By Kenneth F. Haney
When beginning His ministry on earth, Jesus came with FIRE and power and began to do great and mighty miracles. John spoke of the Christ, ” . . . he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire” (Luke 3:16).
His first miracle, turning the water into wine, astounded the people who saw it. “This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee, and manifested forth his glory; and his disciples believed on him” (John 2:11).
Anyone who was in the presence of Jesus for long soon recognized His great power and the FIRE of the Spirit working through Him. The woman at the well in Samaria, after talking with Jesus, ran and told her friends, “Come, see a man, which told me all things that ever I did: is not this the Christ. And many of the Samaritans of that city believed on him for the saying of the woman, which testified, He told me all that ever I did” (John 4:29, 39).
She recognized he was the Christ, but no more than the four men who took their friend who was sick of the palsy to Jesus to be healed. When they could not get into the house where He was teaching they tore the roof off and let the sick man down through the hole directly in front of Jesus. Jesus loved this demonstration of faith and immediately healed him. He then told the sick man to take up his bed and walk. “And immediately he arose, took up the bed, and went forth before them all; insomuch that they were all amazed, and glorified God, saying, We never saw it on this fashion” (Mark 2:12).
Not only did the woman of Samaria and the four men recognize that Jesus was the Christ, but the disciples became aware of this fact also. With Jesus in a great storm on the sea, Jesus simply spoke to the sea and it became peaceful. After Jesus calmed the boisterous sea, the disciples exclaimed, “What manner of man is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?” (Mark 4:41).
Many people believed in His power. When Jesus raised the dead son of the widow of Nain back to life, the scripture declares, “And there came a fear on all: and they glorified God, saying, That a great prophet is risen up among us; and, That God hath visited his people” (Luke 7:16).
Jesus continued to walk among them doing many mighty miracles. Great awe came upon the people when Jesus healed the blind man of Jericho. “And immediately he received his sight, and followed him, glorifying God: and all the people, when they saw it, gave praise unto God” (Luke 18:43).
HIS LAST WORDS
Finally after three years of intense ministry, at the time Jesus ascended, His last words were, “But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you . . . ” (Acts 1:8).
It happened just as He said it would happen. They were baptized with the Holy Ghost and with FIRE. “And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance” (Acts 2:2-4).
The Church was born that day in the upper room where they had been praying for ten days. All were with one accord in one place when the FIRE fell upon them.
The miracle power that accompanied Jesus when He began His ministry on earth was now in the apostles and working in the early Church. Their first miracle was the lame man at the Gate Beautiful healed through the ministry of Peter and John. The reaction of the people was the same as when Jesus performed miracles. “And as the lame man which was healed held Peter and John, all the people ran together unto them in the porch that is called Solomon’s, greatly wondering” (Acts 3:11).
The people wondered at the power. Strange things began to happen in their village. When the early Christians decided to give money for the work of God to advance, two people pretended to give all, but in reality they gave only a part of their money. The judgment of God was upon them speedily and both husband and wife fell to the floor dead. Following the dramatic deaths of Ananias and Sapphira, there was great fear. “And great fear came upon all the church, and upon as many as heard these things” (Acts 5:11).
This fear and awe ushered in a great revival of miracles. “And by the hands of the apostles were many signs and wonders wrought among the people . . . Insomuch that they brought forth the sick into the streets, and laid them on beds and couches, that at the least the shadow of Peter passing by might overshadow some of them. There came also a multitude out of the cities round about unto Jerusalem, bringing sick folks, and them which were vexed with unclean spirits: and they were healed every one” (Acts 5:12, 15-16).
This same miracle power was witnessed in Samaria where Philip preached. “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” (Acts 8:6-8).
FIRE IN EARLY TIMES
Edward Gibbon writes in The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire the following about the early Church:
The Christian church, from the time of the apostles and their first disciples, has claimed an uninterrupted succession of miraculous powers, the gift of tongues, of vision, and of prophecy, the power of expelling demons, of healing the sick, and of raising the dead.
The divine inspiration, whether it was conveyed in the form of a waking or a sleeping vision, is described as a favour very liberally bestowed on all ranks of the faithful, on women as on elders, on boys as well as upon bishops. When their devout minds were sufficiently prepared by a course of prayer, of fasting, and of vigils, to receive the extraordinary impulse, they were transported out of their senses, and delivered in ecstasy what was inspired, being mere organs of the Holy Spirit, just as a pipe or flute is of him who blows into it.
BAPTISM OF HOLY GHOST AND FIRE
In Luke 3:16 John referred to the baptism of Holy Ghost and FIRE, which eventually fell in Acts 2. Sounds of rushing mighty winds and cloven tongues like as of FIRE sat upon each of them in the upper room. The entire Book of Acts serves not only as a historical record of the beginning of the church or its birth, but it thoroughly gives us an example to follow. It is a vivid demonstration of the effectiveness Christ’s followers had upon the entire world. It was a FIRE that could not be quenched.
Those first baptized with the Holy Ghost and FIRE were all Jews. However, shortly thereafter in Acts 10, the door opened to the Gentiles from Jerusalem to the uttermost parts of the world. It was a FIRE that could not be contained. Persecution, which fell upon them, only served to give momentum for the new message to spread throughout the earth. Holy Ghost and FIRE shook entire pagan cities through great miracles of healing and salvation.
Early believers were first called Christians at Antioch. In Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John we repeatedly see the evidence of FIRE in the individual ministry of Jesus Christ. But after the outpouring on the Day of Pentecost the ministry of Jesus multiplied exponentially through believers filled with His Spirit, the Anointed Ones.
HOLY GHOST FIRE HAS FALLEN
Acts opens our understanding of global missionology. Acts is the only narrative book of such happenings in the New Testament. Clearly, the force behind this rapid success was the Baptism of Holy Ghost and FiRE!
The Biblical history of FIRE starts long before Pentecost. God is, and has always been, a God of FIRE.
The FIRE of God rested on the tabernacle at night under the leadership of Moses. Exodus 40:3 8 states, “For the cloud of :he Lord was upon the tabernacle by day, and fire was on it by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel, throughout all their journeys.”
What the Shekinah glory was to the tabernacle and temple, so the Spirit is to the holy temple, which is the believer’s body. “In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit”(Ephesians 2:22). The body is a habitation of the Holy Spirit. Paul writes in I Corinthians 6:19-20, “What? Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.”
The FIRE of God has been clearly witnessed in this present century and is widely acknowledged as one of the phenomenal happenings of the millennium 2000.
The 1997 fall issue of Life Magazine listed the 100 most important events of the millennium. Below is the editor’s remarks concerning N9. 68 on page 57:
The flame of Pentecostalism was first lighted when Charles Fox Parham declared in 1901 that speaking in tongues was a sign of baptism in the Holy Spirit. It might have sputtered if not for William Joseph Seymour, a black preacher who listened to Parham through an open door in his Houston Bible school. Soon, Seymour set out for Los Angeles, where his own baptism in the Spirit in 1906 brought him an enthusiastic following. Within two years of founding a mission in an abandoned church on Azusa Street, his multicultural ministry sent missionaries to 25 countries.
Pentecostalism is a religion of the heart. Since a personal experience of God is as important as doctrine, it is an adaptable faith; by the end of the 1960’s, Protestants and Catholics had both begun to embrace the gifts of the Spirit in Charismatic renewal movements. Worship services may feature speaking in tongues, shouting and swaying, and spiritual healing. Today about a half billion people call themselves Pentecostal or Charismatic, and Pentecostals alone outnumber Anglicans, Baptists, Lutherans and Presbyterians combined.
Author Frank J. Ewart explains further in the book The Phenomenon of Pentecost about several things that occurred at the early outpouring of the Spirit at Azusa:
The conditions that are counted necessary for a real revival were all wanting. No instruments of music were used. None were needed. The choir was substituted by what was called “The Heavenly Choir.” This singing service was literally inspired by the Holy Ghost. It was mostly in known tunes, but in words chosen by the Holy Ghost. This was perhaps the most supernatural and amazing thing about the meetings . . . Bands of angels were seen by those under the power of the Spirit at such times of heavenly visitation. Here was one choir without a discord.
As soon as one would enter the mission on Azusa Street, he would be impressed with the supernatural atmosphere that existed. I was told by one man, a very well educated schoolteacher, that when he got within three blocks of the meetinghouse, he could feel the atmosphere change. The closer he came, the stronger this supernatural feeling became. He stated that as soon as he opened the door to enter, he seemed to be ushered into a holy, sequestered place, a veritable “Holy of Holies.” All who were in touch with God realized as soon as they entered the meeting that the Holy Ghost was in full control. One preacher stated that when his train was yet several miles from Los Angeles, he could feel the power of the revival. Pilgrims from around the world wended their way to the little barn-like structure located at 312 Azusa Street. Like the manger in Bethlehem, great things were happening in a most humble place.
STEPS OF PROGRESSION
Hot fires of revival among hungry hearts of searching men and women, humbled by the presence of the Almighty, will always grow from a mere handful of worshippers to a larger crowd. This growth then necessitates a place to meet for worship (a building). The following steps show the progression of growth:
- In many cities where revival FIRES burn the results are churches being established. We would characterize this setting as men and women with a passionate hunger for God joining themselves together in a quest to find spiritual fulfillment.
- Numbers of pastors and congregations of like precious faith create a need for a fellowship. The “fellowship” ultimately develops into an organization. This is a natural progression and a good thing when it is achieved for the glory of God. This scenario has been repeated numerous times in the history of the Christian church.
- However, as time passes an organizational structure becomes more controlling and regimented. At that point it becomes a denomination. This transition is a period of grave danger for any revival movement, and this is well documented in reviewing the history of many mainline denominations.
- With the process of organization comes the need of training and education in order to develop leadership for a revival movement, such as pastors, teachers, evangelists, missionaries, and such. It is of great importance that men study the Word of God; therefore, Bible Colleges are established. This is very essential, as the society such as the present world becomes more educated. Thus, for the church to influence men and women it must have understanding and be in a position to present the gospel competently.
- As the educational system advances, often the secular world and modern philosophies infiltrates into the system, as said movement develops undergraduate schools, and in time, upper graduate institutions. As a result, often the basis of the Gospel and the experience of the early Church in the Book of Acts lose their importance. As the system progresses it adversely impacts the movement.
Thus burning passion soon can be replaced with methodology, psychology, sociology, and other subjects of men’s wisdom. The simplicity of organization is soon replaced by denominationalism.
A revival movement, which ceases to emphasize FIRE baptism, soon becomes institutionalized. History is replete with examples of the adverse affect of time upon revival movements. Some of the signs of Institutionalization are as follows:
- Movement away from passion towards the intellectual.
- Movement from the affective to the cognitive.
- Movement from the will towards logic.
- Increasing emphasis on education over FIRE and desire.
The pen of many writers has given us warning of such perils throughout time. Also numbers of books have been authored pointing out such dangers by minutely describing the deteriorating progression of such. Also it is pointed out that similar decline occurs with large and aggressive corporations in the business world. The book authored by Leith Anderson Dying for Change explains and outlines how that many successful financial empires succeeded through innovative and vibrant CEO’s who possessed great vision, which prompted them to make daring decisions, which led their companies to unprecedented utopias.
But after the passing of many years the same CEO’s became less visionary and developed a more protective mode so now they were more absorbed in protecting their investment; thus in the process of time these same gigantic corporations diminished in size and value.
The same pattern is apparent in revival movements. As the original vision wanes, the fervency for missions is adversely affected. When this happens reliance upon programs increases and the original mission is replaced with self-perpetuation of the Institution. Thus the fiery passion becomes throttled with mediocrity.
The absolutes of the Scripture become of little importance. The supernatural manifestations of God’s power are explained away as mere emotionalism or fanaticism. Many of the progressive steps stated in this chapter are of value and of great importance to the progress and growth of the Church. However, progress of any revival movement necessitates a responsibility of guarding the presence of the Almighty God.
The Tabernacle in the wilderness was the center of spiritual activity in Israel. In the Holy Place was a very small piece of furniture called the Ark of the Covenant. It was a box with two cherubs resting on the top. Between the cherubs was the mercy seat in which the blood of the sacrifice was poured. Inside the ark it contained Aaron’s rod, a pot of manna, and the tablets of stone containing the Ten Commandments. The ark was where the presence of God dwelt. The Shekinah hovered between and over the cherubs.
The Ephraimites had the awesome responsibility of protecting the ark of God’s presence. There came a time when, even though the Ephraimites were properly equipped to protect the ark, they turned back in the day of battle. Consequently the ark ended up in the enemy’s camp and God’s people found themselves in serious trouble.
Apathy always precedes the absence of His presence. When other things occupy our minds which affect the presence of God, when other things of the world become more important, then the Holy Ghost and FIRE is in grave jeopardy. It is imperative that all of God’s children become as the tribe of Ephraim and fight for the FIRE of His presence.
The above article, “Baptism of Fire,” is written by Kenneth F. Haney. The article was excerpted from the second chapter of Haney’s book, Baptism of Fire.
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.