbolise their Spirit-empowered ministry. However, Jesus’ injunction to His first disciples was to wait in Jerusalem until they had been ‘clothed with power from on high’ (Luke 24:49). And we, no less than those first disciples, need to be clothed with power from on high. We need the in-filling of the Holy Spirit. We need the anointing.
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