This will be the last session on baptism. The baptism of the Holy Spirit is peripheral to baptism, but a topic of much confusion. And I must admit that I am as confused. But I feel I have to write about it anyways. The confusion about the baptism of the Holy Spirit is regarding whether there is one pouring out of the Holy Spirit, default given to every believer upon accepting Jesus Christ as your savior (also called “baptism unto life”, which leads to newness of eternal life, and is evident in the fruit of the Spirit), or if there is a second pouring out of the Holy Spirit, given only when asked for that gives a person much greater spiritual power and boldness, and the ability to live a more victorious Christian life (also called “baptism unto power”, which leads to power to witness, and is evident through the gifts of the Holy Spirit). My aim is to clarify this here.
What is baptism of the Holy Spirit?
The clearest explanation of the baptism appears in 1 Corinthians 12:13. Paul is dealing with a situation where the Corinthian church was splitting into factions over the issue of spiritual gifts. Overemphasis on certain spectacular gifts had led to the attitude that some people had the most desirable gifts, while others were deficient. In response, Paul exclaims “for by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.” (1 Corinthians 12:13). His main point? All believers share the reality of being baptized by the Spirit. What does it do? It makes us part of the body of Christ, and will guide us into all truth. When does it happen? If every believer has been baptized in the Spirit, then it must happen at the moment you accept Jesus Christ in your life. Baptism in the Holy Spirit can be defined as: at the moment of salvation, the Holy Spirit places a believer into permanent union with Christ and with other believers in the Body of Christ. This is echoed in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians that “in Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation – having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory” (Ephesians 1:13-14), and to “do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.” (Ephesians 4:30). All believers are sealed by the Holy Spirit, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, for the day of redemption. All believers are “waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body” (Romans 8:23).
What is All the Confusion About?
So, why is there so much confusion (or should I say disunity in the body) when it comes to the Holy Spirit? Firstly, in the time that Jesus was still on the earth, He said, “if you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?” (Luke 11:13), which could lead to the believe that you need to ask for the Holy Spirit in order to receive Him. Yet, this asking is in the form of the initial asking upon conversion. Secondly, anyone who believed in Jesus before Pentecost did not yet receive the Holy Spirit. That is why Jesus “commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for what the Father had promised, ‘Which,’ He said, ‘you heard of from Me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.’ So when they had come together, they were asking Him, saying, ‘Lord, is it at this time You are restoring the kingdom to Israel?’ He said to them, ‘It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority; but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.” (Acts 1:4-8). “And there appeared to them tongues as of fire distributing themselves, and they rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance.” (Acts 2:3-4). It is also evident from what Jesus commands here that the pouring out of the Holy Spirit is for being witnesses to Christ (which means it’s a baptism unto power), yet Pentecost was a “special” event, as it was the initial pouring out of the Spirit. Jesus said earlier: “But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you. And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment; concerning sin, because they do not believe in Me; and concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father and you no longer see Me; and concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world has been judged. I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of Mine and will disclose it to you” (John 16:7-14). Jesus is speaking to all disciples here. He does not make a distinction. This is why Peter in his sermon after Pentecost could say, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38), for the Holy Spirit is given to each who repents of sin. In two instances later in Acts, the baptism in the Holy Spirit was temporarily delayed in order to demonstrate to the Apostles that Samaritans (Acts 8:14-16) and Gentiles (Acts 10:27-48) were equally a part of God’s plan of salvation, but we always have to remember that it is Jesus who is the baptizer, “He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire” (Matthew 3:11b).
I must admit there are three instances regarding the receiving of the Holy Spirit that I am still confused about. The first is recorded in the Gospel of John where Jesus visits the disciples after His resurrection, it is recorded: “So when it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and when the doors were shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’ And when He had said this, He showed them both His hands and His side. The disciples then rejoiced when they saw the Lord. So Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you; as the Father has sent Me, I also send you.’ And when He had said this, He breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.’” (John 20:19-22). This is not as much confusing but rather interesting, as it seems that the disciples there present received the Holy Spirit (Jesus breathed on them) before the day of Pentecost. It could be said that this is where the disciples are born again. The second is recorded in Acts regarding the conversion of Paul (Saul): “So Ananias departed and entered the house, and after laying his hands on him said, ‘Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road by which you were coming, has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.’” (Acts 9:17). It seems that Saul was actually born again when Ananias layed hands on him, because here it is where he receives the Holy Spirit. Interesting side note is that Paul received the Holy Spirit before being baptized (Acts 9:18) – just to dismantle the notion that baptism is required for receiving the Holy Spirit (as the baptism of the Holy Spirit is not for the purpose of cleansing from sin, but for the purpose of empowering for service). The third is when Paul came to Ephesus and found some disciples who were not aware of the existence of the Holy Spirit and were only baptized by John the Baptist (Acts 19:1-6). They were baptized again, but now in the name of the Lord Jesus, and only then they received the Holy Spirit. “It happened that while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul passed through the upper country and came to Ephesus, and found some disciples. He said to them, ‘Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?’ And they said to him, ‘No, we have not even heard whether there is a Holy Spirit.’ And he said, ‘Into what then were you baptized?’ And they said, ‘Into John’s baptism.’ Paul said, ‘John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in Him who was coming after him, that is, in Jesus.’ When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began speaking with tongues and prophesying” (Acts 19:1-6). Why did Paul ask them if they did receive the Holy Spirit when they believed? Apparently, there was something about these disciples that prompted the question from Paul. These Ephesian disciples reveal that they have very little knowledge of God’s nature as revealed in Jesus. One can imagine that these Ephesian disciples heard about the coming of the Messiah through John’s message, and they heard of their need to be ready to receive the Messiah and to ready themselves through repentance. Yet they actually do not seem to have heard that the Messiah had in fact come, and had not heard of their need to trust in His specific person and work. When they heard that the Messiah had come, they believed, were baptized in the name of Lord Jesus, and received the Holy Spirit.
So, what can be said then? There is one Spirit and one baptism (Ephesians 4:4-5). The one Spirit is the Holy Spirit, the third person of the trinity. His work is regenerating, quickening, enlightening, convicting, comforting, drawing, uniting, indwelling, teaching, cleansing, leading, assuring, witnessing, sealing, assisting, interceding, transforming, preserving, confirming, fructifying, and endowing. The one baptism is the spiritual baptism that happens at the conversion, when we receive the Holy Spirit, and are united with Christ forever, and made part of the body of Christ which is the church. And the Holy Spirit “will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of Mine and will disclose it to you.” (John 16:13-14). The Holy Spirit will not speak on His own initiative. He will only speak to glorify Jesus. And so Jesus must be glorified for the Holy Spirit to manifest Himself. For “all things are possible to him who believes” (Mark 9:23), Jesus said. And Jesus also said, “he who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘from his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.’ But this He spoke of the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were to receive” (John 7:38-39). And this Spirit is not exclusive; it is given freely to anyone who believes, and you don’t have to ask for it.