Baptism in the Holy Spirit (Charismatism)

By Rev. Fr. Oliver Onah

The "Baptism in the Holy Spirit" or "Baptism with the Holy Spirit" or "Baptism of the Holy Spirit" is erroneously understood by the Pentecostals to be a second baptism, "in fire" or "power." Pentecostal Christians believe strongly in the "Baptism in the Holy Spirit." But what is this Baptism in the Holy Spirit?

Baptism in the Holy Spirit is a charismatic phrase with a biblical foundation vastly propagated by the Pentecostals to describe the outpour of the Holy Spirit on the Apostles on the Pentecost day for effective ministration. It is the fulfillment of the Lord's prophecy through Joel: And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh Joel 2:28.

It involves both the Holy Spirit and Jesus Christ the Baptizer. The baptism is preceded by total surrender and absolute commitment to Jesus. In the case of water baptism, the candidate undergoes total immersion into the river. The candidate does not receive the river, it is the river receiving and overflowing the candidate. The candidate enters the river and walks to the baptizer.

In the case of the Holy Spirit baptism, Jesus is the Baptizer, the Holy Spirit is the River, you are the candidate. The Catholic Charismatic Renewal believes that there is a further experience of empowerment with the Holy Spirit. The charismatics have a period of about 7 weeks "Life in Spirit" Seminar in preparation for the great day of 'praying over' after which they are charged.

The Holy Bible is replete with the phrase relating to "Baptism with the Holy Spirit". For instance, I baptize you with water; but he who is mightier than I is coming, . he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire; And while staying with them he charged them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, "you heard from me, for John baptized with water, but before many days you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit."

Today, some charismatics substitute the Holy Ghost Baptism for the sacramental Baptism thereby deemphasizing the sacramental Baptism or even duplicating it. It is an unbridled quest for power and spiritual gifts (cf 1 Cor 12). Some of them have used such gifts to 'bless holy water' and lay hands on people while praying for them as if they are ordained priests.

No new Spirit is received at this point. Emphasis of the event is on the obvious: the release of existing spiritual gifts already given to the individual through baptism in water and confirmation.

What is the Essence of Baptism with the Spirit? 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 of service. This ministry of service includes preaching the gospel with your life and serving and building the Christian community with those gifts.

The gift is not meant to make you arrogant and throw you out of the Church by denigrating the Church's doctrine, Sacraments and sacramentals. The power bestowed is for the purpose of preaching the gospel (Acts 4:31), for service, for living a purer life, and having a deeper devotion to God.

The danger of this phenomenon of Holy Ghost Baptism is the potential division of the body of Christ into two categories: those who are "regular" Christians and those who have been baptized in the Holy Spirit.

This, of course, would be an incorrect way of looking at Christians who have become sons and daughters of the same Father by adoption. No more division into Jews and Gentiles. If you were to step outside into a soft mist, it would take a long time to get completely wet. On the other hand, if you were to step into a torrential rain, you'd be drenched quickly.

Those who have not experienced the Baptism of the Holy Spirit (meaning a sudden and powerful experience) are not second-class citizens by any means. They are the ones in the gentle mist who experience the Lord over a long period of time and get just as blessed as those who suddenly step into the torrent of the Spirit's presence.

In fact, the Baptism of the Spirit can be a pitfall since so many people who have experienced it long for it again, almost to the point of putting the validity of their faith in the practical experience instead of the clear teaching of the word of God and thriving on the Sacraments.

The gifts of the Holy Spirit received at Holy Ghost Baptism (1 Cor 12) do not lead one into heaven. What lead one into the kingdom of God are the fruits of the Holy Spirit namely: love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, goodness, faith, humility and self-control (Gal 5:22-23).

These fruits are not a corollary of speaking in tongues or of prophetic or visionary powers but an evidence of true conversion and trusted discipleship.

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