Thursday, April 8, 2010

Baptism of the Spirit

What is the baptism by the Spirit, and how does it relate to water baptism and baptism into Christ? While I do not want to blow this out of proportion, nonetheless I think it valuable to look at what the Scripture says on the subject. In 1 Corinthians 12:13, it says we are all baptized by the Spirit into one body, Christ's church (Colossians 1:18). Some would distinguish between this baptism by the Spirit and the one mentioned elsewhere in Scripture (Matthew 3:11; Acts 1:5; 11:16). Now the word "by" used in all cases means "by means of", "with," or "in". The same form or a similar form appears in all the references to baptism by the Spirit. Therefor, Christ baptizes us by the Spirit into the church. Also, if there is a second baptism, it is difficult to know from Scripture what it is and how we obtain it. I conclude that baptism by the Spirit happens at salvation and that filling is the proper word for the working of the Spirit after conversion. Baptism by the Spirit started at Pentecost (Matthew 3:11; Acts 1:5), but afterward occurs at salvation (Acts 11:16). Taken this way, there is a parallel between Spirit baptism and water baptism. Baptism by the Spirit puts us in the body of Christ; baptism by water puts us in the organizational church, the visible manifestation of that body.

Related to this is being baptized into Christ, being identified with His death, burial, and resurrection. Again the Scripture indicates that this is true of all believers (Romans 6:1-10; Galatians 3:26-27; Colossians 2:11-14; note that in Galatians 2:20 "faith," in context, is saving faith). It therefore makes sense to equate baptism into Christ with Spirit baptism. Also, water baptism is a picture of this, at least in the form of immersion. (I am not dogmatic about the form of baptism, but I do believe that immersion preserves the full symbolism.)

Further, there is no Scriptural basis for saying speaking in tongues is a necessary sign of the baptism by the Spirit. Now I do not see any basis for saying tongues have passed away, and 1 Corinthians 14:39 would give the benefit of the doubt to those who speak in tongues. But while all are baptized by the Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:13), not all are given the gift of tongues (1 Corinthians 12:29-30).

It is helpful to know our baptism into Christ is an established fact, rather than something we need to somehow obtain, though we should live in light of it (Romans 6:11-23; Colossians 3:1-4). Also, it is important to see growth in Christ as an ongoing process (Galatians 5:16; 2 Corinthians 3:18; Hebrews 5:14), rather than a one-time event, which can encourage people to stop there, instead of go on with Christ. Understanding this ultimately leads to an affirmation of the real unity of the body of Christ (Galatians 3:28-29; 1 Corinthians 12:12,13). This issue is nothing to divide over, but understanding it does put things in perspective.


  1. I thought the Baptism of the Holy Spirit was this...


  2. I would also add that the idea of a "second blessing" is forced into Acts 2:38 when it simply isn't there.

    "And Peter said to them, "Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit." (Acts 2:38)

    While Pentecostals (of which most of my family is associated with) would suggest that the Holy Spirit is something to be sought after salvation and water baptism, the verse plainly tells us that we WILL receive it, not "CAN" receive it. It's a done deal. If you are born of Christ, you have the Spirit.

  3. Puritan Lad,
    Thank you for link to the wrong way to approach the baptism of the Spirit. Once we leave the position that all who are born of Christ are baptized in the Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:13) and have the Holy Spirit at work in them (2 Corinthians 3:18) it is amazing the lengths some people will go to feel they have God's Spirit at work in their lives.