Sunday, May 27, 2007

A Transcript from Life in the Spirit Conference about the Baptism in the Holy Spirit

I still remain quite unsure about the use of the term "continuationist" and concerned about it's relationship to "functional cessationism". Just because one believes the gifts of the Spirit continue, implies nothing about heeding the Scriptural command to "earnestly pursue ... especially". Furthermore I am trying to establish the implications of forming church ecclesiology around the gifts of the Spirit while abandoning the baptism of the Spirit.

With that in mind I present a section of a transcript from a Question and Answer Session held at the Life in the Spirit Conference 1997 at Westminster Chapel. It was between Dr R T Kendall and Dr Michael Eaton and is very insightful and helpful. PS: The photo has nothing to do with the conference or the transcript. I found it by chance and it made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. There are some charismatic heavyweights there! R T Kendall, Rodney Howard-Browne, Reinhard Bonke and Rick Joyner.

Ben White: This is not a set up because I am a committee member to get things going but this is a genuine question. I wonder what our brothers think about the subject of the baptism of the Holy Spirit, or with the Holy Spirit. To many people it appears to be unclear because there are still different points of view and I wonder if they have any thoughts about that and whether it is something that needs resolving or explaining further in these days.

Chair: Yes, when I was at Spring Harvest a couple of years ago, we had nine options from which we could chose to teach so it's ... there is definately some confusion.

R T Kendall: I would like to speak first in order to give it to Michael. (*laughter*). He has written a book on this subject so he's really the one to answer it. But I will take this brief moment to say that this is the first time Michael and I have ever been on the same platform before in this way. He is a member of Westminster Chapel - I have known him about 20 years - he is a close friend and I have had him preach here a number of times - but to be together like this, it is the first time and it is a pleasure to be here. I have said (I am sure down the road I will find exceptions to what I am saying right now) but he and I probably have the greatest reciprocity of theological views of any two people I know. I am sure that there are some people who would agree with him more than I do and vice versa. And I am sure we have some private disagreements on this or that - but generally speaking and certainly when it comes to soteriology - what you heard this morning - it is just a privilidge to be with Michael. But now for the question of the baptism of the Holy Spirit - I have got my views. But he's the expert so over to you. (*laughter*).

Michael Eaton: Well I think the important thing with regard to the subject is for us to agree on a kind of method as to how you get the answer. When you have any kind of theological question - how do you find the answer? And I think with any kind of question, the first thing you do is a kind of survey of the biblical material from which you will get the answer. I think this is very important with regards to the baptism of the Spirit - you will find various books on the subject which deal with one or two verses - I can think of one book, well-known - you will probably know it and it expounds Ephesians 5:18 and 1 Corinthians 12:13 - and in my opinion neither of those two verses deal with the baptism of the Holy Spirit! So I think one of the first things one has to do is to survey your material. When you do that - you will find that a lot of terms are interchangable. Think of Acts 1 and 2 for a moment. Jesus said, "I am going to pour out My Holy Spirit" and the word "outpoured" is used. "You shall receive power" - 'receiving power' is used. "When the Spirit has come upon you, you will be My witnesses" - 'filled' is used. Peter said, "that which He has poured out" - again 'outpoured' is used. So you probably have half a dozen terms that refer to the same thing. And there are about ten of those terms; "baptism - filling - sealing". It's not difficult to show that they are interchangable terms. They don't all exactly have the same meaning but they all refer to the one outpouring of the Spirit.

When you gather all of the references on the subject, they are all demonstrably interchangeable and dealing with the same thing. You have Jesus' predictions of the baptism of the Holy Spirit in Matthew 3, Mark 1, Luke 3. You have the teaching of John in John 14, 15, 16, 20. You have Romans 5:5, Romans 8:16, and Galatians 4. When you collect the whole material of the Spirit and you sort of know it is dealing with one and the same thing, yuo then ask of the whole range of material certain questions.

a. What is the outpouring of the Spirit? b. Is it identical to regeneration - to being born again? c. how do people come into such a level of blessing? d. how does it relate to gifts of the Holy Spirit?

You sort of set your questions up and you answer the questions from the passages you have surveyed. When you do that - I can't do it here - but the answers come up something like this.

a. What is the outpouring of the Spirit? The baptism of the Holy Spirit is vibrantly experimental. It is something concious - it cannot possibly take place unknown and unseen. It is rivers of living water, it is a foretaste of heaven. You cannot have a foretaste without knowning about it! It is receiving power - you cannot receive power without knowing about it! It is joy unspeakable and full of glory - you cannot have joy unspeakable without knowing about it! It is vibrantly experimental!

b. Is it identical to regeneration - to being born again? The answer is "No". The disciples were not born again in Acts chapter 2. Jesus wasn't born again when the Spirit was poured out on Him in Luke 4. Is it the new birth? No. The new birth is not vibrantly experimental. It can take place subconciously. It is not necessarily a feeling. The descriptions of the two are different.

What is it then? Is it tongues or the gifts of the Spirit? No. It is a mistake to talk as though the baptism of the Spirit is tongues. That is a mistake. Is it a gift of holiness as the Holiness Movement has said? No not really. What is it? Well I would say that it is a sealing of sonship - it is an empowering for service that comes by being sealed for sonship - it is liberty and freedom. It is calling God, "Abba! Father!". It is lubrication - flow and ease in ministering for the Lord. How does it come? Well often in the New Testament they would believe and they got the liberty straight away. Does it have to come straight away? People would be prayed for as Paul would pray for people in Acts 8.

So you see you answer the questions. I am concerned about method. You establish your range of Scriptures and you take your questions to that whole range of Scriptures - and then you get your answers. I would think it is mainly the sealing of sonship. It is an intense experience and assurance that you are a child of God.

R T Kendall: Can it happen more than once?

Michael Eaton: I believe that - yes.

~ End of Transcript ~


Peter Day said...

Well I would say that it is a sealing of sonship - it is an empowering for service that comes by being sealed for sonship - it is liberty and freedom. It is calling God, "Abba! Father!". It is lubrication - flow and ease in ministering for the Lord.

Truly awesome stuff!

Anonymous said...


Sounds like it was an awesome Question and Answer session!! It is good to see that you are spreading your wings slightly and not focusing solely on Dr Ern Baxter. While there is nothing wrong with that, there is a great amount of material in the Church stuck on audiotape that deserves to be published!

Could we see the entire document at some point? I am interested to see Kendall and Eaton interact. A truly historic ocasion if they never have done so before!!

Dr S A J Burgess

Anonymous said...

I wonder if you're being a little harsh about the term "continuationist". Surely a title is required to classify those who would prefer not to ally themselves with the classical charismatic movement and yet still believe the gifts of the Spirit are for use in the church today. To "Continue" assumes de facto that they will not just be dormant but used in the church surely?

Dan Bowen said...

Thanks for your comment Michael. I appreciate your concern and leaving a message. I am not criticising the motives of those who would use the term "continuationist". Most true believers are sincere I would hope. My problem with the term is the inevitable impact that it has upon the Church. Jesse Phillips on his excellent site spoke of the challenge that it's not enough for leaders to encourage spiritual gifts. They need to model them!

Let me quote this point from his newly published paper on the baptism of the Spirit.

"The Third Wave position while not at all cessationist concerning the spiritual gifts and even held by a few prominent charismatic leaders (John Wimber) has not shown itself to be quite as prolific as the traditional Pentecostal view in producing churches that are able to maintain a robust pneumatology and a distinctively charismatic experience over a long period of time. The primary reason for this is that the Third Wave position has a cessationist interpretation of Acts".

We need to let church history speak for itself and Jesse's research suggests that it is the traditional Pentecostal position that produces churches that consistently seek to honour the Spirit of God.

I appreciate the continuationist desire to argue for the existence of spiritual gifts. My concern is that churches need little encouragement NOT to practice or seek them. The status quo will be no spiritual gifts in worship. Unless the elders model them, encourage them, pray for people to receive and practice them.

That was my concern when I was in SGM and I have yet to be proved otherwise.

Anonymous said...

Yes I would agree. I don't think the natural inclination of the church is to passionately pursue AND practice the gifts of the Spirit. Didn't Dr Lloyd-Jones say that church history is like a series of waves rising and falling. The rises are when God graciously moves upon His Church in revival but as soon as that gracious influence of the Spirit stops - we begin to fall.

I read Mr Purswell's paper from the SMG website and was disappointed. While I appreciated that their heart is to welcome cessationists into their ranks, the overriding beat is that they won't be motivating and urging people to receive the baptism with the Spirit anymore. It's up to the natural instinct - which is to fall.

Dr S Burgess

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