Our Faith

by S H Sung (late superintendent of Pentecostal Mission Hong Kong and Kowloon)

From time to time we have been labelled as part of the charismatic movement because we believe in the baptism of the Holy Spirit with the speaking in tongues as evidence as clearly recorded in the Bible. We disclaim such affiliation. We are simply Christians who accept the Bible as the infallible and inspired words of God. We accept the Bible in full, in particular the New Testament, as it relates to the church of Christ. We accept and believe that God is the same yesterday, today and forever and what happened in the days of the Apostles will continue to happen until the return of Christ. We are just believers of the full (complete) gospel.

We are Christians or followers of Christ. Our first and most important duty is to seek and follow the teaching of Christ. Very early in His ministry Jesus urged people to repent and believe the gospel (Mark 1:15). He did not baptise people in water (John 4:2) as mere water baptism does not make us Christians. What is needed is the birth of a new life (John 3:3 & 5) which happening is very real, though people may not understand its working (John 3:7 & 8). Water baptism is an action to identify and openly show one’s resolve for repentance. It is generally referred to as John’s baptism, the baptism of repentance.

John preached another baptism by one mightier than him, the baptism with the Holy Ghost (Matt. 3:11, Mark 1:7 & 8, Luke 3:16, John 1:33). This baptism of Jesus Christ is so very important that all the four gospels referred to it clearly. In the last words to the disciples, Jesus emphasized the importance of the Comforter which is the Holy Ghost dwelling in the disciples (John 14:16 & 17) because “He shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you” (John 14:26) and “He shall guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he shall show you things to come. He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall show it unto you” (John 16:13 & 14). Shall any one dare call oneself a Christian without seeking and receiving the baptism of Jesus Christ and dare to live a Christian life without the assistance and enlightenment resulting from the indwelling of the Holy Ghost? As full gospel Christians we are committed to accept and follow the teaching of the Bible to begin our Christian life by positive repentance of our sins, accompanied by the water baptism of repentance, together with the seeking and receiving the baptism of Jesus Christ, the baptism of the Holy Ghost.

Water baptism has always been performed by men and because of the human act we saw its adulteration through the ages, resulting in many forms, differing from the original baptism by immersion. In answer to the prayer of Jesus the Father Himself sent the Comforter to dwell in us, to accomplish the Baptism of the Holy Ghost. This performance was recorded five times in the Bible. On three occasions the speaking in tongues was explicitly stated (Acts. 2:4, 10:45-46, 19:6). Speaking in tongues was not directly mentioned in the case of the Samaritan Christians but there was something positive that Simon saw when the Holy Ghost was given (Acts. 8:18). Luke did not mention whether Paul spoke in tongues when Ananias prayed for him to be filled with the Holy Ghost but Paul wrote to the Corinthians saying “I speak with tongues more than ye all” (I. Corin. 14:18). Because the Baptism of the Holy Ghost comes direct from God men cannot adulterate it. Today it is estimated that about 60 million Christians throughout the world have received the Baptism of the Holy Ghost with the speaking in tongues as evidence as in the days of the early new testament church. This proved that what God did in the days past He continues to do today.

The Baptism of the Holy Ghost is such an important experience in the life of a Christian that God allows no doubt as to its happening in the minds of those receiving it and those witnessing its happening. The inward fullness of peace, joy, happiness and feeling closeness to God is accompanied by the outward manifestation of speaking in tongues as the Spirit gives utterance. It is a spontaneous happening that one cannot learn. It implies that when one is filled with the Holy Ghost one is no longer master of one’s tongue which should henceforth become the instrument for speaking what the Holy Spirit wants it to speak. This initial evidence continues to be manifested in the life of a spirit-filled Christian with the further evidence of the fruit of the spirit such as stated in Gal. 5:22 & 23 and more.

There is apparently misunderstanding and confusion amongst some Christians regarding the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. Some hold the view that a Christian cannot have the Spirit of God unless he has the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. In fact the Spirit of God (or the Lord) has been working in the lives of people since the early days of the old testament. Its work is still very evident in moving people and striving with people to lead them to Christ. Without the guidance and help of the Holy Spirit one cannot come to Christ to repent, to be baptised in water and to receive the indwelling of the Holy Spirit as the disciples did on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:38). Today this procedure is as valid as then. Many are led by the Spirit but would not be led the full way until the Spirit comes and dwells in him.

Some argued that a Christian automatically received the Spirit (or in confusion, the Baptism of the Holy Spirit) when he was born again. Undeniably some Christians received the Baptism of the Holy Spirit almost concurrently with their salvation. However, numerous examples in the new testament recorded an interval elapsed between salvation and the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. The disciples had definitely been reborn before the day of Pentecost. Christ after His resurrection even breathed the Holy Spirit on them (John 20:22) and He still commanded them to tarry in Jerusalem and be baptised with the Holy Ghost. This implied that the disciples already had the presence of the Holy Spirit before they received the Baptism (indwelling) of the Holy Ghost. One can see the change in Peter when he preached the first recorded sermon with power after the Holy Ghost had come upon him (Acts 1:8, 2:14, 2:37-39).

The Samaritans had undoubtedly became Christians before Peter and John laid their hands on them in order that they received the Holy Ghost (Acts 8:5-17). Paul’s confession of Jesus as Lord signified his acceptance of Christ as his personal Saviour but it was not until three days afterwards, subsequent to fasting and praying that he was filled with the Holy Ghost on the laying of hands by Ananias (Acts 9:17). Carnelius and his family were devout people (Acts 10:2) before Peter went to his house but not until Peter spoke to them that the Holy Ghost fell on them (Acts 10:44). Thus it is biblical to infer that conversion and the Baptism of the Holy Spirit, though might occur simultaneously or more often separately, are two distinctive spiritual experiences.

A prevalent but erroneous concept is that the Baptism of the Holy Spirit is not intended for all Christians basing on I Corin. 12:30. Such concept stems from the inability to perceive that the Bible distinguishes two kinds of speaking in tongues. The speaking in tongues “as the Spirit gave them utterance” (Acts 2:4) is the initial evidence of receiving the Baptism of the Holy Spirit, is for self edification (I Corin. 14:4) and not for speaking unto men but unto God (I Corin. 14:2). This is for all Christians. The other kind of speaking in tongues is referred to as a gift (I Corin. 12:4-11) the exercise of which in public “are for a sign, not to them that believe but to them that believe not” (I Corin. 14:22). It must be accompanied by interpretation (I Corin. 14:13). This gift is given only to some who have received the Baptism of the Holy Spirit and not to all, same as in the case of the other gifts (I Corin. 12:4-11 and Romans 12:6-8). It is significant that the Bible has not recorded a single case of the manifestation of this gift.

In the days of Christ the Pharisees were most critical of His work. When Jesus cast out a devil they said “This fellow doth not cast out devils but by Beelzebub, the prince of the devil” (Matt. 12:22-24). In response Jesus warned that “Whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him neither in this world, neither in the world to come” (Matt. 12:32). It is very sad to know that some Christians of apparent prominence continue to attack the Baptism of the Holy Spirit and the speaking in tongues as the Pharisees attacked Jesus. They would not humble themselves to seek God’s enlightenment on a matter of such importance but try their darnest to hinder those who seek this important truth.

The Bible taught very clearly that Jesus will return for the rapture of the saints. As sure as day follows night we believe this prophesy will be fulfilled. Numerous signs of the end of time, as prophesied in the Bible, have already been manifested. We fervently believe that the second coming of Christ is drawing near. It behoves all Christians to prepare for this great day.

Men have sinned and became mortal with life being plagued by sickness. We accept and believe the bible teaching that by His stripes we are healed, spiritually and physically. We thank God for doctors and the medical science which have been of tremendous benefit and assistance to men but we believe that God is the Greatest Doctor. In practising James 5:14-16 we bear witness to innumerable miracles of healing.

I endeavoured to set down a few thoughts on the belief and practice of full gospel Christians, such as members of our Mission. I pray that the Holy Spirit will guide all those who read this article to read it with open and prayerful mind, so that all may come to accept the truth as taught in the Bible “Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Eph. 4:13).