General Presbytery Adopts Position Paper on Baptism in the Holy Spirit
The annual session of the General Presbytery, meeting prior to the opening of the 48th General Council, reviewed the committee report on the revisions of the Constitution and Bylaws which will go to the Council later this week.
"For some time, we have needed to bring massive revisions to this document for legal and editorial reasons," states George Wood, general secretary for the Assemblies of God. "Revisions also are needed for efficiency of headquarters operations." Following brief discussion, the General Presbytery referred the report on to the Council delegates for action.
In other business, the presbytery adopted a position paper on The Baptism in the Holy Spirit: The Initial Experience and Continuing Evidences of the Spirit-Filled Life. Noting that tongues-speaking Pentecostals have become the second largest family of Christians in the world, surpassed only by the Roman Catholic Church, the paper links the explosion of church growth around the world with Pentecostal and Charismatic groups who teach the necessity of speaking in tongues as the initial physical evidence of being filled with the Holy Spirit.
The paper states, "The very essence of Pentecostalism is the recognition that the experience of conversion, while supremely precious, does not exhaust God's supply of what is available to the believer. Scripture clearly states that all believers have the Holy Spirit (Rom 8:9, 16). However, the constant hunger for 'more of God' is the heartbeat of Pentecostalism."
It recounts that from its founding, the General Council of the Assemblies of God has recognized the baptism in the Holy Spirit as an experience distinct from and subsequent to the experience of the new birth. It has also recognized that the initial physical evidence of the baptism in the Spirit is speaking in tongues. The expression 'initial physical evidence of the baptism in the Holy Spirit' refers to the first and immediate outward, observable sign that the Holy Spirit has come in filling power. However, the position paper states, "There are many other evidences that a life continutes to be filled with the Spirit and is growing and maturing spiritually." One of these, praying in the Spirit (intercessory and worship expressions in tongues) should be a continuing part of the new Spirit-filled life. Likewise, every Spirit-filled believer can and should expect to be used in supernatural ways in some, though not all, of the gifts of the Spirit.
The paper also notes that while "we cannot agree with some who teach that the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22, 23) alone are sufficient evidence that a believer has been baptized in the Holy Spirit. But we do affirm that such character qualities (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith and faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control) should be seen in the lives of those who have been baptized in the Holy Spirit. After baptism in the Spirit, the fruit of the Spirit should develop alongside a growing ministry empowered by the gifts of the Holy Spirit."
This new position paper will be available in printed form as well as on the Assemblies of God website (www.ag.org) by the end of the year.
General Secretary Wood says this represents a "strong affirmation of the position that speaking in tongues as the Spirit gives utterance is the initial physical evidence of the baptism in the Holy Spirit." He urges all pastors to proclaim this vital doctrine in their pulpits and teach it in Sunday school classes.
The General Presbytery session adjourned Monday evening (August 9).