We are considering Michael Shank’s book Muscle and a Shovel.
Nick Gill commented earlier, and I completely misunderstood his question (my fault), and I wrote a 2,000-word reply to the wrong question. But the essay addresses issues that are being vigorously debated in the comments. And so I figure some other readers might be interested in my thoughts.
The issue I addressed (unasked) is whether the “baptism with the Holy Spirit” is in fact different from ordinary Christian baptism.
Contrary to traditional Church of Christ teaching, I think every saved person is baptized with the Spirit. This is just another way to say “receives the Spirit.” Therefore, I reject the notion that baptism with the Spirit necessarily involves miraculous manifestations.
Rather, there is one type or “measure” of the Spirit available to Christians, going back to Pentecost, but the gifts of the Spirit associated the gift (singular) of the Spirit (i.e., the Spirit) vary depending on the Spirit’s will, as described particularly clearly in 1 Cor 13.
Two preliminary notes:
1. I use “Cornelius” to mean “Cornelius and his household” to facilitate both typing and reading.
2. “Occam’s Razor” is a principle of logic that says the simplest answer is usually (but not always) right. The truth of the principle is seen especially well in physics, where incredibly difficult and complex ideas often reduce to something as simple at E=mc2. But not all physics equations are quite that simple.
Hence, physicists and mathematicians and good theologians learn to look for the beauty and elegance in what they study. Complexity will never be escaped entirely, because the world is complicated, but the essential principles tend toward the simple. But Occam’s Razor is never proof of anything; just a reminder of what to look for.
(I don’t know whether Bible students are taught this or have to figure it out on their own, but it’s a great help in digging out biblical truths.)
First Argument: In re “measures of the Spirit”
You seem to be arguing from the H. Leo Boles playbook. [I misunderstood the question from my first sentence. Oh, well.] I disagree with Boles on many things, including his notion that “baptism with the Holy Spirit” is somehow different from the “ordinary” indwelling. I reject Boles’ thesis (found his book The Holy Spirit: His Personality, Nature and Works, which has heavily influenced Church of Christ thinking but is very unorthodox as to the broader world of Christianity) for the following reasons:
* I accept Boles’ theory, we’d also have to accept that when John the Baptist told his disciples,
(Mar 1:8 ESV) 8 “I have baptized you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”
John found it more important to talk to his disciples about the salvation of the apostles and Cornelius than the salvation of his disciples when the Kingdom comes or the salvation of Jesus’ disciples generally. (Nothing in any of the four Gospels suggests that John was speaking to just those men who would later become apostles.)
And to accept that “baptism with the Holy Spirit” is only what happened at Pentecost and the conversion of Cornelius, we’d have to accept that John’s speech to his disciples was not intended to be understood by them, because they certainly couldn’t have gotten from “baptism with the Spirit” that only about 20 people would one day receive this gift. They would have heard an allusion to the Spirit being outpoured on all flesh, as Joel and other prophets promised.
(Joe 2:28 ESV) 28 “And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions.”
(Isa 44:3-4 ESV) 3 For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour my Spirit upon your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants. 4 They shall spring up among the grass like willows by flowing streams.
* Boles’ thesis implies that the baptism of the Spirit promised by Jesus to his apostles in Acts 1 is different in kind from the Spirit promised in Acts 2:38, although Peter seems to clearly tell his listeners that it’s all the same. He refers to the “gift of the Holy Spirit” as the “promise” in v. 39, which refers back to v. 33 “promise of the Holy Spirit” — which is a reference to Joel’s prophecy, which Peter says is exactly what the apostles received. Re-read the sermon top to bottom and see whether you don’t agree.
* Acts 11 seems to make this abundantly clear to me (and is what convinced me to reject Bole’s highly selective Baconian methodology) –
(Act 11:1-4 ESV) Now the apostles and the brothers who were throughout Judea heard that the Gentiles also had received the word of God. 2 So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcision party criticized him, saying, 3 “You went to uncircumcised men and ate with them.” 4 But Peter began and explained it to them in order:
Acts 11 relates a conversation between Peter and members of the “circumcision party” — Christian Jews who weren’t keen on seeing Gentiles saved without circumcision.
(Act 11:15-17 ESV) 15 As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell on them just as on us at the beginning. 16 And I remembered the word of the Lord, how he said, ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ 17 If then God gave the same gift to them as he gave to us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could stand in God’s way?”
Peter at this point has not mentioned the apostles or the 120 disciples present at Pentecost. Hence, “us” refers to its most recent antecedent: those present, a group of Jewish men. Peter meant, of course, “us Jewish Christians” in contrast to “them” Gentiles.
(Act 11:18 ESV) 18 When they heard these things they fell silent. And they glorified God, saying, “Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life.”
Their reaction is that God has granted salvation “to the Gentiles” — not just Cornelius — because they are speaking and thinking in terms of Jews and Gentiles, not apostles and Cornelius. If they had perceived Cornelius to be some kind of special case who did not receive the same Spirit as the Jews in general, then they’d not have so quickly generalized to Gentiles in general.
* Acts 15 is even clearer –
(Act 15:7-9 ESV) 7 And after there had been much debate, Peter stood up and said to them, “Brothers, you know that in the early days God made a choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe. 8 And God, who knows the heart, bore witness to them, by giving them the Holy Spirit just as he did to us, 9 and he made no distinction between us and them, having cleansed their hearts by faith.
Plainly, “us” is Christian Jews, not the apostles only, and “them” is Christian Gentiles. “Made no distinction between us and them” surely doesn’t mean that God treated Cornelius like an apostle of Jesus. No, the point is that both races/ethnicities receive the same Spirit prophesied by the apostles.
This is much of what Acts is about — the Gentiles enter the Kingdom just as do the Jews. Cornelius was not a special case, except for being first. He was a typical, exemplary case meant to be generalized to all Gentiles.
* Luke’s use of “fall” regarding receipt of the Spirit is also instructive. Peter says that the “Spirit fell on all who heard,” speaking of Cornelius and his household. In Acts 11:15, Peter says “the Holy Spirit fell on them just as on us at the beginning.” Perhaps this unusual word indicates the uniqueness of the conversion of Cornelius.
But consider —
(Act 8:14-16 ESV) 14 Now when the apostles at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent to them Peter and John, 15 who came down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit, 16 for he had not yet fallen on any of them, but they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.
In the case of the conversion of the Samaritans, Philip the Evangelist considered it surprising that when the Samaritans were water baptized (Acts 8:12) the Holy Spirit did not “fall” on any of them.
This is the very same, most unusual word used for the falling of the Spirit on Cornelius — only two chapters later. And yet Philip was surprised that the Samaritans did not receive this gift. He hardly would have been surprised that the Samaritans weren’t treated like the apostles! This is clearly a reference to the “ordinary” indwelling.
(It seems likely that the church had come to use “fall” as a synonym for “poured out from heaven.” In both cases, the metaphor pictures something descending rapidly from above.)
* Paul writes,
(Tit 3:4-7 ESV) 4 But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.
Notice that Paul uses the language of the Prophets — “poured out” — with regard to the gift of the Spirit received by all Christians.
* The same thing is true in Rom 5:5 –
(Rom 5:5 ESV) 5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
The use of “pour” with “Spirit” also refers back to several Old Testament prophecies as well as to Acts 2. And Acts also describes an outpouring of the Spirit (also following the language of Joel). Same language; same Spirit.
Per Occam’s Razor (always a fan of Occam), the simplest explanation is just one Spirit, one outpouring, one “type” or “measure” of Spirit. The gifts that come with the Spirit vary according to the Spirit’s will, but it’s all the personal indwelling.
So why use “baptism with the Spirit” in Acts 2 and 10? Because there was no concurrent baptism of water — and Luke wants to make the point that this is just as salvific as if immersion had taken place. It’s “baptism” but just not the water kind.
Why not refer to the several other baptisms in Acts as baptism with the Spirit? Because they were in both water and Spirit – and so normative and in no need of deep explanation. Luke was writing a history, not a theology of baptism.
AND because the two references to John the Baptist promising baptism in the Spirit were intended to set a major theme of Luke-Acts — with “baptism” to be closely tied to “pour out” (more on this in a future post) and hence harken back to the prophets’ promises re the outpouring of the Spirit on “all flesh” (per Joel). Hence, we should read John the Baptist as telling us that all baptisms in the name of Jesus are in the Spirit (unless the Spirit has already been received).
The “all flesh” prophecy that Peter quotes in Acts 2 and Peter’s sermon as a whole tie all future receipts of the Spirit together with Pentecost. Pentecost, as described by Luke, has a much stronger emphasis on the Spirit being poured out on all flesh (a theme of Acts!) than water baptism (which is important but not the centerpiece of the sermon).
Second Argument: When was Cornelius saved?
* Cornelius did not receive a “measure” of the Spirit unlike that of the ordinary Christian. (See above.) (“Measures” are quantitative whereas Boles tries to use the word for qualitative differences — which is more than a little forced.)
* In Acts 11 and Acts 15, Peter’s recounting of the salvation of Cornelius does not mention the water baptism. Peter is only concerned with what God did. And Peter plainly intends to be understood as saying these Gentiles have been saved.
(Act 11:13-18 ESV) 13 And he told us how he had seen the angel stand in his house and say, ‘Send to Joppa and bring Simon who is called Peter; 14 he will declare to you a message by which you will be saved, you and all your household.’ 15 As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell on them just as on us at the beginning. 16 And I remembered the word of the Lord, how he said, ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ 17 If then God gave the same gift to them as he gave to us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could stand in God’s way?” 18 When they heard these things they fell silent. And they glorified God, saying, “Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life.”
Acts 11:13-14 states the theme of the passage: Cornelius “will be saved.” Vv. 18 recapitulates the theme with the Jews of the circumcision party declaring that God has saved them “has granted repentance that leads to life.” And yet Peter says nothing of their water baptism. In fact, he quotes John the Baptist’s contrasting water baptism with Spirit baptism — and if we’d been there listening to Peter quote John, we’d not have asked about water baptism either — because we were just told that Jesus himself would baptize with Spirit in contrast to water baptism.
(Act 15:7-9 ESV) 7 And after there had been much debate, Peter stood up and said to them, “Brothers, you know that in the early days God made a choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe. 8 And God, who knows the heart, bore witness to them, by giving them the Holy Spirit just as he did to us [Jewish Christians], 9 and he made no distinction between us and them, having cleansed their hearts by faith.
Before the Jerusalem Council, Peter doesn’t say “God showed me it was okay to water baptize Gentiles.” Rather, he says that the Gentiles heard the gospel, believed, and God gave them the Spirit and “cleansed their hearts by faith.” Again, water baptism is not mentioned — just Spirit baptism.
In accord with Occam’s Razor, it’s really easy to simplify all this, as Paul has done –
(Rom 8:9-11 ESV) 9 You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. 10 But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11 If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.
If you have the indwelling Spirit, you are saved; otherwise, not.
Absent the confusion sown by Boles’ speculations, it’s really pretty easy. But the Churches of Christ have largely ignored all the above because so many deny the personal indwelling of the Spirit — which forces an unorthodox theory about measures and cessationism and all kinds of other stuff just not found in the Bible.
Oh, and this moves baptism out the center and replaces it, in the center, with things like faith in Jesus and the receipt of the Spirit, which is what Peter actually talks about. That doesn’t erase water baptism, but it gives it a healthier emphasis — so that it was entirely appropriate for Peter to speak at the Jerusalem Council about salvation and Cornelius — with the apostles and elders and Paul and Barnabas present, among many others — and not mention water baptism, because baptism is not the question. It’s how God chooses to respond to those who approach him with faith.
 Sir Frances Bacon was philosopher who helped create the Enlightenment. He suggested that one way to understand something is to look at its components and classify and categorize the elements. And sometimes this works well, but sometimes it’s like trying to understand your girlfriend by dissecting her. And the Spirit is a person, with a personality and will, not a law of nature or a rock collection. The Eastern and First Century Jewish mindset is much more about understanding holistically.