Letter to the editor

Responding to "Living a Spirit-filled life"

Photo: Getty Images

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).

John Goodell

Grant, Nebraska



  1. John, I do appreciate your desire for doctrinal correctness and interest in celebrating meaningful Sunday morning gatherings. I too as you do would refer to Karen’s “baptism of the Holy Spirit” experience as a filling of the Holy Spirit.

    Since the term “slain in the Spirit” is not found in the Scriptures, I would probably also avoid using it, as I do with many popular terms, both charismatic and non-charismatic in origin, that are used in today’s church culture. I probably also have a slightly different understanding of “tongues” than what Karen has.

    What powerfully draws me to Karen’s article, though, is that it appears she is not seeking self-glory as happens all too often by those purporting these same experiences. Moreover, these and other experiences appear to have led Karen to greater communion with the Father (i.e. “That started me on the journey of being quiet before God and listening to his voice“), to being conformed more and more into the likeness of Jesus, and a growing mission to the world (Mark 1:17). This is beautiful and God-honoring.

    There are numerous references in her article about how her walk with the Spirit has impacted the hurting world around her. The Abundant Life Home and Standing Strong ministries, both of which were founded thanks to the work of the Holy Spirit in the lives of Karen and Ricky, are visible reminders of how they are impacting the kingdom of darkness in Thailand. This is to be recognized and commended, and of course, giving all the glory to God.

    It appears that church life for them is more than just gathering on Sundays, which they also value, but that church life has an all-important missional element to it as well. I am confidente, John, that this is your experience as well.

    I have long believed that it doesn’t matter how messy or clean, or how noisy or quiet a Sunday morning gathering might be, if the individual members of the church community are not growing in their communion with Jesus, becoming more like Jesus, and proclaiming Jesus, as I believe Jesus has called all disciple to do, then the Father’s plan in and through their lives is being derailed.

    We are to know about the Holy Spirit as well as intimately know and experience the Holy Spirit, according to the Greek translation of our English verb “to know.” Having a biblically correct understanding of the Holy Spirit is absolutely vital. As to experiencing the Holy Spirit, I have discovered that this can be awkward if not offensive at times. For example, I believe that if any one of us were present at Pentecost we probably would have been in shock and dismayed by the events of that day. I myself most likely would have joined the many voices saying these disciples were drunk and grossly out of touch with God’s plan. But we know the rest of the story!

    As to experiencing a more fruitful work of the Holy Spirit in our lives, I personally would commend all disciples of Jesus to “the journey of being quiet before God and listening to his voice,” and then obey (another word Karen refers to four times in her article) His promptings. Genuine listening and heartfelt obedience will always lead to a genuine work of the Holy Spirit in and through us.

  2. Hi Lynn, just to be clear, I was not judging Karen’s motives, I have no reason to believe they are not wholesome.

    I appreciated your point about if we are not growing in our communion, love for and service to a Christ then we are missing the boat. I agree.

    I do want push back on your subjectivism a bit though. This seems to be your emphasis. This idea that the real spiritual communication comes when I put my Bible aside and listen for voices. The Bible doesn’t call us to do this. The Bible calls us to itself to hear the voice of God. Our judgement won’t be on whether or not we missed a feeling or nudge or didn’t hear voices. It will be on what we did with the written Word of God (Matt 5:19).

    I am not denying that God can’t lead us in extra ordinary ways, but this by definition is extraordinary. I believe he does. But the normal way we are to expect to hear from God and His voice is in Scripture. I want to point people to what are the ordinary and promised ways God speaks to us.


  3. Thank you, John, for bringing to my attention something I overlooked but feel strongly about. This has to do with the centrality of the Scriptures.

    Article 2 of our USMB Confession of Faith states the following regarding The Written Word of God: “We accept the Bible as the infallible Word of God and the authoritative guide for faith and practice.” I affirm without question this statement.

    I also affirm our Confession of Faith when it states regarding God’s self-revelation (also part of Article 2): “The Holy Spirit continues to make God known to individuals and the church; this revelation is always consistent with the Scriptures.”

    If these principles are followed, every disciple will do well in their walk with God.

    Blessings my brother!

  4. Lynn, the way I understand this revelation that is ongoing outside the Bible that is consistent with it that is given “to all people” is general / natural revelation. The knowledge of God as it speaks of in Romans 1:18-21. Yes, God is still making Himself known to all people – generally. But we believers have something much better, we have the special revelation of God found in the Scriptures where God speaks to His people.

    In the Scriptures we have much more than general knowledge of God, we have the special knowledge of God revealed in Christ and unfolded only in the Apostolic Word.

  5. One of the deadliest response to God’s blessings is thinking that life must be as I am currently living experiencing. Jesus did not live a “cookie cutter” life. He dealt with real people struggling with real problems. The gospel does not say “Hey! Be saved”. Becoming a disciple of the Lord Jesus, often means dealing with dirt of our souls … and sometimes continuing to live in the storm. I think that the miracle in the stories of Daniel and his three friends is not that they were rescued, but that Jesus came and stood with them in their dire predicament. Thank you CL for the article “My Battle With Pain” Thank you Paul Klassen for giving us a glimpse of your fight with pain. For a whole host of reasons, heaven will be amazing.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here