“I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me comes one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire” (Matt 3:11).
In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans (Rom 8:26).
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8).
I was talking with a mentor of mine, Rich Orrell, recently about the baptism in the Holy Spirit and speaking in tongues. At our last SALT conference, I prayed for a student to receive the baptism in the Holy Spirit (BHS for short), and I wanted his insight into what exactly had happened. I shared with Rich how, as I prayed for the man, I felt the Spirit move very strongly and, to borrow a biblical phrase, I “felt power go out.” Yet the man did not speak in tongues.
As you probably know, Chi Alpha is a ministry of the Assemblies of God, and we believe that the “initial physical evidence” (the first physical act) of the BHS is speaking in tongues. Which is a big sticking point to some people, and may be for you, too. Which is one of the many reasons I’m writing this today, because Rich had some fantastic insight.
Now, there are many great theological reasons for the AG’s statement of belief, and you can read about them somewhere else. That’s not the purpose of this article. Instead, let me share with you my experience with the BHS and speaking in tongues.
I was raised anti-Pentecostal. My parents had bad experiences with Pentecostals (particularly the AG) growing up, and I was raised that people who did things like speak in tongues were crazy. Which made my first SALT conference very interesting. My initial impression (since the staff at my Chi Alpha group didn’t prepare us at all) was that I was in the town square of Crazyville. But God used my experience as a foreign exchange student to keep me from shutting down entirely. Instead, I went into exchange student “taste and see” mode. And I found that there was something real going on.
They weren’t just crazy. God was really doing something.
So over time I came to accept the BHS. But I would not speak in tongues.
I’m a very rational person. The idea of speaking what is, to me, nonsense (see Rom 8:26 above) was appalling to me.
And that was why I resisted speaking in tongues: not because it was actually wrong, but because I was unwilling. It went against my preconceived notions of what was appropriate.
It went against my pride.
I had been prayed for many times to receive the BHS, even to speak in tongues. But I would not speak aloud the “gibberish” that was in my head. I would not give up control of my tongue.
And there it was, that which got me to share this experience and seek his insight: as he talked about praying for people to receive the BHS, he talked about how he’d share with them about “nonsense words running through their heads” and encourage them to speak them out.
It was exactly what had happened to me. Only nobody had told me about that. I eventually just gave in and started speaking out what the Spirit had put in my head.
As Rich and I concluded, I had stepped into the water, but I hadn’t gone under the water. Not until I gave up control of my tongue.
Because “baptism” means “immersion.” And you aren’t really immersed unless you’re fully under. You don’t get to say “yeah, I’ll get baptized. Except for this arm. I won’t let this arm go under. But I’m totes baptized.” If all of you isn’t immersed, then you are not baptized. You’ve just waded into the water.
And so you can have powerful Holy Spirit experiences. And I have no doubt that the man I prayed for at SALT was invited to the BHS. Christ brought him into the water. But until he submits all of himself to the Spirit, he’s not baptized, just as I wasn’t.
It is only when all is surrendered that baptism happens.
And this fits so well with what I see in peoples’ lives when the BHS comes up. People say, “But I’ve had profound experiences with the Holy Spirit. Am I not baptized in the Holy Spirit?” Well, no. And that’s not a reflection on them. It means they’ve been invited into the water. They just haven’t gone under yet.
And I’ll say this again: it’s not a bad reflection on anyone that they haven’t spoken in tongues and been baptized in the Spirit yet. It’s not a sin. Particularly in a culture that says that people should be able to believe and say whatever they want and have it regarded as true (I mean, how many of you read the above paragraph and said, “who is he to say that?” The quick answer is: I believe it, so I’m saying it’s true1If you would like to read more about the theology behind this position, Bible Doctrines: A Pentecostal Perspective by Drs. William W. Menzies and Stanley Horton, and What the Bible Says About the Holy Spirit by Dr. Stanley Horton are both good places to start. They can both be found in ebook form on Amazon or on Christianbook.com for about $8 each.), it’s no small wonder that it takes time for people to come to grips with stuff like this.
It takes time to let go of preconceived notions. It took me three years from when I first sought the BHS to when I first spoke in tongues. I was brought into the water the first time; I didn’t go under until three years later.
So what’s the point?
Simply put, surrender yourself totally to the Holy Spirit! Don’t resist the Spirit, but let it guide you. Yeah, it may be embarrassing. That’s okay.
And which is more important: the Spirit or your pride?
Is anything keeping you back from total surrender to the Spirit? Is there something in your gut that just won’t let you do something the Spirit’s telling you to do?
All views expressed on this blog are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the view of Chi Alpha Campus Ministries, U.S.A., U.S. Missions, and The General Council of the Assemblies of God.