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

Don Stewart :: Does the Baptism with the Holy Spirit Normally, but Not Necessarily, Occur at the Moment of Salvation?

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Does the Baptism with the Holy Spirit Normally, but Not Necessarily, Occur at the Moment of Salvation?

Baptism with the Holy Spirit – Question 12

There is the perspective, which is held by some Bible-believers, that while the baptism with the Holy Spirit may occur when a believer is saved it also may not. The normal thing to happen is that this experience accompanies conversion. However, it is not true in all cases. Believers in Christ who live their Christian life “in the flesh” sometimes have a “crisis” experience that allows them to “walk in the Spirit.” The following illustrations are usually cited.

The Example of Jesus’ Disciples

The disciples of Jesus would be an example of people receiving the power of the Spirit after they were saved. We know that they had been saved during the ministry of Christ. Indeed, Jesus said that they were “clean” through the Word He had given to them.

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

Obviously they had already believed.

Yet they were told to wait for the power of the Spirit. We read the following words of Jesus in Luke’s gospel.

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).

These disciples are an example of the need to wait for the Spirit after believing in Jesus.

The Example of the Samaritans

The Samaritans are another example of the delayed reception of the Holy Spirit. We find that they believed in Jesus Christ and were baptized in water but they did not receive the Holy Spirit until Peter and John came from Jerusalem and laid hands upon them. The Book of Acts says.

When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them. When they arrived, they prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit, because the Holy Spirit had not yet come upon any of them; they had simply been baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus. Then Peter and John placed their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit. (Acts 8:14-17 NIV).

Consequently, for certain people, there is a delay from the time they initially believe in Christ until the time they receive the power of the Holy Spirit which is the baptism with the Holy Spirit.

Paul’s Example

The Apostle Paul is a third example in the Book of Acts of the reception of the Spirit’s power occurring sometime after one trusts Christ. He became a Christian on the road to Damascus. However it was not until a few days later that Ananias came and prayed with him to be filled, or baptized, with the Holy Spirit. The Bible explains what happened in this manner.

So Ananias departed and entered the house, and after laying his hands on him said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road by which you were coming, has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 9:17 NASB).

The Bible again teaches that the reception of the Spirit’s power may take place at a different time than conversion.

The Disciples in Ephesus

The disciples that Paul encountered in Ephesus also testify to the reception of the Holy Spirit occurring sometime after a person is saved. Paul asked them if they had received the Holy Spirit upon believing.

He [Paul] said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” So they said to him, “We have not so much as heard whether there is a Holy Spirit” (Acts 19:2 NKJV).

They admitted they had not even heard of the Holy Spirit. When Paul preached to them they then believed. We are then told that this happened next.

And when Paul had laid hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke with tongues and prophesied (Acts 19:6 NKJV).

The Holy Spirit came upon them after they believed rather than at the same time of their conversion.

The Example of the Gentiles

While these some received the Holy Spirit after believing this is not true in every case. The Gentiles are an example of people receiving the Spirit of God the moment they become saved. As Peter was preaching the Holy Spirit fell upon them.

While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who heard the word (Acts 10:44 NKJV).

Therefore these Gentiles, contrary to Jesus’ disciples, the believers in Samaria, the Apostle Paul, and the disciples in Ephesus, received the Holy Spirit the moment they were saved.

Conclusion on What the Bible Says

The conclusion made from these examples is that some people receive the baptism with the Holy Spirit upon conversion while others do not. There may or may not be delay in the initial reception. The experience of the believer may be one or the other.

Response to the Possibility of the Delay of Receiving the Holy Spirit

This position assumes there is a delay from the initial reception of the Holy Spirit and His baptizing ministry. However, this is not the case. While it is true that the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit is not the same as His baptizing work there is no indication in the New Testament that they are to occur at different times.

Indeed, as we look at the totality of the evidence we find that they take place at the same time; the moment a person trusts Christ as his or her Savior; there is no need for anyone to wait.

The Transitional Nature of Acts Is Overlooked

This perspective also overlooks the transitional nature of the Book of Acts. Acts is not describing the normative life of believers. Rather it describes the beginning of the church from its Jewish roots into the world of non-Jews (Samaritans and Gentiles).

When the message of Jesus Christ reached these non-Jewish people some remarkable things occurred with respect to the Holy Spirit. However, this is not the norm for believers during this age. Indeed, they are the exception to the rule. In this age, the reception of the Holy Spirit takes place the moment one believes in Jesus Christ, not anytime afterward. Thus, we should not use these unique groups to determine our view as to when a person receives the Spirit of God in their lives. That is determined from clear statements of Scripture.

Summary – Question 12
Does the Baptism with the Holy Spirit Normally, but Not Necessarily, Occur at the Moment of Salvation?

It is argued that from the Book of Acts the baptism with the Holy Spirit is sometimes received after people are converted to Jesus Christ but on other occasions it happens the very moment they are saved. This means there is no set pattern with the reception. For example there was a delay when the Samaritans received the baptism with the Holy Spirit. The same holds true for Saul of Tarsus. The power of the Spirit came to him a couple of days after he was converted. We find that same thing occurring in the city of Ephesus when Paul spoke to certain men about Jesus.

However, when Peter preached the gospel to the Gentiles the Holy Spirit immediately fell upon them. This indicates there may be a time lag between conversion and the reception of the power of the Spirit or there may not be a time lag. Either is possible.

However, the evidences that used to support this view are the spectacular and abnormal comings of the Holy Spirit in the Book of Acts. The transitional nature of the Book of Acts is overlooked. These groups represented the various peoples who became part of the church, the body of Christ.

The disciples of Jesus were believers living between two ages; the age of law and the age of grace. This certainly cannot happen any longer!

The Samaritans were half-Jew, half-Gentile. Since they had their own temple and place of worship separate from the Jews it was necessary that they were united together in Christ. This is why tow Jewish apostles came and laid hands on them to receive the Holy Spirit. It was to show they were one with them “in Christ.” Their delay in receiving the Holy Spirit was a unique event; it was not the norm for this age.

Saul of Tarsus is never said to have received the “baptism with the Holy Spirit” but rather the filling of the Spirit. They are not the same thing.

The disciples whom Paul spoke to in Ephesus were Old Testament believers. They had accepted the message of John the Baptist that the Christ was to come. Yet they did not know about Jesus! Consequently, this was their conversion experience which was recorded.

Therefore this position that there may be a delay in the reception of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer has little biblical support.

Do Paul And Luke Mean Different Things By The Phrase, "Baptism With The Holy Spirit?" ← Prior Section
Was Jesus Baptized with the Holy Spirit? Next Section →
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