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

Pentecost by Gustave DoreRecap

The historic Pentecostal view is that the baptism of the Holy Spirit is a second experience after conversion marked by speaking with tongues.

But in part one I described a different view, which I believe is more accurate —

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 fully satisfied in Him.

In part one we looked at Mark 1:8; John 7:37-39; Acts 2:4; and Acts 2:38.  So here in part two let’s keep going through the New Testament —

The story of the Samaritans shows that Spirit-baptism was part of conversion

When the apostles at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent to them Peter and John, who came down and prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Spirit, for he had not yet fallen on any of them … Then they laid their hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit.  (Acts 8:14-17)

The Samaritans believed and were baptized, but had not yet received the baptism of the Holy Spirit.  What does that mean?

I’m not sure, but I’ll take a stab at it.  This could mean they had experienced the Spirit giving them enough of a glimpse of Jesus that they turned to Him by faith, trusting Him to forgive, change, and satisfy them — but they had not yet received that all-satisfying outpouring.  They were trusting Christ to satisfy them — but had not yet experienced that full satisfaction.

But then Peter and John laid hands on them, and prayed for them, and they saw and felt Jesus’ glory so much that their hearts were fully satisfied in Him.

So why the delay?  It might to demonstrate that God was saving Samaritans as well as Jews.  But this passage shows that the apostles expected the Spirit to be poured out on all who believe, which is what Jesus had promised in John 7:37-38.

The story of Cornelius shows that Spirit-baptism is a distinct and recognizable experience

While Peter was still saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word.  And the believers from among the circumcised … 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. (Acts 10:44-46)

In Samaria the baptism of the Spirit occurred after the new converts heard the word.  But with Cornelius it occurred while they heard the word.  Which shows that the baptism of the Spirit is a distinct and recognizable experience that can occur at different times during the conversion process.

It’s not something we assume we received because we trusted Christ, it’s something we know we received because we experienced it.

In this case at least some of those who received the Spirit spoke in tongues.  But Paul says not every believer will speak in tongues (1Cor 12:30).  So while tongues might accompany the baptism of the Spirit, it is not an essential part of the baptism of the Spirit.

The disciples in Ephesus had not received the Spirit because they had not heard the full message of Christ

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 laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began speaking in tongues and prophesying.  (Acts 19:2-6)

The disciples in Ephesus had heard the message of John the Baptist, but they had not heard the full message of Jesus or been baptized in Jesus’ name.  As a result, they had not received the Holy Spirit.

So Paul gives them the full message of Christ, baptizes them in his name, lays his hands on them, and Jesus pours his Spirit upon them.

So this does not show that the baptism of the Spirit is a second, later experience for believers.  It confirms that everyone who trusts in Jesus Christ will receive the Spirit.

Paul assumes all his readers had experienced God’s love poured into their hearts by the Spirit

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.  (Rom 5:5)

It’s one thing to trust that God loves us.  But it’s another to feel God’s actual love pouring into our hearts.  And Paul assumes all his readers have experienced this.

Paul is not expecting any of his readers to ask — What’s this about God’s love being poured out?

No, Paul expects them to be nodding as they remember times when God’s love was poured into their hearts.

So if every believer has experienced this, then no believer has not.  Which means this outpouring of the Spirit must occur at the beginning of the Christian life.  So this outpouring of God’s love is another way of describing the baptism of the Spirit.

The baptism of the Spirit occurs  at conversion, but the same experience can be sought and experienced throughout the Christian life

And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit… Acts 2:4

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

Be filled with the Spirit.  Ephesians 5:18

In Acts 2 all the believers experienced the baptism of the Spirit when the Spirit filled them.  But many of these same believers were filled again in Acts 4.  So while the baptism of the Spirit occurs once at the point of conversion, we can receive fresh outpourings of the Spirit throughout our Christian lives.

That’s what Paul is commanding us to do in Ephesians 5:18.  So we should always either be filled with the Spirit, or be seeking fresh fillings of the Spirit.

The story of Augustine

In part three I plan on wrapping up our trip through the New Testament.  But for now I will leave you with the story of Augustine, who ended up being a leader of the Christian churches in North Africa.

Before being saved Augustine lived in vanity and sexual sin.  But over time he became convinced of his guilt before God, and started considering the truth of Jesus Christ.  At the same time, before he was saved, he was trying hard not to sin.  But his repeated failures discouraged him.

And one day he felt so hopeless he was not able to do his work, and snuck away to a quiet garden to weep alone.  But while he was weeping he heard a child singing — “Take and read, take and read.”  He had never children singing this song, so he took it as a sign from God calling him to read the Bible.  So he obeyed, happened to open to Romans 13:13-14, and read —

Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.

Here’s what happened next —

I had no wish to read further, and no need.  For in that instant, with the very ending of the sentence, it was as though a light of utter confidence shone in all my heart, and all the darkness of uncertainty vanished away.  (Confessions of St. Augustine, p.179)

He mentions nothing here about faith in Christ or the baptism of the Spirit.  But we know that’s what happened, because he immediately told his mother he had been saved, and his life from that point on displayed faith in Christ as his Savior, Lord, and Treasure.

Comments?  Feedback?

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

Category: The Work of the Spirit

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4 Responses

  1. Ama says:

    Can someone be a christian for 3yrs and stil nt b filled wt d spirit?

    Must a person speak in tongues to kno dt she is filled?

    If not, den how can a person kno weda she is filled?

    • Steve Fuller says:

      Hi Ama,

      Thanks so much for your questions. I believe God’s Word teaches that when someone becomes a Christian the Holy Spirit helps them see and feel Jesus’ glory so much that they are fully satisfied in Him.

      And I do not think speaking in tongues is part of what it means to be filled with the Holy Spirit.

      The way we know we are filled is that we see the truth of who Jesus is so powerfully that we love Him, delight in Him, and long for more of Him. That’s what the Holy Spirit does when He fills us.

      I hope that helps — and thanks for your questions.

      In Christ,

      Steve Fuller

  2. Oswin says:

    Hi 🙂
    Thank you for your posts; they are really helpful. God bless you.
    Just a quick question: I can’t seem to distinctly remember any experiences where I’ve seen and felt the glory of Jesus so much so that I was FULLY satisfied in him as my ALL-satisfying Treasure.
    I mean I’ve had really powerful worship sessions at church and seen the mercy and love of Jesus on the cross like never before; I’ve grown so much in knowledge of Christianity over the past 1-2 years. I truly believe God has worked in me during this time, drawing me to more of Jesus and changing the way I view the world, suiting it to biblical worldviews. But I still need much help to really see and feel and believe Jesus to be all-satisfying. Many many times, my focus deviates from him onto worldly pleasures. When I do re-channel that focus, it feels vague – as if I don’t truly believe he is all that he is to me. I think it would be safe to say that I do not (yet) see him as all-satisfying.
    But since this experience is essential at conversion, would this mean that I am not (yet) a Christian?
    I pray that this would not be the case and I pray even more that I start seeing and feeling his glory immediately. Please do pray for me!
    Thanks,
    Oswin

    • Steve Fuller says:

      Hi Oswin,

      Thank you for sharing your story, and for your crucial question.

      I believe the way we are assured of salvation is by turning from everything else and trusting Jesus Christ to forgive, change, and satisfy us.

      If you are doing that, then you can be assured of salvation. And if you are doing that, you will have times when you are so satisfied in Jesus Christ that you are fully content in Him alone.

      I would also point out that you clearly desire to see and feel more of His glory. That, too, is an indication that the Holy Spirit is working savingly in your heart.

      So press on in faith, using prayer and God’s Word, and you will have more and more times where you see and feel more and more of His glory.

      I hope this makes sense — and let me know what other questions you might have. (It’s also helpful to post questions on the Forum page, as more people will read them there, which means you will get more input.)

      In Christ,

      Steve Fuller

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