part of the what is truth? series

Being baptized with the Holy Spirit (aka Holy Spirit baptism) is a remarkably hot topic – often disputed among Christians today. And yet, there is little direct Scriptural reference to the explicit act of being “baptized with the Holy Spirit.”

As a subject, there is much the Bible leaves to the imagination regarding the Holy Spirit in general. As a result, there is ample opportunity to go where Scripture does not take us and we may be inclined to take liberties in drawing conclusions. What possibly adds to the confusion is distinguishing between Holy Spirit baptism and the other types of baptism in Scripture.

However, there is information in Scripture about Holy Spirit baptism to examine. Let’s leverage the Bible Study Framework to answer this important and often misunderstood question.

Baptism in the Holy Spirit

from Wikipedia

In Christian theology, baptism with the Holy Spirit, also called baptism in the Holy Spirit or baptism in the Holy Ghost, has been interpreted by different Christian denominations and traditions in a variety of ways due to differences in the doctrines of salvation and ecclesiology.

how Scripture answers "What does it mean to be baptized with the Holy Spirit?"

The baptism with the Holy Spirit was foretold of by both John the Baptist and Jesus1,2. Jesus further qualified it as something that would happen to the apostles, giving them power2.

The baptism with the Holy Spirit for the apostles happened just as Jesus said it would2 “not many days” later on the day of Pentecost. This was also the first day the gospel was preached to the Jews in Jerusalem3. That day three thousand were added to Christ.

The second time we read of the baptism with the Holy Spirit was at the conversion of the first gentiles4. It was a miraculous (“power”) spectacle just like on the day of Pentecost. In fact, it was a necessary display to convince Peter, his traveling companions and the Christian Jews back in Jerusalem of God’s acceptance of gentiles into the kingdom4. Other passages5 are sometimes promoted as speaking about this special Holy Spirit baptism but they are forced interpretations often taken out of context.

Both of these occurrences marked “firsts” – the first conversion of Jews and Gentiles (each). Evidently, the baptism with the Holy Spirit was for a specific and special purpose. It was the miraculous ushering in to the kingdom of God for “the Jew first and also the Greek” (Romans 1:16).

the answer above is based on and footnoted with the following Scripture Blocks
I have baptized you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.

John the Baptist says he baptizes with water, but Jesus will baptize with the Holy Spirit.

The early days of John’s ministry and preparing the way for his cousin, Jesus. He was known for “baptizing in the wilderness and proclaiming a baptism of repentance” (vs 4).

How does it inform?

The first mention of being baptized with the Holy Spirit by John the Baptist referring to what Jesus would do/bring.

Does it apply? Yes


And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”

Jesus, staying with the eleven, says that John baptized with water but that they (the eleven) will be baptized with the Holy Spirit in “not many days.”

The final days of Jesus on earth before His ascension. When they (the eleven) come together again with Him (don’t know if this is the same occasion or another) He also tells them, “you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you” (vs 8).

How does it inform?

Jesus reiterates what John first said1, indicating it is immanent and that it will include them having “power.”

Does it apply? Yes

And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.
The apostles are filled with the Holy Spirit and begin to speak in tongues as the Spirit directed them.

It is the day of Pentecost and Jews have made pilgrimage to Jerusalem from all different nations. The apostles have what appear to be “tongues as of fire” resting on each one of them to the amazement of the crowd. They are able to speak in everyone’s native tongue and Peter begins to preach to them of Jesus.

How does it inform?

This appears to be the baptism with the Holy Spirit that both John and Jesus referenced. It was “not many days” from Jesus’ statement and they received power (in this case speaking in a language they knew not).

Does it apply? Yes

As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell on them just as on us at the beginning. And I remembered the word of the Lord, how he said, John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.

Peter was speaking as the Holy Spirit fell on Cornelius and his family/friends. He recalls Jesus telling him that while John had baptized with water, you (Peter) will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.

Peter is reporting back to the church in Jerusalem about his journey to Joppa and the conversion of the first gentiles (Cornelius and his family/friends – chap 10).

How does it inform?

Peter directly relates the “falling on” of the Holy Spirit to the gentiles in Joppa with the “falling on” that occurred to himself and the other apostles on the day of Pentecost. He says, “If then God gave the same gift to them as he gave to us when we believed…” (vs 17). By Peter’s own testimony it was a necessary display by God to show the gentiles’ acceptance into the kingdom.

Does it apply? Yes

For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body. Whether Jews or Greeks or slaves or free, we were all made to drink of the one Spirit.
Regardless if you are Jew or Greek, slave or free, we were all baptized in one Spirit into one body, drinking of the same Spirit.

Paul’s first letter to the church in Corinth addresses many serious and difficult issues they were facing.  Division among the body was a recurring theme – addressed in chapter 1 as following after certain prominent men (instead of Christ) – and here in chapter 12 as boasts in various spiritual gifts.

How does it inform?

According to the writings of Billy Graham, this passage is the only one used to answer this question. While it certainly mentions “Spirit” and “baptism” together, the reading of the text by itself doesn’t really support it’s application to “Holy Spirit baptism”. The fact that all are baptized into one body and one Spirit doesn’t mean this is “baptism of the Holy Spirit” being discussed. Further, it’s not unique for “Spirit” and “baptism” to be linked in other passages clearly speaking of water baptism (Acts 2:38).

Does it apply? No

Do you agree? If so, share this question and the Bible Study Framework with others.

If you know of some other verses or you have something to add to the verses already listed for this question please leave a comment below! We welcome the public discussion and will incorporate your input into the Framework above. We have nothing to hide and invite your help in considering all that God’s word has to say.

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