Is faith in Christ enough for salvation? This simple question can ignite a war of words. The “Word of Faith” doctrine holds, on many levels, that there are “side effects” to your salvation. These side effects would include speaking in tongues, being healed from affliction, and gaining prosperity. The baptism of the Holy Spirit is the method to how these “side effects” are given to believers. The natural question based on the above argument is…”If I don’t speak in tongues, or get sick, or do not prosper…am I saved?” While this is a question that I have struggled with, and one I think that is worth asking, I believe that this is the wrong question. The primary question that needs to be asked should be “Is faith enough?”
The Word of Faith’s basic answer to this question is as follows: “Upon salvation you receive the Holy Spirit; however your baptism of the Holy Spirit is separate from salvation. Upon the Baptism of the Spirit, you will demonstrate certain sign gifts… In fact, you should be able to successfully call on Him to deliver you from sickness. If your faith is strong enough, you will be healed. If you are in poverty, and your faith is strong enough you can bring wealth.” Or how about this “The baptism of the Holy Spirit is evident by speaking in tongues” (this from Gloria Copeland). These messages are being preached in churches across the world. The premise is simple. In order to avoid issues with affixing anything to salvation, the word of faith movement creates two baptisms or assigns the baptism of the Holy Spirit to a point after salvation. This premise allows a word of faith preacher to say that powers are received upon baptism of the Holy Spirit. What they normally won’t say but end up implying is that the baptism of the Holy Spirit is separated from salvation. The timeline for a born again Christian would then be as follows: Profession Jesus is Lord – salvation/indwelling of the spirit; Baptism of the Spirit – taking place at some point thereafter. Either way the word of faith movement is consistent in saying that the sign gifts are required. If you don’t have the sign gifts, you have not been baptized by the Spirit.
How does this process stack up against the Bible? Word of Faith preachers point the Pentecost to answer the question. The argument; All of the apostles were saved prior to the day of the Pentecost. Jesus explicitly told them they would then be baptized by the Holy Spirit. This shows two points for the apostles, salvation upon faith, and then baptism of the Holy Spirit. Word of faith preachers argue that they are two distinct events. Upon receiving the baptism of the Holy Spirit the apostles were able to speak in tongues, and perform miraculous signs. Thus if you do not speak in tongues, et al. then you have not been baptized by the Holy Spirit. This statement gets to the heart of the matter.
What if there is only one salvation, and one baptism? The natural implication would be no sign gifts, no salvation. Thus the dilemma. If I don’t speak in tongues have I been baptized by the Holy Spirit?
The Bible offers a number of answers in regards to the questions I asked above. The best way that I can answer this is in timeline fashion. First let’s take a look at whether or not there is separation of the Baptism of the Holy Spirit from salvation.
When do we receive the spirit? 1 Corinthian 12:3 gives us the answer: Therefore I tell you that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, “Jesus be cursed,” and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit. When do we proclaim “Jesus is Lord”? We sincerely proclaim it upon salvation for the first time. At that point in time…we are in the Holy Spirit.
When does the baptism of the Holy Spirit take place? The baptism of the Holy Spirit takes place when we enter the body of Christ. 1 Corinthians 12:13 illustrates this point. For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.
When do we enter the body of Christ? Upon Salvation. If this is not the case, then we would actually have those who have faith in Christ, but do not belong to the body of Christ. Also take this into consideration: If we have believers who are not one with the body, then Christ’s prayer in John 17:11, 21-23 has not been answered.
How many Baptisms’s are there? According to Ephesians 4:5, there is only one baptism. “There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to one hope when you were called— 5one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all”
So what does all of this mean? The Word of Faith Preachers use a piece of the Bible to illustrate a point that the baptism of the Spirit can be separated from salvation. However, the use of all of the New Testament demonstrates that, from a practical stand point, this is impossible. If we enter into the body of Christ upon salvation, then we have to be baptized at the point of salvation for 1 Corinthians 12:13 to hold true. We also know that sincerely proclaiming Jesus is Lord is made by someone in the Spirit. This proclamation is made at the point of salvation. This means that the baptism of the Holy Spirit is not separated from salvation. They happen all at one time.
So what does all of this really mean? Let’s go back to the very first question, “If I don’t speak in tongues, or get sick, or do not prosper…am I saved?” If you can show that the baptism of the Spirit takes place at the time of salvation, then according to the word of faith movement….you are not saved. This creates a fundamental issue on one of the primary tenets of Christianity, salvation through faith. This brings us to the primary question, is faith enough?
Is it really true that all we need is faith? Absolutely. There are a number of verses in the New Testament that support through faith alone (Romans 3:28-30, Romans 4:5, Romans 5:1, Romans 9:30, Romans 11:6, Galatians 3:5-6, Romans 1:16-17). My personal favorite is Ephesians 2:8-9; “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God. 9Not by works, lest any man should boast.” On this point many preachers of the word of faith movement would not disagree. Here is where the problem is, when you establish that the baptism of the Holy Spirit takes place at salvation, word of faith preachers add to the requirements of salvation.
If tongues are needed to demonstrate the baptism of the Holy Spirit, and the baptism takes place upon salvation…word of faith preachers are saying that you must speak in tongues in order to demonstrate that you have been saved. And it’s not just tongues that would fall into this category. It could include water baptism, prayer, and anything that someone says you must have in order to show you are saved. These are counter to the teachings of the Bible. Since the protestant reformation, we have correctly understood that all you need for salvation is faith. At the point of salvation, you are baptized by the Holy Spirit, and the Spirit assigns gifts at His will.
When sign gifts, or anything for that matter, are attached as requisites for salvation it becomes an obstruction to the primary tenant of the Christian faith. That tenant….salvation through faith alone. This is something that cannot be blown off or left alone. In today’s society many of us are offended by educators teaching erroneous ideas such as global warming, and evolution. We also become frustrated by the notion of revisionist history being taught because of political correctness. This is should concern you because of its nature.
But we aren’t about just attacking folk’s ideas… Instead, this info is actually REALLY Good News!! How so? Well, for the Christian who has ever doubted their salvation because of their not feeling moved to or experiencing any of the sign gifts you can rest in the knowledge that these signs and wonders are NOT linked to your salvation in any way shape or form… In fact, I’d venture to say that most of our Charismatic friends would even agree whole heartedly with that. We would be content to just live and let live if it were not for the fact that many of the proponents of Word of Faith make this a primary (salvation) issue… Hopefully, we’ve shown well enough that it is NOT a matter of one’s salvation… If you still believe that it is, we respectfully ask that you reexamine God’s Word on this issue with an open heart and mind… We’ll examine more Word of Faith claims from a biblical perspective in posts that are soon to follow.