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  • Writer's pictureLynn Holzinger

The Baptism of the Holy Spirit

(Photo by Sunyu on Unsplash)

For John baptized with water, but in a few

days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.

Acts 1:5

In my last post, this is what I wrote about the baptism of the Holy Spirit:

HE BAPTIZES. John the Baptist first preached a Spirit baptism in Matthew 3:11 when he tells the crowd that was gathered, "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." Later, Jesus tells His disciples the same thing before He ascends to heaven; that in a few days they will be baptized with the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:5). The baptism of the Spirit is what joins you to the body of Christ. It occurs only once for each believer at the time of salvation. At Pentecost, the evidence of baptism was tongues, and marked the beginning of the church (see Acts 11:15-16). The word baptized, which normally means "dipped or immersed," here has the idea of "uniting with" (cf 1 Cor 10:1-2) [1]

This is one position. To be honest, in all my years as a Christian, growing up in church, attending Moody Bible Institute, and being involved in church and volunteer ministry as an adult, I don't remember the term "baptism of the Holy Spirit" being discussed at any length. I only remember it being mentioned when I was in high school, and it had a negative connotation. It was associated with speaking in tongues, and I was told tongues was of the devil. But what does the Bible say about the baptism of the Holy Spirit?


John the Baptist Speaking:

Matthew 3:11 "...He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire."

Mark 1:8 "... but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit."

Luke 3:16 "...He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire."

John 1:33 " he who will baptize with the Holy Spirit."

Jesus speaking:

Acts 1:5 " a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit."


Acts 11:16 "Then I remembered what the Lord had said, "...but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit (Peter speaking)

1 Corinthians 12:13 "For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body..." (Paul speaking)

Nowhere does it define what the baptism is, just to expect it in the future. Most believers agree Jesus was referring to Pentecost, but the word "baptism" is never mentioned. So what does the baptism in the Holy Spirit mean and how did it happen? Let's see what some others have to say.


J. Vernon McGhee had a radio program called "Thru the Bible." His five-year program beginning in 1967 and covering every verse in the Bible, still airs on the radio today through the Thru the Bible Ministry. His programs were published as books at people's request. In regards to Matthew 3:ll, he says,

"Not just some, but every believer is baptized by the Holy Spirit, which means that the believer is identified with the body of Christ; that is, he becomes part of the body of Christ." [2] In his commentary on Luke 3:16, McGhee adds, "Jesus has been baptizing with the Holy Spirit for over nineteen hundred years now." [3] And later, when talking about Acts 1:5, he says, "The baptism of the Holy Spirit is real baptism. It is this baptism that places a believer into the body of believers, which we sometimes refer to as the church." [4]

John MacArthur, pastor at Grace Community Church and teacher for his radio program Grace to You, says,

"In the present age, baptism by Christ through the agency of the Holy Spirit takes place for all believers at conversion. At that moment, every believer is placed into the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:13). At that point, the Spirit also takes up His permanent residency in the converted person's soul, so there is no such thing as a Christian who does not yet have the Holy Spirit (Rom. 8:9; cf. 1 Cor. 6:19--20)...The passive voice of the verb translated "be baptized" indicates the baptism by Jesus Christ with the Spirit is entirely a divine activity. It comes, like salvation itself, through grace, not human effort." [5]


Bill Johnson of Bethel Church in Redding, CA is explaining the "baptism of the Holy Spirit" when Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist:

"Certainly this is not talking about the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit that was already in Jesus’ life. This was the inauguration of Jesus’ ministry, and the Holy Spirit came to rest upon Him [baptism in the Holy Spirit / “Christ anointing”] as a mantle of power and authority for that specific purpose. But the fact that the Holy Spirit came to rest on Him is evidence of Jesus’ faithfulness to be perfectly trustworthy with the presence of God. The same principle is true for us. The Holy Spirit lives in every believer, but He rests upon very few" [6] And later in his book, Face to Face With God, he goes on to say, "The baptism in the Spirit, a profound encounter with the face of God, adds the power of heaven to bring transformation to planet Earth." [7]

Mike Bickle, in his audio recording from 2/12/83, explains his thoughts on the baptism of the Holy Spirit. He believes that Acts is a literal book for today and in this quote, He is using Acts 2:33 as his text:

"Jesus sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on High. God the Father looked at Him and said, 'Son, I give unto You, as the cries for the redemption of these people, the gift of the Holy Ghost. You can do with it what you want. Since you as a high priest partook of the flesh and blood of man, You took their sin, You died; rose...You now, singularly, are the only person who can stand before Me as the human High Priest that has redeemed the human race. You can give them now the Spirit of God.' Then it says that Jesus Christ received from the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, and when He received it, He stood up, and the two stepped over to the side, and He poured it out on His people on the earth. That's where the Spirit of God came from; Jesus Christ. The baptism in the Holy Ghost is a very, very holy subject. We need to approach this subject with awe and with reverence. We need to surround it with the fear of God. There's too much glibness...because the baptism of the Holy Spirit was the greatest event in Christian history... It was greater than the crucifixion; it was greater than the resurrection; it was greater even than His glorification for the saints because Jesus died so He could pour forth the Spirit. He rose for one purpose; to pour forth the Spirit. He was seated at the right hand of God the Father and received the Holy Spirit for one reason; to pour forth upon His people so that the sons of man could partake of the very nature of God and become the sons of the living God in the earth." [8]


Gateway Church talks about the baptism of the Holy Spirit in their positions papers on the church website. Here is part of their view:

" We believe the need for the Holy Spirit’s power and presence in a believer’s life is as critical today as it was in the day of the Apostles. We do not teach a dispensational view of the Holy Spirit’s power and the expression of gifts. Rather we hold the position, supported by Scripture, that the Holy Spirit’s presence and power are for every believer until Jesus returns... Jesus promised His Church that they would receive a powerful encounter with the Holy Spirit after Jesus’ own death and resurrection. It is our view that God desires every Christian to experience this same encounter with the Holy Spirit’s power. In Luke 11:13, Jesus explains that it is our heavenly Father’s pleasure to give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him. Just like salvation, the Holy Spirit is a free gift from the Father which is received by faith." [9]

Chip Ingram, an author and teaching pastor for his ministry, Living on the Edge, is teaching on the difference between the baptism of the Holy Spirit and being filled with the Spirit. The following are the points he makes on the baptism:

  • Occurs only once in each believer's life

  • Never happened before the Day of Pentecost

  • True of all believers

  • Cannot be undone

  • Results in a position

  • Occurs when we believe in Christ

  • No prerequisite except for faith in Christ

Chip says baptism does not equal filling, and then he quotes F.F. Bruce:

“The non-experiential, unrepeated work of the Holy Spirit at

regeneration whereby we are placed into the Body of Christ.” [10]


As you were reading what others say the baptism is, you may have come across what you believe. You may notice there are several views as well. Honestly, I'm not sure I understand what Bill Johnson is teaching, and if I understand what Mike Bickle is saying, his position is extreme. I'm only going to address the traditional view and the view from Gateway Church, (which is a widespread view) right now. The traditional position says it only happens once at the time of salvation and it joins you to the body of believers. You don't have to ask for it because it is a result of your faith in Christ. The "Gateway" position tells you that you have to ask for the baptism. That's because you aren't baptized by the Spirit at salvation. It is a separate work. This position says that the baptism results in receiving an encounter with the Holy Spirit's power. I'm not going to get into what the "power" entails in this post.

It is all a matter of how you interpret Scripture. Those who believe the baptism happens only once in the life of a believer will also say being filled with the Holy Spirit is encountering His presence and can occur repeatedly. Those who believe it is separate from salvation will say the baptism and filling are the same thing and can happen again and again as you ask and open yourself up to it. Both will tell you the Holy Spirit is a Spirit of power, but they will differ significantly on how that power manifests.

After researching the two main views of the baptism of the Holy Spirit, I would say I fall in the camp of the traditional view. It is reasonable to believe the Bible teaches it only happens once and that it's separate from the filling. But I know not everyone will agree. It is not unreasonable to think that the baptism and being filled are the same thing. It is my intent to inform and possibly encourage you to ask yourself why you believe what you do. But in the end, both groups are believers if they have put their faith in Jesus.


[1] John F. Walvoord/Roy B. Zuck, The Bible Knowledge Commentary (SP Publications, Inc. 1983) p. 353

[2] J. Vernon McGhee, Thru the Bible: Matthew Through Romans (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers,1983) p.20

[3] Thru the Bible, p.259

[4] Thru the bible, p.511

[5] John McArthur: Is Spirit Baptism a One-Time Event? (Acts 1)

[6] Crosswise: Bill Johnson’s Christology: A New Age Christ?, part IIIa

[7] Ibid

[8] Mike Bickle: Ministering the Baptism of the Spirit (audio)

[9] Gateway Church: Baptism in the Holy Spirit

[10] Living on the Edge with Chip Ingram: The Holy Spirit Part 2

#baptismoftheHolySpirit #Bible #Jesus #JVernonMcGhee #JohnMacArthur #BillJohnson #MikeBickle #GatewayChurch #ChipIngram

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