Part 3 may have made some waves. I’m okay with that. We were once a whole movement of wave-makers and earth-shakers, and what happened since is the subject of books and articles by church historians and theologians who have a far better grasp around the issues than I do. But if we’re to be a Pentecostalism for the Church, we have to take our practice of Baptism that seriously– we have to remember it’s about Jesus, not us.
In terms of the “going into the water” and all, I’ve been baptized twice. I’ve got two different certificates from two different churches. But I also would say I’ve only been baptized once. Because what happened when I was 8 wasn’t Baptism. Walking through that season of my life when I was trying to discern whether or not it was legitimately my Baptism would take far too much space and time to adequately represent here, but here’s a few reasons that give this a bit of credibility:
- It wasn’t a Trinitarian baptism. I was not baptized in conformity to Jesus’ command in Matthew 28 (“In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”). Those who are in more ancient traditions in the Church will recognize that this is often the dividing line for whether a Baptism is Christian or not. Those of us who are Pentecostal recognize that this makes a clear statement of our orthodoxy, and that we are not, in fact, modalists or unitarians, or Arians.
- It wasn’t a profession of the Gospel. Now, by most Baptist and Pentecostal standards– this is unacceptable. For those of you with liturgical backgrounds, that means there were no renunciations and no vows made by or for me. I was just dunked in the name of Jesus. Additionally, I was capable of understanding the Gospel and had not repented yet. Nothing about it displayed the Gospel and it made no claim on my need for or reception of the Gospel.
So, anyway, I didn’t consider it valid, so I signed up to be baptized at the church that I was attending. I was baptized by immersion later that year. It was the Feast of Christ the King, the last Sunday of the liturgical year (not by intention, since they weren’t a liturgical church). The interesting thing about my church was that there was an acknowledgement (not quite an expectation) that the Holy Spirit would act in some extraordinary way– give someone a prophetic word, or word of knowledge for me, or perhaps empower me for a new season in life. I was taught that the Holy Spirit often accompanies Baptism and uses it to point to Jesus in sometimes deeply personal ways. So, I wasn’t sure what would happen, but I believed something would.
When I stood in the water, I had been a Christian for some 12 years but never felt like I belonged to the Church. I knew my Father. I knew Jesus had died for me. I knew the Holy Spirit dwelt within me. But these people– in whatever church– didn’t feel like my people. So, when I stood in that water, I felt like a stranger that suddenly found himself in the middle of an intimate family reunion. What am I doing here? Thankfully, the pastor didn’t leave me standing long, but told me to give my testimony. As I told the story of what Jesus had done for me, something started to change. I can’t really put my finger on what, but it did. When I finished, the pastor put his arms around me and said something that I don’t remember and then said, “David, I baptize you in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” and lowered me into the water. When I came up, the pastor laid hands on me and invited the congregation to pray for me. I got out of the water.
No one came forward with a prophetic word. No empowerment or fresh filling of the Holy Spirit. No signs and wonders. But something was different. I knew I wasn’t alone anymore. I had a family, a tribe, even. I was part of the people of God and for the first time in my life, didn’t feel like an outsider. And you know why that happened?
Because Jesus was there.
- Part 1: A Pentecostal Theology of the Lord’s Supper
- Part 2: A Pentecostal Experience of the Lord’s Supper
- Part 3: A Pentecostal Theology of Baptism
- Part 4: A Pentecostal Experience of Baptism
- Part 5: Pentecostal Questions and Reflections on Footwashing