Several weeks ago, during our series on Romans 28, I shared some foundational truths about the Holy Spirit and his ministry in our lives.
Perhaps the most important foundational truth is that the Holy Spirit is present, and present fully, in every believer.
Some insist this is not the case. They believe that subsequent to experiencing salvation, the believer must then experience the “baptism of the Spirit,” at which point, the believer receives the Holy Spirit and is “filled” with him. The evidence that this has occurred is speaking in tongues.
In my opinion, this argument is based on flimsy biblical evidence.
Just to clarify . . . I believe in the baptism of the Holy Spirit. However, I believe the Bible is crystal-clear that this is something that automatically occurs at the moment of conversion for every believer.
The Bible nowhere commands us to be baptized in the Spirit. This is remarkable. Think of it . . . if Spirit baptism (separate from conversion) is a necessary & vital experience for Christians, wouldn’t the New Testament be filled with admonitions to seek or experience it? Yet, there’s no mention of it.
The evidence commonly cited in support of Spirit baptism (as a separate event) is found in the book of Acts, where there are 3 occasions in which a there is a gap between a person’s conversion and his/her experience of receiving the Holy Spirit.
Acts 2 -- Jesus told his disciples to wait in Jerusalem for the Holy Spirit.
Acts 8 -- when the apostles heard that some Samaritans had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter & John to visit them. Upon their arrival, they prayed for the Samaritans to receive the Holy Spirit.
Acts 19 -- Paul was in Ephesus and came upon some disciples of John the Baptist. Paul asked them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” They answered, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.”
Analyzing the Examples
Bear in mind, this is all there is in terms of biblical evidence in support of Spirit baptism as a separate experience.
But now, what should we make of these 3 passages?
Even Spirit baptism advocates agree that the events in Acts 2 were unique. The Holy Spirit would not come until Christ had returned to heaven. Not only that, but the Spirit’s arrival was accompanied by tongues of fire and a rushing wind.
The Acts 8 circumstance was the first expansion of the gospel to non-Jews (Samaritans were half-breeds). It was important for the apostles to witness the arrival of the Holy Spirit in order to impress upon them that the gospel was for all people. They had been slow to catch on to that fact.
In Acts 19, the Ephesian townspeople weren’t Christ-followers yet. They were disciples of John the Baptist. Thus, they received the Holy Spirit UPON THEIR BELIEF IN CHRIST.
Here’s the bottom line: There’s really only one example in the Bible (Acts 19) of persons receiving the Holy Spirit separate from their conversion. And that one example was extremely unique insofar as the gospel was now spreading to non-Jews.
I would argue, and it’s been the consensus view of the Church for at least 1,900 of its 2,000 year history, that the Acts 19 example provides no legitimate basis on which to construct a doctrine that requires a separate experience of receiving the Holy Spirit.
In the next article, I will address what it means to be “filled” with the Holy Spirit.