What is the Baptism with the Holy Spirit?

Jesus commanded His disciples to be baptized in water (Matthew 28:19).  Water baptism is the outward expression of the inward transformation that  occurred within us when we were saved: our old man of sin died in Christ  when we were born again of His Spirit and we are now a new man in Christ  (Romans 6:3-11). However after they were saved, Jesus commanded His  disciples to also be baptized in the Spirit (Luke 24:49; Acts 1:5 & 8).  Therefore, we see that water baptism is associated with salvation, whereas  Spirit baptism is associated with something more than salvation. This raises  a very important question: If we received the Holy Spirit when we were  saved, then why do we need to be baptized in the Holy Spirit after we are saved?

The New Testament uses either “the Holy Spirit” or “the Holy Ghost” with reference to the third Person of the Trinity, and it is this baptism that is described as being from and of Him. This being the case, we can say without doubt that since the Spirit of God is holy, the baptism must be too. Sadly this wonderful ministry of the Holy Spirit has for several decades been abused by some quarters of the church, thus making the baptism into something that it was never intended to be. Nevertheless the Scriptures are very precise about what the baptism with the Holy Spirit is, who can have it, what it can accomplish in our personal lives and within the church as a whole.

The descriptions

For forty days after His resurrection Jesus taught His followers about the Kingdom of God (Acts 1:3), yet they still needed something else from Him before they were ready for the mission He had for them. The Bible offers us a number of phrases which describe what we are discussing here. “For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence” (Acts 1:5). This promise of the Lord Jesus Christ was fulfilled on the Day of Pentecost when His followers “were all filled with the Holy Ghost” (Acts 2:4). This blessing is called “the promise of the Father” (Acts 1:4) and “the promise of my Father” (Luke 24:49). The latter text includes the fact that those baptised with the Holy Spirit would “be endued with power from on high”.  The outpouring of this Heavenly power came upon the church exactly as the Lord promised; “The Holy Ghost fell on all them” (Acts 10:44-47), and can be referred to as ‘the gift of the Holy Spirit’, for Peter speaks of the baptism in these terms in Acts 11:16. This is exactly the same baptism which John the Baptist predicted. “I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire” (Matthew 3:11 with Mark 1:8, Luke 3:16 and John 1:33).

The definite experience

Since the Lord Jesus made a definite promised that would definitely be fulfilled, we have to accept that the baptism with the Holy Spirit is a definite experience for all true followers of Christ today. “And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high” (Luke 24:49). This begs the question of how the disciples knew that they had received the baptism. Had they tarried long enough? Did they simply exit the house after ‘feeling’ they had received something? Paul once asked certain believers, “Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed?” (Acts 19:2). Is it not obvious that he expected them to reply with “yes” or no”? The Christians at Ephesus could not say, “We do not know” or “We might have”. In fact, as the rest of the story indicates, they had not been baptised with the Holy Spirit, but very soon the experience was theirs. “And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Ghost came on them; and they spake with tongues, and prophesied” (Acts 19:6).

In light of the above, we should see by now that it is possible to be a Christian and still not to have received the baptism with the Holy Spirit. There is nothing in Scripture that suggests that someone might receive this gift and not be aware of it. Most Christians willing accept that salvation is a definite experience, and few would entertain any doubt about actually receiving it. So why is there such hesitation with regards to the baptism with the Holy Spirit? While it is possible to have it but not fully understand it’s true significance, this is quickly corrected once the Scriptures are read and studied.

Conclusion

As we progress in our studies on the Baptism with the Holy Spirit, we will be blessed with the knowledge that the Lord God has made this wonderful gift available to each one of us, and with it the rich blessings that it brings into our lives. “For the LORD God is a sun and shield: the LORD will give grace and glory: no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly” (Psalm 84:11).

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