The Holy Spirit is an eternal and divine person, a member of the Godhead, compatible in nature with the other two members of the Godhead, the Father and the Son (Matthew 28:19; II Corinthians 13:14). If we have no trouble conceiving of the Father as a divine person or conceiving of the Son as a divine person, then we should have no trouble conceiving of the Holy Spirit as a divine person rather than as an impersonal “it” or only a force, power, or influence. Seven times in a single text Jesus used personal pronouns to refer to the Holy Spirit, referring to Him six times as “He” and one time as “His” (John 16:13). This is but one of many texts that speak of the Holy Spirit as a divine person/being.
As is true of God the Father and Christ the Lord, there is only one Holy Spirit (Ephesians 4:4-6). The Holy Spirit is designated in various ways in scripture. He is called the Spirit of God (Matthew 12:28), the Spirit of Christ (Romans 8:9b), the Spirit of the Lord (Luke 4:18), the Spirit of truth (John 16:13), and simply the Spirit (John 1:32). In the King James Version, the Holy Spirit is called the Holy Ghost. “Ghost” is an archaic word that means “spirit.” When Jesus died on the cross, He gave up the “ghost” (KJV), i.e., His “spirit” (NKJV, ASV, NASB, et al) (John 19:30). “Holy Spirit” is obviously a better term than “Holy Ghost,” but if one uses the KJV it should be understood that the Holy Ghost and the Holy Spirit are the same.
The New Testament teaches that there have been various bestowals of the Holy Spirit, that is, the Holy Spirit has been given to different people, at different times, in different ways, for different purposes. It is profitable to examine these various bestowals or impartations of the Spirit.
Baptism of the Holy Spirit – John the Baptist declared that Christ would baptize with the Holy Spirit (Matthew 3:1-12; Mark 1:6-8; Luke 3:15-17; John 1:29-34). (Note: While Matthew and Luke also mention Jesus baptizing with fire, it does not come within the purview of this essay to discuss the significance of “fire baptism”). It should be observed that Holy Spirit baptism is set forth by John as a promise, not as a command, and that it was to be administered by Christ, not by man. No man ever baptized anyone in the Holy Spirit and no one was ever commanded to be baptized with the Holy Spirit.
The apostles of Christ were baptized with the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost (Luke 24:44-49; Acts 1:1-5, 8; Acts 1:26 - 2:1-4). This was done in order for them to be qualified to speak (and write) “all truth” into which the Holy Spirit would guide them (John 14:26; John 16:13; I Corinthians 2:10-13. (In context, the “us” and “we” in this latter passage refer to Paul and the other inspired apostles and prophets of the New Testament era [see Ephesians 3:3-5; Galatians 1:11-12]. It is an egregious blunder to take the words of Christ to the apostles and apply them to all Christians of all time!)
Cornelius and his household, a Gentile family, received baptism with the Holy Spirit to show Jewish members of the church that Gentiles also were amenable to the gospel and worthy of acceptance into the body of Christ, the church (Acts 10:44 – 11:18). Having been shown that Gentiles were acceptable to God, Peter preached the gospel to Cornelius and his household and commanded them to be baptized in water, which baptism was for the remission of sins or to have sins washed away and to be saved (Acts 10:47-48; cf. Acts 2:38; Acts 22:16; Mark 16:15-16; I Peter 3:21). Holy Spirit baptism did not save Cornelius and his family, but served as a sign to Jewish believers that Gentiles should also have the opportunity to hear and obey the gospel (Acts 10:44-48; Acts 11:15-18).
While there is no specific record of the apostle Paul being baptized with the Holy Spirit, it is reasonable to infer that he was. The 12 apostles had received Holy Spirit baptism on the Day of Pentecost (see above). At that time, Paul was an unbeliever and an enemy of Christ. Later, he was converted (Acts 9, 22, 26) and became an apostle. He affirmed that he was “not a bit behind the most eminent apostles” (II Corinthians 11:5) and that “in nothing was [he] behind the most eminent apostles” (II Corinthians 12:11). He received the gospel “by the revelation of Jesus Christ” (Galatians 1:11-12) and wrote “according to the wisdom given to him” (II Peter 3:15-16), wisdom which God “revealed by the Spirit to His holy apostles and prophets” (Ephesians 3:5).
The above are the only cases of Holy Spirit baptism mentioned in the New Testament. Some 20 years after Cornelius and his family had been baptized with the Holy Spirit Paul wrote to the Ephesian saints (c. A.D. 62) and declared that there is one baptism (Ephesians 4:5). This is baptism in water in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit for the remission of sins (Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-16; Acts 2:38; Acts 8:36-39). This baptism can be and is administered by man, but only Christ could baptize with the Holy Spirit. In the light of Ephesians 4:5, it is both illogical and inconsistent for anyone today to contend for both Holy Spirit baptism and baptism in water for the remission of sins. Holy Spirit baptism served its purpose and ceased. Water baptism for the remission of sins continues in effect until the end of time (Matthew 28:18-20).
Holy Spirit baptism is not to be confused with the new birth in which one is born of water and the Spirit (John 3:1-5). The new birth refers to becoming a child of God through obedience to the gospel (Romans 1:16-17; Romans 6:16-18), otherwise known as conversion to Christ (Acts 3:19). In this “new birth” process one is begotten by the Spirit of God through the word of God (Luke 8:11; James 1:18; I Peter 1:22-25), culminating in one being delivered from the waters of baptism to live in newness of life (Romans 6:1-6).
Neither is Holy Spirit baptism to be confused with the reception of the Holy Spirit by all who obey the gospel. There is but one baptism and that is baptism in water for the remission of sins (see above). The reception of the Holy Spirit by obedient believers in Christ is an entirely different thing from Holy Spirit baptism and will be addressed in a future essay.
(To Be Continued)