The Baptism In The Holy Spirit

Written by :   Sandeep Poonen Categories :   Youth
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Here is a question that may puzzle some Christians. If Jesus was born by the power of the Holy Spirit, then why did the Holy Spirit have to come upon Him when He was baptized? Are there two kinds of interactions with the Holy Spirit for Christians as well?

It is important that we recognize the need for the baptism (immersion) in the Holy Spirit to live a life of increasing purity. This is the only way that we can increasingly reflect Jesus in His purity. But there is an equally important need for the baptism in the Holy Spirit for our service to God that many do not recognize. The Holy Spirit must give us His supernatural gifts if we are to fulfil our calling as members of the Body of Christ.

Some churches identify spiritual gifts by getting their members to take some sort of Christianized personality test. These tests identify spiritual gifts based on the strengths of various personality types. Now personality tests can help understand human strengths and weaknesses, but this is NOT the power of the Holy Spirit needed for God's work. The supernatural power of the Holy Spirit for God's work is a gift, and is given even in spite of the weaknesses in our personality. So a man who is afraid to boldly speak about Christ can be supernaturally empowered to speak with the authority of the Holy Spirit in a way that produces true repentance in others (Peter in Acts 2).

So as we study God's Word and look at the life of Jesus, we can learn truths about the baptism in the Holy Spirit as it relates to our lives as well as our calling here on earth.

1. Jesus alone baptizes us in the Holy Spirit. And it is confirmed by faith in God's Word.

We are commanded by Jesus to baptize people in water (Matthew 28:19). But Jesus remains the only One who baptizes people in the Holy Spirit (Matthew 3:11). Even when the apostles laid hands on people to receive the Holy Spirit, it was still Jesus Who did the baptizing.

In the book of Acts and the accounts we read there of the early church, we see that the Holy Spirit did at times fall on people even without anyone laying hands on them (Acts 2:1-4; Acts 10:44-46). But the early apostles also had a definite authority to lay hands on others to impart the Holy Spirit to them (Acts 8:17; Acts 19:6). I see that God used this to validate His authority in His true apostles, and also expose imposters who were greedy and enslaved to sin. We see an example of this in Simon the magician (Acts 8:17-24).

We also see from Acts that the gift of tongues almost always accompanied the receiving of the Holy Spirit. We know that the gift of tongues is the least of the gifts of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:28). So the gift of tongues was the most basic of gifts of the Holy Spirit, and served as an instant and tangible way that newborn believers could know that their prayers for the Holy Spirit had been answered. But the hope was that this would thereby build up their faith to seek for the greater gifts (1 Cor. 12:31).

So is this still applicable? Do we also receive the baptism in the Holy Spirit by the laying of hands? And does the gift of tongues usually accompany the baptism in the Holy Spirit?

For us today, the Holy Spirit is not received through the laying of hands. I have never heard of anyone in the last many centuries who could lay hands on people such that they would definitely receive the Holy Spirit. I believe that this was the prerogative of the 'God-sent-ones' (apostles) in the early church alone. (Ananias was not an apostle, but he was a sent-one - Acts 9:10-18).

Further, the gift of the Holy Spirit is not confirmed today through the gift of tongues. That gift is most definitely still active and useful in the church today. But, incredible saints of God like John Wesley, D.L. Moody and Charles Finney were clearly filled with the Holy Spirit more than almost any Christian today. They each had Holy Spirit-empowered ministries in their generation. Yet none of them ever spoke in tongues.

One reason why things are different now in both the receiving and the evidence of the Holy Spirit is that we now have the complete written Word of God. The Bible tells us everything that we need to know about the Holy Spirit and life with God. The first century Christians did not have this. So we who have the Bible today can depend (with full confidence) on His Word to have the assurance of the Holy Spirit within us.

We must see that everything in the Christian life hinges on faith in our hearts. And our faith and assurance must ultimately come from the Word of God (Romans 10:17). It must not rest on the evidence of any external sign. There is, in fact, a perverse and wicked instinct within us to seek for signs (See Matt.12:39). And the Word of God acts as a super-sharp sword that penetrates to the deepest parts of us - beyond our soul with its emotions and intellect and into our spirit (Heb. 4:12). As it drives into our innermost being, it seeks to divide between soul and spirit, and show us whether we are baptized in the Holy Spirit (in our spirits), or have been merely excited by some emotional experience (in our souls).

2. The Holy Spirit rested upon Jesus after His baptism and anointed Him with supernatural gifts for His public ministry.

Jesus began His public ministry at the age of 30, after He was baptized in water and the Holy Spirit rested on Him. Jesus had already lived a perfect and sinless life for 30 years - through the power of the Holy Spirit that He had from birth. But the Holy Spirit now "rested upon" Him to equip Him with the gifts He would need for His public ministry of helping others. So it is critical to recognize that the perfect and sinless Son of God was specifically anointed by the Holy Spirit for His public ministry. This was the Father's way, and Jesus submitted to it. Up until then, Jesus was content to remain in subjection to His parents, with no public ministry (Luke 2:51-52).

So it is with all of us who are members of the Body of Christ here on earth. Even when we live by the power of the Holy Spirit in our personal lives, we still need to be anointed with the gifts of the Holy Spirit to be able to serve God and help others. And we need to continually seek to be baptized/filled/be full of the Holy Spirit, so that we can help others as the Spirit-filled Church of Jesus Christ - and not as a social service organization.

3. The baptism/filling with the Holy Spirit in Acts 2 enabled the disciples to stand united and be bold witnesses for Christ. It did not give the disciples immediate victory over sin.

There is no evidence that the disciples got instant victory over their sins on the day of Pentecost. What the baptism in the Holy Spirit did give them was AN AUTHORITY AND A UNITY to proclaim the gospel message. We see Paul filled with the Holy Spirit later, standing united with Barnabas and speaking with authority against evil people (Act 13:9-11).

Let me differentiate this from the fullness of the Holy Spirit that we need for our personal walk. For victory over sin in our own lives, we need to work out our salvation with fear and trembling, consider ourselves dead to sin, not set our minds on the things of the flesh, and be filled with the Holy Spirit to help us put to death our selfish desires. We can each live in victory over sin if we keep listening to the Holy Spirit in our private daily lives.

But to be useful for ministry with other members of Christ's Body in our local church, we need to seek the baptism in the Holy Spirit for blessing others, rather than seeking a blessing for ourselves.

We need supernatural AUTHORITY to proclaim the good news about God in a way that brings repentance and faith in others. For this, we need the Holy Spirit to come upon us, just as the Holy Spirit came upon Jesus when He was baptized in water. The authority of the Holy Spirit is not the same as being bold to preach stirring sermons. And neither is it becoming an extrovert or overcoming stage fright. Rather, the authority we need is to free those bound in sin, and this can only come from the Holy Spirit anointing us and giving us His supernatural gifts with which to minister to and serve others.

We also need supernatural power to be UNITED with other believers and minister as a united expression of the Body of Christ. Only the baptism of the Holy Spirit upon a group of Christians in the local church can enable them to be preserved in unity when the forces of hell seek to attack and divide them. No amount of human resolve or community time together or even listening to the most anointed preaching can do this. Remember what the disciples did when Jesus was arrested? They all deserted Him! And this was after spending 3+ years with the perfect Man Jesus and seeing His miracles and hearing His teaching. But things changed after Pentecost. They became a united group of witnesses for Jesus. "By one Spirit are we all baptized into one body" (1 Cor.12:13).

So it is for this supernatural authority and unity in the Body that we need to seek to be baptized in the Holy Spirit as believers in every local church.

Finally, let me say that the Person of the Holy Spirit and His ministry are mysteries. Even as we seek the Lord for wisdom and understanding, we must also embrace the mystery about Him.

But we can be sure of one thing: The Holy Spirit is THE ONLY PERSON who can produce the pure life of Jesus in us. And the Holy Spirit is THE ONLY PERSON who can give us the authority and unity to do His work alongside other Christians as fellow members of His Body. No amount of self-denial can produce that in us. And neither can any amount of righteous living or bright human ideas. So let us remain perpetually thirsty for constant immersions in the Holy Spirit so that Jesus Christ is increasingly reflected in our lives.

Amen!