Swords For Christ

The Baptism of the Holy Spirit

By Pastor Bill Snider


Is the Baptism of the Holy Spirit Scriptural?

The Baptism of the Holy Spirit is one of the most hotly disputed doctrines of the Church, today. More churches have been divided over this subject than just about any other. As a result, a lot of Christians are unreceptive to receiving the Baptism of the Holy Spirit as a valid part of their walk with God. But is it a valid part of walking with God? Is it necessary for Christians to receive the Baptism of the Holy Spirit? Is it even a legitimate Biblical doctrine in the first place? Or, is it too problematic, or strange, to even bother with? To begin answering these questions lets look at some of the things the Bible says.

In the book of Mark, John the Baptist declared that the Baptism of the Holy Spirit would be one of the most important things Jesus would do when He came. "Now John was clothed with camel's hair and with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. And he preached, saying, 'There comes One after me who is mightier than I, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to stoop down and loose. I indeed baptized you with water, but He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit (Mark 1:6-8).'"

John was the one that established the Baptism of the Holy Spirit as a New Testament doctrine, because he was the first to teach about it. Moreover, he made sure to distinguish the Baptism of the Holy Spirit from anything he was doing or that had been done before. This was something new that Jesus would bring. It had nothing to do with water baptism. It had nothing to do with the law. It had nothing to do with sacrifices. As a matter of fact, as John himself said, it was going to be the thing that made Jesus so mighty that he wasn't even worthy to loosen Jesus' sandal strap.

Jesus, himself, reaffirmed the legitimacy of the Baptism of the Holy Spirit as a New Testament doctrine when He commanded His disciples not to depart from Jerusalem until they were baptized with the Holy Spirit: "And being assembled together with them, [Jesus] commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the Promise of the Father, which, He said, 'you have heard from Me; for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now (Acts 1:4,5).'"

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Is It a Separate Experience from Salvation?

This is a question that rattles a lot of churches. There are denominations that believe that a person receives the Baptism of the Holy Spirit at the same time as they receive salvation in Christ. Others believe that a Christian isn't saved unless he is baptized in the Holy Spirit. I'll talk about this more later on, but I believe that many are confusing the difference between being sealed with the Spirit and being baptized in the Spirit. I don't want you to think that I'm taking anything away from our salvation in Christ, but there are plenty of scriptures that indicate that the baptism of the Holy Spirit is a separate experience from being saved.

Praying for people to receive the Baptism of the Holy Spirit was a common practice with the disciples in the book of Acts. Whenever people received the Word of God, the apostles were sent over to see to it that they also received the baptism of the Holy Spirit. One such example is found in Acts 8:14-16, "Now when the apostles who were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them, who, when they had come down, prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit. For as yet He had fallen upon none of them. They had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then they laid hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit."

According to the above passage, that city in Samaria had already received the Gospel. They had already believed what Phillip had preached to them and were baptized in water in the name of Jesus. In the minds of the Apostles, these people were already brothers in Christ. Yet, they did not hesitate to send two of their best, Peter and John, to go pray for them to receive the Holy Spirit also. Based on this, it's hard to believe that the early Church considered the Baptism of the Holy Spirit as something that happened simultaneously with salvation. I believe they treated them as completely different experiences with completely different purposes.

Even in Acts 9:10-18, when Ananias comes to Judas' house to pray for Paul's eyes to be healed, he says that God also sent him to pray for Paul to be filled with the Holy Spirit: "Now there was a certain disciple at Damascus named Ananias; and to him the Lord said in a vision, 'Ananias.' And he said, 'Here I am, Lord.' So the Lord said to him, 'Arise and go to the street called Straight, and inquire at the house of Judas for one called Saul of Tarsus, for behold, he is praying. And in a vision he has seen a man named Ananias coming in and putting his hand on him, so that he might receive his sight.' Then Ananias answered, 'Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much harm he has done to Your saints in Jerusalem. And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on Your name.' But the Lord said to him, 'Go, for he is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel. For I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name's sake.' And Ananias went his way and entered the house; and laying his hands on him he said, 'Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you came, has sent me that you may receive your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.'"

If you'll notice, when you read the passage, God doesn't saying anything to Ananias about praying for Paul to be filled with the Holy Spirit. God definitely tells Ananias about praying for Paul's healing. He also gives Ananias a detailed rundown of Paul's calling and future. But God says nothing to Ananias about praying for Paul to be filled with the Holy Spirit. The only thing I can think of here is that, unless God said something to him on the way over to Judas' house, then it was something that Ananias treated as a mandate from God to do at every opportunity.

We see this in Paul's ministry, also: "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 (Acts 19:1)." Paul considered it as much a part of his responsibility to preach the Baptism of the Holy Spirit, as it was to preach the gospel; and get as many as would receive filled with the Spirit of God.

God was so behind them going out and laying hands on new believers to receive the Holy Spirit, that when they hesitated at praying for the Gentiles to receive it, God poured it out on the Gentiles, anyway: "While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who heard the word. And those of the circumcision who believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also. For they heard them speak with tongues and magnify God. Then Peter answered, 'Can anyone forbid water, that these should not be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have (Acts 10:44-47)?'"

Moreover, Peter even had a hard time with the Jews when he explained what happened with the Gentiles. Most of the Christian Jewish leaders didn't believe that the Baptism of the Holy Spirit was even for the Gentiles. That's why they were both stunned and upset by Peter's news. As Peter, himself, explains, "And as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them, as upon us at the beginning. Then I remembered the word of the Lord, how He said, 'John indeed baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit.' If therefore God gave them the same gift as He gave us when we believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could withstand God? When they heard these things they became silent; and they glorified God, saying, then God has also granted to the Gentiles repentance to life (Acts 11:15-18)."

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What the Baptism of the Holy Spirit Is

On the day that Jesus was taken up into heaven, He told his disciples that they would be baptized in the Holy Spirit in a few days. "And being assembled together with them, He commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the Promise of the Father, 'which,' He said, 'you have heard from Me; for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now (Acts 1:4,5).'"

It was exactly ten days later that his words were fulfilled. Most people think that charismatic Christians created Pentecost, but that's not true. The day of Pentecost was actually a Jewish Feast Day celebrated the fiftieth day after Passover. It was the beginning of harvest time for the Jews, and they were required by the law to bring in the firstfruits of their harvests as praise offerings to God. It was appropriate for God to send the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost, because it signified the beginning of God's harvest into His kingdom.

On the day of Pentecost, after the Holy Spirit exploded into the upper room, Peter went down into the street and declared to the all the people what had just happened to them: "But this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: "And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God, That I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh; Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, Your young men shall see visions, Your old men shall dream dreams. And on My menservants and on My maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days; And they shall prophesy. I will show wonders in heaven above and signs in the earth beneath: Blood and fire and vapor of smoke. The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the coming of the great and awesome day of the LORD. And it shall come to pass that whoever calls on the name of the LORD Shall be saved.'"

What Peter declared to them was that they had just witnessed the beginning of God pouring out His Spirit on all flesh. That is what the Baptism of the Holy Spirit is: it is the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on flesh. The outpouring of the Spirit means two things: one, it means that God is making physical contact with all men by His Spirit; and, two, it means that God has initiated a new, supernatural relationship for us with Himself. In this supernatural relationship, God will be granting visions and dreams, prophesies, signs and wonders, and salvation to whoever calls on the name of Jesus.

Through the Baptism of the Holy Spirit, God was doing something brand new in the earth. Where the Law of Moses was about fulfilling commandments, statutes, and works; the outpouring of the Holy Spirit is about walking by faith in God's manifested glory and power. We don't have to dream about the miracles that Jesus did on the shores of Galilee. We can experience them in our own lives, today. Even after two thousand years, we can still have a living faith in our resurrected Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

That living faith is the whole purpose of the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. When a person comes to Jesus and accepts Him as Lord and Savior, that person becomes born-again. The blood of Jesus washes away their sins, and they are saved from the wrath of God that is coming on the ungodly. Their names are written in the book of life, and they are born into the family of God. God is now their Father and they are now His children. At the moment someone is born again, he or she is immediately sealed with the Holy Spirit. You cannot be baptized in the Holy Spirit unless you have been sealed with the Spirit. This is where a lot of Christians get confused. They think that since they have already been sealed with the Holy Spirit, they don't need to be baptized with the Holy Spirit.

Nonetheless, the truth is that being sealed with the Spirit is not the same as being baptized with the Spirit. Being sealed with the Spirit has nothing to do with what the Holy Spirit does when He is poured out on all flesh. Being sealed with the Spirit is about being marked by God as being His. It's about being sealed with the promise of our future. As Ephesians 1:13,14 says, "In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory."

When you look at what the word "sealed" means, it helps you understand the difference. "Sealed" means "to stamp (with a signet or private mark) for security or preservation (literally or figuratively); by implication, to keep secret, to attest [as to genuineness] (Strong's Exhaustive Concordance)."

Strong's reveals two things that it means to be sealed with the Holy Spirit. First, you are stamped, or marked, for security and preservation. Which means that the Holy Spirit and the angels of God are watching out for you to preserve you. Second, it means that you have been attested to that you are a genuine child of God. And, as a child of God, you are to be deferred to and responded to accordingly.

Another thing that being sealed with the Holy Spirit means for us is that it is the earnest of our inheritance. That word, "earnest," means "a pledge, i.e. part of the purchase-money or property given in advance as security for the rest (Strong's)." In other words, God has given us the Holy Spirit as a down payment or a security deposit towards the resurrection. Personally, I like the idea of the Holy Spirit being our down payment towards the resurrection. That means that I can enjoy right now, today, some of what the resurrection will produce for us in the future.

I don't think very many people realize just how much that leads us into the value and importance of the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. I believe that the Baptism of the Holy Spirit is part of that down payment towards the resurrection. I believe that God gives us a taste of the power that will be manifested in the resurrection through the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. As a result, we can experience, and walk in, the power of God in our everyday lives.

Jesus confirms this in Luke 24:49, "Behold, I send the Promise of My Father upon you; but tarry in the city of Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high." And Acts 1:8 also says, "But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth."

As you can see, in the above verses, that power is absolutely necessary if we are to be witnesses to Jesus. If Jesus wouldn't let his disciples leave Jerusalem until they were endued with that power, how much more will we need it to effectively preach the Gospel? Just as important, how are we going to live effectively without it?

While we are on the subject of what the Baptism of the Holy Spirit is, we need to clear up some confusing terms and what they mean. For example, don't be confused by the term "filled with the Holy Spirit." It means the same thing as "baptized with the Holy Spirit." Jesus told His disciples to wait a few days in Jerusalem for the Baptism of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:4,5). However, in Acts 2:1-4, when the Holy Spirit finally arrives on the day of Pentecost, the Bible says that they were all filled with the Holy Spirit. What you need to understand is that being filled with the Holy Spirit is simply a further clarification of what it means to be baptized in the Holy Spirit.

If you look up the Greek word for "to baptize," you'll find that one of its meanings has to do with being filled by something. According to Vine's Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, the verb, "to baptize, was used among the Greeks to signify the dying of a garment, or the drawing of water by dipping a vessel into another, etc. Plutarchus uses it of the drawing of wine by dipping the cup into the bowl." So, based on those definitions, we can use the term "to be baptized in the Holy Spirit" interchangeably with the term "to be filled with the Holy Spirit."

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Is the Baptism of the Holy Spirit for Us, Today?

I think that to argue whether, or not, the Baptism of the Holy Spirit was a doctrine of the early Church is a futile exercise. It should be more than evident that it was a major doctrine of the early Church. We will find this true even with Paul, who considered the preaching of the Baptism of the Holy Spirit just as much a part of preaching the Gospel as preaching salvation by faith.

"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 (Acts 19:1-6)."

Moreover, Paul continued to exhort the churches to stay filled with the Holy Spirit: "And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ (Ephesians 5:18-20)."

The problem with receiving the Baptism of the Holy Spirit rests in knowing whether it's for us, today. Should the Baptism of the Holy Spirit be considered an integral part of our salvation in Christ? Is it really a subsequent experience that we need to receive, or can we just get along without it?

Part of the answer lies in us understanding that we need the baptism of the Spirit to effectively perform our ministries. Jesus didn't even begin His ministry until he was filled with the Holy Spirit: "When all the people were baptized, it came to pass that Jesus also was baptized; and while He prayed, the heaven was opened. And the Holy Spirit descended in bodily form like a dove upon Him, and a voice came from heaven which said, 'You are My beloved Son; in You I am well pleased.' Then Jesus, being filled with the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness (Luke 3:21,22; 4:1)."

Luke 4:11 tells us why Jesus needed to be filled with the Holy Spirit: "Then Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit to Galilee, and news of Him went out through all the surrounding region." Just as Jesus told His disciples in Luke 24:49 to stay in Jerusalem until they were endued (clothed) with power from on high, Jesus himself needed to be clothed with the power of the Holy Spirit in order to carry out His ministry.

We see this explained further in Acts 10:38, "How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him." Jesus needed the power that comes through the Baptism of the Holy Spirit for two main reasons: one, in order to do His supernatural ministry of healing the sick and casting out demons; and, two, to show that God was with Him. What we need to understand from this is that if Jesus needed the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit to accomplish those things, then how much more will we?

Some religious people would answer that we don't need supernatural power. They would argue that God has already shown that He's with us and all we have to do is believe that. Of course, I agree with that. But that doesn't help me when I'm ministering to others. The world is having a hard time with us shoving printed words on printed pages in their faces and telling them that they have to take it all on faith. The world needs to know, to experience, the reality of God - that He's there and that He loves them as much today as ever. The only way we're going to do that is by walking in the power of God given to us through the baptism of the Holy Spirit.

We all must walk in the power of God if we're going to be effective witnesses of Jesus' resurrection. Of course the Holy Spirit will help us by convicting the world, but He's also supposed to help us by confirming the word with signs, wonders and miracles. Paul says this in Rom 15:19, "In mighty signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God, so that from Jerusalem and round about to Illyricum I have fully preached the gospel of Christ." I am convinced that we haven't fully preached the gospel until we've preached it in power. Paul further confirms this in 1 Thessalonians 1:5, "For our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Spirit and in much assurance, as you know what kind of men we were among you for your sake."

Another reason I am convinced that the baptism of the Holy Spirit belongs to us, today, is because we have been called to walk in the power of God. There are scriptures that plainly declare this. 1 Corinthians 2:4,5 says, "And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God." Your faith is your walk and it's not meant to be based on the wisdom of men; it's meant to be based on the power of God.

Paul goes on the make some startling statements in 1 Corinthians 4:19,20. He says, "But I will come to you shortly, if the Lord will, and will know, not the speech of them which are puffed up, but the power. For the kingdom of God is not in word, but in power." If Christians would only get a hold of this, Christianity would become a major force to be reckoned with - and I'm not talking about a political force.

We must realize that if we are to live and preach the kingdom of God, then we must start living its power. Paul challenged the leaders at Corinth. He wasn't interested in how great and daring their words were; he only cared about what kind of power they walked in. Obviously, that power wasn't reserved for just the original apostles. As a matter of fact, Paul wasn't even an original apostle, and he based the fulfilment of his ministry on the fact that he did it in the power of God.

One of the prayers that Paul prayed for the church at Ephesus was that they would know the exceeding greatness of God's power towards them (Ephesians 1:19). He goes on to declare in Ephesians 3:20, "Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us." Did you get that? Everything that God is able to do, which is exceedingly, abundantly above all that we could ask or think, is done by the power that is in us. We need power just to get our prayers answered.

Finally, the baptism of the Holy Spirit has to be for us today, because the Bible says it's for us today. There is a scripture in Acts chapter two that we have completely overlooked that says so. Acts 2:38,39 says, "Then Peter said to them, 'Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.'" The promise is the baptism of the Holy Spirit, just like they received it on the day of Pentecost, and it is for every Christian on the face of the earth.

You see, the scripture says it is for as many as God will call. That is future tense. Peter verified that it was for future generations when he said that the promise was for them and their children. The clincher, however, is when he said that it was for as many as God would call. That statement encompassed all the Christians who were to be. That could only mean that the baptism of the Holy Spirit is for us today. And though I have given you some reasons for why we need it, the scripture just plainly says that it is ours.

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How You Receive the Baptism of the Holy Spirit

It is amazing how complicated and difficult some churches make it to receive the Holy Spirit. In some you have to tarry for it. That is an archaic way of saying that you have to wait around the altar, prayerfully, until God smiles down on you and fills you with the Spirit - that is if you get to have it.

In other churches, you have to work yourself into a frenzy until you get "touched" by the Spirit. I have actually been in churches where the whole church gathered around you and laid hands on you to get you filled with the Holy Spirit; and I have seen them do it without even knowing if the people were saved.

Luke 11:11-13 tells us very simply and plainly how we can receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit: "If a son asks for bread from any father among you, will he give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent instead of a fish? Or if he asks for an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? 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!" The way you receive the Holy Spirit is by asking the Father in Jesus' name for Him.

You have to receive the Baptism of the Holy Spirit by faith just like you have to receive salvation by faith. There is no magic formula for being filled with the Holy Spirit. You simply have to believe that you received it when you asked for it. That's based on Mark 11:24, which is a key scripture for learning how to receive answers to prayers: "Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them."

There are two critical things you must do to effectively receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit: one, you must be convinced that it is of God and that it is for you, today; and, two, you must believe that when you pray for it, you will receive it. I have prayed for many Christians to be filled with the Holy Spirit, and I have seen both of these things hinder some of them from receiving the Holy Spirit. If a person is not sure that the baptism of the Holy Spirit is for them, then they won't receive it. Likewise, if that person isn't sure that they're going to be baptized in the Holy Spirit when they pray for it, then they won't receive it.

God needs your faith, your conviction that the Holy Spirit will fill you if you really want to be filled by Him. You can't just leave it up to God to do it if it's His will, because you won't receive it. Just think about it for a moment, if you had approached God with the same attitude towards your salvation, would you have been saved? Of course not. When you prayed the prayer of salvation, you got saved. When you pray for the baptism of the Holy Spirit, you will be filled with the Holy Spirit. That is the guarantee of Luke 11:11-13, "...how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!"

Once you pray and ask for the baptism of the Holy Spirit in Jesus' name, don't question whether you got filled with the Holy Spirit, or not, just believe you did. Don't base your faith on whether you felt something or not. On the contrary, get excited because the power of God has filled your life, just as the Holy Spirit has filled your being.

Now, if you live in an area where there is a "Spirit-filled" Church, then you can go there and have them lay hands on you to be filled with the Holy Spirit. This doesn't take the whole church it only takes one person. You can do this because this was the pattern of the early church. Acts 8:14-16 says so, "Now when the apostles who were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them, who, when they had come down, prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit. For as yet He had fallen upon none of them. They had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then they laid hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit."

However, if you don't have any Spirit-filled Christians around you that can lay hands on you to receive the Holy Spirit, then you can always pray for yourself and God will hear you just the same. I know because that's how I received my prayer tongues.

There are several things that become available to you once you have been filled with the Holy Spirit. These will take faith to receive just like the baptism of the Holy Spirit, but they will already be working inside you. You will just have to learn how to step out in them. One, you will be able to pray in tongues (which I'm devoting an entire article on by itself). Two, the gifts of the Holy Spirit - these deal with the supernatural abilities listed in 1 Corinthians 12. And, three, the power to heal the sick and cast out demons according to Mark 16:17,18 (which itself is based John 14:12-14).

In order to cultivate these supernatural abilities, you will need to get some teaching on them, so you can grow in the knowledge of them and put enough faith in them to walk in them. Nonetheless, there are plenty of books and tapes out there, especially the Bible, to help you get started developing these abilities.

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