When studying the Holy Spirit, one will find that there are numerous points of contention among scholars. A big topic is whether or not the baptism of the Holy Spirit happens directly upon salvation or if it is a separate work in a believer’s life. Another is whether or not the baptism of the Holy Spirit is still available in this modern day, but that is a blog for another day. Today I want to focus on the baptism of the Holy Spirit in relation to salvation. Lets start with a passage from the New Testament:
“For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body – whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free – and we were all given the one Spirit to drink”. ~1 Corinthians 12:13
The Greek word used here for the word “in” is en. Many scholars interpret the word “by” in this passage as “in”, causing the translation to read, “in one Spirit” rather than “by one Spirit”. It is commonly held among scholars that support that the word en in Greek always means “in” when it is used with the word baptize; thereby substantiating their interpretation of “in one Spirit.” “The Greek preposition en is the most versatile preposition in the New Testament and may be variously translated, depending on the context”. Translating the word “by” as “in” in this passage, the Holy Spirit is now made the element by which we are baptized into at conversion. An example of their reasoning is found when John the Baptist says, “I indeed baptize you in water unto repentance, but he that cometh after me is mightier than I…he shall baptize you in the Holy Spirit and in fire” (Matt. 3:11 ASV). Here these scholars would argue that Scripture is saying we are baptized in the Holy Spirit rather than by the Holy Spirit.
On the other hand there are scholars who contend that the word en is to be translated as “by”. These scholars point out that en is used with the Holy Spirit many times to mean “by the Holy Spirit”. There are four passages of Scripture that support this. The first example is found in Luke when Jesus is led “by the Spirit” into the wilderness (Matthew 4:1 NIV). It is obvious that Jesus is not being lead in the Spirit in this case, but by the Spirit. The next example is found in Mark, who further supports the verse in Luke, that the Spirit was indeed the agent who sent Jesus (Mark 1:12). Thirdly, we find in Luke that Jesus was “moved by the Spirit” and entered into the courts of the temple. (Luke 4:14) Finally, in Ephesians Paul says “the mystery of Christ is made known to us by the Spirit” (Ephesians 3:5). The word en translated “by” makes the Holy Spirit the One who baptizes, rather than the element of which we are baptized into.
Both viewpoints of the Greek word en in relation to the Holy Spirit, depending on which way the word is interpreted, can change the entire position of the Spirit. Thus, by saying that in 1 Corinthians 12:13 the word en is to be translated “in”, it makes the Holy Spirit the element that we are baptized into. By translating en as “in” here makes the baptism of the Holy Spirit absolutely necessary upon salvation. Basically, the moment a believer is saved (based on this view that en is translated “in”) they have to be filled with the Holy Spirit. Those who hold to this view fail to see that water baptism and the baptism of the Holy Spirit are two separate occasions. Notice that when the Holy Spirit descended upon Jesus, he had gone “up out of the water” (Matt. 3:16). This is significant because it shows that water baptism and baptism by the Spirit are different instances. Water baptism is not a tool of salvation. Salvation comes by accepting by faith the blood of Jesus Christ. It is by grace we are saved. Water baptism is merely an outward confession, much like circumcision was in the Old Testament that the Jews were God’s people, that we have accepted Christ and are indentifying with that confession.
By interpreting the word en to mean “by”, it gives the Holy Spirit the place as Baptizer, rather than the element in which we are baptized into. Although both translations of the word en is used through out the New Testament and have their place within the translation of the Bible, the context of 1 Corinthians 12:13 is one Body and One Spirit. The proper translation therefore is “by” in this passage. Paul is focusing on the Holy Spirit baptizing into the body of Christ. If anyone is in Christ at all he is part of the Body of Christ, that is, the Church. This happens when one is born again, given new life, by the Holy Spirit.
We can clearly see through Scripture that conversion and being filled with the Holy Spirit are two distinct instances. Looking at Acts 8:14-17, we see that while the apostles were in Jerusalem, news came about that the people of Samaria heard the Word of God and believed in it:
“When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them. When they arrived, they prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit, because the Holy Spirit had not yet come upon them; they had simply been baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus. Then Peter and John placed their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit” ~Acts 8:14-17
So Peter and John traveled to Samaria to see if the report was true. After arriving, Peter and John prayed that the Holy Spirit would come upon them, because they had not yet received Him. Notice it does not say they put their faith in Christ at that time. It was already noted that they heard God’s Word and believed. They were now ready to receive the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Thus, their conversion and baptism by the Spirit were two different instances. Take note that it was not because Peter and John laid hands on them that they received the Holy Spirit. This simply seems to be something the apostles did when praying for the Spirit throughout the book of Acts. But remember, no one laid hands on Pentecost (Acts 2) so the laying of hands is not necessary.
Similarly, Acts 19:1-7 speaks of Paul and the people of Ephesus:
“While Apollos was at Corinth, Paul took the road through the interior and arrived at Ephesus. There he found some disciples and asked them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” They answered, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” So Paul asked, “Then what baptism did you receive?” “John’s baptism,” they replied. Paul said, “John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance. He told the people to believe in the one coming after him, that is, in Jesus.” On hearing this, they were baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus. When Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied. “ ~Acts 19:1-7
Upon his arrival in Ephesus, Paul asked the Ephesian disciples “did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” The response by the Ephesians was “no, we have not even heard that there was a Holy Spirit”(Acts 19:2). They went on to explain to Paul that they received John’s baptism, but not the baptism of the Holy Spirit. After telling them that John’s baptism was only for repentance and preparatory, Paul prayed for the disciples in Ephesus that they would receive the Holy Spirit. At that time, “the Holy Spirit came on them and they spoke in tongues and prophesied” (19:6-7). Again, there is a clear distinction between the conversion of the people of Ephesus, and their baptism into the Holy Spirit. They had believed the Word of God and had received a baptism of repentance, but it was after their conversion that they were filled with the Holy Spirit.
Again, it is evident that salvation (conversion) and being filled with the Holy Spirit are two separate instances in a believer’s life. With that said, it does not mean that one cannot be filled with the Holy Spirit the moment he receives the Gospel message. However, the assumption that one of instantaneous Spirit-filling cannot be made either. When one is filled with the Holy Spirit, something miraculous and supernatural happens. We see in Acts, the normal sign of the filling speaking in tongues. Furthermore, we see that believers prophesied. One who is full of the Holy Spirit will exhibit a life under complete surrender to the Lord, and a life that cultivates the fruit of the Spirit found in Galatians 5:22-23. This filling of the Holy Spirit, however, is a separate instance, than that of the initial confession of Christ. It is crucial to understand speaking in tongues is not the point of the baptism of the Holy Spirit. A tongues-centered spirituality will quickly pale. The purpose of the baptism of the Holy Spirit is to be Christ’s witnesses and empower us to live holy lives before God. I hope that this blog helps shed light on the baptism of the Holy Spirit. This is a crucial point in Christianity that cannot be ignored. If you have not received the baptism of the Holy Spirit, I encourage you to ask God to be baptized. God say if you ask Him, He will baptize you (Luke 11:13). If you do not believe in the Holy Spirit, the baptism of the Holy Spirit, or just are not sure of the baptism and the Spirit’s work, I encourage you to read the Scriptures for yourselves. The Bible never once said that the baptism of the Holy Spirit has stopped. God still intends for His Church to function under the power of the Holy Spirit. I hope this blog helps you and encourages you!