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What is the Baptism of the Holy Spirit? (Part One)

Pentecost by Gustave DoreWhat is the Baptism of the Holy Spirit?

The Pentecostal answer is that the baptism of the Spirit is a second experience after conversion that’s marked by speaking in tongues.

Those who are not Pentecostal disagree, because the baptism of the Spirit is promised at conversion, and because not every believer receives the gift of tongues (I give reasons for these points below).

So what then is the baptism of the Spirit?  Here’s part one of my explanation.  Feel free to share your thoughts at the end of this post, or on the Forum page dealing with the Holy Spirit.


Here’s my understanding —

The baptism of the Holy Spirit is a supernatural experience occurring at conversion in which the Holy Spirit enables us to see and feel Jesus’ glory so much that our hearts are overflowingly satisfied in Him.

By “supernatural” I mean it’s not something we can produce by our own efforts — it’s only produced in us by the Holy Spirit.

And by “experience” I mean it’s more than just seeing truth about Jesus (as important as that is).  It’s a Spirit-birthed seeing and feeling of the all-satisfying glory of Jesus Christ.

Here are the Scriptures that have shaped my thinking —

John the Baptist promised that Jesus would baptize people with the Holy Spirit.

I baptized you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit. (Mark 1:8)

This is John’s summary of what the Messiah would do.  So everyone who believed John’s message would have looked forward to being baptized by Jesus with the Holy Spirit.

Jesus promised that everyone who believes in him would have his heart-thirsts quenched by the living water of the Spirit.

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.’ (John 7:37-38)

What Jesus promises is an experience.  Just as we feel physical thirsts, so we will feel the living water filling and overflowing our heart-thirsts — our emotional thirsts.  It’s not just that we believe our hearts are overflowing.  Jesus promises we will feel and experience this living water overflowing our hearts.

And Jesus gives this promise to everyone who believes in him.  But those who were listening to him on that day, and who beleived in him, had to wait to experience this, because —

Jesus’ promise would not be fulfilled until he was crucified and risen.

John explains this in the next verse —

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 7:39)

All those who believed in Jesus would receive this outpouring of the living water of the Spirit, but not until after Jesus was glorified in His death and resurrection.  But after Jesus was glorified, then all who believe will be given the Spirit.

And that’s exactly what happened, because —

Jesus’ promise was fulfilled on the Day of Pentecost

And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. (Acts 2:4)

Christ had died, risen, and ascended.  And as the first believers were gathered Jesus poured out his Spirit on them.  Finally, what John the baptist taught, and what Jesus had promised, was fulfilled.  Jesus baptized His people with the Spirit — filling their thirsty hearts to overflowing with living water.

He also gave the gift of tongues, which enabled them to speak of God’s mighty works in languages they had never known so foreigners could hear the Gospel.  But later Paul says not every believer speaks in tongues (1Cor 12:30).  So while the baptism of the Spirit is promised to every believer, the gift of tongues is not.

Peter promised this gift of the Spirit to everyone who repents

The crowd had gathered.  They heard the believers joyfully proclaiming the mighty works of God in the listeners’ own languages.  But some of them mocked, accusing them of being drunk.

So Peter explained that this was a fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy (Joel 2:28-32).  That the same Jesus whom they had crucified had been raised from the dead by God, and had poured out the promised Holy Spirit (Acts 2:32-33).

And then Peter concludes his preaching —

“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.”  (Acts 2:38)

So no longer did believers need to wait.  Because Jesus had been glorified, the gift of the Spirit is given whenever someone repents and trusts Christ.  (Baptism is not a condition for receiving the baptism of the Spirit, since in Acts 10:44-48 the Spirit is given prior to baptism.)

So Peter’s listeners would expect that when they repented and believed, Jesus would baptize them with the Holy Spirit, quenching their heart-thirsts with living water.

An Example

In future blog posts, I’ll trace this through the rest of the New Testament.

But I’ll wrap up today’s post by sharing how John Bunyan experienced the baptism of the Spirit.

He had been seeking salvation, but grappling with unbelief and spiritual darkness.  But then he came to see that salvation was by faith in Christ alone.  So, to help him turn to Christ, he read Hebrews 12.  Here’s what happened —

Then with joy I told my wife, “Oh! now I know!  I know!”

That night was a good night to me, I never had but few better; I longed for the company of God’s people, that I might have imparted to them what God had showed me. 

Christ was a precious Christ to my soul that night; I could scarce lie in my bed for joy, and peace, and triumph, through Christ.  This great glory did not continue upon me until morning, yet the 12th chapter of Hebrews was a blessed Scripture to me for many days together after this.

(John Bunyan, Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners, p.63)

Comments?  Questions?  Feedback?

I’d love to hear them.  Leave a reply below — thanks.

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(Picture is by Gustav Dore and is in the public domain.)

Category: The Work of the Spirit


15 Responses

  1. Jason Belk says:

    Thanks for writing this up Steve, in addition to your exhortations for us to trust in Jesus and fight the fight of faith, I find these topical posts helpful summaries of areas that commonly beget confusion and rarely are spoken of in sermons (unless a particular text happens to come up on that issue).


    • Steve Fuller says:

      Thanks for your encouragement, Jason. It’s helpful to get your insight into why this sort of post is helpful —

      And I’m so glad we’re going to be seeing you back in San Jose soon! You have been missed 🙂

  2. learning every day says:

    Baptism and tongues. Two things that always leave me slightly confused/curious and no one ever wants to explain.

    Baptism, I guess I can understand but I just can’t get past the dunking yourself in water bit.

    I understand its biblical symbolism, that Jesus was baptised and its symbolic of our faith and following his teachings and whatever else it may mean to the person emotionally and spiritually but for me, I cant help but use the word ‘abstract’. It just strikes me as something that seems strange, like an abstract painting, I think I get it but the picture is blurred and twisted out of its place and i’m left feeling unsure.

    I mentioned this to another Christian and his reply was ‘well if you understood what it meant, then it wouldn’t be strange’ and promptly stopped talking to me, so i obviously offended him and was left to my thoughts.

    I don’t mean to offend but its a genuine question that i have. Apart from God, what does it really mean for that person? Does it mean anything else or am i thinking to much about it?
    I’ve known people who were baptised as babies and grew up to be atheists so what was the point of the baptism? Water isn’t magic, it doesnt do anything other than get up your nose no matter how old you are.
    Maybe now its because we are in a place that has forgotten the value of water so it doesn’t seem sacred any more? It’s just a symbolic thing that we now do out of habit to show other people what we are trusting in. It could be my lack of understanding for symbolism in general.

    For me, I liken my Christianity to the scene in the cartoon movie Sleeping Beauty where she’s following that green glowing light? ( in this case it was Maleficent and she was being hypnotised into her death) but the first part is always how its ‘felt’ for me.
    Without reason or understanding, I just follow God’s light where he wants me to go and from time to time, yes i get distracted by something but I always come back. I’ve never felt the need to get baptised, its not even in my head so when i see or hear of it, I don’t understand it and always suppose there was more to it, something uniquely personal for that person. Something strictly between God and that person?

    thoughts anyone?

  3. Paul Walton says:


    Baptism is an public display of what has happen to a person on the inside.
    Gal.2:20 Paul tells us that was crucified with Christ (he has died to this world) and though he died, yet he still lives, not in his own strength, but through Christ who lives through him.

    Baptism is a public statement to all creation that you are no longer your own, (death to self) but now you belong to Christ, who raises you up from the dead to a new life with Him.

    Baptism does not make you a follower of Christ, it does not cause you to be born again, it only consummates with a public confession what has happen to a person spiritually.

    • learning every day says:

      thank you for taking the time to reply but I know that it is. I’ve reread my comment and seeing a jumble of thoughts all over the place, i was trying to condense everything into a reasonable length of a reply lol but that’s my hiccup.

      I, by all means, have no aversion to people getting it done but just always want to ask them specifically why?

      Perhaps its just my own psyche and I don’t realise it? Maybe its just the idea of being submerged under the water may just unconsciously scare me, despite the fact that I enjoy swimming lol

      • Anonymous says:

        I put off Baptism for many years for several reasons. Then one Sunday in church the message was a prelude to an upcoming Baptism service and I was overcome with understanding that I was simply being disobedient to God’s command. My excuses were just that – excuses. God commanded me then and there to go forward and commit to getting Baptized. I pray that you too someday will be filled with that understanding and desire to obey.

      • Steve Fuller says:

        Good to hear from you again, Learning-Every-Day.

        The reason baptism is important is because Jesus established it as a way to show on the outside what’s happened in our hearts on the inside.

        Here’s one biblical way of understanding baptism — when we immerse someone under the water it’s a picture of them dying to the old way of living where they are trusting other things as their Treasure. And when we raise them up it’s a picture of them rising to the new way of living where they are trusting Christ as their Treasure.

        And what Paul says (above) is helpful.

        Maybe you could raise your question on the Forums page (more people might read it there — so you could get more feedback).

        I would encourage you to read the New Testament passages on baptism, and then (assuming that you are trusting Christ as Savior, Lord, and Treasure) ask your pastor to baptize you.

        In Christ,

        Steve Fuller

  4. Bryan says:

    It is what Jesus said you need to let the power of God follow out of you. It is what Jesus received before he start his earthy ministry.

  5. Shawn Cox says:

    I really like your blog posting. You make biblical concepts plain and simple. I will continue to read.

  6. Shawn Cox says:

    I enjoyed reading your post. You did a good job explaining about the holy spirit. I will continue to read.

  7. Lazarus Avonsige says:

    Come holy spirit and feel my heart and baptize me with fire

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