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Baptism by the Holy Spirit

Baptism by the Holy Spirit is experienced by all who believe on Jesus Christ as their Savior at the moment of salvation, and it is not to be repeated (Romans 8:9). In that baptism believers are identified with Christ as the Head of the Body, and are indwelt by the Spirit (John 4:14; 7:38-39).

The baptism by the Spirit occurs at conversion when the Holy Spirit enters the believing sinner and gives him new life, and makes his body the temple of the Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). All believers have experienced this once-for-all baptism at the moment of salvation (Romans 8:9).

The presence of the Holy Spirit and His availability for all believers is the norm in the New Testament. All of the commands and exhortations of the epistles are based on the assumption that the baptism of the Spirit has already taken place in the believer's life. The Holy Spirit "abides" with the believer forever from the moment he believes on Christ as his Savior (John 14:16).

Therefore, we should be careful not to confuse other forms of expressions found in the New Testament with the baptism of the Holy Spirit. For example, when Christians are commanded to "walk by the Spirit" (Galatians 5:16) and to "be filled with the Spirit" (Ephesians 5:18), we are not to understand these as commands to be "baptized" of the Holy Spirit. Similarly the "anointing" of the Spirit (1 John 2:20-27) and the "pledge (down payment) of our inheritance" (Eph. 1:14) and other expressions are not referring to the baptism. These references indicate various other aspects of the Spirit's work in believers and their appropriation of the gifts and blessings of the Holy Spirit in the Christian's life rather than the historical baptism of the Spirit.

We affirm the teachings of the New Testament that Christians receive one baptism, and must yield to the constant control of the Holy Spirit. We received one baptism which took place at moment of our spiritual regeneration, and we will receive many fillings during the rest of our Christian life. "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).  

The baptism of the Holy Spirit places us in the Body of Christ. The filling of the Spirit brings us under the control of the Spirit.

The phrase "baptized with the Spirit" defines what baptism is being referred to; it is a baptism with reference to the Spirit, not water. A baptism with reference to the Spirit is a baptism in which the Holy Spirit is the sole Agent. God is the one who does the baptizing by His Spirit.

The baptism by the Holy Spirit on Cornelius and his family (Acts 10:44-48) is directly linked to the first outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, and it is the formal recognition of the gospel being preached to the non-Jews. Gentiles as well as the Jews have all of the blessings and privileges of the dwelling presence of the Holy Spirit (Acts 11:15-18). They were both placed in the Body of Christ by the same Spirit.

Jesus predicted a definite and specific event called the baptism of the Spirit in Acts 1:5. "For John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now" (Acts 1:5).  

The events on the day of Pentecost were the definite fulfillment of the prophecy of Joel (Acts 2:17-21). Only one other event in the New Testament is described as the baptism of the Holy Spirit and it may be regarded as the completion of the Pentecostal baptism (10:1-11:18).

First Corinthians 12:13 reads, "By one Spirit we are all baptized into one body." The "body" here is the mystical body of Christ of which our Lord is the Head. The personal agent who does the baptizing into the body of Christ is the Holy Spirit. He places the believing sinner into the Body of which our Lord Jesus Christ is the living Head. The tense of the verb refers to a once-for-all event in past time. Therefore, potentially this took place at Pentecost and affects all believers in Christ. It is the fulfillment of our Lord's words; "You shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days hence" (Acts 1:5).

The Holy Spirit places or introduces the believing sinner into the Body of Christ. The same operation of the Holy Spirit is referred to in Romans 6:3; Galatians 3:17, but the apostle is relating it to our vital union with the Head of the Body.

The baptism by the Holy Spirit does not bring the Spirit to us in the sense that God places the Spirit upon or in us. The baptism by the Holy Spirit places the believer in a vital union with Christ whereby he becomes a member of the mystical Body of Christ.

Therefore, the baptism by the Holy Spirit is not for power, because in this baptism there is nothing applied to or given the believer. The believer is placed into the Body of Christ and therefore has an eternal unchanging position with Him.

The Holy Spirit is not an ingredient into which the believer is baptized. The Holy Spirit is not applied to the believer as when the believer is immersed in water. Nor is water baptism a requirement for receiving the Holy Spirit. The believer does not simultaneously receive the baptism by the Holy Spirit at the time he is immersed in water.

The “anointing” with the Holy Spirit refers to the act of God the Father causing the Sprit to take up His permanent residence in the believer.

Therefore, nowhere in the Scriptures are believers commanded to seek the baptism by the Spirit. There is no power imparted in the act of baptizing with the Holy Spirit. We have already experienced it, and it never has to be repeated because the believer already has Him living within. It is a matter of yielding to the control of Spirit.

We are, however, commanded to be "filled" with the Spirit (Ephesians 5:18). The "filling" has to do with the control of our lives by the Holy Spirit. To be "filled" by something in the Scriptures means to be "controlled" by it. It is a matter of being available to the Holy Spirit and yielding control of our lives to Him.

Key Scriptures

1 Corinthians 12:13; Acts 1:5; Romans 8:9, 14-16; John 4:14; 7:38-39; Ephesians 5:18; Galatians 5:16; 1 John 2:20-27; Acts 10:1-11:18; 1 Corinthians 6:17-20; 3:16-17; 2 Corinthians 6:14-18

Abiding Principles and Practical Applications

1. How can you know the Holy Spirit has baptized you? The evidence will be the witness of the Spirit within the believer (Romans 8:14-16). It does not consist of having all or certain spiritual gifts. It is the inner witness of the Holy Spirit bearing "witness with our spirit that we are the children of God" (Rom. 8:16).

2. When you put your trust in Jesus Christ as your Savior you were baptized by the Holy Spirit into the Body of Christ (Gal. 3:28; 1 Cor. 12:13).

3. Because all believers have already experienced the once-for-all baptism of the Holy Spirit at conversion, we are not commanded to seek this baptism.

4. Because our bodies already belong to the Holy Spirit we are to live our lives under His constant control (1 Cor. 6:18-20).

5. If we are "baptized" by the Holy Spirit we belong to Christ's Body, and if we are "filled" with the Holy Spirit our bodies belong to Christ.

6.  In the context of every passage in the book of Acts where it is said the believers were “filled with the Spirit” they are seen witnessing.

For Further Study

Fellowship of the Holy Spirit
Believer's Baptism
Anointed Biblical Preaching
You in Me and I in You
Exodus 17:1-7 The Rock is Christ
Baptized into Christ
Romans 3:21-26 Our Perfect Union with Christ
Galatians 2:20 Our Vital Union in Christ's Death
Who Am I in Christ?
Galatians 2:20 Our Vital Union in Christ's Resurrection
Romans 6:1-14 Free at Last
Romans 6 The Christian's Identity with Christ
The Exchanged Life
Romans What Must I Do to be Saved
Imputed Righteousness of God
John 3:1-16 You Must be Born Again

Message by Wil Pounds and all content on this page (c) 2005 by Wil Pounds. Anyone is free to use this material and distribute it, but it may not be sold under any circumstances whatsoever without the author's written consent. Scripture quotations from the New American Standard Bible (c) 1973, and 1995 Update by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. 

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