Well, it’s been a long time since I’ve posted on here. I’ve been working 60-70 hours a week (at 2 jobs) and still am…but I ended up doing some writing tonight that I’ll toss on here since it’s both a) long enough to be a post and b) of possible interest to some. Because I’m already past my bedtime by 2 hours, there’s no pictures or editting tonight; just some quick Bible study that’s a horribly rough draft.
I won’t bother with the story of why I’m writing this, but I’m going to answer a single question. What is the Baptism of the Holy Spirit in the New Testament?
Let’s look at every single instance that the Greek verb Baptizo (“baptize”) and the term Pneuma (“Spirit”) appear together in the Scripture. For those that don’t trust me, look at the results here:
So, here’s the verses:
Matt. 3:11, 3:16, 28:19; Mark 1:8; Luke 3:16; John 1:33; Acts 1:5, 2:38, 10:47, 11:16; 1 Cor. 12:13.
That’s every single passage in the Bible that uses the terms “baptize” and “Spirit” in the same sentence.
But wait, there’s one more verse. The noun form of Baptizo (Baptisma – “baptism”) also appears together with the Greek noun Pneuma in a single place:
So that’s every place that the Baptizo/Baptisma/Baptismos word group appears alongside the noun Pneuma. If there’s any other passages that directly address the specific issue of the Baptism of the Spirit, they do it without using both terms related to transmitting the concept. Now there’s plenty of indirect allusions to the consequences of that baptism, or the evidences of receiving it, or any number of things…but that’s not relevant to instructing us as to what the Bible says the Baptism of the Spirit is (in it’s essential nature).
Let’s look at the Scriptures:
Matt. 3:11 – “I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”
So the passage says that John baptized with water for repentance, but there was one coming (namely Jesus Christ) who will baptize “you” “with the Holy Spirit and with fire.”
So who’s the “you” in 3:11?
Well, Matthew tells us very clearly that John had a mixed audience. Matt. 3:5-6 tells us that there were many Jewish folks coming to John and believing his message, but Matt. 3:7 says that many Pharisees and Sadducees came out to listen to him as well. In addressing the Pharisees and Sadducees, John said the following:
“You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” – Matt. 3:7-10
So, in Matt. 3:10 he is talking about judgment. Then, John turns to the whole crowd and says vs. 11-12:
“I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”
The reason I say that John was addressing the whole crowd is because John clearly wasn’t baptizing the Pharisees and Sadducees “for repentance”. But, the Pharisees are still standing there and John then comments about the fire that he had mentioned in 3:10. He states that the one who is coming (Jesus), already has his winnowing fork (a tool used for separating the wheat from the chaff), and will separate the wheat from the chaff.
John’s crowd included both wheat (those who were being baptized for repentance) and chaff (the unrepentant Pharisees and Sadducees). What’s interesting is that the coming baptism is related to both the wheat and the chaff. One group (the repentant) will be baptized by the Holy Spirit and the other group (the unrepentant) will be baptized with fire. Many people claim that the “fire” that is being talked about in vs.11 is some sort of passion for God or his “manifest presence” in the form of spiritual manifestations (which it never ever means in the Scripture), but if one reads the surrounding verses, the fire in vs. 10 and the fire in vs. 12 is inescapably a destructive element.
This passage doesn’t spell out all the details regarding what this coming “baptism” is, but it definitely connects it with both repentance and judgment.
Addressing Matthew 3:11 also deals with Mark 1:8 and Luke 3:16, which are simply parallel accounts of the same event.
Matt. 3:16 – “And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him;”
So this is Jesus having the Holy Spirit descend upon him at his own baptism…but Jesus’ baptism was just a water baptism. The other surrounding events (i.e. the audible voice of God and the physical manifestation of the Holy Spirit himself) clearly don’t happen to anyone else, ever. There should be no need to expand upon the singular and peculiar nature of Christ’s own baptism…though John 1:33 does explain why the Spirit visibly descended upon Jesus.
Addressing Matt. 3:16 also deals with John 1:33, since they’re directly related and discussing the same events.
Matthew 28:19 – “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,”
Clearly, this is a command regarding water baptism.
Acts 1:4-5 – “And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”
Acts 1:4-5 directly refers to the promised baptism that John the Baptist spoke about in the the Gospel passages we’ve already looked at. That baptism was coming.
Now tongues was clearly the evidence of the reception of that baptism, but Acts 1:5 doesn’t tell us what that baptism was, at least in it’s essential nature. All we know is that the promised baptism was imminent in Acts 1:4-5.
Acts 10:47 – “Can anyone withhold water for baptizing these people, who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?”
Acts 10:47 is referring to water baptism, and the people who Peter wanted to receive that baptism were the Gentiles who spoke in tongues (Acts 10:46). The very fact that they had the evidence of receiving the Spirit of God should have made it clear that deciding to administer water baptism to them was a no-brainer.
Acts 11:16-17 – “And I remembered the word of the Lord, how he said, ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit. If then God gave the same gift to them as he gave to us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could stand in God’s way?”
This is is Peter recounting his experience in Acts 10 for the Jerusalem council.
Acts 18:25 – “He had been instructed in the way of the Lord. And being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things concerning Jesus, though he knew only the baptism of John.”
Clearly, in Acts 18:25 the term “baptism” is not modified by the term “spirit”, but they’re referring to separate ideas.
Finally, we have the last mention of “baptism” and “Spirit” (appearing in the same sentence) in the entire New Testament:
1 Cor. 12: 13 – “For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.”
Now this is interesting. Paul writes that the Spirit baptizes “we” (And Paul has been talking to “brothers” since vs. 1) into one body, and those who are in that body are all “made to drink of one Spirit”.
So outside of the Gospels, the only Scripture that directly addresses the topic of the Baptism of the Spirit talks about how the Spirit baptizes people into the body of Christ.
In other words, that’s salvation, as a careful read of 1 Cor. 12:4-27 indicates (Paul is arguing that the same Spirit who brought you into the body of Christ hands out gifts for the common good of that body, and each person is responsible for using their gifts for serving that body).
Paul is clearly not talking about some sort of experience following salvation, but salvation itself.
And what’s worse is that this is the consistent teaching of the rest of the New Testament.
In Acts, after the incident of tongues where the crowd asked what the sign of tongues meant (Acts 2:12) and Peter’s answer to that question given in Acts 2:14-36, the crowd then asked what they should do in response to Peter’s answer in Acts 2:37. In Acts 2:38-39, Peter said:
“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. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.”
In other words, be baptized for repentance and then you’ll also receive the promised baptism of the Holy Spirit (which was promised in Matt. 3:11). That baptism is for who?
Elite Christians who have some sort of super spiritual experience after their salvation?
Not for a second.
The Holy Spirit was promised, by Peter, to inescapably be given to “everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.”
That means everyone who is a Christian has received the Baptism of the Holy Spirit.
Again, in Acts 19, we have some people who had followed John the Baptist and received his baptism (Acts 19:1-3). They knew about the promise of the Baptism of the Spirit but didn’t know that the promise had already been fulfilled, so Paul gave the disciples of John the gospel of Jesus and they immediately were both baptized in the name of Christ (19:5) and simultaneously received the Holy Spirit (19:6).
In other words, they got the Baptism of the Spirit when they heard and believed the gospel of Jesus Christ.
So, if we’re taking out beliefs from the Bible, the case is clear.
I definitely believe in the Baptism of the Holy Spirit.
It’s when a person is baptized into the body of Christ upon hearing and believing the Gospel, and that’s the only teaching of the New Testament.
Anyone who says otherwise is in demonstrable, objective error. They’re possibly teaching something they’ve learned from their experience, their confusion, their tradition, or any number of sources…but they’re not teaching something that they learned in the Bible (rightly understood and applied, of course).
One can debate the marks of that baptism (and I’ve already admitted that in the New Testament, the initial proof of the Baptism of the Spirit was speaking in tongue…though a person may want to read this, this and this before assuming that I would suggest that such is the case in our post-apostolic era), or the nature, purpose, extent, etc. of that baptism, but none of those debates really change the clear and uniform teaching of the New Testament as to what the Baptism of the Holy Spirit is.
If you’re a Christian, it happened to you when you became part of the body of Christ.
Until Next Time (which may be some time),
Lyndon “Dunked and Delivered from Damnation” Unger