The Baptism of the Spirit

As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit came on them as He had come on us at the beginning” (v. 15).

- Acts 11

Because the charismatic movement has had such a tremendous impact on the church in our day, we need to consider the biblical teaching concerning the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Today’s lesson takes up the theme we discussed in last Friday’s study (January 24), and you may wish to reread that page before continuing.

The modern charismatic movement has given rise to several different theological views of the baptism of the Spirit, but the most common one is that Christians need to have a second experience and receive the baptism after they are saved. This view holds that some Christians are baptized by the Spirit and some are not.

This theology arose out of revival experiences. In earlier times, when a person experienced a new release of energy and freedom in his spiritual life, he simply said that he had been revived. The Pentecostal Movement reinterpreted such personal experiences and said that they were baptisms of the Holy Spirit. This Pentecostal theology based its view on the fact that in Acts some people received the baptism at a point after their salvation.

A careful study of Acts, however, does not bear out this interpretation. Follow the order given in Acts 1:8 (Jerusalem, Judaea, Samaria, all the earth): in Acts 2, Jews in Jerusalem received the Spirit; in Acts 8, Samaritans received the baptism of the Spirit; in Acts 10, God-fearing Gentiles received it; in Acts 19, some Ephesian disciples living outside the Holy Land received it. In each case, these groups received exactly the same gift as was initially given to the Jewish converts in Acts 2. It was a sign that in the new covenant church, there is no longer any distinction between Jew, Samaritan, and Gentile. The visible manifestations surrounding the baptism were a sign to the Jewish believers that these new converts were received by God in the same way the Jews had been.

These were once-for-all historical events. God was forming the new covenant church as one new body composed of people from every nation. By the end of Acts, that formation had been completed, and there was no longer any need for special signs to indicate to the Jewish believers that others were being received as their equals.

Coram Deo

Orthodoxy does not deny that many people have had wonderful reviving experiences in their lives. What orthodoxy denies is that these reviving experiences are to be identified with the baptisms of the Spirit recorded in Acts. The Spirit baptizes every believer at his or her salvation. Thank God for the gift of the Spirit.

Passages for Further Study

Romans 1:16
1 Corinthians 2:12–16; 6:14–20
Ephesians 1:13–14

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