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Spirit-Filled Superiority?

By Dr. J. Rodman Williams
Professor of Renewal Theology Emeritus - Doesn't the doctrine of the baptism in the Holy Spirit with the initial evidence of speaking in tongues suggest that one is superior spiritually to one who has not experienced this blessing? What is the proper way to minister to those who have never experienced this and feel offended because they feel "less spiritual" than those who have experienced the baptism? Doesn't the emphasis on this doctrine suggest division in the body of Christ because some do not experience this?

A proper understanding of baptism in the Holy Spirit with the initial evidence of speaking in tongues does not point to some superior spirituality of the believer. All believers by virtue of their salvation are already spiritual persons with the Holy Spirit indwelling them. As such, they may grow in spirituality through the process of sanctification. Baptism in the Holy Spirit refers not to salvation or sanctification but to a special act of empowerment by the Holy Spirit.

Recall Jesus' words to His waiting disciples that "You shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now" (Acts 1:5) and also "You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth" (Acts 1:8). These disciples were all believers, and the Holy Spirit was at work, but they needed this extra baptism of power. This was not that they be more spiritual but better equipped to be witnesses for the Lord.

Speaking in tongues as a sign of special empowerment was not the heart of the experience. However, it did demonstrate the powerful impact of the Holy Spirit in breaking forth in a new language. So it continues to this day.

There should be no division in the church of those who have and those who have not. That belongs to the arena of salvation. But to those who have, they may have more. That is where baptism in the Holy Spirit and speaking in tongues comes in. Praise God for all His blessings!

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