Baptism of the Holy Spirit

Published April 13th, 2012 by Dirk Waren


Many Christians are unaware of this but there are six foundational doctrines in Christianity and “instructions about baptisms” is the third doctrine.

Therefore let us leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death, and of faith in God, (2) instruction about baptisms, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment.

Hebrews 6:1-2

The word “baptisms” is plural because there’s more than one baptism. When most people think of baptism they think of water baptism, but there are two other kinds of baptism for the believer, which are baptism into Christ and the baptism of the Holy Spirit. The word ‘baptism’ refers to “an immersion or washing.” As such, water baptism refers to a believer’s immersion into water symbolizing their death and resurrection in Christ; this is a testimony to the world and the church, which is why it’s done publicly. Although this is the most commonly understood form of baptism it’s actually the least important, which isn’t to say it’s not important, of course.

It’s not as important as the baptism into Christ because the baptism into Christ refers to entering into covenant with God through spiritual rebirth and the washing away of one’s sins through the blood of Christ (Galatians 3:26-29). No one can be saved without this immersion into Christ. I’m sure you see why this baptism is more important than water baptism since water baptism is merely the symbolic testimony of what has already taken place spiritually. What’s more important, the inward baptism or the outward baptism that represents it?

Being baptized into Christ is essentially one-in-the-same as being “born of the Spirit” (John 3:3,6), but being born of the Spirit is distinct from the baptism of the spirit, although they can occasionally happen at the same time. When you’re born of the Spirit, the Spirit is in you (Romans 8:9 & 1 Corinthians 6:19), whereas when you’re baptized in the Spirit, the Spirit is all over you because you’re immersed with the Spirit. It’s the difference between drinking a glass of water and jumping into a lake. Think about it.

Speaking in tongues is the initial physical evidence of the baptism in the Holy Spirit. While speaking in tongues is not the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit is not speaking in tongues, they both go hand in hand. Here are five scriptural examples of people receiving this baptism:

1. The believers in Jerusalem, as shown in Acts 2:1-4.

All of them spoke in tongues.

2. The Samarians, as shown in Acts 8:12-19.

The Samaritans were part Jew and part Gentile. Verse 18 shows that Simon the sorcerer “saw” that the Spirit was given to the Samaritans when the apostles laid their hands on them. In other words, he saw evidence that they received the Holy Spirit. What did he see? We must interpret Scripture with Scripture, which is a hermeneutical rule. Since the rest of the New Testament shows that speaking in tongues is the initial evidence of the baptism of the Holy Spirit, this must’ve been what Simon saw – people speaking in languages they didn’t know.

3. Saul in Damascus, as shown in Acts 9:17-18.

Although speaking in tongues is not mentioned in this passage, the baptism of the Holy Spirit is, and we observe scriptural evidence that Saul (Paul) spoke in tongues on a regular basis, which is praying in the spirit (1 Corinthians 14:18-19).

4. Cornelius’ household in Caesarea, as shown in Acts 10:44-48.

This refers to the first Gentile believers. Verses 45-46 state that “The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles. For they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God.” Since believers who are not baptized in the spirit can and do praise God, the evidence of the baptism is obviously speaking in tongues.

5. The Ephesians, as shown in Acts 19:5-7.

This passage shows that all twelve spoke in tongues as a result of receiving the baptism, not just a select few.

As already noted every Christian can and should receive this baptism and pray in the spirit to supplement prayer in his or her own language. This can be observed in 1 Corinthians 14:14-15, 18-19 and Ephesians 6:18. I have to emphasize this because there’s this idea rampant in the body of Christ that speaking in tongues was done away with once the biblical canon was completed. Don’t believe it; it’s a colossal lie that has allowed the enemy to keep multitudes of sincere believers from the full empowerment and help of the Holy Spirit.

Praying in the spirit is important because it edifies us by building us up in faith and empowers us to witness, to love people and to walk free from sin. We’ll look at this in the next section.

Before we do, there are a few things about the baptism of the Spirit and speaking in tongues that should be stressed and clarified:

  • Just because a Christian is baptized in the Spirit and can speak in tongues does not mean he or she is walking in the spirit, that is, bearing fruit of the spirit, like love, joy, peace, kindness, faith, humility and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). Putting it another way, to be spirit-controlled is synonymous with bearing fruit of the spirit but just because a believer is baptized in the Spirit and can speak in tongues doesn’t mean that he or she is participating in the divine nature by implementing one or more of the three keys as discussed in this chapter.
  • If a Christian can walk in the spirit to a good degree without the baptism of the Holy Spirit, how much more so if they are baptized in the Holy Spirit! In other words, just because you’re doing well spiritual without speaking in tongues, don’t let it rob you of this wonderful gift that God has provided for all believers!
  • The baptism of the Holy Spirit is usually transferred through physical contact, the ministry of laying on of hands, but not always. Although the gift can be received through someone who already has it, as shown in some of the above examples, a believer can also receive it simply through faith (Luke 11:9-13). In fact, everything in our covenant is by faith.
  • If any believer has hands laid on them for this baptism and they don’t speak in tongues it doesn’t necessarily mean they didn’t receive the baptism. They may have received it, but they simply have yet to speak in tongues. We have to understand that speaking in tongues – praying in the spirit – is something that the believer does by his or her volition and is not something the Holy Spirit makes people do. Remember what Paul said: “So what shall I do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will also pray with my mind” (1 Corinthians 14:15). Just as praying in a language you understand is an act of your own will, so is praying in the spirit. With this understanding, if I so chose I could theoretically not pray in the spirit the rest of my life even though I’m baptized in the Spirit.
  • On that note, there are too many Christians who are baptized in the Spirit and yet rarely if ever pray in the spirit and therefore lack the empowerment the Holy Spirit wants to give them. Speaking of which…

The Empowerment and Help of the Holy Spirit

The reason I’m going into so much detail about the baptism of the Spirit and praying in the spirit is because they are God-given sources of great empowerment for the believer to walk in newness of life and victory. Unfortunately, many believers settle for less than God’s best and they go through life struggling with things they don’t need to struggle with because God has provided for them the power and help they need – if only they knew of these truths and implemented them! This is the very reason God detailed these truths in his Word and it’s why I’m stressing them here.

With that understanding, notice the power that Paul said was available for his protégé Timothy:

For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of hands. (7) For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.

2 Timothy 1:6-7

What gift was Paul talking about? He doesn’t say, but there are clues: The gift was given through the laying on of hands and it is linked to the spirit or Spirit. Since Scripture interprets Scripture we must conclude that Paul was referring to the baptism of the Spirit because (1.) this gift involves the Spirit and (2.) there’s repeated evidence that this gift is typically transferred through the laying on of hands, as detailed in the previous section. As such, the baptism of the Spirit is the obvious answer.

By instructing Timothy to “fan into flame” this gift he was simply encouraging him to pray in the spirit more often, which is actually the seventh piece of the armor of God (Ephesians 6:18). What does he mean by fan it into flame? Speaking from experience, when I first received the baptism of the Holy Spirit in 1986 – two and a half years after my salvation – I’d keep saying the same phrase over and over in the spirit. It was just a handful of words and I had no idea what I was saying. Regardless, I put into practice this passage: I fanned the gift into flame by praying in the spirit whenever I had the opportunity, like driving to classes or to work or when I went off by myself to pray, as Jesus did (Luke 5:16). In time my spiritual prayer language grew dramatically. How so? Because I fanned it into flame just as Paul instructed. This is the key to walking in the blessings cited in verse 7: power, love and self-discipline. Let’s take a look at all three.


One of the main purposes of the baptism of the Holy Spirit is for believers to be empowered to walk in newness of life and be witnesses to the world (Luke 24:49 & Acts 1:8). The Greek word for power is dunamis, which is where we get the English words dynamo and dynamite. ‘Dynamo’ bespeaks of electrical power or a really energetic, forceful person, and ‘dynamite’ suggests explosive power. These are earthly things. Imagine how much greater is God’s dunamis power that’s available to all believers through the baptism of the Holy Spirit! All we have to do is fan it into flame and keep fanning it into flame. When Paul said, “Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18) he meant it in the sense of keep being filled. Praying in the spirit is a continuing thing. Why do you think Jude said, “But you, dear friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit” (Jude 20)? Why do you think Paul instructed, “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests” (Ephesians 6:18)? Because it’s an ongoing activity. We don’t pray in the spirit and then never do it again. That would be absurd. No, it’s a daily thing.

If you have the baptism of the Holy Spirit, I encourage you to pray in the spirit as soon as you get out of bed in the morning and as loud as possible; sing in the spirit as well, as Paul exemplified. Singing in the spirit, by the way, is merely praying in the spirit to a melody, like you’re singing a song. Paul practiced this and he was a powerhouse for God, second only to Jesus Christ himself in the New Testament. If you want to be a powerhouse like him you’ll have to do what he did. He’s our example.

You can pray in the spirit or sing in the spirit while you’re making coffee or taking a shower or driving. How long you pray and sing in the spirit is between you and God, just do it and keep doing it. Charge yourself up every morning and throughout the day. It’s more powerful than strong coffee. In a sense, it’s the ultimate drug because it’s free and you don’t have to deal with hangovers, not to mention the supply never runs out.

Think again about dumamis power – dynamite power. Does this sound like a boring thing? A deathly religious thing? Absolutely not. It suggests the abundant life that Jesus said he came to give:

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life and have it to the full.

John 10:10

The very reason Jesus came was to give us life and life to the full! When you get around Christians infected by legalism the last thing you’ll discern is life to the full and all that comes with it – joy, excitement, energy, ideas, faith, strength, confidence, love, creativity, originality, etc. More likely you’ll witness a stuffy, dead, dull, powerless, hackneyed religious spirit. It’s a shame. This is the image secular culture has of Christians, but it’s a false image and, thankfully, we don’t have to be like that. Praise God!

Do you want dynamite power at work in your life every day? Then pray in the spirit more and more! This is the reason the LORD gave us the gift of speaking in tongues, not to argue with non-Pentecostals!


What we know as agape (ah-GAH-peh) love is usually described as divine love, which is true since “God is love,” but it’s really just practical love or love-in-practice. Note the definition:

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy. It does not boast, it is not proud. (5) It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. (6) Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. (7) It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

1 Corinthians 13:4-7

Paul gave this definition of agape love by the Holy Spirit to encourage believers to practice agape love. You’ll notice that Paul doesn’t say anything about having warm feelings toward others when practicing agape love. Why? Because agape love refers to practical love rather than phileo love (brotherly love) and eros love (romantic love), both of which typically involve closeness or warm feelings. It’s easy to walk in love toward people you have loving feelings for, but it’s not so easy when you don’t. Think about it like this, the most famous passage of Scripture says that “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” Do you think this means that God has warm, fuzzy feelings for all the tyrants, warmongers, abusers, God-haters, rapists, murderers, molesters and perverts out there? Do you think he’s up there with dreamy eyes saying, “Oh, I just love these wicked people!” Of course not. The passage is referring to agape love – practical love. God was practicing love when he had his one and only Son die for our sins, which opened the door for reconciliation and eternal life through spiritual rebirth. God made the first move, humanity didn’t. The question is, how are we going to respond to his incredible example of agape love in Christ?

Those who respond positively to God’s love are candidates to becoming his friend, which has to do with phileo love and the warm feelings that come with it. Phileo love refers to a close friendship type of love or brotherly love. Philadelphia – “The City of Brotherly Love” – is derived from phileo. Consider Jesus’ statement to his disciples”

You are my friends if you do what I command.

John 15:14

According to this verse not everyone is Jesus’ friend, not even every believer. His friends are limited to those who practice what he commands. This refers to believers who respect the Lord enough to know his Word and put it into practice. God’s grace (favor) for salvation is for all and is unmerited; it is simply received through repentance and faith (Acts 20:21), but this doesn’t mean we can’t increase in favor with God after we receive salvation. Why do you think the Scriptures say that Jesus – who is our example – grew in favor with God just as he grew in favor with people (Luke 2:52)? Why do you think Peter encouraged us to grow in the grace (favor) of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, just as we are to grow in knowledge (2 Peter 3:18)?

Sad to say, these simple truths are blasphemy to some circles of Christianity. It’s shameful.

My point is that agape love is practical love and you don’t have to feel any warmth toward the person or people whom you share it with. Here’s an example: I was at my desk in my den and had a few greeting cards ready to mail out on the side of my desk. Carol came in and noticed that one of the cards was made out to someone who’s been known to treat us – particularly me – with contempt and slander. She said, “Oh, what a warmhearted soul you are!” I explained to her that it wasn’t a big deal because I’m empowered by the spirit to love those who hate me without cause. It’s been my regular practice for years. My flesh may not want to do it, but I strive to be spirit-ruled and not flesh-ruled. The main reason some believers might have difficulty in doing this is because either they’re not baptized in the Spirit or, if they are, they’re not praying in the spirit because praying in the spirit charges the believer up and empowers us to love our enemies and “overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:20-21).

By the way, when I refer to walking in love, I’m not referring to just the gentle variety. There’s something called tough love because agape love “is kind” and “does not delight in evil.” Sometimes the kindest thing you can do for people is to boldly confront the evil that has infected them, like Paul when he openly rebuked Peter’s legalism (Galatians 2:) and Jesus when he radically cleared the temple while yelling, pushing over tables and cracking a whip (Mark 11:15-18 & John 2:13-16). Some Christians think they’re walking in agape love by being nicey-wicey doormats when, in fact, they’re being cowardly and enabling evil to persist.

Needless to say, if you want a more effective love walk, keep yourself filled with the Spirit by praying in the spirit and fanning into flame the agape love that’s necessary to practice it.


I’ve been in the Lord since 1984 and I’ve overcome certain struggles of the flesh as I’ve grown spiritually and continue to do so, but I know believers from the 1980s and 90s who are still struggling with issues they should have grown out of years or decades ago. I’m talking about things like alcoholism, drugs, depression, porn addiction and government idolatry. They never attained the self-control necessary to walk in victory over these things. I don’t mean fleshly self-control here, but rather the Spirit-empowered discipline necessary to strip off such bondages and walk according to the spirit, which naturally produces the fruit of the spirit, one of which is self-control.

If a believer is walking in spiritual self-control they’ll have the power and discipline to walk free of fleshly bondages. This is something that develops over time, but praying in the spirit is key to producing this dunamis power and discipline necessary, not to mention the other two keys to walking in the Spirit.

Notice what Jesus said about the purpose of the baptism of the Holy Spirit:

(5)”but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”

(8) “But you will receive powerwhen 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.”

Acts 1:5,8

The purpose of the baptism of the Holy Spirit is to empower believers. Empowering believers to be witnesses means more than just the oomph it takes to share the gospel with people verbally, it includes the power to walk free of the flesh, including legalism and libertinism. After all, how effective is a witness who lacks the power to walk free of the bondages of the flesh?

Jesus also said this about the Holy Spirit:

“But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.”

John 14:26

Here Jesus describes the Holy Spirit as our “Counselor,” which is translated as “Helper” in the King James Version. We’ll consider this momentarily. He goes on to say that the Counselor will “teach us all things.” Jesus described this as guiding us “into all truth” in John 16:13. Needless to say, if you want more understanding and insight to the Scriptures and the will of God pray in the spirit more often.

As far as the Spirit being our helper, Paul said this:

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.

Romans 8:26

One of the purposes of the Holy Spirit, our “Helper,” is to help us in our weaknesses. He does this by interceding for us, which takes place when we pray in the spirit. When we speak in tongues the Spirit guides our spirit what to pray and, hence, intercedes for us. This can include “groans that words cannot express,” which I’ve experienced on some occasions while praying in the spirit.

What we want to focus on here is that the Holy Spirit is our Helper who helps us in our weaknesses. As shared above, I’ve known believers who have problems in areas like alcohol, drugs, depression, porn addiction, lying and gossip/slander. In other words, they’re weak in these areas. The good news is that one of the very purposes of the Holy Spirit is to empower believers to overcome in these areas, but we have to be baptized in the Spirit and fan into flame the gift, praying in the spirit on all occasions. As we do this we’ll cultivate the power from within – spiritually – to overcome in any area of weakness. Let me give an example from my own life.

I used to have a huge problem with depression. Two professional Christian counselors said I needed to be on medication, but I knew that wasn’t the route to go. If other believers choose to go on medication for a season, that’s between them in the LORD, but – for me – it wasn’t the way to go. I just knew it. So I kept following the Lord and growing in the Spirit. After a while, I noticed that the Spirit would lead my spirit to laugh uproariously sometimes while praying in the spirit. For example, there may be times where I’m tempted to get blue, but instead I start praying in the spirit and my spirit just starts laughing like crazy as led of the Holy Spirit. This has nothing to do with my mind or mental state since laughing is the furthest thing from my mind on these occasions, but as my spirit laughs uproariously with knee-slapping laughter I am naturally influenced by it. Needless to say, it keeps me out of depression! You see? The Holy Spirit helps me in my area of weakness and enables me to overcome.

If you have an area of weakness – and who doesn’t? – charge yourself up regularly by praying in the spirit and the Holy Spirit will give you the power to overcome and walk in victory, I guarantee it. It may not happen overnight, but it will happen and one day you’ll look back at your current struggles and laugh. Your weakness will come to mind and you’ll just laugh about it!

Your weakness may not even be something of the flesh but simply a trait that’s unique to you. For instance, you might have an extreme loathing for the punch-the-clock grind. The Holy Spirit will help you in this area of “weakness” as well. He’ll give ideas, golden connections or open doors for you to make a living without the drudgery of punching a clock. Whatever your weakness or need is, the Holy Spirit is here and he’s is in you to help you!

Eagerly Desire Spiritual Gifts!

The Bible teaches us to “eagerly desire” spiritual gifts, as shown in 1 Corinthians 12:1, 31, 14:1, 39, which would include the gift of personal tongues, otherwise known as glossolalia (gloss-ah-LAY-lee-ah). Paul emphasized eagerly desiring — pursuing — the “greater gifts” (1 Corinthians 12:31). What is the greater gift? Simply the specific gift that’s needed at the time!

I bring up this point because there are, unfortunately, whole segments of the body of Christ that have written off spiritual gifts as having “passed away” since the last of the original apostles died circa 100 AD. They particularly write off praying in tongues (glossolalia). This is a false doctrine that’s not supported by the Scriptures. It’s a “doctrine of demons” invented by the kingdom of darkness to prevent believers from walking in the dynamite power that God has for us. Think about it: It encourages believers to do the precise opposite of what the Scriptures instruct us to do. It encourages believers to eagerly deny spiritual gifts when God’s Word encourages us to eagerly desire them!

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