Baptism in the Holy Spirit

1. Introduction

He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit

The experience is mentioned by John the Baptist and his words are a good beginning to this study.

Mat 3:11 (NIV) “I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me will come one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not fit to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.”
(Mark 1:8 NRSV) “I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with
the Holy Spirit.”
(Luke 3:16 NRSV) John answered all of them by saying, “I baptize you with water;
but one who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire”.
(John 1:26 NRSV) John answered them, “I baptize with water. Among you stands one whom you do not know”
(Acts 1:5 NRSV) for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”
(Acts 11:16 NRSV) And I remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said, “John
baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”

We will concern ourselves with the discovery of what this experience is, how to receive it into our lives and the relationship to regeneration or “new birth” Some of the historical records will be mentioned followed by answers to some of the most common objections and questions asked about this experience.

A reading of the Old Testament will show that the people of God were familiar with the Holy Spirit and there are numerous mentions of His interaction with the servants of God. One such is typically shown in the book of Micah.

Micah 3:8 (NIV) But as for me, I am filled ith power, with the Spirit of the LORD, and with justice and might, to declare to Jacob his transgression, to Israel his sin.
Joel 2:28-30 (NIV) ‘And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. 29 Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days.

These men of God prophesied of an age when a great Messiah would come to Israel and this would be the time of a wonderful pouring out of the Spirit of God upon the people.

The Messiah did come in the person of Jesus. The time of the pouring out of the Spirit also came.

John 1:33-34 (NIV) I would not have known him, except that the one who sent me to baptise with water told me, ‘The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is he who will baptise with the Holy Spirit.’ 34 I have seen and I testify that this is the Son of God.”

The “he who will baptise with the Holy Spirit” was enacted and begun on the day of Pentecost as the initial demonstration of what had been promised in Joel.

A current issue

We may delineate several basic positions today with respect to the tongues
and baptism in the Spirit controversy.

a. The Positive School

Pentecostals and most charismatic believers answers yes to both questions. They make clear distinction between baptism in the Spirit with the sign of tongues (as in Acts) and thegiftof tongues (I Cor.). The former is for everyone, while the latter is given to those whom the Spirit chooses. Even in the latter instance, however, the common belief is that all the nine gifts are open to everyone, and it is only a matter of the faith to claim them.

Since glossolalia is the only initial evidence of Spirit baptism, everyone should seek this sign of tongues as confirming their baptism in the Spirit. This baptism is the key to greater spiritual power in one’s life and so needs to be sought after. For this reason “tarrying” meetings developed within Pentecostalism, as groups of people would “tarry” and be taught how to expand their awareness of God in order to bypass the intellect and to open their hearts to the baptism of the Holy Spirit.

b. The Negative School

Some believe that the supernatural gifts ceased at the end of the apostolic age, others that they gradually diminished and ended in the fourth century. There are two basic approaches.

(i) The Reformed scholar Benjamin B. Warfield at the turn of the century argued that glossolalia was among the sign gifts intended to authenticate the message of the apostles. Therefore, when the NT message was complete, they were no longer necessary.

(ii) The dispensational scholar Merrill F. Unger asserted, that the “perfect” in I Cor. 13:10 meant the canon, and therefore at the close of the canon tongues “ceased in and of themselves” (the middle voice). There are quite a few differences among proponents of this position. Some state that God allows tongues as an emotional release, and so we should not be too negative toward adherents. Others say that God never allows them, and some go so far as to declare them demonic.

c. The Middle Position

A growing number take a position similar to that of A. B. Simpson, founder of the Christian and Missionary Alliance:

This gift is one of many gifts and is given to some for the benefit of all. The attitude toward the gift of tongues held by pastor and people should be, ‘Seek not, forbid not.’ Those of this persuasion would answer yes to the first question, no to the second. They would be wary of developing a system that would involve the violation of I Cor.14:39b, ‘Do not forbid to speak in tongues.”

They would also be afraid to disregard 1 Cor12:30b, “All do not speak in tongues, do they?”

The solution to this is therefore; speaking in tongues is not the initial sign of Spirit baptism, but it can be experienced as a gift, if the Spirit so determines. Moreover, scholars of this school are wary of utilising 13:9-10 against glossolalia, since the verb itself simply means “cease” in the middle voice and since “perfect” as “canon” is doubtful in this context. Rather, “perfect” refers to the “perfect age” when we will see Christ “face to face” (vs. 12).


The key, of course, is Scripture itself, more than experience, even from
ecclesia history. Many Pentecostals go so far as to accept the demise of the gift down through the ages but believe that the outbreak of glossolalia in this century is the “latter rain” (Joel 2:23) prophesied for the last days in Acts 2:16-21.

(Acts 2:16-18 NRSV) No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel: {17} ‘In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams. {18} Even upon my slaves, both men and women, in those days I will pour out my Spirit; and they shall prophesy.

One must consider all the passages that deal with tongues and see which position best interprets the data. This we will attempt to do in these studies.