If you have been a part of any church for any amount of time, you’ve probably heard the phrase, “filled with the Spirit.“ However, there is a good chance that you don’t know what that phrase means. There is also a very good chance that you know someone who has tried to explain this phrase to you and their explanation left you more confused than before. Therefore, I thought it would be good to write a post about “how to be filled by the Spirit.” But I’m preaching on this topic on Sunday. Therefore, I’ll further expound on that topic next week. So for this post, by way of introduction, I’d like to speak on what it means to be “baptized by the Holy Spirit.” These experiences are similar but are very different and are often confused with one another.
Disclaimer: I am a Southern Baptist pastor. Therefore, this explanation is coming from someone (myself) who believes and teaches Southern Baptist doctrine and theology. Therefore, the following is an understanding of “baptism of the Holy Spirit” that I advocate and teach as being most biblically accurate.
We find this phrase only seven times in Scripture. The first four occur in the Gospels: Matthew 3:11, Mark 1:8, Luke 3:16, and John 1:33. In each of these occurrences, the phrase is speaking of Jesus baptizing believers in the Holy Spirit. Jesus will carry out this baptism and He will in some way baptize his followers.
The next two occurrences are in the book of Acts and come in relation to Pentecost. Pentecost is the 50th day after the Jewish holiday of Passover. In the book of Acts, on Pentecost, fifty days after Passover and ten days after Jesus ascended into Heaven, the Holy Spirit “came down” upon the Jewish believers who were “together in one place.” They were thus “baptized in the Holy Spirit.”
The last reference is found in 1 Corinthians 12:3 which states, “For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body – Jews or Greeks, slaves or free – and all were made to drink of one Spirit.” (ESV)
This means that all believers, upon conversion (faith in Christ) are “baptized” into one body. Thus, all drink from one Spirit. The context of this passage is Paul’s call for the Corinthian church to be unified. Thus, believers should be unified as members of the body of Christ. Therefore, he explains how all believers “drink” from the same Spirit and are all part of the same “body.”
Some Christians teach that in order to be saved, one must be baptized in the Holy Spirit, much like the disciples in Acts were baptized. And that the proof of their salvation is that they would then speak in tongues. However, I would say that the disciples were already “saved” before they received the Spirit.
Others would say, that while speaking in tongues is not necessary for salvation, “being baptized” in the Holy Spirit does include speaking in tongues. I would disagree. For several reasons I would advocate that the manifestation that the disciples experienced on Pentecost was a one time thing. It happens again, however, to the Samaritans and then later to the Ephesian disciples of John. Some will point to this threefold occurrence as proof that all believers must receive the Spirit this way. However, I believe that Jesus is showing by His spirit coming down on the Jews, Samaritans and Gentiles that the Gospel is indeed for all people. And not only the Gospel, but the Spirit’s power. These events marked a major transition in the history of the world. Now, finally, the Spirit’s power was completely available to every believer as never before. We do not live in this time of transition. The corner has been turned.
Scripture teaches that being baptized in the Spirit actually is referring to one’s salvation. John the Baptist said, “I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I…He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” (Matt. 3:10)
Thus, when a person repents and asks forgiveness for their sins, by the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus, He is forgiven. He is also “born again.” He experiences a new life in Jesus. At that moment he is “baptized in the Holy Spirit.” Speaking in tongues does not have to be the physical proof of being baptized in the Spirit.
I like this definition by Wayne Grudem of what it means to be baptized in the Spirit: “the activity of the Holy Spirit at the beginning of the Christian life when he gives us new spiritual life (in regeneration) and cleanses us and gives us a clean break with the power and love of sin.” (Systematic Theology, 768).
Therefore, if you are a believer, you have been baptized by the Spirit. His power now resides in you. You can do things for the Kingdom that you could never have done without Him. Next Monday, I’ll explore further what it means to be “filled” with the Spirit.