The Holy Spirit and Conversion in the Writings of Paul: Barnett & Jensen

© Anzea Publishers 1973
This article is an excerpt that was first published in The quest for power | neo-pentecostals and the New Testament by Paul Barnett and Peter Jensen (Sydney: Anzea Publishers, 1973, p. 42-55). It is reproduced here with permission.

Paul’s most heated letter is to the Galatians. In his absence they had moved away from the gospel of Christ which stated that God forgives people through their faith in Jesus. Certain Jewish Christians had been teaching the Galatians that they must also be circumcised. Paul points out that justification is no longer a gift from God if anything beyond mere accepting the gift (faith) is required. The gospel promises justification on the basis of acceptance (= faith-in-Jesus); the Galatians, by making the basis achievement, had in fact said, ‘we must contribute to our own salvation… the death of Jesus is inadequate’. So incensed is the apostle that he pronounces a curse from God on such teaching.

Faith-in-Jesus, not works of the law, means justification

Yet [we] who know that a man is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ, and not by works of the law, because by works of the law shall no one be justified (Gal. 2:16).
Quite clearly one cannot add anything to faith-in-Jesus.

Justification by faith alone is God’s characteristic way of entering into relationships with men. The ‘father’ of the Jews, Abraham, was justified by faith (3:6-8), a fact significant for the Jewish teachers who demanded Jewish circumcision as a requirement for justification. Further, those who believe in Jesus are the ‘sons of Abraham’ (3:7), that is, they have a relationship with God like Abraham’s.

God promised Abraham that the nations (Gentiles) would be blessed through him (3:8). Centuries later as Gentiles like the Galatians believed in Jesus they became sons of Abraham (3:9, 14). To undergo circumcision was to perform a work of the law, which is to be under a curse, since it is not possible to be perfected by works. But Christ in his death has become a curse, and has redeemed us from the curse of breaking the law. Thus those who believe in Jesus, rather than the circumcised, are the true descendants of Abraham (3:9, 14).

Faith-in-Jesus, not works of the law, makes us sons of God

You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus (3:26, own translation).
God adopts us into his family as sons because he has redeemed us from the curse of the law:

When the time had fully come God sent forth his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as his sons (4:4-5).
God has changed our status from slaves to sons, by adoption, through faith in Jesus (4:1-5). God not only changes our status to sons, he also gives us the attitude of sons. Because of our adoption God gives us the Spirit of his Son so that we might, with Jesus, regard God as our ‘Abba’, our ‘dear Father’.

Because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying ‘Abba! Father!’ (4:6).
It must not be thought that being redeemed, being adopted, receiving the Spirit are different and successive events, divided from one another by the passing of time. No! We have all these things ‘in Christ’, that is, when we exercise faith in him. Redemption, sonship, the Holy Spirit are all ours, then and there.

This is established as follows.

Faith-in-Jesus, not works of the law, brings the Holy Spirit into our lives

Having referred to the proclamation of Christ crucified Paul inquires:

Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law, or by hearing with faith? (3:2).
The ‘hearing with faith’ refers to the message about Christ crucified. When the message is heard and believed the Spirit comes. This truth is restated three verses later in the form of a question:

Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by the works of the law, or by hearing with faith? (3:5).
Clearly God ‘supplies’ the Spirit to those who ‘hear with faith’ the message about Christ crucified. Paul’s word for ‘supplies’ means ‘supply fully, richly’. Faith in Jesus attracts the fullness of the Spirit as surely as an electromagnet attracts iron filings.

* * * *
The apostle is clearly attacking the addition of works to faith-in-Jesus. Faith-in-Jesus justifies the sinner and redeems the accused. Faith-in-Jesus confers the status of son of God on the former slave. Faith-in-Jesus brings the Spirit into our lives and enables us to regard the creator with the confidence enjoyed by Jesus—‘Abba, dear Father’. [1]

To add anything to faith-in-Jesus puts God in our debt, destroys his chosen method of having fellowship with us, places us again under the law and its curse, expels the Spirit and reintroduces the flesh. The apostle’s severest warnings are for those who denigrate faith-alone-in-Jesus or who add anything to it.

Love, the uniquely Christian attitude of concern for others, is impossible to the person in the flesh (5:18-21). Rather, the Spirit comes in response to faith-in-Jesus (5:5); faith energizes love (5:6) because the fruit of the Spirit (who is attracted by faith-in-Jesus) is love (5:22).

A spiritual, others-centred life is possible only for the person who lives by faith-in-Jesus. The old Pentecostal who demands tongues speaking in addition to faith-in-Jesus or the neo-pentecostal who prescribes ‘subsequence-consequence’ in addition to faith-in-Jesus may do well to meditate on the implications of Paul’s letter to the Galatians and his denunciation of additions to faith-in-Jesus.

The conversion watershed: 1 Corinthians 6:11

In context the apostle is referring to men whose starkly evil behaviour will exclude them from the kingdom of God—idolators, thieves, drunkards, etc. He continues, dramatically, ‘and such were some of you’. ‘Were’ indicates, first, that such evil was a pattern for some of his readers and, second, that a sharp break in the pattern had occurred. What, we may ask, happened?

You were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God (6:11).
Washed, sanctified, justified are in the Greek aorist tense which signifies a single or complete event. These events, then, marked the break with the old patterns. The verbs are variously describing initial Christian commitment (perhaps baptism?). ‘Washed’ (from their sins), ‘sanctified’ (set apart for God in holiness), ‘justified’ (forgiven) describe different facets of what it means to become a Christian.

The instruments of these verbs are, firstly, the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, that is, the name as God’s victory in Jesus over evil (see Acts 10:43), and secondly, the Spirit of our God. Habitual sinners are washed, sanctified, justified by the name of the Lord Jesus and the Spirit of God.

The point is that a great single event is being described. It appears to us that in practice many neo-pentecostals put so much emphasis on the alleged baptism that Christian conversion sounds tame indeed. The apostle had a profound respect for the unbreakable power of sin, so that for him effective repentance and a knowledge of God as ‘dear Father’ were the real evidence of the leadership of the Holy Spirit in a man’s life. It is because a less-than-Pauline view of the power of sin prevails today that conversion to Christ is so casually regarded. We believe the New Testament teaches that Christian conversion by the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God is the baptism with the Spirit of God prophesied by the Baptist.

The Holy Spirit as arrabon: 2 Corinthians 1:21-22

In context Paul is saying that he is a man of his word because God is true to his word. God’s fidelity is demonstrated in the Son of God who fulfils all God’s promises. More, his fidelity is also demonstrated by his manner of dealing with us now in our relationship with the Son of God.

Now he that stablisheth us with you in Christ, and anointed us, is God; Who also sealed us, and gave us the earnest (arrabon) of the Spirit in our hearts (2 Cor. 1:21-22, RV).
The rather stilted but accurate Revised Version distinguishes between the tenses of the verbs. ‘Stablisheth’ is present tense, indicating God’s ongoing work of imparting certainty in our hearts about Christ. We could paraphrase thus: ‘He who makes us sure about Christ’ (literally ‘Christ-wards’) is God. God continues to impart his certainty because of the decisive event in the past whose many facets include: ‘anointed’, ‘sealed’, given the ‘earnest’ (arrabon) of the Spirit. These three verbs are aorist and point to the decisive event of Christian conversion. Thus we could refer to the text: ‘He who continues to make us certain about Christ, having anointed us, sealed us and given us the first instalment of his Spirit in our hearts, is God.’

‘Anointed’ (= ‘Christed’) in the original is clearly cognate with ‘Christ’. As priests and kings were anointed with oil and ‘the Christ’ anointed with the Holy Spirit, so also are Christians ‘anointed’ (‘Christed’) with the Holy Spirit. What is meant by this? We suggest that the meaning is: ‘God… anointed us as his people.’ He appointed us to be his ‘Christ’. In 1 Corinthians 12:12-13 the body of believers = the ‘Christ’. We conclude that to be ‘Christed’ = to be baptized into the Christian congregation. The purpose of the ‘anointing’ would then be for the mutual ministry of caring and edification within the body of the local congregation with a view to growing up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ. (See Eph. 4:15; 2 Cor. 1:21; 1 Cor. 12:12-13; 1 Cor. 6:13-20.)

‘Sealed’ speaks of an external mark on a document denoting completion of a transaction and change of ownership. ‘Sealed’ well describes the watershed between the old and new life. We will discuss this further.

‘Earnest’ [2] (arrabon) refers to a deposit given as a security or pledge of full settlement. We pay a deposit on a homesite to secure it for ourselves and as a guarantee that we will settle in full when the legal procedures have been fulfilled. The full and final payment is the redemption of our bodies when Christ returns and the Spirit raises us up (Eph. 1:14; Rom. 8:11). The arrabon makes the neo-pentecostal doctrine of post-conversion out-pouring of the Spirit impossible. Arrabon excludes the possibility of a doctrinally significant interim Spirit event. This is not to say that the Spirit is inactive in our lives in the time between the arrabon and the end. Throughout that time the Spirit is rebuking us, encouraging us, reviving us, and sanctifying us. However the New Testament offers no programme for these interim activities of the Spirit.

We do not doubt that many neo-pentecostals have enjoyed a genuine post-conversion experience of the Holy Spirit, perhaps accompanied by glossolalia. Perhaps it has been an experience of revival or reassurance. Christians all through history have enjoyed various post-conversion experiences. The difficulty is that in the last two decades it has become customary in neo-pentecostal circles to identify such experiences as ‘the baptism in the Holy Spirit’.

We rejoice to hear the testimony to the Spirit’s work in Christian brethren though we regret that the New Testament title ‘the baptism with the Holy Spirit’ is applied to an experience after conversion. By giving this title to their experience the neo-pentecostals in effect (and usually in practice) demand that every Christian undergo their particular experience, since this title has the weighty sanction of the word of God. We appeal to the neo-pentecostal: ‘Do not deny your experience, but please call it something else.’ So long as the neo-pentecostal calls a post-conversion experience ‘the baptism’ God’s people will continue to be divided on this issue.

Grieve not… be filled with the Spirit: Ephesians 1:13-14; 4:30; 5:18 ff.

In the first of these references in Ephesians (1:13-14) we are reminded of Paul’s emphasis in Galatians 3:1-5 as well as 2 Corinthians 1:21-22.

Christ: in whom ye also, having heard the word of the truth, the gospel of your salvation—in whom, having also believed, ye were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, which is an earnest of our inheritance, unto the redemption of God’s own possession… (Eph. 1:13-14, RV).
The three verbs italicised are in the aorist tense, the first two are participles and the third is an indicative. This construction usually stresses that the action of the participle is prior to that of the indicative. Does this verse then support ‘subsequence’ as the AV perhaps suggests and as neo-pentecostal writers maintain? [3] Dunn in a recent monograph has written, ‘The aorist participle does in fact usually express antecedent action, but it is the context not the grammatical form which determines this. And the context here indicates that we should take the two verbs as two sides of the one event: it was when they believed that God sealed them with the Spirit. As in Galatians 3:2, man’s step of faith is met by God’s gift of the Spirit.’ [4]

We have already discussed the thought of the Holy Spirit as ‘seal’ and ‘earnest’. He becomes ours when we hear and believe in Jesus through the gospel. The former thought expresses new ownership while the latter expresses our urgent expectation of final redemption. The apostle nowhere describes an interim Spirit-event programmed by God for every Christian, even though a person’s daily experience of the Spirit is authentic. Nothing else than the redemption of our bodies is set before us as the object of our hope after conversion. The two mountain peaks are conversion and final redemption. With the former behind us noting is to obscure the latter as the object of our hope.

The second and third reference in Ephesians contain present imperatives about the Holy Spirit. Such references inform us what our interim attitudes to the Holy Spirit should be. God has sealed us with the Spirit. We now belong to him. (See also 1 Cor. 6:19-20.) The two texts contain the imperatives.

Grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, in whom you were sealed unto the day of redemption (4:30, RV).
Stay filled with the Spirit (5:18, own translation). [5]
Both present imperatives introduce ethical sections. Taken together, a pattern of Christian behaviour emerges which befits the person who now belongs to God. The Spirit who has sealed us, whom we are not to grieve, and by whom we are to be controlled, is the Holy Spirit.

It is a matter for regret that so few churchgoing people live by the words of the apostle. We sadden the Spirit and rob God of his glory by failing to fulfil these simple but challenging words. Every part of our life, every human relationship, is touched on by Paul in these latter chapters of Ephesians.

Neo-pentecostals believe in the conservation doctrine of sanctification and Christian holiness. They claim that the ‘baptism’ is for power to witness. [6] In other words they sever power for witness from godly behaviour. And yet in all the Pauline corpus the apostle never enjoins power for witness. His emphasis is on godly behaviour, to the brother in Christ and to the outsider. The believer is indeed to seek the salvation of the unbeliever but his speech is to be accompanied by a godly life. (See 1 Cor. 10:27; 11:1; 1 Pet. 2:11-12; 3:1-6.)

It would be unfair to single out the neo-pentecostal for omitting this emphasis. Zealous fundamentalists generally appear to have little understanding of the relationship in the New Testament between ethics and evangelism. But it is the neo-pentecostals who have made a theological principle out of severing the two.

Become what you are: Colossians

Paul wrote to the Colossians because false teachers had undermined the uniqueness of Jesus, placing him among an angelic hierarchy. He was merely part of the ‘fulness’ or collection of aeons which comprised the deity above. Further, they had instructed men on the necessity to submit to ordinances about abstaining from the elements of life, especially food and drink. The apostle counters this teaching by insisting that Christ is before all things and that all things consist in him. All the fulness dwells in him (see 1:15-19). Moreover, through his death and resurrection, men are completely reconciled to God. Paul stretches human language to the limits to convey on the one hand the unique pre-eminence of Christ, and on the other our own absolute salvation and safety in him. (See, e.g., 3:3-4; 2:13-15.)

Paul combines these related absolutes in one text:

For in him [Christ] dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily, and in him are ye made full… (2:9-10, RV).
At this point we must note a feature of the New Testament. On one hand we are reckoned as ‘complete’ or ‘perfect’ in Christ. Yet our lives still have the marks of the old nature and we are forced to live out our days in ‘this present evil age’.

The apostles address us as still sinful yet possessing the Holy Spirit. We are exhorted to ‘become what we are’, in the sense of what God holds us to be, namely ‘complete’ or ‘perfect’. The motive on which such exhortations are based is that God regards us as already complete. We are never called upon to be good in order to obtain; it is because of what we already possess from God that the claims of godliness are pressed on our consciences.

Thus it is the task of the minister to
… warn every man and teach every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man mature in Christ (1:28, slightly altered).
The neo-pentecostals betray little awareness of this Biblical ‘become what you already are’. Paul’s purpose for men after conversion is maturity, to which he makes ethical exhortations. The purpose of the neo-pentecostals for men after conversion is the ‘baptism’.

According to their doctrine the baptism is the instrument of a man’s fullness; they thus miss the significance of Colossians 2:9-10. In practice the baptism becomes the source not only of power for witnessing, but also deeper relationships with God, love of the scriptures, etc. The fullness is located apart from Jesus, and subsequent to our experience in him. The way to fulness or the baptism is inevitably ‘steps’ or ‘conditions’. In our opinion, despite disclaimers to the contrary, neo-pentecostal Christology falls short of that of the New Testament, since they find Jesus insufficient for their power needs. Inevitably therefore the ‘ought’ or ‘ethics’ of their system belong to those expressly repudiated by the apostle (2:20-23).

The Holy Spirit and the Body of Christ: 1 Corinthians 12

We hold that the phrase ‘the body of Christ’ reflects the dynamic idea of meeting together. Some usages of the phrase refer to his people described as already in the heavenlies. As such their meeting is continuous. The majority of usages refer to the assemblies of believers here and now. As such their meetings are intermittent. The key ideas appear to be meeting together in Jesus’ name, and the exercising of gifts within an organic group animated by the same Spirit. Such a group is variously described as ‘temple’, ‘bride’ and ‘lump’. Paul customarily addresses such an assembly as a church (Greek: ekklesia). He only once uses the term to describe something other than a local church (‘I persecuted the church of God’, repeated three times: 1 Cor. 15:9; Gal 1:13; Phil. 3:6) and here it is quite possible he is referring to the church in heaven with Jesus, since Jesus asked Paul on the road to Damascus, ‘Why do you persecute me?’

The whole idea is dynamic. It is people together caring for one another, belonging to one another, serving one another, edifying one another. To belong to a church is not to belong to an institution but to be a member of a body, to be part of a living dynamic whole, which belongs to Christ. Paul goes so far as to say that the body of Christ, the local congregation, is Christ (1 Cor. 12:12-13).

The Holy Spirit alone makes it possible to confess ‘Jesus is Lord’, so great was the previous grip of idolatry (12:2-3). The same Spirit also imparts the various gifts from the Lord Jesus to believers in fellowship for the good of all (12:4-11). One and the same Spirit baptizes men into one body, the Christ, even though their gifts are diverse (12:12-13). Conversion/confession, endowment, incorporation—all are from the Lrod through (or by) the Holy Spirit.

We are baptized with the Spirit into Christ, ‘Christ’ being understood as the body of Christ present and local as well as future and heavenly (2 Cor. 1:21; 1 Cor. 12:12-13; 1 Cor. 6:13-20). For what purpose does the Lord baptize us thus with the Spirit into one body, [7] ‘the Christ’? His purpose is that we are to belong to one another, despite deep socio-racial difference (‘Jews or Greeks, slaves or free’); and that we are to minister to one another as in a body despite the diversity and non-interchangeability of gifts.

It seems to us that it is the neglect of this teaching about the Holy Spirit which explains how otherwise orthodox Bible-teaching churches manage to remain so loveless and so conspicuously lacking in the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

We do not discover any teaching here about a subsequent baptism by the Holy Spirit to provide gifts for the body of Christ. Rather, as people are taught about belonging to a body and participation in its life of mutual upbuilding, they discover in reality the truth of 1 Corinthians 12.

Conservative evangelicals have, in our opinion, been far too clergy-orientated. We thoroughly endorse their emphasis on the importance of teaching and evangelism by properly equipped ministers, but we regret that the plain meaning of scripture about life in the body has been so neglected. Institutionalized and orthodox Christians may have a great deal to learn from the corporate nature of the neo-pentecostal meetings and their joy and vitality together.

It is interesting to observe, however, that there are ordinary congregations where the significance of the church has been studied and where caring, sharing, joyful communities have emerged. Christians have acted on the resources God has given them; they have not needed to seek a new experience to grant them this.


1. Some neo-pentecostal writers, e.g., Stafford Young, What is the Baptism in the Holy Spirit?, pp. 7-8, attempt to find ‘subsequence’ in Galatians 3:14:
that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.
We note the following points:
(a) His assertion that the ‘we’ = Christians as opposed to Gentiles disregards the fact that the Galatian Christian readers were Gentiles. The whole point of 2:16-4:6 is that Gentiles are sons of Abraham through faith-in-Jesus apart from circumcision. Paul’s ‘we’ merely stresses that the Gentile Christians were, by faith-in-Jesus, as fully Christian as a Jewish Christian like himself. Thus in 4:3 he, a Jew, can so identify himself with Gentiles (who are now Christians) as to include himself in their ‘former idolatry’.
(b) The second ‘that’ does not introduce a second concept quite removed in time from the first. The second ‘that’ is explanatory. It acts as a bridge or an ‘=’ sign. It is important to read the whole argument, 2:16-4:6, where the message is that faith-in-Jesus brings justification (which Abraham and his true sons enjoy). Justification makes men sons of God. God gives his Spirit to his sons.
2. RSV: guarantee. Modern Greek uses this word of engagement for marriage. See further G. Kittel, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, Eerdmans, 1967, Vol. 1, p. 475.
3. E.g., Stafford Young, What is the Baptism of the Holy Spirit?, pp. 7-8.
4. J. D. G. Dunn, Baptism in the Holy Spirit (SCM Press Ltd., London, 1970), p. 159. Dunn gives two pages of evidence as to the context of Ephesians 1 and he refers to the definitive Burton, Moods and Tenses (p. 61), as an authority for the priority of context over grammar.
5. The present tense of 5:18 precludes the possibility of a ‘second’ experience. The text is calling for continual submission to the leadership of the Holy Spirit as expressed by the elements of behaviour which follow. Hence these are daily experiences.
6. In practice they claim much more for the baptism.
7. Some neo-pentecostal authors (e.g., J. Baker, Baptized into one Spirit, p. 17, and S. Young, What is the Baptism in the Holy Spirit? p. 3) translate 1 Corinthians 12:13 as ‘in one Spirit we were all baptized with respect to one body’, thus allowing the neo-pentecostal doctrine of a subsequent experience of the Spirit ‘for the benefit of the body’. It is true that the Greek preposition eis can mean ‘into’ or ‘with respect to’. Context must decide how eis is to be understood. (See C. F. D. Moule, Idiom Book of the New Testament (CUP, London, 1963), p. 69.)

Paul’s argument is that God desires unity for the Christian congregation despite the diversity of its membership. To this end he binds the body metaphor to his readers. The context does not support the view of Baker or Young that we are baptized with the Spirit with respect to the body and the exercise of gifts within it. Rather, we were baptized with the Spirit into a body with respect to its unity (see v. 12). In this view we follow every major English translation of the Bible (AV, RV, RSV, NEB, Phillips, TEV, Knox, etc., but not the Jerusalem Bible which is indeterminative). Another neo-pentecostal, J. A. Schep, Spirit Baptism and Tongues Speaking (Fountain Trust, London, 1970), p. 12, following the translators’ consensus also takes eis as meaning ‘into’. Baker and Young are out on a limb. | joe towns: christian discussion on pentecost, charisma, pentecostal and charismatic beliefs, the Bible and Jesus; including the origin and history of pentecostalism, baptism in the Holy Spirit, speaking in tongues, gifts and miracles, divine healing and word of faith, prosperity and wealth, praise and worship, guidance and hearing the voice of the Holy Spirit.

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