The Evangelical Universalist Forum

The Neglected Basics of Biblical Faith

Modern Christians tend to treat baptism as a mere initiation rite through which the Holy Spirit is presumed by faith to indwell the believer in an automatic way that requires no confirming experience. But Paul’s spirituality is far more mystical than that, far more experiential than most churches seem to realize.

For example, consider these 2 neglected aspects of his theology of baptism:
(1) “As many of you as were baptized into Christ have been clothed with Christ (Galatians 3:27).”
The experience of being clothed with Christ warrants this astounding mystical claim: “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me (2:19-20).”
Baptized believers who qualify as “children of God” and are clothed with the Spirit are thus presumed to live divinely guided lives: “All who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God (Romans 8:14).” It is as we experience the divinely imparted “fruit of the Spirit” that we are empowered to “be led by the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23, 25).”

(2) Paul links baptism with the impartation of the indwelling Holy Spirit: “In one Spirit we were all baptized into one Body…and we were all made to drink of one Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:13).” Drinking the Spirit is experiential language. Paul implicitly contrasts being drunk with wine with being intoxicated by the experience of the arrival of the Holy Spirit: “Do not get drunk with wine…but be filled with the Spirit (Ephesians 5:18).” In 1 Corinthians 12:13 baptism is presumed to be accompanied by immersion in the Spirit, an immersion that empowers us to function as the eyes, hands, and feet of Christ’s Body through the operation of spiritual gifts.

In my next planned post I will document just how experiential Paul intends the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit to be.

I agree. I wrote some poems to describe the mystical experience of union and being crucified with Christ. Here’s a couple:


In union with You upon the cross
As love’s arrow pierces my heart
I die to myself and suffer loss
Then given a new life and start

Buried to my old self I then rise
Vision is now clear as I can see
New self reflects in Your eyes
The person I am and want to be

Looking deeper into Your Face
Beauty becomes brighter inside
With no more wrath only grace
In union with You I now confide

Lost In Love

I am in love and I don’t know with who
Dead to myself as I am lost in You
Drunk in Beauty my heart is made new
Sweet Divine Mystery I’m in love with You

Reason is gone, love’s arrow goes through
Opposites unite as both sides hold true
United with love we are no longer two
Lost in this ocean I’m in love with You

The type of union here is a close intimacy. Like how a father/mother is in love with their baby child. It’s a bonding of closeness. Here’s the Christian artist KB singing a song to his baby daughter about falling in love with her:

This can be found in here by Alvin Plantinga:

The key to holy living is falling head over heals in love with God

Quick Summary

Some in our church have a difficult time reading the writings of John Piper. Although Piper is worth every ounce of effort, the casual reader may appreciate reading this book by Sam Storms more. If you find yourself getting lost in the writing style of Piper then Storms will be a breath of fresh air. The key statement in Pleasures Evermore is its first: The key to holiness is falling in love. The first five chapters build the theological foundation for the practicality of the latter chapters.

In the words of the poet and Sufi Mystic Rumi

Close your eyes…fall in love…stay there

(2) Paul teaches that the initial regenerating work of the Holy Spirit must not be accepted on the basis of reassuring theological 'talk" or expressed beliefs; rather it must be an actual experience of divine power. Believers are not told specifically how they can know that the Spirit has begun to dwell within them. But “miracles” are expected as corroborating evidence that believers have truly received the Holy Spirit:

“Are you so foolish? Having started with the Spirit, are you now ending with the flesh? DID YOU EXPERIENCE SO MUCH FOR NOTHING?..Well then, does God supply you with the Spirit and work miracles among you by your doing the works of the Law or by believing what you heard (Galatians 3:4-5).”

Thus, Paul reminds Corinthian believers that their assurance of salvation is not based on faith that the Spirit has done His work in their lives, but on the recalled “demonstration of the Spirit and of power” confirming the Gospel when they first heard it preached:

“My speech and my proclamation were not with plausible words of wisdom, but with A DEMONSTRATION OF THE SPIRIT AND OF POWER, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on the power of God (1 Corinthians 2:4-5).”

Thus, saving faith is based not merely on correct theological “talk” or expressed doctrinal beliefs, but on the question of whether believers have actually had this life-changing experience of the Spirit’s power. Paul speaks harshly of those who minimize the essential experiential dimension of true faith:

“I will come to you soon, if the Lord wills, and I will find out not the talk of these ar\rogant people, BUT THEIR POWER. For the kingdom of God depends not on talk, but on power (1 Corinthians 4:19-20).”

Churches that reduce faith to an intellectual trust and commitment without admitting the troubling subjectivity of whether and when they have received the Spirit should be avoided:

“…holding to the outward form of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid them! (2 Tim. 3:5).”

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