Now there are 5 basic questions that we must ask about the experience of Pentecost. They are “what?”, “whom?”, “how?”, “why?” and “when?”.
What is the experience of Pentecost? The Holy Spirit is a Person and He is God. He does several things in us and to us and for us. Some of these things may be separated by many years, though they should occur close together. He convicts us of sin, He regenerates, He comes to us and He clothes us with power. This “clothing” is the experience of Pentecost. It is the baptism with the Holy Spirit. Some prefer other terms and I will not quarrel with them. I use this phrase because God does. Great Bible teachers all down the ages have used this Scriptural phrase. For example, early Puritans such as John Gill, who said of the disciples, “They were to be baptised with the Holy Spirit and receive such power and courage thereby as to bear a noble testimony for Christ”. Likewise Thomas Goodwin who wrote, “There can be no experience superior to or more wonderful than the baptism of the Spirit except to be in Heaven itself”. To these we could add such names as C H Spurgeon, R A Torrey, A B Simpson, Andrew Murray, LaMarechale, Dr D M Lloyd-Jones and many others.
The Baptism in the Holy Spirit is a divine provision of spiritual power, promised in the Bible by God for the purpose of being His witnesses.
Dr Billy Graham said, “We need to learn once again what it means to be baptised in the Holy Spirit”.
Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones said, “There is nothing, I am convinced that so quenches the Spirit as the teaching which identifies the baptism of the Holy Spirit with regeneration”.
For whom is this experience intended? The prophecy makes it plain (Joel 2:28, 29). It is for all flesh. Peter stresses this in Acts 2:39 where he says, “The promise is for you, and for your children, and for all who are afar off; as many as the Lord our God shall call”. This is precisely the note struck in such passages as Isaiah 44:3 and John 7:37-39. It is not for special people but for all God’s people. We are ALL to be witnesses. We ALL need power. This being so, the next question is …
How do we receive the experience of Pentecost? God has made the promise but we have to be in the right place. The reluctance is not on God’s side (see Luke 11:13). The necessary stages are:
a. Be converted which includes repentance, faith and baptism in water (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38, 41).
b. Cleanse your heart (Acts 2:38, 1 John 1:7, 9). If you are seeking the baptism in the Holy Spirit at or near conversion as in the New Testament, this stage is taken care of. But if some time has elapsed you need to make sure that your heart is right before God.
c. Consecrate your life (Acts 5:32, Romans 12:1, 2).
Claim the promise by seeking God in earnest, persistent prayer. (Acts 2:39, Luke 11:13).
d. Continue to walk in obedience to the Lord (Ephesians 5:18, Galatians 5:16).
e. Be sure to join a Bible-believing church.
It is important not to give up. Luke 11:9-10 literally says, “Go on asking, go on seeking, go on knocking”. Some say “But I have done that and still have not received” so we need to ask …
Why do some find it hard to receive? There may be various hindrances. Our hearts are very deceitful and we may be deceiving ourselves into thinking that we are all right. Some of the more obvious hindrances are;
a. Sin (Psalm 66:18, Isaiah 59:1, 2).
b. Lack of consecration and obedience (Acts 5:32).
c. Wrong teaching which prevents us from a whole hearted trust in God (Gal 3:1-3).
d. Fear, of getting the wrong thing etc (Luke 11:11-13).
e. Pride, which makes us pretend we do not need anything more in spite of God’s promise. Or pride which prevents us asking for prayer (1 Peter 5:5-6).
f. Impatience. Perhaps we have been spoiled as children we expect our parents to wait on us. We think God should give us anything we ask at once, and we have a grudge against God if He does not. That is sin (Romans 9:19, 20; Job 42:6).
g. Wrong motives. Seeking self-satisfaction or self-glory. (James 4:3).
h. Looking for the wrong thing – feelings, emotions, sinlessness, etc.
i. Looking in the wrong direction – at man. Seeking for some “big name” or “perfect man” to pray with us. (Isaiah 2:22).
j. No real thirst, no earnestness in seeking (John 7:37; Jeremiah 29:13).
k. No desire to witness (Acts 1:8).
l. No faith, or trust in God that He will do it. (Isaiah 7:9b; Hebrews 11:16, James 1:6, 7).
But if, as far as we can possibly see, we have put things right and sought God, the next question is,
When may we receive?
a. At conversion possibly, but this is very rare. It did not happen with the disciples. In fact the only real case is that of Cornelius in Acts 10, and there were special reasons for that Peter’s prejudice had to be overcome and Cornelius was a God-fearer and was already earnestly seeking the Lord.
b. The normal pattern is repent and believe, be baptised in water, receive the gift of the Holy Spirit (another expression for the same experience) and commit yourself to the local church.
J N Darby wrote, “That a person may be born again and not have received the Holy Ghost is perfectly certain according to the Scriptures”. C H Macintosh and William Kell (Brethren writers) expressed similar views. If you are a believer and have been baptised in water then you are candidate for the baptism in the Holy Spirit. In a number of cases in the Scriptures after prayer and laying on of hands (see Acts 8:15-17; 9:17; 19:6). This is often a help to many people.
Your pastor and/or elders are available to render this service. But remember the Lord Jesus Christ is the One who baptises in the Holy Spirit. Beware of allowing just anyone to do this. Only those sent by God should normally render this ministry “Receive ye the Holy Ghost”, “Be filled with the Holy Spirit”.