At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior,Titus 3:3-6
Paul believes in the “before and after” power of the gospel. We see Paul write a few different times in the New Testament the reality of real transformation from one way of life–our old self–into a completely new way of life–our new self. We see him lay this out similarly to the Corinthian Christians who formerly lived as pagans:
Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.1 Corinthians 6:9-11
When God’s mercy and kindness step in, when we receive Jesus as Savior, we are transformed by grace. Paul tells us in his letter to Titus that the Holy Spirit does two things: 1) rebirth and 2) renewal. Rebirth is when the Holy Spirit comes to dwell in us and justifies us–makes us in right standing before God.
But renewal is a different process. Renewal by the Spirit is a process of sanctification. One of the things that can happen in this renewal process of the Holy Spirit is a flooding of the Spirit often referred to as baptism of the Holy Spirit.
There’s been a lot of confusion and misinformation about the baptism of the Spirit in the Church. What is it, exactly?
I had been a Christian since I was 9, called into ministry at 17, I had a degree in Biblical Studies, a Masters of Divinity from seminary, and had been a pastor of a church for a decade. And while I had experienced the gradual process of sanctification in my life over those years, I had not experienced the baptism of the Spirit. And then I did.
The baptism of the Spirit is not when you get more of the Spirit, but when He gets more of you. And because He floods your life in ways that are new, it feels like you have more of Him.
What is the baptism of the Spirit like?
For me it was like walking out into the ocean of the Spirit. At first, the water levels rose gradually the further I went. But then I got far enough out that a wave crashed over me and overwhelmed me. Many people identify this moment when a wave of the Spirit crashes over them as their baptism in the Spirit. I tend to think it was the whole process (the walking out, the gradual increase and then the crash of the wave). That process started in June of 2014 and the wave crashing happened March 4 & 5 of 2016.
So what happened?
When the Spirit flooded my life, a few different things happened:
- I experienced what are called “manifestations of the Spirit.” This is the tangible presence of the Spirit in or on your body that causes physical reactions in your body. Some traditions believe that, for one to truly be baptized in the Spirit, you have to experience the manifestation of speaking in tongues (like what we see in Acts 2 and Acts 10), but that is not true. I did not start praying in tongues until 6 months later. But I did start experiencing different manifestations of the Spirit.
- I experienced a massive increase in intimacy with the Lord. He felt close all the time, tangibly close. He still does.
- I experienced a renewal of the mind. Unbelief, cynicism, and skepticism were washed away in the flood and uprooted from my thinking. I now had a greater understanding of God as the loving Father that He really is.
- I experienced deliverance. I had some demonic attachments in my life that were removed. Victory over sin was no longer hypothetical but became a reality in my daily life.
- I experienced a massive increase in hunger for the Lord. I couldn’t get enough time in worship, time in prayer, time reading His word. I craved more and more time with Him. I still do. God’s word came alive to me in ways that it hadn’t in decades.
- I experienced brand new gifts of the Holy Spirit. I began to experience the seedling form of a few different gifts (gifts listed in 1 Corinthians 12) that up until that point I had never experienced. I also knew that I had to grow in these new gifts to see these seedlings become trees that bear fruit.
- I experienced the power of the Spirit. I began to see the power of God flow through me, especially as I spoke and as I prayed for people. I began to see people get healed instantly, right in front of me. I began to see demons leave people at the name of Jesus.
- I experienced the authority of Christ. As I began to understand who I really was in Christ, my sonship to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, I began to walk in greater authority. This means my confidence in seeing God’s Kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven was greatly increased.
- I experienced the love of the Father. I began to have encounters with the Lord where I would actually feel God’s love for me. This was not just the knowledge that God loved me unconditionally. This was way beyond that! This was an experience of His love. It was, and still is, completely captivating and overwhelming.
So, yes, baptism of the Spirit is a real thing. It often is a secondary event (after salvation), but I believe it was never meant to be that way. I believe God always intended the baptism of the Spirit to happen with our baptism in water, but for so many of us that is not the case. Baptism of the Spirit, like most parts of the renewal process, must be pursued. It doesn’t just happen by accident. We must pursue it, seek it, and ask for it.
And the flooding of the Spirit is not a one time event. I believe that the first of these floodings (or fillings) can be called our baptism of the Spirit. But there are more available to us after that and so we must continue to pursue Him.