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First Quarter 2017 (December 31–March 24)
COMMENTARY ON THE HOLY SPIRIT AND SPIRITUALITY
Week 5: January 28–February 3
COMMENTARY ON "THE BAPTISM AND FILLING OF THE HOLY SPIRIT"
Following is a combined commentary on the material included in the Bible Study Guide with references as necessary to the supplemental passages included in the E. G. White Notes for the Sabbath School Lessons.
Note: Unless otherwise stated, all biblical quotes are from the English Standard Version (ESV).
This week’s lesson attempts to explain what the filling of the Holy Spirit is and how it occurs. It further attempts to teach what we must do to be prepared to receive the Holy Spirit, and it attempts to explain that we must seek a new filling each day in order to be empowered to live rightly.
First, Sunday’s lesson says there are only seven passages that speak of being baptized by the Holy Spirit. What the lesson fails to mention are the passages that speak of the Holy Spirit’s sealing of believers and the fact that the Holy Spirit’s indwelling of us is all God’s work. It does not depend on our preparation.
Furthermore, Sunday’s lesson says that receiving the Holy Spirit and baptism along together. In fact, the lesson reverses these things. It states that the two things, baptism and receiving the Holy Spirit, signify our new birth; it says “in baptism we are identified with Christ, and Jesus gives us the Holy Spirit so that we can live in His power and proclaim the good news.”
The Bible does not say baptism is how we are identified with Christ, nor does it say it signifies our new birth. This is a significant fact—and it’s one that Adventism does not teach correctly. In fact, many Adventists say that baptism is when a person is born again. This is patently unbiblical.
The reason Adventists don’t teach this correctly or understand it is that they have no understanding of the new birth. As we have said before, the new birth occurs when we trust Jesus and His shed blood for our sins. As Jesus said in John 5:24:
“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment but has passed out of death into life.”
Our new birth does not happen at baptism; it happens when we believe in the Lord Jesus ALONE. Baptism is the sign that we make to show the world that we are trusting Jesus; it is the external symbol that we are trusting God. The example of Peter preaching to Cornelius and his family—the first gentile group to hear the gospel and to believe—demonstrates that the baptism of the Holy Spirit confirmed their belief in the gospel, and baptism followed that believe. It did not coincide with their new birth and belief, and it did not coincide with their baptism, either:
“While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who were listening to the message. All the circumcised believers who came with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also. For they were hearing them speaking with tongues and exalting God. The Peter answered, ‘Surely no one can refuse the water for these to be baptized who’ve received the Holy Spirit just as we did, can he?’ And he ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. They they asked him to stay on for a few days” (Acts 10:44-48).
The new birth is the consequence of believing, not of baptism nor of a decision or a doctrinal shift. It is entirely a work of God that occurs when He gives us eternal life and a new heart of flesh when we believe.
Monday’s lesson opens by saying, “Once we are baptized and belong to Christ, we should live in the power of the Spirit.” This assumption is wrong. Baptism is not what marks our belonging to Christ. Believing is what marks our belonging. Just as those Gentiles in Acts 10 were born again and filled with the Holy Spirit BEFORE baptism, so every person who belongs to Christ is born of Him and belongs to Him the moment they believe.
The thief on the cross, for example, believed in Jesus and was never baptized, yet he belonged to Christ.
Moreover, the lesson states that the infilling must be done every day so that every part of our lives will be filled. While the Bible commands us to be filled, and while we are filled with the Spirit’s power throughout our lives, the lesson misses the point that the Holy Spirit does not come to us anew each day. In fact, the lesson does not deal with the fact that when we believe, we are SEALED with the Holy Spirit.
The indwelling Holy Spirit is the mark of being born again. Ephesians 1:13-14 (a text this lesson does not mention) says,
“In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation—having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory.”
Ephesians 4:30 also identifies the Holy Spirit as the seal of believers:
“Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.”
Adventism cannot deal with these clear texts that identify the indwelling Holy Spirit as the seal of God because Ellen White identified the Sabbath as the seal of God, and “Sunday-keeping” as the mark of the beast.
Scripture, however, reveals the incredible heresy of this teaching. The Holy Spirit—God Himself—is the seal, the never-leaving mark that identifies us as belonging to Christ.
Being baptized with the Holy Spirit is a one-time, unrepeatable event in a person’s life when he or she trusts the Lord Jesus for forgiveness and salvation. The ongoing growth in Jesus results in learning to submit to the Spirit and receiving His power for the work and struggles the Lord Jesus ordains for our lives. We do not become increasingly sinless by using the Holy Spirit’s power; rather, we learn to overcome the law of sin in our flesh (as per Romans 7) by trusting Jesus and His word in deeper ways.
Tuesday’s and Wednesday’s lessons are entirely devoted to the supposed conditions necessary for the baptism of the Spirit. The author says repentance is a “condition”, that not doubting God’s promise is a condition, and persistent intercession reveals our determination and prepares us for the gift. The lesson also makes the point that obedience to the commandments is a prerequisite for the baptism of the Spirit.
These conditions are not biblical prerequisites for the baptism of the Holy Spirit. The passages used in the lesson are taken out of context and used to make a case for the way we receive the baptism of the Spirit. God is not dependent upon us and our “decisions”. He does what He wills, and His Spirit is the absolute, unqualified, unconditional promise to everyone who places his or her faith and trust in the Lord Jesus.
We may have varying responses throughout our lives to His indwelling, never-leaving Spirit, but He doesn’t leave us. Moreover, the lesson does not (indeed, it cannot) deal with the biblical truth that sincerity and a desire to be good and righteous does not equate being God’s adopted son or daughter. God’s true children are those who have trusted the gospel of the Lord Jesus and have been born again.
Adventists have no biblical basis to assume they will receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit if they refuse to examine their beliefs and to trust Scripture instead of their tradition. Unless a person is born again through faith in the Lord Jesus and His finished work, he cannot receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit.
There are not conditions we perform in order to expect the Spirit’s baptism. We do not manage or manipulate His coming to us. Rather, He is part of the miracle of rebirth that all who believe, receive.
Thursday’s lesson teaches that a Christ-centered life is essential for the Holy Spirit to be visibly working. In fact, the lesson ends with the question, “I what areas of your life do you see the selfish, self-centered part come through, and in what parts do you see a life that reflects the working of the holy Spirit in you?
The Adventist doctrine of sanctification—that is, that little by little a “Spirit-controlled person” will gradually overcome sin—is the agenda of this day’s lesson.
The problem, however, is that this idea of sanctification is not in Scripture. When we are born again, the Holy Spirit never leaves us, and He convicts us and opens a way of escape when we are tempted. Sanctification is not a way to learn to overcome sin; rather, it is a way to learn to trust the Lord Jesus every moment, even in the face of temptation. Only trust in Someone bigger and more powerful than ourselves who has promised never to leave us nor forsake us can help us avoid falling into sin.
Friday’s lesson states that God doesn’t force Himself on us, but that we are “free moral beings”. It further says that, if we surrender to the Lord (a possibility because of our supposed free moral agency) that we will make room for the Holy Spirit. Again, this assertion is nonsense. We receive the Holy Spirit as a gift from God automatically when we believe in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Adventism is unable to properly teach the doctrine of the Holy Spirit because it is founded on a heretical view of the nature of man, of the Lord Jesus, of sin, and of salvation. The true is amazing: The Holy Spirit takes up residence in the new heart, the living spirit, of every believer in the Lord Jesus.