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

Don Stewart :: Is the Baptism with the Holy Spirit the Same as Receiving the Holy Spirit after a Person Believes?

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Is the Baptism with the Holy Spirit the Same as Receiving the Holy Spirit after a Person Believes?

Baptism with the Holy Spirit – Question 8

There are some who equate the baptism with the Spirit with the initial reception of the Holy Spirit, yet they have a non-traditional understanding of when this occurs. According to this view, the initial reception of the Holy Spirit does not take place when a believer trusts Jesus Christ. It occurs some time after a person is converted and, in some cases, not at all. Therefore, not all Christians have the Holy Spirit – He only comes into their life at a later time.

The Case for the Holy Spirit Is Not Received at Moment of Salvation

This view rejects the idea that all believers receive God’s Spirit the moment they trust Jesus Christ. Believers, they contend, must specifically ask for the Holy Spirit, otherwise He is not given. The arguments are as follows.

The Example of Jesus Demonstrates This Fact

First there is the example of Jesus. Although He was conceived of the Holy Spirit He was not baptized with the Spirit until He began His public ministry – about the age of thirty. It is argued that it is at that time that He made a complete surrender of His life for service. When He did this the heavens opened and the Holy Spirit came on Him like a dove. A new personality was added to Jesus at that moment and from that time forward everything that He did was done in dependence of the Holy Spirit.

In the same manner this must happen to those who follow Jesus. Like Jesus, people are born of the Spirit when they become Christians. However, they too, like Jesus, must have a crisis experience in their life when the Holy Spirit comes upon them in His baptizing work.

The Example of Jesus’ Disciples Is Further Evidence

There is also the example of Jesus’ disciples. They were believers before the Day of Pentecost but they did not have power for service or for righteousness and holiness in their lives. This only came when they were baptized with the Spirit. This came about when they yielded their lives to the place where the Holy Spirit could initially come to them.

The Holy Spirit Is Received by Faith in Jesus Christ

Paul wrote to the Galatians that they received the Holy Spirit by faith. The King James Version of Galatians 3:2 is usually cited to support this idea.

This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? (Galatians 3:2 KJV).

This indicates a definite reception of the Holy Spirit when one exercises faith. This is interpreted to mean that these believers had to exercise faith toward God before the Holy Spirit would be given to them.

This Is a Practical Position

Those who teach this position see it as something which is immensely practical. They argue that believers will be complacent if they think they have everything that they need. However, if they realize that God has more for their lives, this will cause them to seek Him and be filled to overflowing with the power of His Spirit.

The Response to This View

The view that the Holy Spirit is not received when a believer trusts Jesus Christ has not had many followers. There are a number of problems with this position.

They include the following.

The Example of Jesus Does Not Teach This

First, this is a non-biblical view of Jesus. To argue that He did operate by means of the Spirit, or that He did not completely surrender His life to God until He began His public ministry, is ludicrous. His entire life, from beginning to end, was sinless and led of the Holy Spirit.

Jesus Was Led by the Spirit at Age Twelve

Indeed, are to we assume that He did not have the Holy Spirit when He was in the temple, talking to the elders, at age twelve? The Bible explains it this way.

His parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover. And when He was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem according to the custom of the feast. When they had finished the days, as they returned, the Boy Jesus lingered behind in Jerusalem. And Joseph and His mother did not know it; but supposing Him to have been in the company, they went a day’s journey, and sought Him among their relatives and acquaintances. So when they did not find Him, they returned to Jerusalem, seeking Him. Now so it was that after three days they found Him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, both listening to them and asking them questions. And all who heard Him were astonished at His understanding and answers. So when they saw Him, they were amazed; and His mother said to Him, “Son, why have You done this to us? Look, Your father and I have sought You anxiously.” And He said to them, “Why did you seek Me? Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business?” But they did not understand the statement which He spoke to them (Luke 2:41-50 NKJV).

This episode makes it plain that Jesus knew His identity and calling at age twelve. To say that He did not yet have the Spirit of God in His life makes no sense whatsoever.

Furthermore, there is no evidence whatsoever that a new personality came upon Jesus at His baptism. The idea that somehow He was without the Spirit all those years is not only contradictory to Scripture, it borders on blasphemy.

The Pattern of Jesus’ Disciples Does Not Make Sense

Using Jesus’ disciples as a pattern for modern day believers likewise does not make sense. These were individuals who were living between two ages. They were living at the very end of the age of the law and the beginning of the age of grace. Unique things happened to them; things which happened to nobody else. Thus, the transitional nature of the times must be appreciated.

Furthermore, we know that a person can be saved or regenerated, without having been baptized by the Holy Spirit. The entire Old Testament certainly speaks to this truth. Indeed, countless people were saved by putting their faith in the God of Israel but these people had not received the “baptism” with the Holy Spirit.

Galatians 3:2 Does Not Speak of a Separate Experience

Galatians 3:2 does not provide a specific reference to a special reception of the Holy Spirit by faith. A better translation is as follows.

The only thing I want to learn from you is this: Did you receive the Spirit by doing the works of the law or by believing what you heard? (Galatians 3:2 NET).

Paul is emphasizing that the Holy Spirit was received by believing the gospel – not by doing any works. Instead of giving support of a special acceptance of the Holy Spirit by faith, this verse actually teaches just the opposite. The Holy Spirit comes to the believer the moment the gospel message is accepted.

There Are Clear Passages about the Reception of the Holy Spirit upon Belief

There are a number of passages that teach that the Holy Spirit is received upon belief in Jesus Christ. Paul wrote to the Ephesians about this important truth. He put it this way.

In him you also, when you had heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and had believed in him, were marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit; this is the pledge of our inheritance toward redemption as God’s own people, to the praise of his glory (Ephesians 1:13, 14 NRSV).

Thus, it is upon belief in Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit is received. Nothing else is necessary.

To the Galatians, Paul wrote the following.

And because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, who calls “Abba! Father!” (Galatians 4:6 NET).

We are Christians because of faith in Jesus Christ. Nothing more, nothing less.

Paul emphasized in his letter to the Romans that a Christian is one who has the Holy Spirit. Indeed, without the Spirit of Christ the person is not a believer. He said.

You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, this person does not belong to him (Romans 8:9 NET).

Consequently there is no evidence whatsoever that a person has to do anything special to receive God’s Holy Spirit. Indeed, by definition, a person cannot be a Christian unless he or she has the Holy Spirit.

Summary – Question 8
Is the Baptism with the Holy Spirit the Same as Receiving the Holy Spirit after a Person Believes?

There is the view that the baptism with the Holy Spirit is the same as the initial reception of the Spirit of God. This however only takes places sometime after a person is saved – not at the time of their salvation.

To support this view a number of examples are given. The life of Jesus is used to illustrate this belief. Supposedly, Jesus did not operate in the power of the Spirit until the time He was baptized in water. Previous to that time He did not have the Holy Spirit inside of Him.

The pattern of the disciples of Christ is also used. They believed in Jesus Christ but did not receive the Holy Spirit upon belief. It was only later that He came into their lives.

There is also a passage in Galatians that is cited to prove this point. It emphasizes the Spirit of God is received by faith.

It is also contended that this is a practical position. Indeed, instead of assuming that we have everything that we need to serve the Lord, it will force the Christian to exercise faith in Jesus Christ for power for living.

This view, however, has no biblical support whatsoever. A number of points need to be made.

Jesus was guided by the Holy Spirit from birth. Indeed, He was conceived of the Spirit! To claim that the Holy Spirit did not come into His life until His baptism is ludicrous if not blasphemous. At age twelve, in the temple in Jerusalem, He confounded the elders with His great wisdom. To say that He did this without the Spirit of God leading Him is nonsensical. The disciples should not be used as a pattern. Indeed, they were a unique group of people who were living between two ages; the age of law and the age of grace. Thus, they should not be used as any example of the delayed reception of the Holy Spirit. Theirs was a unique experience.

The passage in Galatians actually teaches the opposite of this view. Paul says the Holy Spirit was received by believing the message about Jesus – it says nothing about any special experience to either initially receive the Holy Spirit or His power.

Finally, there is no truth to the idea that this will cause believers to trust God all the more. It will not. What causes us to trust Him is the knowledge that He has equipped us with everything that we need. In sum, we can say that the Holy Spirit is received the moment someone believes in Jesus Christ. Nothing else is required.

If the Baptism with the Holy Spirit Occurs after Salvation, Then What Are the Conditions for Reception? ← Prior Section
Did the Baptism with the Holy Spirit Occur Once for Everyone at Pentecost? Next Section →
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