Summary: We believe that salvation is for everyone who calls on the name of the Lord.
Much earlier in ministry, I thought that I would never come to place where I would preach: I believe that conversion is by calling on the name of the Lord but without the required evidence/sign of speaking in tongues. Some teach that an ‘initial evidence’ of speaking in tongues is required to be saved, to complete the new birth, and in order to know when one receives the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Some teach a superficial form, a false view of assurance, and a legalistic confirmation without confessing with the mouth and calling on the name of the Lord by teaching someone “has to” experience” a required evidence/sign of speaking in tongues. I used to be ordained in one of these organizations that preached one “had to” speak in tongues in order to be saved, to enter heaven, and to be holy. As Methodists, we have always believed very strongly that conversion is completed with just the faith statement, calling on the name of the Lord, without the classical Pentecostal distinction articulated as an “required initial evidence” of speaking in tongues. We are not saved because of any validated signs or specific required evidences, speaking in tongues, and not any human initiation rites. Yet, we are absolutely convinced that we are saved by grace through faith without legalism. You must confess that Jesus is Lord. You must believe that God raised him [Christ] from the dead. And, a real Methodist will call on the name of the Lord and will do it without legalism. Therefore, ‘we believe that salvation is for everyone who calls on the name of the Lord.’
The Spirit is at work in every stage of a Christian’s journey. God’s prevenient grace is always substantially at work in the lives of humans. A spiritual journey is maturing faith. A spiritual experience is also a crucial punctiliar event with God. The Spirit gracefully equips the believer for ministry in the church. More importantly, the Spirit does not work separately to apply grace and later empower the believer sequentially after a second experience. According to Hebrews, faith is the evidence of a Spirit-filled Christian. Therefore, the Biblical text is also clear about the spirit’s fruitful development and transformative work in individual believers.
A disciple-making congregation is filled with the Spirit and bears fruit (Acts 2:1-4, 41-47). I interpret conversion and the Baptism of the Holy Ghost (BHG) in the context of mature Wesleyan theology. Wesleyan theology appears more mature in pneumatology than institutionalized Pentecostal theology. I used to be an Apostolic Pentecostal elder. First, I now reject the institutionalized Pentecostal distinction that articulates the BHG “has to” occur “sequential and separate-to” conversion or water baptism. Second, some denominations teach a person must experience the Spirit before water baptism. Third, some institutions teach the BHG and water baptism has to occur simultaneously. On the other hand, UM members can have diverse spiritual experiences produced by the new birth. One concrete spiritual sequence is not the doctrine, but I respect each member’s diverse sequence of divine events during a spiritual journey. Another underdeveloped theology articulated is separating faith in salvation and the Holy Ghost. Salvation and the BHG are two different experiences. Salvation occurs when a person experiences the remission of sins, and the BHG occurs when members experience the Spirit’s power for mission. Both experiences can occur at the same time in the structure of Wesleyan theology. Hence, the BHG bestows and manifests various gifts and not one but many spiritual experiences.
Each disciple in the body of Christ is called to bear all the spiritual fruit (Gal. 2:17-18). On the other hand, the Biblical text is not clear on certain gifts of the Spirit used to validate prerequisites for new believers, evidence from receiving the baptism in the Holy Spirit, validation of completing the new birth, or evidence as having matured faith/spirituality. Tongues closely follow the Baptism in the Holy Ghost. Furthermore, tongues is "an" evidence or "can be" an initial evidence. God through time gave tongues as initial evidence. On the other hand, the Bible illustrates that God does not "always" or "haves to" use tongues as initial evidence. What is more important, the Spirit motivates a Christian to exercise perfect love towards God and neighbor. Specifically, the power of the Spirit works within a person to exercise compassion to perform the right action. Therefore, the transformed behavior characterized by Christ bears witness of an authentic new birth.
God uses earthly events to reveal heavenly principles. The divine encounter in the faith covenant community only begins God’s revelation. The character of Christ must be manifested for the purpose to expand the ministry of the local community. For instance, the faith covenant community is a united divine call with diverse personal journeys. Personal faith is initiated at a juncture along the path of a united faith covenant community. Hence, God uses water baptism to initiate the person in the community’s ministry. The Baptism in the Holy Ghost is the event where God empowers the believer to witness on behalf of the church. Furthermore, God revealed to me that the sequence of events differs for each person, and God gives the specific experience based on the person’s need for the community.