Who has the Spirit?

October 12, 2016

Who has the Spirit?

The event of Pentecost came in two stages—here to the Jews and then to the Gentiles in chapter 10 of Acts. It was a historic event and thus unrepeatable. Nonetheless, the gift and empowering of the Spirit is available and essential to every Christian of every generation.

As you read the book of Acts, you discover that the gift of the Spirit is seen as normative in terms of what it means to become a follower of Christ. Listen for example to Peter’s invitation—”Repent.. . and be baptized, each of you, in the name of Jesus the Messiah for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit’” (Acts 2:38).

The “gift” or “baptism” of the Spirit occurs the moment a person receives Christ. Paul explained this to the believers in Rome. After bluntly declaring, “But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him” (Rom. 8:9), he encouraged them with these words: “You received the Spirit of adoption, by whom we cry out, ‘Abba, Father!’ The Spirit Himself testifies together with our spirit that we are God’s children” (8:15-16). The Spirit incorporates us into the body of Christ.

The Corinthian believers had many questions about the Spirit and the gifts He manifests in the body. Some gifts had created issues of pride, which had led to divisions within the body. But Paul forced them back to common ground, declaring, “For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free—and we were all made to drink of one Spirit” (1 Cor. 12:13).

Don’t let anyone confuse you. If you have been born again, you have been born into Christ through the transforming work of the Spirit, and you have received the “gift” or “baptism” of the Spirit. You do not need to seek a “second baptism.” The Spirit is not apportioned in small measure but in His fullness.

But while there is one baptism of the Spirit, there are many infillings. We must daily appropriate the fullness of the Spirit as we confess our sins and our utter dependence upon Him. Paul put it this way in writing to the Ephesian believers: “And don’t get drunk with wine, which leads to reckless actions, but be filled with the Spirit” (Eph. 5:18). The verb here—”be filled”—is in the present tense, which indicates a continual infilling.

I like to think of it this way: By the baptism of the Spirit, I am immersed into the body of Christ; by the fullness of the Spirit, my body becomes His instrument for kingdom activity—day after day.

It troubles me that this has become such a point of contention and confusion. The Spirit is not given to us to amuse us or to amaze our friends. He is given to enable us to participate in the supernatural expansion of God’s kingdom on earth. May God keep us from wallowing in selfishness and doctrinal skirmishes while this grand purpose for the Spirit’s indwelling lies dormant in our hearts and low on our priority lists.

We as individuals have no excuse for skirting our involvement in kingdom activity. We have been filled and empowered by the same Spirit who filled and empowered the early disciples. Our churches likewise have no excuse for not participating in the advance of the kingdom. Our effectiveness in this enterprise is not based on size or budget or sophisticated programming; it is based on the power of the Holy Spirit.

Hemphill, K. (2008). Eternal impact: the passion of kingdom-centered communities. Nashville: B&H.