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Biblical Assertion of Baptism in the Holy Spirit

The phenomenon of Baptism in The Holy Spirit has always been a complex spiritual endeavor, which obtains its unique significance across various confessions. The Catholic theology regards the process of Baptism with The Holy Spirit as a blessing received by Christians through conversion rites, including water baptism and confirmation. Such Protestant denominations as Pentecostals, on the other hand, believe the true Spirit baptism to be a separate empowering experience.

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Indeed, Pentecostalism is a Protestant Christian denomination that centers around the Baptism by The Holy Spirit as a major evidence of a worshipper’s connection to God. For both Pentecostals and Charismatics, the derivation of baptism in the Holy Spirit is closely correlated to the event of Pentecost described in Acts 2. Followed by thousands of Pentecostalists, the phenomenon of being baptized by the Holy Spirit is directly associated with the concept of glossolalia, also known as the gift of “speaking in tongues.”1 However, such a perception pattern has become a subject for continuous discussion in terms of the definition of the term “tongue” in the context of Acts of the Apostles and The First Epistle to the Corinthians.2 It is important to mention that Pentecostalism, as Evangelistic Protestant religion, regards the Bible as a source of absolute truth that shall be neither misinterpreted nor combined with other scripture sources.

Charismatic Christianity is considered to be an offshoot of the Pentecostalist church, as this theological branch followed the tradition of Spirit-filled Christianity, which pursues worship through the baptism in the Holy Spirit. Indeed, according to the Charismatic dogmas, baptism in the Holy Spirit is a phenomenon that fills the worshippers’ existence with the purpose of making the most out of the spiritual gifts given by God. 3 The original branch of Charismatic Christianity is willing to embrace the multitude of spiritual gifts as was described by Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 12:8-11. According to the text, for every human being who truly claims one’s belief in God, the spiritual gifts may include but not limited to healing, speaking in tongues, interpreting, prophecy, and working of miracles.

In the context of the church, the divine presence serves as a manifestation of the Spirit’s power, which can be experienced by every human being opening heart for God’s presence. The notion of such divine presence is known as charismata, an umbrella term used to denote the general presence of feeling the presence of Spirit through the gift.4 Thus, when regarding the overall idea of Baptism in the Holy Spirit in the context of conversion, Pentecostals perceive conversion to be a process distinct from conversion. According to the research,5 the Pentecostal church followed the Catholic view of separating Spiritual baptism from conversion, making the Baptism in the Holy Spirit to be an experience that occurs after the conversion. Charismatics, in their turn, do not impose any limitations on the event of Baptism in the Holy Spirit, implying that the act of obtaining spiritual gifts may coincide with the event of one’s conversion.6

Purpose of Baptism

The idea of baptism by the Holy Spirit is primarily based upon two texts: Acts 2 and 1 Corinthians 12:14. These are the excerpts addressing the “gift of speaking in tongues,” the presence of which Paul interprets as the manifestation of the Holy Spirit existing within a worshipper.7 As Fee8 suggests, the major issue with the Pentecostals’ interpretation of the baptism by the Holy Spirit is the fact that they began to worship the experience of glossolalia prior to finding the Biblical justification of the process, leading to disparities. For Charismatics, the major purpose of baptism in the Holy Spirit is to provide worshippers with powers and abilities they need to fulfill their existential goals on Earth.9

Glossolalia and the Baptism in the Holy Spirit

One of the major differences in terms of Pentecostal and Charismatic confessions is the perception of the gift of speaking in tongues. In Acts 2, the notion of “tongues” may be related to the general phenomenon of speaking foreign languages. 1 Corinthians, in its turn, interprets languages as inexplicable utterances that may be understood only by those communicating with the Holy Spirit through the power of prayer.10 As a result, there exists confusion on whether those experiencing the baptism by the Holy Spirit are able to communicate in an unlearned language (xenolalia) or they obtain the epiphany of divine communication (glossolalia). Still, in Pentecostals’ perception of Baptism by The Holy Spirit, glossolalia serves as an initial evidence on a person’s connection to God.11 Only by accepting Jesus Christ as one’s Lord, a person has the chance of becoming one step closer to God and communicating with the Spirit. When it comes to the notion of glossolalia, Charismatics do not emphasize the phenomenon as a decisive factor in baptism by the Holy Spirit.12 On the contrary, they believe that speaking in tongues does not necessarily manifest the presence of the Holy Spirit.

Having taken into consideration the notion of the Charismatic body, it may be concluded that this theological movement is unique in terms of its perception of one’s encounter with the Holy Spirit. This denomination sees the baptism in the Holy Spirit as a journey instead of a destination, as Charismatics follow Bible in order to experience the power of a spiritual gift every single day.13 Thus, the notion of the separate sacred gift of speaking in tongues does not play a prominent role within the confession.

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When speaking of Pentecostal and Charismatic churches, it is vital to account for the fact that these confessions are frequently mistaken for two words addressing the same denomination. However, the primary and arguably the most important difference between the confessions is the perception of glossolalia in the context of baptism. Pentecostals place major emphasis on the tongues mentioned in Acts 2 during the description of Pentecost, claiming them to be the manifestation pouring out God’s Spirit.14 However, the same Acts contain Joel’s words that promise people the Spirit to come to them in different forms, allowing some of them to see visions and others to dream dreams.15

Although acknowledging the fact of glossolalia’s polysemantic nature and dependence on the human experience as a major factor of the baptism in the Holy Spirit, such Spirit manifestation still remains rather limited when compared to the doctrines of Charismatic Christianity.16 The latter, in its turn, draws the believer’s attention to the fact that following God’s admonishments is already a journey full of miracles and gifts, whereas the embodiment of these gifts are individual for every human being. Indeed, Charismatics acknowledge glossolalia as one of the spiritual gifts given by the Holy Spirit, but in this context, one’s inability to speak in tongues is not perceived as the absence of Spirit per se.17

Finally, when speaking of Pentecostals, it is important to outline that they tend to rigorously divide people into two major groups: those baptized in the Holy Spirit and the ones who are not.18 Moreover, the Pentecostal doctrines claim that a person cannot be baptized with the Holy Spirit at the moment of birth, implying that God’s good graces are the ones to be deserved through patience.19 Charismatic Christianity, on the other hand, does not make predictions concerning one’s baptism, as miracles can be neither limited nor foreseen.

However, despite the variety of differences, it is important to keep in mind that Charismatic and Pentecostal churches have one fundamental thing in common – both of them are driven by the power of the Holy Spirit.20. Hence, having taken both perspectives into account, it may be concluded that Pentecostals’ radical perception of the gift of speaking in tongues draws a line between them and Charismatics, who do not recognize glossolalia as the moving power of the baptism in the Holy Spirit.

The justification of God’s spiritual blessing has always been one of the major reasons for discussion among theologists and worshippers. When considering the concept through the prism of the Bible, one may identify that a number of spiritual gifts are considered as explicit evidence of God’s blessing. Arguably the most controversial spiritual gift among the ones described in Paul’s message in 1 Corinthians 12:8 is the gift of speaking in tongues.21 In order to understand the discrepancies behind the notion, it is imperative to dwell on its interpretation within Pentecostal and Charismatic confessions.

Primarily, it is necessary to outline the Biblical understanding of speaking in tongues. When comparing Pentecostal and Charismatic comprehension, it may be estimated that their perception of speaking in tongues is quite similar. The very first mentioning of speaking in tongues occurs in Mark 16:17, where Christ addresses his apostles and implies that their ability to speak with new languages would serve as evidence of their belief and worship.22 Later, the phenomenon of speaking in tongues appears in the description of Pentecost in Acts 2. Thus, when the Holy Spirit descends upon apostles and followers of Jesus Christ, the latter experience the wonder of people speaking different tongues as related to their origin. Another important mention of speaking in tongues concerns Paul’s message in 1 Corinthians 12-14, where he refers to this concept as one of the many spiritual gifts.

The presence of the “speaking in tongues” phenomenon in various parts of the Bible presented a challenge for theologians in terms of its interpretation. Thus, the major discrepancy between the perception of Pentecostals and Charismatics lies in the fact that speaking in tongues may manifest two different abilities – the so-called “glossolalia” and “xenoglossia”.23 For both confessions, the former stands for the ability to speak a heavenly language that justifies one’s connection to God. The latter, in its turn, represents one’s ability to speak languages unknown to the person previously. Furthermore, some Pentecostals even claim that the spiritual gift of speaking in tongues means the ability to interpret languages.24 However, such perception is generally frowned upon due to the fact that in 1 Corinthians 12:8, Paul emphasized interpreting to be a separate gift.25

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Thus, the practice of speaking in tongues may be interpreted depending on the context of its purpose. The most common interpretation of speaking in tongues is the manifestation of the presence of the Holy Spirit.26 However, while in Charismatics gift, if present, may emerge either simultaneously with conversion or later in the worshipper’s life, Pentecostals do not correlate the act of conversion with speaking in tongues.27 Another interpretation supported by Pentecostals is that speaking in tongues serves as a sign for unbelievers who are to be judged by God for their refusal to believe.28 One more possible interpretation of this gift is God’s intention to secure universal comprehension through one’s ability to interpret other languages. However, it was mentioned previously that such an approach might be irrelevant.

Thus, having taken these facts into consideration, it may be concluded that the phenomenon of speaking in tongues is a complex theological matter that does not obtain a universally accepted definition. In the context of Charismatic and Pentecostal beliefs, speaking in tongues is regarded as a spiritual gift of the Holy Spirit. However, while the former does not emphasize the peculiarities of practicing speaking in tongues, the latter perceive the presence of glossolalia or xenoglossia as a justification of Baptism in the Holy Spirit.

Bibliography

Buckser, Andrew and Stephen D. Glazier, The Anthropology of Religious Conversion. Rowman & Littlefield, 2003.

Chan, Simon. Theology and the Christian Spiritual Tradition. New York: Sheffield Academic Press, 2003.

Chan, Simon K. H. “Evidential Glossolalia and the Doctrine of Subsequence,” Asian Journal of Pentecostal Studies 2, no. 2 (1999): 195-211.

Dunn, James D. G. Baptism in Holy Spirit: A Re-Examination of the New Testament Teaching on the Gift of the Spirit in Relation to Pentecostalism Today. SCM Press, 2013.

Fee, Gordon D. “Baptism in The Holy Spirit: The Issue of Separability and Subsequence,” PNEUMA: The Journal of the Society for Pentecostal Studies 7, no. 2 (1985): 87-99.

Fee, Gordon D. “Tongues – Least of the Gifts? Some Exegetical Observations on 1 Corinthians 12:14,” PNEUMA: The Journal of the Society for Pentecostal Studies 2, no. 1 (1980): 3-14.

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Hart, Larry. “Spirit Baptism: A Dimensional Charismatic Perspective,” in Perspectives on Spirit Baptism: Five Views, ed. Chad Brand. Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2004.

Hollenweger, Walter J. The Pentecostals: The Charismatic Movement in the Churches. Minnesota: Augsburg PH.

Lewis, Paul W. “The Baptism in The Holy Spirit as Paradigm Shift,” AJPS 13, no. 2 (2010): 310-344.

Lovelace, Richard. “Baptism in The Holy Spirit and the Evangelical Tradition,” PNEUMA: The Journal of the Society for Pentecostal Studies 7, no. 2 (1985): 101-123.

Macchia, Frank D. “Sighs Too Deep for Words: Toward a Theology of Glossolalia,” Journal of Pentecostal Theology 1 (1992): 47-73.

McDonell, Kilian. “Does the Theology and Practice of the Early Church Confirm the Classical Pentecostal Understanding of Baptism in the Holy Spirit?” PNEUMA: The Journal of the Society for Pentecostal Studies 21, no. 1 (1999): 115-133.

Menzies, William W., Menzies, Robert P. Spirit and Power: Foundations of Pentecostal Experience. Michigan: Zondervan Academic, 2011.

Stronstad, Roger. The Charismatic Theology of St. Luke. Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers, 1984.

Vondey, Wolfgang. Pentecostal Theology: Living the Full Gospel. New York: Bloomsbury, 2017.

Warrington, Keith. Pentecostal Perspectives. Paternoster Press, 1998.

Footnotes

  • 1. Richard Lovelace, “Baptism in The Holy Spirit and the Evangelical Tradition,” PNEUMA: The Journal of the Society for Pentecostal Studies 7, no. 2 (1985): 102.
  • 2. Gordon D. Fee, “Tongues – Least of the Gifts? Some Exegetical Observations on 1 Corinthians 12:14,” PNEUMA: The Journal of the Society for Pentecostal Studies 2, no. 1 (1980): 4.
  • 3. Larry Hart, “Spirit Baptism: A Dimensional Charismatic Perspective,” in Perspectives on Spirit Baptism: Five Views, ed. Chad Brand (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2004), 106.
  • 4. Paul W. Lewis, “The Baptism in The Holy Spirit as Paradigm Shift,” AJPS 13, no. 2 (2010): 313.
  • 5. James D. G. Dunn, Baptism in Holy Spirit: A Re-Examination of the New Testament Teaching on the Gift of the Spirit in Relation to Pentecostalism Today (SCM Press, 2013): 226.
  • 6. Andrew Buckser and Stephen D. Glazier, The Anthropology of Religious Conversion (Rowman & Littlefield, 2003): 205.
  • 7. 1 Cor. 12:14.
  • 8. Gordon D. Fee, “Baptism in The Holy Spirit: The Issue of Separability and Subsequence,” PNEUMA: The Journal of the Society for Pentecostal Studies 7, no. 2 (1985): 89.
  • 9. James D. G. Dunn, Baptism in Holy Spirit: A Re-Examination of the New Testament Teaching on the Gift of the Spirit in Relation to Pentecostalism Today (SCM Press, 2013): 56.
  • 10. Wolfgang Vondey, Pentecostal Theology: Living the Full Gospel (New York: Bloomsbury, 2017), 39.
  • 11. Wolfgang Vondey, Pentecostal Theology: Living the Full Gospel (New York: Bloomsbury, 2017), 39.
  • 12. Wolfgang Vondey, Pentecostal Theology: Living the Full Gospel (New York: Bloomsbury, 2017), 90.
  • 13. Wolfgang Vondey, Pentecostal Theology: Living the Full Gospel (New York: Bloomsbury, 2017), 127.
  • 14. Acts 2:38.
  • 15. Simon Chan, Theology and the Christian Spiritual Tradition (New York: Sheffield Academic Press, 2003), 41.
  • 16. Frank D. Macchia, “Sighs Too Deep for Words: Toward a Theology of Glossolalia,” Journal of Pentecostal Theology 1 (1992): 72.
  • 17. Wolfgang Vondey, Pentecostal Theology: Living the Full Gospel (New York: Bloomsbury, 2017), 135.
  • 18. W. J. Hollenweger, The Pentecostals: The Charismatic Movement in the Churches (Minnesota: Augsburg PH), 9.
  • 19. Wolfgang Vondey, Pentecostal Theology: Living the Full Gospel (New York: Bloomsbury, 2017), 45.
  • 20. Wolfgang Vondey, Pentecostal Theology: Living the Full Gospel (New York: Bloomsbury, 2017), 4.
  • 21. 1 Cor. 12:18.
  • 22. Mark 16: 17-18.
  • 23. Frank D. Macchia, “Sighs Too Deep for Words: Toward a Theology of Glossolalia,” Journal of Pentecostal Theology 1 (1992): 55.
  • 24. Wolfgang Vondey, Pentecostal Theology: Living the Full Gospel (New York: Bloomsbury, 2017), 95.
  • 25. 1 Cor 12:8.
  • 26. Gordon D. Fee, “Tongues – Least of the Gifts? Some Exegetical Observations on 1 Corinthians 12:14,” PNEUMA: The Journal of the Society for Pentecostal Studies 2, no. 1 (1980): 7.
  • 27. James D. G. Dunn, Baptism in Holy Spirit: A Re-Examination of the New Testament Teaching on the Gift of the Spirit in Relation to Pentecostalism Today (SCM Press, 2013): 226.
  • 28. Keith Warrington, Pentecostal Perspectives (Paternoster Press, 1998): 93.

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