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Praying in the Spirit: Better Than I Was, Not Better Than You Are

The baptism in the Spirit is only a beginning. It is like passing through a spiritual gateway, with much now to be done. As Pentecostal Joe Campbell tells us, speaking in tongues is not “the zenith of Christian experience . . . [or] the climax, the pyramid, the apex, . . . [or] the ultimate to be realized. . . . [I]t is only the beginning, the fuller preparation for service” (p. 145).

The baptism in the Spirit is only a beginning. It is like passing through a spiritual gateway, with much now to be done.

If Spirit baptism with tongues is only a beginning, logically it cannot function to perfect or impart instant maturity to the believer. In fact, McNair argues that the very existence of tongues in a believer’s life is sure evidence that perfection is absent: “Having the ability to pray in tongues is not a basis for pride, since the gift is not given in payment for righteous living. It is given to Christians to build them up and help them live holy and more effective lives. It is therefore a clear sign that the person who exercises tongues has certainly not reached maturity!” (Love, p.65).


The Baptism and Spiritual Power

This blessing does not affect anyone’s status as a Christian. No one Christian is better than any other. All are justified and sanctified by the work of Christ.

According to Pentecostal-charismatic belief, the Christian who attempts to minister without the baptism in the Holy Spirit will do so with a definite disadvantage. One non-Pentecostal has interpreted this to mean that “you are a deficient and defective Christian until you have spoken in tongues” (D. Hall, p.12). MacArthur is of the same mind: “Those holding the charismatic viewpoint are saying in effect that unless you have had ‘the experience,’ which they call the baptism of the Spirit with tongues, you have not reached the place where you can function the way God really wants you to function. You are missing something. You are eight cylinders firing on four, or possibly six at the most. You are just not quite there” (p. 182).

If charismatics are being accused of claiming that one without the charismatic experience is an ineffective Christian worker, the charge would be quickly denied. If, however, the complaint asserts that charismatics feel a non-charismatic Christian worker is not as effective as he would be with the charismatic experience, the charge is quickly admitted. After all, power for missions and service is the reason Christ baptizes the believer in the Holy Spirit. It is, to my mind, a telling point that Jesus directed His twelve disciples, supposed “experts’“ who had sat under His teaching for three years, to wait in Jerusalem after His ascension “for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about” (Acts 1:4). Only then would they be fully prepared-anointed-to go out and minister.

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Category: Spirit, Winter 2000

About the Author: Robert W. Graves, M. A. (Literary Studies, Georgia State University), is the co-founder and president of The Foundation for Pentecostal Scholarship, Inc., a non-profit organization supporting Pentecostal scholarship through research grants. He is a Christian educator and a former faculty member of Southwestern Assemblies of God College in Waxahachie, Texas, and Kennesaw State University (adjunct). He edited and contributed to Strangers to Fire: When Tradition Trumps Scripture and is the author of Increasing Your Theological Vocabulary, Praying in the Spirit (1987 and Second Edition, 2017) and The Gospel According to Angels (Chosen Books, 1998).

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