The topic of the baptism of the Holy Spirit continues to be one of the most controversial topics among Christians. It’s just like the devil to take something critically important and turn it into a topic that Christians fight over. And since it’s important, it’s worth talking about and learning what the Bible has to say.
Following are 10 passages of scripture that tell the story of the Holy Spirit in the New Testament. Not the whole story, but some important sections for the purposes of this topic. Read them carefully and make your own observations.
John the Baptist speaks to the crowds about Jesus.
Matt. 3:11 (ESV)
“I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I…. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”
Note that this is the first time this phrase, baptism with the Holy Spirit, is used in the Bible.
Next, John baptized Jesus in the Jordan River….
… 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.
The Holy Spirit coming to rest on Jesus marked the beginning of His ministry. Just for fun, look up Acts 10:38 to see where Jesus got his power for miracles.
As Jesus prepares His disciples for His death, He tells them that after He’s gone, He will still be with them in the form of the Holy Spirit.
You can look up these passages that describe the role and activities of the Holy Spirit: Read John 14:15-21 and 25-27; 15:26-27; 16:5-8; 16:12-15.
In Acts Chapter 1, after His death and resurrection, Jesus is talks with His disciples, just before He’s taken up to heaven.
Acts 1:4b, 5b, 8a
4bhe ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father. He’s referring to the Spirit.
5b“You will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”
8a“You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses….”
Note that Jesus now uses the same term John the baptizer used. And that the result of this baptism will be power for the Christians. What Christian doesn’t need the power of God to live for Him? At this point, they say, “OK”, but they really don’t know what that will look like when it happens.
Fast forward 10 days. All the disciples were together praying, when suddenly what looked like fire came down on the heads of each person in the room ….
And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.
Note that this experience is called being “filled with the Holy Spirit”. And here’s something new: tongues, or speaking in a foreign language. Strange but true.
This same event attracted a crowd, so Peter preached, then at the end of the sermon he told them what they should do:
38 And Peter said to them, “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. 39 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.”
Peter says do these 2 things, repent and be baptized, and then you WILL receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. When a person becomes a Christian – the Holy Spirit enters into their spirit and resides there permanently. Your spirit is dead until God’s spirit comes in and makes it alive. This gift of the indwelling of the Spirit is for all Christians.
Samaritans become Christians.
14 Now when the apostles at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent to them Peter and John, 15 who came down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit, 16 for he had not yet fallen on any of them, but they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 17 Then they laid their hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit.
The Samaritans became Jesus followers and got baptized, but the Holy Spirit had not yet fallen on them. So at the laying on of the apostles’ hands, they received the Spirit. And note, there’s no mention of speaking in tongues.
In Acts chapter 9, seemingly all at one time, Saul believes, is filled with the Holy Spirit, and gets baptized.
17 So Ananias departed and entered the house. And laying his hands on him he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus who appeared to you on the road by which you came has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 18 And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he rose and was baptized;
In Acts 10 the Peter preaches about Jesus to Roman non-Christians.
Acts 10:44, 46
44 While Peter was still saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word. 46 [And] they were hearing them speaking in tongues and extolling God.
If I’m reading this correctly, there was no altar call, no invitation given by Peter, and the Spirit fell on them BEFORE they even believed! I wouldn’t bet my life on that, but that’s the way I read it.
In Acts 19 Paul went to the city of Ephesus.
1b There he found some disciples. 2 And he said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” And they said, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.”
The disciples don’t know anything about the Holy Spirit. Their problem is simply lack of information.
5 On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 6 And when Paul had laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began speaking in tongues and prophesying.
Here’s another example of first conversion, and later the Holy Spirit comes upon them.
I hope these 10 passages (I know, there were more than 10) help you form a better understanding of the work of the Holy Spirit and what we call the baptism of the Holy Spirit, or filling of the Holy Spirit.
One of the reasons that this topic is so controversial is that in our culture we like our doctrines to be neat and clean. But as you just ready, the Spirit doesn’t always work in the same way, and God does just what He wants to do, even if it doesn’t fit into a neat doctrinal box. So it’s best that we not try to put God in a box.
What’s really important to know is that the Holy Spirit gives us power for Christian living, and we desperately need God’s power. So rather than debating the filling of the Holy Spirit, let’s just go after it and make sure we get it. Jesus promised us that it’s in God’s nature to give us good gifts, like the Holy Spirit.
“If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”
Ask God for the filling of the Holy Spirit! In fact, keep on asking and keep on getting filled.
And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit.
This is more accurately translated “be being continually filled with the Spirit.” In other words, we don’t just need a 1-time event to fill us with the power of God. Rather, we need to be being continually filled. Over and over again.
May God give you a hunger for more of His Spirit and His power in your life!