Part 4 of 4: How You Can Be Baptized in the Holy Spirit

“’Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.’ When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, ‘Brothers, what shall we do?’ Peter replied, ‘Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.’ With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, ‘Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.’ Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day” (Acts 2:36-41).

So you want to be baptized in the Holy Spirit?

Repent and Be Baptized
Apostle Peter delineates the requirements at Pentecost, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 2:38-39). God’s Kingdom always make this demand: “Repent! Turn! Decide!” (George Eldon Ladd, The Gospel of the Kingdom, p. 97). So renounce your sinful ways and believe in Jesus Christ’s atoning work on the cross. Obey God, because He gives the Holy Spirit to those who obey Him (Acts 5:32). In addition, be baptized (in water) and make good on your confession of faith.

Be Expectant in Prayer
But remember also that your faith in Christ does not warrant complacency regarding your baptism in the Holy Spirit. Baptism in the Holy Spirit, like salvation, is received once and for all (1 Cor. 12:13; Eph. 2:1-10) and requires continual working out (Eph. 5:18; cf. Phil. 2:12-13).

For this reason, you should be informed about the spiritual gifts (1 Cor. 12:1), and you should continually seek the Holy Spirit in prayer. Jesus’s disciples were abiding their time by “join[ing] together constantly in prayer” (Acts 1:13-14), and in one of these gatherings, “All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them” (Acts 2:1-4).

Likewise, Apostle Paul enjoined the Corinthians to “eagerly desire gifts of the Spirit, especially prophecy,” because it “edifies the church” (1 Cor. 14:1-4), and, above all, “love,” a fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:16-25). The Holy Spirit distributes His gifts to those who earnestly seek them in prayer, and produces His fruit among those who walk by the Spirit.

Remember what Jesus taught, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. … Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him” (Luke 11:9-13)!

Laying on of Hands by Other Believers
The Holy Spirit can also be imparted by other Spirit-baptized believers through the laying on of hands (Acts 8:14-21; 19:1-7; Rom. 1:8-11; 2 Tim.1:6). This ability to impart the Holy Spirit was not an exclusively Apostolic prerogative, since the Apostle Paul was “filled with the Holy Spirit” when Ananias (who was not an Apostle) placed his hands on him and prayed for him (Acts 9:17-18). Similarly, Paul tells Timothy, “Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through prophecy when the body of elders laid their hands on you” (1 Timothy 4:14). Apparently spiritual gifts can be imparted by non-Apostles.

No Foolproof Formula
In the end, however, being filled with the Holy Spirit cannot be reduced to formulas. No laying on of hands is mentioned at Pentecost (Acts 2:1-4), and Cornelius was baptized by the Holy Spirit, not when Peter laid his hands on him, but when he was still speaking (Acts 10:44). In fact, Cornelius hadn’t even received water baptism when he was baptized in the Spirit (Acts 10:44-48).

The wind of the Holy Spirit “blows wherever it pleases” (Jn. 3:8). He sovereignly “distributes [the spiritual gifts] … as he determines” (1 Cor. 12:11). He apportions them in such a way that the Church functions as an interdependent body of believers, not a collection of independent limbs (1 Cor. 12:14). This means that different Christians have different spiritual gifts (1 Cor. 12:3), which are all intended for the common good of the Church (1 Cor. 12:7). So if you lack a certain spiritual gift, take heart, knowing that someone else in the Church probably has it.

How Can I Know that I Have Been Baptized in the Holy Spirit?
Is the baptism in the Holy Spirit always accompanied by the gift of tongues? I am not convinced that the gift of tongues is the initial evidence of one’s baptism in the Holy Spirit for three reasons:

  1. There are Scriptural exceptions to this “rule.” The believers at Pentecost (Acts 2:2-4), Cornelius and the Gentiles (Acts 10:44-46), and the disciples at Ephesus (Acts 19:6) all received the gift of tongues when they were baptized in the Holy Spirit, but there is no mention of the gift of tongues when Apostle Paul (Acts 9:17-19) and Christians in Samaria (Acts 8:14-17) were baptized in the Holy Spirit.
  2. The Scripture never teaches that all who are baptized in the Holy Spirit speak in tongues. When Jesus promised the baptism in the Holy Spirit, he taught that believers would “receive power,” not “speak in tongues” (Acts 1:5, 8). Nowhere does he teach that this power is always manifested in the gift of tongues.
  3. Apostle Paul clearly teaches that not all Christians speak in tongues (1 Cor. 12:27-31). The Church is meant to be an interdependent body of believers. For this reason, no spiritual gift is common to all and no individual Christian possesses all spiritual gifts.

In conclusion, speaking in tongues, (Acts 2:4; 10:46; 19:6), or prophesying (Acts 2:17; 19:6) and other miraculous signs for that matter (Acts 6:8; Gal. 3:5; Hebrews 2:4), may or may not accompany the baptism in the Holy Spirit. Therefore, they cannot serve as definitive criteria to determine whether or not one has been baptized in the Holy Spirit.

What is normative for those who are baptized in the Holy Spirit is that they are empowered and emboldened to be Christ’s “witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8). Harry Boer has rightly noted that consciousness of the Great Commission was not the primary motivation for missions in the early Church. Rather, there was an “uncommanded, undirected, spontaneous witness to the faith” springing from the Pentecost (Harry R. Boer, Pentecost and Missions, p. 43).

In fact, as the narrative in Luke-Acts unfolds, Jesus had told his disciples to “stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high” (Lk. 24:49b). They were to stay in Jerusalem and wait to “be baptized with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 1:5). As Bosch also notes, “if it was the experience of the resurrection that gave the early Christians certainty, it was the Pentecost that gave them boldness” (David J. Bosch, Transforming Mission, p. 41).

It was the empowerment of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost that overflowed onto the mission field. It was from that point on that the disciples who had cowered and scattered after the crucifixion (Mk. 14:50-52) proclaimed the gospel of Jesus Christ boldly, so that those who saw their courage were astonished, realizing that they were “unschooled, ordinary men” (Acts 4:8-13, 18-20). Even when commanded not to speak, they declared that they must obey God rather than human beings (Acts 5:29-32). Those who are baptized in the Holy Spirit can’t help but praise God (Acts 2:11; 10:46).

Given these evidences of the baptism in the Holy Spirit, here are some pastorally relevant questions to ask yourself:

  1. Have I seen the Holy Spirit enlivening me to worship?
  2. Have I seen the Holy Spirit empowering me to walk in holiness?
  3. Have I seen the Holy Spirit emboldening me to witness?

The Mission Statement of my home church is “Wholeheartedly loving God and one another by worshiping, witnessing and walking in the good news of Jesus Christ for all of life.” In order to do this well, we need to be filled with the Holy Spirit!

This concludes my series of posts on the gifts of the Holy Spirit. I pray that you would neither resist the wind of the Holy Spirit nor be swept away by it from the bedrock of the Word!

Part 3 of 4: Why We Need to Be Baptized in the Holy Spirit

“‘For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ Then they gathered around him and asked him, ‘Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?’ He said to them: ‘It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth'” (Acts 1:5-8).

What Is the Baptism in the Holy Spirit?
If you want to receive the gifts (plural) of the Holy Spirit (possessive genitive), you need to receive the gift (singular) of the Holy Spirit (objective genitive). In other words, if you want His gifts, you need to encounter Him. I’m speaking of the baptism in the Holy Spirit

Wait a minute. Isn’t every believer already baptized in the Spirit? Yes, 1 Corinthians 12:13 does teach that every genuine believer is baptized in the Holy Spirit (cf. Acts 2:38). So then, baptism in the Holy Spirit refers to the divine incorporation of individual believers into the Church upon conversion. But is baptism in the Holy Spirit merely a subconscious regeneration rather than a conscious empowerment?

I don’t think the baptism in the Holy Spirit can be limited to the first sense. In Acts 1:5, Jesus says to His disciples, “For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” Then, he continues, “you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8).

Baptism in the Holy Spirit is a conscious experience closely associated with power. In fact, the two are used interchangeably in many places (Lk. 1:35; Acts 8:19; 10:38; Rom. 15:13; 1 Th. 1:5). As Gordon Fee points out, the baptism in the Holy Spirit has a “dynamic empowering dimension with gifts, miracles, and evangelism (along with fruit and growth)” (Gospel and Spirit, p. 118).

Is the Baptism in the Holy Spirit Subsequent or Simultaneous with Faith?
In Acts 8:14-17, it is recorded that the new Christians in Samaria “had simply been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus,” but “received the Holy Spirit” when “Peter and John placed their hands on them” (Acts 8:14-17). Some Pentecostals use this passage to argue that the baptism in the Holy Spirit is subsequent to, rather than simultaneous with, faith (cf. Acts 10; 19:1-10).

However, the context suggests that this account is describing a unique event rather than prescribing a pattern to be repeated. It was the first time that “Samaria had received the word of God” (v. 14), and the Holy Spirit “had not yet fallen on any of them” (v. 16). Therefore, the apostles sent Peter and John so that “they might receive the Holy Spirit” (v. 15) “through the laying on of the apostles’ hands” (v. 18). This event, along with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on Gentiles for the first time in Acts 10, trace the movement of the Holy Spirit from Jerusalem, to Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8).

Christ’s commission to his disciples in Acts 1:8 to be “witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” is not merely a geographic progression, but also an ethnic one, because it is an allusion to Isaiah 49:6, which promises “a light for the nations [i.e. ethnic groups]” so that God’s “salvation may reach to the end of the earth.

At Pentecost, the Jews gathered in Jerusalem received the Holy Spirit. In Acts 2:1 it says that “When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place.” The antecedent of the pronoun “they” is “the apostles [who had] returned to Jerusalem” (Acts 1:12), and it says specifically in 2:5 that men who were gathered that day were devout Jews from every nation.

Then, the Samaritans in Judea and Samaria, of mixed descent from Jews and Gentiles (2 Kings 17:24; Ezra 4:1-2), received the Holy Spirit (Acts 8:14-17). And finally, the Gentiles in the ends of the earth received the Holy Spirit (Acts 10), which, then, served as the basis for the apostles’ conclusion that salvation had come to the Gentiles (Acts 11:1-18). This narrative progression suggests that the subsequence of the baptism in the Holy Spirit in Acts 8 is occasioned by the unique, initial nature of the Pentecost event.

Baptism in the Holy Spirit As a Marker of Faith
Peter promised that all who repent and are baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins would receive the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38), and Paul reckons that all believers are baptized in the Spirit (1 Cor. 12:13). For the early Christians, the Holy Spirit was not an afterthought, but the sine qua non of Christian life (Acts 2:16-:21; John 1:32-33).

To them, the term “Spirit-filled Christian” would have been redundant, for to be Christian was to be filled with the Spirit. That is why when Paul meets the disciples in Ephesus, he asks, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” Their reply, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit” (Acts 19:1-7), evokes the bewildered response from Paul, “Into what then were you baptized?”

Apostle Paul can ask this question because he understands that the baptism in the Holy Spirit is an experiential reality, not merely a cognitive assent to the inferential reality of the Holy Spirit. It is a grave mistake to think that the Holy Spirit is an unobtrusive, subliminal companion.

The baptism in the Holy Spirit is a reliable marker of one’s faith, “for those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God” (Rom. 8:14). “This is how we know that we live in [God] and he in us: He has given us of his Spirit” (1 John 4:12-13; cf. 1 John 3:24). The Holy Spirit is the down payment that guarantees our future glory (2 Cor. 1:21-22; 5:5; Eph. 1:13-14). The fullness of the Spirit was the primary criterion by which believers were deemed fit for ministry (Acts 6:3-5).

As Roland Allen observes, after Pentecost, the Apostles made “recognition of the Spirit in themselves and others” a primary guide for spiritual judgment (The Ministry of the Spirit, p. 45). Christians today typically impose either theological creed or ecclesial polity as litmus tests (Harry R. Boer, Pentecost and Missions, p. 225), but these approaches neglect the criterion of the Spirit. As the above example shows, when Paul encountered the disciples at Ephesus, he asked one simple question: “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed” (Acts 19:1-2)?

However, modern missionaries are “more inclined to ask either ‘Did you believe exactly what we teach?’ or ‘Were the hands that were laid on you our hands?’ and–if the answer is satisfactory–to assure the converts that they have then received the Holy Spirit even if they don’t know it. There is world of difference between these two attitudes” (Lesslie Newbigin, The Household of God: Lectures on the Nature of the Church, p. 104).

The baptism in the Holy Spirit is not an unnoticeable phenomenon that we simply should assume has taken place; it is a life-changing, identifiable experience of the Spirit’s power that every Christian should continually seek (Eph. 5:18). If you cannot answer with an emphatic “yes” to the question, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” you need to be baptized in the Holy Spirit. Just how do you do that? Stay tuned…

This is Part 3 of 4 posts in my series on the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Go to Part 2: Why We Don’t See More Signs and Wonders Today or to Part 4: How You Can Be Baptized in the Holy Spirit.

Part 2 of 4: Why We Don’t See More Signs and Wonders Today

“Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves. Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it. If you love me, keep my commands. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you” (John 14:11-17).

I have to admit that it’s curious why spiritual gifts seem less prevalent today, especially given the much higher number of Christians today than in the first century. Here are a few ideas:

  1. Constantinianism. With Constantine and Licinius’s publication of the Edict of Milan in 313AD, the number of Christians in the Roman Empire exploded. Sociologist Rodney Stark estimates that from 300AD to 350AD, the number of Christians grew from 6,299,832 to 33,882,008 (Rodney Stark, The Rise of Christianity, p. 7). The end of persecution was obviously a factor, and this is when the Church developed the doctrine of “the invisibility of the true Church,” which discriminated the truly elect from the conformists. When being a Christian became easy, wheats and tares were sown together (Matthew 13:24-30). So, even though the number of Christians may seem inflated today, the number of the elect may be quite a bit smaller.
  2. Nature of miracles. Miracles, by definition, are supernatural. It would be a miracle if I jumped off a building and then proceeded to float in the air instead of falling flat on the ground, because falling is natural. Natural laws are simply descriptions of what usually happens, and thus supernatural phenomena, by definition, cannot occur too often. This is the same explanation that Augustine adduced to account for the relative sparsity of miracles in his day, “lest the mind should always seek visible things, and the human race should grow cold by becoming accustomed to things which when they were novelties kindled its faith” (Of True Religion, xxv.47).
  3. Skepticism. Miracles may be happening around us, but we simply don’t believe them. As Jesus said, “If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead” (Luke 16:31). Even some of Jesus’s disciples doubted him after the resurrection (Matthew 28:17). For moderns, our doubt is augmented by naturalism. The modern scientific mind assumes natural causes for every phenomenon because scientific methodology can only address natural causes. But this doesn’t mean that only natural causes exist. As philosopher Alvin Plantinga writes, that would be like “the drunk who insisted on looking for his lost car keys under the streetlight, on the grounds that the light was better there. (In fact it would go the drunk one better: it would be to insist that because the keys would be hard to find in the dark, they must be under the light.)” (Alvin Plantinga, Warranted Christian Belief, p. 406). Miracles often require faith (Mark 6:1-6; James 5:15). Jesus taught that “if you have faith and do not doubt … you can say to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and it will be done” (Matthew 21:21). This is figurative speech of course, but the message is clear: we don’t see miracles because we don’t believe.

Also, the fact that you don’t see miracles in your part of the world doesn’t mean that they aren’t happening elsewhere. In countries that I have visited for missions work (e.g. Burma, Thailand), miracles are still one of the primary reasons why people consider the Christian faith. I have many friends at seminary hailing from places like Nigeria, DRC, and China who share about numerous occurrences of compelling miracles. I challenge you to try foreign missions work and see for yourself!

This is Part 2 of 4 posts in my series on the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Go to Part 1: Why the Gifts of the Holy Spirit Are for Today or to Part 3: Why We Need to Be Baptized in the Holy Spirit.

Part 1 of 4: Why the Gifts of the Holy Spirit Are for Today

“There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work. Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines” (1 Cor. 12:4-11; cf. Eph. 4:4-12; Rom. 12:3-8).

Are the gifts of the Holy Spirit for today?

Continuationists vs. Cessationists
Continuationists (i.e. Pentecostals/Charismatics) say yes, and Cessationists (many in the Reformed/Presbyterian circles) say no. This is an oversimplification, since Cessationists do recognize the possibility of supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit. Nevertheless, they insist that the gifts were largely limited to the lifetime of the original Apostles (11 disciples + Matthias and Paul, defined as those who were directly commissioned, or sent out, by Jesus Christ as witnesses to the resurrection; Acts 1:1-26; 1 Cor. 15:1-11).

Hebrews 2:3-4 teaches that “salvation, which was first announced by the Lord (i.e. Jesus), was confirmed to us by those who heard him. God also testified to it by signs, wonders and various miracles, and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will,” and Mark 16:20 recounts that “the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it.” From verses like these, the Cessationists argue that “signs, wonders and various miracles” confirmed the message of Jesus and His disciples. Therefore, once the signs and wonders had served their purpose, they ceased.

Gifts of the Holy Spirit Are Not Confined to the Apostolic Era
It should be noted, however, that these verses point to a purpose of the signs and wonders, not to their duration. While these signs and wonders did serve to authenticate the ministry of the Apostles, they were not restricted to the Apostles.When Jesus sent out 72 of his followers, which obviously includes non-Apostles, he commanded them to “heal the sick who are there and tell them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you'” (Lk. 10:9).

Jesus also taught that “whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these” (Jn. 14:12). The natural reading of this text suggests a continuity between the signs and wonders of Jesus’s ministry and that of those who believe in Him (which is not limited to the Apostles).

Furthermore, non-Apostles like Stephen (Acts 6:8) and Philip (Acts 8:6) are recorded to have performed signs and wonders, and Paul asks the Galatians: “does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you by the works of the law, or by your believing what you heard?” (Gal. 3:5), which suggests that God is working miracles among the Galatians in general.

Again, in 1 Corinthians 12:7-11, Paul explains that various members in the Church (and not just the Apostles) are given gifts of healing and other workings of miracles. In fact, he suggests that every Christian has some kind of spiritual gift with which to edify the Church, and specifically distinguishes the Apostolate from these gifts when he says in verse 28 that “God has placed in the church first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healingsand of different kinds of tongues.”

Some scholars point to 1 Corinthians 13:9-10 as evidence for Cessationism: “For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears.” They argue that “completeness” refers to the completion of the New Testament revelation. Now that we have the whole of Scripture, we do not need partial revelations like tongues and prophesy.

However, the immediate context of the passage reveals that Paul is talking about Jesus’s second coming. He says in verse 12 of the same chapter, “For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face.” The “reflection as in a mirror” corresponds to the “know[ing] in part” and “face to face” corresponds to the “completeness.” The expression “face to face” lends itself easily to the second coming, at which time we will know and be united with God completely, but not so to the compilation of the New Testament.

Gift of Tongues
Often, this debate revolves around the gift of tongues, since it is the most frequently attested, and the most fervently vitiated, gift. Those who deny the validity of modern-day occurrences of tongues quote Acts 2 to say that the gift of tongues is an ability to speak in a previously unlearned, yet intelligible, human language. Therefore, they argue, that glossolalia of the Pentecostals and Charismatics today are simply ecstatic utterances attested in every culture, not the gift of tongues witnessed at Pentecost.

However, this is not true because it says in Acts 2:6 that “each one heard their own language being spoken.” If the believers at Pentecost were speaking in language x, only those onlookers who spoke x should have heard their own language, but each one heard their own language being spoken. If the tongues being spoken were human languages, they would not have been “utterly amazed,” and asked “Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language” (Acts 2:7-8)?

For this reason, I do not think that the tongues being spoken at Pentecost were human languages. I think the Holy Spirit enabled the onlookers to understand them in their own languages, as a symbolic reversal of the curse of Babel (Gen. 11:1-9). As Apostle Paul teaches, “anyone who speaks in a tongue does not speak to people but to God. Indeed, no one understands them; they utter mysteries by the Spirit” (1 Cor. 14:1-2ff.). This is why another Christian with the gift of interpretation is required.

Now, some disclaimers:

  1. This is not to deny the sufficiency and finality of the Scriptures. 1 Corinthians 12:3; 14:37-38 and 2 Thessalonians 2:1-3 prove that prophets are subject to the authority of Scripture, since prophecy is not the word of God per se but human words voicing what God has brought to mind. We “know in part and prophesy in part” (1 Cor. 13:9), so we must test the spirits with Christ and His message (1 Jn. 4:1-3).
  2. This is not to deny the unique ministry of the Apostles. The Apostles were eyewitnesses of Jesus’s resurrection and responsible for the initial propagation and preservation of the gospel in the Scriptures. No one today, however spiritually/prophetically gifted, exercises the same kind of authority. Nevertheless, as I have shown above, Scriptures show clearly that the gifts were intended to continue to our time. Peter taught that Pentecost was the beginning of the fulfillment of prophet Joel’s prophecy that “[God] will pour out [His] Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions” (Acts 2:14-21 cf. Joel 2:28). If Peter lived in the end times, we certainly live in the end times, and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit is for today.

Historical Evidence for Continuationism
To show some historical continuity, here are selected reports of spiritual gifts and prophetic utterances throughout Church history:

Early Church

  • Justin Martyr (100-ca. 165 AD; Dialogue with Trypho, XXXIX)
  • Irenaeus (2nd century-ca. 202 AD; Against Heresies, II.32; V.6)
  • Tertullian (ca. 160-ca. 225 AD; Against Marcion, V.8)
  • Origen (184/185-253/254 AD; Against Celsus, III.24)
  • Eusebius (ca. 263-339 AD; Ecclesiastical History, III.37)
  • Chrysostom (ca. 347-407 AD; W. H. Turner, The Baptism and Gifts of the Holy Spirit, p. 107).
  • Augustine is often cited as a champion of Cessationism in the Early Church. His reputation comes from his statement that after “the Catholic Church had been founded and diffused throughout the whole world, on the one hand miracles were not allowed to continue till our time, lest the mind should always seek visible things, and the human race should grow cold by becoming accustomed to things which when they were novelties kindled its faith” (390 AD; Of True Religion, xxv.47). However, at the end of his life, he qualified this statement, saying, “what I said is not to be so interpreted that no miracles are believed to be performed in the name of Christ at the present time. For, when I wrote that book, I myself had recently learned that a blind man had been restored to sight in Milan near the bodies of the martyrs in that very city, and I knew about some others, so numerous even in these times, that we cannot know about all of them nor enumerate those we know” (ca. 426-428 AD; Retractions, I.12.7). Augustine conceded that “even now miracles are wrought in the name of Christ, whether by His sacraments or by the prayers or relics of His saints; but they are not so brilliant and conspicuous as to cause them to be published with such glory as accompanied the former miracles” (354-430 AD, City of God, XXII.8). As these examples show, the gifts of the Holy Spirit did not cease after the Apostolic age, but prophetic excess and abuse by Gnostics, Montanists, Marcionites, and other heretics forced the orthodox believers to institutionalize and localize the gifts of the Spirit in the office of the bishop, thus curbing the exercise thereof (Stanley M. Burgess & Eduard M. van der Maas, New International Dictionary of Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements, “Doctrine of the Holy Spirit: Ancient Fathers,” p. 730-731).

Medieval Church

  • Isaac of Nineveh wrote about spiritual ecstasies and visions (7th century AD), and many miracles were attributed to Gregory of Narek (951-1003 AD) (NIDPCM, “Doctrine of the Holy Spirit: The Medieval Churches,” p. 748-749).
  • Symeon the New Theologian (949-1022 AD) reported mystical visions of God, gift of tongues, gift of tears, gift of knowledge, healing, and exorcisms (Nicetas, Life of St. Symeon the New Theologian). He even taught about the baptism in the Holy Spirit (Symeon the New Theologian, Vol. 1, XXXVII.4).
  • Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274 AD) acknowledged the gift of tongues, gift of knowledge, prophecy, and other miracles (Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, II-II.177.1; II-II.178.1).

Reformation Church

  • Martin Luther (1483-1546 AD) was a Cessationist for most of his life, but late in life, he seems to have had a change of mind. For example, in a letter, he writes that he was accustomed to laying his hands on and praying for the sick for healing (Theodore G. Tappert & John Bailley, Luther: Letters of Spiritual Counsel, XVIII.52). In a similar manner, he prayed for his colleague Philip Melanchthon, and he was healed, which Luther confirms was a miracle wrought by God (NIDPCM, “Doctrine of the Holy Spirit: Reformation Traditions,” p. 764).
  • Ignatius of Loyola (1491-1556) wrote about spiritual gifts and mystical experiences in his Spiritual Diary. He discussed the gift of loquela, “speech” or “language,” whose description fits the characteristics of sung glossolalia (NIDPCM, “Doctrine of the Holy Spirit: Reformation Traditions,” p. 765).
  • Thomas Müntzer emphasized baptism in the Holy Spirit and asserted that modern-day Christians can experience the Holy Spirit as powerfully as the Prophets and Apostles of old (NIDPCM, “Doctrine of the Holy Spirit: Reformation Traditions,” p. 767).
  • Persecution from Louis XIV against 17th century French Protestants produced the French prophets known as the Camisards, who experienced trances, shakings, and glossolalic sounds (Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, Vol. 1, p. 237).

Modern Church

  • Shakers appeared in New York in the 19th century, and in 1820s and 30s, followers of Edward Irving experienced the gift of tongues (Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, Vol. 1, p. 237).
  • Agnes Ozman receives the gift of tongues when Charles Parham lays his hand on her and prays (1901 AD).
  • The Azusa Street Revival led by William J. Seymour (1906 AD).
  • Dennis Bennett is baptized in the Holy Spirit (1960 AD).

This is Part 1 of 4 posts in my series on the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Go to Part 2: Why We Don’t See More Signs and Wonders Today.