The Baptism of the Holy Spirit

The Baptism of

“Have you received the baptism of the Holy Spirit?” A person in our day who becomes a Christian will sooner or later be asked this question. The question is frequently posed by charismatic Christians who are enthusiastic about their experiences with the Holy Spirit.

A doctrine that was once largely confined to Pentecostal and Assembly of churches has now become of central importance to a vast number of believers. The Neo-Pentecostal movement has reached into nearly every Christian denomination. A sense of excitement and spiritual renewal usually accompanies this fresh discovery of the presence and the power of in the church.

Neo-Pentecostalism has sought to define a doctrine of the baptism of based on people’s experiences. The doctrine has been widely controversial.

Usually, but not always, the charismatic Christian considers the baptism of as a second work of grace, distinct from and subsequent to regeneration and conversion. It is a work of the Holy Spirit that is available to all Christians but not appropriated by all. Charismatics are divided among themselves on the issue of whether speaking in tongues is a necessary sign or manifestation of the “baptism.”

Pentecostals point to the pattern in the book of Acts where believers (who obviously had the regenerating work of the Spirit prior to Pentecost) were filled by and spoke in tongues. This biblical pattern, which includes a time gap between conversion and baptism of the Spirit, is then seen as normative for all ages.

Pentecostals are correct in seeing a distinction between regeneration by and the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Regeneration refers to the Holy Spirit giving new life to the believer—making alive one who was dead in sin. The baptism of the Holy Spirit refers to empowering His people for ministry.

While the distinction between regeneration and the baptism of is legitimate, making a time gap between the two normative for all subsequent ages is invalid. The normal pattern since the time of the apostles has been that Christians receive the empowering of the Holy Spirit along with regeneration. It is not necessary for believers to seek a specific second work of Spirit baptism following conversion. Every Christian is Spirit-filled to a greater or lesser degree, depending on the amount of yielding to the Spirit.

Another problem with the Pentecostal doctrine is that it has an inadequate view of Pentecost. Pentecost marks a watershed moment in history. In the Old Testament, only a select few believers were endowed by with gifts for ministry (see Numbers 11). That pattern changed at Pentecost. At Pentecost all the believers present (all of whom were Jews) received the baptism. Likewise, in subsequent outpourings, the Samaritan converts (Acts 8), the believers at Cornelius’s household (Acts 10), and the Gentile of John living in Ephesus (Acts 19) all received the baptism of the Spirit.

The first believers did not think that the Samaritans, the -fearers, and the Gentile of John could be Christians. So the baptism of served as confirmation of their membership in the church. Since each of these groups experienced the baptism of the Holy Spirit in the same way that the Jews had at Pentecost, their inclusion in the could not be denied. himself experienced this firsthand.

When saw come upon the Gentiles at Cornelius’s house, he concluded that there was nothing to keep them from full membership in the church. said, “Can anyone forbid water, that these should not be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” (Acts 10:47).

The subsequent episodes of Holy Spirit baptism beyond the day of Pentecost should be understood as an extension of Pentecost by which the whole body of Christ was gifted for ministry. In the New Testament not every believer spoke in tongues, but every Christian was gifted by the Holy Spirit. The prophecy of Joel was thus fulfilled (Acts 2:16–21).

Summary

  1. The baptism of is a distinct work in which the Spirit endows believers with gifts for ministry.
  2. In Acts, is poured out on four groups (Jews, Samaritans, -fearers, and Gentiles), indicating they all are included in the New Covenant church.
  3. Pentecost fulfills the Old Testament prophecy that the Spirit would be poured out on all believers and not restricted to a few.