©FOUNDATION MAGAZINE, May-June 1990
Is Holy Spirit Baptism
Subsequent to Conversion?
The Apostle Paul, speaking through the Holy
Spirit, says, "Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I would not have you
ignorant." It was evidently very needful in those days for God's people to be able to
distinguish the true things of the Spirit from the false. Is this not equally necessary
today, if not more so? There are among these times those who call themselves
"Pentecostals," or "Latter Rain Saints," or members of
"Assemblies of God," who place special emphasis on spiritual "gifts and
manifestations." These are most earnest in seeking what they consider the higher
things, and for their earnestness we commend them.
But with reference to "spiritual gifts" many questions arise, such as—
Were these gifts intended for all believers, or only for certain chosen saints? Were they
merely for the apostolic age, or may we expect to find them in the Church of the present
day? Especially, are we to look for the "sign gifts," namely, "working of
miracles," "tongues," "interpretations," and
"healings," at the present time? Are these "sign gifts" the special
evidence of the enduement of the Spirit, and are we to conclude that no one is really
"endued" who is without these signs?
The name "Pentecostal" implies that this belief claims special connection
with the Pentecostal outpouring of the Spirit at the beginning of the Christian era. This
body of Christians insists that no believer should be satisfied until he obtains "his
Pentecost," or, to put this matter in the words of one of their own books, "What
God gave to His Church on her birthday was intended to be the normal experience of her
every member." Within this experience they include not only (l) the being filled with
the Spirit but also (2) what they claim to be the one Pentecostal and Scriptural evidence
of that fullness, namely, the speaking in tongues.
They call the fulness the "baptism" of the Spirit, doing this evidently with
the object of linking up with Pentecost the experience of Cornelius and his household and
the experience of the disciples at Ephesus, which is recorded in Acts 19, so that they may
have a basis for their teaching that all believers of this dispensation should receive the
Holy Spirit "as at the beginning."
Are Fulness and Baptism the Same?
But is it legitimate for us to call the fulness of the Spirit by the term
"baptism"? Is this the way Scripture teaches us to use this term for believers
of the present day? This Holy Spirit baptism is definitely mentioned only seven times in
the New Testament, namely, in Matt. 3:11; Mark 1:8; Luke 3:16; Jn. 1:33; Acts 1:5, 11:16;
and 1 Cor. 12:13. Six out of these seven passages refer to the prophecy of John the
Baptist that the Christ was who He would "baptize in the Holy Spirit," while
reference to Acts 1:5 clearly shows that it was at Pentecost that this blessing of the
Holy Spirit actually came into the experience of the Apostles and their fellow-believers.
But we must not overlook the fact that, as McConkey in his masterful book, "The
Threefold Secret of the Holy Spirit," clearly points out, "the Apostles lived
before Christ came, while He walked the earth, and after He left it. Wherefore the
experience that matches ours is not so much that of the Apostles, who had also believed on
Jesus before the gift of the Holy Ghost, as that of the Apostles' converts, who believed
on Him exactly as we do, after the work of Christ was finished and after the Holy Ghost
was given." Indeed, the Scriptures distinctly state that the Apostles were believers
before Pentecost, but that they did not, and could not, receive the Holy Spirit til that
"day" was "fully come." "But this spake he of the Spirit, which
they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because
that Jesus was not yet glorified" (John 7:39). This giving and this receiving of the
Spirit, it should be added, was that feature of the Spirit's coming of which Christ spoke
when He said, "and I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter,
that he may abide with you for ever" (John 14:16).
Though there are evidences to show that the Apostles were the objects of many
ministries of the Spirit, yet the only legitimate conclusion from these words of Christ is
that it was at Pentecost they actually received the Holy Spirit Himself as an ever-present
indwelling power. But it is not so with us as to our believing and our receiving of the
Spirit. It is an impossibility for anyone to be a believer in the present time without
receiving the Holy Spirit. " ...Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he
is none of his" (Rom. 8:9). As Scofield says, "The Holy Spirit indwells
every believer during this dispensation. There is no such thing as a believer who has not
received the Holy Spirit." Wherefore, to argue that the experience of the Apostles at
Pentecost should be the norm for believers of the present age is beside the point.
Apostolic Experience Is Not Ours
In other words, we cannot take the experience of the Apostles as a guide in determining
what the baptism of the Spirit is for us. But we can, and we should, take the experience
of their converts as a determining factor, as well as the direct apostolic instruction on
(1) On the very first day of the Church's life, when in answer to the cry of the
convicted multitude, "What shall we do ?" the apostolic direction was to repent
and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, we find light on subject before us. The Apostle
Peter said, "Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for
the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. For the promise is
unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off..."(Acts 2:38,39).
Now what is this promise which is called "the promise"? It is mentioned in
the 33rd verse of this second chapter of the Acts, where it is said that the exalted Jesus
received "the promise" from the Father (see also Luke 24:29). But, going back
still farther in the Acts we find it mentioned again in Chapter 1:4, 5, from which it can
easily be seen that this promise is the promise of the gift of the Holy Spirit. Hence the
answer of the Apostle Peter to the multitude was virtually: Repent, and acknowledge Christ
as your Savior (water baptism is but the outward sign of this acknowledgment), "and
ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost."
Now without question the repentance and faith which the Apostle demanded of the
Jerusalem multitude are the prerequisites to salvation, that is, to a man being born unto
eternal life. So we come at once to the conclusion that the baptism in the Spirit is that
operation of the Holy Spirit which results in regeneration.
(2) This conclusion is confirmed when we look at the conversion of Cornelius and his
household. It is distinctly said of these that they were "baptized in the
Spirit." The Apostle Peter, in reporting what took place at Caesarea, said, "And
as I began to speak, the Holy Ghost fell on them, as on us at the beginning. Then
remembered I the word of the Lord, how that he said, John indeed baptized with water; but
ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost" (Acts 11:15,16).
When did this baptism take place? Some time after they were converted? No, but at the
very time of their conversion. How is it described? Just after the Apostle made the above
quotation from the sayings of the Lord regarding this baptism of the Spirit, he adds,
"Forasmuch then as God gave them [Cornelius and his household] the like gift [the
gift of the Spirit] as he did unto us, who believed on the Lord Jesus Christ [that's
regeneration]; what was I, that I could withstand God?" Acts 11:17.
Baptism When United To Christ
The baptism, then, is the same as the gift of the Holy Spirit. In Acts 10:47
this coming of the Spirit is described as the receiving of the Holy Spirit.
That is, on God's part it is a "giving," but on the believer's
part it is a "receiving."
Now the Holy Spirit is always received at regeneration. It may be that the fulness
or power or some enduement of the Spirit may not then be obtained, but the Spirit
Himself comes at that time to take up His abode in the believers heart.
He enters then once and for all never to leave the "temple" which his
holy presence hallows. The Apostle Paul asked the Ephesian disciples the very
significant question in Acts 19:2,
"Have ye received the Holy Ghost since [having believed, because of the
fact that...] ye believed?" This question clearly implies that the Apostles
expected men to receive the Holy Spirit at conversion. Since, therefore, the
receiving of the Spirit is the same as the baptism of the Spirit, it follows
that the baptism of the Spirit is that coming of the Spirit which takes place
The conclusion the Jerusalem Christians reached regarding the reception of Cornelius
and his household is significant. After hearing Peter rehearse the story of his going in
unto the Gentiles, of his preaching, and of the consequent descent of the Spirit in
baptism, they said, "Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto
life" (Acts 11:18). They did not speak of any enduement, of any manifestation of
signs or powers or wonders. They did not mention anything of any "second
blessing"; but they spoke of the great primal blessing. They received the Spirit upon
believing (Acts 15:7-9.)
(3) Let us now look at 1 Corinthians 12:13. In this verse the Apostle Paul says that
those Corinthian believers were "all baptized in the Spirit." Now this statement
of the Apostle concerning those Corinthians cannot refer to the enduement or fulness of
the Spirit. For this body of "the baptized in the Spirit" contained
"carnal" Christians and those who "were weak in the faith" (1 Cor.
3:1; 8:11, 12) and surely no one would assert that such were filled the Spirit. That
congregation contained some who had not broken entirely with idolatry, but were still
eating meats sacrificed to idols; contained, also, many who were given to litigation and
who were "defrauding one another." It could not be said that any such were full
of the Holy Spirit, and yet it is written that they "were all baptized in the
Spirit." This baptism, then, is not the fulness of the Spirit.
But the verse says further that it was this baptism which brought those Corinthians
"into the body," that is, into the Church. The Apostle says not merely that
"in one Spirit were 'they' all baptized," but also "were baptized into one
body." The baptism of the Spirit, then, can be nothing else than the new birth.
"Except ye be born again ye cannot enter the kingdom of heaven." This is the one
and only entrance to the company of believers.
The Apostle's use of the past tense in telling of the "baptism in the Spirit"
of those Corinthians adds further light. He says not that they were to be, but that they
were baptized. At the same time, it should be noted that he was especially anxious that
they should become "spiritual" (1 Cor. 3:1). If then, he meant by the term
"baptism" the fulness of the Spirit, why did he not urge them to seek the
baptism? But no; he asserts that they already possessed this blessing. It would seem that
about all that could be predicted of the majority of those Corinthians was that they were
born again. They were but "babes in Christ." They had gone nothing beyond that
initial experience of the new birth. Hence we are again brought to the conclusion that the
baptism in the Spirit is that operation of the Spirit which results in regeneration.
(4) In full accord with the foregoing conclusion is the uniform teaching in all the
Epistles. Mark you, these Epistles were written to believers, and in none of them is there
a single hint that the baptism in the Spirit is a blessing which the readers did not
possess, and one which they should seek. Believers are enjoined to be filled with the
Spirit, walk by the Spirit, pray in the Spirit; but never once to be baptized in the
Spirit. And the very evident reason is that they already possess this blessing. Nowhere do
the Epistles give countenance to the teaching that the baptism in the Spirit is a blessing
which the believer may obtain subsequent to his conversion.
What, then, shall be said about the teaching that Christians must tarry and seek and
agonize for the baptism of the Spirit? It is, indeed, true that many more than our
Pentecostal friends use the term "baptism" to describe the fulness of the
Spirit, but surely such a use of the word is unwarranted. The writer would not in the
least minimize the need of seeking and striving for the fulness of the Spirit. This duty
should lie heavily on many more of God's people than it does, and let nothing that is
here written hinder any anyone from more earnestly seeking this all-needful blessing.
But let not the fulness be confused with the baptism of the Spirit. Biblical terms
should never be confused. Any careless handling of the Word should be avoided. Such a
procedure cannot but lend itself to the propagation of error, of which the teaching under
discussion is an outstanding example., which by the misapplication of Scripture has
plunged many a seeking soul into spiritual darkness and satisfied others with its
will-o-the-wisp lights. Let us be sure of this, that the Word of God does not warrant any
believer to tarry and seek and pray for the baptism of the Spirit. Every believer already
has this great primal blessing.
Reprinted from the October, 1927, issue of The King's Business.