The Baptism of the Holy Spirit (1)

The Greek word for ‘baptism’ is ‘baptizo’. It means “to dip repeatedly, to immerse, to submerge; to cleanse by dipping or submerging, to make clean with water, to wash one’s self, bathe; to overwhelm”.

This definition is immensely instructive as per what the baptism of the Spirit means.

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The phrase ‘baptism of the Spirit’ is derived from Matthew 3:12 where John (the Baptist) prophesied concerning Jesus: “I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire”.

The above verse along with the definition of ‘baptism’ considered above gives an imagery of the immersing or submerging of a person in the Holy Spirit. The prophecy of Ezekiel about the man led into increasingly deep water – first reaching the ankle; rising to the knees; reaching the waist; until it became a body of water he cannot walk but must swim through – gives more light to the subject of the baptism of the Holy Spirit. (Ezekiel 47: 1 – 12).

But does the Baptism of the Spirit replace water Baptism? No.

They have different implications. Water baptism signals repentance and cleansing from sin; a symbolism of dying and resurrecting with Jesus Christ. (Rom. 6: 3 – 7). Indeed, Jesus instructed us to continue this practice. (Matth. 28: 19). The Baptism of the Spirit, however, represents the entirety of the Christian walk after salvation. It is both an ‘occurrence’ and a lifetime experience.

It is like a wedding and a marriage. Like a wedding, there is often a specific time (this could be immediately upon being saved or afterwards) when the baptism occurs. As will be shown later, this is often symbolized by ‘speaking in tongues’. Which can be compared to the wedding band (ring) exchanged between couples during weddings. But the same way a marriage begins with the wedding and the wedding is not the entire story, the Baptism of the Holy Spirit begins with the occurrence of a baptism (an infilling), but that is not the entire story. It is only the beginning of a lifetime experience of Baptism.

The subject of the coming of the Holy Spirit and the believer’s engagement with Him was emphasised by Jesus shortly before He ascended. (John 14: 16 – 18, 26; 15: 26 – 27; 16: 5 – 15 and Acts 1: 4 – 8). Jesus referred to the Holy Spirit as the Promise of the Father; the Helper; the Teacher; the Spirit of Truth.

There are different expressions for the ‘baptism of the Holy Spirit’. For example, Acts 2: 4 and Acts 4: 31 used the words “…And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit”. In Acts 10:44, the Bible describes the Baptism experience thus: “…the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who heard the word”.

As will be observed, while Acts 2:4 and 4:31 used “filled with”, Acts 10:44 used the words “fell upon”. This might lead to the question: is there a difference between ‘in-filling’ of the Holy Spirit and the ‘falling upon’ of the Spirit. As popularly phrased, is there a difference between the Spirit upon and the Spirit within? The difference that exists between both is more functional than locational. In other words, locationally, there is no difference between the Spirit within and the Spirit upon. It is not as if the Holy Spirit physically stays ‘on’ a man, and at another time goes ‘into’ a man. The location of the Holy Spirit, at all point, is the inner man of a person. (Eph. 3:16). However, functionally, when the spirit uses a man to do a thing, it is said that the ‘Spirit is upon the man’. The experience of the ‘old testament’ Saints is often cited as an example for this kind of operation. But even in the old testament, as pointed out by Apostle Peter, the Holy Spirit was ‘in’ the saints. (1 Peter 1: 11).

What is then the difference between the operation of the Spirit in the ‘old testament’ and the ‘new testament’. This has more to do with the operation of the Holy Spirit then, and now. Whereas, He operated primarily ‘instrumentally’ in the ‘old testament’, His operation is both ‘formational’ and ‘instrumental’ in this dispensation. Flowing from this instrumental dimension was the transient dealing of the Holy Spirit with men. Put in another way, though He worked through the saints in the old testament, He did not inhabit them permanently. The permanent indwelling of the Holy Spirit in this dispensation is the most distinct difference between how He operated before the death and resurrection of Jesus, and afterwards.

The instrumental and formational dimensions of the Holy Spirit is the focus of our next post.