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

Don Stewart :: Is the Baptism with the Spirit the Same as the Filling of the Spirit?

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Is the Baptism with the Spirit the Same as the Filling of the Spirit?

Baptism with the Holy Spirit – Question 16

When the Bible speaks of the baptism and the filling of the Holy Spirit, is it speaking of the same thing? Some believers argue that the baptism and filling are two distinct experiences while others argue they are the same thing. What does the Bible have to say about this?

Option 1: The Baptism and Filling Are Two Names for the Same Experience

There is the position that the baptism and filling of the Spirit are not technical terms but rather two different names for the same experience. This is seen by the promise of Jesus which He made shortly before His ascension into heaven.

John baptized with water, but in just a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:5 NLT).

Jesus specifically told His disciples that they would be baptized with the Holy Spirit in just a few days.

We find that the fulfillment of this promise occurred on the Day of Pentecost. Scripture records what took place as follows.

Now when the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like a violent wind blowing came from heaven and filled the entire house where they were sitting. And tongues spreading out like a fire appeared to them and came to rest on each one of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit, and they began to speak in other languages as the Spirit enabled them (Acts 2:1-4 NET).

Jesus promised that they would be “baptized with the Holy Spirit” in a few days. When Scripture records the fulfillment of this promise on the Day of Pentecost, it says the disciples were “filled” with the Holy Spirit. Consequently, it is assumed that the baptism and the filling are the same thing.

Thus, the terms can be used interchangeably.

Option 2: The Case for Distinction between the Baptism and the Filling

Not everyone agrees that the baptism with the Spirit and the filling of the Spirit are the same thing. Those who argue for the distinction between the two terms do so in the following way.

The Baptism with the Spirit Occurs to All Christians, the Filling Does Not

The Scripture teach that the baptism with the Holy Spirit takes place at the moment of salvation and places believers into the body of Christ. All believers are baptized with the Spirit the moment of salvation. Paul wrote.

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 is a one-time occurrence for all believers.

However, the filling of the Holy Spirit is something that occurs repeatedly after the person is saved. Paul commanded the Ephesians, who were believers, to be filled with the Holy Spirit.

And do not get drunk with wine, which is debauchery, but be filled by the Spirit (Ephesians 5:18 NET).

The command given here is for a repeated filling of the Holy Spirit – it is not a once and for all experience. While it is possible for a believer not to be filled with the Spirit, it is impossible for a believer not to be baptized with the Holy Spirit.

The Baptism Occurs Only Once but the Filling Is Repeated

The baptism with the Holy Spirit is non-repeatable. No one is ever spoken of receiving the baptism with the Spirit more than once. It is a one-time experience for each believer

The filling of the Holy Spirit, on the other hand, is something that occurs many times in the life of the believer. Indeed, we see this in the lives of the apostles. We read the following about what happened to them on the Day of Pentecost.

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).

Here we are told that the disciples of Jesus Christ were filled with the Holy Spirit.

Yet these same disciples were filled again with the Holy Spirit at a later time. Again, we read of this in the Book of Acts.

And when they had prayed, the place where they were assembled together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness (Acts 4:31 NKJV).

There is a repeat of the filling of the Spirit. Consequently, a person can be “filled” or “controlled” by the Holy Spirit on more than one occasion.

The Baptism Sets the Stage for the Filling

The baptism with the Holy Spirit places a person in the body of Christ and sets the stage for the filling of the Spirit. The filling is an experiential work that has to do with living a Christian life. Each of these is an important ministry and it is important that we do not confuse these two operations of the Holy Spirit.

Spirit Baptism Is Compared and Contrasted to Water Baptism

Baptism with the Spirit is compared to baptism in water. Water baptism is a one-time act that occurs after a believer trusts Christ as Savior – it is never repeated. It pictures the new relationship the person now has with Jesus Christ.

In the same manner, Spirit baptism is a one-time experience that is never repeated. It is when the Holy Spirit unites the person to Jesus Christ. This uniting is never repeated. Thus, these two baptisms, Spirit and water, have much in common.

What Happened at Pentecost?

If the baptism and the filling are two different ministries of the Holy Spirit, then what happened on the Day of Pentecost? The Scriptures seem to speak of them as the same experience. Jesus made the following promise to the believers before He ascended into heaven.

John baptized with water, but in just a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:5 NLT).

On the Day of Pentecost this promise was fulfilled.

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).

The prophecy given by Jesus was fulfilled at Pentecost.

Is It the Same Experience?

Does this make the two the same experience? Not necessarily. On the Day of Pentecost the believers were both baptized and filled with the Holy Spirit. The baptism with the Spirit is what joined them to Jesus Christ and provided the basis for their spiritual power. The filling of the Holy Spirit was the experience of that power. When the Bible records that they were filled with the Holy Spirit, it demonstrates that the baptism with the Holy Spirit had occurred. Therefore, we should see them as two distinct operations of the Holy Spirit.

Conclusion to Option 2

In summary, the baptism and filling of the Holy Spirit are two separate ministries of the Spirit that occurred on the Day of Pentecost. Because the believers were baptized with the Holy Spirit, they were able to receive the Spirit’s filling. Four important points should be made.

  1. The baptism with the Spirit occurs at the moment of salvation. Every believer is baptized with the Holy Spirit. However, it is possible for believers not to be filled with the Holy Spirit.
  2. The baptism with the Holy Spirit occurs only once, while the filling of the Spirit occurs many times.
  3. The baptism with the Holy Spirit sets the stage for filling of the Spirit. The believer directly experiences the filling of the Spirit but the believer does not directly experience the baptism with the Holy Spirit.
  4. Spirit baptism is like water baptism – it is never repeated.

In sum, this second option seems to be the best way to understand the meaning of the baptism with the Spirit and the filling of the Spirit.

Summary – Question 16
Is the Baptism with the Spirit the Same as the Filling with the Spirit?

Among Bible believers there is a difference of opinion with respect to the baptism and the filling of the Holy Spirit. Some see the two as distinct experiences while others see them as the same thing.

Those who believe they are the same operation of the Holy Spirit argue as follows. Jesus promised His disciples that they would be baptized with the Spirit in a few days. When the fulfillment of that promise took place on the Day of Pentecost, it says that the people were filled with the Holy Spirit. Therefore, it is speaking of the same experience. Consequently, the terms should be used interchangeably.

Those who see them as two different ministries of the Holy Spirit point out that the baptism with the Spirit is the initial work of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer – it is never repeated. Furthermore, no believer is commanded to be “baptized with the Holy Spirit” because it is something done on their behalf. Thus, we can compare Spirit baptism to water baptism in the sense that they are both one-time experiences.

However, this is not true with the filling of the Spirit. Not only are believers commanded to be filled with the Holy Spirit, we find that the same people were filled with the Spirit on more than one occasion. It is something which can happen again and again.

Thus, we may rightly conclude that all believers are baptized with the Spirit but it is possible for a believer not to be filled with the Spirit. The filling only takes place when we yield to Jesus.

Consequently, on the Day of Pentecost the believers were both baptized and filled with the Spirit. They were placed into the body of Christ by the Holy Spirit by the baptism with the Holy Spirit. This allowed them to be filled with the Spirit of God so that they could boldly speak forth His truth to the world.

What Is the Filling of the Holy Spirit? ← Prior Section
What Happened on the Day of Pentecost with Respect to the Holy Spirit and Believers? 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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