What is the Baptism and Filling of the Holy Spirit

Title: What is the Baptism and Filling of the Holy Spirit

Text: Acts 2:1-13

Time: February 24, 2008

We are examining the details of the second chapter of the Book of Acts, because it describes the birth of the Christian church. It’s one of the most exciting chapters in the whole Bible because it describes how on the day of Pentecost the Holy Spirit came upon the believers and transformed them into the church. Now in reading over the account of the Holy Spirit coming upon the church it’s a little tricky to know exactly what happened and how it happened because we are 2000 years separated from the event, and because the description in the Bible isn’t all that detailed. Yes, there are important details included in the account, but there are even more details left out of the account that we wish might have been there. I think two of the big questions that the second chapter of Acts raises are, first, what is the filling or baptism of the Holy Spirit, and two, what is speaking in tongues. Today, I’d like to focus on the first question, what is the filling or baptism of the Holy Spirit, and then, next week, try to answer the question, what is speaking in tongues? Now when asking the question, what is the baptism or filling of the Holy Spirit that we see here in the second chapter of Acts, another question is generated, “Is the baptism of the Holy Spirit the same thing as the filling of the Holy Spirit?” Acts 2 only mentions the phrase “filled with the Holy Spirit,” and doesn’t mention anything about “baptism of the Holy Spirit.” But in Acts 1:4-5, Jesus instructed his disciples, “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” Here, clearly, Jesus is pointing to the day of Pentecost and describing it as a “baptism with the Holy Spirit.” So we have two terms describing the same event at Pentecost: Jesus calls it a baptism in the Holy Spirit, while the author of Acts, Luke, calls what happened at Pentecost as a “filling of the Holy Spirit.” Are these two terms interchangeable? Are they similar but not the same? Or are they entirely different things altogether? That’s what I’d like to try to sort out this morning. How does this all relate to our lives today 2000 years removed from Pentecost? Some people read the Bible and love to follow the stories and teachings but leave it at that without trying to ask the bigger question, “What does this all mean for me today, in my Christian life?” If the Bible is just a book of history, it might serve as good reading material but it won’t transform my life. But the Bible is more than just history, it’s God’s living and active Word that not only informs us and challenges us, but also transforms us because it’s relevant to us today just as it has been for every generation of Christians for the last 2000 years. So it does matter how we think about the Holy Spirit. It does matter whether there is a baptism and separate filling of the Holy Spirit, or whether those two are the same thing. It does matter whether the baptism or filling is a one-time thing or a continual on-going thing in the life of the believer. Now there is a lot of confusion surrounding the Holy Spirit today, if you haven’t noticed. There are Pentecostal churches and Charismatic churches that embrace the Holy Spirit but use different terms and words and vocabulary to describe experiences with the Spirit. Then there fundamentalist churches that teach the Holy Spirit doesn’t do a lot of the things described in the Bible because that was for an earlier time; the Bible today is all we need. So there are differences within differences within the Christian church about the Holy Spirit and the activity of the Spirit today. I hope I can clear up some of the confusion. I’ll ask three questions and then try to answer them from the Bible.

First, Is the Baptism of the Holy Spirit the same as the Filling of the Holy Spirit. Acts 2:1-4, “When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.” Like I said before, this passage describes the disciples as being filled with the Holy Spirit. So whatever the terms mean, we know they were filled with the Spirit because it says they were. But there is another passage in the New Testament from the writings of the Apostle Paul that instructs believers to “be filled with the Holy Spirit.” The original Greek language of the New Testament communicates the idea of continuous action, “keep on being filled with the Holy Spirit,” or in other words, repeated fillings of the Holy Spirit. So the idea of the filling of the Holy Spirit carries with it the idea of repeated or continuous fillings not just one time fillings. Now when we look at the phrase “baptism in the Holy Spirit” we see that instead of carrying the idea of continuous baptisms, it rather means a one time powerful spiritual event. Again, Jesus commands the disciples, “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” In another passage, 1 Corinthians 12:13, the Apostle Paul teaches, “For we were all baptized by the one Spirit into the one body – whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free – and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.” The idea here seems to be that we are all baptized with the Holy Spirit at the time of our conversion to Christ. It’s a one time thing not repeated over and over again, like the filling of the Spirit. But then, if that’s the case, why is the phrase “baptism with the Holy Spirit” and the phrase “filling with the Holy Spirit used for the same event in Acts 2? It’s because in that one event there was an initial birth or rebirth, a spiritual birth taking place in the hearts of the disciples – that’s the baptism. And then there was a repeatable filling taking place also at the same time. The one, the baptism of the Holy Spirit can’t be repeated, it’s a one time thing, but the filling of the Spirit, that can and should be repeated over and over again in the life of every Christian. But this distinction that I just outlined is not recognized by all Christians; there are lots of different views and opinions about the baptism of the Spirit and the filling of the Spirit. We don’t have time to go into all the different views on that, but I think that what I just outlined makes the most sense of all. When we are truly converted to Christ, when we are saved, when we are born again, or whatever else we call it, at that time, we are baptized by or in or with the Holy Spirit. The act of water baptism symbolizes this spiritual baptism. We may also be filled with the Holy Spirit at the same time, probably most people are, maybe all people are also filled at the same time as baptized in the Spirit. But then, we are supposed to be continually filled with the Spirit every day as needed. But we are not supposed to be continually baptized in the Spirit, because that’s a one time thing. I think this is the best way of looking at it, although I wouldn’t argue with anyone about this very much. But there’s more.

Second, what happens when one is baptized with the Holy Spirit? Matthew 3:11, “I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me will come one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not fit to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.” Mark 1:7-8, “After me will come one more powerful than I, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” Luke 3:16, “I baptize you with water, but one more powerful than I will come, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.” John 1:32-33, “I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him. I would not have known him, except that the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain he who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’” From all of these passages describing the message of John the Baptist, we see he was looking forward to a day in the future when Jesus would baptize with the Holy Spirit. He seems to be speaking of a one time event, not one that is supposed to be repeated again and again. Just as John baptized in water, in the Jordan River, for the forgiveness of sins, a one time event, not to be repeated over and over again, so too, Jesus, in the future, would baptize in or with or by the Holy Spirit, also a one time event not to be repeated over and over again. Now you’ve noticed that in talking about the baptism in the Holy Spirit, I’ve used the preposition in, with, by, of, etc. They are all interchangeable prepositions in this case. It’s actually impossible in the Greek language to tell the difference between in, by, and with. Only the context of the sentence can give us the exact meaning. But the preposition isn’t important, it’s the substance that it’s describing. Just as John baptized with water, so too Jesus baptizes with the Holy Spirit. If you are a born-again believer, if you have repented of your sins and committed your life to the Lord Jesus, you have been spiritually transformed by the Holy Spirit; that’s the baptism of the Holy Spirit. It’s not the same as the filling of the Holy Spirit, although many people interchange it with that, it’s not. Just because you didn’t have a dramatic conversion experience doesn’t mean you weren’t baptized with the Spirit. After all, salvation isn’t about having an experience, it’s about being saved from sin, judgment and damnation. It’s about declared righteous by the Father through the blood of the Son Jesus. So if you are a Christian, you’ve already been baptized in the Spirit. But there’s still more.

Third, what happens when one is filled with the Holy Spirit? Acts 2:4, “All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in tongues as the Spirit enabled them.” Now does that mean when a person is truly filled with the Spirit he or she will start speaking in tongues? Some Christians believe that, but I don’t think it’s always or mostly the case. The disciples had a couple of things going on all at once here at Pentecost. They were being baptized in the Holy Spirit, becoming born again spiritually as a church and as individuals in the body of Christ. And they were also being filled with the Spirit for empowerment to do the will of God. If we aren’t careful we will confuse the two things or combine the two and get confused. One, the baptism, pertains to salvation. Two, the filling pertains to Christian living. So then it makes sense that they are filled with the Holy Spirit and they start speaking in tongues, because that was God’s will for them at that time. In 1 Corinthians 12, the Apostle Paul lists spiritual gifts that are available to all believers when they are filled with the Holy Spirit. There are other lists of other gifts available to believers as well. When we are filled with the Holy Spirit during or after we are saved, we then speak and act under the impulse of the Spirit instead of under our own control, or the world’s control or even worse, the devil’s control. When we are under the Spirit’s control, then we begin to use our spiritual gifts whenever they are needed. We’ll get into speaking in tongues next week, but I’ll just say now that there are different kinds of speaking in tongues outlined in the Bible. At Pentecost we see one kind – speaking in known foreign languages for the purpose of evangelism and discipleship. There’s another kind of speaking in tongues where nobody knows the language and there isn’t any purpose for it in communicating the gospel to others, it’s just for the believer himself speaking to God. But we’ll get into that next week. What I’m saying is that when a believer is filled with the Holy Spirit repeatedly, whenever they ask the Spirit to fill them for the day, they don’t necessarily and probably won’t speak in tongues, because tongues is just one of the gifts of the Spirit, not the only gift. A person might use another of the gifts of the Spirit when under the filling of the Spirit, or he or she may do something entirely different under the inspiration of the Spirit. We can’t dictate to the Spirit how he must operate in our lives. We must be open for anything the Spirit might inspire or empower us to do. Just because the disciples spoke in tongues doesn’t mean we all must when the Spirit fills us daily. The important thing for us is to be filled with the Spirit in these sinful and dark times we live in. We need to walk in the Spirit and be filled with the Spirit in order to make it as Christians in this evil world. Are you being filled with the Spirit daily? Are you praying to be filled with the Spirit? Why not start making it a normal practice to ask the Spirit to fill you every day? Why not? Let’s pray.

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