Baptism of the Holy Spirit — and It’s Benefits
Many Christians are unaware of this, but there are six foundational doctrines—teachings—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.
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 unimportant, 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 Yeshua (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 a symbolic testimony of what has already taken place spiritually. What’s more important, the real 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 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 pure, mountain lake.
Speaking in tongues is theoretically 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:
- The believers in Jerusalem, as shown in Acts 2:1-4. All of them spoke in tongues.
- The Samaritans, 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.
- 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 elsewhere that Saul/Paul spoke in tongues on a regular basis, which is praying in the spirit (1 Corinthians 14:18-19).
- 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.
- 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 native 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, which is known as cessationism. 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 minister, to love people and to walk free from sin.
Before we get into that, there are a few things about the baptism of the Spirit and speaking in tongues that need to be stressed and clarified:
- Just because a Christian is baptized in the Spirit and can speak in tongues, it does not mean that he or she is walking in the spirit and producing the fruit thereof, 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 it does not 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.
- With the above understanding, the baptism of the Holy Spirit and the corresponding gift of glossolalia should not be taken as a badge of superiority where the believer becomes condescending toward those who don’t (yet) have it. To do this would be arrogance and “God opposes the proud.” Spirit-baptized believers who cop a pompous attitude will naturally slip into legalism. Speaking of which, there are plenty of tongues-talking legalists in the body of Christ—too many!
- Although the baptism of the Holy Spirit is wonderful and empowering—which is why I’m stressing it—it should not be viewed as a “cure all” or the all-and-end-all of Christianity.
- 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 spiritually 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, that is, 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 him or her 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 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 am baptized in the Spirit. Are you following?
- On that note, there are too many Christians who are baptized in the Spirit and yet rarely, if ever, pray in the spirit. They 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 these 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 have to struggle with because God has provided the power and help they need—if only they knew of these truths and implemented them! It is for this purpose that God detailed these truths in his Word and it’s why I’m stressing them here.
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 Holy Spirit because 1. this gift involves the Spirit, 2. there’s repeated evidence that this gift is typically transferred through the laying on of hands, as detailed in the previous section, and 3. this gift involves Spirit-given power. The baptism of the Spirit is the obvious answer.
* Remember, there’s no capitalization in the original Greek and therefore translators have to discern whether “spirit” should be capitalized in reference to the Holy Spirit or not capitalized in reference to the human spirit. In this case, the NIV translators decided not to capitalize “spirit”, nor did the KJV translators.
By instructing Timothy to “fan into flame” this gift, Paul was simply encouraging Timothy 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 fanning 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 generally 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 (Luke 5:16). In time my spiritual prayer language grew dramatically. How so? Because I fanned it into flame just as Paul instructed Timothy. This is the key to walking in the three blessings cited in verse 7: power, love and self-discipline. Let’s take a look at each of these…
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 an ongoing 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 1:20)? 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. 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.
* And, if you don’t have it, please get it ASAP. It’s available for every believer.
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 do this is between you and God (I suggest at least 5-10 minutes), 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 dunamis power—dynamite power. Does this sound like a boring thing? A deathly religious thing? No, it suggests the abundant life that the Messiah said he came to give us:
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life and have it to the full.
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 horrible 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 very reason the LORD gave us the gift of speaking in tongues, not to argue with non-Charismatics!
The type of love we’re empowered to walk in by praying in the spirit is agape love, which is purely practical love or love-in-action, which isn’t dependent on affinity or affection. It’s important to distinguish this because there are four types of love observed in the Bible:
1. Storge love is family love, which includes the bond, affection and loyalty that develops between family members. Although the word itself, storge (STOR-gay), is not found in the original text we see numerous examples of this type of love in the Bible, like Martha & Mary’s love for their brother Lazarus in John 11.
Of course, the opposite of storge love can develop between family members, which is when relatives develop hatred for each other. A couple of obvious examples are Cain & Abel (Genesis 4:1-11) and Joseph & his jealous brothers (Genesis 37).
2. Phileo love is friendship love or brotherly love, like the platonic affection/respect of David and Jonathan (2 Samuel 1:25-26). Philadelphia, “the city of brotherly love,” was named after this type of love. You could say that phileo love is storge love applied to non-family members. There’s an element of affection, respect or bond despite the fact that they’re not kin. The word phileo (fil-LAY-oh) can be found some 25 times in the original Greek text of the New Testament whereas the noun form, philia (fil-EE-ah), appears only once (which is why we’re using phileo here and not philia).
5 Now Jesus loved (phileo) Martha and her sister and Lazarus…
35 Jesus wept.
36 Then the Jews said, “See how he loved (phileo) him!”
John 11:5, 35-36
3. Eros love is phileo love between members of the opposite sex and includes a romantic element, but it doesn’t refer to shallow sexual lust. Although the word eros (eer-ROSS) doesn’t appear in the original manuscripts there are many examples of this type of love in the Scriptures. One overt example can be observed in the amazing Song of Songs. Here’s a passionate expression of love from this book where the man is speaking to the woman:
let me hear your voice;
and your face is lovely.
for your voice is sweet,
show me your face,
Song of Songs 2:14
4. Agape love is, again, purely practical love or love-in-action and is therefore not dependent on liking/respecting a person. It’s usually described as divine love, which is true since “God is love,” but it’s really just practical love or love-in-practice regardless of bond/respect/affection. In other words, you can agape love someone for whom you have zero kinship (storge love), esteem/rapport (phileo love) or romantic fondness (eros love). Note the biblical definition:
Love (agape) 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. Notice that he doesn’t say anything about having warm feelings or respect toward the other person when applying agape love. Why? Because agape love refers purely to practical love, which is distinguished from storge love (familial love), phileo love (friendship love) and eros love (romantic love), each of which involve some type of connection, closeness or warm feelings. It’s easy to walk in love toward people for whom you have kinship, respect or affection, but it’s not so easy when you don’t.
Think about it like this: The most famous passage of Scripture says “God so loved (agape) 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 so respect and love these wicked people!” Of course not. The passage is referring to agape love—purely practical love. The Father was practicing love when he had his one and only Son die for our sins; so did the Son when he willingly laid down his life. This 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?
Those who respond positively to God’s agape love and accept the gospel immediately enter into his storge love since they are born into God’s family (1 John 3:9). These are candidates for becoming the Lord’s friend, which has to do with phileo love and the favor that comes with it. As noted, phileo love refers to friendship love or brotherly love. Consider Jesus’ statement to his disciples:
“You are my friends if you do what I command.”
According to this verse not everyone is Jesus’ friend, not even every believer, who is part of God’s family and therefore possess his storge love. Christ’s 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, as well as obey the directions of the Spirit. God’s grace (favor) for salvation is for all and is unmerited; it is simply received through humble 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 in some circles of Christianity. It’s both ignorant and shameful.
My point is that agape love is purely practical in nature and therefore you don’t have to feel any warmth or respect toward the person or people with whom you share it. In short, agape is love-in-action and has little to do with affection, that is, liking the person. This explains how we can fulfill Jesus & Paul’s instructions to love our enemies (Luke 6:27 & Romans 12:20-21). Do you like your enemies, that is, phileo love them? Do you respect them? Of course you don’t. But this isn’t a problem because we are not commanded to phileo love our enemies, but rather to agape love them. Are you following?
This shows why agape love is often defined as “unconditional love” since it is purely practical in nature and, again, not dependent upon liking an individual or on how well they treat you. 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-controlled and not flesh-ruled. The main reason some believers have difficulty in doing this is because 1. they’re not walking in the spirit and therefore not producing the fruit thereof, the primary fruit being agape love (Galatians 5:19-23), 2. they’re not baptized in the Spirit or 3. if they are, they’re not praying in the spirit because praying in the spirit charges the believer up and empowers us to agape 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 for his legalism (Galatians 2:11-14) and Christ 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.* I should hastily add that this isn’t an excuse to be a rash fool who’s overly gung-ho with confronting and rebuking, which is abusive and usually results in unnecessary strife.
* For more information on this rarely-heard topic see the article Gentle Love and Tough Love.
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 the very same issues they had back then. 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 in these areas. 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 the necessary discipline, 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 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.”
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?
The Messiah 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.”
Here Christ describes the Holy Spirit as our “Counselor,” which is translated as “Helper” in the King James Version. He goes on to say that the Counselor will teach us all things. Yeshua 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.
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 (Romans 8:26).
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 such 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 to overcome in any area of weakness. This is spiritual power, not fleshly power. 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 and 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 are times when I’m tempted to get blue, but instead I pray in the spirit and my spirit inspires me to laugh like crazy as led of the Holy Spirit. This has nothing to do with my mental state since laughing is the farthest thing from my mind on these occasions, but as my spirit prompts me to laugh uproariously with knee-slapping laughter I am naturally influenced by it—it rubs off. 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 struggle 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 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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