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Baptized in the Spirit by Frank Macchia

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Frank Macchia, an Assemblies of God theologian, is one of the most influential Pentecostal systematic theologians on this issue. In his book Baptized in the Spirit: A Global Pentecostal Theology he presents Spirit baptism not as a one-time experience (or even a repeatable experience), but rather as a process identified with the coming of the kingdom of God.

That is, according to Macchia the process of Spirit Baptism began at Pentecost, continues still, and will continue until the full consummation of the kingdom of God. For the individual believer, this means that Spirit baptism encompasses one’s reception of the Spirit at conversion, any post-conversion sanctifying or empowering experience of the Spirit, and even one’s being raised by the Spirit at the return of Christ.


Macchia believes he is justified to integrate the diverse biblical voices (e.g., Luke and Paul) that utilize the metaphor of Spirit baptism on account of the metaphor’s connection to the expansive concept of the kingdom of God. For example, in Acts 1:3 Jesus appeared to the apostles and “spoke about the kingdom of God.” As he did this, Jesus told them, “in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit” (verse 5). (Consider also Matthew 3:2, 11.)


If Spirit Baptism is, as Macchia proposes, a lengthy process of the coming of the kingdom of God, then what link is there between Spirit baptism and speaking in tongues? Macchia describes tongues as the “characteristic sign of Spirit baptism…because they symbolize God’s people giving themselves abundantly in a way that transcends limitations and creaturely expectations” (p. 281). In this sense, tongues serves as the decisive sign that confirms the experience of being baptized in the Holy Spirit.


Macchia emphasizes that one cannot divide and fragment the work of the Spirit as though the Holy Spirit only does one thing at a time. This means that Pentecostals cannot claim that non-Pentecostals (in as much as they too have experienced the Holy Spirit) have not been empowered by the Holy Spirit to any extent, as though this only occurs when one speaks in tongues. At the same time, Macchia affirms that Pentecostals are “justified in calling Christians to a Spirit baptism [subsequent to conversion] as a fresh experience of power for witness with charismatic signs following” (p. 60).


Macchia believes Spirit baptism is about more than just receiving power for witness if that only means inspired speech. Instead, the Spirit’s empowerment includes sanctification, as the Spirit enables believers to witness through sanctified lives.