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Spirit Baptism

A confused doctrine.

Many struggle to see how baptism is uniquely connected to the Church.

This gets into issues of when the church began.

Did the Church start at Pentecost, or does it include all believers throughout all time?

Overemphasis on water-baptism.

Whenever the word “baptize”’ is used, it’s assumed the Bible is always speaking of water baptism.

This lead to many error regarding the nature of salvation (e.g., Catholicism, typical lay-Lutherans, etc.).

The rise and influence of the Charismatic movement (e.g., Holiness Movement, Second-blessing Theology, etc.).

Spirit-baptism is often associated with tongue speaking, and a unique presence and empowering of the H.S.

In this view, it’s possible to be saved without having experienced Spirit-baptism.

Much of this is the result of confusion over the Biblical language.

To get these doctrines right, you must be careful with how you understand and define the biblical language.

People may scoff at this point, because they don’t like to think critically, but the bible lays out clear distinctions between various realities and ministries of the Spirit.

Those various categories are what we’re going to talk about: Spirit Baptism, filling, and indwelling.

Three unique categories. Three unique works of the Spirit.

Before we get into it, we know this is a topic that can be offensive to some. So understand where we are coming from:

We’re not purposefully trying to be offensive, but we know this is a reality when talking about these things.

We’re merely trying to help people understand there’s true biblical distinctions, and it’s important to get it right.

We truly believe that if this topic can be better understood that it will lead to the very thing so many are pursuing with regard to the Holy Spirit.  They want to see God work in their lives. But if they are looking where God is not actually working then they ultimately end up unfulfilled.


A good way to understand this is to see how it corresponds to water baptism. 

There’s a really helpful parallel.

The reason for the parallel is because water baptism is the outward symbol of a spiritual reality, namely, Spirit-baptism.


SB (Jesus)

WB (Pastor)


SB (The one being baptized).

WB (The one being baptized).


SB (Holy Spirit)

WB (Water)


SB (Genuine profession of faith)

WB (Genuine profession of faith)


SB (Immersion)

WB (Immersion)


SB (Incorporation into the Church)

WB (Incorporation into the Visible Church)

So that’s the concept and purpose behind why we water baptize. It’s an outward symbol of a Spiritual reality.

Biblical evidence:

Baptizer: Jesus is the Baptizer, not the Spirit.

Matthew 3:11, “As for me, 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.”

1 Cor. 12:13 (shows the Spirit isn’t the one  baptizing).

“For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.”

Note how it is translated “by” which gives the impression that it is the Spirit baptizing us.  “By” is not a bad or wrong. However, that is not the point.

The preposition is en’ which means that it’s  “in/into” the Spirit that we’re baptized. 

En’ typically means “in, on, or among.” It commonly speaks of a realm. A good way to translate the preposition (en’) here is “with,” or “into.”

So if we’re baptized into the Spirit, He can’t be the One doing the baptism.

In fact, this is the same preposition used in Mat. 3:11 and Acts 1:5 (“for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with [en] the Holy Spirit not many days from now."

Here, they translate the preposition en’ as “with.”

Quick side comment: The parallel passage to Matt. 3:11 is Luke 3:16-17 “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. His winnowing fork is in His hand to thoroughly clear His threshing floor, and to gather the wheat into His barn; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire."

Note the parallel between 16 and 17. Holy Spirit has a two-fold purpose: To bring salvation, but also bring judgment. Fire is not a good thing, when talking about the Holy Spirit. 

There’s many songs we hear of calling for the HS to fall on us with fire. When it comes to the work of the Spirit, fire is never a good thing. It refers to judgment.

So many think from these verses that the Spirit is the one baptizing us, but that is incorrect.  Jesus does it. And that’s the point - Jesus is the baptizer, and He baptizes us with/into the Spirit.

Bapitzee: This doesn’t require comment. In both cases it’s the one making a credible profession of faith.

Element: This also doesn’t require much explanation because we just showed how the Spirit is the element. 

Jesus baptizes us into the element of the Spirit.

Remember the point of water baptism is give a physical picture of a spiritual reality. The Spirit is the element into which we’re being baptized, and this is represented with the water.

Condition: Genuine faith in Christ.

Nowhere does the Bible tell us to seek, pray, agonize, surrender, fully commit, or even pray for Spirit-baptism.

Rather, it’s a great indicative.

In Acts 1:5 Jesus simply makes the statement, “you will be baptized not many days from now.”

No command or instruction was given for them to do something to “get” this baptism.

Just compare this with the many today who are striving to “get” this baptism.

I say that, because many think they’re doing something wrong because they haven't yet had some kind of experience related to what’s often called “spirit-baptism.”

So it’s an indicative. It is an objective reality. 

We saw this in 1Cor. 12:13.

“For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.”

So, if a person’s genuinely converted, the reality of their life is they have been objectively baptized into the Spirit. Jesus did this, and He did it at the moment of conversion.

We were “all” made to drink/baptized into the Spirit. It’s a great reality (it’s a matter of theological fact).

An important note on SB is that it happens at the moment of conversion, once for all, and never to be repeated.

Just as you are justified at the moment of conversion, so also you are baptized into the Spirit at the moment of conversion (contemporaneous).

This is important to understand in light of second blessing theology.

**Give Simple comment on how second blessing theology comes from a certain understanding of the book of Acts.

We plan to do a separate podcast on this, addressing this kind of theology (J. Rodman Williams: Renewal Theology).

Suffice it to say, never is a Christian commanded to seek a “second blessing” or “fuller baptism” of the Spirit.

It’s a gift of God, given at the moment of conversion, once for all, and never to be repeated.

Mode: Immersion.

The word “baptize (Baptizw)” simply means to immerse.

So much has been written on this word, and when all the historical researched is finished, the final conclusion is that it means “to immerse.” Plain and simple.

A lot of efforts have been made to make it mean something other than immerse (e.g,. Sprinkle, pour, etc.), but the whole picture of baptism is lost if you make it mean something other than immerse.

The picture of immersion communicates the idea of a new reality you inhabit. It’s now an all-consuming state that is utterly other than what was before baptism.

You’re a new creature.

This is the idea of being “in Christ.” He is your new identity and reality.

In the same way, this is what’s being depicted once you’re baptized into the Spirit. It is a new, all-inclusive reality.

The point is to show how utterly present God is with as a whole, and as individuals.

This is why the pursuit of a second blessing, or fuller baptism with the Spirit is so insidious. 

It undermines the true reality of what it means to be fully in Christ as a new believer, and to have the Spirit of God fully present with you (and in you) at all times. You can’t “get more” or Him, nor do you “need more” of Him. You have the fullness of His  presence with you, always.

You have complete connection with the life and power of God at all times.

Result: There’s 4 results.

First, it brings us into the Body of Christ, which is the true, universal Church.

1 Cor. 12:13, “For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body . . . .”

Eph. 4:4, “There is one body and one Spirit . . . .”

This is why water baptism is important. It’s a physical depiction of a spiritual reality.

At the moment of conversion, you’re baptized into the Spirit. In the very same moment you’re incorporated into the Church.

Water baptism is then a sign of incorporation into the visible church.

This is why we say you shouldn’t take the Lord’s Supper until you are water baptized. 

It is the initial rite for entrance into the church.

Lord’s Supper is the on-going rite.

Second, it brings us into Christ Himself.

Gal. 3:27, “For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.”

BTW, this is a place where too often the assumption is made that this refers to water baptism.  This is not the case. Only being baptized with the Holy Spirit place us into Christ.

The idea of being “in Christ” is unique to the N.T. and is uniquely tied to the N.T. church.

Third, it causes us to be identified/connected with Christ in His death and resurrection.

Romans 6:2-4

Col. 2:12

These passages tells us the basis for a Christian’s victory over sin.

Last, it brings us into a very real unity.

Eph. 4:3-6 “being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all.”

Again, another great indicative. The reality of the Church is where (as a matter of theological fact) unified.

We don’t try to achieve unity (or come into unity), rather we are unified. And this is a work of the Spirit. We’re commanded to maintain that unity, but when you’re baptized into the Spirit, you come into a unity.

Note that we are not merely united with the Lord (Head), but with one another as well.


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