The Baptism of the Holy Spirit

January 6, 2020

When Paul had laid hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke with tongues and prophesied. Acts 19:6

Paul had come to the region of Ephesus, and when he arrived there, he found twelve disciples. But evidently, Paul sensed that although these men were believers, there was something missing in their lives.

Something Missing

And it happened, while Apollos was at Corinth, that Paul, having passed through the upper regions, came to Ephesus. And finding some disciples he said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” So they said to him, “We have not so much as heard whether there is a Holy Spirit.” And he said to them, “Into what then were you baptized?” So they said, “Into John’s baptism.” Then Paul said, “John indeed baptized with a baptism of repentance, saying to the people that they should believe on Him who would come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus.” When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke with tongues and prophesied. Now the men were about twelve in all” (Acts 19:1–7).

Did you receive the Holy Spirit?

 This is an interesting question. On the one hand, no one is truly a Christian unless he has received the Holy Spirit. The men Paul met didn’t fully understand the gospel, but they had received the truth as far as they knew it. They were believers. The Bible declares that when a person believes, he receives the Holy Spirit. “Unless one is born of water and the Spirit,” Jesus told Nicodemus, “he cannot enter the kingdom of God” (John 3:5). And Paul, in Romans, wrote, “If anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His” (8:9).

Yet here (as also with a group of Samaritan Christians in Acts 8:14–17), we see believers who in some way have not received the Holy Spirit. These Ephesian believers had received the Spirit in the sense of being born again. What they had not received was the baptism with the Spirit.

When Paul asked these men if they had received the Holy Spirit when they believed, he was not referring to the Spirit coming into them. He was asking whether or not the Spirit had come upon them.

The Holy Spirit With Us

The Bible describes a threefold relationship between the Spirit and the believer. First, Jesus said the Spirit is with us. The Greek word parakletos (which in John 14 is translated “Comforter”) means “one who comes alongside to help.” The Holy Spirit is with us—He comes alongside to convict us of sin and to lead us to Christ.

The Holy Spirit In Us

Then, once we receive Christ, the Holy Spirit takes up residence within us. Jesus, telling His disciples about the Holy Spirit, said, “You know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you” (John 14:17). Later, after rising from the dead, Jesus breathed on His disciples and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” At that point, the Holy Spirit took up residence within them.

The Holy Spirit Upon Us

But God has even more for His people. He wants the Holy Spirit to come upon us. This is what we might call the baptism of the Holy Spirit.

Some people are bothered by this terminology. In the church today, we tend toward extremes on many issues; very seldom do we find balance. On one extreme, many charismatic Christians believe the baptism of the Holy Spirit to be an experience of speaking in tongues or being slain in the Spirit. The pendulum swings to the other side with believers who deny a baptism with the Spirit, or as some call it, a second work of the Spirit. These Christians believe that we get everything God has to offer the moment we believe in Jesus. But Jesus, days after He told His disciples to “receive the Holy Spirit,” told these same men to wait in Jerusalem for the baptism in the Holy Spirit (see Acts 1:4).

No Better Way To Start the New Year

So the baptism of the Spirit is definitely additional to the indwelling of the Spirit that all believers already have. We will answer the question of why baptism is necessary next time. But what better way to start 2020 than by seeking His power today that He might work through us in the coming year?