SUPERNATURAL: Examinations of Supernatural occuances in SCRIPTURE and their RELEVANCE FOR TODAY (Part 2): Baptism of the Holy Spirit

Posted by Gabriel (G²) on November 21, 2007


Chapter Eleven
The Baptism in the Holy Spirit

As one reads through the book of Acts, the work of the Holy Spirit in the early church is evident on every page. If you remove the work of the Holy Spirit from the book of Acts you have virtually nothing left. Truly, He empowered the first disciples to “turn the world upside down” (see Acts 17:6; KJV).

The places in the world today where the church is expanding the fastest are those places where Jesus’ followers are yielded to and empowered by the Holy Spirit. This should not surprise us. The Holy Spirit can accomplish more in ten seconds than we can accomplish in ten thousand years of our own efforts. Thus it is of vital importance that the disciple-making minister understand what Scripture teaches about the work of the Holy Spirit in the lives and ministries of believers.

In the book of Acts, we frequently find examples of believers being baptized in the Holy Spirit and empowered for ministry. We would be wise to study the subject so that we can, if possible, experience what they experienced and enjoy the miraculous help from the Holy Spirit that they enjoyed. Although some claim that such miraculous works of the Holy Spirit were confined to the age of the original apostles, I find no scriptural, historical or logical support for such an opinion. It is a theory born from unbelief. Those who believe what God’s Word promises will experience the promised blessings. Like the unbelieving Israelites who failed to enter the Promised Land, those who don’t believe God’s promises today will fail to enter into all that God has prepared for them. Which category are you in? Personally, I’m among the believers.

Two Works by the Holy Spirit

Every person who has truly believed in the Lord Jesus has experienced a work of the Holy Spirit in his life. His inward person, or spirit, has been regenerated by the Holy Spirit (see Tit. 3:5), and the Holy Spirit now lives within him (see Rom. 8:9; 1 Cor. 6:19). He has been “born of the Spirit” (John 3:5).

Not understanding this, many Charismatic and Pentecostal Christians have made the error of telling certain believers that they did not posses the Holy Spirit unless they had been baptized in the Holy Spirit and spoken in tongues. But this error is obvious from Scripture and from experience. Many non-Charismatic/Pentecostal believers have much more evidence of the indwelling Spirit than some Charismatic/Pentecostal believers! They manifest the fruits of the Spirit listed by Paul in Galatians 5:22-23 to a much greater degree, something that would be impossible apart from have the indwelling Holy Spirit!

Just because a person has been born of the Spirit, however, does not guarantee that he has also been baptized in the Holy Spirit. According to the Bible, being born of the Holy Spirit and being baptized in the Holy Spirit are normally two distinct experiences.

As we begin to explore this subject, let us first consider what Jesus once said about the Holy Spirit to an unsaved woman at a well in Samaria:

If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, “Give Me a drink,” you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water….Everyone who drinks of this water [from the well] will thirst again; but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life (John 4:10, 13-14).

It seems reasonable to conclude that the indwelling living water of which Jesus spoke represents the Holy Spirit who indwells those who believe. Later in John’s Gospel, Jesus again used the same phrase, “living water,” and there is no doubt that He was speaking about the Holy Spirit:

Now on the last day, the great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being shall flow rivers of living water.’” But this He spoke of the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were to receive; for the Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified (John 7:37-39; emphasis added).

In this instance Jesus did not speak of living water becoming “a well of water springing up to eternal life.” Rather, this time the living water becomes rivers that flow from the recipient’s innermost being.

These two similar passages from John’s Gospel beautifully illustrate the difference between being born of the Spirit and being baptized in the Holy Spirit. Being born of the Spirit is primarily for the benefit of the one who is born again, that he might enjoy eternal life. When one is born again by the Spirit, he has a reservoir of Spirit within him that gives him eternal life.

Being baptized in the Holy Spirit, however, is primarily for the benefit of others, as it equips believers to minister to other people by the power of the Spirit. “Rivers of living water” will flow from their innermost beings, bringing God’s blessings to others by the power of the Spirit.

Why the Baptism in the Holy Spirit is Needed

How desperately we need the help of the Holy Spirit to minister to others! Without His help, we can never hope to make disciples of all nations. That is, in fact, the very reason Jesus promised to baptize believers in the Holy Spirit—so the world would hear the gospel. He said to His disciples:

Behold, I am sending forth the promise of My Father upon you; but you are to stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high” (Luke 24:49, emphasis added).

Luke also records Jesus as saying:

It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority; but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth (Acts 1:7-8, emphasis added).

Jesus told His disciples not even to leave Jerusalem until they were “clothed with power from on high.” He knew they would be essentially powerless otherwise , sure to fail at the task He had given them. We note that once they were baptized in the Holy Spirit, however, God began to use them supernaturally to spread the gospel.

Many millions of Christians around the world, after being baptized in the Holy Spirit, have experienced a new dimension of power, particularly when witnessing to the unsaved. They found that their words were more convicting, and that they sometimes quoted scriptures they didn’t realize they knew. Some found themselves called and specifically gifted for a certain ministry, such as evangelism. Others discovered that God used them as He willed in various supernatural gifts of the Spirit. Their experience is thoroughly biblical. Those who oppose their experience have no biblical basis for their opposition. They are, in fact, fighting against God.

The Initial Evidence of the Baptism in the Spirit

When a believer is baptized in the Holy Spirit, the initial evidence of his experience will be that he speaks in a new language, what Scripture refers to as “new tongues” or “other tongues.” Numerous scriptures support this fact. Let us consider them.

First, during the final moments before to His ascension, Jesus said that one of the signs that would follow believers is that they would speak in new tongues:

Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned. These signs will accompany those who have believed: in My name they will cast out demons, they will speak with new tongues (Mark 16:15-17, emphasis added).

Some commentators claim these verses should not be in our Bible because certain ancient manuscripts of the New Testament don’t include them. Many of the ancient manuscripts, however, do include them, and none of the many English translations I’ve read omit them. Beyond that, what Jesus said in these verses correlates perfectly with the experience of the early church as recorded in the book of Acts.

There are five examples in the book of Acts of believers being initially baptized in the Holy Spirit. Let’s consider all five, and as we do, we will continually ask two questions: (1) Was the baptism in the Holy Spirit an experience subsequent to salvation? and (2) Did the recipients speak in new tongues? This will help us to understand God’s will for believers today.


The first example is found in Acts 2, when the one hundred and twenty disciples were baptized in the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost:

When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a noise like a violent rushing wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them tongues as of fire distributing themselves, and they rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance (Acts 2:1-4; emphasis added).

There is no doubt that the one hundred and twenty believers were already saved and born again before this time, so they definitely experienced the baptism in the Holy Spirit after salvation. It would have been impossible, however, for them to have received the baptism in the Holy Spirit prior to this time simply because the Holy Spirit was not given to the church until that day.

It is obvious that the accompanying sign was speaking with other tongues.


The second example of believers being baptized in the Holy Spirit is found in Acts 8, when Philip went down to the city of Samaria and preached the gospel there:

But when they [the Samaritans] believed Philip preaching the good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were being baptized, men and women alike….Now when the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent them Peter and John, who came down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit. For He had not yet fallen upon any of them; they had simply been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus (Acts 8:12-16).

The Samaritan Christians clearly experienced the baptism in the Holy Spirit as a secondary experience after their salvation. The Bible plainly states that before Peter and John arrived, the Samaritans had already “received the word of God,” believed the gospel, and been baptized in water. Yet when Peter and John came down to pray for them, Scripture says it was so “that they might receive the Holy Spirit.” How could it be clearer?

Did the Samaritan believers speak with new tongues when they were baptized in the Holy Spirit? The Bible doesn’t say, but it does say that something amazing happened to them. When a man named Simon witnessed what occurred as Peter and John laid their hands on the Samaritan Christians, he tried to purchase from them the same ability to impart the Holy Spirit:

Then they began laying their hands on them, and they were receiving the Holy Spirit. Now when Simon saw that the Spirit was bestowed through the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money, saying, “Give this authority to me as well, so that everyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit” (Acts 8:17-19).

What did Simon see that impressed him so much? He had already seen a number of other miracles, such as people being delivered from demons and the paralyzed and lame being miraculously healed (see Acts 8:6-7). He himself had been previously involved in occult magic, astonishing all the people of Samaria (see Acts 8:9-10). This being so, what he witnessed when Peter and John prayed must have been quite spectacular. Although we can’t say with absolute certainty, it seems quite reasonable to think that he witnessed the same phenomena that occurred every other time Christians received the Holy Spirit in the book of Acts—he saw and heard them speaking in other tongues.

Saul in Damascus

The third mention in the book of Acts of someone receiving the Holy Spirit is the case of Saul of Tarsus, later known as the apostle Paul. He had been saved on the road to Damascus, where he had also been temporarily blinded. Three days after his conversion, a man named Ananias was divinely sent to him:

So Ananias departed and entered the house, and after laying his hands on him said, “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.” And immediately there fell from his eyes something like scales, and he regained his sight, and he arose and was baptized (Acts 9:17-18).

There is no doubt that Saul was born again before Ananias arrived to pray for him. He believed in the Lord Jesus when he was still on the road to Damascus, and he immediately obeyed His new Lord’s instructions. Additionally, when Ananias first met Saul, he called him “brother Saul.” Note that Ananias told Saul that he had come so that he would regain his sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit. Thus for Saul, being filled with, or baptized in, the Holy Spirit occurred three days after his salvation.

The Scriptures don’t record the actual incident of Saul’s being baptized in the Holy Spirit, but it must have happened shortly after Ananias arrived at where Saul was staying. There is no doubt that Saul spoke with other tongues at some point, because he later stated in 1 Corinthians 14:18, “I thank God, I speak in tongues more than you all.”


The fourth mention of believers being baptized in the Holy Spirit is found in Acts 10. The apostle Peter had been divinely commissioned to preach the gospel in Caesarea to the household of Cornelius. As soon as Peter revealed that salvation is received through faith in Jesus, his entire Gentile audience immediately responded in faith, and the Holy Spirit fell upon them:

While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who were listening to the message. All the circumcised believers who came with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also. For they were hearing them speaking with tongues and exalting God. Then Peter answered, “Surely no one can refuse the water for these to be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we did, can he?” And he ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ (Acts 10:44-48a).

In this case, it seems as if the members of Cornelius’ household, who became the first Gentile believers in Jesus, were born again and baptized in the Holy Spirit simultaneously.

If we examine the surrounding scriptures and study the historical context, it is apparent why God didn’t wait for Peter and his fellow believers to lay hands on the Gentile believers to receive the Holy Spirit. Peter and the other Jewish believers had great difficulty believing that Gentiles could even be saved, much less receive the Holy Spirit! They likely would never have prayed for Cornelius’ household to receive the baptism in the Holy Spirit, so God sovereignly acted. God was teaching Peter and his companions something about His marvelous grace toward Gentiles.

What convinced Peter and the other Jewish believers that Cornelius’ household had genuinely received the Holy Spirit? Luke wrote, “For they were hearing them speaking with tongues” (Acts 10:46). Peter declared that the Gentiles had received the Holy Spirit just as the one hundred and twenty had on the day of Pentecost (see 10:47).


The fifth mention of believers being baptized in the Holy Spirit is found in Acts 19. While traveling through Ephesus, the apostle Paul met some disciples and asked them the following question: “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” (Acts 19:2).

Paul, the man who wrote the majority of the New Testament epistles, clearly believed that it is possible to believe in Jesus but not have received the Holy Spirit in some sense. Otherwise, he would not have asked such a question.

The men replied that they had never heard of the Holy Spirit. In fact, they had only heard of the coming Messiah through John the Baptist, the one who had baptized them. Paul immediately baptized them again in water, and this time they experienced true Christian baptism. Finally, Paul laid his hands on them that they might receive the Holy Spirit:

When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began speaking with tongues and prophesying. There were in all about twelve men (Acts 19:5-7).

Again, it is obvious that the baptism in the Holy Spirit was subsequent to salvation, regardless of whether or not these twelve men were born again before they met Paul. Also, once again, the accompanying sign of their Holy Spirit baptism was speaking in tongues (and in this case also prophecy).

The Verdict

Let’s review the five examples. In at least four of them, the baptism in the Holy Spirit was an experience that occurred after salvation.

In three of them, Scripture plainly states that the recipients spoke with other tongues. Moreover, in Paul’s meeting with Ananias, his experience of being baptized in the Holy Spirit was not actually described, but we know that eventually he did speak in tongues. That represents the fourth case.

In the remaining case, something supernatural occurred when the believers in Samaria received the Holy Spirit because Simon tried to buy the power to impart the Holy Spirit.

Thus the evidence is quite clear. In the early church, born-again believers received a second experience with the Holy Spirit, and when they did, they spoke in other tongues. This should not surprise us, because Jesus said that those who believe in Him would speak in new tongues.

So we have conclusive evidence that every one who is born again should also experience another work of the Holy Spirit—that of being baptized in the Holy Spirit. Moreover, every believer should expect to speak with other tongues when he does receive the Holy Spirit baptism.

How to Receive the Baptism in the Holy Spirit

Like all of God’s gifts, the Holy Spirit is received by faith (see Gal. 3:5). In order to have faith to receive, a believer must first be convinced that it is God’s will for him to be baptized with the Holy Spirit. If he is wondering or doubting, he will not receive (see James 1:6-7).

No believer has any good reason not to believe that it is God’s will for him to receive the Holy Spirit, because Jesus plainly stated God’s will in the matter:

If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him (Luke 11:13).

That promise from the lips of Jesus should convince every child of God that it is God’s will that he or she receive the Holy Spirit.

This same verse also supports the truth that being baptized in the Holy Spirit occurs after salvation, because here Jesus promised God’s children (the only people who have God as their “heavenly Father”) that God will give them the Holy Spirit if they ask. Obviously, if the only experience one could have with the Holy Spirit was being born again at the moment of salvation, then Jesus’ promise would make no sense. Unlike a certain dying breed of modern theologians, Jesus believes that it is very appropriate for people who are already born again to ask God for the Holy Spirit.

According to Jesus, there are only two conditions that must be met for one to receive the Holy Spirit. First, God must be one’s Father, which He is if you are born again. Second, you must ask Him for the Holy Spirit.

Although receiving the Holy Spirit through the laying on of hands is scriptural (see Acts 8:17; 19:6), it is not an absolute necessity. Any Christian can receive the Holy Spirit by himself in his own place of prayer. He simply needs to ask, receive by faith, and begin to speak in tongues as the Spirit gives him utterance.

Common Fears

Some people worry that if they pray for the Holy Spirit, they might open themselves up to a demon spirit instead. There is, however, here is no basis for such a concern. Jesus promised,

Now suppose one of you fathers is asked by his son for a fish; he will not give him a snake instead of a fish, will he? Or if he is asked for an egg, he will not give him a scorpion, will he? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him? (Luke 11:11-13).

If we ask for the Holy Spirit, God will give us the Holy Spirit, and we should have no fear of receiving anything else.

Some are concerned that, when they speak in other tongues, it will just be themselves making up a nonsensical language rather than a supernatural language given by the Holy Spirit. If, however, you attempt to invent a credible language before being baptized in the Holy Spirit, you will see that it is impossible. On the other hand, you must understand that if you are going to speak in other tongues, you will consciously have to use your lips, tongue and vocal cords. The Holy Spirit does not do the speaking for you—He only gives you the utterance. He is our helper, not our doer. You must do the actual speaking, just as the Bible teaches:

And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and [they] began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance (Acts 2:4, emphasis added).

And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began speaking with tongues (Acts 19:6, emphasis added).

After a believer has asked for the gift of the Holy Spirit, he should believe and expect to speak in other tongues. Because the Holy Spirit is received by faith, the recipient should not expect to experience any particular feelings or physical sensations. He should simply open his mouth and begin to speak the new sounds and syllables that will make up the language that the Holy Spirit gives him. Unless the believer begins to speak by faith, no utterance will come forth from his mouth. He must do the speaking, and the Holy Spirit will provide the utterance.

The Source of the Utterance

According to Paul, when a believer prays in tongues, it is not his mind praying but rather, his spirit:

For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my mind is unfruitful. What is the outcome then? I will pray with the spirit and I will pray with the mind also; I will sing with the spirit and I will sing with the mind also (1 Cor. 14:14-15).

Paul said that when he prayed in a tongue, his mind was unfruitful. That means his mind had no part in it, and he did not understand what he was praying in tongues. So, rather than praying all the time in tongues without understanding what he was saying, Paul also spent time praying with his mind in his own language. He spent time singing in tongues as well as singing in his own language. There is a place for both kinds of praying and singing, and we would be wise to follow Paul’s balanced example.

Notice also that, for Paul, speaking in tongues was just as much subject to his own will as was speaking in his known language. He said, “I will pray with the spirit and I will pray with the mind also.” Critics often claim that if modern tongues speaking was truly a gift from the Spirit, one would not be able to have control over it, lest he be guilty of controlling God. But such a idea is unfounded. Modern and ancient tongues speaking is under the control of the individual as God planned it would be. Critics might as well say that people who have hands that are truly made by God have no control over their hands, and that people who make conscious decisions to use their hands are attempting to control God.

Once you have been baptized in the Holy Spirit, you can easily prove to yourself that your utterance in tongues is coming from your spirit rather than your mind. First, try to carry on a conversation with someone at the same time as you read this book. You’ll find that you can’t do both at the same time. You will discover, however, that you can continually speak in tongues as you continually read this book. The reason is because you aren’t using your mind to speak in tongues—that utterance comes from your spirit. So as you use your spirit to pray, you can use your mind to read and understand.

Now That You Are Baptized in the Holy Spirit

Keep in mind the primary reason God gave you the Holy Spirit baptism—to empower you primarily for the purpose of being His witness, by means of the manifestation of fruit and gifts of the Spirit (see 1 Cor. 12:4-11; Gal. 5:22-23). By living a Christ-like life and demonstrating His love, joy, and peace to the world, as well as manifesting supernatural gifts of the Spirit, God will use you to draw others to Himself. The ability to speak in tongues is only one of the “rivers of living water” that should be flowing from your innermost being.

Also remember that God gave us the Holy Spirit to enable us to reach all the people of the earth with the gospel (see Acts 1:8). When we speak in other tongues, we should realize that the language we are speaking could well be the native tongue of some remote tribe or foreign nation. Every time we pray in tongues, we should be mindful that God wants people of every language to hear about Jesus. We should ask the Lord how He wants us to be involved in fulfilling Jesus’ Great Commission.

Speaking in tongues is something we should do as much as possible. Paul, a spiritual powerhouse, wrote, “I thank God, I speak in tongues more than you all” (1 Cor. 14:18). He wrote those words to a church that did a lot of speaking in tongues (although usually at the wrong times). Therefore, Paul must have done a lot of speaking in tongues to do more than they did. Praying in tongues helps us to stay conscious of the Holy Spirit, who lives within us, and will help us to “pray without ceasing” as Paul taught in 1 Thessalonians 5:17.

Paul also taught that speaking in speaking in other tongues edifies the believer (see 1 Cor. 14:4). That means it builds us up spiritually. By praying in tongues, we can, in a way we may not fully understand, strengthen our inner man. Speaking in other tongues should provide daily enrichment in every believer’s spiritual life and not be just a one-time experience at the initial filling of the Holy Spirit.

Once you have been baptized in the Holy Spirit, I encourage you to spend time every day praying to God in your new language. It will be greatly enhance your spiritual life and growth.

Answers to a Few Common Questions

Can we say with certainty that all those who have never spoken in tongues have never been baptized in the Holy Spirit? Personally, I don’t think so.

I’ve always encouraged people to expect to speak in tongues when I’ve prayed for them to be baptized in the Holy Spirit, and probably 95% of them have within seconds of my praying for them. It would amount to thousands of people over the years.

I would never say, however, that a Christian who has prayed to be baptized in the Spirit and who hasn’t spoken in tongues is not baptized in the Holy Spirit, because the Spirit baptism is received by faith and speaking in tongues is voluntary. If I have an opportunity, however, to share with a believer who has prayed to be baptized in the Spirit but who has never spoken in tongues, I first show that person all the scriptures in the book of Acts on the subject. Then I also show that believer how Paul wrote that he was in control of when he spoke or did not speak in tongues. Like Paul, I can speak in tongues any time I desire, and thus I could decide, if I desired, to never speak in tongues again. That being so, I could conceivably have been baptized in the Holy Spirit and never spoken in tongues in the first place by not cooperating with the Spirit’s utterance.

So again, when I have the opportunity to share with a Christian who has prayed in faith for the baptism in the Holy Spirit but who has never spoken in tongues, I don’t tell him (nor do I believe) that he isn’t baptized in the Holy Spirit. I simply explain to him how speaking in tongues is not something that the Holy Spirit does apart from us. I explain that the Holy Spirit gives the utterance, but that we must do the speaking, just as when one speaks in his known language. Then I encourage that person to cooperate with the Holy Spirit and begin to speak in tongues. Almost without exception, all of them soon do.

Didn’t Paul Write that Not All Speak with Tongues?

Paul’s rhetorical question, “All do not speak with tongues, do they?” (1 Cor. 12:30) to which the obvious answer is “No,” must be harmonized with the rest of the New Testament. His question is found within the context of his instruction about the spiritual gifts, which are all manifested only as the Spirit wills (see 1 Cor. 12:11). Paul was specifically writing about the spiritual gift of “various kinds of tongues” (1 Cor. 12:10) which, according to Paul, must always be accompanied by the spiritual gift of the interpretation of tongues. This particular gift could not have been what the Corinthians were always manifesting in their church, as they were speaking in tongues publicly without there being any interpretation. We should ask, Why would the Holy Spirit impart the gift of tongues to someone in a public assembly without giving someone the gift of interpretation? The answer is that He wouldn’t. Otherwise, the Holy Spirit would be promoting something that is not God’s will.

The Corinthians must have been praying in tongues out loud during their church services, without there being any interpretation. Thus, we learn that speaking in tongues has two different uses. One is praying in tongues, which Paul said should be done privately. That usage of speaking in tongues is not accompanied by interpretation, as Paul wrote, “My spirit prays, but my mind is unfruitful”  (1 Cor. 14:14). Obviously, Paul didn’t always know what he was saying when he spoke in tongues. There was no understanding on his part; neither was their interpretation.

There is also, however, a use of speaking in tongues that is for the public assembly of the church, which is always accompanied by the gift of the interpretation of tongues. That occurs when the Holy Spirit moves upon someone as He wills, giving him that gift. That person speaks out publicly, and then there is an interpretation given. God, however, doesn’t use everyone like that. That is why Paul wrote that not all speak in tongues. Not all are used by God in the sudden, spontaneously-given gift of tongues, just as God doesn’t use everyone in the gift of the interpretation of tongues. That is the only way to reconcile Paul’s rhetorical question, “All do not speak with tongues, do they?” with the rest of what Scripture teaches.

I can speak in tongues any time I desire, just as Paul could. So obviously neither Paul nor myself would say that whenever we speak in tongues it is “only as the Spirit wills.” It is as we will. So what we are doing whenever we desire cannot be the gift of speaking in tongues that only occurs “as the Spirit wills.” Furthermore, Paul, like me, spoke in tongues privately without understanding what he was saying, so that cannot be the gift of tongues of which he wrote in 1 Corinthians, which he said would always be accompanied by the gift of the interpretation of tongues.

It is only on rare occasions when I’ve spoken in tongues in a public assembly. That is only when I’ve sensed the Holy Spirit move upon me to do so, although I could (just like the Corinthians were doing) pray in tongues out loud anytime I wanted to in church without there being any interpretation. When I’ve sensed the Holy Spirit move upon me with that gift, there has always been an interpretation that has edified the body.

In conclusion, we must interpret the Bible harmoniously. Those who conclude, because of Paul’s rhetorical question found in 1 Corinthians 12:30, that not all believers should speak with other tongues, are ignoring many other scriptures that do not harmonize with their interpretation. Because of their error, they are missing a great blessing from God.



Paula was raised in a Christian home where church attendance was commonplace. But it wasn’t until she was eleven years old that she began to take a serious interest in who Jesus is. That summer she attended a church camp and for the very first time consciously repented of her sins and put her faith in the atoning death of Jesus as her only hope for eternal life. It was a wonderful experience that brought both joy and a sense of relief. She never doubted from that moment on that she was a child of God.

The next few years proved difficult for Paula. She was not especially attractive and boys never seemed to pay her much attention. Her grades were average, at best, and she had few friends. When she turned sixteen Paula was invited to an overnight party where she took her first drink of beer. She won instant acceptance with a small group of classmates who before would hardly give her the time of day. She soon discovered that as long as she joined in on whatever they were doing, they included and affirmed her. Her heart was often troubled as she recognized how her behavior was contrary to what she had been taught in Sunday school, but the fear of rejection was too powerful to overcome.

It wasn’t until Paula was in her second year of college that things began to change. She accepted the invitation of a sorority sister to attend a Bible-study that met each Wednesday night. It was here that she began to awaken to how far she had wandered from the Lord. She was brokenhearted and grieved that she had lived in such indifference to the Lord’s faithful appeal that she return to her first love.

One Wednesday night she asked that some of the girls in her Bible study group pray for her. Paula knew that they believed in spiritual gifts, but the church she grew up in had always warned against such things. As they laid hands on her, Paula cried out to Jesus to forgive her for those many years of spiritual apathy. One of the girls praying for Paula then said, “Oh, Lord Jesus, we ask that you would pour out your Spirit on Paula and empower her to live and witness for you as she never has before.”

Suddenly Paula felt a strange warmth envelop her like a blanket. She sensed what she later described as a geyser erupting from deep within her soul. Not really knowing what was happening, she then began to cry out to Jesus her praise and gratitude, but in words she had never before spoken. The unfamiliarity of her experience was exceeded only by the joy and peace that it brought. From that day to the present, Paula has sought by God’s grace to live passionately for the Son of God. From that day to the present, she has also prayed in this strange language that her friends told her is the gift of speaking in tongues.

What happened to Paula? If she were to ask you to open the Bible and explain her experience, what texts would you use? What would you call it? Was she baptized in the Holy Spirit? Was she filled with the Holy Spirit? Was she anointed with the Holy Spirit? Or did she simply experience a renewal of faith and the profound assurance of salvation that the apostle Paul had in mind in Romans 8:16 when he spoke of the Spirit bearing witness with our spirit “that we are children of God”? Or was her experience nothing more than the emotional fruit of manipulation by her friends who wanted to win her over to their strange brand of Christianity?

In the study that follows I want to answer these questions. There is much confusion today about “spiritual experiences” like Paula’s. Christians divide over it. Churches divide over it. As for Paula, she’s just happy it happened!

What’s at Stake?

The debate over Spirit-baptism may be summarized by answering this question: “Is the Christian life characterized by one or two stages?” Or again, “Is Spirit-baptism an initiatory experience for all Christians or a second-stage experience that only some receive?” Are all Christians automatically baptized in the Spirit at the moment they first trust in Christ for salvation? Or are some, if not most, baptized in the Spirit at some point in life subsequent to their initial conversion? Was Paula baptized in the Spirit at the age of eleven when she trust Jesus at church camp, or did it happen nine years later during that mid-week Bible study?

Because this question has been so misunderstood as well as divisive, I want to devote some energy in surveying the variety of options that have been suggested. I encourage you not to skip over this section, even though at first glance it may not seem to interest you. It is essential that we understand where Christians from a wide variety of traditions are coming from. Not only will it help us move closer to them in the bond of unity, but it will also sharpen our thinking as we try to determine which, if any, of these views is the one taught in Scripture.


A.        One-stage views

According to interpretations in this category, spirit-baptism is simultaneous with and essentially the same as regeneration and conversion. There is little variation among those who espouse this view. Spirit-baptism is understood as a phenomenon that comes to all Christians at the moment of the new birth. The only significant division among the proponents of this view concerns whether or not spirit-baptism is “experiential”.

1.         Some, such as British scholar and pastor John Stott (and American scholar Richard Gaffin), contend that spirit-baptism is non-experiential and occurs below the level of human consciousness. In other words, it really happens to you, but you can’t feel it or hear it or see it.

2.         Others, such as James D. G. Dunn, argue that spirit-baptism is a felt and often dramatic experience. An example of this view may seen in the life of George Whitefield (1714-1770), the great evangelist of The First Great Awakening. Whitefield believed that whereas spirit-baptism was simultaneous with conversion it was also inescapably and even indescribably experiential. He refers to his own conversion as follows:

“After having undergone innumerable buffetings of Satan, and many months inexpressible trials by night and day under the spirit of bondage, God was pleased at length to remove the heavy load, to enable me to lay hold on His dear Son by a living faith, and, by giving me the spirit of adoption, to seal me, as I humbly hope, even to the day of everlasting redemption. But oh! with what joy — joy unspeakable — even joy that was full of, and big with glory, was my soul filled, when the weight of sin went off, and an abiding sense of the pardoning love of God, and a full assurance of faith broke in upon my disconsolate soul! Surely it was the day of my espousals, — a day to be had in everlasting remembrance. At first my joys were like a spring tide, and, as it were, overflowed the banks. Go where I would, I could not avoid singing of psalms aloud” (Journals, 58).

B.        Two-stage views

According to interpretations in this category, spirit-baptism is subsequent to and distinct from regeneration and conversion. Generally speaking, history reveals no fewer than six groups that advocate some variation of the two-stage approach to the Christian’s reception and experience of the Holy Spirit.

[N.B. The most exhaustive treatment of these issues is found in H. I. Lederle’s book, Treasures Old and New: Interpretations of “Spirit-Baptism” in the Charismatic Renewal Movement (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1988). See also Terrence Robert Crowe’s book, Pentecostal Unity: Recurring Frustration and Enduring Hopes (Chicago: Loyola University Press, 1993).]

1.         The Reformed Sealers (e.g., Richard Sibbes, Thomas Goodwin, John Owen, Martyn Lloyd-Jones)

These men generally identify spirit-baptism with the “sealing” of the Holy Spirit described in Eph. 1:13. It is an experiential event subsequent to regeneration (and therefore to be sought) that brings a profound, inner, direct, assurance of salvation (as over against a syllogistic assurance which one deduces from the fact that one believes). It also produces power for ministry and witness, joy, and a sense of God’s glorious presence. These men make no connection between baptism in the Spirit and the charismatic gifts. Indeed, aside from Lloyd-Jones, the Reformed Sealers were all cessationists (i.e., they believed that the miraculous gifts of the Spirit ceased when the original apostles died; see Martyn Lloyd-Jones’ book Joy Unspeakable: Power & Renewal in the Holy Spirit [Wheaton: Harold Shaw Publishers, 1984]).

2.         The Wesleyans, i.e., advocates of the doctrine of entire sanctification (e.g., John Wesley, John Fletcher, William Booth, Oswald Chambers, the Church of the Nazarene)

Wesley taught a second transforming work of grace, distinct from and subsequent to the new birth, in which the Spirit roots out of the Christian’s heart all sinful motivation. The result is that “the whole of his [the Christian’s] mental and emotional energy is henceforth channeled into love for God and others: love that is Christlike and supernatural, strong and steady, purposeful and passionate, and free from any contrary or competing affection whatsoever” (J. I. Packer, Keep in Step with the Spirit, 132).

This state of “perfection”, according to Wesley, occurs instantaneously through the same insistent, expectant, empty-handed faith through which we received the grace of justification. One may still lack knowledge and act foolishly. But such “mistakes” are not to be regarded as “moral transgressions”. Perfection, then, is primarily a matter of love for God and men being the constant driving force in one’s life. On occasion, both Wesley and his followers would refer to this experience as the “baptism in the Holy Spirit”.

3.         The Keswick Movement (e.g., Hannah Whithall Smith, F. B. Meyer, Andrew Murray, R. A. Torrey, A. J. Gordon, A. B. Simpson)

According to Lederle, the Keswick view “preserves the Wesleyan two-stage grid, but it rejects the view that believers’ hearts may become perfect in love. The second work of grace was not an eradicating of inbred sin but rather living a life of victory in which a perfection of deeds is achieved” (11). This second work of grace was seen as an enduement with power rather than a purification from sin.

The key to Keswick theology is a passive view of faith in which one confesses one’s inability, reckons oneself dead to sin (much emphasis is placed on Romans 6:1-14), and “rests” in Jesus. This occurs as a crisis event and issues in the “higher life” wherein the believer experiences victory over all known sin. The emphasis is not on eradication of sin from the heart but on an enduement of power for obedience and ministry.

Not all within the Keswick movement believed that this spirit-baptism was experiential or “felt”. F. B. Meyer, for example, relates his prayer to the Father for this work of the Spirit as follows:

“My Father, if there is one soul more than another within the circle of these hills that needs the gift of Pentecost, it is I; but I am too weary to think, or feel, or pray intensely. Is it not possible to receive it without the tide of emotion which so often accompanies its advent or renewal in the soul?”

Meyer says he then sensed a voice saying:

“Claim and receive it by an act of faith, apart from feeling. As thy share in God’s forgiving grace was won for thee by the dying Christ, so thy share in the Pentecostal gift is held for thee by the glorified Christ; and as thou didst take the former, so thou must take the latter, and reckon that it is thine, by a faith which is utterly indifferent to the presence or absence of resulting joy”

4.         Classical Pentecostalism (e.g., the Assemblies of God)

The classical Pentecostal view is clearly articulated in points 7. and 8. of the “Statement of Fundamental Truths” of the Assemblies of God:

“7.       The Promise of the Father.

All believers are entitled to, and should ardently expect and earnestly seek, the promise of the Father, the Baptism in the Holy Ghost and fire, according to the command of our Lord Jesus Christ. This was the normal experience of all the early Christian Church. With it comes the enduement of power for life and service, the bestowment of the gifts and their uses in the work of the ministry (Luke 24:49; Acts 1:4,8; 1 Cor. 12:1-31). This wonderful experience is distinct from and subsequent to the experience of the new birth (Acts 10:44-46; 11:14-16; 15:7-9) [emphasis mine].

8.         The Evidence of the Baptism in the Holy Ghost

The Baptism of believers in the Holy Ghost is witnessed by the initial physical sign of speaking with other tongues as the Spirit of God gives them utterance (Acts 2:4). The speaking in tongues in this instance is the same in essence as the gift of tongues (1 Cor. 12:4-10,28) but different in purpose and use.”

There are three fundamental elements in the classical view:

First, there is the doctrine of subsequence. Spirit-baptism is always subsequent to and therefore distinct from conversion. The time intervening between the two events may be momentary or conceivably years (nine years, for example, in the case of Paula).

Second, there is an emphasis on conditions. Depending on whom you read the conditions on which spirit-baptism is suspended may include repentance, confession, faith, prayers, waiting (“tarrying”), seeking, yielding, etc. The obvious danger here is in dividing the Christian life in such a way that salvation becomes a gift to the sinner whereas the fullness of the Spirit becomes a reward to the saint. But all is of grace. All comes with Christ.

Third, they emphasize the doctrine of initial evidence. The initial and physical evidence of having been baptized in the Spirit is speaking in tongues. If one has not spoken in tongues, one has not been baptized in the Spirit. According to this view, Paula was certainly saved when she accepted Christ at church camp. But she wasn’t baptized in the Spirit until college, the proof of which is her experience of speaking in tongues for the first time when her friends prayed for her.

A distinction is often made between tongues as a “sign” (which all Spirit-baptized believers experience, but may subsequently lose) and tongues as a “gift” (a permanent charism bestowed on only some).

I should point out that not all “classical Pentecostals” affirm the doctrine of initial evidence. F. F. Bosworth, famous healing evangelist and member of the Assemblies of God (AOG) from its founding in 1914, dissented. However, Bosworth resigned from the AOG in 1918 when its General Council reaffirmed the teaching. More recently, NT scholar Gordon Fee has rejected all three of these doctrines relating to Spirit-baptism while yet remaining within the AOG denomination. See his article “Baptism in the Holy Spirit: The Issue of Separability and Subsequence,” in Pneuma: The Journal of the Society for Pentecostal Studies, 7:2 (Fall 1985):87-99.

5.         The Sacramental View (Roman Catholicism)

Although this interpretation is found predominantly among Roman Catholics, occasionally one finds a representative of the sacramental view in certain Protestant groups, primarily Lutherans and Presbyterians (largely because of their belief in infant baptism).

The original RC view of Spirit-baptism is that it is “a ‘release’ of the Spirit — a revitalization or flowering of the sacramental grace received in Christian initiation, breaking through into the personal conscious experience of the believer” (Lederle, pp. 105-06). Catholic theologian Kilian McDonnell argues that every member of the church who received the sacrament of water baptism was baptized in the Spirit at that same time. This “grace” has, as it were, “lain dormant, and at a particular moment in time or over a longer period it breaks through into the awareness of the individual. It is this conscious experience which is generally called ‘the baptism in the Holy Spirit’ in charismatic circles” (Lederle, p. 108). Cardinal Leon Joseph Suenens writes:

“The ‘newness’ then is of a particular quantity: we are concerned here with a new coming of the Spirit already present, of an ‘outpouring’ which does not come from outside, but springs up from within” (A New Pentecost? [Glasgow: Collins, 1977], p. 80).

Lederle challenges calling such an experience “new” in any sense of the term:

“The major disadvantage of this interpretation is that the renewal experience cannot be seen as something new or something that God is doing in people’s lives at the time at which they experience it. As a ‘release of the Spirit’ it is not a coming or a receiving of the Spirit but simply the activation of what has been received at a previous sacramental rite. The change that takes place in a Christian’s life is not interpreted as the result of any new or direct action of God. It is merely a change in the believer’s subjective awareness” (109).

In light of this emphasis on the “release” or “flowering” or “emergence” of something always hitherto present, it may be questioned whether the sacramental view of Spirit-baptism should even be regarded as a “two-stage” approach. Indeed, the Catholic emphasis is on the initial deposit of the “grace” of the Holy Spirit at baptism, with a subsequent subjective apprehension or experience of the Spirit’s presence.

6.         The Contemporary Charismatic View

Generally speaking, most charismatics endorse the two-stage doctrine of subsequence. Many, however, reject any conditions on which Spirit-baptism is suspended and do not believe all Spirit-baptized Christians necessarily speak in tongues. A growing number of charismatics are beginning to question the doctrine of subsequence (e.g., Thomas Smail and the late David Watson).

An interesting charismatic variation on Spirit-baptism is that proposed by Charles Hummel in his book Fire in the Fireplace (IVP). Hummel argues for two Spirit-baptisms: (1) one, described by Paul, for initiation and incorporation into the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:13; this occurs at conversion), and (2) another, described by Luke, for empowering for service and ministry, this latter “baptism” (subsequent to conversion) is also called a “filling”.

C.        An Integrative Approach: The Theology of the Third Wave

The Third Wave is a term used to identify evangelicals who not only believe in but consistently practice and minister in the full range of the Spirit’s gifts. According to this view, Spirit-baptism describes what happens when one becomes a Christian. Therefore, all Christians, by definition, have been baptized in the Holy Spirit. However, there are also multiple, subsequent experiences of the Spirit’s activity. After conversion the Spirit may yet “come” with varying degrees of intensity, wherein the Christian is “overwhelmed”, “empowered”, “anointed”, or in some sense “endued”. This “release” of new power, this “manifestation” of the Spirit’s intimate presence, is most likely to be identified with what the NT calls the “filling” of the Spirit. John Wimber is an articulate advocate of this view:

“How do we experience Spirit baptism? It comes at conversion. . . .Conversion and Holy Spirit baptism are simultaneous experiences. The born-again experience is the consummate charismatic experience” (Power Points, 136).

This is the view that I believe is biblical and that I will defend in what follows. Some of what you are about to read is adapted from my contribution to the book, Are Miraculous Gifts for Today? Four Views (Zondervan, 1996), in which this issue is examined from a variety of differing perspectives.

Paul’s statement in 1 Corinthians 12:13 is the principal text for this topic. We will look at six ways in which this text has been interpreted.

1.         Some insist Paul is describing a second blessing that all the Corinthian believers had experienced. Not all Christians, however, were recipients of this grace (though it was available to them). There are several problems with this view:

a.         If this is what Paul meant, why didn’t he say “you all” instead of “we all”?

b.         1 Cor. 3:1-3 appears inconsistent with the idea that all the Corinthians had entered into a higher, more spiritual phase of the Christian life.

c.         If this view is correct, those who lack this second blessing do not belong to the body of Christ.

d.         The context of 1 Cor. 12 militates against this view. The point of the apostle is that all, regardless of their gift, belong to the body as co-equal and interdependent members. The idea of a Spirit-baptized elite would play directly into the hands of those who were the source of division in Corinth. Again, Paul’s emphasis in 1 Cor. 12 is their common experience of the Holy Spirit, not what one group has that another does not. Gordon Fee observes that “Paul’s present concern is not to delineate how an individual becomes a believer, but to explain how the many of them, diverse as they are, are in fact one body. The answer: The Spirit, whom all alike have received” (God’s Empowering Presence, 178).

[Note: if this view is correct, those who espouse it (classical Pentecostals) must abandon their doctrine of “initial evidence”. In other words, if all the Corinthians had received this second blessing then they all should have spoken in tongues (as “initial evidence” of their Spirit-baptism). But clearly not all believers in Corinth spoke in tongues (see 1 Cor. 14:5).]

2.         Others argue that the preposition eis does not mean that Spirit-baptism incorporates one into the body of Christ. Rather, eis means something along the lines of “with a view to benefiting” or “for the sake of,” the idea being that Spirit-baptism prepares them for service/ministry to the body in which they had previously been placed by faith in Christ. Grammatically speaking, had this been Paul’s intent, he would probably have used another preposition that more clearly expresses the idea (e.g., heneka, “for the same of,” or huper plus the genitive, “in behalf of, for the sake of”).

It should be noted that the preposition eis has two fundamental meanings: 1) a local sense, indicating that into which all were baptized, or 2) a reference to the goal of the action, indicating the purpose or aim of the baptizing action, i.e., “so as to become one body.”

3.         Another view is that Paul is describing a baptism BY the Holy Spirit into Christ for salvation (which all Christians experience at conversion) whereas elsewhere in the NT it is Jesus who baptizes IN the Holy Spirit for power (which only some Christians receive, though it is available to all). Hence:

At conversion ? HS ? baptizes ALL ? “into” JC ? salvation

After conversion ? JC ? baptizes SOME ? “in” HS ? power

a.         Part of the motivation for this view is the seemingly awkward phrase, “in one Spirit into one body.” Hence, the rendering, “by one Spirit into one body.” But what sounds harsh in English is not at all so in Greek! Indeed, as D. A. Carson points out, “the combination of Greek phrases nicely stresses exactly the point that Paul is trying to make: all Christians have been baptized in one Spirit; all Christians have been baptized into one body” (Showing the Spirit, p. 47).

b.         Wayne Grudem also points to the same terminology in 1 Cor. 10:2 – “all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea.” Here the cloud and the sea are the “elements” that surrounded or overwhelmed the people and Moses points to the new life of participation in the Mosaic Covenant and the fellowship of God’s people of which he was the leader. Grudem explains:

“It is not that there were two locations for the same baptism, but one was the element in which they were baptized and the other was the location in which they found themselves after the baptism. This is very similar to 1 Corinthians 12:13 – the Holy Spirit was the element in which they were baptized, and the body of Christ, the church, was the location in which they found themselves after that baptism” (768).

c.         In all of the other texts referring to Spirit-baptism the preposition en means “in”, describing the element in which one is, as it were, immersed. In no text is the HS ever said to be the agent by which one is baptized. Jesus is the baptizer. The HS is he in whom we are engulfed or the “element” with which we are saturated.

It should be noted that in the NT to be baptized “by” someone is always expressed by the preposition hupo followed by a genitive noun. People were baptized “by” John the Baptist in the Jordan river (Mt. 3:6; Mark 1:5; Lk. 3:7). Jesus was baptized “by” John (Mt. 3:13; Mark 1:9). The Pharisees had not been baptized “by” John (Lk. 7:30), etc. Most likely, then, if Paul had wanted to say that the Corinthians had all been baptized “by” the Holy Spirit he would have used hupo with the genitive, not en with the dative.

4.         Another variation is to argue that whereas v. 13a refers to conversion, v. 13b describes a second, post-conversion work of the Holy Spirit. But:

a.         Parallelism is a common literary device employed by the biblical authors. Here Paul employs two different metaphors that describe the same reality.

b.         Whatever occurs to those in v. 13a occurs to those in v. 13b. I.e., the same “we all” who were baptized in one Spirit into one body were also made to drink of the same Spirit. The activity in the two phrases is co-extensive.

5.         Some insist that v. 13 says nothing at all about baptism in the Spirit. Rather, the verse is describing the ordinances/sacraments of the church: water baptism in v. 13a and the Lord’s Supper in v. 13b.

a.         This view is dependent on the untenable and unbiblical theory that the Spirit is received at the time of water baptism.

b.         There is no hint anywhere in the NT that drinking the cup of communion is an “imbibing/drinking of the Holy Spirit.”

6.         The most likely interpretation, in my opinion, is that Paul is using two vivid metaphors to describe our experience of the Holy Spirit at the time of conversion, at the time when we became members of the body of Christ, the Church:

Baptism, or immersion in the HS, and

Drinking to the fill of the HS . . .

the purpose or goal of which is to unite us all in one body.

Thus, our “saturation” with the Spirit, our experience of being “engulfed” in and “deluged” and “inundated” by the HS results in our participation in the spiritual organism of the body of Christ, the Church.

Some suggest that in v. 13b Paul may be alluding to the OT imagery of the golden age to come in which the land and its people have the Spirit poured out on them:

“Until the Spirit is poured out upon us from on high, and the wilderness becomes a fertile field, and the fertile field is considered as a forest, then justice will dwell in the wilderness, and righteousness will abide in the fertile field” (Isa. 32:15).

“For I will pour out water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour out My Spirit on your offspring, and My blessing on your descendants” (Isa. 44:3).

“And I will not hide My face from them any longer, for I shall have poured out My Spirit on the house of Israel, declares the Lord” (Ezek. 39:29).

Thus, conversion is an experience of the HS analogous to the outpouring of a sudden flood or rainstorm on parched ground, transforming dry and barren earth into a well-watered garden (cf. Jer. 31:12). Fee points out that

“such expressive metaphors (immersion in the Spirit and drinking to the fill of the Spirit) . . . imply a much greater experiential and visibly manifest reception of the Spirit than many have tended to experience in subsequent church history. Paul may appeal to their common experience of Spirit as the presupposition for the unity of the body precisely because, as in Gal. 3:2-5, the Spirit was a dynamically experienced reality, which had happened to all” (Ibid., 181).


1.         Baptism in the Spirit is a metaphor that describes our experience of the Spirit at conversion: we are immersed and submerged in Him and forever enjoy His presence and power.

2.         All Christians are baptized in the Spirit at the moment of the new birth, not subsequent to it.

3.         Biblical usage demands that we apply the terminology of “Spirit-baptism” to the conversion experience of all believers. However, this in no way restricts the activity of the Spirit to conversion! The NT endorses and encourages multiple, subsequent experiences of the Spirit’s power and presence.

4.         Evangelicals are right in affirming that all Christians have experienced Spirit-baptism at conversion. They are wrong in minimizing (sometimes even denying) the reality of subsequent, additional experiences of the Spirit in the course of the Christian life.

5.         Charismatics are right in affirming the reality and importance of post-conversion encounters with the Spirit that empower, enlighten, and transform. They are wrong in calling this experience “Spirit-baptism”.

Distinguishing between baptism in the Holy Spirit and the filling of the Holy Spirit

1.         Spirit-baptism is a metaphor that describes our reception of the HS at the moment of our conversion to Jesus in faith and repentance. When we believe and are justified, we are, as it were, deluged and engulfed by the HS; we are, as it were, immersed in and saturated by the Spirit. Results:

a) we are made members of the body of Christ, incorporated into the spiritual organism called the church (1 Cor. 12:13); and

b) the HS comes to indwell us permanently.

Spirit-baptism is therefore instantaneous (i.e., it is not a process), coincident with conversion, universal (i.e., all Christians are recipients), unrepeatable, and permanent.

2.         Spirit-filling is also a metaphor describing our continuous, on-going experience and appropriation of the HS. To be filled with the Spirit is to come under progressively more intense and intimate influence of the Spirit. Results:

·      power

·      purity

·      proclamation

·      praise

Spirit-filling can be forfeited and subsequently experienced yet again, on multiple occasions, throughout the course of the Christian life.

Q: “Is it legitimate to differentiate between Spirit baptism and Spirit filling in view of what is said in Acts 2:4? Is there a cause/effect relationship between the two? Are they, in fact, synonymous?”

There are two senses in which one may be filled with the HS:

First, texts which describe people as being “full of the Holy Spirit” as if it were a condition or consistent quality of Christian character; a moral disposition; possessing and reflecting a maturity in Christ.

See Luke 4:1; Acts 6:3,5; 7:55; 11:24; 13:52 (lit., “they continued to be full” [imp. tense]. This is the “ideal” condition of every Christian. It emphasizes the abiding state of being filled.

Second, texts which describe people as being “filled with the Holy Spirit” to enable them to fulfill or perform a special task or to equip them for service or ministry.

a.         either life-long; an office or particular ministry – see Luke 1:15-17; Acts 9:17; or,

b.         in a spiritual emergency; an immediate and special endowment of power to fulfill an especially important and urgent task. Thus, someone who is already filled with the HS may experience a further/additional filling. I.e., no matter “how much” of the HS one may have, there’s always room for “more”! See Acts 4:8,31; 13:9; Luke 1:41,67. Also, in Acts 7:55 Stephen, though “full of the HS”, is again “filled” with the HS to prepare him to endure persecution and eventual martyrdom, as well as to “see” the vision of Jesus.

Note especially the cause and effect relationship between being filled with the Spirit and inspired speech. See Luke 1:41 and its relation to 1:42-45; Luke 1:67 and its relation to 1:68-79.

There is no indication that these asked to be filled or empowered; it was a sovereign work of God; as they walked in obedience and made themselves available, God “filled” them in accordance with their need. Cf. OT instances – Ex. 31:3; 35:31; Num. 24:2 (Balaam); Judges 6:34; 14:6,19; 15:14; 1 Sam. 10:6; 16:13.

In summary:

1)         To be filled with the Spirit is different from being baptized in the Spirit. There is one baptism, but multiple fillings.

2)         In no NT text are we commanded to be baptized in the HS. There is no appeal to do something in order to be baptized; no exhortation, no imperative.

3)         On the other hand, we are commanded to be filled with the HS (Eph. 5:18).

4)         It is possible to be baptized in the HS, to experience the permanent indwelling of the HS, and yet not be filled with the HS. E.g., the Corinthian believers.

5)         To be “full of the HS” is to reflect a maturity of character; it is the ideal condition of every believer. To be “filled with the HS” is to experience an anointing for power, purity, proclamation, and praise.

The Doctrine of Subsequence

The question is frequently asked: ““How and why did Spirit-baptism come to be viewed by those in the Pentecostal and Charismatic traditions as an event separate from and subsequent to salvation or conversion?” The answer comes in five parts.

1.         It probably began with their dissatisfaction with the lethargy and lifelessness of their own Christian experience and that of the church corporately. The coldness, cowardice, and routine of religion sparked in them a passion, thirst, and hunger for more of God, for more of what they saw NT Christians experience.

2.         This passion for more led to a genuine, biblical, life-changing experience. They were touched by the undeniable presence of God; a transforming encounter with God brought new power, renewed commitment, a zealous rededication to holiness of life, deepened love, etc.

3.         This experience was clearly subsequent to their conversion (often years after they were saved). Therefore it was something different from the new birth or justification or anything else associated with their initial saving encounter with Christ.

4.         As has often been said, these were a people with an experience in search of a theology. Turning to the Bible to identify and justify what had occurred, they found what they believed was a three-fold precedent for what had happened to them: a) the experience of Jesus; b) the experience of the first disciples; and c) the experience of certain individuals in Acts (chps. 8,9,10,19).

5.         They identified what happened to them as the “baptism in the Holy Spirit”.

For a more detailed explanation of this, I encourage you to consult the article by Gordon Fee, “Baptism in the Holy Spirit: The Issue of Separability and Subsequence,” Pneuma 7:2 (Fall 1985):87-99.

As noted, the classical Pentecostal doctrine of subsequence is defended by an appeal to three lines of evidence. It is crucial for us to determine if this evidence is valid.

Remember that the doctrine of subsequence asserts that the baptism in the HS is an experience separate from and subsequent to conversion. [I should point out, however, that some Pentecostals also acknowledge that Spirit-baptism can often be simultaneous with conversion, while at the same time contending that most often it is separate and subsequent.] According to this doctrine, the Christian life is characterized by two primary stages: 1) conversion or salvation, at which time the HS comes to permanently indwell all believers, and 2) the baptism in the HS, conceivably (but not necessarily) years after conversion, at which time the Spirit empowers the believer for ministry, witness, and perhaps additional spiritual gifts.

Biblical support for this doctrine is allegedly found by appealing to the experience of Jesus, the experience of the first disciples, and certain texts in the book of Acts which appear to portray Christians receiving the fullness of the HS separate from and subsequent to their initial experience of saving faith in Christ. I will respond to each of these arguments, beginning in Part Two of this study.

In this study we are looking primarily at the arguments used by classical Pentecostals and some Charismatics to defend Spirit-baptism as an experience that is both separate from and subsequent to conversion.

The Analogy based on the experience of Jesus

This argument is as follows. Jesus is conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary. This is said to correspond with our regeneration or new birth by the Holy Spirit. Years later (@ 30), Jesus is anointed with the power of the HS for public ministry (Acts 10:38). This event is interpreted as his “baptism in the Holy Spirit”. If the Son of God needed this extra enduement of power, how much more do we, his disciples.

Whereas I certainly believe that Jesus was anointed with the Holy Spirit at his baptism in the river Jordan, all for the purpose of empowering him for ministry (Acts 10:38), I do not believe this experience is a valid parallel or pattern for us when it comes to our baptism in the Spirit. Here is why.

1.         The text does not say Jesus was “baptized” in the HS. It says he was “anointed” (Acts 10:38; Luke 4:18). Indeed, far from being “baptized in the HS” Jesus is himself the one who does the baptizing! John the Baptist clearly asserts of Jesus: “He Himself will baptize you in the Holy Spirit and fire” (Mt. 3:11b; Mk. 1:8; Lk. 3:16; Jn. 1:33).

2.         The analogy breaks down when we observe that Jesus didn’t need to get saved. Unlike all of us, Jesus was not unregenerate. There was no time at which he was an unbeliever. There was no time at which he experienced “conversion”. Therefore it makes no sense to speak of any particular incident in his life as being separate from and subsequent to conversion.

3.         The fact that the HS anointed Jesus with power at the age of thirty was simply because that was the point at which he began his public ministry as God’s messiah. There is no biblical evidence to suggest that it reflects a normative, God-ordained will for “subsequence” in either his life or the lives of his followers.

4.         There certainly is an analogy between the experience of Jesus and the experience of the Christian: we do need the power of the HS to do the works of Jesus. But there is no biblical justification for identifying this with Spirit-baptism. In Acts, it is more appropriately called the filling of the Spirit.

The Analogy based on the experience of the first disciples

This argument is as follows. The first disciples underwent a “two-stage” experience: they were regenerated and converted in John 20:22, at which time they received the HS. But they did not experience Spirit-baptism until the day of Pentecost. Their baptism in the Spirit, therefore, was obviously separate from and subsequent to their conversion (this would be the case even if we don’t regard John 20:22 as their conversion experience).

Before I respond to this argument, it would be helpful if I said something about John 20:22 and what I believe Jesus did on that first Easter Sunday. We are told that Jesus said: “Peace be with you; as the Father has sent Me, I also send you” (v. 21). Then we read: “And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit'” (v. 22).

Gerald Hawthorne, in his excellent book, The Presence and the Power (a study of the relationship between Jesus and the Spirit), reminds us of this important fact.

“The very first thing Jesus did immediately after he was resurrected from among the dead and reunited with his followers was to pass on to them, as a gift from his Father (cf. Acts 2:23), that same power by which he lived, triumphed, and broke the bands of his own human limitations. On the very day of his resurrection, he came to them locked in by their fears, ‘breathed’ on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit’ (John 20:22)” (235).

Point: the mission of Jesus is not over. It merely passes into a new phase. Jesus continues the mission given him by his Father by sending forth his disciples in the same power with/by which the Father sent him forth, i.e., the power of the Holy Spirit.

Here is the problem posed by John 20:22 – In Acts the Holy Spirit comes on the day of Pentecost, 50 days after the resurrection, whereas here in John 20 the Holy Spirit appears to come on the day of the resurrection. Are John and Luke in conflict? Several observations will help resolve this problem:

·      These are not contradictory accounts of the same event: in John we have a secret, restricted gathering, at evening, of the disciples only, and Jesus is personally present; but in Acts we have a public gathering, in the middle of the morning, with the entire Jerusalem congregation present, but Jesus is absent.

·      John 20:22 does not describe their “regeneration” or “new birth”: (a) they were already “clean” (John 13:10); their names were already written down in heaven (Luke 10:20); Peter had openly testified that Jesus was the Christ (Mt. 16:16-17; cf. John 16:30); see also John 17:8-19 where Jesus refers to them as already belonging to the Father; (b) this impartation of the Spirit is not related to their conversion but to their commission (“I also send you”, v. 21).

·      The coming of the Spirit is directly dependent on the going of the Son. See John 7:37-39 and 16:7. The sending of the HS is contingent on the ascension of the Son. Jesus is portrayed here as not yet having ascended (John 20:17). Therefore, this is not a “Johannine Pentecost”.

·      “Breathing” is obviously symbolic. Pneuma may be translated “wind,” “breath,” “air,” and “spirit.” Cf. Gen. 2:7; Ezek. 37:2-4,9. This latter text suggests that “just as a lump of clay fashioned from the earth or a pile of bones bleaching in a valley were caused to spring to life by the breath of God then, so now the followers of Jesus are being given the opportunity to spring to life with a new spiritual vitality by that same breath of God” (Hawthorne, p. 236).

·      The Greek text has been interpreted differently. D. A. Carson, for example, argues that it does not say “he breathed on them,” but merely that “he breathed,” or “he exhaled.” He points out that this is the only place this verb appears in the NT, but in all of its occurrences in the LXX there is an accompanying preposition (such as “into” or “in” or “upon”) or some such auxiliary phrase. Thus Carson concludes that “the verb emphysao itself, when not encumbered by some auxiliary expression specifying the person or thing on whom or into whom the breath is breathed, simply means ‘to breathe'” (652). It must be noted that Carson’s view is a minority one and has been challenged on several counts.

There are three possible interpretations of what Jesus did:

1)         Some (including Gary Burge; see his commentary on John in the NIV Application series [Zondervan]) contend that this was a genuine and full anointing of the Spirit and must not be played off against the events of Acts 2.

2)         Others argue that this constituted a preliminary imparting of the Spirit, in anticipation of the complete gift that would come at Pentecost. Calvin referred to John 20:22 as a “sprinkling” of the HS and Acts 2 as a “saturation”! Key: Luke 24:49 clearly teaches that at Pentecost the followers of Jesus would receive the fullness of divine power = the Holy Spirit. Therefore, whatever occurred in John 20:22, it was at most a taste of Pentecost, not the “full meal”; it was at most a transitional empowering of the disciples to get them from Easter to Pentecost.

Some have argued that this was not the full impartation of the Spirit by pointing to the fact that the lives of the disciples changed little as a result of it. They still lived in fear (20:26), reverted to their former employment (21:1-3), and insisted on comparing service/loyalty records in a virtual game of spiritual one-up-manship (21:20-22).

3)         Others insist that there was no actual impartation of the Holy Spirit. Rather, John 20:22 is an acted parable, i.e., a symbolic promise of the coming power of the HS that is not fulfilled until the day of Pentecost.

In sum: it matters little if this was a partial enduement of power in anticipation of Pentecost or simply a symbolic act or prophetic parable pointing forward to Pentecost. The fact remains that the principal concern of the Son after his resurrection is the gift of the Holy Spirit to the church for the perpetuation of the divine mission he initiated.

Now let me return to our main concern. Does the experience of the disciples provide a pattern for us regarding Spirit-baptism? I don’t think so.

1.         It is unwise to argue that their experience is a pattern for ours when we realize that their experience could not have been otherwise than it was. In other words, it was impossible for them to be baptized in the Spirit when they believed, simply because they believed long before Spirit-baptism was even possible. Lederle put it this way:

“This conclusion is . . . underscored by the fact that the apostles began believing in Jesus (in some or other form at least) before the Spirit was poured out on the church on the day of Pentecost. This places them in a situation different to every Christian living after Pentecost. It was thus necessary that the apostles experience the new freedom and life in the Spirit which came with Pentecost in a unique way because they could not experience it before it had come (prior to Acts 2)” (60).

2.         Whereas the results of Pentecost (the presence and power of the HS) extend to the church as a whole, that day was in a very real sense unique and unrepeatable. The Spirit “came” on that day in a way that could occur but once. The Spirit, therefore, is now “here” in a way that prior to Pentecost he was not. Pentecost was the inauguration of a new phase or age in the redemptive plan of God. Thus, it is unwise to assume that the sequence in the experience of those who were alive and believing when it occurred is normative for the experience of those who were not. Wayne Grudem explains it this way:

“They [the first disciples] received this remarkable new empowering from the Holy Spirit because they were living at the time of the transition between the old covenant work of the Holy Spirit and the new covenant work of the Holy Spirit. Though it was a ‘second experience’ of the Holy Spirit, coming as it did long after their conversion, it is not to be taken as a pattern for us, for we are not living at a time of transition in the work of the Holy Spirit. In their case, believers with an old covenant empowering from the Holy Spirit became believers with a new covenant empowering from the Holy Spirit. But we today do not first become believers with a weaker, old covenant work of the Holy Spirit in our hearts and wait until some later time to receive a new covenant work of the Holy Spirit. Rather, we are in the same position as those who became Christians in the church at Corinth: when we become Christians we are all ‘baptized in one Spirit into one body’ (1 Cor. 12:13) — just as the Corinthians were, and just as were the new believers in many churches who were converted when Paul traveled on his missionary journeys” (Systematic Theology, 772-73).

The argument based on the experience of individuals in Acts

Three groups of people are singled out.

1.              1.         The Samaritans (Acts 8:4-24) – Most are familiar with the story of how Philip the evangelist traveled to Samaria and preached the gospel with amazing results. Signs and wonders were performed and many “believed” in Jesus. When Peter and John heard this, they too came to Samaria and prayed for these people “that they might receive the Holy Spirit. For He had not yet fallen upon any of them; they had simply been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus” (vv. 15-16).


Acts 8:16 is one of the most extraordinary statements in the entire book. Why? Because it is the only record in the entire NT of people believing in Jesus Christ, being baptized in water, and not receiving the Holy Spirit. Is the experience of the Samaritans normative for all other Christians in every other age? Five interpretations are worthy of consideration.

1.         The classical Pentecostal view is that the Samaritans experience a “second” reception of the HS, a work of grace that is obviously separate from and subsequent to the initial work by which they became believers in Jesus. They identify this second experience as the baptism in the Holy Spirit.

But note that Luke says explicitly that the HS had not fallen on them at all (see v. 16). He appears to say that what occurs in vv. 16ff. is the “first” reception of the HS, not the “second”. In other words, for the Samaritans there had been no earlier or first coming of the Spirit to make this a subsequent or second coming.

2.         According to one popular view, the Samaritans had already received the HS, but they had not experienced his charismatic manifestations. In other words, it isn’t the HS himself they lacked; only his supernatural gifts. Gordon Fee argues for this view, insisting that “the phenomenological expressions of the Spirit’s presence are what he [Luke] describes as the ‘coming of’ or ‘filling with’ the Spirit” (Baptism in the Holy Spirit, 90-91). Advocates of this view point out that the words “Holy Spirit” in this narrative lack the definite article, thus pointing not to the person of the Spirit per se, but to the power or operations of the Spirit, i.e., his gifts.

However, it has been shown that no significant theological conclusions can be drawn from the presence or absence of the definite article (see pp. 68-70 of James Dunn’s, Baptism in the Holy Spirit). Also, according to vv. 15-19, it is the HS, not his gifts, who comes when the apostles lay on hands. Whereas the HS is certainly distinct from the gifts he imparts, when he comes it is always with his gifts.

3.         Others suggest that this is an example of the principle that the HS only comes through the laying on of hands. But if this were the case, how does one explain Acts 2:38 where no mention is made of “hands”? (2) Also, if it were only a matter of laying on of hands, why didn’t Philip simply do it? The apostle Paul received the HS without the laying on of hands when he was converted (Acts 9). And when Philip led the Ethiopian eunuch to the Lord he didn’t lay hands on him (Acts 8:26-40). Finally, apart from Acts 19, nowhere else in Acts is the HS connected to the laying on of hands.

Not wanting to yield that easily, some say “apostolic” hands were the key. But there is no record of the apostles’ scurrying up and down the eastern end of the Mediterranean trying to keep up with the rapidly spreading gospel as new-born Christians eagerly waited on the touch of their hands for the reception of the Spirit!

4.         Another view, advocated primarily by James Dunn (63-68), is that the Samaritans had not yet received the HS because they were not yet saved. The arguments in defense of this view are as follows.

(a) The Samaritan response to Philip is described by a term used to describe their response to Simon (cf. vv. 6,10). This suggests that their reaction to Philip may have been for much the same reason and of the same quality as their reaction to Simon. In other words, this was the response, not of saving faith, but of mass emotion and mob hysteria.

(b) Their belief was at best intellectual assent, not heart-felt commitment to Christ. This is suggested by Luke’s use of the verb “to believe” with a dative object, rather than the standard “to believe in/upon” the name of Jesus. Says Dunn: “This use of pisteuein [to believe], unique in Acts, can surely be no accident on Luke’s part. He indicates thereby that the Samaritans’ response was simply an assent of the mind to the acceptability of what Philip was saying and an acquiescence to the course of action he advocated, rather than that commitment distinctively described elsewhere which alone deserves the name ‘Christian’” (65).

(c) Finally, Luke says that even Simon “believed” (v. 13), and then proceeds to reveal that his faith was spurious (v. 21). Thus, in spite of his “response” to Philip, Simon had neither “part” nor “portion” in the matter of salvation (v. 21). That is to say, he never had truly become a member of the people of God in the first place. And “Luke makes it clear (vv. 12f.) that Simon’s faith and baptism were precisely like those of the other Samaritans, as if to say, Note carefully what I say, and do not miss the point: they all went through the form but did not experience the reality” (Dunn, 66).

Against this view are the following points.

(a) According to v. 14, they had “received the Word of God,” identical terminology to 2:41 and 11:1, where genuine conversion is in view.

(b) Perhaps Luke specifically reveals the spurious character of Simon’s faith so as to distinguish it from the saving faith of the Samaritans.

(c) According to v. 12, their belief in Philip’s message was belief in Christ!

(d) When Peter and John arrived they didn’t preach the gospel. They simply prayed for them to receive the HS. This is strange indeed if the Samaritans weren’t saved in the first place.

(e) If the Samaritans had in fact misunderstood Philip, I would expect the apostles to correct the problem through additional teaching (as Priscilla and Aquila did with Apollos in Acts 18:26). But there is no reference to any activity of this sort.

(f) The same terminology Luke uses in Acts 8 is used in Acts 16:34 and 18:8 to describe genuine faith in God.

(g) Finally, they were baptized into the name of Jesus (v. 16). “Into the name” was a phrase common in commercial transactions when a property was transferred or paid “into the name” of someone else. Thus a person baptized “into the name of Jesus” is saying: “I have passed into his ownership; Jesus owns me lock, stock, and barrel; He is my Lord.”

5.         The most likely answer as to why God withheld the Holy Spirit from these and these only is found in the unique relationship between the Jews and Samaritans. An important fact to remember is that this was the first occasion on which the gospel had been proclaimed not only outside Jerusalem but inside Samaria. This is significant for several important reasons.

It may be difficult for us today to grasp the depth of hatred that existed between Jews and Samaritans. The Jews blamed the Samaritans for having destroyed the unity of God’s people and the monarchy following the death of Solomon in 922. They were also regarded as “half-breeds” because they had intermarried with Gentiles. When the Jews returned to Jerusalem after the exile, the Samaritans hindered their efforts to rebuild the temple and constructed their own on Mt. Gerizim. In 6 a.d., during the Passover, some Samaritans scattered the bones of a dead man in the court of the temple in Jerusalem, an act of defilement that enraged the Jews and only intensified their animosity. Indeed, the Jews publicly cursed Samaritans and prayed fervently that God would never save any of them.

These are some of the reasons why the Parable of the Good Samaritan was so shocking to Jewish ears. As far as the latter were concerned, the phrase Good Samaritan was a contradiction in terms! It also explains why everyone was so surprised when Jesus dared engage a Samaritan woman in conversation at Jacob’s well (John 4). The woman herself put it well when she said, “‘How is it that you, being a Jew, ask me for a drink since I am a Samaritan woman?’ For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans” (John 4:9). In John 8:48 the Jewish leaders addressed Jesus, saying, “Do we not say rightly that you are a Samaritan and have a demon?” I suspect that if the Jews themselves had a choice between the two, they might prefer to be a demon rather than a Samaritan!

One final observation will help. Geographically speaking, Samaria was located between Galilee to the north and Judea to the south. The Jewish disgust for Samaria was so intense that when they had to travel from Galilee to Judea, or vice versa, they would first travel due east and then south (or north, as the case may be), in order to avoid even having to set their feet on Samaritan soil!

My question is this: What might have happened had the Samaritans received the gospel independently of the church in Jerusalem? Something needed to be done to insure unity, lest schism or division emerge. Frederick Bruner explains:

“The Samaritans were not left to become an isolated sect with no bonds of union with the apostolic church in Jerusalem. If a Samaritan church and a Jewish church had arisen independently, side by side, without the dramatic removal of the ancient and bitter barriers of prejudice between the two, particularly at the level of ultimate authority, the young church of God would have been in schism from the inception of its mission. The drama of the Samaritan affair in Acts 8 included among its purposes the vivid and visual dismantling of the wall of enmity between Jew and Samaritan and the preservation of the precious unity of the church of God” (A Theology of the Holy Spirit, 176).

Therefore, the unprecedented delay of the HS was in order that the leaders of the church in Jerusalem, Peter and John, might vividly and personally place their imprimatur or stamp of approval on the movement of the gospel into Samaria (cf. Acts 1:8). In view of this historical background of racial and religious animosity, it was deemed prudent by God to take steps to prevent a disastrous split in the early church: hence the temporary and altogether unusual delay of the coming of the Spirit. An unprecedented situation demanded quite exceptional methods.

[Having said all this, I have to be honest in admitting that this incident poses questions about the reception and experience of the Holy Spirit that may have to remain unanswered. For even the explanation that I have given as to why God suspended the gift of the Spirit in the case of the Samaritans does not explain theologically how they could have been regenerated, converted, and believing Christians, members of the body of Christ, without yet having received the Holy Spirit.]

2.         Cornelius and the Gentiles (Acts 10:1-48; 11:12-18) – Here is the second monumental extension of the gospel beyond the boundaries of Jewish exclusivism. The problem arises when it is argued that Cornelius was already “saved” when Peter arrived (vv. 2,35). If he were, then his reception of the Holy Spirit in vv. 44-48 would constitute a “second” blessing, or a post-conversion “baptism in the Holy Spirit.” But there are several reasons why we cannot regard Cornelius as having been “saved” prior to Peter’s arrival.

1.         Acts 11:14 says that the message Peter proclaimed was the way Cornelius was saved. The message or gospel is essential. The gospel and the gospel alone is the power of God unto Cornelius’ salvation (Rom. 1:16-17). Also, note that the tense of the verb is future (“will be saved”, 11:14). If he believes Peter’s gospel message he will be saved (indicating that he is not yet saved). If he rejects the message, he won’t.

2.         Acts 10:43 says that the essence of salvation is the forgiveness of sins, a blessing that comes only through believing in the name of Christ. One cannot be saved until and unless he/she believes in the name of Christ.

3.         Elsewhere in Acts, even the most God-fearing and “moral” people (i.e., the Jews) are told they must repent and believe the gospel to be saved (cf. 2:5; 3:19).

4.         Acts 11:18 indicates that Cornelius and the Gentiles received from God “repentance unto life” only when Peter preached the gospel and they turned to faith in Christ.

But if Cornelius was not truly converted until Peter preached the gospel to him, what does it mean to say that Cornelius was “welcome” or “acceptable” to God (Acts 10:35) prior to his hearing and responding to the gospel? John Piper’s explanation is the best:

“My suggestion is that Cornelius represents a kind of unsaved person among an unreached people group who is seeking God in an extraordinary way. And Peter is saying that God accepts this search as genuine (hence ‘acceptable’ in verse 35) and works wonders to bring that person the gospel of Jesus Christ the way he did through the visions of both Peter on the housetop and Cornelius in the hour of prayer . . . .

So the fear of God that is acceptable to God in verse 35 is a true sense that there is a holy God, that we have to meet him some day as desperate sinners, that we cannot save ourselves and need to know God’s way of salvation, and that we pray for it day and night and seek to act on the light we have. This is what Cornelius was doing. And God accepted his prayer and his groping for truth in his life (Acts 17:27), and worked wonders to bring the saving message of the Gospel to him. Cornelius would not have been saved if no one had taken him the gospel” (Let the Nations be Glad, 146, 148).

In conclusion, then, Cornelius and the other Gentiles received the Holy Spirit when they were saved, and not at a time subsequent to their initial faith in Christ. Cornelius and the Gentiles were “baptized in the Spirit” at the moment of their conversion.

3.         The Ephesian Disciples (Acts 19:1-10) – The argument from this passage is that these are Christian men who had not yet received the Holy Spirit. It is only after Paul prays for them (i.e., subsequent to their faith) that they are “baptized in the Spirit”. I believe this interpretation is largely fueled by the erroneous translation of v. 2 in the KJV: “have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed?” The correct translation is found in both the NIV and NASB: “did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?”

Paul’s question in v. 2 is designed to uncover what kind of “belief” or “faith” they had experienced. If their belief was “saving”, Christian belief, then they would have received the Holy Spirit (Rom. 8:9!). The fact that they had not received the HS proved to Paul that their “belief” was not “Christian” belief. Says Dunn:

“It was inconceivable to him [Paul] that a Christian, one who had committed himself to Jesus as Lord in baptism in his name, could be yet without the Spirit. This is why the twelve had to go through the full initiation procedure. It was not that Paul accepted them as Christians with an incomplete experience; it is rather that they were not Christians at all. The absence of the Spirit indicated that they had not even begun the Christian life” (86).

Their response: “we have not even heard whether there is a Holy Spirit,” does not mean they had never before so much as heard of the Spirit’s existence. The HS is frequently mentioned in the OT, and John the Baptist’s own words to his followers (among whom these people included themselves) were that the Messiah would baptize in “Spirit” and fire. The point is that although they had heard John’s prophecy of Messianic “Spirit-baptism”, they were not aware of its fulfillment. In other words, they were ignorant of Pentecost.

But if these people were not ‘Christian’ disciples, what kind of ‘disciples’ were they?” Beasley-Murray offers this explanation:

“There is . . . nothing improbable in the existence of groups of people baptized by followers of John the Baptist and standing at varying degrees of distance from (or nearness to) the Christian Church. There must have been many baptized by John himself who had listened to the preaching of Jesus and his disciples, who had received the gospel with more or less intensity of conviction and faith and regarded themselves as His followers, yet who had no part in Pentecost or its developments . . . In Paul’s eyes these men were not Christians — no man who was without the Spirit of Jesus had any part in the Christ (Rom. 8:9). Probably Luke himself did not view them as Christians; his employment of the term . . . disciples, is a gesture in recognition that they were neither on a level with unbelieving Jews, nor classed with pagans. They were men who had paused on the way without completing the journey, half-Christians, occupying a zone of territory that could exist only at that period of history when the effects of John’s labors overlapped with those of Jesus” (Baptism in the New Testament, 109-11).

Thus, when Paul discovers they had not received the Holy Spirit he knows immediately they are not Christians. Upon realizing that they were but ‘disciples’ of John, Paul proclaimed Jesus, in whom they believe, at which point they receive the HS.

There are several other texts that speak of post-conversion encounters or experiences with the Holy Spirit that are related to but not identical with infilling.

            1.         There is the impartation of revelatory insight and illumination into the blessings of salvation (Eph. 1:15-23; cf. Isa. 11:2). Here Paul prays that God will impart to them the Spirit yet again, so that he might supply the wisdom to understand what he also reveals to them about God and his ways. This is something for which we must pray (both for ourselves and for others). There are dimensions of the Spirit’s ministry in our lives that are suspended, so to speak, on our asking.

It strikes some as odd that Paul would pray for the Spirit to be given to those who already have Him. But this hardly differs from Paul’s prayer in Eph. 3:17 that Christ might “dwell” in the hearts of people in whom Christ already dwells! Paul is referring to an experiential enlargement of what is theologically true. He prays that, through the Spirit, Jesus might exert a progressively greater and more intense personal influence in our souls. Thus, in both texts Paul is praying for an expanded and increased work of God in the believer’s life.

            2.         There is also the anointing of power for the performance of miracles as seen in Gal. 3:1-5 (esp. v. 5). Paul clearly refers both to their initial reception of the Spirit (v. 2) and to their present experience of the Spirit (v. 5). The unmistakable evidence that they had entered into new life was their reception of the Spirit (v. 2). Fee explains:

“The entire argument runs aground if this appeal is not also to a reception of the Spirit that was dynamically experienced. Even though Paul seldom mentions any of the visible evidences of the Spirit in such contexts as these, here is the demonstration that the experience of the Spirit in the Pauline churches was very much as that described and understood by Luke — as visibly and experientially accompanied by phenomena that gave certain evidence of the presence of the Spirit of God” (God’s Empowering Presence, 384).

Paul speaks of God as the one who continually and liberally supplies the Spirit to men and women who in another sense have already received him. This is especially evident when one takes note of Paul’s use of the present tense (i.e., “He who is supplying you with the Spirit”). Evidently there is a close, even causal, relationship between the supply of the Spirit and the resultant working of miracles. That is to say, “God is present among them by his Spirit, and the fresh supply of the Spirit finds expression in miraculous deeds of various kinds. Thus Paul is appealing once more to the visible and experiential nature of the Spirit in their midst as the ongoing evidence that life in the Spirit, predicated on faith in Christ Jesus, has no place at all for ‘works of law'” (Ibid., 388-9).

            3.         Paul also speaks about the provision of the Spirit to face hardship with hope (Phil. 1:19). I don’t believe he is thinking so much of the “help” the Spirit gives, but of the gift of the Spirit himself, whom God continually supplies to him (and to us!). In other words, the phrase “the supply/provision of the Spirit” (an objective genitive, for those of you know a little Greek) points to the Spirit as the one who is himself being given or supplied anew to Paul by God to assist him during the course of his imprisonment.

            4.         In 1 Thess. 4:8 the apostle speaks of the continuous exertion of strength from the Holy Spirit necessary for purity. He specifically says the HS is given “into” (eis) you, not simply “to” you. The point is that God puts His Spirit inside us (cf. 1 Cor. 6:19). The use of the Greek present tense emphasizes the ongoing and continuous work of the Spirit in their lives. If Paul had in mind their conversion and thus their initial, past reception of the Spirit, he would probably have used that tense of the verb (aorist; cf. 1:5-6) more appropriate to that sort of emphasis. In context, Paul’s point is that the call to sexual purity and holiness comes with the continuous provision of the Spirit to enable obedience. Thus the Spirit is portrayed as the ongoing divine companion, by whose power the believer lives in purity and holiness.

            5.         The Spirit is also responsible for our deepened awareness of adoption as sons and increased confidence and assurance of salvation. It is the work of the Spirit to intensify our sense of the abiding and loving presence of the Father and Son (see Rom. 5:5; 8:15-17; John 14:15-23). There are times in the Christian life when the believer finds himself more than ordinarily conscious of God’s love, his presence, and power (see Eph. 3:16-19; 1 Pt. 1:8). In other words, there is a heightened, increased, or accelerated experience of the Spirit’s otherwise ordinary and routine operations. Why would God do this, you ask? I like J. I. Packer’s answer:

“Why should there be this intensifying — which, so far from being a once-for-all thing, a ‘second [and last!] blessing,’ does (thank God!) recur from time to time? We cannot always give reasons for God’s choice of times and seasons for drawing near to his children and bringing home to them in this vivid and transporting way, as he does, the reality of his love. After it has happened, we may sometimes be able to see that it was preparation for pain, perplexity, loss, or for some specially demanding or discouraging piece of ministry, but in other cases we may only ever be able to say: ‘God chose to show his child his love simply because he loves his child.’ But there are also times when it seems clear that God draws near to men because they draw near to him (see James 4:8; Jeremiah 29:13,14; Luke 11:9-13, where ‘give the Holy Spirit’ means ‘give experience of the ministry, influence, and blessings of the Holy Spirit’); and that is the situation with which we are dealing here” (Keep in Step, 227).

Consider the experience of that great American evangelist, D. L. Moody (1837-99):

“One day, in the city of New York — oh, what a day! — I cannot describe it, I seldom refer to it; it is almost too sacred an experience to name. . . . I can only say that God revealed himself to me, and I had such an experience of his love that I had to ask him to stay his hand. I went to preaching again. The sermons were not different; I did not present any new truths, and yet hundreds were converted. I would not now be placed back where I was before that blessed experience if you should give me all the world — it would be small dust in the balance.”

Howell Harris (1714-73) describes his experience this way:

“June 18, 1735, being in secret prayer, I felt suddenly my heart melting within me like wax before the fire with love to God my Saviour; and also felt not only love, peace, etc. but longing to be dissolved, and to be with Christ; then was a cry in my inmost soul, which I was totally unacquainted with before, Abba Father! Abba Father! I could not help calling God my Father; I knew that I was his child, and that he loved me, and heard me. My soul being filled and satiated, crying, ‘Tis enough, I am satisfied. Give me strength, and I will follow thee through fire and water.’ I could say I was happy indeed! There was in me a well of water, springing up to everlasting life, Jn. 4:14. The love of God was shed abroad in my heart by the Holy Ghost, Rom. 5:5.”

            6.         Some, such as Martyn Lloyd-Jones, have found in Eph. 1:13 and the “sealing” of the HS another instance of an experience of the Spirit that is separate from and subsequent to conversion. Let’s look closely at this text.

The literal use of the term “seal” (cf. 2 Cor. 1:21-22) was of a stamped impression in wax pointing to ownership and protection. “As Eph. 1:13 and 4:30 make certain, the ‘seal’ is the Spirit, by whom God has marked believers and claimed them for his own” (Fee, God’s Empowering Presence, 807).

The dispute is over how we are to understand the relationship between “believing” and “sealing”. Should we translate it, “after believing, you were sealed,” in which case sealing is indeed separate from and subsequent to saving faith (conversion)? Or should we translate it, “when you believed, you were sealed,” in which case sealing and believing are simultaneous? Grammatically speaking, one can find evidence for both usages in the NT (although “when you believed” is more probable). Fee is inclined to think that believing is indeed antecedent to sealing, but, he says, “the two verbs have nothing to do with separate and distinct experiences of faith. Rather, the one (‘having believed [in Christ]’ logically precedes the other (‘you were sealed’); but from Paul’s perspective these are two sides of the same coin” (670).

So, is there any basis for equating the “sealing” of the Spirit with the “baptism” in the Spirit as Lloyd-Jones does? Personally, I think not.

In view of these many passages, it comes as no surprise that Jesus should encourage us to ask the Father for more of the Spirit’s ministry in our lives, as he does in Luke 11:13. Could it be that this exhortation to pray for the Holy Spirit flows from Jesus’ own experience of the Spirit? Could it be that he himself prayed for continued, repeated anointings, infillings or fresh waves of the Spirit’s presence and power to sustain him for ministry, and here encourages his followers to do the same?

Where Luke (11:13) says the Father will give the “Holy Spirit” to us Matthew (7:11) says he will give “good things”. Why the difference? John Nolland suggests that “it will be best to see that, since from a post-Pentecost early church perspective, the greatest gift that God can bestow is the Spirit, Luke wants it to be seen that God’s parental bounty applies not just to everyday needs (already well represented in the text in [the] Lord’s Prayer) but even reaches so far as to this his greatest possible gift” (Word Biblical Commentary on Luke 9:21-18:34, 632).

Since this exhortation is addressed to believers, the “children” of the “Father”, the giving of the Spirit in response to prayer cannot refer to one’s initial experience of salvation. The prayer is not by a lost person needing a first-time indwelling of the Spirit but by people who already have the Spirit but stand in need of a greater fullness, a more powerful anointing to equip and empower them for ministry. In fact, the petition of v. 13 is part of the instruction on persistence and perseverance in prayer that began in Luke 11:1. Thus we are repeatedly and persistently and on every needful occasion to keep on asking, seeking and knocking for fresh impartations of the Spirit’s power.

These texts would appear to dispel the concept of a singular, once-for-all deposit of the Spirit that would supposedly render superfluous the need for subsequent, post-conversion anointings. The Spirit who was once given and now indwells each believer is continually given to enhance and intensify our relationship with Christ and to empower our efforts in ministry. But we need not label any one such experience as Spirit-baptism.

Perhaps an illustration will help in bringing this to a conclusion. Let us suppose that you reach into the cabinet for medication to relieve a persistent headache and take hold of what you believe is aspirin. Unfortunately, the label on the bottle has long since worn off. Nevertheless, the medicine works. Fifteen minutes after swallowing two tablets, your headache is completely gone. Your spouse then informs you that the medicine you took was, in fact, Tylenol. Does this news cause your headache to return? It shouldn’t. The medicinal value of the Tylenol is not diminished simply because you mislabeled it. Calling it aspirin in no way altered the physical properties of what was, in fact, Tylenol.

My point is that the reality of “extra-conversion” experiences of the Holy Spirit is not undermined should it be discovered that we have “mislabeled” the event. The spiritual “medicine”, so to speak, still works. Whereas I prefer to reserve the terminology of Spirit-baptism for what all experience at conversion, the fact that the Pentecostal applies it to a subsequent, and more restricted, empowering does not in and of itself invalidate the latter phenomenon. The important issue is whether or not the NT endorses both the initial saving work of regeneration and incorporation into the body of Christ on the one hand, and the theologically distinct (though not always subsequent) work of anointing for witness, service, and charismatic gifting on the other. I believe that it does.

So what happened to Paula? In my opinion, Paula was converted to saving faith in Christ at the age of eleven while at church camp. At that moment she was baptized in the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit also came to permanently indwell her. On that night nine years later Paula was filled with the Holy Spirit as she cried out to the Lord to renew her commitment and empower her for a live of service to His glory.


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