I remember when our oldest son Joshua was around 5 years of age and we spent a long weekend at a hotel with a pool. After getting settled in our room, we put on our swimming trunks and prepared for some “wet ‘n’ wild.” I was super excited, and so was Luke, Joshua’s younger brother. I stationed myself in the deep end and called out to Luke. Never mind that he was only 3. He put it in high gear, ran forward with all his might and jumped into my arms. He laughed hysterically and couldn’t wait to get out and do it all over again. This continued for the next twenty minutes.
In the meantime, Joshua was sitting on the steps in the shallow end playing with his toys. I motioned for him to join us at the other end of the pool, but he just shrugged me off. I tried every persuasive tactic I knew, convinced that he was missing out on all the fun. But he would not be moved. There was so much more for him, but he remained content in the shallow end.
I believe that describes the experience of most Christians. They appreciate Christ’s salvation and the forgiveness of sins and peace that come with it. They enjoy the meaning and purpose and fellowship that accompany belonging to Jesus and find great comfort in the hope of eternal life afforded by the gospel. But they stop there—not knowing there is so much more available to them.
In the book of Acts, Paul travels to the city of Ephesus and asks the disciples gathered there, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” (19:2). Why did Paul ask this question? It would seem that he saw something was missing in these believers’ lives.
Was it a lack of boldness on the part of these converts? Maybe a want of power and strength? Perhaps a shortage of earnestness, fervency, and devotion? We don’t know exactly. What we do know is that whatever it was, Paul traced the Ephesians’ lack to a deficiency in their experience of the Holy Spirit. They had made progress in their walk, but there was more.
So what did Paul do? He prayed for them and “the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied” (vs. 6).
I know many of my good brothers in Christ will contend that these Ephesians were not saved and that Paul’s prayer for them was simply an induction into saving faith. Other good sisters will argue that we cannot derive doctrine from narrative accounts like the book of Acts.
While I don’t agree on either account, what I do want to say is that regardless of your theological persuasion. . . there is more, and it is wrapped up in the Holy Spirit. Francis Chan says it well in his book, Forgotten God, “If I were Satan and my ultimate goal was to thwart God’s kingdom and purposes, one of my main strategies would be to get churchgoers to ignore the Holy Spirit.”
I find it interesting that John the Baptist summarizes his expectation of the coming Messiah and the role He would have with regard to the Holy Spirit with these words, “I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit” (Mk. 1:8). Think of it. Of all the identifying marks that John could have associated with Jesus—healer, teacher, counselor, leader, peace-maker, champion of the poor and oppressed, etc.—it was baptizer with the Holy Spirit that stood above them all.
Just as John is called ‘the Baptist’ because it was characteristic of his ministry to baptize with water, so Jesus is called ‘the Baptist’ because it is characteristic of his ministry to baptize with the Holy Spirit.
Jesus considered this baptism so important that He expressly forbade his disciples to begin their ministry until they had received it. He knew it was essential for them to have the power the Holy Spirit provides if they were to fulfill the missionary call placed upon them: “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’” (Acts 1:4-5).
So what is the problem? Why the neglect of the Holy Spirit by so many? There are many reasons, but I think the biggest issue is ignorance. We don’t know what the Scriptures say. We don’t know what is available to us. Like the Ephesian believers described in Acts 19, we are stupid to God’s promises: “We have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit” (2).
Of course the Holy Spirit is present in conversion. He is the one who convicts us of sin and enables us to see the beauty of Christ. Paul said, “No one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except by the Holy Spirit” (1 Cor. 12:3). But there is more. While the Samaritan Christians were soundly converted under Philip’s teaching, still they were without the fullness of the Holy Spirit. It was not until Peter and John prayed for them that they received 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” (Acts 8:14-17).
Friends, there is more. Remember what Peter told the crowd of believers on the Day of Pentecost? “The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call” (Acts 2:39). Call out to ‘Jesus the Baptist’ for a fresh imbuement of His Spirit!