The baptism of the Holy Spirit is an infilling of power which Jesus performs in the life of one who is completely yielded to Him. This baptism is not a requirement for salvation; rather, it is a gift for those who have already received new spiritual birth.
The baptism of the Holy Spirit refers to a gift we can receive after we have accepted Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. The Bible says that Jesus Himself is the One who baptizes us with the Holy Spirit, as John the Baptist pointed out:
“I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he [Jesus] shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire.”
According to Cooper Abrams, the Filling of the Spirit can happen often in the believer’s life or it can be continuous if the believer obeys God, fights sin and allows the Holy Spirit to control him. However, the born again believer can disobey God, fall into sin or simply into a state of apathy towards the things of God, and thus lose the Filling of the Holy Spirit; but the child of God can never lose the Baptism or Indwelling of the Holy Spirit. God’s Spirit is always present in the believer’s life.
The term “baptism of the Spirit” occurs in a number of places in the Bible, yet this phrase has created a great deal of controversy and division among Christians.
- Pentecostals make all references to the “baptism of the Spirit” refer to a post conversion (after conversion) pouring forth of the Spirit. They talk about the “baptism of the Spirit” as being a “second experience” following salvation.
The Biblical evidence they usually point to are passages from the book of Acts: Acts 2:1-4; 8:13-17; 19:1-6.
- Non-charismatics tend to make all New Testament references to the “baptism of the Spirit” refer to the receiving of the Spirit at conversion. They say that the “baptism of the Spirit” is the same thing as the sealing of the Spirit talked about in other places of the New Testament.
The Biblical evidence they point to is: 1 Corinthians 12:13 where Paul says that all of the Corinthians became members of Christ’s body when they were baptized by the Spirit.
- Some Christians believe it is wrong to adopt either of the above extremes. They are convinced that “baptism of the Spirit” is a term which means any pouring out of the Spirit at any time in the life of a believer.
In this review, we will take a look at what scholars say and what the bible, especially, says about the baptism of the Holy Spirit.
“And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.”
When the day of Pentecost had come, the disciples and other followers of Jesus
“were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance” (Acts 2:1-4).
This amazing blend of sight and sound caught the attention of the Jews who had come to Jerusalem for the Feast of Pentecost, because they heard the disciples speaking the wonderful works of God in foreign tongues which had not been learned. This baffled the visiting Jews. Some of them doubted and others mocked this unusual occurrence.
But Peter, full of the Holy Spirit, preached a powerful message that brought conviction to their hearts. He said,
“This is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel: ‘And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams: and on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy: and I will shew wonders in heaven above, and signs in the earth beneath.”
Peter then declared that Jesus Christ, Who had been crucified and raised from the dead, was their long-awaited Messiah. According to Peter,
“This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses. 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 … Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ.”
The Bible recorded that when the multitude heard these things,
They were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, ‘Men and brethren, what shall we do?’ Then Peter said unto them, ‘Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.
Peter and the other apostles continued to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus, and that day about 3,000 people received the message, repented, and were baptized.
Following the outpouring of the Holy Ghost at Pentecost (Acts 2), the early church continued to experience the baptism in the Holy Ghost. Four incidences in particular are recorded in the book of Acts.
The Bible declares that the gift of the Holy Ghost (the promise of the Father) is given “unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call” (Acts 2:39). This means that both Jews and non-Jews (Gentiles) may receive the Father’s gift: “And God, which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them [Gentiles] the Holy Ghost, even as he did unto us [Jews]; and put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith” (Acts 15:8). As evidenced by these verses, the gift of the Holy Spirit is clearly available to anyone who is called and to anyone who believes; no other conditions apply. “For there is no respect of persons with God” (Romans 2:11; Galatians 2:6 and Ephesians 6:9).
A second reason why the baptism in the Holy Spirit is for today is because Jesus said, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, he that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father” (John 14:12). Jesus even mentioned what signs would follow those who believe: “And these signs shall follow them that believe. In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues. They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.” (Mark 16:17-18).Notice that these signs and miracles were not exclusively for the apostles; these signs would follow “those who believe.” Please note: Jesus was not suggesting that His disciples tempt God by purposely handling venomous snakes, seeking demons, or drinking deadly poison. Instead, Jesus was telling those who believed in Him that if they happened to find themselves in such life-and-death situations, His power would be available to them. A case in point occurred when the apostle Paul was bitten by a viper while collecting firewood but suffered no harm from it (Acts 28:1-10).
Thirdly, God’s Word gives no indication that believers today are excluded from the outpouring of the Holy Spirit; rather, the Word teaches that divine callings require supernatural power. Followers of Jesus in the last days need the same empowerment that the early church received, for without a doubt, “all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution” (II Timothy 3:12; also see John 15:18-19).
The power (dunamis in Greek) of the Holy Spirit actually enables Christians to stand firm in the face of persecution and do the works Jesus did. Sadly, many Christians quench the Spirit (I Thessalonians 5:19) by teaching that manifesting spiritual gifts, receiving miraculous healings, laying hands on the sick, casting out demons, and speaking in tongues “died out” in the first century. However, the Bible never implies any such thing. The questions we are trying to answer in this research and is pointing at are: Has the Great Commission ceased? No, it has not. Has persecution of Christians ended? No, not at all. Just as in the early church, believers today “must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22).
In the book of Acts, the most common sign of Holy Spirit baptism was the expression of unknown tongues. “They were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance” (Acts 2:4; see Mark 16:17; Acts 10:44-48, 19:6). Why was the sign of tongues the most common evidence of Holy Spirit baptism? Well, probably because a person’s tongue is the most unruly member of the body (James 3:2-10), so when the tongue is brought under the inspiration and influence of the Holy Spirit, there can be no doubt that the whole person has been immersed in the Holy Spirit.
Some churches teach that speaking in tongues is the sole evidence of being filled with the Spirit, but this is not altogether true. The biblical examples indicate that in addition to tongues, evidences of being filled with the Spirit include prophecy (Luke 1:41, Acts 19:6), boldness (Acts 4:31), miraculous healings (Acts 5:15-16), spiritual songs (Ephesians 5:19), wisdom (Acts 6:3), faith (Acts 6:8), and joy (Acts 13:52). Tongues were the common sign, but it was not recorded in every instance (Acts 8:15-17 and 9:17-19). Also, some believers received the Holy Spirit infilling after water baptism (see Acts 10:5-6); others received it before water baptism (see Acts 10:44-48).
Man often likes to put God in a box and predict the move of God’s Spirit with restrictive formulas, but the Holy Spirit works best with repentant, humble hearts that are yielded to Him and are willing to go with the flow. Like a heavenly wind, the Spirit comes and goes in perfect agreement with the will of the Father (John 3:8).
Paul taught that the sign of tongues was meant for prayer and personal edification, for building up the Body of Christ, and as a sign to unbelievers (I Corinthians 12:4-11, 14:4-5,22). Paul said, “I thank my God, I speak with tongues more than ye all” and “Wherefore, brethren, covet [desire] to prophesy, and forbid not to speak with tongues” (I Corinthians 14:18,39). Although tongues are beneficial, speaking in tongues should not be the focus of Holy Spirit baptism but rather fully yielding oneself in worship to Jesus. A language of the Spirit will often come spontaneously when the heart is so full of the Spirit that common words are insufficient for expression. “Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered” (Romans 8:26).
The Old Testament prophet Jeremiah experienced this kind of fullness, like a fire within: “But his word was in mine heart as a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I was weary with forbearing, and I could not stay” (Jeremiah 20:9). What did Jeremiah do? He prophesied with boldness to the people of Judah as the Spirit gave him the words to say.
The apostle Paul said that every member in the Body of Christ is necessary, and not all will speak in tongues. “Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Are all workers of miracles? Have all the gifts of healing? do all speak with tongues? do all interpret? (I Corinthians 12:30). There are, in fact, nine gifts or manifestations of the Spirit and “diverse tongues” is just one of them. “But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal. For to one is
given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; to another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit; to another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues: But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will” (I Corinthians 12:7-11). Each of these nine gifts is a different manifestation of the same Spirit.
The reviews made so far tells us that the bible teaches clearly about the baptism of the Holy Spirit. We understand that the baptism of the Holy Spirit is a promise and a gift from God to all believers. There is no exception, in this case, it is given to different tribes while not given to others. As many as accept Christ as His Lord and Saviour has the right to be baptized by the Holy Spirit. Also, we understand this baptism equips the believer with power to do exploits for God.
Finally, we also recognize that baptism of the Holy Spirit comes with numerous signs and gifts such as speaking in new tongues, gift of miracles, healings, etc. Every Christian should desire to have this baptism. However, it does not come except if we desire and ask for it.
 Matthew 3:11
 Cooper Abrams, A Biblical Look at the Baptism of the Holy Spirit and the filling of the Holy Spirit.
 Acts 2:16-19
 Acts 2:32-33,36
 Acts 2:37-41
 Elwell, Walter A. “Entry for ‘Baptism of the Holy Spirit'”. “Evangelical Dictionary of Theology”. 1997.
Cooper Abrams, A Biblical Look at the Baptism of the Holy Spirit and the filling of the Holy Spirit.
David Holt Boshart, Jr. and Shari Boshart. Holy Spirit Baptism. www.christcentredmall.com.
Duffield, Guy P., and Nathaniel M. Van Cleave. Foundations of Pentecostal Theology. 1983. Los Angeles: Foursquare Media, 2008.
Elwell, Walter A. “Entry for ‘Baptism of the Holy Spirit'”. Evangelical Dictionary of Theology. 1997.
Grudem, Wayne. Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1994.
Macchia, Frank D. Baptized in the Spirit: A Global Pentecostal Theology. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2006.
Michael Berenbaum and Fred Skolnik, eds. “Prophets and Prophecies.” Encyclopedia Judaica. 2nd ed. Detroit: Macmillan Reference USA, Vol. 16. 2007. 580.
Rington, French L. “The Indwelling, Baptism, and Infilling with the Holy Spirit: A Differentiation of Terms”. Pneuma: the Journal of the Society for Pentecostal Studies. vol. 3, no. 1 (Fall 1981).