What Is the Baptism of the Holy Spirit?
Dear Pastor Lance, I was looking through the Book of Acts and noticed that some people got the Baptism of the Holy Spirit in one way, and some got It in another. Can you clarify for me what the Baptism of the Holy Spirit is? Is that a ‘package deal’ with water baptism? With getting saved? Or a separate occurrence?
Great question and one that is super tricky to sort out. The Book of Acts is a transition book where God was getting folks together (Jews, Gentiles & Samaritans) and utilized a new way of doing things to get them to unite, so things are done very different in that season than in other eras. With that said, here is a basic concept to get you started in your journey to understanding it. It’s off the top of my head and not fully researched out for you, but it will help start the conversation.
What is the Baptism of the Holy Spirit? -You have a couple options on the table: A.) the initial indwelling of the Holy Spirit when you get saved, B.) an additional later indwelling of the Holy Spirit, C.) an empowerment of the Holy Spirit for a purpose. There are other nuances and options but those are the main ones. Which one is correct? I don’t really know. All I know is what I read in Scripture and I run with that. So, what do I see? First of all let’s put a HUGE discussion point on the table here, THE BOOK OF ACTS IS A TRANSITIONAL BOOK. This means that it’s super hard to make doctrinal statements or theological constructs based on the book of Acts since it was the transition time from the Old Testament to the New Testament and God was doing some special things (I.e. Trying to bring the Jews and Gentiles and Samaritans together for the first time). Therefore what happens in Acts is going to be a bit all over the board. I believe that the Baptism of the Holy Spirit is what happens when you get saved. I’ll get to that in a second. Baptism by definition is ‘immersed in’ or ‘identified with’. I cannot see how someone is truly saved unless they are indwelt by the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 3:16; 6:19; 12:13; Gal 4:6; Eph 1:13 is key; Jn 3:13 etc.). Baptism of the Holy Spirit means that we are identified and immersed in the Holy Spirit. I think that’s all believers. Now, whether or not we are empowered as fully as we can be, that’s another discussion.
Is Baptism of the Holy Spirit a package deal with water baptism? Or Getting Saved? – Here’s the funny thing. You mentioned that there was a time in Acts when they said, ‘hey I only got John’s baptism’ and then they got the Baptism of the Holy Spirit (Acts 19 – baptized for repentance (John’s baptism) and then Holy Spirit). Ironically that order is reversed when the Gentiles were brought into the family (Acts 10:44–48 – Holy Spirit first and then baptized in the name of Jesus Christ). This just shows how transitional Acts is where everyone is coming up to speed. I believe, and my church teaches that the Baptism of the Holy Spirit is a package deal with salvation, not with water baptism.
What about the separate occurrences of the Holy Spirit coming multiple times on the same people?– Here’s where things get fuzzy for me. The Bible in Acts is clear that everyone was filled with the Holy Spirit at Pentecost (with visible evidences) and then again when they prayed together (after the Apostles had been arrested and released (Acts 4:31). This means that the same folks were ‘filled with the Holy Spirit’ at least twice. So what is this ‘filling’ and how is it different than ‘baptism.’ Here’s how I see it and how I teach my folks. When we get saved we get the Holy Spirit and He indwells us, this is the critically important part. Then when God needs to empower His people for things He ‘fills them’ with the Holy Spirit with extra power and presence. This means that filling can happen multiple times, whereas Baptism happens once. Additionally I think that there is a learning curve to Christianity and believers can grow in the area of the spiritual gifts and supernatural. This means that the Holy Spirit can move more unhindered in some folks than other folks, and also gift some folks and not others. Therefore it’s not a matter of missing the Holy Spirit as much as growing, surrendering, learning, submitting, being filled, empowerment, gifting and things like that which distinguish one believer from another in how the Holy Spirit moves in their life.
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