In This Lesson
Introduction | Filling of the Holy Spirit | Indwelling of the Holy Spirit
Baptism of the Holy Spirit | | Scriptures for the Baptism
Three Theological Positions on the Baptism
We have talked about the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, which occurs at the time of salvation, but there's also what some call the "Baptism of [or "in"] the Holy Spirit", which occurs sometime after salvation.
This is a highly controversial topic with some doubting that it's a legitimate move of the Holy Spirit. These people believe there is the one indwelling ["baptism"] of the Holy Spirit at the time of salvation and there is no subsequent "baptism". Others primarily among the charismatic and Pentecostal believers maintain one can experience an additional move of the Holy Spirit sometime after salvation. As AOCI seeks to bring unity, not division, to the Body of Christ, this lesson does not endeavor to change anyone's beliefs on this issue. Herein, we only present the basic facts from God's Word, and we leave it to each student and believer to prayerfully draw their own conclusions.
First, we must stress again that all Christians receive the indwelling of the Holy Spirit upon their conversion. This means they are saved completely, and they have all they need at the time to live godly lives. "For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit." (1 Corinthians 12:13 KJV)
Yet, there are many Christians who claim to have had a "second" experience or "baptism" of the Spirit which has brought greater blessings to them. Their testimony is that the experience has brought a renewed dedication and appreciation for God and a deeper sense of worship of Him. As there are millions around the globe who have had this secondary experience, it is irresponsible for us to ignore the issue.
Another view of receiving the Baptism in the Holy Spirit is that it is accompanied by any of the other gifts of the Spirit, which manifest its works alongside the gift of interpretation of tongues. The traditional Pentecostal theology viewpoint states that tongues (that of men or angels/known and unknown languages) are the "expected" and "normally" the initial sign. This does not mean that God will not or cannot alter this initial infilling. What I believe is that tongues are the "normative" sign that proves you have received the "Baptism (overflowing) of the Spirit".
Everyone who is born again has the Holy Spirit living within them, but what I am talking about here is an overflowing, a Baptism in the Spirit, which overflows and overfloods our souls. All three views are within the parameters of Biblical Christianity.
Is It Real or Not?
The term "baptize", as it relates to the Holy Spirit, occurs several times in Scripture:
- "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." (Matthew 3:11)
- Mark 1:8
- "John answered them all, saying, 'I baptize you with water, but he who is mightier than I is coming, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.'" (Luke 3:16)
- (See also John 1:33; Acts 1:5; 11:16.)
As we can see, the phrase is used in the Bible. However, each of these occurrences seems to point to the indwelling of the Spirit, which all believers receive at salvation. Based on what happened on the day of Pentecost when the Church was born, clearly receiving or being baptized in the Holy Spirit results in a person having power bestowed upon them. This power, of course, is for the purpose of preaching the Gospel, living a holy life, and having a deeper devotion to God.
"And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness." (Acts 4:31)
Those who believe in a second Baptism in the Holy Spirit largely base their belief on what occurred between Jesus and the disciples in John 20:22 where Jesus "breathed on them and said to them, 'Receive the Holy Spirit.'" While this would certainly indicate the disciples were saved at that time, there is some disagreement as to whether they actually received the Holy Spirit at that time or not.
- As God often used objects or significant acts to help explain His message (see Jeremiah 13), some say Jesus' act was symbolic to represent the type of influence that would soon come upon them.
- Others maintain the disciples were indwelt by the Holy Spirit when Jesus breathed on them, and they received a second "Baptism in the Spirit" on the day of Pentecost.
As one commentator at the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry concluded:
"The danger of these phenomena is the potential division of the body of Christ into two categories: those who are 'regular' Christians, and those who are baptized in the Holy Spirit. This, of course, is an incorrect way of looking at Christians, and this is why. If you were to step outside into a soft mist, then it would take a long time to get completely wet. On the other hand, if you were to step into a torrential rain, then you'd be drenched quickly.
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"Those who have not experienced the Baptism of the Holy Spirit (meaning a sudden and powerful experience) are not second-class citizens by any means. They are the ones in the gentle mist who experience the Lord over a long period of time and get just as blessed as those who suddenly step into the torrent of the Spirit's presence. In fact, the Baptism of the Spirit can be a pitfall since so many people who have experienced it long for it again, almost to the point of putting the validity of their faith in the experience instead of the clear teaching of the word of God.
"We must all be careful not to fall in our strengths as well as our weaknesses."
Filling of the Holy Spirit
To be "filled" with the Holy Spirit essentially means that a person is empowered by the Holy Spirit s/he is controlled by the Holy Spirit (cf. Luke 1:15, 41, 67; 4:1; Acts 2:4; 4:8, 31; 6:3; 7:55; 9:17; 11:24; 13:9, 52). In the same way the demoniac is possessed by a demon, so a Christian should be possessed by the Holy Spirit (cf. 1 Corinthians 2:9-3:4; Colossians 1:10; Galatians 5:16; Ephesians 4:30; 1 Thessalonians 5:19). The Bible describes this state as "filled with the Holy Spirit". This has implications as to how a Christian walks, behaves, and speaks. In particular, the Holy Spirit is interested in empowering us to live Godly lives and enabling us to speak boldly our witness for Christ. Quite often, in fact, right after reading the phrase "filled with the Holy Spirit", one reads an account of a person proclaiming the good news of Jesus.
Being filled with the Holy Spirit, however, doesn't necessarily mean a person is saved, but that s/he is used by the Spirit to accomplish a task. The Spirit can empower unsaved people to accomplish great things for God (case in point: Balaam). Thus a non-Christian can be filled with the Holy Spirit and a Christian may not be. For example, Paul urges Christians to be filled assuming they are not fully filled by being controlled by the Spirit rather than by wine (Ephesians 5:18). Again, Peter post-Pentecost was filled afresh with the Spirit and empowered to proclaim the Gospel (Acts 4:8). In short, being filled means being empowered and this is not equivalent to being saved.
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Indwelling of the Holy Spirit
This is the term that means a person is saved. It describes the mystic union between a believer and the Creator. Sometimes it is referred to as the "gift" of the Holy Spirit.
"On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, 'If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, 'Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.' Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified." (John 7:37-39)
"...and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us." (Romans 5:5)
1 Corinthians 2:12
"you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord." (2 Corinthians 5:5)
At other times it is called an "anointing", or even a "seal".
"The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed." (Luke 4:18)
"...how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him." (Acts 10:38)
2 Corinthians 1:21
"But you have been anointed by the Holy One, and you all have knowledge. . . . But the anointing that you received from him abides in you, and you have no need that anyone should teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about everything, and is true, and is no lie just as it has taught you, abide in him." (1 John 2:20, 27)
2 Corinthians 1:22
size="2">"In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit." (Ephesians 1:13)
Whatever it is called, it is essential for salvation (cf. Romans 8:9; 1 Corinthians 6:19). If we are not indwelt by God's Spirit, then we are not saved.
A couple of things need to be clarified here.
- First, the indwelling of the Spirit is not an event that happens to us, but a relationship between us and God. It is neither hocus-pocus, nor mechanical; however, it is something measured or weighed. It is the covenantal love we share with God through the blood of Christ. While filling may be an event that happens to us and then passes, indwelling is that permanent adoption into God's eternal family.
- Second, because many confuse "indwelling" with "filling", they talk in terms of being permanently filled with the Holy Spirit. You'll sometimes hear things like, "You can't be more filled than being full if you have the Holy Spirit you have all of Him," or "Christians must leak if they need to be refilled with the Holy Spirit." We should avoid such talk because it is misleading to press the metaphor of the filling of the Holy Spirit into physical descriptions. The Holy Spirit doesn't fill us the same way water fills a jar. Therefore, Christians can need a fresh filling of the Holy Spirit, although we will never need a fresh indwelling that is a permanent state granted through God's grace.
Baptism of the Holy Spirit
The Baptism of the Holy Spirit was originally prophesied by John the Baptist. "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." (Matthew 3:11)
"John answered them all, saying, 'I baptize you with water, but he who is mightier than I is coming, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.'" Luke 3:16)
"...for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now." Acts 1:5)
Jesus somewhere inundates believers in the Spirit (as opposed to baptizing unbelievers with fire). Now what exactly is this baptism? Here's what we know for sure: It is identified twice in the book of Acts (2:1-4; 10:44; 11:16). Here we find the Apostles (Acts 1:26; 2:1,5,7,14,37) and Cornelius' household speaking in tongues as evidence of God's approval. At Pentecost, God was validating the Apostles as spokesmen and witnesses of the Resurrection. At Cornelius' house, God was validating the first Gentiles as bonafide prospects for conversion.
In neither case was the Baptism of the Holy Spirit equivalent to or necessary for salvation. The Apostles were already saved and Cornelius commenced to be baptized in water according to the normal First-Century practice of Christian conversion. Bottom line: The only two times the New Testament identifies the Baptism of the Holy Spirit, it was not for salvation but to show God's approval.
Could the Baptism of the Holy Spirit, however, refer to more than just these two events? When John prophesies about this Baptism (Matthew 3:11), he seems to promote it as an experience the whole crowd could receive by accepting Jesus. Thus, our initial impulse is to look for a broad fulfillment of this promise, not just two incidents. This has been the stance of the Pentecostal Church. They argue that a person is saved and sometime later has a rather phenomenal "experience", in which s/he feels "slain". Speaking in tongues, which should be received by all believers, becomes proof of the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. This is seen as the stage of maturity where a believer accepts his/her full blessings in Christ. The problem with this view is that the Bible does not support a two-stage conversion, nor does it indicate that tongues is a gift for every believer.
How can the Baptism of the Holy Spirit apply to every believer? Let us offer a third view. Every Christian receives the Baptism of the Holy Spirit, but it is not necessarily received with the supernatural Holy Spirit phenomenon. This takes place, for the most part, at the moment of conversion and water baptism (consider Acts 8 and 19 as possible exceptions). As I am baptized in water, Jesus as the Baptizer of the Holy Spirit inundates me with the Spirit. I become immersed in God and water. I come into Him and He comes into me. Since water immersion is also connected with the Spirit, that too may come under the umbrella of being "baptized with the Holy Spirit"; consequently, both 1 Corinthians 12:13 and Ephesians 4:5 would support such a connection. We come into a relationship with the Holy Spirit through the blood of Jesus.
"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." (Matthew 3:11)
"When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance." (Acts 2:1-4)
"While Peter was still saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word. And the believers from among the circumcised who had come with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out even on the Gentiles. For they were hearing them speaking in tongues and extolling God. Then Peter declared, 'Can anyone withhold water for baptizing these people, who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?'" (Acts 10:44-47)
"And it happened that while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul passed through the inland country and came to Ephesus. There he found some disciples. 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.' And he said, 'Into what then were you baptized?' They said, 'Into John's baptism.' And Paul said, 'John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, Jesus.' On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began speaking in tongues and prophesying. (Acts 19:1-6)
"What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life." (Romans 6:1-4)
Thus, the "Baptism of the Holy Spirit" is an umbrella term that specifically describes Pentecost and Cornelius' experience, yet also appropriately describes what Jesus does to Christians at the point of conversion.
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Scriptures for the Baptism in The Holy Spirit
Jesus Is the Baptizer
"John answered, saying to all, 'I indeed baptize you with water; but One mightier than I is coming, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to loose. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.'" (Luke 3:16)
Why You Need the Holy Spirit Baptism
"If you love Me, keep My commandments. And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever- the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you. I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you." (John 14:15-18)
"However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you. All things that the Father has are Mine. Therefore I said that He will take of Mine and declare it to you." (John 16:13-15)
The Promise of the Father
"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." (Luke 24:49)
"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.' Therefore, when they had come together, they asked Him, saying, 'Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?' And He said to them, 'It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority. 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.'" (Acts 1:4-8)
The First Experience
1When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.
2And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting.
3Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them.
4And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.
5And there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men, from every nation under heaven.
6And when this sound occurred, the multitude came together, and were confused, because everyone heard them speak in his own language.
7Then they were all amazed and marveled, saying to one another, "Look, are not all these who speak Galileans?
8And how is it that we hear, each in our own language in which we were born?
9Parthians and Medes and Elamites, those dwelling in Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia,
10Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya adjoining Cyrene, visitors from Rome,
11both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs we hear them speaking in our own tongues the wonderful works of God."
12So they were all amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, "Whatever could this mean?"
13Others mocking said, "They are full of new wine."
14But Peter, standing up with the eleven, raised his voice and said to them, "Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and heed my words.
15For these are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day.
16But this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel."
The Continuing Experiences
"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.'" (Acts 2:38-39)
"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." (Acts 8:14-17)
"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)
"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)
When a person accepts Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, the Holy Spirit comes immediately to indwell them. This gives the individual the ability to develop the character of Christ in their life. This Christ s/he has received now wants to baptize that person in the power of this Holy Spirit. When this happens, it gives the individual the ability to do the ministry of Christ.
All Christians need a Baptism in the Holy Spirit. Jesus is ready to baptize you in the Holy Spirit.
How Do I Receive the Baptism in the Holy Spirit?
- Be sure you are saved.
- Surrender all your life to follow Christ completely.
- Ask for the Baptism in the Holy Spirit.
- Believe God will give you the Holy Spirit.
- Exercise what God gives. (For most people a credential sign of being Baptized in the Holy Spirit is the ability to speak in tongues. I personally believe that this is the "normative" sign, yet there are many men and women who have experienced this overflowing of the Spirit with other sign gifts of the Holy Spirit. The evidence for you being a Christian are the fruits of the Spirit and the evidence for experiencing the Baptism in the Spirit are the Gifts of the Spirit.
- If you need help, go to a mature Christian that has had this experience.
Remember the Purpose of You Receiving the Baptism in the Holy Spirit
You can be a powerful witness for Christ; therefore, it is important for you to associate with other Christians who have been baptized in the Holy Spirit. Also, it would be wise for you to be in a church that can help you learn to work with the Holy Spirit in becoming a powerful witness of Jesus Christ.
Remember that it is not required that someone "speak in tongues" in order to be saved. Beware of cults that make this experience a requirement for salvation.
Whatever side you agree on, we know that the Bible talks about it and encourages and offers it. If you are curious, then please continue to study and ask your heavenly Father, and I am sure He will not give you a stone or a snake.
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The Three Theological Positions of the Baptism in the Holy Spirit
The Baptism in the Holy Spirit is often a controversial topic discussed among Christians and Theologians alike. However, every true believer must study the Holy Scriptures and come to their own conclusion.
I want to list the three viewpoints on this topic and then expand on the classical Pentecostal position which says that the Baptism in the Holy Spirit is "usually" followed by the initial evidence of speaking in an unknown tongue (language). Remember, that this is a non-essential topic that we can internally debate, but it must never divide us nor bring dissention to fellowship between Christians holding different views on this topic.
Some Christians do not believe there is a Baptism in the Spirit separate and distinct from salvation. This position explains the references in Scriptures to the Baptism in the Holy Spirit in the following ways:
- It is an experience subsequent to salvation which brings God's power to the Christian for witnessing and service, but does not expect the Holy Spirit to attend to the experience.
- It is synonymous with the Christian's conversion experience. When the person is saved and placed into the body of Christ, the Holy Spirit then indwells the believer at the point of salvation. The Holy Spirit merges at the same point in the Christian's life and both occur simultaneously (cf. 1 Corinthians 12:3,13).
- This experience of the Baptism of the Holy Spirit as outlined in the book of Acts is unique. The book of Acts alone includes all the manifestations of the Spirit and was solely a single event designed as an outpouring during Pentecost and for that time. This is also in line with the cessationist view point that the gifts of the spirit ceased at the completion of the canon, and none are for today.
The second viewpoint is a modified view of the classical Pentecostal approach. This viewpoint is also accepted by some Pentecostals and places less emphasis on the importance of tongues as the initial evidence for receiving the baptism with the Holy Spirit. Rather, it focuses more on all of the gifts of the Spirit, with the gift of tongues seen as but one of them which may also serve as a sign of reception but not exclusively the initial sign. In addition, a believer's deepened participation in worship is also seen as a fundamental indication of being Baptized in the Spirit, with the continual exercise of tongue-speaking as a part of the believer's private devotional expression (cf. 1 Corinthians 14:1, 2, 4, 15, 39, 40). Most Charismatics embrace this viewpoint and believe that the Gifts of the Spirit are for today.
This is the classical Pentecostal view on the Baptism of the Spirit that I will expound and support below. Interestingly, many modern and contemporary Christians from many denominational backgrounds believe that speaking in tongues may accompany the believer's initial surrender to the fullness of the Holy Spirit. In the classical Pentecostal tradition, the experience of the initial infilling of the Holy Spirit is expected to be accompanied by the initial evidence of speaking in tongues. In other mainline denominations, Christians and many Charismatics who do not accept this doctrinal position still apply its fundamental implications in their practice.
The Normative Initial Evidence May Be Tongues
In studying the book of Acts, I have found that speaking in tongues is the most commonly-recurring evidence for the Baptism in the Holy Spirit. The gift of tongues is a properly-expected sign, affirming the Holy Spirit's abiding presence and assuring the believer of an invigorated living witness. I am not viewing this gift (evidence) as a qualification for a believer having the "indwelling" of the Spirit, but I am proposing that a Christian should also have the "fullness or overflow" of the Holy Spirit. The Baptism in the Holy Spirit is then an initial indication of that fullness.
I am certain that Charles Parham and William Seymour, our Pentecostal/Charismatic fathers, concluded the same study in the early 1900s and arrived at this same conclusion. Jesus prophesied tongues as a sign for receiving the Baptism in the Holy Spirit (see Mark 16:17). The Apostle Paul referred to it as a sign (1 Corinthians 14:22) and Peter also noted its uniformity as a sign in confirming the validity of the Gentiles' experience receiving the Holy Spirit (Compare Acts 10:44-46 with 11:16-17 and 15:7-9). These Scriptures affirm then, that tongues is a sign for both believers and unbelievers.
Although this is what I believe to be the normative experience in receiving the Baptism in the Holy Spirit, there is no doubt that God has used many men and women who have not received the Baptism in the Holy Spirit with the evidence of speaking in tongues; however, this does not mean the experience does not exist or is not Scriptural. We must let Scripture interpret Scripture and put away all our traditions, our pre-suppositions, our doubts and unbelief and take all that God has for us. What we receive from the Lord is often associated with what we expect from the Lord. Some Christians believe the Gifts of the Spirit have ceased with the completion of the canon1, and do not believe in a separate and distinct experience with the Holy Spirit, let alone that tongues serves as the initial sign of this Baptism. Just because these Christians do not believe the Lord heals today, does not mean the Lord does not heal. In fact, there are thousands of testimonies from people all over the world who would attest to receiving a healing touch from the Master's hand. The book of Hebrews tells us that Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8). Remember that when Jesus went to one particular town, He could not do many miracles because of their lack of faith. This principle is true today as believers even doubt the supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit, and the Baptism in the Holy Spirit is as Scriptural today as it was for the Apostles and the early Church.
Of all the feasts, Pentecost attracted the largest number of pilgrims from distant lands. The Jews remembered with thanksgiving God's great work in the religious history of Israel. It is estimated that the Law was given at Sinai during the same time as Pentecost.
When the 120 were gathered in the upper room suddenly there came a sound from heaven as a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. There appeared unto them cloven tongues like as fire, and it rested upon each of them. This was not actual fire. These distributed flames appeared over the whole group, and then broke up and a single flame settled on the head of each. We must understand that fire and light were common symbols of the divine presence of God. Examples of this would be Exodus 3:2 the burning bush and Exodus 19:18 the Lord's appearance at Mt. Sinai after the Israelites accepted the old covenant.
It is important to note that the wind and fire happened right before the filling came upon all the people. The Bible says in verse four of this chapter, "And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance." Hence, we find that tongues followed as a possible evidence for the filling. The statement that they "began to speak with other tongues" is significant because it shows in Acts 1:1 that what was begun was continued on other occasions as we shall see when we study the other four chapters, thus indicating that tongues was the normal accompaniment of the Baptism in the Holy Spirit.
Being "filled", "pouring out", "receiving", "coming upon", "filled with", and "baptized in" the Holy Spirit are all terms that have the same meaning. It is interesting that during this initial Pentecostal experience, those gathered in the upper room were speaking in 17 different dialects, yet some were mocking them saying that they were full of wine. If they understood the languages spoken, why were they saying these early believers were drunk? Also, please note that some experts estimate there have been approximately 20,000 languages and dialects over the course of history, 15,500 of which have died out. It is easy to see how we may not be able to understand the languages the Holy Spirit chooses to fill His people.
This brings me to my final points.
- First, when receiving the Baptism in the Spirit, you really don't know what language you are speaking. This could be one of the dialects that has died out. You can receive one of the languages in this world or you can receive a language that only God understands as stated in 1 Corinthians 13:1 and 14:2.
- Secondly, the Baptism in the Holy Spirit is not only separate and distinct from salvation and the baptism in water and into the body of Christ, but it is promised to every born-again believer if they have faith to receive it. (cf. Acts. 2:38-39; Luke 11:13).
One may speculate as to why reference to the sign was omitted in chapters eight and nine, since the question of the initial physical evidence of the Baptism in the Spirit is controversial for some Evangelicals. We must remember that what is controversial today might not have been controversial at the time when the Holy Spirit was being poured out in such a dramatically-new way.
In this chapter, Luke was not writing to persuade either his opponents or the Christian Church that the phenomenon of speaking in tongues would occur each time. The physical sign of speaking in tongues was, no doubt, so commonplace that there was no need to mention it on each occasion. Luke's readers naturally accepted the fact of speaking in tongues whenever He mentioned that believers received the Holy Ghost. With the death of Stephen, persecution began (v. 1). People were under the influence of Simon the sorcerer. Perhaps they realized they had been wrong about Simon as well as about many of their Samaritan doctrines; they found it hard to take the next step of faith to receive the Baptism in the Spirit. When Peter and John came, they laid their hands on them, prayed and they received the Baptism of the Holy Spirit (vv. 15-18).
Simon, who later believed, fell back into his old ways and offered money for the authority to place his hands on people so they might receive this Baptism in the Spirit. What did Simon see that made him want this power? The sorcerer Simon could have only witnessed the new believers speaking in tongues and wanted to have that kind of wonder-working power. There is no way it could have been anything else Simon was coveting such as miracles or prophecy, etc. What Simon wanted was this Holy Ghost power of which he witnessed the early believers speaking in other tongues. What Simon recognized was that these believers were speaking in tongues! However, at this point, Luke focuses attention on Simon's wrong attitude and does not mention tongues.
Chapter 9 has the third reference to receiving the Baptism in the Holy Spirit. In this chapter, we see the Apostle Paul receiving the Baptism in the Holy Spirit. In verse 17, we read of this account. We can deduce and make a logical statement that Paul spoke in tongues during this time for later in 1 Corinthians 14:18, he thanks God that he speaks in tongues even more than the Corinthians do! Paul also said that we should not forbid the speaking of tongues and that the operations of the gifts are commanded by the Lord (cf. 1 Corinthians 14:39)!
Although doctrine should not be based on isolated fragments of Scripture, it cannot be built on a declarative statement, but on a comparison of Scripture passages relating to the Godhead. Like the doctrine of the Trinity, the doctrine of tongues, as evidence of the Baptism in the Holy Spirit, is based on substantial portions of Scripture relating to this subject. Speaking in tongues does not belong only to the Apostolic period. There is nothing in Scripture to indicate that speaking in tongues would be in effect only during the Apostolic period or until the New Testament canon had been completed. When Paul made the statement that tongues would cease (1 Corinthians 13:8), he also indicated when this would happen: "When perfection comes, the imperfect disappears" (1 Corinthians 13:10). He also indicated that at the time tongues shall cease, knowledge will pass away and prophecies will cease (1 Corinthians 13:8). The context of Paul's statements makes it clear that the time when tongues shall cease, as well as all the other Gifts the Holy Spirit has given to the Church, is future (cf. 1 Corinthians 12:4-11). Until Jesus comes back to rapture His Church, His words still apply, "These signs will follow (accompany) those who believe: They will speak in new tongues." (Mark 16:17)
Chapter 10 contains the fourth reference to one or more persons receiving the Holy Spirit, with tongues being mentioned. Special interest attaches to the episode at the house of a Roman centurion, Cornelius. Because of the ingrained prejudice of the Jews against the Gentiles, convincing evidence was needed. Only one evidence was given to show that these Gentiles had received "the gift [Baptism] of the Holy Spirit", which astonished Jewish believers who "heard them speaking in tongues and praising God," (v. 46) which is exactly what the 120 had done on the Day of Pentecost back in Acts. 2:4,11.
Later when Peter was criticized for going to the house of a Gentile and eating with them, having table fellowship, Peter explained that "the Holy Spirit came on them as He had come on us at the beginning (that is on the day of Pentecost). Then I remembered what the Lord had said: 'John baptized with (in) water, but you will be baptized with (in) the Holy Spirit.' If God gave them the same gift as He gave us, who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, then who was I to think that I could oppose God?" (Acts 11:15-17) I wonder how many Christians are opposing God by their unbelief in what the Scripture is teaching.
The next verse shows that the Apostles and the other Jewish believers accepted the sign of speaking in tongues as the convincing evidence of the Baptism in the Holy Spirit. "When they heard this, they had no further objections and praised God, saying, so then, God has granted even the Gentiles repentance unto life." Surely, in a day when many think, hope, believe, and then wonder whether they have the Baptism in the Spirit, convincing evidence is still needed.
Some years later at Ephesus, the Gentiles there received the Pentecostal experience and "they spoke in tongues and prophesied" (v. 6). This again shows they had received the full experience of the Baptism in the Holy Spirit. The Greek term normally implies that they continued to speak in tongues and prophesy. Speaking in tongues continues to bring enrichment to the individual believer in personal devotions, and to the congregation when accompanied by the interpretation of tongues. God is always giving signs for His people. In the Old Testament God gave circumcision as the "sign" of being a Jew. In the New Testament Jesus used baptism in water as an external "sign" of an internal work begun by the Spirit. We understand that the true "sign" of being born again is demonstrating the fruit of the Spirit and showing the love of Christ. Is it so hard to clearly see that Jesus, the Baptizer, would use the sign of tongues to show proof of the Baptism in the Spirit?
If you compare the New Testament Church with the Church of the 21st century, one of two things has happened: Either God has deliberately deprived the Church of the power of Pentecost, or the Church has somehow lost contact with this truth. The second reason obviously is true. Although the Gifts of the Spirit include the Baptism in the Spirit, with the evidence of speaking in tongues, this has been silenced throughout Church history, mostly due to growing worldliness, selfishness, and controlling leaders. However, we can see that some of our great Church fathers and leaders have endorsed the Pentecostal experience:
- Tertullian and Iraneus found much in the movement that was favorable in the Montanus revival in the Second Century. The Church officials in Rome considered the revival a threat to its authority and declared Montanism a heresy.
- Speaking in tongues recurs in Christian revivals of every age, among the Jansenists and early Quakers, the converts of Wesley and Whitefield, the persecuted Protestants of the Vovennes and the Irvingites.
The Reverend Edward Irving was Pastor of a Presbyterian Church in London, England when, in 1822, his preaching attracted wide attention on the need for a new Pentecost. When revival broke out with tongues following in the evidence for the Baptism in the Spirit, he was deposed from the Presbyterian ministry for heresy and moved to Scotland. This movement had more than 50,000 adherents. When the last of the original leaders passed away in 1901, no attempt was made to replace them, and most of the members dispersed to other denominations.
Pentecost had its beginning here in the United States in the year 1900 with a young Methodist minister named Charles F. Parham who was determined to recapture the power and vitality of the Church of the New Testament. Backed by some strong Scriptural evidence, Parham and his students prayed to receive the Baptism in the Holy Spirit with the gift of tongues. The first person who spoke in tongues was a female by the name of Agnes Uzman.
This Pentecostal revival spread and grew at a phenomenal rate. In just a little over 15 years, membership reached nearly 10 million. Despite their growth and fruit, the Pentecostals were such a radical departure from the mainstream of Protestant tradition that the more established denominations viewed them with suspicion and hostility. With their message ignored and their cries for a return to a Charismatic ministry scoffed at, the Pentecostals drew their skirts of holiness about themselves and, shaking the dust of orthodoxy's doubt from their feet, became absorbed in a ministry to the multitudes whom the "respectable" churches passed by on the other side.
Whenever there has been a strong revival of the faith, the gifts of the Spirit have made their appearance. St. Patrick of Ireland, St. Francis of Assisi, St. Teresa of Avila, St. Francis Xavier, Martin Luther, the early Quakers, the Waldensians, and the early Methodists are just a few examples of those who in earlier days who spoke in tongues. In more recent times the great Charles Finney and D.L Moody did as well.
Today, the Pentecostal revival has spilled over the boundaries, and the line is so carefully drawn around it by its critics. This is igniting fires in all major denominations, including the Roman Catholics. God is no respecter of persons. Jesus said, "He who comes to me shall not be thirsty." (John 4:14) He said that out of our bellies shall flow rivers of living water!
I want to be perfectly clear that you don't have to speak in tongues in order to be saved. You don't have to speak in tongues in order to have the Holy Spirit in you. You don't have to speak in tongues in order to experience times of feeling "filled" with the Holy Spirit, but if you want the free and full outpouring that is the Baptism in the Holy Spirit, you must expect it to happen as in the Scripture. Many Christian leaders today speak in tongues, but do not admit to it because they fear prejudice. Let God be true and every man a liar!
I challenge you. After you have studied this information, seek the Lord Jesus Christ to see if this is truly from God. Ask the Lord to baptize you in the Holy Spirit with the evidence of speaking in tongues. Will Jesus give you a stone if you ask for bread? Will he give you a snake if you ask for fish (cf. Mathew 7:9-11)? I have found that if something is from God, no man will be able to stop His hand!
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For His Glory!
Dr. Henry Vazquez, BBS, M.Div., Th.D.
1canon n. collection of books accepted as holy scripture especially the books of the Bible recognized by any Christian church as genuine and inspired.