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-Baptism of the Holy Spirit

What is the baptism of the Holy Spirit? Are the miraculous gifts recorded in the book of Acts for today as well?

Baptism of the Holy Spirit

Gregory Koukl

Greg tackles the issue of spiritual gifts. divider

What is the baptism of the Holy Spirit? Are the miraculous gifts recorded in the book of Acts for today as well?

I’m a licensed Pastor with the Foursquare Church and I was on a Foursquare Church staff for years. Let me give you my point of view on this issue. I think there are two extremes–one that the baptism of the Holy Spirit does not allow for the expression of supernatural gifts, and another that says that in order to prove your baptism you must speak in tongues because the baptism is speaking in tongues. I think both extremes are mistaken so let me spell out my understanding of the Scriptures on this issue.

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The word baptism is not a translation, it is a transliteration, which means that they take the Greek word, twist it a little bit and make it into an English word instead of translating it.

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What is the baptism of the Holy Spirit? Let me give you a word picture that will help out. This is something that most people don’t think of, and I think they get a little confused about it because they don’t realize this. The word baptism is not a translation, it is a transliteration, which means that they take the Greek word, twist it a little bit and make it into an English word instead of translating it. The word adelphos means “brother.” When it is translated into English you get the word brother. If it was transliterated it would say adelpho, or something like that, and you’d have to figure out it meant brother.Baptize is the same way. The Greek word is baptizo and it’s just simply adjusted for the English language. So you don’t know what it means. You have to learn it’s meaning somewhere else. The word baptizo is one that was used in the dye and garment industry. When they took a white shirt and dunked it into red dye, for example, the white shirt was now red, soaked with the red stuff, such that the white shirt had the property of being red, the stuff that it was just soaked in. It was characterized by that stuff. The action of plunging in and bringing out was called baptizo .

When we are baptized, there is the picture of us being dipped–in water in this case, so you see that similarity there. But when it uses the phrase “baptism of the Holy Spirit,” it is not capturing just the notion of going under and coming up, it is capturing the notion of the soaking up the dye. So when we are baptized in the Holy Spirit, we are immersed in the Spirit and the Spirit is immersed in us. We get soaked with the Spirit such that we are changed, like the shirt is changed in color when it is dipped in the dye. When Paul says that we are all baptized into one Spirit, we are all made to drink of the same Spirit, he is capturing this picture in 1 Corinthians 12, I believe. He is capturing this picture of us being dunked into the Holy Spirit and soaking up the Holy Spirit. That’s the picture of baptism of the Spirit.

So the baptism of the Spirit is when the believer gets the Spirit. It becomes a part of him and fully identified with Him so much so that you don’t even distinguish the red dye from the shirt anymore. The shirt is red because it is soaked with the red dye, and we are Christians because we are soaked with the Spirit. At that time of being baptized, the Bible uses different terminology to describe what is going on. It says in Ephesians 1 and 4 that we are sealed with the Holy Spirit, we have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, we have drunk of the Spirit. Lots of different language to identify the same thing.

So what the baptism of the Holy Spirit is and this is a very important distinction, it is not the manifestation of any particular gift. It is the reception of the Spirit which becomes part of us at the time of salvation. That’s my belief.

Now many people use the phrase “baptism of the Spirit” as synonymous with receiving the gift of tongues. They make a distinction with being baptized in the Holy Spirit from baptized with the Holy Spirit–as one is receiving the Holy Spirit and one is getting the gift of tongues. I think the terminology is confused and causes problems. I don’t think it is accurate. Baptism with, in, of, whatever the Holy Spirit is receiving the Holy Spirit, then there is a manifestation of the Spirit in the Christian’s life of certain gifts. One of those gifts might be the gift of tongues, and we see strong manifestations of those gifts around Pentecost, although we also see manifestations of the gift of prophecy and powerful witnessing and other miraculous happenings that the Scripture identifies as being a result, not of the baptism, but of the filling of the Holy Spirit.

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So the baptism of the Spirit is when the believer gets the Spirit. It becomes a part of him and fully identified with Him so much so that you don’t even distinguish the red dye from the shirt anymore.

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The filling captures a sense of the control of the Holy Spirit on the one who has Him. So you can possess the Spirit because you have been baptized in the Spirit, but when you are filled then the power of the Spirit is manifest through you and different things might happen. One of those might be speaking in tongues, or prophesying, or witnessing boldly, or some other kind of miraculous manifestation. In the book of Acts just about every time a person is filled with the Spirit you see a supernatural manifestation.Now Paul uses the word “filled” in Ephesians 5 and there is no evidence of a supernatural manifestation there, but there is spiritual activity: psalms, hymns, spiritual songs, communion with each other, submission to one another and holy living. So I think that there is this baptism of the Spirit that happens to every Christian when he becomes a Christian in which he drinks of the Spirit, he becomes sealed in the Spirit and becomes entirely identified with Him. You are a child of God, as Paul identified in Romans 8. If you don’t have the Spirit in that sense, Paul says you are none of His.

As a separate item, there is manifestation of Spiritual gifts and I believe that the full range of gifts that were available in the first century are available now. I think that restricting them to the first century is just arbitrary. I don’t see that the Scripture teaches that at all, and I think the arguments that have been offered for that have been very weak and unconvincing, especially in light of passages like I Corinthians 14 which says, “Do not forbid to speak in tongues”, or I Thessalonians 5, “Do not despise prophetic utterances.” These are very clear statements in the Scriptures, and I think you would have to have very strong arguments from the Scriptures to overcome the power of those clear statements and argue that neither prophecy nor tongues are available as gifts to the church today. I don’t think those arguments are forthcoming. For example, the arguments out of I Corinthians 13 about when the perfect comes are weak. I don’t think that applies to the issue of tongues or prophecy, and so consequently I hold that all of the gifts are available today. In other words, there is a legitimacy to the perpetuity of spiritual gifts. But at the same time, I do not hold with some of my Pentecostal brothers that the baptism is the same thing as speaking in tongues. I think it may accompany it, but it isn’t the same thing. It’s something else.

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1 Comment on -Baptism of the Holy Spirit

  1. Great! I think you are exactly right. The “perfect” in Corinthians 13 isn’t talking about the completion of the Scriptures. And Paul also said that not all speak in tongues. Baptism of the Holy Spirit doesn’t require speaking in tongues. Sometimes people do speak in tongues at the baptism of the Holy Spirit, but not all.

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