Tue, Jun 05, 2012
72 - What and When is the Baptism of the Spirit? [b]
Acts 8:14-18 by Robert Dean
Confusion around the Baptism of the Holy Spirit includes a definition, questions about when it happens, who is the agent who accomplishes it, how is it different from water baptism, is it an experience which can be felt, is it manifested by tongues, and how does it relate to relatively new Christian movements? Does the church age begin on a definitive date? If not, how does that relate to occurrences in Acts which seem different from doctrines in the Church age today? These questions and more are answered concerning the essential and important doctrine of the Baptism of the Holy Spirit.
Series: Acts (2010)

What and When is the Baptism of the Spirit. Acts 8:14-18

Acts 8:14-16 NASB "Now when the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent them Peter and John who came down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit. For He had not yet fallen upon any of them; they had simply been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus." They are saved but they don't have the indwelling, the filling, the baptism—nothing to do with the Holy Spirit in terms of the church age yet. It was not because of any sin in the life or because they didn't fully trust Jesus, or because they just got part of the grace package at justification and there had to be a second work of grace. It doesn't have anything to do with that. That was fundamentally the Pentecostal error: splitting the distribution of God's grace to the believer and getting part of it at salvation and a secondary act of dedication. Ephesians 1:3 NASB "Blessed {be} the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly {places} in Christ." Every spiritual blessing means that there are none that were left out and we get everything as a package deal at the instant of salvation.

But Acts is a transition book. We are moving from one dispensation, the dispensation of Israel, to a new dispensation. There is a new start. There is a little bit of an overlap going on here because the age of the Mosaic Law ends at the cross, and so there is no longer a purpose for the ritual sacrifices and everything that went along with the Mosaic Law. But the temple was still in existence on the temple mount. There was still the function of the Levitical priesthood. There is no sense of contradiction going on in the minds of Peter, John, Paul or anyone else that there is a conflict between the gospel of grace and bringing sacrifices, thanksgiving sacrifices. Paul wasn't bringing atonement sacrifices, he was bringing thanksgiving sacrifices to the temple. As long as the temple was there it was the site for worshipping God—until God removed it, and that didn't happen until AD 70. From 33 to 70 there was this transition period that while it was in the church age there were clearly things going on that would not become normative in the church age. One of these was that there were different things that happened in different order at salvation.

In Acts chapter two the Holy Spirit initially only falls upon the twelve. This was spread out as the day of Pentecost proceeded. They were already believers, it was evidenced by a noise like wind; then there was a visible representation in the tongues of fire. Subsequent to that we are told they were filled with the Spirit. This was a different word for filling than we have in Ephesians 5:18. It was the word pimpleni [pimplhni] which always precedes some sort of vocal utterance, some sort of statement or speaking. It is related more to some kind of inspiration type talk than it is to the ongoing filling of the Holy Spirit of Ephesians 5:18. They were filled with the Spirit, they spoke in tongues, and there was no laying on of hands. Water baptism is only mentioned late in the events in Acts 2:38. In Acts chapter eight, the passage we are in, the Samaritans believed, are baptised by water almost immediately, then three or four days go by before Peter and John get there. Peter and John lay hands on them and then they receive the Holy Spirit. There is clearly a distinction of three or four days time between their justification and regeneration, and then several days later they receive the Holy Spirit. But there is no mention of tongues.    

If we read Pentecostal writers they say, well everything else was there so tongues would have been there also. That is reading things into the text, and you just can't do that, there is no justification for it. That doesn't mean it wasn't there but if the Holy Spirit is connecting these dots all the way through, if we are really coming to the text with a view that the Holy Spirit has inspired this and He is telling us what we need to know, and He talks about tongues in Acts 2, Acts 10 and Acts 19, and not here, if they had occurred here why wouldn't He mention it? Because what He is doing in each of these as He talks about the reception of the Holy Spirit, which is the thread that ties these together, is to show that the Jews in Acts 2, the Samaritans in Acts 8, the Gentiles in Acts 10, and Old Testament believers as evidenced by John the Baptist's disciples as they come to Paul in Acts 19, these all come into the same body of Christ on the foundation of apostolic authority. There is only one apostolic foundation and one apostolic leadership. This is what Paul says in Ephesians 2:12: the apostles and prophets lay the foundation of the church. So the Holy Spirit ties these together in what He says. It is important to pay attention to what He says and what He leaves out.

So here there is no mention of speaking in tongues and this is related to the fact that tongues was designed to be a sign, not what was said. Many times people don't hear that because for so long people have thought that the purpose of tongues was to communicate the gospel. But that is not what Paul said in 1 Corinthians 14. It is not what is being said, it is that divine revelation and content is not being said in Hebrew, and because it is not being said in Hebrew and it is being said in a Gentile language and a result of the Holy Spirit, it is a sign of judgment on Israel. Because up to this point every time God had revealed Himself to the Jews and reveals His Word it is always in Hebrew through the Hebrew prophets. But now it is going to be in Gentile languages. So there are no tongues in the case of the Samaritans because they are a sort of half-breed ethnic no-man's land situation. It was important with the Gentiles.

If Jesus died in AD 33 and you were an Old Testament saint living in Macedonia, and you died between 33 and 50 when Paul got there, you were an Old Testament believer. The gospel hadn't arrived to you yet. You didn't just automatically become a New Testament church age believer just because of a calendar date. Here are these Old Testament saints in Acts 19, disciples of John the Baptist who were clearly presented in the text as saints, but they haven't heard anything about Jesus. They had just heard what John the Baptist's message was and they believed that, so that makes them Old Testament believers. They are in transition. If we don't understand transition in Acts we will never understand the book. It is different because it is a transition event. That is why people have made mistakes going to Acts as a foundation for doctrine. It is not a foundation for doctrine unless it is confirmed clearly through what is said later in the epistles, because it is dealing with how God is transitioning from the Old Testament dispensation of Israel to the church age dispensation which is the present age.  

So we want to look at the baptism of the Holy Spirit and the mechanics. We may not think it is so important but it is always important to make sure we clearly understand what the Word of God says about whatever it talks about. First of all we have to understand that the baptism of the Holy Spirit did not occur in the Old Testament at all. Baptism is a word that has a literal meaning and it has a figurative connotation. The literal meaning is to dip or plunge or immerse. It was used in a lot of different ways but it had a symbolic significance of identification. The literal plunging or immersion, which is what occurred in the baptism of John the Baptist and water baptism for believer's baptism, is to teach the principle of identification with the message of either John or with the message of the gospel. The baptism by means of the Holy Spirit did not occur in the Old Testament because it is an identification, as we will see, with Jesus Christ in His death, burial and resurrection. Since Jesus had not died, been buried or resurrected there could be no identification with that.

The first baptism of the Holy Spirit occurred on the day of Pentecost. It is indicated by non-technical language such as the receiving of the Holy Spirit. The reason for that is that there are numerous ministries of God the Holy Spirit to the church age believer, and none of those transpired prior to the day of Pentecost. So the reception of the Holy Spirit includes indwelling, filling, the baptism by the Holy Spirit, the reception of spiritual gifts; and all of this happened instantly on the day of Pentecost, first to the apostles and then to other believers.

This doctrine of the baptism by the Holy Spirit has become a controversial doctrine in modern times because of the teaching of the Pentecostal-charismatic movement. It is important to understand these technically-defined terms. A Pentecostal is the original movement, and "Pentecostal" meant that you believed that there was a work of grace after salvation that is identified by speaking in languages, and that act is called the baptism of the Holy Spirit. If you got that then you quit your denomination and went off and joined a distinct Pentecostal denomination. The Charismatic movement, though, is one that has the same view that you get a second work of grace identified as the baptism of the Holy Spirit, necessarily evidenced by speaking in tongues, but you don't leave your denomination.

It is important to understand that in classic Pentecostal-Charismatic theology there are two works that happen. There is something that happens at salvation and there something after salvation. If they are challenged biblically we talk about what John the Baptist said about Jesus: that Jesus would baptize by the Spirit, and then in 1 Corinthians 12:13 Paul says that we have all been baptized by one Spirit. The way the English translates 1 Corinthians 12:13 makes it look like the Spirit does the baptizing. So in Pentecostal theology there is a baptism that Jesus did, predicted by John, and then there was this other baptism that Paul talks about. They really have two different baptisms. The problem derives from the English translation in the KJV, because in Matthew 3:11 John  the Baptists said, "I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, and I am not fit to remove His sandals; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire." In the Greek text of Matthew 3:11 the preposition translated "with" is en [e)n] – en pneumati for "in water" and en pneumati for "the Holy Spirit." But it is translated with the English preposition "with." When we get to 1 Corinthians 12:13 we read "For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body." The trouble is the Greek is the same in both passages. If you don't know Greek it looks like it is "by the Spirit" in 1 Corinthians 12 and it is "with the Spirit" in the Gospels: two different things.

Matthew 3:11 uses en pneumati [e)n pneumati] (en always governs the dative case), which really expresses instrumentality. What did John the Baptist use to baptize or identify his converts with his message? The instrument he used was water. What instrument is Jesus going to use? He is going to use the Holy Spirit. We have to keep that parallel going on between water and the Spirit. In 1 Corinthians 12:13 Paul says, "For by one Spirit," but it is the exact same Greek phrase. The problem was that there was one person translating the KJV in the Gospels and somebody else translating in the Pauline epistles, the person in the Gospels had a liking for the English preposition "with" and the translator of 1 Corinthians liked the English preposition "by," and so they translated the same Greek phrase two different ways. People untutored in Greek looked at this and said we have two different baptisms. This is the problem with Pentecostal-Charismatic theology. It ends up with two different baptisms of the Holy Spirit: one "with" the Holy Spirit at salvation and another one "by" the Holy Spirit after salvation.

In 1 Corinthians we have this phrase, "For by one Spirit." We always translate it "by means of one Spirit" because that gets across the idea of instrumentality. We are "all baptized into one body," and Paul here uses the verb baptizo [baptizw] in the aorist tense, which indicates that he is viewing it as completely in the past. He traced the use of this first person plural pronoun all the way through 1 Corinthians from the beginning to the end talking about himself and anybody in the Corinthians church—all those nasty, carnal Corinthians. Paul includes them all and says, "we were all baptized into one body" – past tense. So it is clear that this verse is talking about something that applies to anyone and everyone who is a believer. They have all been identified with Christ in His death, burial and resurrection.

The word "into" is the Greek preposition eis [e)ij] which indicates the direction or goal of something. The point is that we have a sort of formula statement. There is a verb that tells us the kind of action. There is another statement that tells us the instrument used to accomplish the action—indicated by the en clause, then there is another preposition that indicates the future goal or state that is the end result of this action of baptism. We get messed up in English because in English we handle a passive verb a little differently. We see that baptizo is an aorist passive indicative. An active voice verb means that the subject performs the action of the verb. John hit the ball with (by means of) the bat. The verb is "hit." John is the grammatical subject of the verb. So (active voice) John performs the action of hitting the ball. The grammatical direct object of the verb receives the action of the verb. John hit the ball with (expressing the instrument of how he hit the ball), but if we turn it around and change the active voice verb to a passive voice verb we have ti change where we put the subject and the object. If we reverse it and say, The ball was hit with (or by) the bat, the ball is now the grammatical subject, but it receives the action of the passive voice verb. "Was hit" is now a passive voice, the subject receives the action of the verb. When we change that over and say that the ball was hit by John, John is no longer the grammatical subject of the verb but he is still the one who performs the action. So grammatically this is called being the agent—he is the agent who performs the action, but in a passive voice he is not the grammatical subject. So we say, The ball (subject) was hit (passive verb) by John. Notice that in English we use the preposition "by" to express the agent who performs the action of the verb. You can also use "by" to express the instrument. Confusing! The first "by" is not the same as the second "by." This is a problem we get into in 1 Corinthian s 12:13.

In Greek the performer or the agent, if it is a passive verb, it is always going to be indicated by hupo [u(po]. It is technical. Greek is not going to let us miss who the agent of the action is, it is always going to be expressed by the preposition hupo, not by en. en tells us what he hit it with. So when 1 Corinthians 12:13 says, "For by one Spirit" it doesn't use hupo, that would indicate that the Spirit performs the action of baptism. It says the same as in Matthew 3:11. John said, "The one who comes after me will baptize you en pneumati—"by the Spirit." It is in every Gospel; it is in Acts chapter one. en pneumati is technical, it indicates the instrument used to bring about the baptism. In 1 Corinthians 12:13 it doesn't say hupo because it is not telling us that the Spirit does the baptizing. It doesn't tell us who does the baptizing because that is not Paul's point. He leaves the agent out of his statement there because he is emphasising the fact that it has all been acco0mplished by the Spirit, because it is this use of the Holy Spirit in identifying us with Christ in His death, burial and resurrection that is the foundation of the unity of the body of Christ. That happens with the Jews, then the Samaritans, the Gentiles and then the disciples of John the Baptist. This is why Paul can say this is one body; there are not four bodies, not four distinct Pentecosts. There is one event and it is all at the hands of the apostles showing that there is only one body.

The baptism of the Holy Spirit is first prophesied by John the Baptist at the incarnation. Jesus Christ states it almost identically in Acts 1:5. In each of those instances this baptism by means of the Holy Spirit is all future. Acts chapter one Jesus said: You will be baptized by the Holy Spirit. By the time we get to Acts chapter eight it has already happened. When does it happen? Acts chapter two.

In Matthew 3:11 the subject of the active voice verb is Jesus Christ. He is the one who is going to perform the action. John said: "He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit." Who performs the action? Jesus does. Who does He use to perform the action? The Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is viewed grammatically as an instrument even though he is a person. The fire is Matthew 3:11 is a future judgment.

John said: I baptize you (active voice verb). John performs the action and he does it with water. To understand what Jesus does with the Holy Spirit we have to understand what John the Baptist did with the water. That is the visual training aid to understand something that happens in the invisible spiritual realm. John takes a person and plunges/immerses them into the water. It is literal water but it is a symbol or picture of the total cleansing of this person from sin. Then when this person comes up out of the water he is in a new state—in this case a state of repentance. So he has gone from an old state of being non-repentant to being cleansed of sin (symbolised by being plunged into the water). He comes out of the water and is identified in a new state. When John says, "I baptize you with water," it is for the end goal of repentance, the new state. He compares that with what Jesus is going to do: "He who is coming after me …. will baptize you with the Holy Spirit" (future tense) – just as John baptized with water. So the role of the Holy Spirit is analogous to the role of the water. What was the role of the water? To cleanse ceremonially, ritually, from sin. What is the Holy Spirit going to do at the instant of salvation? He cleanses us positionally of all sin. The baptism of the Holy Spirit is this picture of an identification that takes place where the Holy Spirit is used in the same way that water was used by John the Baptist to bring about this cleansing and into this new state.

1 Corinthians 10:2 NASB "and all were baptized (passive voice) into Moses in the cloud and in the sea." This is a dry baptism, the ones who got wet died. "… into Moses," the new state, "by means of the cloud and by means of the sea." The agent that effected their identification with Moses was the cloud and the water, which is a reference to the pillar of fire, the cloud and the Red Sea. That going through the Red Sea following the cloud is identifying the Israelites with Moses.

1 Corinthians 12:13 NASB "For by one Spirit [en pneumati] we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit."

In terms of mechanics Jesus Christ uses the Holy Spirit to identify the believer with Christ just as John the Baptist used water to identify the believer with repentance. It is identification that is so important. John the Baptist uses water to identify the person with repentance; Jesus Christ uses the Holy Spirit to identify the person with Himself, in terms of His death, burial and resurrection. Jesus does the baptising and there is only one baptism. The baptism that John predicted in Matthew 3:11 and Jesus predicted in Acts 1:5 is the same baptism that Paul talks about in 1 Corinthians 12:13. We are all united in this universal body of Christ. Unification among believers is achieved by the baptism by means of the Holy Spirit. Positionally we are all one in Christ. Ephesians 4:5 NASB "one Lord, one faith, one baptism." The baptism Paul is talking about there isn't water baptism, it is the baptism by means of God the Holy Spirit because that is what makes us one body in Christ.

This has implications such as in Galatians 3:23, 25. It doesn't means that ethnic distinction, gender distinction, social distinction is eradicated but these are no longer relevant in terms of the individual's relationship to God as they were under the Mosaic Law. In terms of the body of Christ there aren't these distinctions. There are in terms of roles but not in terms of our personal relationship to God. So the baptism of the Holy Spirit provides retroactive (it goes back) identification with the death, burial and resurrection of Christ which is the basis, then, of the victory over the sin nature—Romans 6:3-5.

The baptism of the Holy Spirit begins the church age, and this distinguishes it from all previous ages.

It is also the basis for positional truth, i.e. our identification with Christ which then becomes the foundation for these challenges and exhortations to live the spiritual life.

It is not an experience of any kind. We can't look back and say we felt it. We didn't even know what it was until we studied the Scripture and the revelation of God tells us about it. The bottom line is that the baptism of the Holy Spirit places us in Christ as a new creature, a new status, in His body, and that is what is being formed. Christ does it using the Holy Spirit as the means of cleansing and identification.