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What is Holy Spirit Baptism? - Dallas

There are those who believe that baptism in the Holy Spirit replaced baptism in water since it is the superior baptism. There are those who believe that baptism in the Spirit must be sought after by people today because you are neither sanctified or saved without it. There are those who believe that some sort of experience, miraculous or otherwise, must accompany the baptism of the Holy Spirit. And there are those who believe that baptism of the Spirit is simply receiving the indwelling of the Spirit through faith in Christ. As a result, some interpret most of the references to "baptism" in the New Testament to refer to the reception of the Holy Spirit rather than to baptism in water. All of these views are erroneous.

Instead of doing an exposition of each of these views, the best thing to do is simply look at what the New Testament teaches concerning the Spirit while trying to lay aside our presuppositions.

John the Baptist declared that Jesus would baptize with the Spirit (Luke 3:16). Luke shows us that Jesus began his ministry empowered by the Holy Spirit (Luk 3:22; 4:1, 14, 18). During his ministry, Jesus indicated that the Spirit would be made available to God's children (Lk 11:13). He told his disciples that the Holy Spirit would empower them to speak when they were put on trial and challenged for their faith (Luk 12:12). After Jesus rose from the grave, he told his apostles that they would be immersed in the Holy Spirit very son (Acts 1:5). He then told them that they would also receive power when the Holy Spirit came on them.

Then comes the watershed moment in Acts. When they were "filled" with the Spirit, they were given the miraculous ability to speak in languages they had not studied (Acts 2:4). Peter's explanation to the people who saw all of this was that God had promised in Old Testament prophesy to "pour forth" of his Spirit on all mankind (Acts 2:17). Peter explains that had Jesus "poured forth" the Spirit, which is what they were witnessing. Peter tells the people to repent and be baptized and they would receive the "gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38)." He goes on to say that the promise was not limited to them but for future generations as well (Acts 2:39). Later, Peter declares that the Holy Spirit has been given to those who obey God (Acts 5:32).

We need to keep in mind that the Spirit's function was not merely to empower with miraculous gifts. The Spirit empowers believers to speak boldly, courageously and wisely (Acts 4:8; 4:3; 6:10; 13:9; 13:52), to minister to others (Acts 6:3; 11:24; 13:2-4; 20:28), and to encourage and comfort the disciples (7:55; 9:31). The Spirit had empowered the followers of Jesus just like he promised. So not everyone filled with the Spirit had miraculous abilities.

As we proceed through the rest of Acts, there are several accounts of people receiving the Spirit. In the Samaritan ministry, the Apostles send Peter and John to lay hands on those who had been baptized in the name of Jesus so they would "receive" the Holy Spirit because the Spirit had not yet "fallen on" them (Acts 8:14-17). When Saul was baptized he was to be "filled with the Holy Spirit (Acts 9:17-18)." When Peter preached the word to the first gentile converts, Cornelius and his family, the Spirit "fell on" them and they began speaking in tongues and exalting God (Acts 10:44-45). After this unusual occurrence, Peter put away his misgivings about gentiles and ordered them to be baptized (Acts 10:47-48). The Holy Spirit "fell on them" just as it did with the Apostles in the beginning so that Peter and the Apostles would not "stand in their way" of being baptized (Acts 11:12-16). When Gentiles in the kingdom became a source of contention, reception of the Holy Spirit was cited as evidence of their acceptance by God (Acts 15:8). Paul came across some disciples who were baptized with John's baptism, but had not been baptized into Christ, and therefore did not receive the Spirit. So Paul baptized them in the name of Jesus, laid his hands on them, and the Holy Spirit "came on them (Acts 19:1-6)."

In Luke's writings, there does not appear to be a "technical term" for reception of the Spirit. Being "immersed" in the Spirit, the Spirit "coming on" a person, the Spirit "falling on" a person, "receiving" the Spirit, "the gift" of the Spirit, being "filled" with the Spirit, may all be talking about the same thing.

The difficulty many people run into is the miraculous. If a person receives the Spirit, does that mean that he should have some sort of miraculous manifestation or a miraculous ability? Keep in mind that the Spirit's ministry is not limited to the miraculous. Galatians 5:22 tells us that the Spirit produces fruit in our lives which are love joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control. 1 Corinthians 12 and Romans 12 have lists of spiritual gifts. Not all of them are miraculous. So how come some had miraculous gifts from the Spirit and others did not?

"But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills (1 Cor 12:11)."

The assertion in 1 Corinthians 12 is that all faithful Christian have the Spirit, but not all have the same gifts. Notice, it is the Spirit who distributes the gifts to each person as he wills. What this means is that when we receive the Spirit, it does not mean that we automatically have a miraculous gift. In Acts, we see that the Spirit bestowed the miraculous on people in different ways for different reasons, not all of which are apparent. For instance, in the case of Cornelius, they received the Spirit, and the Spirit endowed them with miraculous abilities in an unusual way for a specific reason. The context of the narrative shows that the reason for this was to convince both Peter and the rest of the Jews that the gentiles were welcome into the kingdom. The Samaritans did not receive miraculous ability until the Apostles went and laid hands on them. The same was true for the 12 disciples of John in Acts 19. Why the unusual circumstances with the Samaritans and the disciples of John in Ephesus? That is a question that needs to be explored some more.

Many other people repented and were baptized in Acts, but there is no mention of a miraculous manifestation of the Spirit. What was the purpose of the manifestations? According to Hebrews 2:1-4, signs and wonders were for the purpose of confirming the word of God. Paul refers to them as the "signs of a true Apostle (2 Cor 12:12). The preaching of the apostles needed confirmation that they were speaking on behalf of the Lord and not making up their own religion. Their message was not their own. They were "moved by the Holy Spirit" and spoke the words of God (2 Pet 2:21). The miraculous manifestations of the Spirit served to confirm that their message was not of this world. So the reason for the miraculous was simple - confirmation.

Maybe this is the reason for the unusual manifestations of the Spirit with Cornelius and the Samaritans. Their acceptability of their entrance into the kingdom needed to be confirmed by the Spirit. The Apostles are passed on to their reward, but the word has been confirmed through the Spirit. It has stood the test of many efforts to squash and destroy it. It was firmly established throughout the world in less than 100 years! This could have only happened through the miraculous empowerment of the Holy Spirit in the lives of the Apostles.

The ministry of the Spirit did not end in Acts. However, the miraculous ministry of confirming the word ended with the Apostles. Miraculous manifestations of the Spirit waned toward the end of the first century, then ceased. The reason? The word had been confirmed.

Even though the ministry of the Spirit is not identical to the first century, the Spirit continues has a very significant ministry in the life of every baptized believer. He renews us (Tit 3:5), sanctifies us (2 Thess 2:13), strengthens us (Eph 3:16), and even prays for us when we can't find the words (Rom 8:26). When the Spirit leads us, we are freed from the law and enabled to produce good fruit for God.

So how do you receive the Spirit into your life? Some believe you should ask for it or you will not get it. The support for this comes from Luke 11:13, which says - if earthly fathers know how to give good gifts to their children, how much more will the Heavenly father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him? Does this mean that God will not give the Spirit to those who do not ask? The examples in Acts appear to demonstrate that God gives the Spirit to those who respond to the Gospel in faith, regardless of whether they ask. In fact, there is not one example in Acts of a person receiving the Spirit simply because he asks for it. So what is Jesus talking about? There is one passage that might help to shed a little light on this.

"For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man (Eph 3:14-16),"

Paul was writing to Christians about his prayer for them, which among other things, was to be strengthened with power through the Spirit. It is entirely appropriate to pray that God fill us with the Spirit. In fact, we are commanded to "be filled with the Spirit (Eph 5:18)." What does it mean to be filled with the Spirit in this context? Does that mean they did not have the Spirit? In this verse, Paul contrasts being filled with wine and being filled with the Spirit. To be filled with wine means to be under it's influence. Instead of being under the influence of wine, we are to be under the influence of the Spirit. What follows is an exposition of the result we should see in our lives through being under the influence of the Spirit. This does not appear to be talking about the same thing as the indwelling of the Spirit.

So, how does a person receive the Spirit? A number of references declare that the Spirit is given to those who believe (John 7:39; Gal 3:2). According to Peter's first sermon, it is when one repents and is baptized (Acts 2:38). Peter later says it is given to those who obey God (Acts 5:5). Jesus puts being born of water and spirit together (John 3:1-5). Paul does the same when he speaks of the washing of rebirth/regeneration and renewal by the Spirit (Titus 3:5). So, when we believe, repent, are baptized, and obey the Gospel, our Lord gives us the Spirit.

John Telgren
P.O. Box 452
Leavenworth, KS 66048
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