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

Don Stewart :: Do Paul And Luke Mean Different Things By The Phrase, "Baptism With The Holy Spirit?"

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Do Paul and Luke Mean Different Things by the Phrase, “Baptism with the Holy Spirit?”

Baptism with the Holy Spirit – Question 11

There is the view that much of the confusion over the baptism with the Holy Spirit arises because we assume that Paul and Luke are talking about the same thing when they actually are not. It is argued that each writer is referring to a different experience with the Holy Spirit. Paul is speaking about the believers being baptized into the body of Christ while Luke is referring to power to preach the message of Jesus. The argument usually goes as follows.

Paul Speaks of Baptism into Body of Christ

The Apostle Paul is speaking of an act of the Holy Spirit that places believers into the body of Christ. That this occurs the moment that a person is saved as is made clear by Paul. He wrote the following to the Corinthians.

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).

This happens to all believers the moment they trust Jesus Christ as their Savior. Indeed, they become members of the true church, the body of Christ.

Luke Speaks of the Power of the Spirit for Ministry

There is a different emphasis in the Book of Acts. In the first chapter of the Book of Acts, the baptism with the Holy Spirit is connected with the power to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ. Immediately before He ascended into heaven, the following episode took place between Jesus and His disciples.

So when they met together, they asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:6-8 TNIV)

Here we see the baptism with the Spirit connected with proclaiming the message of Jesus to the entire world. The power of the Holy Spirit will allow the disciples to preach the gospel to Jew, Samaritan, and Gentile.

The Gentiles Receive the Baptism with the Spirit

The only other place in Acts where the baptism with the Holy Spirit is mentioned is Peter’s explanation of what happened when he preached the gospel to the Gentiles. We read of this in the Book of Acts as he explained it to fellow believers.

Then as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell on them just as he did on us at the beginning. And I remembered the word of the Lord, as he used to say, ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ Therefore if God gave them the same gift as he also gave us after believing in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to hinder God?” When they heard this, they ceased their objections and praised God, saying, “So then, God has granted the repentance that leads to life even to the Gentiles” (Acts 11:15-18 NET).

The Holy Spirit came upon the Gentiles in the same way as with the disciples on the Day of Pentecost. This convinced the Jewish believers that the Gentiles could also have their sins forgiven and be part of the family of God. They too, will have the same power to preach the message of Jesus to the entire world.

Therefore, in the two instances in the Book of Acts where the baptism with the Holy Spirit is mentioned, we find an emphasis on the power to proclaim the gospel, as well as the confirmation that Gentiles are part of the kingdom of God. These events signal that we are in the age of the Holy Spirit. He is taking the message of Jesus, through those who have believed in Savior, to the ends of the earth.

Luke and Paul Emphasize Different Things

Consequently there is a different emphasis between the Apostle Paul and Luke. Luke is reporting two times in history when people were baptized with the Holy Spirit. Paul is making a doctrinal statement saying that all believers have been baptized with the Spirit. It seems that each writer is emphasizing a different aspect of this ministry of Jesus rather than two distinct ministries as some have claimed.

The Filling of the Spirit in Acts Always Refers to Preaching the Gospel

There is something else that we should note. Every time the “filling” of the Holy Spirit is mentioned in the Book of Acts it is always for the purpose of preaching the gospel of Christ. Again, we find the emphasis that the work of the Holy Spirit is to proclaim the message of Jesus. Indeed, this is His job; to preach the message of Jesus Christ.

Summary – Question 11
Do Paul and Luke Mean Different Things by the Phrase, “baptism with the Holy Spirit?”

The Apostle Paul, as well as Luke the writer of Acts, mention the baptism with the Holy Spirit. However, they each describe it differently. We can explain the differences as follows.

Paul states that all believers have been baptized with the Holy Spirit into the body of Christ. It does not matter whether someone is Jew or Gentile, free or slave, everyone has been baptized with the Spirit. This takes place the moment someone believes in Jesus Christ.

In the Book of Acts, the baptism with the Spirit is mentioned on only two occasions. Jesus told His disciples to wait in Jerusalem for power to proclaim His message of forgiveness to the entire world. He would baptize them with the Spirit and they would receive this power to witness. This occurred on the Day of Pentecost. The Holy Spirit came down in a unique way on these believers. They now could testify to the message of the risen Christ.

The other occasion of the baptism with the Holy Spirit in Acts is Peter’s retelling the story of the Gentiles believing in Jesus. He equated their receiving the Holy Spirit to the same experience the disciples had on the Day of Pentecost – the baptism with the Holy Spirit.

It seems that each writer is emphasizing a different aspect of this ministry. Luke describes two times in history when people were baptized with the Holy Spirit. Thus, both Jews and Gentiles are part of this new work; the church.

Paul emphasizes that every believer has been baptized with the Holy Spirit into the church – the body of Christ.

Consequently, instead of seeing two different experiences, we should view these writers as describing two aspects of the same ministry. Thus, it is not two different baptisms with the Holy Spirit which is in view but rather two different perspectives of the baptism with the Spirit taking place. Paul’s explanation was doctrinal while Luke gives the historical record of the event taking place.

Is the Baptism with the Holy Spirit the Same Thing as Regeneration or Spiritual Rebirth? ← Prior Section
Does the Baptism with the Holy Spirit Normally, but Not Necessarily, Occur at the Moment of Salvation? Next Section →
CONTENT DISCLAIMER:

The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.


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