The Holy Spirit

But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the Earth.   Acts1:8

By Dr. Rudy Rodriguez D.D.

Born of the Spirit vs Baptized in the Spirit

Every true Born Again Believer is born of the Spirit. As such they have experienced the work of the Holy Spirit in a number of important ways. These ways include but are not limited to: conviction, regeneration and the witness of the Spirit in our lives that we are children of God. However, the dimension of power that God wants for His children can only be reached through the Baptism in the Holy Spirit. It is God’s will that every Born-Again Believer be baptized in the Holy Spirit. (Acts 2:38, 39). Even though some Christians achieve results without the actual baptism in the Holy Spirit, they would achieve more if they yielded to God so as to receive the Baptism in the Spirit. It is possible for a Christian to recognized many aspects of the Holy Spirit’s work and enjoy a measure of His blessing in life and ministry, without ever being baptized in the Spirit in the Biblical way.

Some say that the Baptism in the Holy Spirit no longer exists today. Others take another approach and say that EVERY born again Christian was baptized in the Spirit at his conversion. Both kinds of teaching have the effect of robbing believers of something very important that Jesus provided for them as part of their necessary inheritance in this life.

We will see from the Bible that the baptism in the Spirit is not the same as regeneration. It is important that we do not allow tradition – even “evangelical tradition” – to take a higher place than the Word of God in our doctrine and in our lives.

Biblical proof that these are Separate Works

Although the Bible does give examples of people who were baptized in the Spirit at the same time as their regeneration, we will see that this is not always what happens. The Book of Acts reveals that repentance, baptism in water and the baptism in the Holy Spirit, are all part of our salvation package. This does not necessarily happen in the same order all the time. It is interesting to note that in Acts, where the Baptism in the Spirit happens to believers at the time of their conversion, the Bible puts emphasis on the fact that the apostles knew they were baptized in the Spirit “for they heard them speak with tongues and magnify God” (Acts 10:46; Acts 11:15- 16). We certainly do not believe that speaking in tongues is the proof of being born again. However, we can see that consistently it is the sign accompanying the New Testament Baptism in the Holy Spirit.

It is important to state that every true born again Christian has the Holy Spirit. “Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His.” (Romans 8:9). The Holy Spirit is given by God “to those who obey Him” (Acts 5:32). To receive Jesus is an act of obedience by which the person submits to the work of the cross and becomes a new person (2 Corinthians 5:17).

The Holy Spirit enters our human spirit when we are born again of the Spirit of God (John 3). Jesus comes into us by his Spirit (John 1:12). As we grow in Jesus, we produce the fruit of the Spirit found in Galatians 5:22-23).

However, there is an empowering by the Holy Spirit which is distinct from being born of God. We get authority (ex-ou-sia) to be sons of God at the new birth (John 1:12), but we receive power (du-na-mis) after the Holy Spirit comes upon us and we are filled with the Holy Spirit. (Acts 1:8)

The apostles received the Holy Spirit in regeneration before the ascension when Jesus breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” (John 20:22). They were born again of the Spirit through the resurrection of Jesus from the dead (1Peter 1:3) at that time. But this was before the day of Pentecost. Jesus told them later to wait for the Promise of the Father in Jerusalem (Acts 1:4), for the Baptism in the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:5) after they had received the Spirit in regeneration. Therefore in the case of the apostles, the Baptism in the Spirit and being born of the Spirit were two separate events. They were born of the Spirit in John 20:22 before the ascension, but were baptized in the Spirit on the day of Pentecost after the ascension. And it is important to note that only then was the promise of Mark 16:17 fulfilled in the lives of the believers then, for beginning at Pentecost “they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.” (Acts 2:4).

The Samaritans believed the gospel and were baptized (Acts 8:12). Many were healed and delivered. They were born again through repentance and faith in Christ (The Anointed One), but it was obvious to Philip that something was missing in their experience. Under Philip’s ministry the believers were not baptized in the Spirit. So later, Peter and John came down that these Samaritan believers might receive the Holy Spirit as they ought to receive Him (Acts 8:14-17). The power which the apostles released was so impressive that Simon the famous magician at that time wanted to buy the ability to release this power. Of course this was an evil and foolish desire. But he wanted to be able to impress people further with the same kind of power he was seeing accompany the reception of the Holy Spirit.

What we should learn from this account is that no matter how wonderful our salvation experience of turning to the Lord was, we should not be satisfied with that, but we should go on in God until we receive the Spirit in mighty demonstration and power.

Further proof that the Baptism in the Holy Spirit does not always or even usually occur at the moment of repentance and faith can be seen in the life of Paul (formerly Saul). Saul met Jesus on the road to Damascus and confessed Him as Lord, which meant he was converted (Acts 9:3-8; Rom. 10:9). But God knew that was not all that Paul needed, Three days later, God had Ananias lay hands on Saul so that he would receive his sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit (Acts 9:17). But did Paul speak in tongues then? Let Paul himself speak here. In writing to the Corinthians he said “I thank God that I speak in tongues more than you all.” (1 Corinthians 14:18). Not so much in church, of course, but outside the meetings in private so as to build himself up. In this way, his preaching was both understandable and powerful (1 Corinthians 14:19; 2:1-4).

Cornelius’ household and close friends were baptized in the Spirit at the moment of their conversion. How did Peter know this? “For he heard them speak with tongues and magnify God.” (Acts 10:46). These people received the Holy Spirit just as the apostles (Acts 10:47). Peter realized that they were not only born again, but also baptized in the Holy Spirit, at that time (Acts 11:15, 16). Why? “For they heard them speak with tongues and magnifying God” (Acts 10:46). That settled the issue for Peter. In the Bible, the speaking in unknown tongues is a Biblical sign of the true New Testament (New Covenant) baptism in the Holy Spirit. (Acts 2:4, Acts 19:6, Mark 16:17). Let us remember that God did not trust the writing of the New Testament to anyone who did not speak in tongues. And people who despise tongues because their churches don’t believe in it make the same kind of mistake as those in formal traditionalistic churches who reject the idea of regeneration by the Spirit at the moment of repentance and faith because it contradicts the long-held dogmas of the church. The Bible must settle the issue – not our traditions, theologies and lack of experience. And the Bible says, “Desire earnestly to prophesy, and do not forbid to speak with tongues.” (1 Corinthians 14:39).

The Ephesians believers in Acts 19 were not true Christians in the full sense of the word when Paul met them. They only knew John’s baptism of repentance. They did not even know there was given a Holy Spirit. After Paul explained to them about Jesus “they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ (The Anointed One). And when Paul laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke with tongues and prophesied.” (Acts 19:5,6). Here we see that Paul was interested in these disciples’ relationship with the Holy Spirit. He showed them their need to be baptized in water and the Holy Spirit. Once again, speaking in tongues is revealed to have accompanied this initial outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the believers.

To add to the testimony of the Scriptures, there are, scattered throughout church history, and especially in this 20th century, there are many thousands and now tens of millions of people who have testified to having received this power from God some time after their initial conversion to Christ (The Anointed One).

In summary then, the Scripture shows that being born of God is not always happening at the same time as being baptized in the Spirit. The Scripture further shows that it is always desirable and God’s will for people to be filled with the Holy Spirit in such a way as to be clothed with the power of God and to speak with other tongues. (Ephesians 5:18; 1 Corinthians 14:5a). All this and much more is promised to the believer who earnestly seeks a relationship of submission to the Word of God and to the Holy Spirit.