Sunday Sermons

Sunday Sermons

Holy Spirit Baptism


Holy Spirit Baptism





"As for me, I baptize you with water for repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, and I am not fit to remove His sandals; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire" (Matthew 3:11).


Let us first of all note that there are two baptisms mentioned in the above verse and not merely one. John said that Jesus would immerse some with the Holy Spirit and others with fire. The fire in the context is not some wonderful experience, rather it is condemnation, "but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire" (3:12).



Some feel that the baptism of the Holy Spirit is a promise given to every believer in Christ, but the problem with such a view is that I only can find two places in the New Testament where such a promise was fulfilled. Jesus quoted the above passage when He said that the Holy Spirit would come upon the apostles (Acts 1:4-5). In fact, on this occasion, it is said that, "He commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for what the Father had promised, ‘Which’, He said, ‘you heard from Me’". What the apostles had heard from Jesus was that another Comforter was coming, Who would guide them into all the truth. Such promises are found in John chapters 14-16. In reading the passages that contain these promises, be impressed that they specifically and exclusively applied to the apostles,(John 14:26; 15:26-27). In Acts 2:1ff, the apostles were baptized in the Holy Spirit, and yet there were other disciples which didn’t receive this baptism. 120 disciples were in Jerusalem, and yet the Holy Spirit only came upon the twelve: 1. The word "they" in Acts 2:1must grammatically and logically connect with the last group of people mentioned at the end of chapter 1, i.e., the twelve (1:26). 2. In chapter 2, clearly only the apostles have been baptized in the Spirit, for only the apostles are speaking in tongues, only the apostles are addressing the crowd with inspired utterance (2:14;37). And, no one except the apostles is able to perform miracles (2:43). 3. We know that the gift of the Spirit in Acts 2:38, is not a promise that all those baptized in water, will be immediately baptized in the Holy Spirit, is because: People in the first century were baptized, received the forgiveness of their sins and the gift of the Spirit (Acts 8:12), and yet even after this the text says, "For He (the Spirit) had not yet fallen upon any of them; they had simply been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus" (Acts 8:16). In this instance and others (Acts 19:6; 2 Timothy 1:6), the Holy Spirit came upon a person and imparted to them miraculous powers only after having the hands of an apostle laid upon them. And yet, one who received such powers could not impart such gifts to others, for Philip the evangelist could perform miracles (because the apostles had laid their hand upon him, (Acts 6:5-6; 8:5), but it took the hands of Peter and John to impart the Holy Spirit to the baptized believers in Samaria. The text clearly says,"Now when Simon saw that the Spirit was bestowed through the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money, saying, ‘Give this authority to me as well, so that everyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit’" (Acts 8:18-19). Hence, when the last apostle died, this ability to impart the Holy Spirit in a miraculous fashion also ceased. This is even that much more seen when we realize that God didn’t pick any successors for the apostles.

Another Case


In Acts 10:44-45, the Holy Spirit fell upon Cornelius and his household. In chapter 11, Peter links this outpouring of the Spirit with what Jesus said about John’s baptism, "And I remembered the word of the Lord, how He used to say, ‘And as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them, just as He did upon us at the beginning. And I remembered the word of the Lord, how He used to say, ‘John baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit. If God therefore gave to them the same gift as he gave to us also after believing in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could stand in God’s way?" (Acts 11:15-17).

Points Of Interest: 1. The Holy Spirit didn’t come upon people to convince them that they needed to be saved. The apostles didn’t need convincing and neither did Cornelius (Acts 10:33). Clearly, the Holy Spirit didn’t need to miraculously come upon Cornelius to deliver him from a condition of being totally depraved and opposed to all that is good. Neither was the Holy Spirit needed to give Cornelius the ability to believe in God or obey His word. 2. The Holy Spirit did not come upon people and then automatically save them. Cornelius and his household still had to be baptized in water for the remission of their sins (Acts 2:38; 10:47-48), after the Holy Spirit came upon them. Holy Spirit baptism is not a replacement for water baptism. Peter didn’t say, "Wow, obviously these people don’t need to be baptized". In like manner, it seems that at some point Paul had been baptized in the Spirit (2 Corinthians 12:7,12), and yet what stood between Paul and salvation was the need to be baptized in water for the remission of his sins (Acts 22:16). Therefore, Holy Spirit baptism is not the baptism of John 3:5 or 1 Corinthians 12:13. For Cornelius still had to be baptized in water after the Holy Spirit came upon him. The reason for this immediate command is that water baptism stands between one and the kingdom of God, water baptism stands between one and the body of Christ. Following water baptism, the Lord adds you to His church (Acts 2:38,41,47). Commenting upon 1 Corinthians 12:13, one author noted, "This verse must be harmonized with Scripture elsewhere that talks about baptism into the body of Christ. Those who insist it means that ‘Spirit baptism’ puts a man into the church, cannot make the verse harmonize with Peter’s instructions and command of water baptism after Spirit baptism in the case of Cornelius. Only if we understand 1 Corinthians to mean ‘by the agency of the Spirit men are led (convicted of their sin) to the place where they seek baptism (in water) in order to enter the body of Christ’ can we make it harmonize with Acts 10" (Acts, Reese p. 405). And this is exactly what happened in Acts 2. Through the apostles, the Spirit convicted 3000 people of their sins and revealed to them that repentance and water baptism stood between them and salvation or the body of Christ (Acts 2:36-38). The only way that a person can learn that water baptism stands between them and the body of Christ, is to hear what the Spirit has revealed through the apostles. 3. The purpose that the Holy Spirit came upon this family, is that God needed to convince Christians of a Jewish background that it was all right to preach to and baptize believers in Christ from a Gentile background, who had not first been circumcised (Acts 11:1-3; 17-18). 4. Some teach that Holy Spirit baptism follows water baptism and is a "second blessing". But in this case, Holy Spirit baptism preceded water baptism and didn’t remove any sin in the process. 5. Peter said, "the Holy Spirit fell upon them, just as He did upon as at the beginning" (Acts 11:15). "The reference to the word ‘beginning’ is to the day of Pentecost, Acts 2; and the ‘us’ is limited to the apostles. It is strongly implied that there had been no common reception of the baptism with the Holy Spirit since Pentecost, for if it were that all Christians were expected to and did receive the Holy Spirit, Peter could have simply pointed to the numerous other incidents and not have had to go back to Pentecost for an example" (Acts, Reese pp. 410-411).




Some argue that since Cornelius was baptized in the Spirit, he must have been saved prior to water baptism, for if one has the Spirit, then he or she is automatically a Christian. They have assumed that being baptized in the Spirit is the same was having the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22), and is the same as being led by the Spirit (Romans 8:14 "For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God").

Points To Consider:

  1. The problem with the above assumptions is that one is confusing the miraculous influence of the Holy Spirit with the non-miraculous. When the Holy Spirit came upon Cornelius, he did not instantly become a mature Christian with every Christian virtue. The fruit of the Spirit results when we cooperate with the teachings of the Spirit, and remove what He condemns (Galatians 5:19-21), and embrace the qualities and mindset that He commends (5:22-23). The same is true in the Roman letter. Those who are being led by the Spirit, are people who have decided to set their minds on spiritual things (His teachings) (8:5-8). Note, the leading of the Spirit in this chapter isn’t miraculous nor is it irresistible, "but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live" (8:13). 2. Some are confused concerning the witness that the Spirit offers in Romans 8:16. Remember, the Holy Spirit didn’t come upon the household of Cornelius to testify that they were Christians, rather, He came to testify that it was all right for these people to become Christians! The Spirit bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, when we have obeyed His teachings concerning what one must do to be saved. Through the apostles the Spirit has plainly said, faith in Christ, repentance, confession, and water baptism are the conditions for salvation. When I obey those conditions, the Spirit’s testimony in Scripture and my spirit agree, i.e., I have believed, repented, confess and was baptized in water for the remission of my sins---therefore, I am a child of God! 3. People also assume that every reference to being led by the Spirit, filled by the Spirit, the indwelling of the Spirit, and so on, must refer to Holy Spirit baptism. The Bible says that the Spirit dwells in us, and people automatically assume this indwelling is both personal and miraculous. Yet, the same Bible says that we dwell in Deity (John 15:4), yet we would never assume that we personally and miraculous inhabit God Himself. Unfortunately, many people have been taught that the Holy Spirit will come upon them in a miraculous fashion and miraculously enable them to resist sin and produce spiritual growth without any real effort on their part. The Bible teaches something different. Being filled with the Spirit in Ephesians 5:18, is defined in the parallel passage as to, "Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom" (Colossians 3:16). The fruit of the Spirit inGalatians 5:22-23 isn’t the result of some sort of miraculous intervention in our lives. Rather, it only will happen when we determine to believe what the Spirit has revealed and reject the world’s philosophy concerning life, relationships and happiness (Galatians 6:14; 5:24). Each one of these qualities that compose the fruit of the Spirit must be voluntarily chosen and accepted (2 Peter 1:5 "Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply…"), and at the same time, in order to become a loving, joyous, peaceful, and patient person, the opposite of these qualities, must be absolutely rejected and repudiated. Once again, as inRomans 8, the leading of the Spirit in Galatians 5 is not something miraculous or overpowering. "But I say, walk by the Spirit" (5:16); "But if you are led by the Spirit" (5:18); "If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit" (5:25).

Final Thought


If, as some claim, all the passages which deal with baptism (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16, etc.), are actually speaking about Holy Spirit baptism and not water baptism, then how do you command a person to be baptized in the Holy Spirit?

Mark Dunagan/Beaverton Church of Christ/(503)644-9017