Yesterday, Mandy and I became members of Grace Church, Nottingham. This marks the end of a year-long journey for us, and the start of something new. One thing I would like to explain, though, is not the process that got me to Grace Church, but how I changed from being a cessationist, to someone who believes in the Baptism of the Spirit.
Firstly, I will need to explain the terms. Baptism of the Spirit is when the Holy Spirit comes on you and gives you gifts to further your faith and help others. These gifts usually contain tongues (speaking another language to communicate with God), prophecy, words of knowledge, healing and so on. (1 Corinthians 12 & 14).
A cessationist is someone who believes that the gifts of the Spirit died out when the first Apostles died in the first and second centuries. This was the position I held until fairly recently.
So, what clinched it?
I had known for a while that the gifts were something I wanted, yet couldn’t seem to receive them. There seemed to be a blockage somewhere. Then, a friend went through Matthew 7:7-11 where we read:
7 “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. 9 Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? 11 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!”
Then it clicked. The problem I had was that I viewed the Holy Spirit as more of a ticket into heaven, rather than Someone who lives in me. Although some Christians would acknowledge the indwelling of the Spirit, He does nothing more than help you read the Bible, and get you into heaven (like a proof of purchase). However, in the Bible passage, Jesus is talking about a gift, i.e. something physical that can be used and enjoyed. In other words, it’s the difference between being given a box of chocolates and carrying them around with you to look at, and opening the box and enjoying the chocolates.
There’s where I’d been missing out. The Holy Spirit is more than a passport stamp to get me into heaven, or a box of chocolates just to be looked at but a gift from God to enjoy and help others. Why anyone would want to miss the experience of knowing God better and serving His people is beyond me. If you give me a box of chocolates, I won’t just look at the box, but dive straight in.
It could be said that the natural progression from this position is to say that God doesn’t speak through the Bible anymore. There is no one that I know of who would agree with that statement. The purpose of the gifts is the same as the Bible – to point people to Jesus. They complement each other, not replace each other. At Grace Church (as with other churches) the Bible is proclaimed, and the gifts are used to minister God’s Word (either written or revelation) to His people.
I don’t think I’ve explained this well. For a better explanation, head over to Adrian Warnock’s blog. (Adrian attends the first New Frontiers church that Mandy and I ever went to, Jubilee Church in Enfield, London).