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Study Resources :: Text Commentaries :: Don Stewart :: Baptism with the Holy Spirit

Don Stewart :: What Are the Arguments for the Baptism with the Holy Spirit Being a Second Experience That Follows Salvation?

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What Are the Arguments for the Baptism with the Holy Spirit Being a Second Experience That Follows Salvation?

Baptism with the Holy Spirit – Question 4

There are some people who contend that the baptism with the Holy Spirit is a second experience for Christians which takes place sometime after a person becomes a believer in Jesus Christ.

Among other things, it has been described as “power for service.” Since this is a popular view it is important that we correctly understand and evaluate it.

There are certain things that are essential to note. They can be summed up as follows.

There Are Different Arguments Used by Those Holding This View

There are a number of different arguments that are given by those who believe the “baptism with the Holy Spirit” is a distinct experience from becoming a Christian.

However, not everyone uses the same arguments and there is disagreement over a number of points. We will list the main arguments that are usually brought forward to contend that the “baptism with the Holy Spirit” is a second experience that occurs after one is saved.

The Biblical Arguments Are Derived from the Book of Acts

The case for the baptism with the Holy Spirit being a second experience subsequent to salvation must be made biblically from the Book of Acts. There is nothing in the gospels that speaks specifically to this subject and the New Testament letters are written to churches that already understand and have the Spirit’s power.

It Is Not the Same as Receiving the Holy Spirit

It is usually agreed that the baptism with the Holy Spirit is not the same as the reception of the Holy Spirit. Indeed, the Apostle Paul told the Romans that a person could not be a believer without the Holy Spirit. He wrote the following.

Moreover if the Spirit of the one who raised Jesus from the dead lives in you, the one who raised Christ from the dead will also make your mortal bodies alive through his Spirit who lives in you (Romans 8:11 NET).

Paul makes it plain that a person cannot be a believer in Jesus Christ without the Holy Spirit living inside of them. In fact, one of the definitions of a Christian is that of a person who has trusted Christ as Savior and received the Holy Spirit.

Since the each believer has already received the Holy Spirit, then what is the need for a further reception? The response is that there are many different operations of the Holy Spirit and the baptism with the Spirit is that operation that gives the believer power for service.

The Purpose of the Baptism with the Spirit Is Power for Service

The purpose of the baptism with the Holy Spirit is power to serve the Lord. The main feature of the promise of the Father is for service for the cause of Christ– not regeneration for eternal life. Whenever the Scripture speaks of the Holy Spirit coming upon people, or resting upon them, it is always to give them power for service, it is never to save them from their sins.

The Case For The Baptism With The Spirit As An Experience Apart From Salvation

The following case is made for the baptizing work of the Holy Spirit being a work of God independent of one’s initial salvation.

  1. The New Testament examples of the reception of the Holy Spirit’s power show it to be a second blessing after salvation.
  2. First Corinthians 12:13 speaks of another baptism – not the baptism with the Holy Spirit.
  3. The fact that Scripture makes a difference between the learned and unlearned believers.
  4. The people were expecting to experience something powerful to happen to them after their conversion to Christ.
  5. The testimony of personal experiences in the lives of those who have been baptized with the Holy Spirit.

These are usually the arguments that are given for belief that the baptism with the Holy Spirit is a second blessing. We will consider each one individually.

The New Testament Examples of the Reception of the Spirit

The first argument concerns the examples found in the New Testament of people receiving the power of God’s Spirit. It does not occur at the same time that a person first received the Holy Spirit. We find this in the life of Jesus, His disciples, the believers in Samaria, the Apostle Paul, and certain disciples Paul found in Ephesus. In each case the power of the Holy Spirit did not come immediately upon conversion. The evidence is as follows.

Illustration 1: The Pattern of Jesus Is an Example for All Believers

The life of Jesus Christ is to be a pattern for all believers. Indeed, John the Apostle wrote to the believers emphasizing this point. He said

Those who say they live in God should live their lives as Christ did (1 John 2:6 NLT).

Therefore it is the duty of the believer to live his or her life as much like Jesus Christ as is possible. We are to live as He Himself lived. His life should be a pattern for our life.

Jesus Was Conceived of the Holy Spirit

The Bible says that God the Son, Jesus Christ, was conceived of the Holy Spirit. In the Gospel of Matthew we read about how He entered our world.

But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 1:20 NRSV).

This means that the Holy Spirit was working with God the Son from the very beginning of His entrance into humanity. Indeed, from His actual conception.

Jesus Did Not Minister Publicly until He Received the Holy Spirit’s Power

Although conceived of the Holy Spirit, Jesus did not enter the public ministry until He received the power of the Holy Spirit. We read of this taking place at His baptism. Scripture says.

And when Jesus had been baptized, just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him (Matthew 3:16 NRSV).

Notice the One who was conceived of the Holy Spirit now has the Spirit coming down on Him at His baptism.

Then we are told that after His baptism, Jesus left the Jordan River in the power of the Holy Spirit. Luke writes.

Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness (Luke 4:1 TNIV).

Therefore, from the life of Jesus Christ, we find the pattern set for all believers. First, there is the reception of the Holy Spirit. Then at some time later, the believer receives the power of the Holy Spirit. These are two distinct events.

Illustration 2: The Disciples of Jesus Are Another Example of a Second Experience

The disciples of Jesus give us another example that the power of the Holy Spirit does not occur the moment the Holy Spirit is received.

Jesus Made This Promise to His Disciples Who Were Already Believers

The promise of the Holy Spirit was made to people who already had a saving relationship with Jesus Christ. Indeed, they had been sent out to proclaim His message with power given to them for that purpose. The following verses make this clear.

Then Jesus summoned his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to cure every disease and every sickness (Matthew 10:1 NRSV).

They were given authority over the unclean spirits.

Furthermore, we find that their names were already written in heaven. Jesus said to them.

Nevertheless, do not rejoice at this, that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven (Luke 10:20 NRSV).

This, of course, is an indication that they were all believers in Christ.

In addition, we find that these particular disciples were already clean through the Word that Christ had spoken. Jesus also said.

You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you (John 15:3 HCSB).

They had come to believe that Jesus was the Christ.

This Truth Is Illustrated by the Vine and Branches

This was illustrated when Jesus said that He was the vine and they were the branches. We read the following words of Jesus in John 15.

I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in me, and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing (John 15:5 RSV).

These men had the presence of God’s Spirit in their lives. Thus, they were already connected to Him.

The Spirit Was Already in Them

This is further evidenced by Jesus saying that the Spirit was “in them.”

Even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him; you know him, for he dwells with you, and will be in you (John 14:17 RSV).

They had already received the Holy Spirit. Thus, by definition, they were already believers in Jesus Christ.

However, these believers in Christ, who had already received the Holy Spirit, had a second reception of the Spirit. John records the following event that occurred after Jesus’ resurrection but before His ascension.

And after he [Jesus] said this, he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit” (John 20:22 NET).

Now Jesus tells them to “receive the Holy Spirit.” Since these men were already believers in Christ this must refer to some second experience with the Holy Spirit.

These facts demonstrate that one may be a believer in Christ but lack the spiritual power that Jesus promised His disciples. Thus, we find the necessity for a second experience with the Holy Spirit.

The Disciples Were Told Specifically to Wait in Jerusalem

There is still more evidence. The disciples of Christ were told to wait in Jerusalem for the power of the Spirit. Luke writes.

You are witnesses of these things. And see, I am sending upon you what my Father promised; so stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high (Luke 24:48, 49 NRSV).

Though they were believers they had not yet received the power of the Spirit. In fact, they were specifically told to wait in Jerusalem for this power.

This would occur on the Day of Pentecost. Indeed, on Pentecost we find that the power of the Holy Spirit did come upon them. Scripture records what took place in this manner.

All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit, and they began to speak in other languages as the Spirit enabled them (Acts 2:4 NET).

Like Jesus, the testimony of the lives of His disciples shows that the baptism with the Holy Spirit is not the same as the indwelling of the Spirit. It takes place at a different time.

Illustration 3: The Experience of the People in Samaria

A third illustration can be found in the people of Samaria. Their experience also shows that the Holy Spirit’s power comes only after people believe in Jesus. We read of what happened to them in the Book of Acts.

Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a sabbath day’s journey away; and when they had entered, they went up to the upper room, where they were staying, Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot and Judas the son of James. All these with one accord devoted themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers. In those days Peter stood up among the brethren (the company of persons was in all about a hundred and twenty), and said, “Brethren, the scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit spoke beforehand by the mouth of David, concerning Judas who was guide to those who arrested Jesus. For he was numbered among us, and was allotted his share in this ministry” (Acts 1:12–17 RSV).

They had believed in Jesus Christ as Savior, but had not yet received the power of the Holy Spirit. This happened when Peter and John laid their hands upon them. This is further evidence that the reception of the Spirit of God is delayed in the lives of believers.

Illustration 4: The Conversion of the Apostle Paul (Acts 9)

Another argument used is the conversion of Saul of Tarsus to the Apostle Paul. The conversion of Saul to Paul is explained as follows.

Falling to the ground, he heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” “Who are You, Lord?” he said. “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,� He replied.” (Acts 9:4, 5 HCSB).

While Saul was converted on the Damascus road, he was not filled with the Spirit until a few days later when a man named Ananias came to visit him. We read of this in Acts. It says.

So Ananias went and entered the house. He laid his hands on Saul and said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on your way here, has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 9:17 NRSV).

Ananias laid hands on Paul so that he would be filled with the Spirit. This is another indication of a delay in the reception of the Spirit.

Illustration 5: The Experience of the Gentiles (Acts 10)

Some have argued that Cornelius and his friends, the first Gentiles to receive the Holy Spirit, had already received the Holy Spirit before Peter came and visited them. This is derived from how he is introduced to us in Scripture.

At Caesarea there was a man named Cornelius, a centurion of what was known as the Italian Cohort, a devout man who feared God with all his household, gave alms liberally to the people, and prayed constantly to God (Acts 10:1,2 RSV).

The way in which he is spoken of shows that he was a believer in the God of the Bible.

When Peter spoke to him and his household the Holy Spirit fell upon all of them. The Book of Acts says the following.

While Peter was still saying this, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word. And the believers from among the circumcised who came with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles (Acts 10:44,45 RSV).

Therefore, when the Holy Spirit fell upon these Gentiles, it was the baptism with the Spirit, not their initial reception.

Illustration 6: The Disciples That Paul Encountered at Ephesus (Acts 19)

The disciples that Paul encountered in the city of Ephesus give another example of the power of the Holy Spirit coming after conversion. He saw something lacking in their lives. Consequently he asked them about their experience with the Holy Spirit. We read of what took place as follows.

While Apollos was at Corinth, Paul passed through the upper country and came to Ephesus. There he found some disciples. And he said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” And they said, “No, we have never even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” And he said, “Into what then were you baptized?” They said, “Into John’s baptism.” And Paul said, “John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, Jesus.” On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Spirit came on them; and they spoke with tongues and prophesied (Acts 19:1–6 RSV).

The fact that Paul would even ask them this question assumes that there was something outward connected with the reception of the Holy Spirit.

These examples: Jesus, His disciples, the Samaritans, the Apostle Paul, the Gentiles, and the men at Ephesus, all show that the baptism with the Holy Spirit occurs at a time after a person is initially saved.

First Corinthians 12:13 Speaks of a Separate Baptism

If the baptism with the Holy Spirit is a second experience for the believer with the Holy Spirit, then how is the following verse explained?

For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body. Whether Jews or Greeks or slaves or free we were all made to drink of the one Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:13 NET).

Does this not mean that the baptism with the Holy Spirit places believers into the body of Christ? This is how this verse is usually interpreted. However, there have been other explanations of what this verse means.

In Acts, Christ Is the Baptizer: In Corinthians the Holy Spirit Is the Baptizer

Some people who believe the baptism with the Holy Spirit is a second experience following salvation actually see Scripture speaking of two separate baptisms. They believe that 1 Corinthians 12:13 speaks of the baptism “by” the Holy Spirit that puts believers into the body of Christ. That is the Holy Spirit is the one who baptizes the believer into Christ’s body. He is the agent – the one who baptizes.

The Book of Acts, they contend, speaks of the baptism “by Jesus Christ” to place people “in” the sphere of the Holy Spirit.” They believe the first baptism happens at conversion and is experienced by all believers.

The second happens after conversion and provides power to the believer. This view teaches that all believers have been baptized by the Spirit while not all believers have been baptized in the sphere of the Holy Spirit.

To sum up: Acts records Jesus baptizing people into the sphere of the Holy Spirit while First Corinthians has the Holy Spirit baptizing believers into the body of Christ.

We Must Remember That Acts Was Written after First Corinthians

There is something else. First Corinthians 12:13 should not be used to explain what happened to believers as recorded in the Book of Acts because Acts was written after First Corinthians. Therefore, it should not be used to explain an experience that had not been recorded.

Scripture Makes a Distinction between Believers

Scripture also makes a distinction between those believers who have been baptized with the Holy Spirit and those who have not. Paul calls those who have not been baptized as “unlearned,” or “ungifted.” He wrote the following to the Corinthians.

Therefore if the whole church comes together in one place, and all speak with tongues, and there come in those who are uninformed or unbelievers, will they not say that you are out of your mind? (1 Corinthians 14:23,24 NKJV).

Here the distinction is made between believers and those who are uninformed. The “uninformed are seen by some to represent believers who have not been baptized with the Holy Spirit.

There are other passages that speak about “carnal” or “worldly” Christians. Paul wrote to the Corinthians about these “people of the flesh.”

Brothers, I was not able to speak to you as spiritual people but as people of the flesh, as babies in Christ (1 Corinthians 3:1 HCSB).

These believers in Corinth were not spiritual individuals.

This is why Paul told the Romans that a person could be a believer without making Jesus Christ their Lord. He wrote.

I appeal to you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect (Romans 12:1,2 RSV).

A person who is a carnal, or worldly Christian, has their life controlled by their own selfish desires. To change this way of living often results in some crisis experience where they turn everything over to the Lord. This change is a result of the work of God the Holy Spirit in their life; the baptism with the Holy Spirit.

The People Were Expecting to Experience Something

The baptism with the Spirit is described as “power from on high.” Jesus said the following to His disciples before He ascended into heaven.

And see, I am sending upon you what my Father promised; so stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high (Luke 24:49 NRSV).

It is clear from what Jesus promised them that these disciples would shortly be experiencing something. It was not merely some type of work of the Holy Spirit that was non-experiential. They were expecting an experience.

The Argument from Personal Experience

There is also the argument from personal experience. Most people who argue for the baptism with the Holy Spirit being an experience that occurs after one was saved do so first from personal experience. They have had some sort of experience involving the Holy Spirit that they believe to be the baptism with the Holy Spirit.

Indeed, it is not usually the case that someone studies the issue, becomes convinced that the baptism with the Spirit is a separate experience from salvation, and then has an experience with the Spirit of God. The experience almost always precedes the conviction that the baptism with the Holy Spirit is a “second blessing.”

The experience, in many cases, is life-changing. There are a great number of people who have had such an experience with Christ after they originally believed in Him.

In many cases, it is like a second conversion. Something genuinely happened to these people. It was a unique filling, or empowering, of the Holy Spirit.

These are the main arguments that are generally used to show that the baptism with the Holy Spirit is a second experience for the believer that comes some time after they have become a Christian. They have convinced a number of people for the need to seek the baptism with the Holy Spirit after they are initially saved from the sins.

Response to This Viewpoint

Those who reject the idea that the baptism with the Holy Spirit is a second experience after salvation have responses to each of these points. We will examine these responses in some of the questions that follow this question.

Summary – Question 4
What Are the Arguments for the Baptism with the Holy Spirit Being a Second Experience following Salvation?

It is popular to assume that the baptism with the Holy Spirit is a second experience which occurs sometime after a person believes in Jesus Christ. Those that argue that the baptism with the Holy Spirit is a work of the Spirit after someone has been saved present a number of arguments to support their case. They can be summed up as follows.

The example of Jesus is Christ often cited. He was conceived of the Holy Spirit but did not minister publicly until He was baptized with the Spirit. Indeed, we are told that the Holy Spirit came on Him at His baptism. This seems to indicate a necessary delay from the initial reception of the Holy Spirit until the time one is empowered by the Spirit.

The disciples of Jesus are also used as a pattern for all Christians. These men were obviously believers long before they received the power of the Holy Spirit. Indeed, before His death, Jesus testified that they were “clean through the Word.” This indicates conversion.

However, after His resurrection He breathed upon them and they received the Holy Spirit. Their experience provides further evidence that the Holy Spirit’s power does not occur when one believes in Jesus. Indeed, it is something believers receive later. There are also other instances recorded in the Book of Acts. In the city of Samaria those who believed in Jesus Christ had to wait to receive the power of the Spirit when the apostles Peter and John came and laid their hands upon them. This indicates the power of the Holy Spirit is a “second blessing.”

Saul of Tarsus became a believer in Christ on the road to Damascus. Yet he was not filled with the Spirit until a few days later. Cornelius, the first Gentile to become part of the church, believed in the God of Israel but did not receive the Holy Spirit until Peter preached to him.

In the city of Ephesus believers did not initially receive the power of the Holy Spirit upon believing. Indeed, it was only after Paul ministered to them that they received the fullness of the Holy Spirit.

There is also the distinction made between the baptism by the Hoy Spirit that places people into the body of Christ and the baptism by Jesus Christ that gives believers power for service. Thus, there are two baptisms. One is “by the Spirit” and the other is “by Christ.”

Scripture also makes a distinction between those who have been baptized with the Spirit and those “unlearned” who have not been baptized with the Spirit. Carnal or unspiritual Christians have not been baptized with the Holy Spirit.

We must also note that there was the expectation to have some type of experience with the Holy Spirit from the disciples of Jesus. They were not merely expecting some non-experiential ministry of the Holy Spirit.

Finally there is the personal experience of those who have received the “baptism in the Holy Spirit.” They can testify to the power of the Holy Spirit in their own lives since they have had this experience. In many cases, the experience was life-changing.

Indeed, it was as profound, or even more profound, than their original conversion. There has been a renewed love for God and His Word, as well as a more genuine love for others. This fact testifies that this experience was God-given.

Each of these arguments has convinced certain people that there is a definite second blessing for believers to experience known as the “baptism with the Holy Spirit.” Those who reject this idea have responses for each point that is brought up.

They believe that each point that is raised can be refuted. Consequently, it is important to discover why these arguments for a “second blessing” are rejected by other Bible-believers.

What Are the Various Views as to When a Person Receives the Baptism with the Holy Spirit? ← Prior Section
Why Do Some Argue That Speaking in Tongues Is a Sign of Receiving the Baptism with the Holy Spirit? Next Section →
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