Baptism in and Filling with the Holy Spirit Part One

Posted: January 26, 2009 in Uncategorized

Pentecostals have traditionally taught that Jesus’ disciples were born-again believers when they received the Holy Spirit directly from Jesus as recorded in John 20:22 and were “baptized in the Holy Spirit” on the subsequent day of Pentecost.  Thus, Pentecostals argue, Christians today should ask God for “baptism in the Holy Spirit.”

Are they right?  Wayne Grudem poses the question “what does ‘baptism in the Holy Spirit’ mean in the New Testament?”

Grudem the Great identifies seven pertinent passages in the New Testament  and here they are:

Matthew 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.”

Mark 1:8 “I have baptized you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

Luke 3:16 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.”

John 1:33 “I myself did not know him, but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.”

Acts 1:5 “for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”

Acts 11:16 “And I remembered the word of the Lord, how he said, ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.'” and

1 Corinthians 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.”

Grudem states, “it is hard to drawn any conclusions from [the first four passages] with respect to what baptism with the Holy Spirit really is.  We discover that Jesus is the one who will carry out this baptism and he will baptize his followers.  But no further specification of this baptism is given.”

What about the two passages from Acts? “These two passages show us that whatever we may understand baptism in the Holy Spirit to be, it certainly happened at the day of Pentecost as recorded in Acts 2, when the Holy Spirit fell in great power on the disciples  and those with them, and they spoke in other tongues, and about three thousand people were converted (Acts 2:14).” 

Indeed, a close reading of these verses demonstrate that while the Spirit makes a dramatic appearance the whole point is that it empowers the disciples to preach the Gospel to all those present in their native tongues.  In fact, placing these verses within the whole narrative of Scripture, Pentecost is not so much about what the disciples received but about the inauguration of the new covenant (See Jer. 31:31-33; Ezek. 36:26-27; and Joel 2:28-29). 

Finally, the passage from 1 Corinthians clearly points to conversion not a post-conversion experience.  Thus, most likely, Paul is speaking about the work of the Holy Spirit in regeneration (see earlier posts in re: to that topic).

But going back to the passages from Acts, what do we do with Acts 1:8 when Jesus commands the disciples to remain in Jerusalem until they “receive power” from the Holy Spirit? Is this just the ability to speak to others in their native tongue? What happened when Jesus breathed on them in John 20?

Those questions will have to wait until tomorrow.

Until then, grace and peace.


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