Baptism in the Holy Spirit
By F. M. Perry
Prophecies Concerning Baptism in the Holy Spirit.
“And as for me (John the Baptist), I baptize you with water for repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, and I am not fit to remove His sandals; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” (Matthew 3:11).
Matthew’s gospel records that John the Baptist made the statement, “He (the Messiah) will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” The recipients of the statement were people in general who were coming out to him “from Jerusalem, all Judea, and all the district around the Jordan,” including “many of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” (Matthew 3:5, 7). The same prophecy is also recorded by the Gospels of Mark, Luke, and John, respectively. “I baptize you with water; but He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” (Mark 1:8). “John answered and said to them all, ‘As for me, I baptize you with water; but One is coming who is mightier than I, and I am not fit to untie the thong of His sandals; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” (Luke 3:16). “And John bore witness saying, ... ‘He upon whom you see the Spirit descending and remaining upon Him, this is the one who baptizes in the Holy Spirit.’” (John 1:32-33). According to the context, John’s prophecies about “baptism in the Holy Spirit and fire” were made to the Jewish people in general and not to just a chosen or select group of disciples or apostles.
Baptism in the Holy Spirit to Occur “Not Many Days from Now.”
There was later an occasion in which Jesus Himself, after His resurrection and before His ascension into heaven, repeated John’s prophecy to His disciples who were gathered together with Him in Jerusalem. Luke records the happening as follows:
“And gathering them together, He commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for what the Father had promised, ‘which,’ He said, ‘you heard from Me; for John baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.’” (Acts 1:4-5).
Jesus’ prophecy at this time undoubtedly was a reiteration of both John the Baptist’s prophecy as well as Joel’s prophecy made in the Old Testament Book of Joel 2:28-32.
“And it will come about after this that I will pour out my Spirit on all mankind; And your sons and daughters will prophecy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. And even on the male and female servants I will pour out my Spirit in those days. And I will display wonders in the sky and on the earth, blood, fire, and columns of smoke. The sun will be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes. And it will come about that whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be delivered; for on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there will be those who escape, as the Lord has said, Even among the survivors whom the Lord calls.” (Joel 2:28-32).
Baptism in the Holy Spirit Occurred on Day of Pentecost.
Apparently we see the fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy, of John the Baptist’s prophecy, and also of Jesus’ prophecy in Peter’s account of the miraculous happenings in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost 50 days after the Death, Burial, and Resurrection, and 10 days after the Ascension of Jesus Christ, as recorded in Acts chapter 2. Peter explained to the multitude of Jews gathered in Jerusalem at that time, “This is what was spoken of through the prophet Joel; ‘And it shall be in the last days, God says that I will pour forth of My Spirit on all mankind.’” (Acts 2:16-17).
John the Baptist’s prophecy, “He will baptize (immerse) you with the Holy Spirit,” is understood to be a reiteration of Joel’s prophecy, “God says that I will pour forth of My Spirit on all mankind.”
Meaning of the Word Baptism.
To understand these prophecies it may be important to understand the meaning of the word “baptism.” John mentioned“baptism in water,” “baptism in the Holy Spirit,” and “baptism in fire.” There was to be a degree of similarity among the three baptisms? The baptisms would be similar in that each would be a “total immersion of a body” in a substance. But the baptisms would be different in that the immersion substances would be different. Water is a material substance which a human being can see and feel. As the human being’s body is baptized in water, he is aware of the water, seeing it and feeling it. During the baptism, no water enters within his body. It is the intent of baptism in water to immerse the person’s body in water, but not to introduce water into his body.
In the case of people being “baptized” in the Holy Spirit, as in the case of God’s “pouring out” the Holy Spirit on people, the substance in which the person is “immersed” is the invisible, undetectable, spiritual essence of Almighty God Himself. A human being might be “baptized in the Holy spirit” without being aware of it, unless the Holy Spirit Himself miraculously made it apparent. After all, the Holy Spirit is invisible to the five human fleshly senses. In the act of baptizing a person’s body, the body is immersed in the Holy spirit, but the Holy Spirit is not introduced “within the body” of the person. The Spirit was “poured out” to baptize or immerse the bodies of “all mankind” but not to immediately “indwell” the bodies of “all mankind.”
The only objections I have received to the application of this concept to “baptism in the Holy Spirit” are comments by people who say, “I do not see how the Lord could baptize someone in the Holy Spirit without them being aware of it.” This answer seems to be prompted by a false notion that human beings are naturally equipped to sense the presence of the Spirit of God. But people cannot naturally sense the presence of God with their fleshly senses. This objection is more likely due to a preconceived notion that a baptism in the Holy Spirit will always be accompanied by miraculous visible manifestations, as those described by Luke in Acts chapter 2, that occurred on the first Pentecost after the ascension of Jesus to heaven. I refer to such things as “a noise like a violent, rushing wind,” or “tongues as of fire distributing themselves,” or the sudden miraculous ability of disciples “to speak with other tongues.” (Acts 2:2-4). In actuality, the miraculous manifestations which the people sensed at that time were in addition to the Lord’s “pouring out of His Spirit on all mankind.” They were the Spirit’s method of calling to mankind’s attention that a baptism of all mankind was taking place which they would not have been able to otherwise notice!
What Actually Happened on That Pentecost?
Only a minute portion of “all mankind” were physically present on that Pentecost morning to see and hear the miraculous manifestations. Yet, the prophecy was that God would pour out His Spirit on “all mankind.” Peter said, “This is what was spoken of through the prophet Joel.” Who is to say that it didn’t happen as Peter said?
Among God’s covenants with mankind, perhaps the most significant innovation since creation was brought into active operation that Pentecost morning. Joel’s prophecy came into fulfillment that morning. The prophecy was that “the great and glorious day of the Lord shall come, and it shall be, that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Acts 2:21). It actually happened. For that is the result of the pouring out of Christ’s Spirit on “all mankind.” Jesus Christ became “Emanuel (God with us)” to the fullest spiritual extent that morning. (As in Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:23). “Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20). Jesus’ own prophecy to the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well began its fulfillment that morning. “But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth, for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and in truth. ” (John 4:23-24). How fitting to establish the Godhead’s spiritual presence on earth by “pouring out” the Holy Spirit to be permanently so near as for “all mankind” to be immersed in His presence.
That morning the Holy Spirit was poured out to encompass (to baptize) “all mankind.” That was the testimony of the Apostle Peter.
Another very important thing with respect to God’s use of His Holy Spirit for the coming Christian Age happened on that particular Pentecost morning. It was made evident to us by the record of Peter’s answer to the question asked at that time by some 3,000 believing souls, “Brethren, what shall we do?” Peter answered them, “Repent, and let each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 2:37-38). The baptism Peter urged them to accept was a baptism in water (symbolic of Jesus’ burial and resurrection, Romans 6:4), and “for the forgiveness of your sins.” Two unique promises were made by God to each person who obeyed this urgent command: the forgiveness of your sins, and the Holy Spirit Himself as your individual gift to thereafter indwell your body. (Acts 5:32).
Some students of the Scriptures are quick at this point to assume that this “gift of the Holy Spirit” to indwell the recipient was simply a part of what Joel referred to as “pouring out of the Spirit on all mankind,” or what John the Baptist referred to as the multitude’s “baptism in the Holy Spirit.” But it must be remembered that “baptism in the Holy Spirit” was always referred to as a sort of class action performed by God on all mankind and, on this particular Pentecost morning had already occurred by the will of the Holy Spirit Himself to all mankind, a mankind who had no way of being aware of their baptism in an unseen substance, the Holy Spirit. It was later in the day that individuals who made their own decision to be baptized in water for the forgiveness of their sins, were given the promised gift of the Holy Spirit to indwell them individually.
This was the next step in God’s planed innovation for the Christian Age, the setting up of the Kingdom of God on earth. It was done by issuing Christ’s first invitation of the age which set the stage for God to plant in the earthly temples (bodies) of mankind the actual spiritual presence of Christ’s Holy Spirit to become, both individually and collectively, Christ’s Spiritual Body for the age. “Repent, and let each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 2:38. See also 1 Corinthians 3:16-17; 6:19-20). Thus was established upon the earth the spiritual “Body of Christ.” In this way Jesus Christ assures us of His “being with us always, even to the end of the age.”
It isn’t by miraculous manifestations of “things seen” today by which we are assured, but by the “still small voice” which plants the “eternal things unseen” as seeds of faith in our souls which attest to spiritual truths, and gives us food for spiritual growth.
Still another prophecy, made specifically to the Apostles only 10 days earlier by Jesus Himself, also began its fulfillment that morning. “You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.” (Acts 1:8).
That was to be Jesus’ action through His Apostles to set the stage for the Christian age. For from it’s fulfillment came the various spiritual gifts exhibited by the Apostles as they spoke in languages they had not learned on that Pentecost morning, as described in Acts chapter 2. It was the fulfillment of Jesus’ prophecy to His selected Apostles, fulfilled by His now ever present and nearby Holy Spirit, through whom His Apostles were given miraculous knowledge and gifts of healing. (It must be remembered by us today that the first century Christians did not have the written New Testament Bible from which to learn and teach.) Some time later the Apostle Paul explained to the Corinthian brethren (and to us) how and why the Holy Spirit distributed special miraculous gifts to certain of the very first Christians:
“But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, and to another the word of knowledge according to the same Spirit; to another faith by the same Spirit, and to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, and to another the effecting of miracles, and to another prophecy, and to another the distinguishing of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, and to another the interpretation of tongues. But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills.” (1 Corinthians 12:7-11).
The distribution of miraculous gifts to certain Christians in accordance with the Holy Spirit’s own will was an entirely different action from the Godhead’s “pouring out of,” or “baptism in,” the Holy Spirit.
The Body of Christ Becomes The Kingdom of God.
At least three actions pertaining to innovative use by God of His Holy Spirit occurred on that Pentecost morning described in Acts 2:
1. The Holy Spirit of God was poured out on all mankind (no restriction),
2. The Holy Spirit of God was given as a gift to indwell the bodies of those who were baptized (in water) into Christ, and
3. The Holy Spirit of God obviously made the decision (willed) that the Apostles be given certain abilities considered miraculous in the eyes of mankind.
Another Explanation of the Baptism in the Holy Spirit.
A common teaching among some Christians today, which I believe to be a misunderstanding, is that the Apostles, and the Apostles only, were baptized in the Holy Spirit upon the day of Pentecost (Acts 2) and that their baptism in the Holy Spirit enabled them to speak in the various tongues through which the people heard the gospel that day. The teaching points to the other miraculous manifestations of that day also as indication that Baptism in the Holy Spirit was taking place. This teaching holds that the Baptism in the Holy Spirit was administered on only one other occasion, to Cornelius and his household, enabling them also to speak in tongues (Acts 10:44-48). With the special Baptism in the Holy Spirit of the Apostles, who were Jews, and a similar special Baptism in the Holy Spirit of Cornelius and his household, who were Gentiles, the teaching says that the prophecy of Joel was fulfilled. That is, the teaching holds that the prophecy, that the Holy Spirit would be poured out on all mankind, was fulfilled representatively to a few Jews and a few Gentiles only. This is accepted by some Christians as a complete fulfillment of Joel's prophecy as well as the complete fulfillment of the prophecies of John the Baptist and of Jesus concerning the Baptism with the Holy Spirit.
However, the Baptism in the Holy Spirit had been prophesied by John the Baptist to be for all people (all mankind), not just for certain selected people only. And Peter had acknowledged in his Pentecost sermon that Joel's prophecy of the pouring out of the Holy Spirit on "all mankind" had just occurred. It can only be worldly bias, although unrecognized, that requires that Baptism in the Holy Spirit must be spectacular or be accompanied by other visible supernatural happenings. The requirement that the prophecies be "representatively" fulfilled, rather than literally fulfilled, seems contrived at best.
That the Holy Spirit brought about spectacular and supernatural happenings on that Pentecost day are without doubt. And that the prophesied Baptism in the Holy Spirit occurred more or less simultaneously with other supernatural happenings are also without doubt. However, there is no reason to believe that baptism in the Holy Spirit automatically gives anyone any gifts of supernatural power. The Holy Spirit gives supernatural gifts to whomever He wills, having once given a donkey the ability to speak as a human (Numbers 22:28). So it should not be hard to understand that the Holy Spirit, for His own very special reasons on this providential occasion, saw fit to bring about the supernatural happenings in the way that He did.
Why can't the facts as stated in Scripture simply be accepted? The Holy Spirit was silently and invisibly poured out that day by God on all people of the earth, as stated, and as obviously clear to God Himself if not to us. On the same day the Holy Spirit brought about the spectacular and supernatural happenings to set the gospel on its course of being revealed to all mankind. The Apostles were the chosen vessels being used by the Holy Spirit that day to establish the church of Christ on the earth. This was simply the beginning of the Holy Spirit's use of Christ's prepared Apostles to conduct Christ's work of offering salvation to mankind.
Does the Holy Spirit Still Give Christians of Today the Power to Perform Miraculous Signs?
In reading the New Testament it is evident that there were Christians in various first century churches who did receive certain miraculous gifts from the Holy Spirit. But there is no indication in the New Testament that the Holy Spirit ever gave power to any Christians to support the preaching of the gospel with miraculous signs except those upon whom the Apostles "laid their hands" for that purpose. Thus, as the years progressed after Peter's first sermon of the Christian Age on Pentecost, and as the Apostles and those upon whom they "laid their hands" passed away, we are led to believe that such miraculous gifts from the Holy Spirit eventually ceased. That such miraculous gifts have disappeared is a fact of observation and revelation and not a judgement that the Holy Spirit cannot do anything "that He wills." Paul discusses the miraculous gifts of the first century in chapters 12 and 13 of his First Corinthian letter. He concludes his discussion as follows:
“For we know in part, and we prophesy in part; but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away. ... But now abide faith, hope, love, these three; ..." (1 Corinthians 13: 9-10, 13).
If "the partial" to be done away was the gifts of the Holy Spirit given to certain Christians to support the preaching of the gospel in the first century, then perhaps "the faith once for all delivered to the saints" in the Holy Spirit's New Testament Scriptures is "the perfect" which at that time was coming. With the miraculous gifts done away, the effective gifts of the Holy Spirit for propagating the gospel in the Christian Age are now "faith, hope, and love."
With love, F. M. Perry