There are two basic approaches to understanding the baptism of the Holy Spirit amongst those who do not yet have it:
1. Honest inquiry. Some will seek to understand what it means and if it applies to them. “And they were all amazed, and were in doubt, saying one to another, What meaneth this?” (Acts 2:12).
2. Dishonest rejection. Others will not even bother to investigate the facts; instead they will put any manifestation of the Spirit down to natural causes, zeal or fanaticism. “Others mocking said, These men are full of new wine” (Acts 2:13).
A free gift
The apostle Peter responded to both the honest inquiry and the dishonest rejection of what took place on the Day of Pentecost. He makes his stand as the Holy Spirit enlightens his mind to the Scriptures and inspires his words while preaching. He declares the day’s events to be the gift of God that everyone can receive. “But Peter, standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice, and said unto them, Ye men of Judaea, and all ye that dwell at Jerusalem, be this known unto you, and hearken to my words: For these are not drunken, as ye suppose, seeing it is but the third hour of the day. But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel; And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams: And on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy: And I will show wonders in heaven above, and signs in the earth beneath; blood, and fire, and vapour of smoke: The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before that great and notable day of the Lord come: And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved … Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.” (Acts 2:14-21, 38-39).
See what God can do
Those 120 fearful men and women were transformed into bold saints upon receiving the Holy Spirit. They were living proof of the dynamic power of God once a believer submits and obeys Him. A church or individual, filled with the Spirit, is the most convincing evidence to quench the arguments of sceptics. Who can gainsay one who has been indwelt and transformed by the Holy Spirit?
Peter revealed that what they were witnessing was the fulfilment of God’s promise found in Joel 2:28-32. Who were they to argue against God’s word! This promise is not limited to one day. In both Acts and Joel the word ‘days’ is used. Pentecost was only one of many such days for the Holy Spirit to be poured out into a believers life … “For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call” (Acts 2:39).
Who can receive the promise?
The baptism of the Holy Spirit is for all who believe … “And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Acts 2:21).
The believer must believe in the life of Christ, that is, He is the Son of God … “Ye men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know” (Acts 2:22).
The believer must believe in the atoning death of Christ on the cross … “Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain” (Acts 2:23).
The believer must believe in the physical resurrection of Christ … “Whom God hath raised up, having loosed the pains of death: because it was not possible that he should be holden of it” (Acts 2:24).
Unless a person has experienced salvation through the cleansing blood of Christ, he cannot receive the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit.
What is the promise for?
The Holy Spirit has not been given to entertain the church or the world. This power was given to the church to draw sinners to Christ. Those who asked, “What meaneth this?” later pleaded, “What shall we do?” (Acts 2:37). Sinners saved by grace can then receive the indwelling power of the Spirit in their lives too.
What shall we do?
The answer to the question is the same as given by Peter … “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost” (Acts 2:38). Yes, we may have already done this, but do we really believe in Christ? Do we believe that He will follow through with His promise? Do we believe that He can pour His Spirit upon us today?
If we are serious about wanting such a baptism then we must separate ourselves and walk in holiness … “Save yourselves from this untoward generation” (Acts 2:40). In spite of past failure, fear, and fault, we can receive the promise in faith. Then we can expect God to use us in a powerful way.