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

Don Stewart :: What Conclusions Can Be Made concerning the Baptism with the Holy Spirit?

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What Conclusions Can Be Made concerning the Baptism with the Holy Spirit? (Spirit Baptism)

Baptism with the Holy Spirit – Question 29

The baptism with the Holy Spirit is a difficult doctrine. Nobody denies this. However, after looking at what the Bible has to say on the subject we are able to make some conclusions to this much-debated work of the Holy Spirit. They include the following.

The Phrase the Baptism of the Holy Spirit Does Not Appear in Scripture

The proper terminology is baptism “with” the Holy Spirit, or “by” the Holy Spirit. The phrase, “baptism of the Holy Spirit” is not a biblical phrase.

Spirit Baptism Is Not the Same as Water Baptism

It is important to make the distinction between Spirit baptism and water baptism. Water baptism is a public act that should be the experience of all believers. Spirit baptism is an invisible working of the Holy Spirit in the lives of all believers.

The Baptism with the Holy Spirit Is Never Defined in Scripture

While the phrase, “baptism with the Holy Spirit” is used a number of times in the New Testament it is never defined for us. This being the case, we can only discover exactly what it is by a through a study of the Scripture.

Jesus Is the One Who Baptizes with the Holy Spirit

The baptism with the Holy Spirit is something that is associated with the ministry of Jesus Christ. Indeed, this particular work of the Holy Spirit had never occurred before Jesus came into the world. In fact, it was still future after Jesus’ resurrection.

The Baptism with the Spirit Did Not Occur until the Day of Pentecost

It was not until the day of Pentecost that the baptism with the Holy Spirit occurred for the first time. Those before Pentecost looked forward to the experience of being baptized with the Spirit while those after the Day of Pentecost looked back to its occurrence as a past historical event.

Believers Are Divided as to the Meaning and Application of the Baptism with the Holy Spirit

The exact meaning of this doctrine is something that has divided Bible-believers. Some think that this happens occurs the moment a person trusts Jesus Christ as Savior. However, others believe it happens sometime after the “born again” experience.

The Doctrine of the Baptism with the Holy Spirit Should Not Divide Believers

While there is a difference of opinion among believers about this subject, it should not divide those who know Christ as their Savior. It is certainly proper for believers to hold opposing views about this difficult doctrine. What is not proper is making this doctrine a test of fellowship or a cause for division. There is room for differing opinions on this subject.

All Believers Need to Be Careful about Making Authoritative Statements about the Baptism with the Holy Spirit

Our next point concerns how we should respond to those who hold a different perspective than we do with respect to the doctrine of the baptism with the Holy Spirit. Because there are good Christians who have different views about this topic it is important that no one assumes that they have the last word on the subject. While we can have our own personal convictions, we need to hold them with humility and grace.

Any Conclusions about the Baptism with the Holy Spirit Should Come from Teaching Portions, Not Narrative Parts of Scripture

It is important that we derive our views of the baptism with the Holy Spirit from the teaching portions of Scripture, rather than the narrative parts. The narrative parts merely tell us what happened – they usually do not provide any explanation as to why something happened or what it means.

These truths about the meaning of certain events are found in the teaching portions of Scripture. Much that is assumed to be true about the baptism with the Holy Spirit is found in the narrative parts. Conclusions are made based upon certain events that happened. However these events are not explained for us in the context. Therefore, it is wrong to draw conclusions merely from the various accounts of baptizing work of the Holy Spirit.

We must also remember that not everything that is described in Scripture is necessarily for us. We can only appropriate, or claim, what God has promised or what God has commanded – not merely what God has described. Thus, certain experiences may be limited to a distinct group of people living at a certain time in history. We must allow for this possibility.

We must also appreciate the fact that the Bible records the historical unfolding of events in God’s program. These events occurred in a certain chronological sequence as the plan and purpose of God unfolded. However, many of them are non-repeatable. Consequently, we should not necessarily assume that everything which happened to Jesus’ disciples will also happen to us.

We Should Not Assume That Our Experience with the Holy Spirit Must Be the Experience of Others

There is the tendency to assume that our experience with God should be the experience of every believer. But this is not the case. Jesus said of the working of the Spirit.

Do not be amazed that I told you that you must be born again. The wind blows where it pleases, and you hear its sound, but you don’t know where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit (John 3:7, 8 HCSB).

Believers, with the right motives, often attempt to want everyone to have the same experience with the Holy Spirit as they have had. Since some particular work of Holy Spirit has blessed them, they wish others to experience the same thing. However, the Holy Spirit does not work the same way in each person. Indeed, we should not assume that our experience is the only one that people should have. Therefore we should not insist that others have the same experience with the Holy Spirit as we have.

We Should Not Assume That the Experience of Others Must Be for Us

There is also the problem of desiring the same experience with the Holy Spirit that someone else has had. While there may be other individuals and groups who speak of unique experiences with the Holy Spirit this may not be true for us. God may not have the same thing in mind for our life. We must be careful not to compare ourselves to others. It is important not to covet, or desire, something that someone else has with respect to the work of the Holy Spirit. Unless, of course, that their experience is something that is promised to every believer.

We Should Not Always Assume That Someone Did Not Have a Genuine Experience with the Holy Spirit

There are times when we hear a person tell of their experience with the Holy Spirit. This may make us uncomfortable because it is not been our personal experience with the Spirit of God. However, just because we have not experienced the same thing as others does not necessarily make their experience invalid. A person may have a genuine experience with the Holy Spirit and then incorrectly label it. While the label may be incorrect this does not mean the experience was invalid. We must be careful not to deny that the Holy Spirit may have worked in a unique way in person’s life. If the experience is in line with Scripture, then who are we to say it was not valid?

There Are Not Two Different Types of Christians

One of the problems with arguing that the baptism with the Holy Spirit is a definite experience that follows salvation is that it tends to divide Christians into two classes. There are those Christians who have been baptized with the Holy Spirit, the more enlightened ones, and there are those who have not, the ones who are missing something. This is unfortunate. The Bible does not make this type of distinction among Christians and neither should anyone else.

Scripture, Not Personal Experience Should Have the Last Word on This Issue

This brings us to our next point. It is the Scripture, and not personal experience, that should have the last word on the subject of the baptism with the Holy Spirit. Personal experience should never be our guide in deciding what is, and what is not true. While a personal experience may be valid, it does not determine what is true. Only the Word of God can do that.

Believers Should Emphasize What Unifies Them

There are certain things about the work of the Holy Spirit that we do know for certain. As believers, we do want everything that God has for us. We all need to be filled and guided with God’s Holy Spirit. This is what should be emphasized among Bible-believers. There is a great need for the Holy Spirit’s power in the lives of believers. This should be our goal.

Summary – Question 29
What Conclusions Can Be Made concerning the Baptism with the Holy Spirit? (Spirit Baptism)

There are a number of conclusions we can make with respect to the subject of the baptism with the Holy Spirit. They include the following.

The term, “the baptism of the Holy Spirit” is not found in Scripture. Scripture speaks of the baptism “with” the Holy Spirit. This ministry of the Holy Spirit, which is not the same as water baptism, is never defined. We do know that Jesus Christ is the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit. Furthermore, the baptism with the Holy Spirit did not occur until the Day of Pentecost.

The meaning and application of the baptism with the Holy Spirit has divided believers. While it is proper to have differences of opinion on the subject, it should not be a reason for believers to separate from one another. Moreover, believers should be careful about making authoritative statements about the baptism with the Holy Spirit. While we can, and should, have our views on this subject, we should always hold them with love towards all.

It is important to stress that any conclusions that are made about this topic should come from the sections of Scripture that are teaching doctrine. Indeed, it should not come from parts that merely narrate what occurred. Narrative portions must always be interpreted in light of parts which spell out specific doctrines.

We should not assume that others must have the same experience with the Holy Spirit as we have had. God works in each of us in His own way and in His own time. We should never compare ourselves to others.

Also we should not assume that the experience that others have had with the Holy Spirit is necessarily for us. God may be doing a unique work in the life of someone; a work which He has not desired to do in our life. We must allow for that possibility.

Furthermore, it is not up to us to determine whether a person has had a genuine experience with God through the Holy Spirit. God may give a certain believer an experience with the Spirit of God which we cannot understand or identify with. This, however, does not necessarily mean that the experience is invalid.

We must also stress that there are not two types of Christians – those who have the fullness of the Holy Spirit and those who do not. The Bible does not make this distinction and certainly neither should we!

In the end, as is true with every biblical question, it is Scripture, not personal experience that determines what we believe on this issue. It alone is our final guide.

Finally, whatever our belief on this subject may be, we should always remain unified with other believers. We are all God’s children through faith in Jesus Christ. Our main desire should be to please Him and He is not pleased when His children separate themselves from one another over beliefs such as this. This is especially true when we discover that the Holy Spirit has been given to unify Christians. We should strive to maintain this unity.

Was the Holy Spirit Only with Believers, and Not in Them, before the Day of Pentecost? ← Prior Section
Foundational Truths about the Gifts of the Spirit (Introduction) 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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