Baptism Of The Holy Spirit
Note: In this study, we will look at one of the most divisive and controversial topics that there is amongst Christians today: “The Baptism of the Holy Spirit.” Whether you do or don’t agree with my position on this, this is NOT an issue that Christians should divide over.
Let me begin by asking a question. Have you ever been asked: “Have you been Baptized with the Holy Spirit?” I know I have. How do you reply? From a Biblical viewpoint, there are two ways in which this question could be answered. We are going to look at each below.
Usually, when this question is asked, the one asking is speaking of having a “second experience” with the Holy Spirit, which is often believed to be accompanied by speaking in tongues. We will look at this viewpoint first.
People who hold this “second experience” view believe that when a person is saved (or born again), they receive the Holy Spirit. However, they only receive a small portion of the Holy Spirit. This person also needs to have a moment when they are completely “filled” with the Holy Spirit. When “filled,” it is generally said that a person will:
1. Have more power and boldness in witnessing.
2. Have a deeper and more intimate relationship with the Lord.
3. Be more convicted of sin in their life, and have more power to overcome.
4. Usually, or always, begin speaking in tongues. (Tongues are proof a person has had a “second infilling.”)
On the other hand, the second viewpoint teaches, in short, that the “Baptism of the Holy Spirit” is not a “second experience,” but rather, EVERYONE “fully” (not partially) receives the Holy Spirit the moment they are saved (or born again). This is what brings each person into the Church (the “Church” being made up of all believers). In addition, it is the moment when God comes to live inside of a believer for the rest of his/her life.
OK… Now that I have shared a small explanation of each view, which is right? There are theological scholars who can make a Biblical argument for each side of this issue, but I believe the evidence in the Bible points towards the second viewpoint (with a big “BUT,” which I will discuss in the end). Let me explain why I hold this second viewpoint.
Let’s begin by looking at the first time being “Baptized with the Holy Spirit” is mentioned in the New Testament is in the Gospels: (Mt 3:11)(Mk 1:4-8)(Lk 3:16)(Jn 1:33).
Who was the one who would send this “Baptism of the Holy Spirit” by fire?
Jesus refers to this promised event a number of times in the Gospels. He also speaks about where and when the Spirit would come.
Amazingly, Jesus even told His disciples in (Jn 16:5-7) that it was GOOD that He was going to leave them, because then the Spirit would come. The Holy Spirit coming was actually better than Him being here! Why? Most believe the reason is simply because Jesus was only physically able to be in one place at a time while on Earth, whereas when the Holy Spirit would be sent, He would indwell all believers EVERYWHERE at once.
Next, when does the Bible say this coming of the Holy Spirit would occur? Let’s continue by reading (Jn Ch. 16) to verse 15, and then (Jn 7:39). What do you see in these verses?
So, when did Jesus return to the Father? This is a matter of some debate, but a majority of scholars believe that after Jesus died on the cross, His body remained in the grave, but His spirit and/or soul descended into Sheol (or the heart/lower parts of the Earth). He spent 3 days there proclaiming His victory and the Gospel to those in Sheol, after which He was resurrected from the dead on the 3rd day. This belief is based primarily on these verses: (Mt 12:40)(1 Pet 3:18-20)(1 Pet 4:6)(Acts 2:27,31)(Ps 16:10).
If this is the case, as most believe, then it seems clear that Jesus had not yet returned to the Father after His death, or the following 3 days leading to His resurrection. Jesus seems to confirm this when He appeared to Mary Magdalene shortly after His resurrection. Mary was overjoyed when she saw Him, and touched him, but Jesus said to her, “Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father” (Jn 20:17).
When we move to the last day of Jesus’ resurrected life on Earth (He spent 40 days on Earth: Acts 1:3), the Bible says in (Mk 16:19), “So then after the Lord had spoken unto them, he was received up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God.” (Lk 24:51) also says, “And it came to pass, while he blessed them, he was parted from them, and carried up into heaven.” This appears to be the time when Jesus returned to the Father. And again, as we have said above, since Jesus said the promised Holy Spirit would not be sent until He returned to the Father, the Holy Spirit still had not been sent.
Now that Jesus is in Heaven with the Father and glorified, where and when will we see the promised Holy Spirit? Let’s look at (Lk 24:49). What do you see here?
To confirm this, let’s look at (Acts 1:4-8).
Continuing in Acts, I would like us to look at 4 different places that will be important going forward. First, let’s look at (Acts 2:1-21), and then (Acts 8:14-25)(Acts 10:44-48)(Acts 19:1-7).
***Note: These verses are where the differences lie as to what the “Baptism of the Holy Spirit” is.
Summarizing Acts 2, we see that on Pentecost, all were together in one place, when suddenly everyone was “filled with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:4). This event at Pentecost is the fulfillment of the promise Jesus made to send the Holy Spirit. Peter confirms this in (Acts 2:33) saying, “Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, he hath shed forth this, which ye now see and hear.”
So, why do we have a problem here? Because those who believe in a “second infilling” say that the people in these verses in Acts were already believers, and as such already had the Holy Spirit. In other words, as we have already said above, they had received a “partial” infilling of the Holy Spirit when saved (or born again), but now they were completely “filled” with the Holy Spirit (thus a “second infilling”). The “first or partial infilling” is often based on (Jn 20:22) which states, “And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost.”
However, to interpret these verses in Acts as a “second infilling” seems to run contrary to what the Bible has already said to this point. This is why I have spent so much time laying out a timeline for when and where the promised Holy Spirit would come. Any person who had the Holy Spirit prior to Pentecost (i.e. Jn 20:22) would have had a temporary infilling like what we see in the Old Testament. In the Old Testament, the Holy Spirit came upon some people for limited periods of time to help them accomplish a task for God (Ex 28:3)(Ex 31:2-5)(Judg 3:9-11)(Judg 6:34)(Judg 11:29)(Judg 14:5-6,19)(Judg 15:14)(Ezek 11:5). However, He did not reside in people permanently, and could even be taken away (compare: 1 Sam 10:10 / 1 Sam 11:6 to 1 Sam 16:14)(Ps 51:11). This is what changed after Pentecost. From Pentecost forward, the Holy Spirit would reside in believers permanently (Eph 1:13-14)(Eph 4:30)(2 Cor 1:22)(2 Cor 5:5)(2 Th 2:13)! Jesus alludes to this, when in speaking to His disciples about the Holy Spirit in (Jn 14:17), He says, “He dwells with you and will be in you.”
Related to this, let’s look at (1 Cor 12:13). What does this tell us?
Let me also quickly address two other aspects of the “Baptism of the Holy Spirit” in Acts. The first is why the promised Holy Spirit was given in stages, first at Pentecost, and then later to three other groups of people. Secondly, we will look at why “tongues” were spoken in each of the four places in Acts.
I believe the key to understanding why the Holy Spirit was given in stages lies in Jesus’ words to Peter in (Mt 16:19). Let’s turn to this.
In this verse, Jesus told Peter that he would be given the keys to the kingdom of heaven. I believe that the keys given to Peter were to open the door to the kingdom of heaven by bringing 3 different groups of people into God’s New Covenant (and the Church) group by group. They were brought in by the “Baptism of the Holy Spirit.” God used Peter to bring in:
First: the Jews (Acts 2:14-47)
Second: the Samaritans (Acts 8:14-25)
Third: the Gentiles (Acts 10:44-48)
(God also used Paul to bring in disciples of John the Baptist who were unaware of what had happened at Pentecost in Acts 19:1-7.)
***Note: It should be noted that ALL believers who were present in these groups were “Baptized by the Holy Spirit.”
Now let’s look at why “tongues” were spoken. Those who hold to a “second infilling” believe that because tongues were spoken in each instance that the “Baptism of the Holy Spirit” occurred in Acts, this means that speaking in tongues is a sign (or THE sign) that a person has received this “Baptism.” However, Paul tells us something we need to consider. Let’s look at this in (1 Cor 14:21-22). In these verses, Paul is referring back to (Isa 28:11). Let’s look at this too. What is Paul saying here by referring back to (Isa 28:11)?
In (Isa 28:11), God issued a warning to the Jews that He would use people who spoke in another tongue as a sign of His judgment. When Paul correlates this verse with the tongues spoken in Acts, it seems clear that when people spoke in tongues in Acts, it was also a sign of God’s judgment for the Jews. Applying this to when the “Baptism of the Holy Spirit” was given in Acts, it would seem that when tongues were spoken, it was a sign to “unbelievers,” namely unbelieving Israel (the Jews), of God’s judgment upon them. We can see in each case where the “Baptism of the Holy Spirit” was given, and tongues were spoken, that unbelieving Jews were present. So, in short, tongues were not spoken as a sign that a person had received the “Baptism,” but rather, they were spoken as a sign of God’s judgment to unbelieving Jews who were present in each case where they were spoken.
In addition, I should also point out that the Greek word “glossa” is used for the tongues that were spoken. “Glossa” in Greek means “a language, specifically one unacquired” (Strong’s). In other words, the tongues that were spoken in each instance in Acts were an actual “language,” not unintelligible babbling like some believe. For example, at Pentecost, (Acts 2:5-13) tells us that everyone heard their own language as the tongues were being uttered.
OK, I hope that makes sense to you. Now, let’s get to the big “BUT.” While I do not believe the Bible supports a one time “second infilling” experience called the “Baptism of the Holy Spirit,” it most certainly DOES teach that we should seek to be “filled” OVER AND OVER with the Spirit. It is crucial that I stress again, this is NOT a ONE TIME EXPERIENCE. The key verse for this in the Bible is found in (Eph 5:18). Let’s look at this.
The Greek word “filled” in this verse is “pleuro.” A literal translation of this word is “Be being filled with the Spirit.” In other words, being filled with the Spirit should happen over and over.
Being “filled” with the Spirit in this way is an AMAZING thing! I have experienced this MANY times as I have prayed for God to work in me and through me as I seek to do His work. I have been given supernatural words at times while writing, teaching, or witnessing that I know did not come from me. I have been given words to pray when I really didn’t know what to pray (see: Rom 8:26-27). I have been filled while in the midst of worship. These are just a few examples. We can accomplish extraordinary things through the power of the Holy Spirit. Things we could never accomplish on our own. (To see a whole list of things the Holy Spirit can do in a Christian, go to: https://jesusalive.cc/how-holy-spirit-helps-christians )
Can you think of any examples when God “filled” you with the Holy Spirit to accomplish something for Him?
Let’s turn at a few examples in Acts of people accomplishing mighty things when filled with the Spirit (Acts 4:8-12,31)(Acts 7:55-56)(Acts 13:9-12).
Can’t we all agree that we want to be “filled with the Spirit?” When it is taught instead that a person should seek a “second experience” (called the “Baptism of the Holy Spirit”), and to look for a sign (“tongues”) that they have received it, I believe a great disservice is being done to fellow believers. In fact, it can be downright harmful! Early in my walk with the Lord, I was put in this position of thinking I was missing out on something because I had not experienced a “second infilling” (and tongues). It was not a pleasant feeling AT ALL!
Those who teach a “second infilling” must understand what they are doing when they tell someone this… They are creating a two class system of Christians: the “have’s” and the “have not’s.” They are telling fellow Christians that “I have a relationship and closeness with God that you don’t have, but if you do what I did, you can have it too!” Perhaps some will come to believe as they do, but others will not, and they may be responsible for causing them to question their faith and walk with the Lord!
I have heard the cries of many who have said, “Why won’t God give me this Baptism?” The inevitable answer that must be given by the “second infilling” teacher is that they did something wrong. Among common answers are: you didn’t pray the right way, you didn’t TOTALLY surrender your life, you didn’t REALLY believe you would receive it, or you have unconfessed sin. OR, we have the “Maybe it’s not God’s timing for you to receive it now.” Has that teacher ever stopped to think how these answers will affect their fellow Christian brother or sister?? Basically, they are being told that God has chosen not to give them this “gift” because of some problem they have… However, if they “fix the problem (or problems),” and do the right things, MAYBE they will receive it some day.
I would also tell that teacher that if they say “it isn’t in God’s timing,” to take a look again at the Acts accounts of the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. Was there ever a time when ANY BELIEVER who was present did not receive the “Baptism” when it was given? God does not EVER withhold being Baptized with the Holy Spirit when a person is a believer. The Bible does not ever show believers having to DO anything to receive it. It never shows God pouring it out on some believers and withholding it from others.
In closing, let me say that if you have read to this point, and believe that you have experienced power (and tongues) as a result of being “Baptized with the Holy Spirit,” I do not expect that you are going to change your mind on what you believe. I am ok with that. But, I do ask you to consider the harmful effect you can have on weaker Christians when you teach them to seek an experience (manifested by speaking in tongues) which they may not get. Instead, why not teach about amazing things you can accomplish for God by being “filled over and over” with the Spirit?
And, for those of you who may have sought a “second experience” and not received it, let me say, “PLEASE, do not be discouraged!” Do not fall into the trap of believing you HAVE to have a “second experience” with the Holy Spirit (and speak in tongues) to be a powerful man or woman for God! As a believer in Jesus Christ, you have the power of the Holy Spirit within you RIGHT NOW to change lives. Pray for that power to be manifested in your life over and over as you minister to others. Empty yourself of you, and ask God to “fill” you with the Holy Spirit. You do not need to look for any “sign” this is happening to you. It WILL happen to you (Lk 11:13)! You will see change in your life more and more as you are filled over and over. But, more importantly, you will change the lives of others!
P.S. I should also add that there IS a small faction of people out there who say that the Baptism of the Holy Spirit, manifested by speaking in tongues, is a necessary component for salvation, and we should most certainly divide with those who teach this.