What does it mean when someone says that they’ve been baptized by the Holy Spirit or baptized into the Holy Spirit? What does baptism of the Spirit mean?
The Word Baptism
I had a friend come up to me after I was saved asking if I had been baptized into the Holy Spirit. I told him that I had received the Holy Spirit and then been baptized. He said you haven’t had the baptism of the Holy Spirit? Why not!? Good question, so I started to find out what this fellow meant driven in part by being made to feel inferior. I came to discover what the word baptism means. The Greek word for baptism is “baptizo” which means to be immersed under water. Baptizo is in the verb form which means a person was baptized (verb, it’s the action of being baptized). The noun form is “baptisma” which literally means washing and almost always has to do with water.
I already knew about the Holy Spirit and that a person is regenerated or born again when one receives the Holy Spirit. When a person is saved, then they are to be baptized as commanded in the New Testament. But this “baptism of the Holy Spirit” was still a mystery to me. What could it mean? I hate to see Christians divide over the language of the New Testament when the Spirit should unite us instead.
Baptized With the Holy Spirit
Is the baptism of the Holy Spirit and being baptized with the Holy Spirit the same thing? The term “baptize with the Holy Spirit” occurs in several places in the New Testament. Let’s read some of these to see if we can find the meaning of the term of being baptized with the Holy Spirit.
John, when speaking about Jesus said, “I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him. And I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit” (John 1:32-33).
Again, John said about Jesus, “I baptize you with water. But one who is more powerful than I will come, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire” (Luke 3:16).
Jesus instructed the disciples just before His Ascension to “not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 1:4-5).
Baptism of the Holy Spirit
Some denominations believe that the baptism of the Holy Spirit is evidenced by their speaking in tongues. This baptism of the Holy Spirit is seen by them as different than the initial receiving of the Holy Spirit of God. This baptism of the Holy Spirit is believed to embolden believers, give them the ability to speak in unknown tongues, and to live a more victorious life in Christ. Is this true? Paul said in 1 Corinthians 12:13 “For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free—and have all been made to drink into one Spirit. For in fact the body is not one member but many.”
So there is One Spirit and that is the Holy Spirit and Paul is saying that all believers are baptized by the Spirit. You can not be a believer and not be baptized by the Spirit. If someone has not the Spirit of God, they are not the children of God because “those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God” (Romans 8:14) “And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us” (1 John 3:24). The Holy Spirit makes us part of the Body of Christ. If we don’t have the Holy Spirit, we are none of His since “if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ” (Romans 8:9). Indeed, “those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God” (Romans 8:14). Romans chapter 8 is almost all about the Holy Spirit.
Being Filled With the Spirit
Paul wrote about being filled with the Spirit in Ephesians 5:18-19 which says, “Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord.” It seems that being filled with the Spirit means being controlled by the Holy Spirit. We will have complete fulfillment if we allow the Holy Spirit to control us. To be filled with the Spirit is to be controlled by the Spirit for the Spirit’s presence is revealed in the fruit we produce (Galatians 5:22-23). Peter is a prime example of what it means to be filled with the Spirit in Acts 4:8 when he boldly addressed the Sanhedrin, which was like the Jewish supreme court, “Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them: “Rulers and elders of the people!” Peter was not alone in this as “Paul, then Saul, who was also called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked straight at Elymas and said, You are a child of the devil and an enemy of everything that is right! You are full of all kinds of deceit and trickery. Will you never stop perverting the right ways of the Lord? Now the hand of the Lord is against you. You are going to be blind, and for a time you will be unable to see the light of the sun” (Acts 13:9-11).
Here is clear evidence that when a believer is filled with the Spirit, they are obedient to the will of God. Peter and Paul’s boldness in evangelism was due to their both being filled with the Spirit of God. But where did Paul receive this Spirit? In Acts 9:17, “Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, ‘Brother Saul, the Lord—Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here—has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.’” Here we see that being filled with the Spirit occurs at conversion, like with Saul (later named Paul) and being filled with the Spirit can also mean being bold in preaching the gospel or in being a witness of Christ. Being filled with the Spirit doesn’t seem to be tied with miracle gifts of healing, or tongues, or prophesying but in being controlled by Him. Being filled with the Spirit then happens when a person is saved (like Paul’s experience) or when one is emboldened in witnessing for Christ (like Peter‘s example).
The baptism of the Holy Spirit occurs only to those who are believers. If you are not a believer in Christ, then you are none of His (Romans 8:9). You can’t even understand the gospel without the Holy Spirit (John 14:17, Romans 8:7) because “The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Corinthians 2:14). I pray you will put your trust in Jesus Christ today if you have not already done so. Then you can be filled with the Spirit, sealed with the Spirit (Ephesians 1), and be born again to eternal life (John 3:3, 16). That is my great desire for you if you have not already done so.
Take a look at this related article:
Resources – New International Version Bible (NIV) THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.