We’ll be thinking about this issue in part on Sunday at our Sunday gathering. Here’s one view that I think is partly right:
John Piper has another view which is basically,
I have said that I do NOT think the essence is new birth or conversion or being united to the body of Christ. What then is it? And why do I not think it is the same as what Paul speaks of in 1 Corinthians 12:13?
I think the essence of being baptized with the Holy Spirit is when a person, who is already a believer, receives extraordinary spiritual power for Christ-exalting ministry.
I try to see Piper’s point and I can agree that being baptized with the Holy Spirit by Jesus (Acts 1.5; 11.16) is different than being baptized by the Holy Spirit into Christ’s body (1 Cor 12.13). Here’s how I try to put it together when wrestling with what Piper was saying:
My initial thoughts to Piper’s take is that he’s going between “essence” of Spirit baptism, or the “heart” of Spirit baptism, and he confuses that with “all” that Spirit baptism is. He argues that the “essence” and “heart” of Spirit baptism is receiving extraordinary power for ministry. He writes, “the essence of being baptized with the Holy Spirit is when a person, who is already a believer, receives extraordinary spiritual power for Christ-exalting ministry.” I think I can agree with that. My problem was with another statement he makes which he thinks is a necessary corollary, where I don’t. He states, “I used to just assume… that the baptism by the Spirit in 1 Corinthians 12:13 and the baptism with the Holy Spirit in Acts 2 were the same.” So Piper is saying they are not the same. I want to argue that they are the same yet Paul is emphasizing one aspect of the gift package and Luke is emphasizing a different aspect of the same gift package.
So the gift is the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit baptizes us into the body of Christ (1 Cor 12.13). And Jesus baptizes us with the Holy Spirit for power to be his witnesses (Acts 1.4-8). Now I see this as the same gift in a way that Piper does not. Piper sees the core of baptism with the Spirit (in Acts) as the bestowing of extraordinary power for Christ-exalting ministry. He sees the core of baptism by the Spirit as conversion, union with Christ, and regeneration. I think that they are united and inseparable in the experience of New Covenant believers after Acts 19.6. I think Piper fails to take into account the transition from Old Covenant to New Covenant in the life and experience of the apostles (Acts 1-2), Samaritans (Acts 8), Gentiles (Acts 10), and disciples of John (Acts 19). So I’d see that when one is baptized by the Holy Spirit into the body (1 Cor 12.13), which entails regeneration, conversion, and union with Christ, they are at the same time baptized by Jesus Christ with the Holy Spirit who now indwells and empowers them with extraordinary power for Christ-exalting ministry. So I could agree with Piper’s distinction between the two. I disagree that they are separate as the normal pattern in the lives of new covenant believers ever since the incident in Acts 19.6.
The implication for today is that Christians are not only regenerated, united to Christ, converted, and part of the people of God. From Acts the emphasis for today is that Christians have power, extraordinary power for Christ-exalting ministry and this power can be honed and increased by growth in following the Spirit (Romans 8.14; Galatians 5.18, 25), submitting to the Spirit (Galatians 5.17), being filled by the Spirit (Ephesians 5.18), and setting one’s mind on the things of the Spirit (Romans 8.5). So I’d say, yes, Christians have received extraordinary power and need to grow in receiving, channeling, and wielding that great force for the purpose God gave it, namely to be Christ’s witnesses in the world.