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A Second Experience

Dove

by Dennis Pollock

At my age, it is a given that much in the world has changed since the days of my youth. But more to the point of this study, the church of Jesus Christ now has an entirely different look and feel. And this is clearly evident in the way Pentecostals and Charismatics relate to those who are non-Pentecostal and non-Charismatic, and vice versa. In my earliest days in Christ many of those who had no experience with and not much use for the Holy Spirit absolutely despised their Pentecostal and Charismatic cousins. Many fundamentalists believed that all speaking in tongues was of the devil and that every supernatural gift of the Holy Spirit had long ago died out with the last of the apostles. In their minds, anyone who claimed to experience such things as divine healing, prophetic utterance, words from the Lord, the gift of tongues, or saw visions or had dreams from God was either demon-possessed, psychotic, or simple-minded in the extreme. Many of the Pentecostals and Charismatics considered the non-Pentecostals carnal, spiritually blind, and/or bigoted, and assumed they could hardly be of any use to God. Some fringe Pentecostals felt that most or all of the non-tongue-talkers weren’t even saved.

As noted, things have changed a lot. The antagonism between the two groups seems to have diminished at least to some degree these days. There is little talk about Charismatics being “of the devil” anymore, and the Charismatics have gradually come to recognize that God uses non-tongue-talkers just like He uses those who speak in tongues, and sometimes even in greater measure. Church services have melded and blended to the point that you cannot always tell just what kind of church you are in by the nature of the worship service. It used to be that if the believers raised their hands during the slow songs, and clapped vigorously during the fast songs you knew you were in a Charismatic or Pentecostal church. But now you see these things in Baptist churches, Bible churches, and even some Presbyterian and Catholic churches. On the other hand, in many churches which are Charismatic or Pentecostal by theology, things have been toned down significantly. You can go to these churches for years and never hear anyone speak in tongues or hear a single reference to tongues in the pastor’s sermons. Charismatic gatherings used to be liberally sprinkled with prophecies and tongues followed by interpretations, but for most of what used to be called “Spirit-filled” churches, especially the larger ones, these practices have dropped out of sight.

The Biblical Testimony

The one doctrine which the Pentecostals and Charismatics have never really surrendered, and which I intend to explore in this study, is the idea that there is a second definitive experience after salvation which equips God’s people for service. You may call it the baptism of the Holy Spirit, the filling of the Spirit, or the Spirit coming upon you, but regardless of the name, many see this as a second experience which typically occurs after one has repented and been born again. The question is not whether your denomination believes this or not. The ultimate question, as always, is whether the Bible gives any support for this idea of a second experience, a filling with the Holy Spirit that may come subsequent to salvation.

The short answer to that question is: “Yes it does.” We’ll start with the most powerful and nearly incontrovertible passage first and then look at a couple of other ones. If you want to learn about the Holy Spirit you would do well to read and re-read the Book of Acts. You may be surprised to learn that there are more references to the Holy Spirit in this one book than in all the other books of the Bible combined. Luke, the author of Acts, obviously had a keen appreciation for the Holy Spirit and He spoke of Him often. For example, when Peter defended himself before the Jewish high priest and other important leaders, Luke does not merely report that Peter began to speak. He tells us, “Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them…” (Acts 4:8).

Awakening in Samaria

The passage in Acts which speaks so powerfully about a second experience is actually more than a passage – it is about half of a chapter. In Acts chapter 8 we read that Philip went to the city of Samaria and “preached Christ to them,” which is an excellent subject for an evangelist. There was a wonderful response to Philip’s preaching. The Scriptures record that these people “heeded the things spoken by Philip,” believed his message, and were baptized. Philip had a genuine spiritual awakening on his hands, and in a very short time Samaria developed a strong and vibrant Christian church in its midst. In addition to the rich harvest of souls, people were being healed left and right, and demon-possessed individuals were instantly delivered and became normal.

Word reached the apostles in Jerusalem about this phenomenal outpouring of the Holy Spirit which occurred under Philip’s ministry. Peter and John were sent down to Samaria to bring apostolic oversight to these new and zealous believers. Strangely they found something amiss. Despite all that God had done, something was definitely lacking. The Bible says:

Now when the apostles who were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them, who, when they had come down, prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit. For as yet He had fallen upon none of them. They had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then they laid hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit (Acts 8:14-17).

So what was the problem? It was not that these folks were not yet saved. According to Luke they had believed and been baptized. And Jesus declared that whoever believes and is baptized shall be saved. The Bible tells us the reason Peter and John laid hands on them: “The Holy Spirit had not yet fallen upon any of them.” Were they believers? Yes. Were they saved? Yes. Had they received Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior? Yes. But somehow they had not received that anointing of the Holy Spirit, that empowering of the Spirit that Jesus had spoken of, when He declared, “You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you” (Acts 1:8). He had not yet fallen upon them; the Holy Spirit had not yet “come upon them;” they had not been filled with the Holy Spirit. Saved? Yes! Filled? No. And so, Peter and John laid hands on these people and they received this power, this anointing, this filling that would make them effective witnesses of Jesus Christ.

This story is so plain, so explicit, so entirely unambiguous that there is no getting around it. No matter how much your momma or your pastor or your cousin Billy-Bob tells you that you got all you needed when you were saved, the apostles Peter and John obviously didn’t think so. They wanted all believers not just baptized in water, but immersed in the Holy Spirit as well.

Did You Receive?

And lest you suppose that this was just some theological quirkiness on Peter and John’s part, we see something very similar in the ministry of the apostle Paul. In Acts 19 we read that in Ephesus, Paul found a group of disciples. The question Paul asked these folks is a question that you would almost never hear asked new believers today. We assume that once you receive Jesus, there is nothing more for you. But Paul didn’t seem to buy into that concept. He asked these disciples, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” (Acts 19:2). As we follow the story it appears that they may not have been disciples of Christ but rather disciples of John the Baptist. They had never heard of the Holy Spirit and had been “baptized into John’s baptism.”

But that’s not the important part. Paul apparently did believe that they were disciples of Jesus, at least at the beginning. He did not ask them, “Have you believed on Jesus?” No, he asked them if they had received the Holy Spirit when they did believe. Why would he ask such a question? Like his fellow apostles, Peter and John, Paul was eager that every new believer should have the experience of the Holy Spirit coming upon them and be empowered by the Spirit to be witnesses of Christ.

I admit it’s a little confusing. By saying “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” he makes it sound like it is possible for one to believe on Jesus and not have the Holy Spirit at all. Yet in Ephesus Paul tells us, “having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance…” (Ephesians 1:13). And in Romans he writes, “Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His…” (Romans 8:9). To be saved is to be indwelt by the Holy Spirit, or to use Paul’s words again, to become a “temple of the Holy Spirit.” So if salvation always results in the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, why are Peter, John, and Paul so eager for new believers to “receive the Spirit?” We must assume that this receiving had to do with the empowering of the Spirit, not the indwelling of the Spirit. As believers in Christ they were surely indwelt by the Spirit, but He had not yet “come upon them.”

When the apostles waited for the promise of the Holy Spirit in the upper room, they were waiting for the power to equip them in the work of Christ. Before His ascension our Lord had breathed on them and declared, “Receive the Holy Spirit” (John 20:22). What, then, were they waiting for in that upper room? They were waiting for Jesus’ promise to be fulfilled in their lives: “You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you…” (Acts 1:8). And sure enough, He did come upon them, and they did receive power, as promised!

Power for Service

Moody_ovalA prime example of this second experience may be found in the life of America’s most famous and effective evangelist in the second half of the nineteenth century, D. L. Moody. In his younger years, Moody was pastoring a large church in Chicago when a couple of his members began to talk with him about the filling of the Spirit. They told him that he needed this experience, and Moody was insulted. He said later, “I thought that I had the power of the Spirit. I pastored one of the largest churches in Chicago and many were getting saved.” But as these ladies shared with him about the filling of the Spirit, Moody became hungry for an empowering of the Spirit that would take him beyond his present spiritual state. He wrote:

I began to cry out as I never did before. I really felt that I did not want to live if I could not have this power for service… I cannot describe it, I seldom refer to it; it is almost too sacred an experience to name... I can only say that God revealed Himself to me, and I had such an experience of His love that I had to ask Him to stay His hand. I went to preaching again. The sermons were no different; I did not present any new truths; and yet hundreds were converted. I would not now be placed back where I was before that blessed experience if you should give me all the world…

Our Lord Jesus died on the cross and rose again to make it possible for flawed, ordinary, mistake-prone men and women to be both indwelt and empowered by God, the Holy Spirit. Jesus is the Fountain of Living Waters, and when we are saved, our sins are forgiven making it possible for God’s very presence to live inside us and enable us to serve Him effectively through the power of the Holy Spirit.

But we must press in and cry out for our Lord to immerse us in His Spirit. We dare not be satisfied with the thought of our hope of heaven while remaining spiritually impotent here on the earth. Regardless of the level of our talents, or intellect, or ability to speak or sing, we all can abide in Jesus, be filled with His Spirit, and make meaningful contributions to the cause of Jesus Christ. Let us, then, present our bodies unto Him and seek Him for power from on high. We will find, to our delight, that there is not merely a second experience, but a third, and fourth, and many, many more.


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