I want to turn now to one of the most difficult pastoral matters I have found over the forty plus years I have been involved in pastoral ministry.
I have known many people over those years who struggled to receive the baptism with the Holy Spirit. They are dear people. They seem to know the Lord. They seem sincere and genuine. They respond readily to the preached word and often will make an outward response as an indication of their desire to receive from the Lord. And yet so often, nothing seems to happen.
I examined my heart often. Had my ministry been Christ -centred? Or had I been guilty of preaching merely an experience? Were their motives clear? Was there any unconfessed sin in their hearts? Was the presentation of the message clearly delivered? Was my heart pure in the process?
So many questions!
I recognised in my own ministry that I would consciously withdraw from preaching the baptism with the Holy Spirit because I would find it difficult to help the people who were going to be distressed because they had “failed” to receive what they wanted.
Slowly I have come to see that we are more than we know!
I recognise that for those who have sincerely believed, trusted the Lord, been baptised in water perhaps, responded to many messages etc, that they are more than they know. I have almost turned 360 degrees in what I am presenting here now. The Brethren you will remember believed the Holy Spirit was imparted when a believer trusted in the Lord. It happened as an automatic thing.
I am not necessarily saying that. What I do now recognise however, is that if a person believes the gospel presented in the power of the Holy Spirit to them, then he or she will receive the baptism with the Holy Spirit as a consequence of that belief. He or she will have more at that point than they know.
When Paul wrote to the Ephesians in 1:17 he did not ask that they should have greater experiences, or new truth revealed to them. He prayed that their eyes would be opened to see at a deeper level all that they currently had seen, received and known.
“Therefore, I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints,
do not cease to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers: that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him,
the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of your calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints,
and what is the exceeding greatness of His power
toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power
which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at the right hand in the heavenly places,
far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age, abut also in that which is to come
and He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all thing to the church,
which is His body, the fulness of Him who fills all in all”. Ephesians 1:15-23.
The secret must lie to some extent in the manner of the preaching. If there is an expectation of the work of the Holy Spirit in the preached word then that is what people will encounter. This is not just an automatic matter. This is the word preached in faith that believers will recognise and respond to.
“So, then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God”. Romans 10:17”.