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

Don Stewart :: Is There a Difference between the Holy Spirit Being "in" a Person and Being "upon" a Person?

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Is There a Difference between the Holy Spirit Being ‘in’ a Person and Being ‘upon’ a Person?

Baptism with the Holy Spirit – Question 26

Often people speak about two different relationships of the Holy Spirit to the believer. They say that the Spirit is “in” (Greek word en) a person when that individual receives Jesus Christ as Savior. Later, the Spirit of God comes “upon” (Greek word epi) someone when that person receives the baptism with the Holy Spirit. Is this distinction something that the Bible teaches?

There are several points that need to be made about this common argument.

There Is No Biblical Basis for This Distinction

The Bible does make a distinction between the Holy Spirit being in a person and upon a person but it is not in the same way many people apply it. Indeed, as we search the Scripture, we find that there is no need for a second blessing, or a crisis experience with the Holy Spirit, as though God has held back some of His blessings for us.

Once the person has believed in Jesus Christ they immediately receive the Holy Spirit. Paul wrote to the Ephesians.

And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession–to the praise of his glory (Ephesians 1:13-14 TNIV).

The Holy Spirit will never leave the believer in Jesus Christ. Furthermore, there is no need to have a second experience when the Holy Spirit comes “upon” them. The Holy Spirit has already given the believer everything he or she needs to do the work of the ministry. Paul also made this clear when he wrote to the Ephesians.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ (Ephesians 1:3 TNIV).

Note well that all believers in Jesus Christ have been blessed with “every” spiritual blessing in the heavens. We lack nothing!

The Holy Spirit Was upon Simeon

There is something else we must note. There is no basis for the argument that the Greek words en and epi signify two different relationships between the Holy Spirit and the believer. People have incorrectly made too much of these different Greek words en meaning “in” and epi meaning “upon” as though this signified two different relationships with the Holy Spirit.

Indeed, their reasoning does not fit the biblical evidence. For example, the Holy Spirit is said to have come upon (epi) the man Simeon. The New Testament tells us that he was in the temple area waiting the appearance of the “Christ Child.” We read of this in the Gospel of Luke.

And behold there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon, and this man was just and devout, waiting for the Consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon (epi) him (Luke 2:25 NKJV).

Here was a person living some thirty years before the Day of Pentecost, before anyone had been baptized by the Holy Spirit, yet we are told the Holy Spirit was “upon” him.

We know that nobody was baptized with the Holy Spirit until after Christ had ascended into heaven after His death and resurrection.

In fact, immediately, before His ascension, Jesus spoke of the baptism with the Holy Spirit as something yet future. The Lord said.

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

Yet, as we just noted, the Bible says that the Spirit was “upon” Simeon. Thus, the Greek preposition epi cannot uniquely refer to the baptism with the Holy Spirit in the case of Simeon. Indeed, the baptism with the Holy Spirit had not yet taken place for anyone at that time.

The Holy Spirit Has No Physical Form

Furthermore, we must remember that the Holy Spirit is invisible and has no physical form. Since the Bible does not tell us where or how He indwells us, it seems impossible to make a distinction between the non-material Holy Spirit being “in” someone and “upon” someone. Obviously we cannot take this literally.

The biblical idea with these terms is that He is controlling someone and giving them power to do the work of the ministry. It is not trying to describe where He physically resides in each believer.

We Should Not Make Doctrine Out of Prepositions

There is another important point. One should not base a doctrine upon prepositions. Although the words epi and en have different meanings there is some overlap between the two. Consequently it is important that we do not attempt to make Bible doctrine out of the use of prepositions.

In sum, we can conclude that the Greek prepositions, when used to describe the work of the Holy Spirit in the lives of individuals, do not provide evidence for a “second blessing” or a separate “baptism with the Holy Spirit.”

Summary – Question 26
Is There a Difference between the Holy Spirit Being “in” a Person and “upon” a Person?

Some people attempt to make a distinction of the work of the Holy Spirit in the life of a believer based upon the Greek prepositions “epi” and “en”. The Holy Spirit is in [en] believers when they are saved but upon [epi] them when they are baptized with the Spirit. Thus, it is argued that these Greek prepositions teach a twofold relationship of the Holy Spirit with the believer.

However, it cannot be biblically justified on a number of accounts. We can make the following observations.

First, Scripture is clear that the Holy Spirit enters a believer the moment they trust Christ as Savior. Furthermore, we are told that we have already been given everything we need in Jesus Christ. In other words, we lack nothing. There is no need for a crisis experience after salvation as though God has withheld something from us.

In addition, it is wrong to make a distinction of two different relationships of the Holy Spirit to the believer based upon the Greek words used. We find Simeon having the Holy Spirit upon [epi] him before the Day of Pentecost, before anyone was baptized with the Holy Spirit. Thus, the Greek preposition epi should not be viewed as a technical term which indicates someone has received the “second blessing” or “baptism with the Holy Spirit.”

There is something else which we need to realize; the Holy Spirit has no physical form. Therefore it is impossible to distinguish between the non-material Spirit being in and upon someone.

Finally, it is not a good idea to make technical doctrinal statements out of prepositions. There is too much overlap in their meaning. Therefore, this argument of the twofold relationship of the Holy Spirit with the believer based upon the use of certain Greek prepositions does not hold up.

What Happened in the Upper Room When Jesus Told His Disciples to Receive the Holy Spirit? ← Prior Section
What Is Meant by the Statement, "the Spirit Is Not Yet Given?" Next Section →
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