Baptism With The Holy Spirit

By Keith Sharp

Our Charismatic friends contend:

……that the Baplism of the Holy Ghost is a needed and promised experience for every believer who will ‘tarry,’, ‘ask, seek and knock’ until they receive, and that the receiving is always evidenced by the ‘speaking in other tongues as the Spirit gives them utterance.’ (Dennis,.7)

The New Testament undeniably records the promise of baptism with the Holy Spirit, But. to correctly apply the promise, we must note to whom it was given. For example, Jehovah promised, “To your descendants I have given this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the River Euphrates” (Genesis 15:18). But that great pledge was addressed specifically to Abraham, thus, I do not hope for my heirs to inherit one square foot of Canaan.

Is baptism with the Holy Spirit “a needed and promised experience for every believer”?

Is It Promised?

Is baptism with the Holy Spirit promised to every believer? If not, to whom was it promised?

John the Baptist warned his audience:

And even now the ax is laid to the root of the trees. Therefore every tree which does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clean out His threshing floor, and gather His wheat into the barn; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire (Matthew 3:10-12; cf. Mark 1:7-8; Luke 3:7-17; John 1:26-27,33).

John pledged two baptisms in Matthew 3:11, one with the Holy Spirit and one with fire. It is a gross mistake to confuse the two.

What is the baptism with fire? The Baptizer’s own words, the context of the promise, reveal the answer. The fire of verse ten is that of punishment, and the same is true of verse twelve. Luke records the same threats of fiery punishment (Luke 3:9,17). In fact, in this very connection, John denounced, “Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?” (Luke 3:7). Obviously, the baptism with fire was promised to that disobedient “brood of vipers” and was “wrath to come.”

However, our Pentecostal friends respond, “Didn’t tongues of fire come upon the ones gathered in the temple in Acts two?” The Scriptures record, “Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them” (Acts 2:3). “As of fire” is a “simile,” a figure which expresses a comparison. To say a tongue is “as of fire” is not to say it actually is fire, any more than to say a girl’s cheeks are “as of roses” is to say she has a rose bush sprouting from her jawbone.

The baptism with fire is “wrath to come” promised to a “brood of vipers.” Whatever you do, don’t pray to receive baptism with fire!

But John also promised baptism “with the Holy Spirit.” To whom was this promise made?

To answer this inquiry, we must determine who the “you” are of Matthew 3:11. Sometimes the pronoun “you” doesn’t include the entirety of the audience addressed. In the same passage, John said, “I indeed baptize you with water.” Not all those who came to John received his baptism (Matthew 3:7; Luke 7:30). And not all were baptized with the Holy Spirit.

Even our Pentecostal friends realize this. John called his audience a “brood of vipers,” yet our Charismatic friends limit the promise of Holy Spirit baptism to “every believer who will ‘tarry,’ ‘ask, seek and knock.’” To determine to whom the promise was extended, we must consult other passages which deal with the pledge of Holy Spirit baptism.

In Luke 24:49 we find the beloved physician’s record of a portion of the Great Commission, which the Lord delivered “to the eleven” (Mark 16:14-16), who were “the apostles whom He had chosen” (Acts 1:2). Christ commanded, “Behold, I send the Promise of My Father upon you; but tarry in the city of Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high.” Remember four particulars of this verse: the promise was to the Lord’s chosen apostles, it was the promise of the Father, it was to be received in the city (Jerusalem), and the pledge was of “power from on high.”

Now note Acts 1:1-5:

The former account I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach, until the day in which He was taken up, after He through the Holy Spirit had given commandments to the apostles whom He had chosen, to whom He also presented Himself alive after His suffering by many infallible proofs, being seen by them during forty days and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God. And being assembled together with them, He commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the Promise of the Father, ‘which,’ He said, ‘you have heard from Me; for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.’ 

In this text we find the application of all preceding occurrences of the promise of baptism with the Holy Spirit. The promise of John recorded in Matthew 3:11 and the pledge of the Father preserved in Luke 24:49 are one and the same (verses 4-5). The promise is “to the apostles whom He had chosen” (verses 2-4). They, the apostles, were the ones commanded to wait in Jerusalem in order to “be. baptized with the Holy Spirit” (verses 4-5). The Lord Jesus Christ Himself specified to whom John promised baptism with the Holy Spirit. He applied the promise to his own chosen apostles. We dare not attempt to widen the scope.

Acts 2:1-4 records the fulfillment of the divine pledge.

When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.

Who are “they” of Acts 2:1, “they” who were baptized with the Holy Spirit? “They” is a pronoun. To determine to whom a pronoun refers, one must find its antecedent, the noun which identifies the pronoun. The preceding verse declares, “And they cast their lots, and the lot fell on Matthias. And he was numbered with the eleven apostles” (Acts 1:26). The antecedent of “they” in Acts 2:1 is “apostles” in Acts 1:26. The apostles alone in Acts two spoke and performed wonders by the power of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:7, 14, 37, 42-43). The apostles were recipients of baptism with the Holy Spirit. This harmonizes perfectly with the fact the apostles were the objects of the promise of Holy Spirit baptism.

This exhausts the New Testament passages which specifically promise baptism with the Holy Spirit. Pentecostal people contend, “the Baptism of the Holy Ghost is a needed and promised experience for every believer,” but the Lord himself limits the promise to his own “apostles whom He had chosen.” Will you believe modern experiences and denominational preachers, or will you believe Jesus Christ and his chosen apostles?

Baptism With The Holy Spirit

Part 2

Is It Needed?

Our Charismatic friends contend:

……that the Baptism of the Holy Ghost is a needed and promised experience for every believer who will ‘tarry,’, ‘ask, seek and knock’ until they receive, and that the receiving is always evidenced by the ‘speaking in other tongues as the Spirit gives them utterance.’ (J.A. Dennis, The Holy Spirit .7)

We have seen that the promise of baptism with the Holy Spirit was to the apostles alone. Now let’s look at second part of the Pentecostal claim. Do all believers need baptism with the Holy Spirit?

To answer this question, we must determine the purposes of this immersion. What were the purposes of Holy Spirit baptism?

Witness Establishment of Kingdom

Jesus promised that some hearing him would “not taste death till they see the kingdom of God present with power” (Mark 9:1). Not only did Christ pledge the kingdom would come within the life span of some of his audience, he also revealed how they could discern its arrival. It would come “with power.”

Just before Jesus’ ascension to His Father, when the apostles “had come together” with Him (Acts 1:2,6), they asked, “Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6). The Master refused to unveil the precise time of the kingdom’s establishment (verse 7). However, he promised, “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you” (verse 8). This reception of the Holy Spirit was the baptism with the Holy Spirit (verses 4-5).

When was the kingdom to come? When the power had come. When would the power come? When the Holy Spirit came upon the apostles. When did the Holy Spirit come upon the apostles? On the first Pentecost after Jesus’ resurrection (Acts 2:1-4). When, then, was the kingdom of God established? Upon the first Pentecost after the Lord’s resurrection.

What, therefore, was the purpose of Holy Spirit baptism? To witness the fact the kingdom of God had come. Since the kingdom has been established, Holy Spirit baptism has fulfilled its purpose and ceased.

Power

Another purpose of Holy Spirit baptism is demonstrated in Jesus’ promise to the apostles, “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you” (Acts 1:8). What power were they to receive?

John chapters thirteen through sixteen are the record of a private conversation between Christ and his apostles (cf. John 13:1-30: Matthew 26:19-21). This conversation occurred immediately following what is commonly called “The Last Supper” (Johnl3:2) and after Judas had gone out to betray his Lord (John 13:21-30). Except where there is specific proof otherwise, the promises contained within this context were addressed to the apostles alone.

Jesus pledged to give them “another Helper, that He may abide with you forever” (John 14:15-16). The Holy Spirit in His roll as the “Helper” (“Comforter,” KJV), i.e., “helper, succorer, aider, assistant” (Thayer. 483), was never promised to anyone save the Lord’s apostles.

What would the Helper do for the apostles? He was to teach them all things and give them infallible memories (John 14:26). He would testify of Christ and help the apostles bear witness to the Lord’s claims (John 15:26-27). Further, He was to help them reprove the world of the sin of not believing on Christ, of the righteousness of Jesus’ claims and of the Judgment of Satan’s power. He would guide the apostles into all truth, show them the future, and glorify Christ (John 16:7-14).

Anyone who lacks any of these powers cannot claim to have received the Holy Spirit as his Helper or Comforter. Do you know all spiritual things? Do you have an infallible memory? Can you unerringly foretell the future? If you must reply “no” to any of these queries, you do not have the Holy Spirit in this sense.

The apostles wrote down the knowledge, testimony and truth the Spirit of Truth revealed (Ephesians 3:1-7). The New Testament is this written revelation recorded by the apostles. When we study it we have the same knowledge in the mystery of Christ the apostles possessed (Ibid). Thus being made “complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17), what need have we for something else (cf. James 1:21; Acts 20:32)?

The second purpose of Holy Spirit baptism was to give the power of the Holy Spirit as Helper to the apostles, that they might teach and write all truth. Those today who claim to have the baptism with the Holy Spirit logically claim these same apostolic powers. They declare themselves to have further revelations from God. They thus proclaim their own lack of faith in the finality and sufficiency of the New Testament.

Reasons to Reject Modern Holy Spirit Baptism

We will now notice a few scriptural reasons Holy Spirit baptism is not for us today.

Only one baptism is in effect today (Ephesians 4:5). Our Pentecostal friends cannot scripturally practice both water baptism and Holy Spirit baptism. One or the other baptism must go. Which should we receive?

New Testament baptism is a command to be obeyed (Acts 2:38), whereas Holy Spirit baptism was a promise to be received (Acts 1:4-5). One can neither receive a command nor obey a promise. The baptism with the Holy Spirit could not be the one New Testament baptism for us today.

New Testament baptism is administered by men (Matthew 28:19), but baptism with the Spirit was administered directly by Jesus Christ (Matthew 3:11). Holy Spirit baptism is not the one baptism.

New Testament baptism is “in the name of Jesus Christ” (Acts 2:38). The Samaritans had “been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus,” but the Holy Spirit “had fallen upon none of them” (Acts 8:16). Likewise, after Cornelius had already received the Holy Spirit (Acts 10:44-45), Peter rhetorically asked, “Can anyone forbid water, that these should not be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have? And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord.” (Acts 10:47-48a). Furthermore, the men at Ephesus “were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus,” and then, “when Paul had laid hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them” (Acts 19:5-6). These passages demonstrate that the one baptism is different from both Holy Spirit baptism and the reception of the Holy Spirit. Rather, the one New Testament baptism in the name of the Lord is water baptism.

Since there is only one baptism now in force, and since that baptism is water baptism, Holy Spirit baptism has fulfilled its purposes and ceased. (Next week will look at the case of Cornelius.)

Baptism With The Holy Spirit Part 3

What About Cornelius?

Luke records the story of a Roman centurion named Cornelius who saw an angel who told him to send for Simon Peter who would preach to him (Acts 10:1-8, 30-33; 11:13-14). Subsequently, a vision from God revealed to Peter that he “should not call any man common or unclean” (Acts 10:9-16, 28; 11:4-10). Peter realized this truth only after the Holy Spirit directed him to go with Cornelius’ messengers (Acts 10:17-35; 11:12). The Holy Spirit thus led Simon Peter to affirm, “In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality. But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him” (Acts 10:34-35) Thus, Peter preached the word of the Lord in the house of this Gentile soldier (Acts 10:36-43). “While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who heard the word” (Acts 10:44; cf. 11:15). Therefore, Cornelius along with his “relatives and close friends” (Acts 10:24) received “the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 10:45, 47)

In Acts eleven Cephas recounts these events to Jewish disciples in Jerusalem who objected to preaching to and associating with uncircumcised Gentiles. In verses 15-17 he reviewed the Gentiles’ reception of the Spirit thus:

And as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them, as upon us at the beginning. Then I remembered the word of the Lord, how He said, ‘John indeed baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ If therefore God gave them the same gift as He gave us when we believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could withstand God?

There is one final reference to this miracle in Acts 15:7-9. Peter reminded the apostles, elders, and brethren in Jerusalem of these events by observing:

Men and brethren, you know that a good while ago God chose among us, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe. So God, who knows the heart, acknowledged them by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He did to us, and made no distinction between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith (Acts 15:7-9).

On the day of Pentecost, when God gave the apostles, who were all Jews, the miraculous outpouring of the Holy Spirit, he bore witness that His kingdom was being established and that citizens were being accepted upon the terms announced in Acts 2:38, “Repent and be baptized….” When Cornelius’ household received the Holy Spirit, Peter asked, “Can anyone forbid water, that these should not be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have? (Acts 10:47) The miraculous reception of the Holy Spirit was conclusive testimony that Gentiles were accepted by God on equal terms with Jews. Thus, when Cephas recounted this event to Jewish Christians, they exclaimed in joyful wonder, “Then God has also granted to the Gentiles repentance to life” (Acts 11:18). They ceased objecting to what Peter had done (Ibid). Also, Peter himself declared that, when God gave the Gentiles the Holy Spirit, He “acknowledged them… and made no distinction between” Jews and Gentiles, “purifying their hearts by faith” (Acts 15:8-9).

God miraculously sent the Spirit upon Cornelius and his friends and relatives for a special purpose that will never be repeated: to demonstrate to the Jews his acceptance of uncircumcised Gentiles into the kingdom of heaven on an equal footing with Jews. When the question again arose about acceptance of the Gentiles (Acts 15:1-6), there was no need for God to give a new confirmation. Rather than needing a new outpouring of the Holy Spirit, the apostle Peter appealed to the proof already given, the example of Cornelius (Acts 15:7-9). If anyone doubts the equality of Jew and Gentile in the kingdom of God, let him read Acts chapters ten and eleven. The truth of God, once confirmed, is forever confirmed.

Reasons to Reject Modern Holy Spirit Baptism

We will now notice a few scriptural reasons Holy Spirit baptism is not for us today.

Only one baptism is in effect today (Ephesians 4:5). Our Pentecostal friends cannot scripturally practice both water baptism and Holy Spirit baptism. One or the other baptism must go. Which should we receive?

New Testament baptism is a command to be obeyed (Acts 2:38), whereas Holy Spirit baptism was a promise to be received (Acts 1:4-5). One can neither receive a command nor obey a promise. The baptism with the Holy Spirit could not be the one New Testament baptism for us today.

New Testament baptism is administered by men (Matthew 28:19), but baptism with the Spirit was administered directly by Jesus Christ (Matthew 3:11). Holy Spirit baptism is not the one baptism.

New Testament baptism is “in the name of Jesus Christ” (Acts 2:38). The Samaritans had “been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus,” but the Holy Spirit “had fallen upon none of them” (Acts 8:16). Likewise, after Cornelius had already received the Holy Spirit (Acts 10:44-45), Peter rhetorically asked, “Can anyone forbid water, that these should not be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have? And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord.” (Acts 10:47-48a). Furthermore, the men at Ephesus “were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus,” and then, “when Paul had laid hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them” (Acts 19:5-6). These passages demonstrate that the one baptism is different from both Holy Spirit baptism and the reception of the Holy Spirit. Rather, the one New Testament baptism in the name of the Lord is water baptism.

Since there is only one baptism now in force, and since that baptism is water baptism, Holy Spirit baptism has fulfilled its purposes and ceased.

Conclusion

Charismatic and Pentecostal people contend “…that the Baptism of the Holy Ghost is a needed and promised experience for every believer…” The New Testament teaches that people today are neither promised nor do they need some such miraculous experience. I do not minimize the power of the Spirit of God, nor do I question that He is both real and alive. I simply magnify the Spirit revealed Word of God, which is “living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword” (Hebrews 4:12). If you would draw closer to God, drink deeply of its life-giving precepts. Do not seek fellowship with the Master through some emotional experience unsanctioned by the Lord Himself. Dear friend, God’s “divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue” (2 Peter 1:3).

Works Cited

Dennis, J.A., The Holy Spirit .

Thayer, J.H., A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament

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