Purity and Power Part 5

The argument for the development of the doctrine of the baptism of the Holy Spirit has so far been illustrated by various writers and by looking at the Early Pentecostal movement.  The purpose of this chapter is to synthesise these findings..    An attempt will be made to show the ongoing relevance of the issues raised for the Church today.   If all the issues that will be raised were to be dealt with fully, one would need not only to work in the area of Historical Theology but also in the areas of Systematic Theology and Biblical Studies.   These areas of overlap cannot completely be ignored but they will have to be mentioned in passing and perhaps provide pointers for further study. 
The development of this doctrine of the baptism of the Spirit was quite rapid in comparison with other doctrinal developments.    It is vital that we recognise the influence of the experiential dimension in this development.   The appeal to experience is found throughout the discussion in some cases this is more obvious than in others.    At times cases experience seems to take a leading place and at other times Scripture takes the leading role.   Whether the attempt is to expound the scriptures or give testimony, the experiential dimension is not far from the surface.   This means that our approach must be sensitive to the context of the experiential dimension without necessarily accepting the doctrinal conclusions drawn from an encounter with God.   For instance, Mrs Palmer’s Altar Theology is largely based on her encounters with the Lord but this does not mean that one has to accept as valid all of her interpretations of Scripture.   What is said about Mrs Palmer applies equally to the other authors.  
Several questions arise from the above discussion, the most obvious being, is the baptism of the Holy Spirit an experience of cleansing or empowerment?    This question has dominated the discussion for the last 100 years but is this really the right question?     Has this very question caused an unnecessary division in the body of Christ?   It is therefore important that we ask whether the above question is a symptom of the problem we face.  An important question that must be posed is, are the elements of purity and power meant to be held together according to the biblical pattern?    We also need to ask whether power and purity are meant to go together in one reception of the Holy Spirit ?
Perhaps it seems that the nineteenth century developments of this doctrine throw up more questions than answers.    This conclusion is not justified by the evidence as will be demonstrated below.    It is important to recognise that some of the teachings developed then, rather than being inherently opposed to one another were in fact complementary facets of one doctrine of the baptism of the Holy Spirit.
Daniel Steele said, “love is power”,[i]perhaps these three words provide the key to the problem that we face.   It is interesting to note that the Bible’s emphasis on loving God and neighbour, so clearly emphasised by Wesley and his followers, is also clearly emphasised in the New Testament teaching on the gifts of the Spirit.  Every reference to the use of the gifts of the Spirit are to be found in a context which stresses love.    What is needed is a theology of love, that is wider than the Wesleyan formulation and embraces within it the charismatic dimensions of early Pentecostalism.    What is being suggested is that to divorce purity from power, or power from purity has a tremendous impact on the believer’s life.   In  Charismatic circles some have begun  to call for a greater emphasis on the need for holiness in the formulation of the doctrine.    The result of the separation between purity and power in the theology of the baptism of the Holy Spirit amongst Pentecostals and Charismatics has led to an emphasis on power at the expense of the call for a holy life.   In some circles this has been combined with an antinomian view of God’s gracious dealing with mankind.   This has led to a devaluation of the Decalogue amongst believers.    This in turn,  has led to rather low expectations of a holy life.   Power when stressed without purity tends to be self seeking rather than God honouring.   On the other hand the Holiness believer can so stress holiness that the need for power is neglected especially in regard to spiritual gifts.    Entire sanctification is the solution to all problems.   These comments about the relationship between purity and power do not reflect the best theological writing of either camp but rather the reaction amongst believers and preachers who are not balanced theologically.
The Holiness and Pentecostal Movements are both strongly evangelistic and both would claim that their respective views of the baptism with the Spirit are a source of this passion. The evangelistic passion of the Pentecostal is easily explained in terms of power, whereas the Holiness Movement can easily explain their passion for evangelism as flowing from the love of God and one’s neighbour that originate with entire sanctification. In recent discussions, authors as different as David Pawson[ii]and Kenneth Grider[iii]   have suggested that the baptism of the Holy Spirit includes both dimensions; it seems that this is the only way forward in this debate.   Could it be that the ambiguities of Charles Finney’s position arise from the fact that the biblical  text calls for both dimensions?   The tensions we find in Finney’s thinking can only be overcome by a more holistic approach to the doctrine
It seems that, in Pentecostal circles, Luke/Acts dictates to the rest of the biblical text the shape of the doctrine;  other elements of biblical teaching need to be integrated into a full understanding of the doctrine of the baptism of the Holy Spirit.    One such example is John the Baptist’s proclamation that Jesus would baptise with the Holy Spirit;  the context of his proclamation seems to be that of salvation from sin.    Indeed, one would not gather  from this initial proclamation any concept of power for ministry.    The normal extrapolation to the fact that Jesus was empowered at the coming of the Holy Spirit does not do justice to the context of the Baptist’s words.    Other passages of Scripture also associate the coming of the Spirit with a holy life, these would include the promise of the Spirit given in the Old Testament prophets.    The Apostle Paul also holds together the issues of purity and power as can be seen for example in Titus3:3-8.    Here Paul links justification and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit with holy living.    This is not the place to develop these arguments but rather to state that these  need to be taken into account in any full elaboration of the doctrine.    The lessons of the nineteenth century and indeed this century, are that to emphasise purity at the expense of power or power at the expense of purity is to impoverish our Christian life and witness. This is not meant in any way to deny the important contributions made by all those that we have looked at in this paper, but rather a call to treasure the truths on both sides of the debate and bring them into a more holistic formulation of this doctrine.
Another issue that must be addressed in any formulation of the doctrine of the baptism of the Holy Spirit is how does this all fit into or relate to the conversion-initiation process.  This needs to be addressed because it not only affects the doctrinal but also how that doctrine is realised experientially.    Again this cannot be addressed in this paper but it is an issue that arises from the research contained in this paper.   This whole area needs a multidisciplinary approach;  we need the contributions of Biblical Studies, Systematic Theology, Historical Theology and Pastoral Theology to address this doctrine in a holistic manner.    It is hoped that in some small way the research in this paper will contribute to that process.
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[i] Daniel Steele. Love Enthroned   212
[ii] David Pawson, Jesus Baptises in one Holy Spirit.  (London, Hodder and Stoughton. 1997)
[iii] J. Kenneth Grider, A Wesleyan-Holiness Theology  (Kansas City. Beacon Hill Press 1994).

About pneumaandlogos

David Rollings was born in Luton in1949 and raised by my Christian parents in the Gospel Standard Strict Baptist denomination( Hyper-Calvinistic} in the sixties I rebelled against this background and got involved in left-wing politics. I became a Christian in 1969 and soon started reading Francis Schaeffer's books and came to embrace a Christian Worldview. I had the privilege of being on the staff of L'Abti Fellowship from1975 - 1979. After L'abri I studied at London School of Theology where I gained my BA.(1983) A few years later I studied for my MA by distance learning with The Nazarene Theological College Manchester (1999) For the last 25 years, I have been an elder of Shoreham-by-Sea Baptist Church. I also regularly attend the Christian Doctrine Study Group of the Tyndale Fellowship.
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