Thoughts on Galatians, part 4

Backtracking to Galatians 3:5, "Does God give you His Spirit and work miracles among you because you observe the law or because you believe what you heard?" gives us today's thought.

When I was studying French, I was in a program designed for missionaries, which gave me the opportunity to meet dozens of missionaries going to many different French-speaking countries. Most of them were with various Baptist organizations, and very few of us were Pentecostal. I guess we stood out a bit, although none of us were obnoxious about it.

One day, after a close friendship had developed with another young lady there, she mentioned that for a brief time, when she first got saved, she went to a Pentecostal church. Her family was completely unchurched, so she had no inhibitions about which church she attended. She told me that she really enjoyed the Pentecostal church and loved the people there. Then, she dropped her voice and said that her husband didn't know about it, because she later moved to a different area, went to the Baptist university there and met her husband.. The most intriguing part of her "confession" was that she had prayed to be filled with the Spirit for a long time, without success. She sort of laughed and said, "It's just as well. We would never have been accepted into our missions program, if I spoke in tongues." Then she continued, "I was so new in Christ back then, I was soaking up the Word and really growing spiritually. I always wondered what it was that I was doing wrong, that the Lord wouldn't fill me. Eventually, I just gave it up. " She gave me a wobbly smile.

I was surprised, both by her "secret" and by her feelings of rejection, that somehow she wasn't "good enough" for the baptism of the Holy Spirit. I was glad to have the opportunity to tell her that the baptism of the Holy Spirit isn't rewarded to those who deserve it, but it is a gift. As a matter of fact, the whole book of I Corinthians is a rebuke to a church operating in ALL the gifts, but was so unholy that Paul was pretty harsh at times; they certainly didn't merit the gifts of the Spirit with all their carnal ways. Plus, the Bible gives us examples of people who were filled with Spirit from the moment they came to Christ. What had they done in those few seconds to "deserve" the baptism of the Spirit? Nothing, it is just a gift that God gives us, freely of His choosing.

The trouble is that even in our Pentecostal churches, we often mistakenly give the impression that you can work your way into the baptism of the Holy Spirit. I've talked to friends that grew up feeling rejected because they weren't filled (particularly at camp, where it is so heavily emphasized). They become convinced that they weren't good enough to merit that ultimate sign of God's approval.

The good news is that we don't buy our Pentecostal experience with all of our righteousness; you can follow every letter of the law, but "God's blessing does not depend on our performance." (Jerry Bridges, The Discipline of Grace) The fact is, it's not about you, it's about HIM.
Ariel Rainey