Spirit Baptism in Current Pentecostal Theology: Part 2 – Amos Yong

This post is part of a periodic series on “Current Pentecostal Scholarship.” It also addresses some questions I received for my series, “Questions People ask about the Holy Spirit.”

As I noted in my previous post, contemporary Pentecostal systematic theologians are discussing Spirit baptism in ways that include, but go beyond, traditional Pentecostal emphases.

Amos Yong, a member of the Assemblies of God (USA), is arguably the most prolific Pentecostal theologian today. While he has not written a book solely devoted to Spirit baptism, he has discussed the topic in a number of places.

Full Experience of Salvation

In The Spirit Poured Out on All Flesh (2005), Amos Yong describes Spirit baptism as “a New Testament metaphor for the full salvific work of God” (SPO, 119). Given that Yong understands Spirit baptism in this expansive way, he asserts that “the one baptism in the Holy Spirit … demands a variety of experiences” (SPO, 119). This includes one’s experience of the Spirit in conversion, sanctification, and empowerment, along with the “experience of the full baptism of the eschatological Spirit resulting in union with the triune God” (SPO, 106).

In other words, in this book Yong presents Spirit baptism as encompassing the I “was saved,” I “am being saved,” and I “will be saved” aspects of the Holy Spirit’s work in salvation.

Baptism of Love

In his book Spirit of Love (2012), Amos Yong emphasizes that “the baptism of the Spirit is also the baptism of holy love.” And he draws out the implications of this “for the life of holiness and for pentecostal witness” (SL, 60).

Yong finds the connection between Spirit baptism and divine love in the testimonies of early North American Classical Pentecostals. In addition, he sees the connection in Jesus’ experience of baptism. On this occasion, Jesus received the Spirit as the Father affirmed his love for the Son (SL, 100).

Among other passages of Scripture, Yong also appeals to 1 John 3. This passage explains that the love of God dwells in believers (verses 10, 14, 17) through “the Spirit he gave us” (verse 24).

This leads Yong to speak of a “missiology of love” (155) where Spirit-filled believers witness not only with their minds, but also with their hearts and hands—or, not only through what they say, but also through loving actions.

Expansive Doctrine of Spirit Baptism

Amos Yong further develops his theology of Spirit Baptism throughout his Renewing Christian Theology (2014). Like in his former books, he presents Spirit baptism as the Spirit’s work in saving, sanctifying, and empowering believers for witness (Renewing, 93, 100).

In this book, Yong bases his conclusion primarily on his proposal that “the life of Christ is paradigmatic for what Spirit-filled and Spirit-empowered ministry ought to be” (Renewing, 57, cf. 93). And, in Luke’s gospel, Jesus’ ministry focuses on “the renewal and restoration of Israel” (Renewing, 95).

According to Yong, then, Spirit baptism includes one’s reception of the Spirit at conversion. But it “also involves a subsequent work of grace available to all…, involving the full scope of the saving work of God so that each encounter with God—each infilling of the Spirit—deepens the Christian life and intensifies its witness” (Renewing, 98). This includes even one’s encounter with the Spirit through water baptism and the Lord’s Supper (Renewing, 159).

Tongues and Spirit Baptism

For Yong tongues remains the normative sign of Spirit baptism (like most Pentecostal scholars, he prefers “sign” over “evidence”). He expresses some concerns regarding the initial evidence doctrine. Nevertheless, he suggests that the doctrine does well in that it encourages the “expectation that whenever the Spirit descends, the gift of divinely inspired speech should be expected to manifest itself” (Renewing, 97).

Summarizing his position, Yong writes, “The point is that those filled with the Spirit get to speak in tongues, not necessarily have to speak in tongues right there and then. Understood in this sense, tongues-speaking is normative for Christian spirituality in general in terms of signifying the Spirit’s presence and activity” (Renewing, 97).

Overall

Yong’s theology of Spirit baptism shares many features of Frank Macchia’s expansive theology of Spirit baptism. And both of these Pentecostal theologians represent a shift in how Pentecostal systematic theologians are thinking about Spirit baptism.

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Andrew K. Gabriel, Ph.D., is the author of Touched by God: Experiencing the Holy Spirit (forthcoming) as well as three academic books, including The Lord is the Spirit. He is a theology professor at Horizon College and Seminary and serves on the Theological Study Commission for the Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada. You can follow him on Facebook or on Twitter.

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One thought on “Spirit Baptism in Current Pentecostal Theology: Part 2 – Amos Yong

  1. So, I was raised non denominational and that basically an experience is not the definition of substance; however, most churches I see are dead in that and similar denominations. I have had the Holy Spirit fill me. Would I call it a baptism? I really don’t know. It was enough though that a demonized person wouldn’t allow me to get close to them because, “They dont like you right now”. It was certainly encouraging.

    I have never spoken in tongues. I visited a Pentecostal church once and the pastor pointed me out and spoke over me about God was going to give me a great faith . This past Sunday I visited a Foursquare Pentecostal church. When invitation for testimony was given I went ifo the church and spoke. That’s a miracle because I’m very shy in front of people.

    I know the message was for me that day. I will be going back. I feel basing things on experience can be very dangerous, but I think no experience can be equally as bad. I pray for baptism of the Holy Ghost and understanding.