Baptist History Homepage
The Baptism in the Holy Spirit
By Wallace York

      The Bible reveals one God in His tri-personal existence as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. In the nature of the one God, there are three eternal distinctions which are represented to us under the figure of persons, and these three are equal. Each possesses the essential characteristics or attributes of deity, such as: omniscience, omnipotence, and omnipresence.

      In the Old Testament the Father is prominent; yet the Son and the Spirit are present and are often mentioned. In the Gospels the Son of God is prominent though the Father and the Spirit are also present. Since the day of Pentecost, the ministry of the Holy Spirit has been prominent.

      As a young preacher I learned there is much confusion among Christians concerning the office work of the Holy Spirit. This is easily seen when one begins a serious study on the baptism in the Spirit. Such things as tarrying services, speaking in tongues and interpretation of tongues must be dealt with. For a few minutes let us consider the subject, “The Baptism of the Holy Spirit.”


      Most commentaries and Bible writers have taken the wrong approach to understanding this important subject. The secret to understanding Scripture is to use the right key, and the key to understanding the baptism in the Holy Spirit is to approach it logically by first understanding baptism. A person who does not understand water baptism cannot be expected to understand Holy Spirit baptism.

      When writing to the church at Ephesus, Paul said there is only one (literal) baptism, and that is the baptism in water instituted by John the Baptist by divine commission, received by the Lord Jesus, and by Him committed to His church to be observed as an ordinance for disciples only. The other baptisms in the Bible are figurative and must be interpreted or understood by the literal baptism in water.

      Four things are essential if baptism is to be scriptural;

      A. There must be a proper administrator or authority. The first person in the Bible to administer baptism was John the Baptist. His authority to baptize was from the highest of all sources, God Himself (John 1:33). Later, we find Jesus baptizing through the agency of His disciples (John 4:1-2). Having organized His disciples into a church, Jesus commissioned it to continue making, baptizing, and training disciples to the end of the age (Matthew 28:18-29). That same church which the Lord founded and commissioned is still in the world carrying out those orders. Churches with a human founder have no such authority to administer this ordinance of the church.

      B. There must be a proper subject to be baptized. Not just any person is qualified to be baptized. John the Baptist demanded “. . . fruits meet for repentance” as a prerequisite to baptism, and Jesus required by precept and example that the making of disciples precede their baptism (Matthew 3:7-9; 28:19; John 4:1). At Pentecost “. . . they that gladly received His word were baptized. . .” (Acts 2:41). Every person baptized in the New Testament was a professed believer. Not a single instance of so-called “infant baptism” can be found in the Bible.

      C. Scriptural baptism also requires a proper mode. The Biblical act of baptism was immersion in water. A person with no knowledge of the Greek language can see this from the study of the New Testament in the King James version. John was baptizing where there was “much water”; when Jesus was baptized He “. . .went up straightway out of the water. . .”: and the Ethiopian eunuch, after having trusted in Jesus for salvation, said, “. . . See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized” (Acts 8:36). Had sprinkling been the mode of baptism they would have had drinking water sufficient for that purpose. That this is not the way to baptize is clear since it is said that the chariot was stopped and Philip went down into the water with the eunuch where he baptized him. That baptism is by immersion is very clear in Romans 6:4 where Paul says, “Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death. . .” A so-called baptism that does not involve immersion of the whole person in water is not scriptural baptism.

      D. The fourth essential element of scriptural baptism is a proper purpose. Baptism, like the Lord’s Supper, is an outward expression of an inward experience. That is, baptism is a preaching of the gospel in a picture. It portrays the subject’s belief in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ for the salvation of his soul. Because he believes Jesus died on the cross for his sins, was buried and rose again for his justification, the believer wants to picture what Jesus has done for him. This he can do in water baptism.


      Now that we understand these minimum essentials for scriptural baptism let us apply these same essentials to the baptism in the Holy Spirit.

      A. First, there must be a proper administrator. The way some people discuss the subject is they lead one to believe the Holy Spirit is the administrator of this baptism. Jesus, not the Holy Spirit, is the agent at work in the baptism in the Holy Spirit. This is seen from the Bible. Listen to John the Baptist: “I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire” (Matthew 3:11, see also Mark 1:8). It should be clear to any student of the Scripture that John is speaking of Jesus, who would baptize with the Holy Ghost. The baptism of the Holy Spirit is to be interpreted by water baptism.

      There is another baptism that Jesus shall administer: the baptism in fire. That this is not to be confused with Pentecost and the baptism in the Holy Spirit may be seen by looking at the following verse: “Whose fan is in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” (Matthew 3:12) The wheat represents Christians who will be gathered by the Lord and the chaff represents lost people who will be “immersed in fire.” Anyone praying for a baptism in fire is ignorant of the Scriptures.

      B. Next, there must be a proper candidate to receive the baptism in the Holy Spirit. Contrary to popular belief the Bible does not teach a baptism in the Spirit for individuals any more than it teaches a spiritual baptism. The church that Jesus built was the proper candidate for this baptism, and she received it on the day of Pentecost. During His earthly ministry Jesus organized His kind of church and after His resurrection He commissioned it saying, “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.” (Matthew 28:19-20) This was a tremendous task for such a small band of Christians. They were powerless to do such a work. Jesus knew that and told them that “. . . they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith he, ye have heard of me” (Acts 1:4). “But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth” (Acts 1:8). Now, to nail this point down, look at verse 4 of chapter 1. “And, being assembled together with them, commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem...” A church is a local, visible body of baptized believers who are assembled together in one place to carry out God’s will in that locality. They were assembled: they were a called-out congregation waiting to be “. . . baptized with (or in) the Holy Ghost not many days hence” (Acts 1:5).

      C. Then we notice the mode of baptism is by immersion. We have already seen Jesus as the administrator and the church as the subject to be baptized. Paul said, “One Lord, one faith, one baptism.” An individual may be scripturally baptized one time. The same is true with the church and that baptism of the church in the Holy Spirit took place on the day of Pentecost. We are given the account in Acts 2. On that day they were all in one place, and in one accord, sitting . . . . not praying, not taking part in a tarrying service . . . . and they were baptized by Jesus, as a church, in the Holy Spirit. Collectively, they were baptized in the Spirit: individually, they were filled with the Spirit. There is a difference between a burial and a filling. When the church was baptized, individuals were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues. Please notice that when the Christians spoke in other tongues, it was not some kind of ecstatic utterances but speaking in a language they had not spoken before (See Acts 2:4-8).

      D. What is the purpose of the baptism in the Holy Spirit? It is two-fold:

      (1). They were endued with power from on high (Luke 24:49) that they might preach the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ with power. The result of such preaching was the conviction of sinners by the Holy Spirit, their conversion, and continuing steadfastly in the apostle’s doctrine. “. . . And the same day there was added unto them about three thousand souls” (Acts 2:41).

      (2). It was to identify or accredit the church as being of the Lord. John the Baptist identified believers with the Lord Jesus Christ by His baptism in water. Jesus baptized His church in the Holy Spirit and thereby identified it as a divine institution with power from on high. (Unbelievers will be identified with the baptism in fire throughout the endless ages of eternity).

      My aim or purpose in writing this article is to help the Christian to rightly understand the Word of God that he be not deceived by Satan. The Devil will lead a person into believing there is such a thing today as a baptism in the Spirit and will cause him to waste valuable time trying to get it. The church was baptized in the Spirit on the day of Pentecost and that baptism was sufficient for every New Testament church. As I was seminally in Adam when he sinned, the church which I pastor was seminally in the First Baptist Church of Jerusalem when it was baptized at Pentecost.

      Christians who do not understand the truth about the baptism in the Holy Spirit are looking for such an experience for a selfish reason. Some of them are not sure they are saved and want an additional experience to prove they are. They do not need an additional experience: they need to believe the Word of God.

      We are no where in the Bible commanded to be baptized with the Holy Spirit, but we are told to “. . . be filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:17-18). A Spirit-filled Christian may be distinguished from others by the subject of his conversation. Jesus said of the Spirit, “. . . He will guide you into all truth: for He shall not speak of himself. . . . He shall glorify me” (see John 16:13-14). Simon Peter did not speak of himself on the day of Pentecost. He did not mention how he felt as a result of that infilling. No, he spoke of Jesus. Any person who is filled with the Holy Spirit of God will not speak of himself: he will want to glorify Jesus.


[From Christopher Cockrell, Editor: The Berea Baptist Banner, October, 2017. Preached at the Clarksville Baptist College Conference. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]

More on Baptists: Various Subjects
Baptist History Homepage