Can non-Pentecostals show any Scripture where it is clear that the phrase “baptism in the Spirit” does not refer to a second work of the Holy Spirit for empowerment? Or, can they show where Jesus or the apostles relate the “baptism of the Spirit” to salvation? I write these questions because our main argument with non-Pentecostals is over the order and nature of the “baptism of the Holy Spirit.” We, as classical Pentecostals, teach that it is the second work of the Holy Spirit for empowerment and re-birth. Hence, we teach all person’s must be born again and baptized by the Holy Spirit; one for salvation and the other for empowerment. Non-Pentecostals (and some Charasmatics) believe the baptism of the Holy Spirit is a description of being submersed into Christ at the moment of salvation. So where does the biblical evidence for the term, “baptized with the Holy Spirit,” fit best?
Let’s consider Acts 1:4-8 (NIV), “4 On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: ‘Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. 5 For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ 6 Then they gathered around him and asked him, ‘Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?’ 7 He said to them: ‘It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.’” Without giving a lengthly commentary on this passage, it seems obvious that whatever Jesus is going to do on Pentecost it is not related to salvation.
Nowhere in the text is salvation even mentioned. Please understand this sound exegesis; “spiritual re-birth is not mentioned even once in Acts 1.” Therefore, if the baptism of the Holy Spirit is not related to salvation directly in this passage, then what is it related to? Endowement and the reception of power to be Christ’s witnesses; period. It is a second work of the Holy Spirit, after salvation.
In all my studies, I believe that every reference to “baptism of the Holy Spirit” refers to a subsequent work, whereby the Holy Spirit empowers the disciple for service. Also, there is plenty of evidence in Acts that it is evidenced by speaking in unlearned languages, either earthly or heavenly in origin (Acts 2:4,10:36 & 19:6).
Even when Paul said in 1 Corinthians 12:13 (NIV), “For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink,” he is in the middle of addressing proper order and function of the spiritual gifts.
This is not to say a non-Spirit baptized Christian is outside of the Body of Christ, but rather it was common language for Paul and Luke (especially in his gospel), to refer to Spirit baptism as both normative for all and for the extension of Christ’s kingdom in the world. Doing greater (in number) works than Jesus.
Even John in his gospel, considered that “spiritual rebirth” happened after the resurrection, when Jesus breathed on them. Thus, the Word re-created the image of God in man. For the same one who breathed into dust and made Adam a living soul, breathed into sinners and made them saints. John 20:22 (NIV), “And with that he breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.'”
This passage is not metaphorical but narrative and thus Luke’s account in Acts 2 is not for re-birth but for a baptism of power, just as Luke had wrote at the end of his gospel, (known as the gospel of “power”). In Luke 24:29 Jesus said, “I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.” Notice, they are not waiting and praying in Jerusalem to be born again, that happened after the resurrection, they are waiting for the “Boom-Shaka-Laka” power of God to be spiritually gifted witnesses.
Read the latter ending of Mark for further evidence on how they expected Jesus to fulfill the promise of being baptized in the Holy Spirit with signs following (Mark 16:15-20). Whether the latter ending is Scripture or written by Mark is not the point (we do know it was from the time period of the NT) but the point is that it clearly expresses the disciple’s expectation to be empowered by the Holy Spirit for the purpose of sign gifts in preaching the gospel (speaking in tongues, casting out devils, healing the sick, etc.).
Consider the account of Philip in Acts 8, clearly after spiritual rebirth had been given to the disciples, the lost are first saved, water baptized and then they receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit with the laying on hands of the apostles. Here are the order of events in Samaria;
- Saved and Water Baptized: Acts 8:12 (NIV), “But when they believed Philip as he proclaimed the good news of the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women.”
- Baptized in the Holy Spirit: Acts 8:14-17 (NIV), “14 When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to Samaria. 15 When they arrived, they prayed for the new believers there that they might receive the Holy Spirit, 16 because the Holy Spirit had not yet come on any of them; they had simply been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 17 Then Peter and John placed their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.”
Now some try to argue that they needed a “Gentile Pentecost” and claim the phrase, “the Holy Spirit had not yet come on any of them,” proves that they weren’t spiritually re-born. However, in keeping with the language usage of Luke both in Acts and in his gospel, it is clear that He means, “Holy Spirit baptism and empowerment.” If not, then why would a magician want to by this power from the apostles. Does spiritual re-birth come with outward signs of power and from the laying on of hands? The empowerment was a sign that God’s power had come upon them (just like with the first disciples on Pentecost). Plus, this pattern of signs continues in Acts to more Gentile places. Read about the event in Cornelius’ house;
Acts 10:44-46 (NIV), “44 While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message. 45 The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on Gentiles. 46 For they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God.”
Bottom Line: Baptism of the Holy Spirit is for empowerment, not spiritual rebirth.