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Fostering a Setting for People To Receive, part 2
By Scott Erickson
In order for the Lord to respond and baptize people in His Spirit, we must create an atmosphere that is honoring to Him. The atmosphere God will honor is, first of all, an atmosphere of worship. Whether it is established at an altar, in someone’s home, or in a Sunday School class, this atmosphere is one of complete and total wonder for the greatness of God; the Baptizer who is present needs to be honored. The minister needs to exercise whatever control is needed to make that atmosphere honorable to the Lord so the Spirit is not grieved in any way.
Many times we create an atmosphere of uncertainty. People don’t know what to expect. An atmosphere conducive to the Baptism is one where a person understands what’s going to happen and realizes what the Lord wants to do. I try to explain to people that they must understand Scripture and be properly prepared for what’s about to happen.
I often point people to Acts 2:37,38: “When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, ‘Brothers, what shall we do?’ Peter replied, ‘Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.’” From this passage we understand the Baptism is a separate experience from salvation. We know that to be prepared to receive the Baptism we must first be born again.
I have prayed with people at the altar to receive salvation, and sometimes I have seen them filled with the Holy Spirit only seconds later—almost immediately upon their confession of Christ as Savior. As we think about creating the right atmosphere, we need to help people understand that they are not baptized with the Holy Spirit when they are born again. It doesn’t happen in the same instant; salvation precedes the Baptism.
Let’s look at the believers in Scripture who had not received the Baptism in the Holy Spirit. There are several examples:
“When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them. When they arrived, they prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit, because the Holy Spirit had not yet come upon any of them; they had simply been baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus. Then Peter and John placed their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit” (Acts 8:14, emphasis added).
Here we see believers had professed faith in Jesus, and in this case they had already been baptized in water, but they had not yet received the baptism in the Holy Spirit.
Consider also Acts 19:1:
“While Apollos was at Corinth, Paul took the road through the interior and arrived at Ephesus. There he found some disciples and asked them, ‘Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?’ They answered, ‘No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.’ So Paul asked, ‘Then what baptism did you receive?’ ‘John’s baptism,’ they replied.”
As we set the atmosphere for people to be spiritually ready, they must first receive Christ as Savior in order to receive the baptism in the Holy Spirit. Some may feel unworthy; some may feel they are not ready to be the kind of person who would have the Spirit flow in them in this way. But the atmosphere God honors is one in which truth abounds. If you are born again, you are ready to be filled with the Holy Spirit.
Because of Jesus’ instruction to the disciples in Acts 1:4 to wait in Jerusalem until they had received power from on high, many people have assumed they also are required to tarry or wait. We do not wait in the same way as Jesus’ first followers did because the Holy Spirit has already been given.
We need to consider the immediacy of how the Spirit fell in the New Testament. In Acts 8, for instance, the Bible says the Samaritans were immediately filled. In Acts 10:44, it says, “While Peter was still speaking,” the Spirit fell on all those in Cornelius’s house “who heard the message” (emphasis added). Acts 19:1–6 gives clear reference to the Spirit baptizing believers “when Paul placed his hands on them.” To set a correct atmosphere of expectation, we must remind people that the Spirit has already been given.
We must also remind people that the Holy Spirit baptism is a gift and is received by faith. I tell people they should expect to receive as hands are laid upon them. This creates a biblical expectancy. In Acts 8:17 and 19:6, believers received the Spirit as hands were laid upon them. Everything we receive from God is a gift we receive by faith. Without faith, we shouldn’t think we’re going to get anything from God (James 1:6,7). So we must create an atmosphere where people understand they must have faith that they will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
It is vitally important to remind people you’re praying with that they are going to do the speaking. It may sound obvious, but in the Bible it was people who did the speaking in tongues when they received the Holy Spirit. They immediately spoke in other tongues, and we need to remind ourselves that we are going to do the talking when we receive the Baptism.
Of course, the Holy Spirit will give the utterance; we’ll feel something in our vocal cords, our lips, and our tongue, and may not be certain what that feeling is. But we need to remember that Jesus does the baptizing and we do the speaking. Scripture says that He will enable us, and we will do the speaking.
Acts 10:44 says, “While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message. The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles. For they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God.” They heard the Gentiles praying in other tongues.
We understand the good things the Spirit wants to do, and we need to learn how to deal with unbelief and allay the fears of the unknown. So we want to create an atmosphere that enables believers to understand they must cooperate with the Spirit. Luke 11:11–13 gives us a clear promise: “Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”
I usually try and mention that I’ve never seen a person filled with the Holy Spirit with their mouth closed. People need to relax, open their mouth and give praise to the Lord, and expect they will speak in a language they do not understand. The supernatural part is not who is doing the talking; it’s what God is saying through us. We need to learn to lift our voice and trust God for the guidance. This creates an atmosphere of faith and worship, and God works in an atmosphere where people focus their attention on Him. As people seek the Baptism, they feel very vulnerable. If someone is speaking one thing in one ear and someone else is speaking something else in the other ear, or people are crowded so closely they are in contact with those around them, it can really make people feel on edge.
This article was excerpted from Helping Others Receive the Gift, compiled and edited by Tim Enloe. To purchase this book, click here.