Discover more from Grounded in the Bible
Baptism by the Holy Spirit
Sacraments, Lesson 5
The last several weeks, we’ve focused primarily on the importance and history of baptism by water. But we also learned that John the Baptist prophesied that one would come after him who would baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire. Who is the Holy Spirit? What does it mean to be baptized by the Holy Spirit? Let’s take a look at what the Bible says.
Who Is the Holy Spirit?
I could do a whole series on the Holy Spirit, and I might some day. Today is not that day. There’s no way I can summarize the totality of who the Holy Spirit is in a paragraph or two and a few verses. But here’s the essentials of what you need to know if you don’t know anything about the Holy Spirit.
1. The Holy Spirit is part of the Trinity.
Although the word Trinity is not used in the Bible, many passages give hints about the three parts of the Triune God. Specifically related to baptism, we find this verse:
Matthew 28:19: Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit is one part of the Trinity, meaning that the Holy Spirit is God.
2. The Holy Spirit dwells in Christians.
When someone declares their belief in Jesus, they receive the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit then dwells in that person.
Romans 8:9-11: 9 You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ. 10 But if Christ is in you, then even though your body is subject to death because of sin, the Spirit gives life because of righteousness. 11 And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you.
Just think—God Himself has decided to live in you! What an amazing miracle and gift. And if the Spirit lives in you, then you are sealed and marked as belonging to God.
Ephesians 1:13-14: 13 And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.
3. The Holy Spirit gives Christians the power to live Christ-like lives.
When the Holy Spirit dwells in a Christian, that Christian receives power. Power to do what? Power to know the truth (John 16:13-14), power to develop the fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23), power to resist the devil (Ephesians 6:10-18), power to witness for Christ (Acts 1:8), and power to stand firm in the faith (2 Corinthians 1:21-22, Philippians 1:27-28).
John the Baptist Prophesied about Baptism by the Holy Spirit
Now that we know a little bit about why it is important to receive the Holy Spirit, let’s look a bit at what it means to be baptized by the Holy Spirit, which is another way of saying that we receive the Holy Spirit.
In our earlier lesson on John the Baptist, we saw that John prophesied that someone would come after him who would baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire:
Luke 3:16: John answered them all, “I baptize you with water. But one who is more powerful than I will come, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”
Mark 1:7-8: 7 And this was his [John’s] message: “After me comes the one more powerful than I, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. 8 I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”
Who is this that would baptize with the Holy Spirit?
John Identified Jesus as the One who would Baptize by the Holy Spirit
In our Bible Essentials lesson on Jesus’s baptism, we saw that when Jesus was baptized by John, the Holy Spirit descended and rested on Jesus like a dove (Matthew 3:13-17). After this event, John identified Jesus as the one who would baptize with the Holy Spirit:
John 1:32-34: 32 Then John gave this testimony: “I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him. 33 And I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ 34 I have seen and I testify that this is God’s Chosen One.”
John had been told that someone would come who would baptize with the Holy Spirit. Now, he knows who that someone is—Jesus. And when Jesus started to take the spotlight, John humbly stepped back and supported Jesus.
Jesus Promised to Send the Holy Spirit
Not only did John say that Jesus would send the Holy Spirit, Jesus himself promised his disciples that he would send the Holy Spirit to them.
John 14:15-17: 15 “If you love me, keep my commands. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— 17 the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.”
Throughout his ministry, Jesus repeated this promise to his disciples—that he would send the Holy Spirit to them after he left. That time came after Jesus’s death, burial, and resurrection. Before Jesus left his disciples to ascend into heaven, Jesus once again reaffirmed his promise to send the Holy Spirit, telling his disciples to wait in Jerusalem until this promise was fulfilled.
Acts 1:3-5: 3 After his suffering, he presented himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God. 4 On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. 5 For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”
The Holy Spirit is for Jewish Believers
The disciples obeyed and patiently waited in Jerusalem. Then, on the day of Pentecost, something miraculous happened:
Acts 2:1-4: 1 When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. 2 Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3 They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. 4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.
This was the moment they had been promised—Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to dwell in them. This was the baptism by the Holy Spirit and fire that John had prophesied and Jesus had promised. The Holy Spirit first came upon the disciples, now called apostles, and then spread to other believers.
After the apostles received the Holy Spirit, Peter spoke to a group of God-fearing Jews in Jerusalem, promising that those who believed in Jesus, repented of their sins, and were baptized will receive the Holy Spirit:
Acts 2:38-39: 38 Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.”
Then, the Holy Spirit spread from those who were in Jerusalem to Jewish Christians outside Jerusalem. One example of this is given in Acts 8:
Acts 8:14-17: 14 When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to Samaria. 15 When they arrived, they prayed for the new believers there that they might receive the Holy Spirit, 16 because the Holy Spirit had not yet come on any of them; they had simply been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 17 Then Peter and John placed their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.
At this point, everyone who received the Holy Spirit had a Jewish heritage, which was as the apostles expected. But what about those who were not Jewish? Could they also receive the Holy Spirit?
The Holy Spirit is for Gentile Believers
It took a bit of convincing for the apostles to believe that the Holy Spirit is also for Gentiles. It started with Peter and Cornelius in Acts 10. Cornelius was a centurion in the Italian Regiment. He and his family were God-fearing, but they were Gentiles. In a vision, an angel told Cornelius to send for Peter. About the same time, Peter had a vision that God used to confirm that Gentiles should be included in God’s family. So when Cornelius sent for Peter, Peter came. Peter preached the gospel to Cornelius and all those who were gathered, and the people believed. Then we find out:
Acts 10:44-47: 44 While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message. 45 The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on Gentiles. 46 For they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God. Then Peter said, 47 “Surely no one can stand in the way of their being baptized with water. They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have.” 48 So he ordered that they be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked Peter to stay with them for a few days.
Up to this point, it seems that everyone who received the Holy Spirit had already been baptized into the name of Jesus. Here, we see that sequence in reverse—the Gentiles received the Holy Spirit, and then they were baptized. This helps us see that receiving the Holy Spirit and baptism do not need to happen in a certain order; although they are related, they are two distinct events.
Back to the story of Peter and Cornelius. The other apostles still weren’t convinced about the Gentiles receiving the Holy Spirit, and they were actually upset with Peter for meeting with someone who was uncircumcised (circumcision was a sign of being Jewish):
Acts 11:1-2: The apostles and the believers throughout Judea heard that the Gentiles also had received the word of God. 2 So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcised believers criticized him 3 and said, “You went into the house of uncircumcised men and ate with them.”
So Peter told them the whole story. This is how Peter’s story ended:
Acts 11:15-18: 15 “As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit came on them as he had come on us at the beginning. 16 Then I remembered what the Lord had said: ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ 17 So if God gave them the same gift he gave us who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to think that I could stand in God’s way?” 18 When they heard this, they had no further objections and praised God, saying, “So then, even to Gentiles God has granted repentance that leads to life.”
I don’t know about you, but as a Gentile myself, I’m pretty thankful with how that story ended. God Himself decided that all people, both Jew and Gentile, should receive the gift of the Holy Spirit when they believe in Jesus. This Holy Spirit is what unites all believers:
1 Corinthians 12:12-14: 12 Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.
As Christians, we should be united with each other through the one body and the one Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the one who gives us power to live a Christ-like life and witness for Christ in the world.
This is the end of our study on baptism. Next week, we’ll start our exploration of communion. So now it’s time for some self-reflection. Do you believe in Jesus? Have you repented of your sins? Have you been baptized, symbolizing that you have died to your old self and been raised to new life in Christ? Have you received the Holy Spirit, who gives you the power to live for Christ? Do you allow the Holy Spirit to work in your life, renewing you daily and helping you become more like Christ? Or do you hold on to the person you used to be, allowing Satan to have a foothold in your life? In what ways do you need to allow the Holy Spirit to regain that foothold? If you believe in Jesus, it’s time to be all in.