The baptism of the Holy Spirit, (Holy Ghost if you wish for it means the came thing), is a doctrine clearly taught in Scripture but it is understood differently by different church denominations. There are some who take this doctrine and make it look as if they are the only ones privy to its truth and in the process mislead their members. The Bible is quite clear that no part of Scripture is of private interpretation, “Knowing this first, that no prophesy of scripture is of any private interpretation.” (2 Peter 1:20). Remember what Jesus said to his disciples, “Howbeit when he the Spirit of truth is come, he will guide you into all truth.” (John 16:13a). Some take this doctrine of baptism of the Holy Spirit and twist it to suit their theology and try to make those Christians who do not subscribe to their theology feel as if they are missing something. Some go so far as to claim that if you do not have some outward manifestation then you have not the experience of the baptism of the Holy Spirit.
As we reflect on this very important subject, bearing in mind that a single article like this can barely scratch the surface, we do so not in the spirit of condemnation or censure of anyone’s belief but to understand and ascertain some essential truths that are vital for our spiritual edification. The aim here is for us to look at this subject and see what the Bible says and bring our thinking in line with the inspired and inerrant Word of God. We need to grasp the indispensable truth that every truly born again Christian has experienced the baptism of the Holy Spirit and by that process is a child of God.
Let us begin our reflection then by looking at three aspects of this baptism.
First we examine the range of this baptism
Baptism of the Holy Spirit was never intended for some believers and not others, nor was it intended for a select few like pastors, deacons, missionaries and the like but not the ordinary layman. This thinking is erroneous and springs from those who want to claim some exclusivity, pretending that they are special, they have something that you the average believer do not have and moreover they are hence superior. Some people in the church have always been inclined to set themselves apart and become exclusive and then lord it over the membership based on that exclusivity. The early church, and especially the Apostle Paul, fought against such teaching, one such was known then as Gnosticism, and today we must fight against this exclusivity based on wrongly interpreting baptism of the Holy Spirit. The range of this baptism is enormous as we shall see.
It was promised to all believers
John the Baptist while he was baptizing in the River Jordan told his listeners, “I indeed baptize you with water…but he that cometh after me…he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire.” (Matthew 3:11) John was setting the stage for all believers not just a select few and Jesus Christ himself knowing how vital the baptism of the Holy Spirit was, promised all his disciples they would have this experience, “For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence.” (Acts 1:5)
Of course because Christ was not yet glorified, the baptism of the Holy Ghost was a future event at the time Christ spoke. “But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.” (John 7:39)
The church at Corinth, though faced with many internal challenges, was assured by Paul that they too were baptized with the Holy Spirit as this text shows, “For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body…” (1Corinthians 12:13a.) This baptism was not for some select people under some special circumstances but for all believers and Paul put it succinctly and clearly that all those in Christ are baptized by the Holy Spirit.
We see its purpose for all believers
The baptism of the Holy Spirit is about enablement. It enables the believer at the time of conversion, upon surrendering himself to the Lordship of Jesus Christ to become a born again Christian. Remember what Jesus said to Nicodemus, “… Verily, verily, I say unto thee, except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” (John 3:5) This Spirit baptism is universal to all God’s children and Paul affirms it, “But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man hath not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.” (Romans 8:9) All believers have this experience since this is the evidence that we truly belong to Jesus Christ, “The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God.” (Romans 8:16)
To reinforce this point and to reassure all those who are saved and have this blessed experience Paul asserts, “For as many are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.” (Romans 8:14) In essence, for believers in today’s church, if we have not experienced baptism of the Holy Spirit we have not been converted.
We note its performance in all believers
The early church disciples were saved prior to Pentecost but they were baptized with the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost, “And they were filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.” (Acts 2:4) This event gave birth to the church and was what Jesus Christ promised to his disciples and it had some spectacular results.
The disciples who hitherto were cowed and secretive became outgoing and bold and assertive in Christian ministry.
The inspired Peter took up his leadership mantle and preached one of history’s outstandingly effective sermons winning three thousands souls into God’s kingdom. This is what ministry performance is all about.
All the Apostles and disciples were energized with power and primed for service as promised, “But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)
We perceive the root of this baptism
Many believers, who are not knowledgeable with regards to Spirit baptism, allow others to hoodwink them into believing that Spirit baptism is some special extra that is added on to a fully fledged born again Christian. This is not so and we need to get to the bottom of this so that believers can know the truth of the matter. We must not confuse “special anointing” with “baptism of the Holy Spirit” because the two things are different and for clarification we need to examine the root of this baptism and note the following.
It is given on being saved
We are either in the world or we are in Christ. The act of contrition, confession and surrender to God is by the grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ but it is the baptism of the Holy Spirit that takes us out of the world and puts us in Christ, “Verily, verily I say unto thee, except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” (John 3:5) To enter into the kingdom of God is the same as being in Christ. The Apostle Paul affirmed this when he wrote, “In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise.” (Ephesians 1:13) When you are saved you are baptized with the Holy Spirit and when you are baptized with the Holy Spirit you are saved and to God be the glory.
It is given by sovereign will
When we are saved, at the moment of our conversion, God by his sovereign will, and not by any pleadings of believers, pours out his Holy Spirit upon us. “And they of the circumcision which believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost.” (Acts 10:45) These Gentiles were converted and baptized with the Holy Spirit and forthwith Peter took steps to have them baptized with water and the Bible states it like this: “Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we.” (Acts 10:47)
There is no mention here of asking for this experience, just amazement and joy that God had baptized them at their conversion with the Holy Spirit as he had done to the Jews.
It is given to embolden and affirm
Jesus knew the challenges which would face all disciples and the pressing need to stand up under fire and present the gospel, “But ye shall receive power after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.” (Acts 1:8) All believers everywhere were to be witnesses, often at great peril, and undertake their own ministry since that all believers on being converted become part of the priesthood of believers. “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood…that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light” (1Peter 2:9)
Jesus told the disciples not to bother themselves with premeditated speeches and the like for the Holy Spirit has a marvelous work to do in affirming the gospel, “…for it is not ye that speak, but the Holy Ghost.” (Mark 13:11c)
Every born again Christian can testify with confidence to the empowering and guidance of the Holy Spirit. The Apostle Paul very soon after his conversion began to preach the gospel and three years later when he met the other apostles found that he was preaching the very same thing as they were. This is the consequence of being baptized with the Holy Spirit.
Next we investigate the results of this baptism
The baptism of the Holy Spirit is the mighty work of God which brings in its wake a complete and blessed newness. Every born-again believer knows the deep satisfaction and profound joy experienced at conversion and that burning desire to throw off the past and henceforth to do God’s will. This baptism does some significant things and some of them are as follows.
It gives us a new location
Before this baptism of the Holy Spirit and adoption by God every human being is in Adam both by choice and by nature, “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.” (Romans 5:12) When a believer is baptized with the Holy Spirit he no longer lives in and for the world because he has a new location in Christ, “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.” (1 Corinthians 15:22) Jesus confirmed this when he said, “At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me and I in you.” (John 14:20)
This new location in Christ is conducive to godly living and kills off our ‘worldliness’ while sustaining a vigorous spiritual life centred on our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. The Bible puts it like this, “For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.” (Colossians 3:3)
When all is said and done, the life we live now and the character we display is testimony to our inner life. No one can partner Jesus Christ and not exhibit true godliness.
It gives us new identity
Before we were saved and baptized with the Holy Spirit not only were we Adamic by nature we were also identified with Satan and all he stood for but now we have a new identity with Christ, “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” (2 Corinthians 5:17) God sees us now as being fully in Christ and as a result identified with Christ in all aspects of his life past, present and future.
We identify with Christ’s righteousness and not that of the law, “…for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.” (Galatians 2:21)
We identify with Christ’s death in water baptism. “Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death” (Romans 6:4)
We identify with Christ’s resurrection. “But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept.” (1 Corinthians 15:20)
We identify with Christ in glory now, and even more so later, “When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory.” (Colossians 3:4)
It gives us new meaning
All believers because of the baptism of the Holy Spirit are now partakers of the life of Christ and are become important members of the body of Christ, “I am the vine, ye are the branches…” (John 15:5) “I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast love them, as thou hast loved me.” (John 17:23) It is a mighty and wonderful privilege for sinful mankind to be baptized with the Holy Ghost!
If you have any doubts that you are baptized with the Holy Spirit then free yourself from them by making sure you are saved and your life committed to the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus is willing and able to save you and he will make you truly his by baptizing you with the Holy Spirit. If you know that you are baptized with the Holy Spirit then rejoice in the God of your salvation and share your testimony with others in renewed self-assurance.
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