The Baptism with the Holy Spirit is a very controversial subject within the Christian community. Although Christians of all denominations believe in a soteriology which includes a baptism with the Holy Spirit, theologically, all do not agree as to the time and manner in which a believer is baptized with the Holy Spirit.
It is our belief that the Holy Spirit baptism is promised to every believer regenerated by faith in Christ. However, not every believer is baptized with the Holy Spirit at the time of conversion.
As we examine the New Testament record found in the book of Acts, we shall discover, it is indeed possible to be converted to Christ and regenerated by the Spirit, but yet not receive the experience known as the Baptism with the Holy Spirit until some time afterward.
Why Must We Study the Book of Acts?
The book of Acts is the only history book in the New Testament. Unlike the epistles, which are letters written to churches or individuals to instruct believers in the faith; in Acts, Luke records with great detail the historical setting and chronology of the first century church as it unfolds, from the time leading up to the day of Pentecost 33 AD and the years immediately following.
While the epistles are written to those who had already received the experience of the baptism with the Holy Spirit, the book of Acts alone provides the historical record of how some of the churches and individuals to whom the epistles were written were saved and subsequently received the experience known as the baptism with the Holy Spirit.
Without studying the book of Acts, one cannot understand or appreciate the distinction between being born again of the Spirit and being baptized with the Spirit. The theological contribution of each historical account of early believers with the Holy Spirit is recorded with such detail as to provide a consistent biblical theology with respect to New Testament accounts of the Baptism with the Holy Spirit.
Although many preachers shy away from the Holy Spirit phenomenon witnessed in Acts, or attempt to explain away the implications of the truths presented there, to disregard or simply ignore this authentic historical record is to be negligent of rightly dividing the word of truth.
It is my opinion that the failure of many bible teachers to truthfully and accurately portray the biblical record in the book of Acts may be the sole reason why a large segment of the body of Christ is lacking in the power of God and in understanding the workings of His Spirit.
Throughout the remainder of this writing we shall attempt to address the following:
1) What is the baptism with the Holy Spirit?
2) Is the baptism with the Holy Spirit subsequent to salvation or concurrent with salvation?
3) Is there is a difference between being baptized by the Spirit and being baptized with the Spirit?
4) What is the difference between receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit speaking with other tongues and receiving the gift of tongues?
5) Is there is a difference between the purpose of speaking in other tongues as a sign and the purpose of the spiritual gift of divers (diverse) kinds of tongues?
There are some who hold the view, to be born of the Spirit and to be baptized with the Spirit are essentially one and the selfsame experience. Others hold the view, to be born again of the Spirit is indeed different from the baptism with the Spirit, but both always occur simultaneously. However, does the Acts’ record support these positions?
Our study reveals, the Acts record shows that some believers did experience the Baptism with the Holy Spirit subsequent to conversion and any public confession of faith in Christ, while others received the baptism with the Spirit prior to any public confession of faith in Christ.
As we examine the Acts record, we shall soon discover that:
The Baptism with the Holy Spirit is indeed different from the Birth of the Spirit. When we examine both experiences closely we find the following to be true:
1) The birth of the Spirit is an act of regeneration and the re-birth of the believer into Christ in salvation.
2) The baptism with the Spirit is an act of sanctification and the setting apart of the believer for service.
Why is this distinction important?
In regeneration, every believer is baptized by the Spirit into (gk. eis) Christ.
In sanctification, every believer is baptized by Christ into (eis) the Holy Spirit.
Into One Body, Into One Spirit
The following scriptural references will show that there are two distinct operations of the Godhead with regard to being born-again of the Spirit and subsequently being baptized with the Spirit.
“For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit” (1 Cor.12:13) KJV.
“And John bare record, saying, I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it abode upon him. And I knew him not: but he that sent me to baptize with water, the same said unto me, Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and remaining on him, the same is he which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost” (Jn. 1:32-33) KJV.
The word by in 1 Cor. 12:13 describes the regenerative agency of the person of the Holy Spirit, while the word with in Jn. 1:33 describes the sanctifying agency of the person of Christ. Although the Greek word en is translated in the Bible as by, with, in, and through, in the context of these scriptures there can be no mistaking the fact that:
Two separate persons of the Godhead are involved in the operation (gk. energia) of being born of the Spirit and in the operation of being baptized with the Spirit.
Notice carefully, in one operation (regeneration) the Holy Spirit is the baptizer into Jesus Christ. In the other operation (sanctification), Jesus Christ is the baptizer with and into the Holy Spirit.
1) In regeneration > the Holy Spirit > is the baptizer > into Jesus Christ
2) In sanctification > Jesus Christ > is the baptizer > into the Holy Spirit
One might naturally ask, how is the believer baptized both with and into the Holy Spirit at the same time?
The word baptize means to immerse, dip, or plunge. Accordingly, when a believer is baptized with the Holy Spirit he/she is baptized both with the Spirit and immersed into the Spirit, just as a believer is baptized both with water and immersed into water.
The promise of the Father to give another comforter was fulfilled on the day of Pentecost A.D. 33 when He began to pour out of His Spirit upon all flesh. The Father works all things through the finished work of His Son, Jesus Christ, by the Holy Spirit.
Jesus said that the Holy Spirit was not yet given because He was not yet glorified. This means that the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus (the finished work of Christ) had to occur before the Holy Spirit could be given to men. Prior to the day of Pentecost the disciples were given what is called the breath of promise (Jn. 20:22).
The Baptism of Regeneration
The baptism by the Spirit into Christ is also called the baptism of regeneration. It is the same experience spoken of by Paul in Titus 3:5 as the washing of regeneration.
We must be careful here, because although the word washing is used in this verse; notice, the words water or water baptism is not. Consequently, this verse is not inferring baptismal regeneration by water as some incorrectly teach. This verse does, however, teach baptismal regeneration by the Spirit.
The word washing (gk: loutron) in Titus 3:5 has nothing to do with water baptism, except in a figurative sense. In as much as, baptism with water illustrates what the Spirit has already accomplished in regeneration. Thus, Paul concludes that the washing of regeneration and the renewing of the believer is of the Holy Spirit.
In summary, the new-birth by the Spirit regenerates the believer and places the believer into the Body of Christ. The Baptism with the Holy Spirit subsequently sanctifies the believer and is an endowment of power (gk. dunamis) equipping the believer for service in order to fulfill the great commission.
There is One Baptism with the Holy Spirit
In Ephesians 4:5 Paul writes that there is one Lord, one faith, and one baptism. What does this mean?
It is uncertain whether this verse refers to water baptism or Sprit baptism; the context does not say. Although the Greek word used here is baptisma and it is used in the New Testament with water baptism, the Greek word for baptize is applied to both water baptism and the baptism with the Holy Spirit.
In the matter of the Spirit, there is only one baptism with the Spirit. However, there are many re-fillings of the Spirit. So, when Paul writes, be not drunk with wine, but be filled with the Spirit, it is an imperative to all believers to live continually under the power and influence of the Holy Spirit rather than under the influence of drugs and alcohol.
Although a believer may be baptized with the Holy Spirit only once, the believer may continually drink into one Spirit and be filled and re-filled many times throughout the believer’s lifetime.
Have you received the Holy Ghost since you believed?
Is every believer presumed to be baptized with the Holy Spirit immediately upon believing in Christ? Some teach this, however:
In Acts chapter 19 there is an occasion where Paul found certain former disciples of John the Baptist and asked them a remarkable question: Have you received the Holy Ghost since ye believed?
Now, if every believer is automatically presumed to be baptized with the Holy Spirit upon faith, conversion, and regeneration, then Paul’s question to these disciples makes no sense at all.
The only way Paul’s question makes sense is if there was an expectation of a pending subsequent experience of the Holy Spirit after faith, conversion, and regeneration by the Spirit.
This truth is also born out in another interesting account found in Acts chapter 8 where the Samaritans came to faith in Christ, were even baptized in water, but did not receive the Baptism with the Holy Spirit until the apostles, Peter and John came and laid their hands upon them.
These two accounts as well as others in Acts, prove that there is a baptism with the Holy Spirit that is a separate and distinct experience from the birth of the Spirit.
These Signs Shall Follow Them That Believe
There is an important and necessary correlation between faith and any operation of the Spirit; whether it is related to salvation, healing, miracles, etc. This is also true of the baptism with the Holy Spirit.
Many believers can believe in Christ for salvation, but cannot believe in him for other things such as divine healing or in this case the baptism with the Spirit.
There are many reasons for this. Lack of proper teaching and understanding in this area leads to lack of faith. A lack of faith and unbelief will prevent a saved person from receiving the Holy Spirit baptism.
We are told more than once in scripture that faith in Christ is a prerequisite for receiving the baptism with the Holy Spirit. Jesus said, He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.
There are two Greek words used in scripture to denote the distinction between receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit (evidenced by speaking with other tongues) and the spiritual gift of tongues. They are: dorea and charisma.
This is an important distinction because, one much first receive the gift (dorea) of the Holy Spirit before one may receive an individual gift (charisma) or gifts of the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit baptism with the sign or evidence of speaking with other tongues should not to be confused with the gift of tongues used in prayer, praise, and prophecy.
A little known truth is, the word dorea (gift) is always used in scripture to distinguish the gift of the Holy Spirit evidenced by speaking with other tongues, while the word charisma (gift) is always used of the gift of tongues.
Whenever speaking with other tongues is referred to in Acts in connection with the baptism with the Holy Spirit the word dorea is always used. However, whenever speaking in tongues is used elsewhere in the New Testament, the word charisma is used to denote the spiritual gift.
So, when Paul asks the question, do all speak with tongues; he is referring to the spiritual gift (charisma) and not to the gift (dorea) of the Holy Spirit with the sign of speaking with other tongues.
It has been my experience to observe that a believer may in fact speak with other tongues at the time of their baptism with the Holy Spirit, but may not ever subsequently receive or operate in the gift of tongues at all.
The charisma gift of tongues is referred to in scripture as divers kinds (gk. genos) of tongues and diversities (genos) of tongues. This is because there are essentially two distinct classifications or kinds (genos) of the gift of tongues. There are devotional and prophetic tongues and each has a different function and purpose.
Devotional tongues are a prayer and praise language – its function is, man speaking to God, and its purpose is to edify the individual believer. Prophetic tongues are a language of prophecy – its function is, God speaking to man. When coupled with the gift of interpretation of tongues its purpose is to edify the whole church.
It is prophesying in tongues (when God speaks to man) that requires interpretation. However, prayer offered in tongues (when man speaks to God) does not require an interpretation, since the speaker is actually praying to God and not speaking to man, God does not need an interpreter.
The difference being, praying in tongues edifies the one doing the praying, while prophesying in tongues edifies the whole church. For this reason prophecy in tongues must be interpreted.
During the baptism with the Spirit, a believer may speak with either a devotional or prophetic language which is unknown to the speaker. This will be a sign to all present but especially those who believe not.
It is often taught that those who believe not refer to unsaved people. However, this is only partially correct. Those who believe not, may also refer to any person (saved or not) who is unlearned and does not believe in the power of God to cast out devils, speak with new tongues, heal the sick, etc,.
When Jesus said, these signs shall follow them that believe, he was also declaring that supernatural manifestations of the power of God (signs) would follow those who have faith. However, if they do not have faith these signs will not follow them.
Probably, no account in Acts is more revealing than chapter 8 with regard to the baptism with the Holy Spirit being an experience separate and distinct from regeneration.
In Acts 8 Phillip the Evangelist preaches the gospel to Samaria where many believe and are baptized. However, it is expressly made clear that it was not until the apostles Peter and John came to town and laid their hands on them that they received the baptism with the Holy Spirit.
The question remains, if there was no evidence of this experience, then how did Simon the sorcerer and others know the Holy Spirit had fallen on the believers in Samaria? Because, he like the others beheld the signs that were done.
And let us not forget the household of Cornelius the first Gentile converts to Christ, who received the baptism with the Holy Spirit speaking with tongues while Peter yet preached Christ unto them.
The only sign that accompanied the baptism with the Holy Ghost in the bible was that of speaking with other tongues as the Spirit gave utterance.
Some bible teachers have attempted to explain away the phenomenon of saved believers who did not receive the baptism with the Holy Spirit until sometime later. They teach in order for the Jews, Samaritans, and Gentile nations (as a people group) to receive the initial in-filling of the Holy Spirit an apostle had to be present to certify them.
Furthermore, some teach, once each people group received the Holy Spirit baptism through the laying on of hands of an apostle, there was no longer an expectation of receiving the baptism with the Holy Spirit with the sign of speaking in tongues. Interestingly, the bible does not support this theory, and it amounts to nothing more than speculation.
Finally, our last example of a saved person receiving the baptism with the Holy Ghost subsequent to salvation and conversion is the apostle Paul himself. Whom, having had hands laid on him by Ananias (who was not an apostle) received his sight and was at the same time baptized and filled with the Holy Spirit.
Any time the book of Acts provides an account where believers initially receive the Holy Spirit, it may be considered as the baptism or the in-filling with the Holy Spirit. However, remember, there is only one baptism with the Holy Spirit but many re-fillings.
What is the difference between a Pentecostal and a Charismatic?
There is a difference between a Pentecostal and a Charismatic. Pentecostals hold to the teaching that the baptism with the Holy Ghost is always with the evidence (or sign) of speaking with other tongues.
Charismatics, however, are believers who have received the baptism with the Holy Spirit evidenced by speaking with other tongues, while they were members of other denominations or groups other than classical Pentecostal groups.
In addition, unlike Pentecostals, Charismatics speak with tongues and operate in other spiritual gifts, but do not necessarily hold that the baptism with the Spirit is always evidenced by speaking with other tongues. Some Charismatics hold that the baptism with the Spirit may be evidenced by other gifts of the Spirit such as healing, prophecy, etc.
In conclusion, it is impossible to develop a consistent and biblical theology of the experience referred to as the baptism with the Holy Spirit without examining the accounts referenced in the book of Acts.
We affirm there is a distinct Christian experience in the Bible referred to as the baptism with the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit baptism is an endowment of power to equip the believer to witness for Christ and to carry out the great commission.
The Holy Spirit Baptism is subsequent to salvation and may occur at the same time as salvation. However, being baptized with the Spirit in sanctification is a distinct work of the Godhead apart from being baptized by the Spirit in regeneration.
There is also a distinction between receiving the gift (dorea) of the Holy Ghost and receiving the gift (charisma) of tongues. And although speaking in tongues can serve a dual function and purpose (devotional or prophetic) simultaneously, there is a difference between the function and purpose of speaking in other tongues as a sign and the spiritual gift of diverse kinds (genos) of tongues.