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  • Writer's pictureJan Weihl

Baptism by the Holy Spirit (Acts 1)

I wonder if the phrase, "Baptism by the Holy Spirit," is perhaps one of the most misunderstood phrases throughout Scripture. What does it mean to be "baptized by the Holy Spirit?" How do we know if we have been baptized by the Holy Spirit?

This may be one of those doctrinal subjects that if you talk to 10 different people, you will get 10 different views on exactly what "baptism of the Holy Spirit" means. But what if we just look at Scripture and see what God's Word tells us about this:

Jesus said baptism by the Holy Spirit is "the Promise of the Father." After we hear the gospel of salvation and truly believe in it, we are sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise.

Acts 1:4-5 And being assembled together with them, He commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the Promise of the Father, “which,” He said, “you have heard from Me; [5] for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”

The word, baptize, "baptizo," in the Greek, means to submerge or immerse. Whether we are talking about water baptism or baptized with the Holy Spirit, we are to be totally immersed in our dedication to follow Jesus.

So is there any where else in Scripture that tells us about the Holy Spirit being the "Promise of the Father?"

Ephesians 1:13-14 In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.

Notice when this says we are sealed with the Holy Spirit. First, we hear the gospel and we trust in it. What are we trusting in? We trust that Jesus is God who took on human flesh, lived a sinless life, died on a cross in our place to take away our sins and has called those of us who trust in Him to live as His followers (disciples).

Matthew 28:19-20 [19] Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, [20] and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.

Now some will say that you have to have hands laid on you to receive the Holy Spirit. Others will say you have to be baptized by water to receive the Holy Spirit.

Neither are true because we see examples in Scripture of people receiving the Holy Spirit who were not baptized and did not have hands laid on them:

Acts 10:44,47 44 While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message. 47 Then Peter answered, "Can anyone forbid water, that these should not be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?"

Some will say that you have not received the Holy Spirit if you don't "speak in tongues." But again, this teaching is not consistent with Scripture:

(1) Paul tells us that after receiving the Holy Spirit, we will be given different spiritual gifts. The distribution of these gifts to different members of the body of Christ is so that we can work together as one body to proclaim the gospel and do the work of the Kingdom of God:

1 Corinthians 12:4-11 [4] There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. [5] There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. [6] And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all. [7] But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all: [8] for to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge through the same Spirit, [9] to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healings by the same Spirit, [10] to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits, to another different kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. [11] But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills.

[2] Once we have repented of our sins and trusted in Jesus, we will receive spiritual gifts. They will be different for each of us. Each of us should use the gifts we are given to do the work God calls us to:

1 Corinthians 12:27-31 [27] Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually. [28] And God has appointed these in the church: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, varieties of tongues. [29] Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Are all workers of miracles? [30] Do all have gifts of healings? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? [31] But earnestly desire the best gifts.

So how do we know if we have been baptized with the Holy Spirit?

1) Have you repented of your sins and trusted in Jesus as your Savior and the Lord of your life or have you just gone through the motions while still trying to sit on the throne deciding for yourself what is right and what is wrong rather than submitting to Jesus?

2) Are you living each day in gratitude to Jesus, drawing close to Him through His Word and following Him or living for your own pleasure with Jesus really being no part of your daily life?

3) Do you have a fire in you to draw close to Jesus and seek Him in worship and obedience?

To be honest, I don't know what it looks like for you to know you have been baptized by the Holy Spirit. All I can really tell you is, this is what it looks like for me. This is what changed in me that gives me assurance that I have been sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise who is the guarantee of my inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession.

I don't think it's that hard or that complex. It's just realizing our sins and that Jesus is God who loves us and wants us to turn to Him. Will you turn to Him and accept His love for you today?

Dear Lord, We sometimes make the promises in Your Word hard and I know that's not your desire. Your desire is that we know how much You love us demonstrated by Your death in our place. Your desire is that everyone would choose to repent and come to you so that no one would perish. Your desire is that everyone would choose to have eternal life with you rather than eternal punishment without You. Your desire is that everyone would experience Your love, starting now, in this life, through the baptism of Your Holy Spirit within us, from now through eternity. Thank you Lord for sending the Helper, the Holy Spirit, who teaches us all things, convicts us in what is wrong, and guides us in how to serve You each day. In Jesus' name, amen.

Jan Weihl

Living Word Ministries

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