1 John 4:13-18

In the previous study, we looked at the fact that God is love itself and how that should relate to our practical lives. John now reassures us once more of our own salvation, by repeating the point that we have the Holy Spirit living in us, making it a real and authentic relationship that we have with God Himself. When Jesus was living on this earth as a man, His Father spoke from the heavens as He was coming up out of the water at His baptism. "At that moment, heaven was opened and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on Him. And a voice from heaven said, 'This is my Son, whom I love; with Him I am well pleased'." (Matthew 3:16-17) Similarly, when Jesus was "transfigured" in front of His "inner circle" of disciples, a voice was heard from heaven. "While He was still speaking, a bright cloud enveloped them and a voice from the cloud said, 'This is my Son, whom I love; with Him I am well pleased. Listen to Him!'" (Matthew 17:5) God the Father knew that His Son needed reassurance of His love. If Jesus needed reassurance, how much more do we need assurance that we are secure in our heavenly family, especially when the earth seems so insecure all around us.

1 John 4:13

Baptism in the Holy Spirit

One of the most exciting blessings of our salvation is the baptism in the Holy Spirit, which is God’s way of bringing us into the realm of His spiritual power. God wants us to enjoy the new life that He has given us. He also wants us to be effective messengers in transmitting the good news to others. The early church (as described in the "Acts of the Apostles") was powerful because its members had all received the baptism in the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. Previously, before He left the earth, Jesus had breathed on His disciples in order that they might receive His power and presence as He sent them out as witnesses. (John 20:22) Once He had been raised from the dead and taken up into heaven to be with His Father, Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to fill His body (the newly established church) with His power to enable them to live the life of God on earth. (Acts 2:1-4)

All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.” (Acts 2:4)

“'In the last days', God says, 'I will pour out my Spirit on all people; your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions and your old men will dream dreams'.” (Acts 2:17)

The fullness of God

Let us look at five questions which will help us to understand the Scriptures and lead us into all the blessings of the fullness of God.

1. Who is to be baptised?

This blessing is not just for a select few, but for all believers. “Paul... came to Ephesus and found some disciples. He asked them, ‘Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed [in Jesus as the Christ]?’ They said, ‘No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.’ He asked, ‘Into what what then were you baptised?’ They said, ‘Into John’s baptism'. Paul said, ‘John performed a baptism of repentance, [continually] telling the people to believe in Him who was coming after him, that is, [to confidently accept and joyfully believe] in Jesus [the Messiah and Saviour].' After hearing this they were baptised [again, this time] in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them and they began speaking in [unknown] tongues [languages] and prophesying.” (Acts 19:1-6 Amplified version)

Peter and John also clearly said that God wanted to bless us, not only with the gift of salvation, but also with the gift of the Holy Spirit. "When they had come down [to Samaria] they prayed for them [the Samaritans] that they might receive the Holy Spirit. For as yet He had fallen upon none of them. They had only been baptised in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then they laid hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 8:14-17 - New King James version)

2. Why be baptised in the Holy Spirit?

The Holy Spirit came, first and foremost, to point us towards Jesus. Whenever we have any questions about a person, their teaching or their ministry, we need to check out if they are pointing us towards Jesus or towards themselves. We shall also “know them by their fruit”. This refers to the fruit of the Spirit, which appears in the lives of all those in whom the Spirit of God lives. We should not confuse fruit with gifts. “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” (Galatians 5:22-23)

The fruit of the Spirit is all important when compared to His gifts. Remember: “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love... If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge; if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.” (1 Corinthians 13:1-3)

But there are many other benefits of being baptised in the Spirit:

  • We are enabled to pray "in the Spirit" and sing praises "in the Spirit" - as distinct from normal prayer and praise expressed in our own language. (Romans 8:26-27; 1 Corinthians 14:15)
  • Through the baptism in the Holy Spirit, we receive power and ability. (Acts 1:8; Acts 9:17-22)
  • Our own spirit becomes more sensitive to the “voice of God’s Spirit”. (Acts 13:2; Mark 13:11)
  • We become available for the gifts of the Spirit. (Acts 19:6)
  • We develop a deeper understanding of God’s power in our lives and the responsibility that goes with that. (1 Corinthians 14:1; 1 Corinthians 1:5-7; Acts 1:8)
  • We begin to live our daily lives "in the Spirit" and, by His power are constantly "being re-filled with the Spirit". (Ephesians 5:18; Colossians 3:16)
  • We want to talk about Jesus more and to make sure that people know the truth. (1 John 4:14)

3. How do we receive the baptism in the Holy Spirit?

God baptises believers in the Spirit by sovereign acts of grace as He chooses. It happened to the disciples on the day of Pentecost with tongues of fire. (Acts 2:1-4) When Peter was later speaking to a Roman centurion (Cornelius) with his family and friends present, they began spontaneously praising God in all sorts of different languages. (Acts 10:44-46). At other times, it was received by the apostles laying their hands on believers. For example, when Peter and John went to Samaria (Acts 8:14-17) and when Paul went to Ephesus. (Acts 19:6)

Individually, however, we receive the baptism in the Holy Spirit in the same way as we receive all God's blessings: we ask in faith, believing. In Luke 11:13, Jesus says that, if ordinary human parents know how to give good gifts to their children, how much more is God the Father prepared to give the Holy Spirit to His own children. So we see that it is important to ask Him for the gift of the Holy Spirit. Having prayed and believing that God has heard our prayer, we can begin to praise God and worship Him with thanksgiving. Receiving the Holy Spirit is a powerful means of drawing near to His presence. “Come near to God and He will come near to you.” (James 4:8) As we become aware of the presence of the Holy Spirit, there is a breaking within us and our spirit springs up to respond to the Spirit of God. At this point, an anointed servant of God may lay hands upon us to impart the Holy Spirit, just as Paul did in Acts 19:6, but this is not essential.

4. Must those who receive the baptism in the Holy Spirit always speak in tongues?

In 1 Corinthians 14:5, Paul says, “I would like every one of you to speak in tongues, but I would rather have you prophesy.” Paul is saying that prophecy is a gift of enormous benefit to the whole church, but speaking in tongues is also useful. We can certainly do both! When we receive the baptism in the Holy Spirit, we are enabled to speak in tongues and can expect to speak in tongues. But, as with all actions inspired by faith, the flow of the Holy Spirit can be hindered by prejudice and fear. According to James 3:8, the tongue is the hardest member of the body to tame. God wants to demonstrate His mighty power in the toughest member first. So, expect to speak in tongues when you are baptised in the Holy Spirit. (Expect also to prophesy!)

As the Holy Spirit rests upon us, He stimulates us to praise the Lord. Our own words may seem inadequate to praise God as we should and the Holy Spirit will lead and encourage us, but never forces us, to speak in tongues. He will enable our organs of speech to form strange words and syllables as we yield to His prompting. Once we begin, we should expect our speech to be spontaneous and fluent. We probably will not understand the words we are saying, but nor should we expect to, “For any who speak in a tongue do not speak to other people but to God. Indeed, no one understands them because they utter mysteries by the Spirit.” (1 Corinthians 14:2) As we pray, our minds should be focused either on His word or listening to see what the Father is saying. We can meditate or listen to a worship tape. All of this helps us to concentrate and stick at praying, until such time as our spirits are so revived that nothing will stop us praying and praising!

5. Have you received the Holy Spirit since you believed? (Acts 19:2)

Since it is within every believer's power to confess their sin (in order to have a clean conscience before God and man) and to ask for the gift of the Holy Spirit, we believe that it is God’s plan that all should experience the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Nonetheless, over the course of history, there have been some objections raised regarding the need for this baptism or the way in which it should happen.

Historical objections

Over the years, some scriptures have been used to discount the experience of the baptism in the Holy Spirit. By understanding them, we will be able to help others overcome these hindrances. Remembering that baptism means "to be immersed" will help us.

“I already have the Spirit”.

When we’re "born again", the Holy Spirit comes to live in us. (Romans 8:16) Consequently, asking a question such as: “Would you like the Holy Spirit to live in you?” can seem, at best, redundant or, at worst, even offensive to those who already have Him. But there has been widespread confusion over the use of the word "baptism" in different contexts. Jesus said: "I will ask the Father and He will give you another counsellor to be with you for ever, the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept Him, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him. But you know Him, for He lives with you and will be in you." (John 14:16-17) This seems to imply that the Holy Spirit will be given to those who already know God, in a way that cannot be apprehended by those who do not yet know Him.

“I’ve already received the Spirit’s baptism”

For by one Spirit, we were all baptised into one body.” (1 Corinthians 12:13) This refers to new spiritual birth, when the Holy Spirit places the believer into the body of Christ. John the Baptist used water to baptise people as a mark of their repentance (turning around) from sin. But he went on to speak about Jesus coming to baptise people "with the Holy Spirit and fire". (Matthew 3:11) Many, therefore, understand the "baptism of the Spirit" to mark entry into the body of Christ at their new (spiritual) birth), whilst the "baptism of Jesus" is given, after we have received Him, into the Spirit.

This "baptism of Jesus" is an immersion in the Spirit (inside us and all over us) to do a work within us and through us, wherever we go. We need to be totally immersed in the Holy Spirit, so that He can be involved in our lives and we can be involved in His life.

Do all speak in tongues?

At the end of his first letter to believers at Corinth (chapter twelve), Paul seems to imply that the answer to this question is: “No, not all speak in tongues." (1 Corinthians 12:30) However, Paul is referring here to the gifts that have been given to the church for the purpose of "edifying" (teaching and building people up) in the body. He has written two separate "lists", comparing the difference between speaking in tongues and the gift of tongues. As we have covered, speaking and praying in tongues edifies the individual. (1 Corinthians 14:4)

In the next verse, Paul says that, if a gift of tongues is followed by an interpretation, it is equivalent to speaking a prophecy, so far as "edifying" (or building up) the church is concerned. When we receive the baptism in the Holy Spirit, we receive the gift of tongues as a personal means of building up ourselves. A similar gift, when used in a church gathering together with an interpretation, is the same as prophecy. It brings "edification", exhortation and comfort to the whole body. Everyone has the ability to speak in tongues from their baptism in the Spirit, but not everyone will be given the opportunity to stand up and deliver a message to the entire body. Using a personal gift may help the individual, but it won't be much use to the body as a whole. Remember: we must have a desire for others to receive all that God has for them and we ourselves must be equally open to receiving what God has for us.

1 John 4:16

Rely on His love

God longs for us to know that He loves us and He has gone to great lengths to show us. We’ve read about it, heard about it, talked about it, possibly even preached about it, but not many of us seem to actually believe it! John is saying here that we are to rely on God’s love: the love that caused Jesus to lay down His life for us and to experience for Himself all the pains and weaknesses that we experience. It is the love that says to us (even when we feel so dirty): "Come to Me and get all that you need; lay down all your burdens and receive My mercy - My grace to help you in your time of need". God is so in love with us that He has given His all so that we can have all we need by way of healing, wisdom, wealth, strength, peace and love. He has taken care of our past, present and future. All we have to do is believe and receive this amazing love. It has already been seen in the fact that Jesus gave up His life for us. It has been released to us in the name of Jesus Christ and we can rely on it. It has been poured out through His word and we can meditate on this verse (and others like it) over and over, saying it to ourselves again and again, all day long: "I believe the love that Jesus has for me". Once it gets down into our hearts from our minds, we will be changed for ever.

Sources of fear

Fear can be more dominant than faith and is the complete opposite to it. If we do not have faith in the midst of a situation, then fear is active. "Fear has torment." We know that fear comes from the devil because Jesus said: "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I have come that they may have life and have it to the full." (John 10:10) So, every negative fear is from the enemy of our lives. If we are full of fear, we cannot enjoy our lives. "God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of a sound mind." (2 Timothy 1:7) Fear is a spirit which makes us weak, whereas God wants us to be powerful. Thoughts provoke feelings which, when we accept them, become fearful thoughts developing raw fear and giving physical responses of shaking, trembling, sweating, a dry mouth, palpitations and emotional responses such as, "what if...?" Fear leads to us becoming downcast, discouraged; disappointed and dismayed. It leads to dischord, disaster, disease and depression. All of this is just where the devil wants us. Fear is what releases the power of the devil in our lives whilst faith releases the power of God in our lives. Do we put more trust in what the devil says than what the word of God says?

Physical danger

"I will say of the Lord: 'He is my refuge and my fortress, my God in whom I trust. Surely He will save me from the fowler’s snare and from the deadly pestilence.'" (Psalm 91:2-3)

Our bodies have strong, chemical reactions to certain physical stimuli - notably fear - that help to prepare us for dealing with a dangerous situation. A typical reaction is the so-called "fight or flight" response that triggers the release of such things as adrenaline and cortisol, resulting in an increased heart rate, breathing rate and a rise in blood pressure. Where is God in such situations? Well, we can recognise that these responses are part of His grace to us in dangerous situations and learn to use our reactions to best advantage in running or standing our ground. At the same time, we can see our response as an indication that God is standing with us as well. Our lives are in His hands and a big part of trusting Him is allowing Him to have control of how long or short our lives may be. Are we willing to accept that He knows best and to stick with Him, even through the "valley of the shadow of death"? (Psalm 23:4) If so, we can sense Him right beside us, guiding our reactions and intuitions in the best, possible way.

Fear from false evidence

Fear can also be produced by mental stimuli: memories of past experiences or the "fear of the unknown", when our minds conjure up and imagine all sorts of potential, future scenarios that may or may not actually happen. Such fears can cause us to shrink back from God’s best, For example, if we have experienced rejection in a relationship, we may seek to keep away from being involved with people. We may resist God's call to work in a ministry team because we don’t want that pain again. Fear causes us to be more and more focused on ourselves, not allowing anyone to get close. We fear that people may take advantage of us and miss out so much on what God has for us, due to fear. Such fears attack our minds and cause us to think "junk". We focus on the "never" lies: "I could 'never' do that"; "he ‘never’ does anything for me"; "things ‘never’ work out for me"; "I’ll ‘never’ reach that standard"; "I’ll ‘never’ be as good as her" and all the rest. We need to remember that everything is subject to change - except God Himself and His love.

Fear of not pleasing God

A big fear that haunts many people is the fear of not pleasing God. We often condemn ourselves for not praying enough or not knowing our Bible well enough. We cannot remember things as fluently as others or we think that we don’t know as much as other Christians. We find it difficult to talk about our faith and fear that we are not a "good witness". We find it hard to love others as much as we think we should. These fears can lead to us becoming very legalistic and running our lives by rules in an effort to measure our success. The trouble is that it only highlights our failure in our own eyes. "This is a covenant not of written laws, but of the Spirit. The old written covenant ends in death but, under the new covenant, the Spirit gives life." (2 Corinthians 3:6 - New Living Translation). We need to come to our Father in faith - with no fear - recognising that He knows all about us and still wants us as His children. "Jesus said, 'Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the kingdom of heaven belongs to those who are like these children.'” (Matthew 19:14) Jesus gave us a very good example in children because they really enjoy life; they forgive easily, don’t make mountains out of mole hills, get over things quickly, don’t question parental judgement even when they don’t understand and are excited about what they are doing. So many of us Christians are in the kingdom of God, but not enjoying it because we are so fearful all the time!

Live free of fear

We need to see that "there is no fear in love". (1 John 4:18) Love and fear cannot live together in peace. As we accept the love of God and allow it to drench our lives, so fear, dread and terror are gradually pushed away and excluded. If we really know that God loves us, even if we have done things wrong, we shall start to allow Him more and more responsibility and control in our lives over what we think or say or do. As we do so, we shall find that faith is replacing fear. We can reinforce this change by speaking it out of our mouths: "I am God’s child and He is pleased with me." We need to constantly remind ourselves that He will take care of us. He is "the author and perfector of our faith". (Hebrews 12:2) Increasingly, we shall look forward every day to all that the Holy Spirit is leading us into.

Choose thoughts: If we want to get rid of fear we have to control our thoughts, casting down wrong thoughts and choosing right ones. God has given us a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7) so we can choose what we think. We have to think on purpose and, if we do not like our thought patterns, if they are destructive or worrying, then we can stop them by speaking right things out of our mouths. Thinking is just silent self-talk, but we can control our thoughts by speaking them out loud; then we become more aware of any "stinking thinking" and replace it with God’s word.

Talk to ourselves! Talking out loud can be a positive reinforcement for our thinking. Try saying phrases such as: "God is on my side"; "God loves me"; "God is working in my life"; "The devil is a liar and a thief"; "I have the attitude of Christ." (Philippians 2:5) Repeating things that we know to be true in this way may seem crazy to start with, but it can literally save our lives and stop an onslaught from the enemy.

Change friends: If we tend towards having negative, fearful thoughts, we cannot afford to get together with friends who are equally negative, even though they may wallow in our self-pity with us. We may need to change our friends and find people who will speak God's word to us and encourage us to draw near to God for ourselves. (1 Corinthians 15:33)

Worship music: The power of worship should never be underestimated. When the devil is telling us that something bad may happen, we need to remember that he is a liar and loves nothing more than to reduce believers to a state of debilitating fear. At such times, we need to get ourselves into a position of worship in whatever way suits us best. We can then use that attitude and time to quieten ourselves, focusing on Jesus, listening for His voice, maybe reading the psalms and writing down all that He shares with us.

Take responsibility: Let's admit what we have done wrong, especially when we have been totally self-obsessed in our thinking and our desire to indulge or pamper ourselves to the exclusion of others. We won’t change from fear to faith by focusing on ourselves. God knows our hearts and, when we are feeling under condemnation, it sucks the spiritual life out of us and does not make anything better. Jesus died for needy, bad-tempered, unloving, back-sliders. We just have to humble ourselves, receive forgiveness and be filled with His Spirit again.

Confess faults to one another: This is a great fear-breaker. Our first thought may be: "but what will they think?" However, we need to get our sin out in the light because fear feeds on secrets and things in dark places. Fears grow and fester and do more damage in the dark and secret places. (James 5:16) We need to be open and vulnerable to others; we are human beings not superwomen.

It is possible to live free of fear in this dangerous and unpredictable world because God wants us to walk in faith at all times. "Without faith it is impossible to please God." (Hebrews 11:6) He promises protection in every situation - as we know from Psalm 91:1-3. This promise of protection is for those who "dwell" (or remain) in the secret place of God - as seen in John 15:1-17. We are called to live in constant, continual union and communication with the Father through Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit living in us. As we keep His word and obey His voice, we "dwell" in the Lord and can live without dread of what the enemy may do. The devil may still try to trip us up, but God has promised that there is always a way of escape in every circumstance. (1 Corinthians 10:13) If we look at the world around us and it looks dangerous to us, then we need to spend more time in His word and in prayer, until our trust in God and His love overcomes our fear. The word of God needs to be louder in our hearts than the lies of the enemy in our heads. We need to draw closer to the Lord until we know that we are resting in "the shadow of the Almighty" and, no matter how dangerous this world becomes, He will deliver us. Then we shall be able to say that "we know and can rely on the love God has for us". (1 John 4:16)

Remember what we have learned previously: that the greater one lives in us. (1 John 4:12) Drive out every thought of fear, dread or terror and call on the Holy Spirit to fill you up with His faith. (Mark 11:22)

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