I appreciate the desire of Karen Huebert-Sanchez to give attention to the ministry of the Holy Spirit in the Christian life and the life of the church (“Living a Spirit-filled life,” May/June 2021). I can appreciate the author’s experience with the Holy Spirit when she was 12. I think she is mistaken in labeling it the baptism of the Holy Spirit, although that could be the time she was saved and baptized with the Holy Spirit; it most likely is the filling of the Holy Spirit.
When believers become Christians, they are baptized in the Holy Spirit. All Christians have been baptized in the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 12:13). The view that there is a second work of the Spirit called the baptism of the Holy Spirit and not all Christian have this is an error held by many unorthodox Charismatic churches.
The author speaks of spending time in such Charismatic churches. The author claims that one Sunday in a Charismatic church she received the gift of tongues in the middle of a worship service. The Holy Spirit says women cannot speak in tongues in the worship service (1 Cor 14:26-34). The Holy Spirit also says that there needs to be an interpreter. Was there an interpreter? Just about every story I have heard coming out of these Charismatic denominations is women speaking in unknown and unintelligible speech (biblical tongue speaking was a language unknown to the speaker but an actual language) without an interpreter. The author claims to test all these works of the Spirit by the Scriptures. Surely, we are free to do the same.
The author claims she was “slain in the Spirit.” I am afraid there is no way to test this by Scripture because it isn’t in the Bible. Spiritual experiences are common with many different religions. Mormons usually tell me they know that their religion is the right one because they have had an experience with “god’s spirit” deep in their hearts.
The author says, “When we lay down our Western need to control time and the order of events, believers are prompted to wade into what the Holy Spirit has for them, not merely dip their toes in at the edge.” First, I want to say that that we in the West often do pay too much attention to time, in the sense that people want to be done by such and such a time. If they are not done by noon, they get grumpy. This is wrong. But it is, in another sense, loving to be considerate of other people’s time. To be on time is a loving thing to do.
The order of service is not a Western idea. This happens to be a biblical mandate. If you simply read 1 Cor 14:26-40 you see there needs to be “orderly worship.” One who is familiar with church history understands that the early church practiced orderly worship, and this was in Northern Africa and Southern Europe. Scripture mandates worshipping in God’s house according to God’s rules and in an orderly fashion.
I have worshipped in many different churches across Africa and have seen firsthand churches that are unorganized and unprepared and claim the Holy Spirit is leading. After we teach these pastors, they later admit they were previously not being faithful and now they are edifying their congregations with Biblical worship. We go there to try and help such churches mature and grow into a much more biblical understanding of how God wants to be worshipped according to what the Holy Spirit has revealed in the written Word.
The author says, “The human-made constructs we struggle with in church, where church has become an institution or set of constitutions and bylaws, are shed when we experience the freedom and power of the Spirit to move us out of our routines.” Is the alternative no constitutions or bylaws? (I feel sorry for the church that doesn’t have a biblically informed constitution.) And to no longer have the church as an institution? (The church at Ephesus is clearly an institution with leaders Acts 20:17.) So, abolish the institutional church and then we will be free to follow what? Can we ever be sure of what we are following, if we are not careful to tether our understanding of the work of the Spirit to the Scriptures?
The Corinthians were confused about spiritual gifts. They prized the showy gifts, the ones that brought attention to themselves and made them look spiritual. Paul wanted them to “be mature” in their thinking and wanted them to understand that all things were to be done “in order” (1 Cor 14:20, 40). When we gather together as the church, we want to make sure we are ministering in the power of the Spirit and this will be evidenced primarily today by whether people are edified. That is a main point of Paul’s argument in his treatment of spiritual gifts in 1 Corinthians 12-14. Because spiritual gifts are not really about you, they are the “manifestation of the Spirit for the common good” (1 Cor 12:7).
This article has been posted by Christian Leader staff. The Christian Leader is the magazine of U.S. Mennonite Brethren.