Church planting in Africa is increasing every year. Through the “persuasion” of evangelists and evangelistic efforts “converts” are being added to the Church. The preachers proclaimed the gospel, made earnest altar call to persons who would be saved and be born again. Converts signified their intention to be saved by raising up their hands, came in front to the altar for special prayers, congratulated and welcome into the Church as a new member of the family of God.
I have participated in interdenominational city wide evangelistic campaigns as follow-up worker. If heaven rejoiced over one lost sheep found, Christian workers have cause to celebrate the “success” of most campaigns where thousands “gave their lives to the Lord” or “received Jesus as their Lord and Savior.” However, in retrospect, the a concerned question: Were all these “converts” born of the Holy Spirit at conversion? Were they baptized in the Spirit? Did they all have the Spirit of Christ at conversion? Is the baptism of the Holy Spirit first or second Christian experience? Could we testify to the presence of the Holy Spirit in the daily living of the converts afterward? What was the pattern of conversion in the New Testament especially in the Luke-Acts writings? What is Paul’s view of conversion and Church planting especially in relation to the role of the Holy Spirit?
This study is significant to re-examine our evangelistic and Church planting procedure. Pastors, missionaries, evangelists and follow-up workers would benefit from this study by understanding the significant role of the Holy Spirit in the building of the Church. The writer aims that the clarification of the different views on the baptism of the Holy Spirit would promote the unity of the Body of Christ as the ‘temple of the Holy Spirit.’
GORDON FEE AND JAMES DUNN THESIS
Gordon Fee gives detailed exegesis of the passages in the Pauline epistles in which the Holy Spirit is mentioned. Fee’s bedrock convictions about Paul’s theology of the Spirit is that the Spirit is a person who embodies the presence of God himself, a person who indwells and empowers God’s people in this present age. As to the Spirit as God’s personal presence, ‘for Paul, the Spirit is not some merely impersonal “force” or “influence” or “power”. The Spirit is none other than the fulfillment of the promise that God himself would once again be present with his people’ (p. 845). On the Spirit and salvation, ‘ “Salvation in Christ” not only begins by the Spirit, it is the ongoing work of the Spirit in every area and avenue of Christian life . . . [We must see] the central role the Spirit plays at every juncture’ (p. 869). The Spirit plays the central role in the life of the people of God, the gathered Christian community as it lives the tension of the ‘already’ and the ‘not yet’. ‘The only way we can so live is by the power of the Spirit’ (p. 895).
James Dunn has pointed out that just as the first chapter of Luke’s Gospel prepares for the coming of the Son in chapter two, so does the first chapter of Acts prepare for the coming of the Spirit in chapter two. He says, “Pentecost is a new beginning – the inauguration of the new age, the age of the Spirit – that which had not been before” (p. 44). Pentecost inaugurates the age of the Church and the Holy Spirit. He argues, “In one sense, Pentecost can never be repeated… But in another sense Pentecost, or rather the experience of Pentecost can and must be repeated in the experience of all who would become Christians” (p.53). Citing instances of conversions along with the experience of baptism in the Holy Spirit in the book of Acts, Dunn argues that the baptism in the Spirit is primarily initiatory and only secondarily empowering. Holy Spirit baptism is the only guarantee of one’s true conversion and of belonging to Christ. One may be empowered by or filled with the Spirit many times (Acts 2:4; 4:8,31; 9:17; 13:9; Eph 5:18). He sums by saying, “In the last analysis the only thing that matters in deciding whether a man is a Christian or not is whether he has received the Spirit or not” (p.93).
PERSONAL REFLECTIONS AND IMPLICATIONS FOR MINISTRY
Conversion is a religious phenomenon that is not peculiar to Christianity but occurs in other religions. Becoming a Christian is what is peculiar. And what is the peculiarity in being a Christian? I suppose it is the Christ-likeness by the ability of the Holy Spirit. I strongly agree with the view that the Lord Jesus commissioned us not to make religious converts but disciples. The early Church in the New Testament gives us what I call “Pentecostal evangelistic and Church planting pattern.” We see this especially in the ministry and epistles of apostle Paul.
There is the kind of last days Christianity Paul describes in 2 Timothy 3: 1-5 as ‘having a form of godliness but denying its power’ – of the power of the cross and the Holy Spirit in Africa today. It seems such Spirit-less Christians either fall short of Pentecostal conversion as apostle Peter recommended in Acts 2:38 – they repented and were baptized but did not hear ‘that there is a Holy Spirit’ as God’s gift (Acts 19:2). Even those who experienced Spirit’s baptism at conversion might fall short of consistent walk with the Spirit and wane in ‘first love’ and become weak in witnessing life. In either case, as in Acts of Apostle – at Samaria (ch.8), at Ephesus (ch.19) the Church should labor with gifted men as in Ephesians 4:1-12 in teaching and discipling members with emphasis about walking in the Spirit. James Dunn would have taught more of this living life of the Spirit. However, one agreed with his emphasized view of initiation into Christ’s body by the Holy Spirit baptism. And I am challenged to ever consciously include the offer of Holy Spirit as God’s gift in the gospel message package. This leads us into the challenging aspect of ministry by the Holy Spirit.
Jesus began the preaching of the Kingdom of God after his remarkable baptism when ‘the Spirit of God comes down on him like a dove’ (Matt 3:16 CEV). Throughout his ministry he continued in the power of the Spirit, forced out demons by the power of God’s Spirit, spoke the very words given by the Spirit of God, offered himself as sacrifice by eternal Spirit of God and instructed his apostles by the Holy Spirit (Luke 4:1f; Matt 12:28; Heb 9:12; Acts 1:2). The apostles followed similar pattern of ministry with and by the Holy Spirit. Apostle Paul strongly remarked that the achievements – of church planting, new births in Christ, nurturing believers were by the glorious ministry of the Holy Spirit (Romans 15:19). Likewise, ministers of the gospel today ought to study and train in working with the Holy Spirit. And as often as necessary await God in prayer for regular renewal, infilling and empowering by the Holy Spirit.
Lastly, the repeated statement in the book of Revelation: “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches” is still challenging to our fellowship and relationship with the Holy Spirit as a Divine Person. The Church in Africa seems lacking in prophetic ministry and voice both within and to the outside world. I believe the Spirit of God is speaking to of our ‘poverty stricken’ and corrupt situations. But who is listening, hearing and be a mouthpiece of the Holy Spirit? Along with others, here I say, ‘Lord Holy Spirit, here I am use me,’ amen.
Dunn, James. 1970. Baptism in the Holy Spirit. Philadelphia: Westminster (pp.38-102).
Fee, Gordon D. 1994. God’s Empowering Presence: The Holy Spirit in the Letters of Paul. Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson Pub. Inc., (pp. 827-894).
. 1996. Paul, the Spirit, and the People of God. Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson Pub. Inc.
Nicholls, Bruce J., editor, Evangelical Review of Theology, Volume 20, (Carlisle, CA: Paternoster Periodicals) 2000, c1998. Book Reviewed by Francis Foulkes ‘God’s Empowering Presence by Gordon D Fee.’
The Theological Advisory Group. The Holy Spirit and the Church in Africa Today. Machakos, Kenya: Scott Theological College