A Divine Encounter With Fire
By Darin Bowler
Without a doubt, the absolute most magnanimous event that a human being can ever experience is the baptism (infilling or receiving) of the Holy Ghost (Spirit of God). Now I know that within our lives we experience many monumental moments or landmark events (the birth of a child, a marriage or a graduation). But in spite of all those awesome occurrences I firmly believe that the greatest thing that can ever happen to a person is the receiving of the Holy Ghost. Now it is very important that we don’t mentally dismiss this experience as something that was only available or possible many, many years ago. Nor should we consider it to be merely an “extra blessing” for a select few Christians here and there that God randomly chooses. The Bible plainly declares that it is the will of God for every individual who considers himself to be a Christian to be filled with the Holy Ghost.
Contained within the pages of the Old Testament there is found what is commonly referred to as “the law”. Sometimes it is referred to as “the law of Moses” or “the Mosaic law”. The law was given by God to the nation of Israel and it consisted of over six hundred commandments that governed them in such matters as diet, how to farm their land, how to dress, etc. The law also governed them in various moral, social and religious matters as well. But while the law instructed God’s people on how to worship God it did not actually empower them to worship God. It was basically a highly complex system of rules and regulations. Interestingly, no one was able to successfully or consistently keep the law of Moses. For example, God told His people in Deuteronomy 28 that if they would obey all of His commands they would be blessed with health, wealth and victory over their enemies all the days of their lives. But when we observe Israel’s history we see there were many times that they suffered famines, disease and defeats in war. Why? Because no one was able to successfully and consistently keep and obey the law of Moses. However, the law did serve at least three functions:
1. It revealed how holy God is.
2. It revealed how weak and sinful humanity is.
3. It revealed the fact that we need a savior.
Remember, no one was able to consistently obey the entire law. It was an inadequate system of worship. God Himself knew this. So He promised that He would one day make a new covenant (New Testament) with His people:
Behold, the days come; saith the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with. the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the LORD: But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; after those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people (Jeremiah 31:31-33).
God desired a better covenant that would not be based only upon strict adherence to rules and regulations. He desired a much more intimate and personal relationship with His people. A relationship that would be founded and established on love. Love between Himself and humanity. He wanted one’s obedience to be the result of one’s love. And this would be the premise of the New Covenant. The prophet Ezekiel further prophesied this same point, only we find that Ezekiel’s prophecy got a little more specific:
A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. 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 (Ezekiel 36:26-27).
This New Covenant initially involves God’s Spirit literally dwelling within an individual. Fully and truly abiding in the New Covenant involves God’s Spirit dwelling within. One is not fully and completely converted to God until God puts His Spirit within an individual and empowers them to do the things that are pleasing to God. The infilling or receiving of the Holy Ghost initiates one into the fullness of the New Covenant (New Testament). How can one consider himself to be a partaker of New Testament Christianity without receiving the promise of the New Testament? Again, it must be reiterated that this promise is not intended for only a select few Christians that God randomly chooses. It is the will of God for every individual who considers himself to be a Christian to be filled with the Holy Ghost. Notice what Jesus said:
He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. (But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified) (John 7:3839).
If we believe on Jesus then we should receive the Holy Ghost. Notice also what Peter said concerning the infilling of the Holy Ghost:
Then Peter said unto them, 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 (Acts 2:38-39).
Regardless of what popular opinion may be, the Apostle Peter said that the Holy Ghost is for all.
Now this may surprise you, but did you know that one of the reasons Jesus died on the cross was so that we could finally be filled with the Spirit? Notice what Paul said:
Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree: That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith (Galatians 3:13-14).
The blood of Jesus that was shed on the cross cleanses us from our sins and grants us access to God. But that’s not all it does. Jesus also died on the cross that we might receive the promise of the Spirit. Our relationship to God is incomplete without the infilling of the Holy Ghost.
In Matthew 3 and in Luke 3 John the Baptist also prophesied about the coming promise of the Holy Ghost:
I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire (Matthew 3:11).
In Acts 19 the Apostle Paul encountered some disciples of John the Baptist. He had to remind them (like so many need to be reminded today) of what John himself had said:
He said unto them, Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed? And they said unto him, We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost. And he said unto them, Unto what then were ye baptized? And they said, Unto John’s baptism. Then said Paul, John verily baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying unto the people, that they should believe on him which should come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus. When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Ghost came on them; and they spake with tongues, and prophesied (Acts 19:2-6).
Notice the two questions Paul had for these men:
1. How were you baptized?
2. Have you received the Holy Ghost since ye believed?
There is nothing wrong with asking these same questions today to people who claim to be believing disciples. Maybe something’s wrong if we’re not asking. Before Paul left them, he made sure of two things:
1. They were baptized in the name of Jesus.
2. They received the Holy Ghost.
Why should we settle for any less today than what God has in store for us?
In Romans 7 the Apostle Paul describes the weakness of our flesh because of that sin nature that lurks within every one of us. But in Romans 8 he describes the saving power of the Holy Spirit of God (fit be within us):
So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God. 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. 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 (Romans 8:8-11).
Apparently the hope of our salvation is contingent upon whether or not the Spirit of God dwells in us. Notice that there are four “if’s” in the above passage of scripture indicating conditional phrases. Obviously we need the Spirit of God literally dwelling within us. Now please understand that it is a privilege to be filled with the Holy Ghost. It’s not oppression. It’s a blessing, not a burden. This is not bad news; it’s good news. The promised availability of the Holy Ghost is still in existence today. Now please don’t assume that one is automatically filled with the Holy Ghost at the moment of “believing” on Jesus Christ. Believing on Jesus is the first and primary prerequisite to Spirit baptism but it’s not the ultimate and final objective. It’s just the beginning. Notice the following passage:
Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and preached Christ unto them. And the people with one accord gave heed unto those things which Philip spake, hearing and seeing the miracles which he did. For unclean spirits, crying with loud voice, came out of many that were possessed with them: and many taken with palsies, and that were lame, were healed. And there was great joy in that city. But there was a certain man, called Simon, which beforetime in the same city used sorcery, and bewitched the people of Samaria, giving out that himself was some great one: To whom they all gave heed, from the least to the greatest, saying, this man is the great power of God. And to him they had regard, because that of long time he had bewitched them with sorceries. But when they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. Then Simon himself believed also: and when he was baptized, he continued with Philip, and wondered, beholding the miracles and signs which were done. Now when the apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John: who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost: (For as yet he was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.) Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost. And when Simon saw that through laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Ghost was given, he offered them money, saying, Give me also this power, that on whomsoever I lay hands, he may receive the Holy Ghost (Acts 8:5-19).
There are a couple of interesting facts worth pointing out in the above passage of scripture. First of all, just because the Samaritans believed in Jesus didn’t mean that they were automatically filled with the Spirit. Peter and John came all the way to Samaria from Jerusalem specifically for the purpose of seeing that they would receive the Holy Ghost. Obviously there was yet more in store for these “believers.” It is also very interesting to point out the fact that this man, Simon, was willing to pay money to have this power to fill people with the Holy Ghost. If imparting Spirit baptism consisted of merely instructing people to repeat the phrase “I accept the Lord Jesus Christ as my personal savior” why would Simon be willing to pay money to possess that power? Obviously something amazing and extraordinary occurred when an individual was filled with the Spirit. Also, if the Holy Ghost was automatically received at the moment of believing why did .the Apostle Paul ask certain disciples, “Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed?” (Acts 19:1-6).
I am of the persuasion that what was normal for the Book of Acts should be the norm for Christianity today. The Book of Acts is our role model or blueprint. It’s the pattern of what the church should be today. When believers were filled with the Holy Ghost in the Book of Acts they spoke in tongues as the Spirit (Holy Ghost) gave the utterance.
And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave the utterance (Acts 2:4).
While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word. And they of the circumcision which believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost. For they heard them speak with tongues, and magnify God. Then answered Peter, Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we? (Acts 10:44-47).
And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Ghost came on them; and they spake with tongues, and prophesied (Acts 19:6).
Now according to the Apostle Paul, this particular phenomenon of speaking in tongues is intended to serve as a “sign” to unbelievers that they are without God. To understand this statement we must first go to the beginning. In Isaiah 2$ we find that the Lord is prophesying against the people of Ephraim and Judah. In verse 2 it says that the Lord’s mighty hand shall cast them down to the earth. In verse 7 it says that the priests and the prophets err through strong drink. The situation was so bad that even the priests and prophets (the moral teachers and leaders of the nation) were too drunk themselves to hear from God and offer sound judgment and direction to the people. In verse 8 it says that their tables were covered in vomit! This helps us to see the detestable condition that the nation had descended to.
In verse 9 God lamented the fact that I le could not impart knowledge or direction unto them because they had become like infants (mentally). They were unable to perceive or comprehend His wisdom and guidance. God claimed that precept must be given upon precept and line upon line, here a little and there a little. But He couldn’t get through to them as long as this tremendous “communication gap” existed. Much like an adult trying to have a meaningful conversation with an infant, His words were perceived as unintelligible senseless babble. So in verse 11 God declared in His judgment that He would yet get through to them. He claimed that with stammering lips and another tongue (language) He would speak to this people. Because of their sinfulness He was going to send them into foreign captivity, which was fulfilled in II Kings 17. As a form of judgment they would be taken captive and live as foreigners in a strange land. The foreign languages that would surround them would serve as a constant reminder or a sign that they were under the judgment of God. And so in I Corinthians 14:21 Paul made reference to this same incident and then stated, “Wherefore tongues are for a sign, not to them that believe, but to them that believe not.” In other words, just as the foreign languages of the Assyrians served as a constant reminder or a sign to Ephraim and Judah that they were under the judgment of God, so too does speaking in tongues serve as a sign to unbelievers that they are without God. Again, our doctrine should not differ from that of the apostles. Are we so far removed from normal New Testament Christianity that normal New Testament Christianity actually seems abnormal? It’s a sad period in Christendom when that becomes the case.
So according to the teachings of Jesus and His apostles, if an individual wants to be a full partaker of New Testament Christianity, he or she needs to be filled with the Holy Ghost. If one truly desires the glory and power of God to abound within him he needs to be filled with the Holy Ghost. If one desires to emulate the ministry of Jesus Christ, he needs to be filled with the Holy Ghost. And if one wants to obey the Word of God, he needs to be filled with the Holy Ghost.
The above article, “A Divine Encounter With Fire,” is written by Darin Bowler. The article was excerpted from the sixth chapter of Bowler’s book, The Intolerable Christ.
The material is most likely copyrighted and should not be reprinted under any other name or author. However, this material may be freely used for personal study or research purposes.