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What is the Baptism in the Holy Spirit?

Filled to overflowing.
This is a question of fundamental importance. Too often we talk about the Baptism in the Holy Spirit without asking what it actually is. This leads many Christians to the mistaken belief that it is merely an experience to be had. This then leads to the thought that it is something personal for the person receiving it. In order to avoid these mistaken ideas, we need to ask what the Baptism in the Holy Spirit really is.

Christ Himself answered this question before His ascension. He told His disciples ‘you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now … you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth’ (Acts 1:5, 8). Likewise, He told them to ‘tarry in the city of Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high’ (Luke 24:49). These verses show us that there is a link between the Baptism and the Holy Spirit, power and witness.

The Baptism in the Holy Spirit and Power from on High

The promise Jesus made to His disciples before His ascension was that they would receive power from on high when the Holy Spirit came upon them. Firstly we must note the source of this power; if God gave to Christ the authority to pour out the Holy Spirit, and Christ baptizes the believers in the Holy Spirit, then the source of this power can only be the Triune God. In the Baptism in the Holy Spirit, we do not simply receive power, but we receive the powerful Holy Spirit of God. The Holy Spirit Himself is poured out on believers, and so the power which we receive is divine power: the power of the Holy Spirit Himself at work in and through us.

The Baptism in the Holy Spirit and Evangelism

The power of the Holy Spirit which we receive through the Baptism in the Holy Spirit is particularly linked with evangelism. As we have read in Acts 1:8, Jesus told His disciples that they would ‘receive power when the Holy Spirit [had] come upon [them]; and [they would] be witnesses to [Him] in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.’ The power of the Holy Spirit here results in evangelism. We see this truth in action throughout the book of Acts. On the day of Pentecost, Peter, who had just been baptized in the Holy Spirit that very morning, preached the word of the Lord boldly and 3000 souls were saved. When Peter was arrested and appeared before the Sanhedrin, ‘filled with the Holy Spirit’ he proclaimed the gospel to the leaders of the Jewish people (Acts 4:8). When the Christians prayed that God would grant His servants ‘that with all boldness they may speak Your word’ (Acts 4:29), Luke records the Lords response with these words: ‘they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness’ (Acts 4:31). Thus the fact of being filled with the Spirit meant boldness in evangelism.

Thus the Baptism in the Holy Spirit is not simply an emotional experience, nor is it something that is given simply to bless the person who receives it. Rather, the Baptism in the Holy Spirit is Christ filling the Christian with His Holy Spirit, and thus enduing the Christian with the power of the Holy Spirit, and this divine power is especially linked with evangelism. So, if the Baptism in the Holy Spirit is given in order that we might be powerful witnesses of the gospel, that means that it is not given primarily to bless us, but rather to bless others through us, by making the gospel known to them.

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