Baptism of the Holy Spirit

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Recently a local church in our small town began promoting a “Ministry Evening” where the pastors encouraged the congregation to be “baptised in the Holy Spirit”.

“As for me, I baptize you with water for repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, and I am not fit to remove His sandals; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire” Matt. 3:11

One pastor stated that the event would be a time for those who have not received the “baptism of the Holy Spirit” to come forward. He suggested that those who had already received the “baptism” should also attend the event and “give expression to the giftings and to tongues and things like that.” The pastor also told the congregation that the “baptism of the Holy Spirit” is part of the “normal Christian life.” A week later a second pastor told the congregation that the “baptism of the Holy Spirit” is not so much about speaking in tongues as it is about “receiving power from on high.”

The question worth asking before you attend this type of event is, what does the Bible teach about the “baptism of the Holy Spirit?”

The first time baptism is recorded in the Bible is in the New Testament during the ministry of John the Baptist (Mark 1:4,5). John baptised all those that came to him at the Jordan as a public expression of their repentance (Matt 3:6). While John’s baptism was with water he spoke of a future baptism that Jesus would bring which would be with the Holy Spirit and fire (Luke 3:16 , Mark 1:8, John 1:33).

After Jesus' resurrection He appeared to the disciples commanding them to wait in Jerusalem for what God had promised – the “baptism of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 1:4-5). It was on the day of Pentecost that the disciples were gathered in one place and they received the Holy Spirit which was seen by “tongues as of fire” resting on them (Acts 2:1-4). After being filled with the Holy Spirit the disciples began to speak in other human languages (Acts 2:4-11). This unique event was the “baptism of the Holy Spirit” and fulfilled the promises spoken of by John the Baptist and Jesus.

The “baptism of the Holy Spirit” that is described in the book of Acts fulfilled God’s promise to send the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:15, Joel 2:28-32). At pentecost the Jews received the Holy Spirit (Acts 2) and later the Samaritans too (Acts 8:17). In Caesarea the gentiles received the Holy Spirit (Acts 10:45-46) and later during Paul ministry in Ephesus 12 disciples of John the Baptist (the old testament order) received the Holy Spirit (Acts 19:6). These 4 “baptism” events are fulfilment of Jesus' promise in Acts 1:8 and testify to God’s inclusion of all men into a single body. Outside of these 4 events, the Scriptures do not speak of any other “baptism of the Holy Spirit”.

There are other baptisms recorded for us in Scripture, including the baptism of many Jews on the day of pentecost. There is no record of these individuals, who were added to the church, receiving the “baptism of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:41).

The Apostle Paul’s baptism is recorded for us in Acts 9:17. Paul was waiting in Damascus in a state of blindness when Ananias came and laid hands on him, saying “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road by which you were coming, has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” Immediately the scales from Paul’s eyes, he got up and was baptised. There is no record of Paul receiving the “baptism of the Holy Spirit”.

The Ethiopian eunuch did not receive the “baptism of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 8:38), neither did the Philippian jailer and his family (Acts 16:33). Paul also records for us that many people were baptised in the church in Corinth yet there is no mention of “baptism of the Holy Spirit” (1Cor. 1:13,14). It is clear from a common-sense reading of Scripture that the baptisms in the early church were water baptisms that were a public profession of an inward faith.

There are some who claim that the “baptism of the Holy Spirit” is not part of water baptism but a “second blessing” or “spirit baptism” available to believers. But what does the Bible teach?

Paul taught that we were all baptised into one body (1 Cor 12:13), and that everyone who believes in Christ has died with Him and been raised in “baptism” (Rom 6:3-5; Col 2:12), no one is excluded. What Paul describes in these passages is a “spiritual baptism” that takes place at conversion when we are united to Jesus Christ. At the moment of conversion every believer is sealed by the Holy Spirit (Eph 1:13) and completely equipped with spiritual gifts (1 Cor 1:7; Eph 1:3). The Bible never commands or encourages Christians to seek a second blessing but to set our eyes on Christ and to live holy lives (Col 3:1-2).

It is also worth noting that many pastors who promote a “second blessing” believe that the “baptism of the Holy Spirit” is also a “baptism of fire” (Matt 3:11). They view the “baptism of fire” as a positive, a blessing from God. But what these pastors fail to see is that the “fire” which John speaks about is the “fire” of judgement. In Matthew 3:12 which is linked to verse 11, John says “His winnowing fork is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clear His threshing floor; and He will gather His wheat into the barn, but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” In other words, the “baptism of fire” is not a blessing but a judgement that Jesus will bring on those who do not believe.

If one adopts a common-sense reading of the Scriptures, especially the book of Acts, it is not difficult to see that the “baptism of the Holy Spirit” which is being promoted by churches today is unbiblical. Added to this is the fact that Church history and writing of the church fathers do not support what these pastors are promoting. What is being presented by these pastors as “part of the Christian life” is simply the imaginations of men who have abandoned the sufficiency of Scripture and replaced it with mysticism and emotionalism.

For those who desire to honour the triune God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, keep seeking Him by faith and not by sight (2 Cor 5:7).

Author: Yorke Hinds

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