Monday, July 28, 2008


Recently I came across the question : “Is receiving the Holy Spirit part of Salvation or is it just an added ‘bonus’?”

The answer to this requires us to ask another question. What is salvation and what are we saved from? (Or was that two questions?) This issue of receiving the Holy Spirit is merely one part of our introduction to the Christian life that has been distorted by many centuries of human tradition.
Is it coincidence that so much controversy centres on those issues that are foundational; the things that focus on the very beginnings of Christian life, the things that ensure we start our life of discipleship CORRECTLY?

Some people are only interested in being saved from hell, and many of those want to do the minimum required to achieve that goal. But is that what Jesus came to save us from?

Mat 1:21 And she shall bear a son, and you shall call His name JESUS: for He shall save His people from their sins.

The salvation Jesus offers is salvation from our sins. Salvation from hell is a result of being saved from our sins.

Salvation is about THIS life as much as about our eternal destiny. Therefore we need to ensure we are equipped fully to live in our salvation here and now. How can we think we are fully equipped if we ignore and reject what Jesus has provided and has told us to receive? I strongly suspect that those who are ONLY interested in escaping hell and have no interest in God changing their lives NOW, will unfortunately find themselves thrown into the hell they had hoped to avoid.

To many people initiation into Christianity has been reduced to “believing” in Jesus. Yet scripture is very clear that repentance, baptism in water and baptism in the Holy Spirit are ALL parts of the process of salvation. They are not optional extras that we can pick and choose according to our own whims. They are all essential aspects of our entry into Christ, COMMANDED by Jesus Himself. How can we say we believe in Him if we ignore, disobey, or explain away these basic, foundational things?

The dismissal or changing of these vital aspects of Christian life has come about because men’s traditions have replaced the plain and clear teaching of scripture.

In scripture, repentance required observable changes in behaviour and the turning away from sin.

In tradition, repentance is a brief, confessed recognition that we are sinners and that we are sorry for our sin.

In scripture baptism is the full immersion of a repentant believer in water.

In tradition it is the sprinkling of water on an unsuspecting baby.

In scripture this occurs with observable evidence – most often the evidence reported in scripture is speaking in tongues, but prophetic utterance and “magnifying God” (possibly spontaneous praise) are also mentioned. The important thing to recognise is that SOMETHING happened that convinced those present that the Spirit had been received. The Spirit was not received in a passive and unobserved way. When the Spirit came into someone’s life it was OBVIOUS that He had come.

In tradition, the Spirit is received when we “believe” – with no particular evidence that anything has happened. (Pentecostal tradition is equally erroneous to insist that tongues is the ONLY evidence.)

What does scripture say about believers receiving the Holy Spirit?

1) Jesus told us that the Holy Spirit is given to those who ask (and keep on asking; – the verb is in the Greek present continuous tense).
To ask for the Holy Spirit we need to recognise that 1) we have not yet received Him 2) That we NEED to receive Him and 3) that God is willing and able to give Him to those who continue to ask until they DO receive Him.

2) The first disciples were told to stay in Jerusalem UNTIL they had received the Holy Spirit.

3) Peter told his audience on the day of Pentecost to REPENT AND BE BAPTISED and THEN they shall receive the Holy Spirit. He did not say they should just believe in Jesus and they would receive the Holy Spirit.

4) The believers in Samaria “gave heed” to the gospel Philip preached and responded with “great joy”. The apostles heard that they “had received the Word of God” and travelled to Samaria to pray for the Samaritans so they would “receive the Holy Spirit” – note this was AFTER they had heeded and received the Word of God. They did not receive the Holy Spirit automatically. They received the Holy Spirit after the apostles laid hands on them.

5) When Cornelius and his household were filled with the Holy Spirit, Peter and his companions knew it had happened:
“For they heard them speak with tongues and magnify God.”
Upon this evidence Peter ordered that they be baptised in water.

6) The Ephesians were asked by Paul if they had received the Holy Spirit after they had believed. After determining that they hadn’t, Paul had them baptised, laid hands on them and THEN they received the Holy Spirit – again this was AFTER they had believed and AFTER they had received water baptism in the name of Jesus. How did they know they had finally received the Holy Spirit?
“ And as Paul laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke with tongues and prophesied.”

Only someone drawn away by tradition could argue against these CLEAR, PLAIN statements to insist that receiving the Spirit happens automatically with no discernable evidence.

Are men and their traditions above God and His Word?
Do men and their traditions decide and determine what is acceptable and needed for a believer to walk in their salvation?
Do men and their traditions determine which parts of God’s word are applicable today and which parts are mere historical records? (A common argument against the examples given in Acts – is that “Acts is merely historical it’s not doctrinal” – who gave anyone the authority to make that distinction?).

Returning to the original question: “Is receiving the Holy Spirit part of Salvation or is it just an added ‘bonus’?”

Consider Jesus Himself. At what point did He start His public ministry? When did He begin to preach, heal and deliver those who were captives?

AFTER His baptism in water and AFTER the Holy Spirit had come upon Him.

If Jesus, who is God Himself, ALSO submitted to water baptism why should we think we don’t need it? If HE needed to receive the Holy Spirit (with confirming, observable signs) why should we think we don’t need to?

Mt 3:13-15 Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John.
But John tried to deter him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?”
Jesus replied, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.”

Lk 3:21-22 When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too. And as he was praying, heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove.

Note that even Jesus received the Holy Spirit AFTER His baptism and AFTER He had prayed.

And He received the Spirit for THIS purpose:

Lk 4:18-19 “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.”

He didn’t start His ministry until He had received the anointing of the Holy Spirit. Jesus didn’t conduct His ministry in His own name and power and according to His own authority as God.
If JESUS needed to submit Himself to these things, and if JESUS commanded His disciples to follow His example in these things – who are we to try to change them?
Who are we to try and reason our way out of obedience?
Who are we that we can choose to do things OUR way instead of Gods?

Friday, July 25, 2008


The end times and the rapture in particular generate countless volumes of speculative fiction – much of which goes under the name of “teaching”. Often these books stir up fear, attempting to drive people to God to escape what they say will happen to those “left behind”.

The issues of the rapture and the great tribulation will take care of themselves if we ensure we give Jesus the priority. Put Him first and we will have no reason to worry. Draw closer to Him and we will increase in the confidence that He will never forsake us.
Personally I am convinced that NO Christians will be raptured prior to the tribulation. I came to this conclusion after putting aside all the books and turning to the scriptures to study the subject for myself. What I found completely changed my previous pre-tribulation theology.

Does that cause me to be afraid of what may be in store for me should I still be alive when the great tribulation comes? I can’t say I would look forward to it – but when my confidence is in Jesus, why should I let fear rule my life?
One of the reasons the book of Revelation was given to the church was to encourage saints who suffer extreme persecution, in particular those who will suffer the greatest persecution immediately prior to Jesus’ return.

In Revelation, alongside the trouble on earth, we are shown the glory of God in His heaven and that HE remains in control. We are shown how those martyred during the tribulation will be taken from earth to be with Him – and those who continue to suffer through this time, without the release given by death, can be encouraged by the joy of knowing that Jesus Himself will be returning VERY SOON. In fact the length of this whole period is continually reinforced – it will be only three and a half years!
Imagine how you would feel at this very moment if you could know for sure that Jesus would be returning in three and a half years time and all uncertainty of how long we have to wait for Him was removed.

And this is the big difference between most books about end times and the scriptures. The books create a sense of fear while the scriptures give encouragement and a sense of joyous expectation. The scriptures prepare us to be ready to welcome the Lord and inform us that believers will be reigning with Him after His return. And it is significant that those who have suffered during the great tribulation get SPECIAL mention among those who will reign with Jesus during the millennium.

Many people put their trust in books about the end times because of the perceived difficulties of understanding biblical end time prophecy. Unfortunately these books are more likely to result in confusion and the adoption of false doctrine.
Personally, I would recommend that BEFORE people turn to the teaching and ideas of others regarding end time prophecy – that they study the basics for themselves, relying ONLY on the Holy Spirit’s teaching from scripture. Recognise that the scriptures were not written for theologians, or for those with exclusive insight. The scriptures were written for us – the every day believer.
Start with the plain, simplest and most straight forward interpretation of what you read. If there’s something that seems to difficult to understand, come back to it AFTER you’ve built a foundation of what you CAN understand.
My suggestion would be to start with the prophecies of Jesus - such as Matthew 24. This gives a good basic frame work.

When you get to Revelation, don’t get overwhelmed by the symbolism. Too much concern about the things we don’t understand can lead to us forcing an interpretation upon the text. Ask the Holy Spirit for understanding, then put our questions aside and allow Him to do the teaching. The answers may not come as quickly as we like – but that usually means we need to learn something else first. (In school we couldn’t tackle mathematical problems until we’d come to grips with basic arithmetic.)

Most of the confusion with end time prophecy has come because we’ve followed the teaching of man rather than the teaching of the Holy Spirit. My own introduction to the subject was via books like Lindsay’s “The Late Great Planet Earth” – today many are introduced by La Haye’s novels.

ALL of those things need to be ignored. The BIBLE should be our only written source of doctrine.

When I put away all of the books and teachings of men and did my own bible study; firstly I found that it wasn’t as complicated as I’d been led to believe, and secondly I had to change my beliefs significantly.