On Eagles Wings Ministries
The Baptism in the Holy Spirit
The Baptism in the Holy Spirit
Since the turn of the twentieth century, the subject of the baptism in the Holy Spirit has been arousing keen interest and discussion among ever-widening circles of the Christians church. Today it continues to be a theme of study, of discussion and quite often of controversy in almost all sections of Jesusendom. In view of this, we shall seek to approach this study in a way that is careful, thorough and scriptural.
Seven New Testament References
First we shall enumerate the passages in the New Testament where the word baptise is used in connection with the Holy Spirit. Appropriately enough – since seven is distinctively the number of the Holy Spirit – there are seven such passages.
John the Baptist contrasted his own ministry with the ministry of Jesus which was to follow.
I indeed baptize you with water unto [into] repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier then I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire (Matt. 3:11).
Although the New King James Version uses the English preposition with in conjunction with the verb phrase “to baptize,” the actual preposition used in the original Greek is in. This usage applies equally to baptizing in water and to baptizing in the Holy Spirit. In each case the Greek preposition used is in. In fact, the only prepositions ever used anywhere in the New Testament in conjunction with the verb phrase “to baptize” are in and into. It is unfortunate that the New King James Version, by using a variety of different prepositional forms, has obscured the clear teaching of the original text.
In Mark 1:8 the words of John the Baptist concerning Jesus are rendered as follows.
I indeed baptized you with water, but He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.
In each case the Greek preposition used is in. In Luke 3:16 the words of John the Baptist are rendered as follows.
John answered, saying to them all, “I indeed baptize you with water; but One mightier than I is coming, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to loose. He will baptise you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.”
Here again, the literal translation is “in the Holy Spirit.”
In John 1:33 the testimony of John the Baptist concerning Jesus is given as follows.
I did not know Him, but He who sent me to baptise with water said to me, “Upon whom you see the Spirit descending, and remaining on Him, this is He who baptises with the Holy Spirit.”
Again, in each case the Greek preposition used is in.
In Acts 1:5, shortly before His ascension into heaven, Jesus says to His disciples:
For John truly baptised with water, but you shall be baptised with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.
More literally, Jesus says, “You shall be baptised in the Holy Spirit.”
In Acts 11:16 Peter is describing the events which took place in the household of Cornelius. In this connection he quotes the actual words of Jesus as given in Acts 1:5, for he says:
Then I remembered the word of the Lord, how He said, “John indeed baptised with water, but you shall be baptised with [in] the Holy Spirit.”
Finally, in 1 Corinthians 12:13 Paul says:
For by one Spirit we were all baptised into one body – whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free – and have all been made to drink into one Spirit.
Here the New King James Version used the preposition by – “by one Spirit we were all baptised into one body.” However, the preposition used in the original Greek text is in – “in one Spirit we were all baptised into one body.” Thus, Paul’s wording in this passage is in perfect harmony with the wording of the Gospels and the book of Acts.
Unfortunately, the accident that the translators of the King James Versions – both Old and New – have used the phrase “by one Spirit” in this particular passage has given rise to some strange doctrines. It has been suggested that Paul is referring to some special experience, different from that referred to in the Gospels or the book of Acts, and that the Holy Spirit is Himself the agent who does the baptising. Had the authors of these doctrines paused long enough to consult the original Greek text, they would have found no basis there for any such doctrine. In fact, the whole teaching of the entire New Testament agrees on this fact, clearly and emphatically stated: Jesus Jesus alone – and no other – is the One who baptises in the Holy Spirit.
We must also add that Paul’s usage here of the phrase “baptised into,” in connection with the baptism in the Holy Spirit, agrees with the usage of the same phrase in connection with John’s baptism and with Christians baptism in water. In both these cases we pointed out that the act of baptism was an outward seal and affirmation of an inward spiritual condition. The same applies to Paul’s statement here about the relationship between the baptism in the Holy Spirit and membership of the body of Jesus. The baptism in the Holy Spirit does not make a person a member of the body of Jesus. Rather it is a supernatural seal acknowledging that that person has already, by faith, become a member of Jesus’s body.
Let us now briefly summarize the lessons we may learn from the seven New Testament passages where the phrase “to baptise in the Holy Spirit” is used.
In six out of these seven passages the experience of being baptised in the Holy Spirit is both compared and contrasted with being baptised in water.
In two out of the seven passages “fire” is joined with “the Holy Spirit,” and the experience is described as “being baptised in the Holy Spirit and fire.”
Apart from the verb phrase “to baptise,” the only other verb used in these passages in connection with the Holy Spirit is the verb “to drink.” In 1 Corinthians 12:13 Paul says: “We . . . have all been made to drink into one Spirit.” In modern English we would say more simply: “We have all been given to drink of one Spirit.”
The use of the verb “to drink” agrees with what Jesus Himself says concerning the Holy Spirit in John 7:37-39.
Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.
Here Jesus likens the gift of the Holy Spirit to the drinking of water.
This in turn harmonizes with the passage in Acts 2:4 concerning the disciples in the upper room on the day of Pentecost, where it states that they were all filled with the Holy Spirit.
It agrees also with various passages in the book of Acts which speak about believers receiving the Holy Spirit. For example, concerning the Samaritans converted through the preaching of Philip, we read that Peter and John were later sent down to them from Jerusalem.
Who, when they had come down, prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit . . . Then they laid hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit (Acts 8:15,17).
Peter says, concerning the people in the house of Cornelius upon whom the Holy Spirit had just fallen:
Can anyone forbid water, that these should not be baptised who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have? (Acts 10:47).
Paul asks the disciples whom he meets at Ephesus:
Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed? (Acts 19:2).
In all these passages, the use of phrases such as “to drink of the Holy Spirit,” “to be filled with the Holy Spirit” and “to receive the Holy Spirit” suggests an experience in which the believer receives the fullness of the Holy Spirit inwardly within himself.
Immersion From Above
We have seen that the literal, root meaning of the verb phrase “to baptise” is “to cause something to be dipped or immersed.” Thus, the phrase “to be baptised in the Holy Spirit” suggests that the believer’s whole personality is immersed, surrounded and enveloped in the presence and power of the Holy Spirit, coming down over him from above and from without.
We need to bear in mind that, in the natural order, there are two possible ways of being immersed in water. A person may go down beneath the surface of the water and come up from under it. Or a person may walk under a waterfall and allow himself to be immersed from above. This second form of immersion is the spiritual counterpart of the baptism in the Holy Spirit.
Without exception, in every place in the book of Acts where the baptism in the Holy Spirit is described, language is used which indicates that the Holy Spirit comes down over, or is poured out upon, the believer from above. For example, on the day of Pentecost:
There came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting (Acts 2:2).
These words reveal that the Holy Spirit came down over these disciples from above and completely immersed and enveloped them, even to the extent of filling the whole house where they were sitting (Acts 2:2).
Later Peter twice confirms this interpretation of the experience. First he declares that this experience is the fulfillment of God’s promise.
In the last days . . . I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh (Acts 2:17).
And he says again concerning Jesus:
Therefore being exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He poured out this which you now see and hear (Acts 2:33).
In each case the picture is one of the Holy Spirit being poured out over the believers from above.
In Acts 8:16 the phrase used for the same experience is that of the Holy Spirit “falling upon” the believers. Here again the language depicts the Spirit coming down over them from above.
In Acts 10, concerning the people in the house of Cornelius, both phrases are used one after the other. In verse 44 we read: “the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who heard the word.” In verse 45 we read: “the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also.” This shows that the phrases “to fall upon” and “to be poured out on” are used interchangeably in this connection.
Again, when Peter describes the same event in the house of Cornelius, he says:
The Holy Spirit fell upon them, as upon us at the beginning (Acts 11:15).
Here the phrase “as upon us at the beginning” indicates that the experience of Cornelius and his household was exactly parallel to the experience of the disciples in the upper room on the day of Pentecost.
Finally, we read concerning the disciples in Ephesus, after they had been baptised in water:
And when Paul had laid hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them (Acts 19:6).
Here the phrase “to come upon” is obviously similar in meaning to the phrase used in previous passages, “to fall upon.”
If we now seek to fit together the pictures created by the various phrases used in the New Testament, we arrive at a conclusion which may be summarized as follows.
• The experience of which we are speaking is made up of two distinct but complementary aspects, one outward and the other inward.
• Outwardly, the invisible presence and power of the Holy Spirit comes down from above upon the believer and surrounds, envelops and immerses him.
• Inwardly, the believer, in the likeness of one drinking, receives the presence and power of the Holy Spirit within himself until there comes a point at which the Holy Spirit, thus received, in turn wells up within the believer and flows forth like a river from the inmost depths of his being.
No human language can fully describe a mighty, supernatural experience such as this, but it may perhaps be illuminating to borrow a picture from the Old Testament.
In the days of Noah the whole world was submerged beneath the flood. In bringing about this flood, God used two distinct but complementary processes.
In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, in the second month, the seventeenth day of the month, on that day all the fountains of the great deep were broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened (Gen. 7:11).
This account reveals that the waters of the flood came from two sources: from within (“the fountains of the great deep were broken up”) and from above (“the windows of heaven were opened”), and the rain was poured down.
We must, of course, observe that the flood of Noah’s day was a flood of divine wrath and judgement; the flood which immerses the New Testament believer is one of divine mercy and glory and blessing. However, with this qualification, the New Testament believer who receives the fullness of the Holy Spirit exhibits the same two aspects as in the account of Noah’s flood: From within, the fountains of the great deep within the believer’s own personality are broken up, and there gushes out a mighty flood of blessing and power from his inmost being; from above, the windows of God’s mercy are opened upon the believer, and there is poured upon him such a deluge of glory and blessing that his whole personality is immersed in its outpourings.
It must be emphasized that we are not speaking of two separate experiences, but rather of two distinct yet complementary aspects which together make up the fullness of one single experience.
Someone may object that it is difficult to understand how the believer can at one and the same time be filled with the Holy Spirit from within and immersed in the Holy Spirit from without. However, such an objection in reality serves only to illustrate the limitations of human speech and understanding. A similar type of objection might be brought against such statements as those made by Jesus Himself, that He is in the Father, and the Father in Him; or again, that Jesus is in the believer, and the believer in Jesus.
In the last resort, if men persist in caviling at a supernatural experience of this kind on the basis of human limitations of expression or understanding, the best and shortest answer is found in the words of the Scottish preacher who said, “It’s better felt than telt!”
The Outward Evidence
Up to this point we have considered the invisible, inward nature of the baptism in the Holy Spirit. We must now go on to consider the outward manifestations which accompany this inward experience.
First of all we must point out that it is perfectly scriptural to use the word manifestation in connection with the Holy Spirit. We acknowledge, of course, that the Holy Spirit Himself is, by His very nature, invisible. In this respect He is compared by Jesus to the wind. Jesus says concerning the operation of the Holy Spirit:
The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit (John 3:8).
Although the wind itself is invisible, the effects which the wind produces when it blows can in many cases be both seen and heard. For example, when the wind blows, the dust rises from the streets; the trees all bend in one direction; the leaves rustle; the waves of the sea roar; the clouds blow across the sky. These effects produced by the wind can be seen or heard.
So it is, Jesus says, with the Holy Spirit. The Spirit Himself is invisible. But the effects which the Holy Spirit produces when He begins to work can often be seen or heard. This fact is confirmed by the language of the New Testament in various places.
For example, let us turn to Peter’s description of the effects produced by the descent of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost.
Therefore being exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He [Jesus] poured out this which you now see and hear (Acts 2:33).
The effects of the descent of the Holy Spirit could be both seen and heard.
Paul describes the work of the Spirit in his own ministry in these words:
And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power (1 Cor. 2:4).
He also says that the Spirit can have a similar effect in every believer’s experience.
But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all (1 Cor. 12:7).
Notice the phrases which Paul uses in connection with the Holy Spirit – the “demonstration of the Spirit” and the “manifestation of the Spirit.” These two words, demonstration and manifestation, show clearly that the presence and operation of the Holy Spirit can produce effects which can be perceived by our physical senses.
With this in mind, let us now turn to the various passages in the New Testament where the baptism in the Holy Spirit is described; that is, where we are told what actually happened to the people who received this experience. Let us see what the outward manifestations are which accompany this operation of the Spirit.
Three places in the New Testament we are told what happened when people were baptised in the Holy Spirit. We shall consider, in order, the actual words used in each report to describe what took place.
First, let us read what happened to the first disciples on the day of Pentecost.
And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance (Acts 2:2-4).
Second, we turn to what happened when Peter first preached the gospel to Cornelius and his household.
While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who heard the word. And those of the circumcision who believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also. For they heard them speak with tongues and magnify God (Acts 10:44-46).
Thirdly, we see what happened to the first group of converts to whom Paul preached at Ephesus.
And when Paul had laid hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke with tongues and prophesied (Acts 19:6).
If we now carefully compare these three passages, we shall find that there is one – and only one – outward manifestation which is common to all three occasions where people received the baptism in the Holy Spirit. In each case the Scripture explicitly states that those who received this experience “spoke with tongues,” or “spoke with other tongues.”
Other supernatural manifestations are also mentioned, but none is mentioned as having taken place on more than one of the three occasions.
For example, on the day of Pentecost the sound of a rushing wind was heard, and visible tongues of fire were seen. However, these manifestations we’re not repeated on the other two occasions.
Again, at Ephesus the new converts not only spoke in tongues but also prophesied. However, this manifestation of prophesying is not mentioned as having taken place either on the day of Pentecost or in the house of Cornelius.
The only manifestation which is common to all three occasions is that all those who received the experience spoke with tongues.
Peter and the other Jews who already knew what had taken place on the day of Pentecost went to the house of Cornelius reluctantly, against their own inclinations, under the explicit direction of God. At that time the Jewish believers did not realize the gospel was for the Gentiles or that Gentiles could be saved and become professing Christians. However, the moment Peter and the other Jews heard the Gentiles speak with tongues, they immediately understood and acknowledged that these Gentiles had received the Holy Spirit just as fully as the Jews themselves. They never asked for any additional evidence.
The Scripture says that they were “astonished . . . because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also. For they heard them speak with tongues” (Acts 10:45-46). For Peter and the other Jews, the sole and sufficient evidence that the Gentiles had received the Holy Spirit was that they spoke with tongues.
In Acts 11 Peter was called to account by the other leaders of the church in Jerusalem for visiting and preaching to Gentiles. In his own defense he explained what had taken place in the house of Cornelius.
And as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them, as upon us at the beginning (Acts 11:15).
Thus Peter directly compares the experience which the household of Cornelius received with that which the first disciples received on the day of Pentecost, for he says, “ as upon us at the beginning.” Yet in the house of Cornelius there was no mention of a mighty rushing wind or tongues of fire. The one sufficient manifestation which set the divine seal upon the experience of Cornelius and his household was that they spoke with tongues.
From this we conclude that the manifestation of speaking with tongues as the Holy Spirit gives utterance is the accepted New Testament evidence that a person has received the baptism in the Holy Spirit. In confirmation of this conclusion, we may make the following statements.
1. This was the evidence which the apostles themselves received in their own experience.
2. This was the evidence which the apostles accepted in the experience of others.
3. The apostles never asked for any other alternative evidence.
4. No other alternative evidence is offered to us anywhere in the New Testament.
In the next session we will examine this conclusion further, and we shall consider various criticisms or objections which are commonly raised against it.