We have not seen the Spirit of God with our eyes nor touched Him with our hands, yet we know from Scripture and from experience that the Holy Spirit is real and a part of our hope and faith. Still, even with the abiding presence of the Spirit, our incipient theology of the Spirit has seemingly fractured our Church beyond healing. What hope then is there of healing our broken family? God’s greatest gift to His people is the Gift of salvation; salvation which was designed to unite us to God and to our brothers and sisters in Christ. John chapter fifteen makes the vision of our salvation clear; we are to be united to the Father through the work of the Son and through the comforting presence of the Spirit which should result in our loving one another as He has first loved us.
Yet within the Body of Christ there is a great fracture, a great divide, which centers upon our false doctrine of the Holy Spirit and His role in our new life in Christ. Since the turn of the twentieth century, the Pentecostal and Charismatic traditions have left an unquestionable legacy of derision, strife, and strident denominationalism. The multi-stage theology of Baptism in the Holy Spirit has divided the Body into the “have” and “have-not” camps and all too often left churches and individuals at the mercy of the pounding waves of theology and adrift on the dark seas of emotional despair. Yet the record of those who oppose this view is no better. Most notable are the dispensational-fundamentalist theologians who have opposed these multi-stage views of Spirit Baptism, with a loveless approach that has only exacerbated the divide within our Faith. The approach from this branch of our Faith has all too often used the veneer of “Bible teaching” to thinly veil an emotional and reactionary “anti-Charismatic”, “anti-Pentecostal” thrust. And the blame does not end there, for just as one thinks they are free from guilt the light of truth shines bright on the darkness of Evangelical traditionalism. This third group of followers which falls under the general rubric of “Evangelical” chooses many times to disregard this divide in hopes that it will somehow heal itself. Maybe through fear of making things worse or maybe due to a lack of sound teaching from our pulpits, far too many Evangelicals choose to ignore all teachings on Baptism in the Holy Spirit, but ignorance in this case brings not bliss but spiritually dead churchgoers
The vitriolic and often discordant nature of debate has hurt us. It has hamstrung the Body of Christ so that we are no longer known as the disciples who stand in love for one another. The Pentecostal / Charismatic often seeks the individualistic experience of “Spirit” over the bond of peace, dispensationalist all too often pursues “truth” without regard to love, and the Evangelical sits as a dispassionate third party hoping not to be harmed, but never helping to heal the wounds of dissonance. The tradition of conflict and apathy must stop with us, with this generation, with this Body of believers.
We must begin now, together, an effort to recognize that we are united by the one Gift of God into one salvation hope of eternal glory. From what source then can we find healing? First, we must take hope in knowing that we are not the first of God’s people to struggle with disunity. Paul expresses well his own heart in exhorting the church of Ephesus to fight against heretical partisanship and strive for harmony.
Ephesians 4:1-6 (NET)
I, therefore, the prisoner for the Lord, urge you to live worthily of the calling with which you have been called, 4:2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 4:3 making every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4:4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you too were called to the one hope of your calling, 4:5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 4:6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
We are called to a high calling in Christ. There is one God who dwells with us and lives in us. We are called to live in unity; not because it is some extrinsic ideology, but because it is our intrinsic nature imputed to us by Christ our Lord. Have we approached the Holy Spirit with humility? Has our theology been marked by gentleness? Have we shared the hope of Christ in all patience? Have we put up with our brother’s struggles in a manner that reflects Divine love? Secondly, we must find hope in the Holy Spirit. The church at Corinth had one major problem they expressed a zeal for the giftings of God’s Spirit, but did not rejoice in the One Gift given to all, the Gift of salvation; the Gift of the Holy Spirit.
1 Corinthians 12:3-6,13 (NET)
So I want you to understand that no one speaking by the Spirit of God says, “Jesus is cursed,” and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit. 12:4 Now there are different gifts, but the same Spirit. 12:5 And there are different ministries, but the same Lord. 12:6 And there are different results, but the same God who produces all of them in everyone. 12:13 For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body. Whether Jews or Greeks or slaves or free, we were all made to drink of the one Spirit.
No one can confess Jesus as Lord unless he is indwelt by the power and presence of the Holy Spirit. No one can have new life, unless he is Baptized in the Holy Spirit. There is no exception and no breaking of this Divine Law. To be a Christian means nothing less than we have all drunk deeply of the one Spirit of God and until we all recognize that each person has come to the foot of the Cross as a sinner and each person stands in the unity of the Spirit, there will never be a healing from our past hurts and the sin of division. Finally, we must begin to engage one another in honest discussion for the purpose of healing. Pentecostal, Charismatic, Fundamentalist, Evangelical… we must be willing to say we are no longer followers of one man or one tradition or one experience, but we are followers of one Lord, one Faith and one Baptism, and in that common confession of Faith we must join with one another to unite our broken Church, correct our broken theology, and unite with our heavenly Family. God has given us the greatest gift of all, the Gift of Unity, the Gift of the Spirit; let us now live in it!