Part 4 of 4: How You Can Be Baptized in the Holy Spirit

“’Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.’ When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, ‘Brothers, what shall we do?’ Peter replied, ‘Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.’ With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, ‘Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.’ Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day” (Acts 2:36-41).

So you want to be baptized in the Holy Spirit?

Repent and Be Baptized
Apostle Peter delineates the requirements at Pentecost, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 2:38-39). God’s Kingdom always make this demand: “Repent! Turn! Decide!” (George Eldon Ladd, The Gospel of the Kingdom, p. 97). So renounce your sinful ways and believe in Jesus Christ’s atoning work on the cross. Obey God, because He gives the Holy Spirit to those who obey Him (Acts 5:32). In addition, be baptized (in water) and make good on your confession of faith.

Be Expectant in Prayer
But remember also that your faith in Christ does not warrant complacency regarding your baptism in the Holy Spirit. Baptism in the Holy Spirit, like salvation, is received once and for all (1 Cor. 12:13; Eph. 2:1-10) and requires continual working out (Eph. 5:18; cf. Phil. 2:12-13).

For this reason, you should be informed about the spiritual gifts (1 Cor. 12:1), and you should continually seek the Holy Spirit in prayer. Jesus’s disciples were abiding their time by “join[ing] together constantly in prayer” (Acts 1:13-14), and in one of these gatherings, “All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them” (Acts 2:1-4).

Likewise, Apostle Paul enjoined the Corinthians to “eagerly desire gifts of the Spirit, especially prophecy,” because it “edifies the church” (1 Cor. 14:1-4), and, above all, “love,” a fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:16-25). The Holy Spirit distributes His gifts to those who earnestly seek them in prayer, and produces His fruit among those who walk by the Spirit.

Remember what Jesus taught, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. … Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him” (Luke 11:9-13)!

Laying on of Hands by Other Believers
The Holy Spirit can also be imparted by other Spirit-baptized believers through the laying on of hands (Acts 8:14-21; 19:1-7; Rom. 1:8-11; 2 Tim.1:6). This ability to impart the Holy Spirit was not an exclusively Apostolic prerogative, since the Apostle Paul was “filled with the Holy Spirit” when Ananias (who was not an Apostle) placed his hands on him and prayed for him (Acts 9:17-18). Similarly, Paul tells Timothy, “Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through prophecy when the body of elders laid their hands on you” (1 Timothy 4:14). Apparently spiritual gifts can be imparted by non-Apostles.

No Foolproof Formula
In the end, however, being filled with the Holy Spirit cannot be reduced to formulas. No laying on of hands is mentioned at Pentecost (Acts 2:1-4), and Cornelius was baptized by the Holy Spirit, not when Peter laid his hands on him, but when he was still speaking (Acts 10:44). In fact, Cornelius hadn’t even received water baptism when he was baptized in the Spirit (Acts 10:44-48).

The wind of the Holy Spirit “blows wherever it pleases” (Jn. 3:8). He sovereignly “distributes [the spiritual gifts] … as he determines” (1 Cor. 12:11). He apportions them in such a way that the Church functions as an interdependent body of believers, not a collection of independent limbs (1 Cor. 12:14). This means that different Christians have different spiritual gifts (1 Cor. 12:3), which are all intended for the common good of the Church (1 Cor. 12:7). So if you lack a certain spiritual gift, take heart, knowing that someone else in the Church probably has it.

How Can I Know that I Have Been Baptized in the Holy Spirit?
Is the baptism in the Holy Spirit always accompanied by the gift of tongues? I am not convinced that the gift of tongues is the initial evidence of one’s baptism in the Holy Spirit for three reasons:

  1. There are Scriptural exceptions to this “rule.” The believers at Pentecost (Acts 2:2-4), Cornelius and the Gentiles (Acts 10:44-46), and the disciples at Ephesus (Acts 19:6) all received the gift of tongues when they were baptized in the Holy Spirit, but there is no mention of the gift of tongues when Apostle Paul (Acts 9:17-19) and Christians in Samaria (Acts 8:14-17) were baptized in the Holy Spirit.
  2. The Scripture never teaches that all who are baptized in the Holy Spirit speak in tongues. When Jesus promised the baptism in the Holy Spirit, he taught that believers would “receive power,” not “speak in tongues” (Acts 1:5, 8). Nowhere does he teach that this power is always manifested in the gift of tongues.
  3. Apostle Paul clearly teaches that not all Christians speak in tongues (1 Cor. 12:27-31). The Church is meant to be an interdependent body of believers. For this reason, no spiritual gift is common to all and no individual Christian possesses all spiritual gifts.

In conclusion, speaking in tongues, (Acts 2:4; 10:46; 19:6), or prophesying (Acts 2:17; 19:6) and other miraculous signs for that matter (Acts 6:8; Gal. 3:5; Hebrews 2:4), may or may not accompany the baptism in the Holy Spirit. Therefore, they cannot serve as definitive criteria to determine whether or not one has been baptized in the Holy Spirit.

What is normative for those who are baptized in the Holy Spirit is that they are empowered and emboldened to be Christ’s “witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8). Harry Boer has rightly noted that consciousness of the Great Commission was not the primary motivation for missions in the early Church. Rather, there was an “uncommanded, undirected, spontaneous witness to the faith” springing from the Pentecost (Harry R. Boer, Pentecost and Missions, p. 43).

In fact, as the narrative in Luke-Acts unfolds, Jesus had told his disciples to “stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high” (Lk. 24:49b). They were to stay in Jerusalem and wait to “be baptized with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 1:5). As Bosch also notes, “if it was the experience of the resurrection that gave the early Christians certainty, it was the Pentecost that gave them boldness” (David J. Bosch, Transforming Mission, p. 41).

It was the empowerment of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost that overflowed onto the mission field. It was from that point on that the disciples who had cowered and scattered after the crucifixion (Mk. 14:50-52) proclaimed the gospel of Jesus Christ boldly, so that those who saw their courage were astonished, realizing that they were “unschooled, ordinary men” (Acts 4:8-13, 18-20). Even when commanded not to speak, they declared that they must obey God rather than human beings (Acts 5:29-32). Those who are baptized in the Holy Spirit can’t help but praise God (Acts 2:11; 10:46).

Given these evidences of the baptism in the Holy Spirit, here are some pastorally relevant questions to ask yourself:

  1. Have I seen the Holy Spirit enlivening me to worship?
  2. Have I seen the Holy Spirit empowering me to walk in holiness?
  3. Have I seen the Holy Spirit emboldening me to witness?

The Mission Statement of my home church is “Wholeheartedly loving God and one another by worshiping, witnessing and walking in the good news of Jesus Christ for all of life.” In order to do this well, we need to be filled with the Holy Spirit!

This concludes my series of posts on the gifts of the Holy Spirit. I pray that you would neither resist the wind of the Holy Spirit nor be swept away by it from the bedrock of the Word!

Part 3 of 4: Why We Need to Be Baptized in the Holy Spirit

“‘For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ Then they gathered around him and asked him, ‘Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?’ He said to them: ‘It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth'” (Acts 1:5-8).

What Is the Baptism in the Holy Spirit?
If you want to receive the gifts (plural) of the Holy Spirit (possessive genitive), you need to receive the gift (singular) of the Holy Spirit (objective genitive). In other words, if you want His gifts, you need to encounter Him. I’m speaking of the baptism in the Holy Spirit

Wait a minute. Isn’t every believer already baptized in the Spirit? Yes, 1 Corinthians 12:13 does teach that every genuine believer is baptized in the Holy Spirit (cf. Acts 2:38). So then, baptism in the Holy Spirit refers to the divine incorporation of individual believers into the Church upon conversion. But is baptism in the Holy Spirit merely a subconscious regeneration rather than a conscious empowerment?

I don’t think the baptism in the Holy Spirit can be limited to the first sense. In Acts 1:5, Jesus says to His disciples, “For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” Then, he continues, “you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8).

Baptism in the Holy Spirit is a conscious experience closely associated with power. In fact, the two are used interchangeably in many places (Lk. 1:35; Acts 8:19; 10:38; Rom. 15:13; 1 Th. 1:5). As Gordon Fee points out, the baptism in the Holy Spirit has a “dynamic empowering dimension with gifts, miracles, and evangelism (along with fruit and growth)” (Gospel and Spirit, p. 118).

Is the Baptism in the Holy Spirit Subsequent or Simultaneous with Faith?
In Acts 8:14-17, it is recorded that the new Christians in Samaria “had simply been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus,” but “received the Holy Spirit” when “Peter and John placed their hands on them” (Acts 8:14-17). Some Pentecostals use this passage to argue that the baptism in the Holy Spirit is subsequent to, rather than simultaneous with, faith (cf. Acts 10; 19:1-10).

However, the context suggests that this account is describing a unique event rather than prescribing a pattern to be repeated. It was the first time that “Samaria had received the word of God” (v. 14), and the Holy Spirit “had not yet fallen on any of them” (v. 16). Therefore, the apostles sent Peter and John so that “they might receive the Holy Spirit” (v. 15) “through the laying on of the apostles’ hands” (v. 18). This event, along with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on Gentiles for the first time in Acts 10, trace the movement of the Holy Spirit from Jerusalem, to Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8).

Christ’s commission to his disciples in Acts 1:8 to be “witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” is not merely a geographic progression, but also an ethnic one, because it is an allusion to Isaiah 49:6, which promises “a light for the nations [i.e. ethnic groups]” so that God’s “salvation may reach to the end of the earth.

At Pentecost, the Jews gathered in Jerusalem received the Holy Spirit. In Acts 2:1 it says that “When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place.” The antecedent of the pronoun “they” is “the apostles [who had] returned to Jerusalem” (Acts 1:12), and it says specifically in 2:5 that men who were gathered that day were devout Jews from every nation.

Then, the Samaritans in Judea and Samaria, of mixed descent from Jews and Gentiles (2 Kings 17:24; Ezra 4:1-2), received the Holy Spirit (Acts 8:14-17). And finally, the Gentiles in the ends of the earth received the Holy Spirit (Acts 10), which, then, served as the basis for the apostles’ conclusion that salvation had come to the Gentiles (Acts 11:1-18). This narrative progression suggests that the subsequence of the baptism in the Holy Spirit in Acts 8 is occasioned by the unique, initial nature of the Pentecost event.

Baptism in the Holy Spirit As a Marker of Faith
Peter promised that all who repent and are baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins would receive the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38), and Paul reckons that all believers are baptized in the Spirit (1 Cor. 12:13). For the early Christians, the Holy Spirit was not an afterthought, but the sine qua non of Christian life (Acts 2:16-:21; John 1:32-33).

To them, the term “Spirit-filled Christian” would have been redundant, for to be Christian was to be filled with the Spirit. That is why when Paul meets the disciples in Ephesus, he asks, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” Their reply, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit” (Acts 19:1-7), evokes the bewildered response from Paul, “Into what then were you baptized?”

Apostle Paul can ask this question because he understands that the baptism in the Holy Spirit is an experiential reality, not merely a cognitive assent to the inferential reality of the Holy Spirit. It is a grave mistake to think that the Holy Spirit is an unobtrusive, subliminal companion.

The baptism in the Holy Spirit is a reliable marker of one’s faith, “for those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God” (Rom. 8:14). “This is how we know that we live in [God] and he in us: He has given us of his Spirit” (1 John 4:12-13; cf. 1 John 3:24). The Holy Spirit is the down payment that guarantees our future glory (2 Cor. 1:21-22; 5:5; Eph. 1:13-14). The fullness of the Spirit was the primary criterion by which believers were deemed fit for ministry (Acts 6:3-5).

As Roland Allen observes, after Pentecost, the Apostles made “recognition of the Spirit in themselves and others” a primary guide for spiritual judgment (The Ministry of the Spirit, p. 45). Christians today typically impose either theological creed or ecclesial polity as litmus tests (Harry R. Boer, Pentecost and Missions, p. 225), but these approaches neglect the criterion of the Spirit. As the above example shows, when Paul encountered the disciples at Ephesus, he asked one simple question: “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed” (Acts 19:1-2)?

However, modern missionaries are “more inclined to ask either ‘Did you believe exactly what we teach?’ or ‘Were the hands that were laid on you our hands?’ and–if the answer is satisfactory–to assure the converts that they have then received the Holy Spirit even if they don’t know it. There is world of difference between these two attitudes” (Lesslie Newbigin, The Household of God: Lectures on the Nature of the Church, p. 104).

The baptism in the Holy Spirit is not an unnoticeable phenomenon that we simply should assume has taken place; it is a life-changing, identifiable experience of the Spirit’s power that every Christian should continually seek (Eph. 5:18). If you cannot answer with an emphatic “yes” to the question, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” you need to be baptized in the Holy Spirit. Just how do you do that? Stay tuned…

This is Part 3 of 4 posts in my series on the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Go to Part 2: Why We Don’t See More Signs and Wonders Today or to Part 4: How You Can Be Baptized in the Holy Spirit.