Sunday, January 31, 2010

At What Point Does One Receive the Holy Spirit? Part 1

Earlier this week I received an email from someone that asked my position about when we receive the Holy Spirit. The church they attend apparently has some disagreements on the matter and they were curious what I thought about it. I've since spent some ample time studying it for myself as I was unsure where I really stood on it, biblically speaking. What I've found may cause some of you to say "well, of course!". To me though, I found some very revelational things for my life within it all. There are so much deeper issues that reside here. (Stay with the article as I get to the meat of it all about midway through.) I'm blessed to have family and friends who study the Word of God and allow the LORD to be their teacher. I share this with you, impressed that this is one of the most important things I've ever penned – for me at least. I believe there are some great truths within it. I urge you to print it out and parallel it with the Word and be assured of where you stand and why.

At What Point Does One Receive the Holy Spirit?

I'd like to start out with the fact that the email that I received explained that someone had felt like they had made a mistake by joining this church and are prepared to leave over the differences of opinion on the matter of when we receive the Holy Spirit. What I see, perhaps as the deeper issue here, is not the differences in interpreting the Scriptures, but how differing approaches are handled. Even within our small gathering here at our home, we had heated discussions and varied views of this topic (and we only had six people here!). But, by the end of the night, we left in peace and love. Noone is ready to leave and never come back over our differences. We've vowed to individually study the Word and address it again in upcoming gatherings, in patience and in love – allowing the LORD Himself to be our Teacher. No one person has the final say in the matter and there is no denominational doctrine to cling to. Only the Word of God stands as the perfect Truth and it alone will be our textbook and final Authority.

What I challenge myself and others to do with these types of complex topics is quite simple. Please pay attention as this is of utmost importance! Set aside what you think, what you've been taught by others and what your denominational stance or background leans towards. Study the Word of God for yourself and allow It alone to define what is Truth! It does not ever contradict Itself, so if there is ever an issue with It presenting seemingly differing views – there will always be an absolute to be found, whether we see it or not. If there is disagreement, based on Scripture alone, someone involved is seeing it incorrectly (or, in some cases, all parties). It is not an "I'm right, you're wrong" issue, it is a "Let's peaceably take the necessary time to see what the Word really says about it all". I guess this is why I don't understand why people within traditional church gatherings won't take the time to sit down together and see what the Bible says outside of the formal service setting where one man deciphers It for you. (Again reflecting back on what I see as the deeper issue.) It's OK to disagree if all parties are willing to mature and grow together - willing to risk being deemed wrong according to Word of God. The sad reality is we'd too often rather be seen as right in the eyes of men than cling to the absolute Truth that God states as such and be in error. Can we risk being wrong? What if what we discover that the Word defers from our doctrine or personal understanding? There's only one side to take and defend - God's. If my personal opinion, doctrine or denominational stance ever opposes the Word of God, and I know it, I'm walking in a terrible place that I will have to answer for. It's bowing my knee in worship and submission unto men and their traditions and not to God and it is sin, plain and simple.

The problem with these matters is that the biblical issue at hand becomes overshadowed and the disagreement becomes the issue – this is what has always, and continues to divide the Body of Christ. This is why churches grow and divide, grow and divide – always torn apart by personal preferences and doctrinal/denominational differences. The issue within the Body of Christ is seemingly not about what the Word states about it as much as what people's personal preferences are regarding it all. My preference means absolutely nothing. My personal stance means nothing. My denominational viewpoint, were I to have one, would mean nothing. What the Word states is all that matters – period.

With all of that being said, this is a tough topic as Scripture seems to defend both views. Two main Scriptures that seem to make this topic challenging are Acts 2:38 which states "Peter said to them, 'Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.'" and Acts 19:6 where Paul is at Ephesus, "And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began speaking with tongues and prophesying." Placing both of these instances side by side would seem, on the surface, quite contradictory. But we know that the Word of God cannot contradict Itself, so we need to look deeper than just picking out one side to support our personal view. Again I'll repeat, personal preferences and doctrines can have no place in defining what is Truth. So, I stop, ask the LORD for wisdom and I look deeper. Next, we'll dive into making sense of this seemingly challenging discussion.

* Part 2 will be posted on Wednesday.


Harriet said...

looking forward to your "take" on this Joel.. Frank and I agree to disagree on this very issue...with no ill will between us... both looking at the same scripture and coming up with different answers.
it's all good least we both KNOW we have the indwelling Spirit of God. :)

Daughter of Wisdom said...

Absolutely no conflict here Joel, but I will wait until Wednesday to read the exposition of your findings.


Jimmy said...

Come let us reason together. That's the key to Biblical differences. Iron does sharpen iron and deep does call to deep. I believe the main issue is not "when" you receive the Holy Spirit but that you "do receive" the Holy Spirit. The Word says "there must be differences among you to show who God approves.
Unreasonable people will never "reason together". Interested to see what you came up with.

Joel Spencer said...

Harriet: That is sure easy to do. It's a topic that seems to be tricky, when looking at Scripture. That's why I think one has to discard their preference or background first in order to find the perfect truth, for there can only be one - we just have to be devoted to finding/understanding it.

Daughter: Thanks for being a faithful reader! You're always welcome to stick around, even if conflict arrives. :)

Jimmy: Agreed. We may never all discover the perfect understanding of every verse and teaching in the Word, but are we moving forward together in unity?

ZachLee said...

I'm so glad that you prefaced your exposition of this topic with such humility and clear intention to decipher truth, not merely for argument's sake. We all need to be accountable in studying to be approved and to work out our own salvation. With that said let's delve into this topic with an open mind and approach this with the attitude as a child does at the feet of Jesus; looking only to learn and not simply to validate our prior belief system on this.

Joel Spencer said...

ZachLee: Well said. I don't delve too deep into the many Scriptures that can accompany this topic, but I did do a simple overview in order to explain both sides. Welcome.