Spirit Baptism

Course: A Guide to Christian Theology

Lecture: Spirit Baptism


This is the 22nd lecture in the online series of lectures on a Guide to Christian Theology by Dr Breshears. Recommended Reading includes: Biblical References from the Course and Study Guides 1 – 39. (Any slides, photos, study guides or outlines that the lecturer refers to should be down loaded separately. If they are not available, you may be able to find something similar using the Google© search engine.)

I. Introduction

Interestingly it says in Scripture that it is the Holy Spirit that unifies us. It brings all of us under the body of Christ. The irony is that it has been one of the more divisive things among evangelicals. Things like whether or not the Holy Spirit works today, how he works and how he speaks and what is the meaning of the baptism of the Holy Spirit? This has gone on for a century or so. There is somewhat of a broad consensus developing on many of these things as different denominations and traditions begin to relate and talk to each other. We find a lot of commonality when we speak to other Christians with our Bible open and seeing what the Bible says on these points. This is the approach I’m going to take in this lecture, just seeing what kind of commonality we can come to. I will not include everything but we will try to come to some kind of theory on the Holy Spirit.

II. The Indwelling of the Holy Spirit

A. Indwelling of the Spirit

Everybody agrees that all Christians are indwelt and sealed by the Holy Spirit and are gifted for service and worship. They will show fruit and will have an ongoing filling of the Spirit which could be quite dramatic. So indwelling is when the Holy Spirit comes into us and we are in cooperated into the body of Christ. We are sealed by him as children of the most-high God. We are gifted for service; the things that we now do become empowered by the Spirit. The characteristics of the Spirit are bearing fruit of love, joy, peace, etc. That is particularly true as we keep in step with him. There is a command associated with that fruit and that command is to keep in step with the Spirit and seek the Spirit and not to squint the Spirit and there will be an ongoing filling of the Spirit where sometimes that can be very dramatic. Evangelicals will usually agree with what I’ve said here. The Holy Spirit will teach, illuminate, guide and empower prayer and worship in the believer. Some Pentecostals would say that believers aren’t filled until they have been purified but mainline Pentecostals believe that we are indwelt with the Holy Spirit at the time of conversion. Most of Evangelicals believe that the spiritual gifts are at work today, though there is question as to the manifestation of how these gifts work. A group known as sensationalist believes that the Holy Spirit stops doing certain kinds of work when the Canon was closed after the Apostles died. They believe things like prophesy and tongues and miracle working no longer happen today. That is a lively discussion within evangelicalism.

B. Spirit Baptism

The idea of the filling of the Holy Spirit subsequent to the indwelling and an empowerment for service, for ministry and spiritual life, but which of these deserves the term, spirit baptism? This is a point of disagreement. In Pentecostal traditions, this is that empowerment of Acts 2, speaking in tongues, etc. that totally changes you. Other evangelicals say that spirit baptism is what happens at conversion. So the controversy comes from how the term is used. I think the Bible uses spirit baptism for the indwelling of the cooperation experience. The ones who come from the more Pentecostal tradition are going to argue this on the basis on what their tradition with the restoration of the work of the Holy Spirit in the 1900s and this has to do with a renewing and empowering experience. So they applied spirit baptism to that because it related more to what happened at Pentecost. Thus, this is a differentiation of how the term is used. So Spirit baptism for some evangelicals is a second working that comes subsequent to conversion. It is an experience that everyone knows that they’ve had if they have had it, and as we have said others say it happens only at conversion and he never gets more of it than he got at conversion.

III. New Covenant Promise

So should we expect a second distinct work of grace from God? Do we have all the (Holy Spirit) power that we need when we become Christians? Look at Ezekiel 36:26 where it says that God will put a new spirit within us. And then it says that ‘I will put my Spirit (Holy Spirit) within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.’ This is a future time where the Holy Spirit will do a cleansing work in people and so it is the future. This is an indwelling and renewing experience, a New Covenant promise. It is a coming day with the new covenant will be inaugurated. Now is Matthew 3:11, John the Baptist says, ‘I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.’ This is a clear reference back to the Old Testament of the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit. This is the New Covenant promise of a future baptism for those who repent of their sins. In Acts 1:5 Jesus repeats what John said, ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.’ At this point in time, Jesus has been resurrected and appeared before the Apostles telling them not to leave Jerusalem. They were to wait for the gift that Jesus’ Father had promised. Of course they ask whether this was to be the restoration that was promised where everything was to be renewed, the coming millennium. But Jesus said to them that it wasn’t for them to know the day for the restoration of the Kingdom of Israel, but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you and you will be my witnesses throughout the world. So he is talking about a baptism that is coming in reference to John’s promise which will come soon and it is going to be an empowerment to take the Gospel to the nations. This was promised to the people of God, the church, the followers of Jesus Christ.

IV. Pentecost and the New Covenant Inauguration

A. Baptized in the Spirit

And so we have what happened in Acts 2:1 with a sound like that of a rushing wind and divided tongues as of fire appeared and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. So we see that baptized isn’t used here in chapter 2, but it is clearly the promise of Acts 1:5 where baptize is used. Of course this was extremely dramatic. So the when or time is now and it was the disciples apparently about 120 altogether. It was the initial fulfillment of the Acts 1:5 passages and it is a dramatic empowerment where they declared the wonders of God and people heard it in all languages. Clearly, this is a reverse of Babel in regards to the languages where nations were scattered. Now the nations are coming back together under one God, Yahweh and giving up their own gods. Then in Peter’s sermon, it confirms that this was the New Covenant inaugurated, not the fullness but it is the beginning. Peter concludes his sermon by saying that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified. They ask in response to this, what they should do. In Acts 2:38 Peter replied, ‘Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.’ These people received that then.

B. Filled with the Spirit

So let us back up a little. In Acts 2:1, when the Holy Spirit came upon them, how long had they been saved? How long had they been the people of God, the followers of Jesus Christ. It had been three years for Peter, John and James. So does this means that spirit baptism comes after a person decides to follow Christ? In this case it seems so. In the second half of Acts 2 they received the gift of the Holy Spirit at the moment they were saved. So it seems normal to receive the Holy Spirit at the moment of accepting Jesus as Savior. Earlier, before Acts 2:1, the New Covenant had not yet been inaugurated. Pentecost or the coming of the Holy Spirit only happened in Acts 2:1. And so later on, they received the Holy Spirit at the moment of conversion. We have another incident in Acts 4:31 where it says, ‘and when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness.’ This story begins back in chapter 3 with the healing of the lamp man. Peter and John were then jailed and after their release, they had a prayer meeting and afterwards, the place was shaken just like in Acts 2:1. All the believers were of one heart and mind and they shared everything they had and with great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of Jesus and there were no needy people among them. This is the filling of the Holy Spirit, the same as that in Acts 2:1, which was a baptism. Who are these people in Acts 4:31? This is not a baptism passage as such, they were filled, something like in Acts 2:1, but it is a repeated filling. I think the ‘time’ is subsequent to salvation; the ‘who’ is the disciples who were praying and the ‘what’ is a filling and empowerment that helps them to be more Christ like in their community. So this is a filling, not a baptism of the Spirit.

C. The Samarians Receive the Holy Spirit

In Acts 8 Stephen is stoned to death and Saul begins to persecute the church and people start leaving Jerusalem. Peter and John went to Samaria and prayed for the Samarians and laying hands on them, they received the Holy Spirit. These were people who were saved at the preaching of Peter and John. This reminds us of Acts 1 where the Word was to be preached throughout the world. But here it says that they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. It was after this they received the Holy Spirit and Peter and John laid their hands on them. The word ‘baptism’ isn’t used here, but it seems to be a baptism and it was delayed. They were water baptized in verse 12 and only after Peter and John had arrived do they receive the Holy Spirit. So how long was the separation between being baptized and receiving the Holy Spirit? This must have happened relatively soon, perhaps a matter of three or four days. Perhaps the delay was to signify the oneness of the church between Jews and Gentiles, in this case the Samarians. Now, the Pentecostal idea that the Baptism of the Holy Spirit comes after conversion doesn’t seem to be supported by this incident as it was only a couple of days.

D. Cornelius and his Household Receive the Holy Spirit

In Acts 9, we see Saul’s conversion. For three days Saul, now Paul was blind and in Damascus. The Lord calls Ananias to help Paul and to baptize him. In Verse 17, we see that Ananias laid hands on him and said Brother Saul; the Lord Jesus who appeared to you on the road by which you came has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit. He arose and was baptized. So was Paul saved on the road or in the room? Conversion takes some time sometimes, especially when it shatters your whole world view. Definitively, I would have to say in the room because that is when he received the Holy Spirit. Later, when Paul tells his own story, he doesn’t separate the two as is shows here in chapter 9. Then in the next chapter where Peter meets up with Cornelius and starts preaching and the Holy Spirit came on all those who heard the message. They received the Holy Spirit here at the time of conversion. In Acts 11, he uses the baptism term in telling the people back in Jerusalem about what happened. So here, it clearly happened all at the same time.

V. Conclusion

Now in Acts 19 when Paul was in Corinth, he came across some who were baptized by John the Baptist and had not received the Holy Spirit. Once told about Jesus and the forgiveness of sins, they received the Holy Spirit. Now, these are people who are disciples yet they don’t know about Pentecost. This was like twenty years later. The King James Bible says ‘have you received the Holy Ghost since you believed?’ And since here means subsequent to belieiving. Now in any contemporary translation, it says instead of since, it says when you believed. The King James meaning refers to ‘because you believed.’ Then in 1st Corinthians 12 Paul speaks about Spiritual Gifts. We were all baptized by one spirit so as to form one body and were made to drink of one Spirit. So we see here that we all received the Baptism of the Holy Spirit as the whole body is unified by this. The idea of drinking the spirit is the idea of the living water that bubbled up in you.

So we have words like baptism, the filling, the empowerment, the receiving, the pouring out and all this language that is associated with the Holy Spirit? Well, this is what I think: there is nowhere in the Bible that shows that conversion and baptism of the Holy Spirit is separated significantly. The longest separation is two or three days and there appears to be a good reason. Everywhere the baptism of the Holy Spirit is associated with becoming a Christian. Another point is that the Holy Spirit empowers people in growth in Christ likeness, doing the work of the ministry and for doing the supernatural work of God. If others put the Baptism of the Holy Spirit later with a subsequent empowerment, I am not going to get worried about that so long as they don’t make me seem to be a second rate Christian. So the Baptism of the Holy Spirit, in cooperation, indwelling; it’s the foundation of the empowering of the filling of the Holy Spirit. That is the way I put it together.