Imagine a powerful awakening of the gospel throughout our globalized world. What would it look like for the Church, the one Body of Christ, to expand in this generation? In this series of articles, we are proposing that it will demand a multitude of conversion experiences in which repentant sinners are Spirit baptized. This, and this this alone, has the potential for expanding the true Church. This is the dream of all Biblically informed Christians who have a passion for world-wide evangelism. To make this affirmation, it is important to not only define Spirit baptism but also to locate Spirit baptism within its redemptive-theological setting. In other words, when does Spirit baptism occur and what else is occurring at the same time? Titus 3:3-7 provides a succinct, albeit not fully comprehensive, answer to this question. In this article, we will begin our consideration of the need for Spirit baptism.
As the Apostle Paul was writing to Titus, he reminded Titus of the universal problem of sin. In verse 3, the Apostle Paul listed a series of sinful behaviors which reveal a far deeper problem, the innate depravity of man. He wrote, “For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another.” While this list is not exhaustive, it adequately positions every person in our world today. Everyone can identify with this list through personal experience because everyone is a sinner. “Everyone” includes the missionary, new converts to Christianity, and even those who want nothing to do with Christ or His gospel message. The Apostle Paul affirmed that we cannot appreciate a message of deliverance if there is nothing to be delivered from. Everyone desperately needs to be delivered from the depravity of our fallen nature and from the many sinful evidences of that nature.
Eventually, the Apostle Paul will look to the Holy Spirit’s work in salvation, but he began where any serious thought of evangelism must begin. He located all humanity in a very negative place. His teaching stands in great contradistinction from the prevailing optimistic worldviews of our day. Much of our world assumes themselves prepared to engage the moral world without Christ. By contrast, modern missionaries view every person from every culture as being sinners in need of a Savior. The missionary identifies with the unrepentant sinner in many ways, yet a fundamental difference exists. The missionary has experienced Spirit baptism and its transformative effects and the unbelievers that the missionary encounters have yet to discover the power of the gospel.
Every person who has experienced the effects of the Gospel is strategically positioned to help those who have yet to believe.
In verse 5, the Apostle Paul clearly affirmed that salvation is found in Christ alone, “He saved us.” In this context, the salvation in view is deliverance from the consequences of sin. Certainly, this includes sin’s eternal consequences given that the result of this salvation is “the hope of eternal life” (vs. 7) but it also includes deliverance from the daily practices of sin, thus Christians are able to devote themselves to “good works” (vs. 8). This life-changing, transformative salvation is clearly based in Christ’s mercy (vs.5). Mercy is simplistically defined as God’s act of not giving mankind what we deserve. The Apostle Paul was adamant that the message that a missionary must proclaim begins with an awareness of the universal problem of sin.
Any powerful awakening of the gospel will begin with the proclamation of the gospel to those who are bound to sin and darkness. Every person who has experienced the effects of the gospel is strategically positioned to help those who have yet to believe. In our final article, we will consider more carefully what happens at the moment of salvation.