Holy Spirit Baptism

From Issue: Discovery 7/1/2013

Some people think that all believers can experience Holy Spirit baptism, enabling them to speak in tongues or perform miracles. They say Christians are “Spirit-filled.” Yet the Bible refers to Holy Spirit baptism happening only twice. The very first reference to Holy Spirit baptism in the New Testament was by John the Baptizer: “I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but He who is coming after me…will baptize you with the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 3:11). John was referring to Jesus. Just before Jesus ascended, He told the apostles to wait in Jerusalem until they would be “clothed with power from on high” (Luke 24:49). He said the “power” would be from the Holy Spirit, making them able to tell the world what Jesus taught them (Acts 1:4-5,8). Jesus said: “for John truly baptized with water; but you [apostles] shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now” (Acts 1:5). The apostles received this promise of Holy Spirit baptism in Acts 2, empowering them to speak in tongues and teach the people.

The only other time the New Testament says anyone was baptized in the Holy Spirit was the Gentiles in Acts 10. Peter said: “And as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them [the Gentiles], as upon us [apostles] 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 Gentiles] the same gift as He gave us [apostles]…” (Acts 11:15-17). To understand Holy Spirit baptism, just remember these three verses: Matthew 3:11, Acts 1:5, and Acts 11:16.

The first to receive Holy Spirit baptism were the Jewish apostles on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2. The second to receive Holy Spirit baptism were the Gentile members of the household of Cornelius in Acts 10. So “all flesh” in Joel 2:28 refers to the outpouring on Jews in Acts 2 and on Gentiles in Acts 10. Holy Spirit baptism, then, filled two special purposes: (1) to prepare the apostles for their apostolic (not Christian) roles; and (2) to show that the Gentiles were to be allowed to become Christians. Holy Spirit baptism does not happen today.


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