Reading 9.1

The Baptism of the Holy Spirit: A Crisis or an Evolution*

A.B. Simpson

Is the baptism of the Holy Spirit a distinct blessing or is it simply a deeper development of the experience of conversion? Is the indwelling of Christ in the believer's heart a definite promise to the consecrated believer, or is it received at regeneration and simply revealed and manifested as a later stage of progressive Christian experience? This is a question of much practical importance and divides the teachers of deeper spiritual truth into two important classes.

I. The Arguments for the Progressive Theory.

Those who believe in what we shall call in this paper the progressive theory, hold that the Holy Spirit is given at conversion to every believer, and there is no subsequent receiving of the Spirit, although there are many successive stages in the revelation of Christ to the soul, and the realization of the Spirit's fullness.

1. A favorite passage and the strongest argument which they present is Romans viii. 9-10: "But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His. And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness." At the first glance, this seems to be a very convincing argument, but it will bear much investigation.

In the first place, it is possible for a truly converted soul to be in the flesh and not in the Spirit. Writing to the Corinthians, the Apostle Paul distinctly says, "I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ. For ye are yet carnal, for whereas there is among you envying and strife and divisions, are ye not carnal and walk as men?" No one will deny that these were Christians. They were brethren. They were "babes in Christ," and yet they were carnal. They were in the flesh. They were not pleasing God. They were not subject to the law of God, but they were the children of God. Therefore the apostle in Romans viii. 9 is speaking not of all Christians, but of those Christians who are no longer in the flesh, but have received the Spirit of God and have become spiritual simply through the Holy Spirit.

In the next place the words, "If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His," does not mean necessarily that such a one is not a Christian, but rather that he has not yet surrendered to Christ in such a sense that he belongs to Him. Christ may be ours and yet we not fully His. This is the great difference between the two classes of Christians that we find everywhere to-day. The one class has surrendered to Christ and belongs to Him. The other has not yet recognized the divine Ownership and given up the self-life. "Christ is mine," is one thing. "I am Christ's" is another. In the Song of Solomon the bride begins by saying, "My Beloved is mine," but ends by the deeper confession, "I am my Beloved's." It is when we reach this deeper experience and can truly say, "I am the Lord's," that the glorious words, I.Corinthians iii. 22,23: "All things are yours and ye are Christ's and Christ is God's." All things are not ours till we are all the Lord's. Therefore in Romans xii.1 the apostle appeals to those who have already experienced the mercies of God and are brethren, "I beseech you, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service." The passage therefore in Romans viii.9,10, does not necessarily prove that if we have not yet received the Holy Ghost, we are not Christians or saved persons, but rather that we are yet carnal and belong partly to ourselves. The same is true of the 10th and 11th verses: "If Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of Him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, He that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by His Spirit that dwelleth in you." This really describes a very balanced Christian experience, an experience in which the Holy Spirit so dwells in us and Christ is so embodied in us that we are able to receive His quickening life in our bodies. Our physical life is practically the temple and the home of the Holy Ghost, and as such He cares for it, keeps it and heals it. To say this is the experience of every Christian would be taking a good deal for granted.

2. Another argument for the indwelling of Christ in all believers is II Corinthians xiii 5: "Know ye not your own selves how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?" The hasty inference of a superficial reader would be that if we do not have the indwelling of Christ in our hearts we are doomed and damned. Now this is all due to an erroneous reading of the passage. On reference to Rotherham's version or the admirable notes of Connybeare and Howson on this passage, an intelligent reader will observe that the word "reprobate" is translated disapproved. The apostle has just been speaking of a test that he proposes to have whether the Corinthians are walking in the complete will of God or not, and this is to be made evident either by his being disapproved or they being disapproved when the test comes. Indeed, he says he will be glad to be disapproved that they may be approved in that test because this will be to him the best evidence that they are right with God. "We are glad," he adds, "when we are weak and ye are strong; we wish also your perfection." The same word is used in the apostle's fine figure in I. Corinthians ix. 27, to the rewards of the Father. The word is translated "castaway," in our old English version, but every Bible student knows that this is entirely wrong. Literally it is "disapproved." The reference is to the race and the apostle's fear lest having preached the Gospel to others, when the prizes are distributed at the end of the race, he should miss his crown and be disapproved by the judge. He has no idea of being lost at all, but simply losing the great reward of the victor. Therefore here in the passage first quoted he simply means that if Christ is not in them, they are disapproved; they are not living up to the high standard of Christian life which they should. They are coming short of their privilege and duty. Surely, no one will deny this. But this is a very different matter from being an unsaved man or woman. On the contrary, there is the strongest implication that they are saved, but coming short of Christian privileges and duties.

3. The next argument of our friends, the evolutionists, is founded upon the promise of the Apostle Peter on the day of Pentecost, "Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. For the promise is unto you and to your children and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call." Now, we do not for a moment question that the promise of the Holy Spirit is for every sinner, for all the promises are offered freely through His grace to any that will accept the Saviour, but that does not mean that they are all received at the same moment. When you enter a house, you enter the several rooms in order, and you must pass from chamber to chamber. It is so in the experiences of the deeper Christian life. You come into the vestibule and then you pass on to all the apartments until at last you reach the observatory at the top, but you don't get there the first step. Peter was simply announcing the fullness of our great salvation and telling them all that God had for them and yet there was much still reserved for them even after their conversion. We are willing, however, to concede that the baptism of the Holy Ghost may be received at the very same time a soul is converted. We have known a sinner to be converted, sanctified and saved all within a single hour, and yet each experience was different in its nature and was received in proper order and by a definite faith for that particular blessing. What we contend for is that the baptism of the Holy Spirit is a distinct experience, and must be received by a definite faith, and this involves the crisis: a full surrender and an explicit preparation of the promise of God by faith.

4. Another proof text quoted by our friends is Acts v.32: "The Holy Spirit whom God hath given to all them that obey Him." Therefore if we are obedient Christians we must have the Holy Spirit. But this is just what we are contending for: that multitudes of Christians are not obedient Christians. They have not surrendered to the will of God. They have [not] given up the world and sin. They have not presented their bodies a living sacrifice and therefore they do not enjoy the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, because they do not obey Him.

5. A very strong text used by our friends is I. Corinthians iii. 16: "Know ye not that we are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy, for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are." This passage, it is said, was addressed to carnal Christians, even to "babes in Christ," and therefore all such Christians must be the temples of God and have the Holy Spirit. In answer to this it is enough to say that there were evidently two classes of Christians in the church at Corinth, and that the apostle alternately addressed these two classes. Speaking to the one class he says, "In everything ye are enriched so that ye come not behind in any gift, waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ."

And yet, in the next breath he says, "There is evil among you. Ye do wrong and defraud, and that your brethren. Ye are carnal and walk as men." Paul expected them to apply the shoe where it would fit. Substantially he says this in I. Corinthians x.15: "I speak as to wise men. Judge ye what I say." Some of them were the temples of God. Others were too unholy to be the temples of God. The true exposition of this passage will be found in the parallel passage, II. Corinthians vi. 16-18, where he says, "What agreement hath the temple of God with idols? For ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them and walk in them, and I will be their God and They shall be My people. Wherefore come out from among them and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing, and I will receive you. And I will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be My sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty." Here most plainly the condition of separation is insisted upon before God will come in and dwell in them and walk in them and receive them. Putting these two Scriptures together the argument of our brethren falls to pieces, and the necessity of a very thorough spiritual preparation for the indwelling of Christ is made plain.

6. In the twelfth chapter of I Corinthians verse 7, it is said, "The manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal," and verse 13, "For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles." In these two passages the apostle is speaking of two distinct things. In verse 13 it is our union with Christ as His body that is referred to. Now, there is no doubt that every believer the moment he accepts Christ is united to the body of Christ. The word "by" should be "in" here. Are we all baptized into one body? That is a very different thing from the individual reception of the Holy Ghost. The apostle refers to this in the next clause, "We have all been made to drink into one Spirit." Some one has finely illustrated this by the figure of the bottle in the sea, and the sea in the bottle. It is possible for the bottle to be in the sea and the sea not be in the bottle. It is possible for us to be in the Spirit and in Christ by faith that saves and yet not have the Spirit of Christ in us by the faith that sanctifies. The seventh verse, however, has special reference to the supernatural gifts of the Spirit in healing, teaching, speaking with tongues, etc. "These," he says, "are given to every man to profit withal." He means that every Christian may have the enduement of power without respect of persons in the measure in which he will profit thereby and use this great gift to the best account. But this very word "profit" implies certain conditions. The gift is for those that will make good use of it. It is, therefore, implied that before receiving it there shall be evidences of very deep sincerity and consecration, and every readiness to use it according to the work and for the glory of God. Even the apostles were required to tarry until they be endued with power from on high. This is not a gift that could be lightly assumed, but a profound experience calling for the most earnest and protracted preparation.

II. Arguments for a Crisis Experience

But time and space will not permit us to prosecute farther this side of the argument. Let us turn now to some proofs of the other view: namely, that the indwelling of Christ and the Baptism of the Holy Spirit constitute a definite experience and a second blessing and involve a very real crisis in our spiritual life.

1. The strongest proof we know is derived from the experience of the Master Himself, our glorious Forerunner. He was born of the Spirit, as we read in Luke i.35: "The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God." But He was not baptized with the Spirit until His thirtieth year. Then when He made a complete surrender of His life to the Father and assumed the cross and the work of redemption in His baptism at the hands of John, the heavens were opened and the Holy Ghost ascended upon Him and abode. From that time there was a new personality added to the Son of man, and all His words and works were spoken and performed in dependence upon the power of the Holy Ghost.

Now, the Lord was our forerunner. "As He is so are we also in this world." Like Him we are born of the Spirit and like Him we too must be baptized with the Spirit. There comes a time when a new personality is added to ours and we go forth to life's conflicts and duties no longer alone, but in union with Him who has come to be our very life and all-sufficiency. It is the same as the bride who has hitherto walked alone through life, but there comes a day when another life is united to hers, and two go forth to life's toils and trials, and yet not two, but one, and henceforth he is her strength, He is her support, He is her guide, and she goes forth leaning upon her beloved. That is exactly what comes to pass we when receive the Holy Ghost and the Lord to dwell within.

2. The experience of the disciples before and after Pentecost is equally clear and convincing on this point. Up to that time, they were undoubtedly saved men and women, but after Pentecost there came to them an entirely new experience involving not only power for service but power for holiness and righteousness in their own lives. The men were as changed as their ministry. "With great power gave the apostles witness to the resurrection of Jesus Christ and great grace was upon them all."

3. The promise of Christ to His disciples that the Comforter should come was accompanied with very clear conditions and definitions. Speaking of Him, He says, "He dwelleth with you and shall be in you" (John xiv. 17). He identified the coming of the Comforter with His own indwelling. "At that day, ye shall know that I am in the Father and ye in Me and I in you." And yet His coming to abide is connected with a spirit of devotion and obedience. "If a man love Me," He says; "he will keep My words and My Father will love him and We will come unto him and make our abode with him" (John xiv. 23). He had already said, John xiv. 21: "He that hath My commandments and keepeth them, he it is that loveth Me: and He that loveth Me shall be loved of My Father, and I will love him and will manifest Myself to Him." Christ's indwelling is here connected with a spirit of love and obedience. Who will say that the men and women that are loving and living for the world and trying to have barely enough religion to save them from the flames of hell, are fit subjects for such an experience? Is it not a degration of such a glorious promise to make such an application of it?

4. The promise of Ezekiel respecting the coming of the Holy Ghost clearly distinguishes it from conversion. First we have the promise of conversion. (Ezek. xxxvi. 25, 26) "Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness and from all your idols will I cleanse you. A new heart also will I give you and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take the stony heart out of your flesh and I will give you an heart of flesh." All this very clearly refers to the forgiveness of sins, justification by faith and regeneration by the power of the Holy Spirit. This is the new heart received in conversion. But now there comes another promise transcendently greater and not to be confused with all this: "And I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments and do them." This is the baptism of the Holy Ghost. This is not our Spirit, but His Spirit. We have received our new spirit, but now in this His Spirit comes to dwell, the divine and infinite Spirit of God. The effect of this is to cause us to walk in His statutes and to keep His judgments and do them. It does not say to encourage us, to instruct us, but to "cause" us. Therefore if this is not its effect, the Holy Ghost somehow has failed. How is it therefore if all Christians have received the Holy Ghost to dwell in them that the Holy Ghost has not caused them to be obedient? He does not say He will try to cause them, but He will cause them, and this is the great first cause, and above all, our second cause. Would we not naturally conclude that the people that are not walking in His statues and keeping His judgments and doing them, have not received this causing power?

5. The types which we find in ancient Israel foreshadow this deeper life and second blessing. When Israel went out of Egypt, they typified our conversion, but when they entered the land of promise and crossed the Jordan, they set forth our coming in the "rest which remaineth for the people of God." There was surely a very great difference between these two experiences, and it was marked in the most significant manner and a great heap of stones set up so that there never could be any mistake about it in the minds of their children. Even in the earlier chapters of their wilderness life, we have a fine illustration of this deeper life. The Holy Spirit was set forth by the pillar of cloud and fire that went before them. This was their experience during the first year after leaving Egypt, but on the first day of the second year, something very different came to pass. The tabernacle was finished and dedicated and solemnly handed over to God, and then that mystic cloud came down and no longer led them from the sky or the mount, but took up its abode in the very bosom of the tabernacle as the Shekinah Presence of God, the Holy of Holies, and henceforth we read that God spoke to them, not from the mount, but from between the cherubim. This is exactly what comes to pass when we receive the Holy Ghost. God moves down into our heart and henceforth the throne of grace is not yonder in the skies, but within us, and

"Christ is never so distant from us
    As even to be near;
He dwells within our inmost being,
    And makes our heaven here."

6. The appeal of the Apostle Paul to the Galatians, Galatians iv. 19: "My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you," makes it very plain that these were his little children who had been born through an earlier experience of soul travail on his part, and now he is travailing in birth for another blessing: that Christ may be formed in them. The logical force of the truth itself needs no emphasizing.

7. Space will only permit us to add one more argument, namely: that the experiences of the saints of God both in the Scriptures and in modern Christian life, involves this deeper blessing. Jacob came to his Peniel and through a divine transformation came forth no longer Jacob but Israel, a prince with God. Job dies to his self life, and came out with a new experience and blessing. Isaiah saw himself unclean and received the touch of fire that sanctified and sent him forth to his glorious service. Joshua, notwithstanding all the victories of the wilderness, had to meet the angel of the Lord and die to his own leadership before he could bring Israel into the land. Paul went through the struggle of the seventh of Romans, and by a definite revelation of Christ came out into the eighth chapter of the Christ life filled with the Holy Ghost. It was after meeting with some Moravian saints who had found this "secret of the Lord," that John Wesley became changed and filled with the Holy Ghost, and set the world on fire. The same experience has been multiplied in scores and hundreds of saintly lives in these last days, and while no experience in itself is a sufficient foundation for a Christian doctrine, yet backed by such an array of Scripture as we have endeavored to present, we see much more in it in these lives which are eloquent appeals to us today, saying, "I beseech you therefore by the mercies of God that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service." "Tarry ye till ye be endued with power from on high." "Abide in Me and I in you."

In conclusion, the truth that we have been endeavoring to demonstrate is intensely practical. So long as people think they have it all, there is little incentive to rouse themselves and claim their full inheritance, but when God's people see that like Israel of old, they are still toiling in the wilderness under His displeasure, that they are neglecting a great salvation, that they are out of fellowship with Christ and grieving the Holy Ghost, motive is supplied of overwhelming power and they are led to heart searching, humiliation and unceasing prayer, and a new impulse comes into their lives like a great tidal wave over the ocean of love, and an experience comes to the soul as much higher than conversion as conversion was better than the old life of flesh and sin.

This is the deepest need of the Church today. One such consecrated, Spirit-filled life means a score of souls for God. "Let us therefore fear lest the promise being left us of entering into His rest any of you should seem to come short of it."

* Living Truths 5 (Dec. 1905), pp. 705-715.