The Holy Spirit is at work now in the life of the believer. What is His character and work?

The Baptism and Filling of the Holy Spirit

by John L. Stauffer

The Holy Spirit constantly seeks to magnify Jesus Christ.

Sincere Christians want all the zeal and love that characterized the best in the apostolic church. In the Word of God we have authentic and authoritative information about the advent of Christianity and about the conditions of its founding. Various religious groups attempt to duplicate the apostolic fervor and believe that apostolic conditions must be realized today in order to experience apostolic power. Of all the different functions of the Holy Spirit, the baptism of the Spirit and the fillling of the Spirit seem to receive the greatest emphasis. In this paper we submit teachings of the Word of God concerning the work of the Holy Spirit in the believer and especially as it relates to the baptism and the filling. The following points will receive attention:

1. Terms associated with the baptism of the Spirit.
2. What is the meaning and purpose of Holy Spirit baptism?
3. When does the baptism of the Spirit take place?
4. What does the Bible teach about the filling of the Spirit?

I. Terms Associated with the Baptism

John the Baptist announced that Jesus would baptize with the Holy Ghost. Matt. 3:11; Mark 1:8; Luke 3:16; John 1:33. Jesus describes the Holy Spirit baptism after His resurrection from the grave as the promise of the Father. Acts 1:4; Luke 24:49. He further announces the baptism of the Holy Spirit as imminent. "Not many days hence" (Acts 1:5). Jesus promised His followers that He would send the Holy Spirit as the Comforter, John 14:16, 26; 16:7, 13. The promise of the Father is recorded by the prophet Joel in 2:28, 29. Peter tells us that Jesus Christ has received the promise of the Father since His exaltation to God's right hand and has shed it forth as "ye now see and hear" (Acts 2:33). Prophecy declares that this gift will come to God's children upon the exercise of faith after Jesus is glorified. John 7:37-39. The promise is to all, as many as the Lord calls Acts 2:39. The Gentiles received the promise of the Spirit through faith. Gal. 3:14. The Ephesians were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise. Eph. 1:13. The reception of the Holy Spirit as a seal is also called the earnest of our inheritance. Eph. 1:14. The Spirit falling upon the Gentiles was the baptism of the Holy Ghost. Acts l0:44-47; 11:15, 16. The baptism of the Spirit is called the gift of God. Acts 8:19, 20. The Pentecostal converts (3000 in number) were promised the gift of the Holy Spirit upon repentance, water baptism, and the remission of sins. Acts 2:38. This was in answer to their question, "What shall we do?" One of the problems that stands out after noting what the Scriptures have to say about the baptism of the Holy Spirit and the terms associated with this divine work is, "Why do people pick out the term baptism of the Holy Spirit and ignore the sealing by the Holy Spirit, the earnest of the Spirit, and the anointing of the Spirit when they are all related to the believer's experience according to the Scriptures." Is there any Biblical reason for believing that the baptism of the Spirit is of more importance than the other functions of the Spirit named above?

II. What Is the Meaning of Holy Spirit Baptism?

This question strikes at the crux of much current discussion about the baptism of the Holy Spirit. There are those who ask, "Have you received your Pentecost?" Then there are those who confuse cleaning or washing, with sanctification. It is interesting to note that cleansing and purification are definitely ascribed to faith, to the Word, and to the blood of Christ; (Acts 15:9; Eph. 5:26; Heb. 9:14; I John 1:7, 9; John 15:3) while sanctification is ascribed to the work of each member of the Trinity. I Thess. 5:23; Heb. 10:10, 14; 13:12; 10:29; 2:11; Eph. 5:26; Rom. 15:16; II Thess. 2:13; I Pet. 1:2. A person can be unscriptural by emphasizing sanctification by the Holy Spirit if he ignores the sanctification of the Father and the Son. There are many more references to sanctification through the Father and the Son than through the Holy Spirit. It is possible to magnify the work of the Holy Spirit to the point where the work of Christ and the Father is almost unnoticed. This is erroneous because the work and the witness of the Holy Spirit is to exalt Jesus Christ. John 16:12-15. It is always a serious defect when we magnify the gift above the Giver. There are those who recommend their own experience as the pattern of the Spirit's working, ignoring divine revelation, and insist that unless one has the same pattern of experience he has nothing. Such a teaching has distressed many honest and sincere Christians. There are those who give the impression that the Book of Acts provides us with the whole truth about the operations of the Holy Spirit; that it gives the prescribed method of modern evangelism. They hold that if apostolic conditions were met, that apostolic results would be realized. It seems that such people overlook the fact that Acts describes the introduction of Christianity into a pagan world, and that the Epistles reveal the applications of truth for later times. In other words, we must make a distinction between apostolic experience in Acts and apostolic teaching in the Epistles. Apostolic experiences cannot be duplicated today unless we have apostolic conditions, but the same Holy Spirit operates today as in the apostolic times.

Those who teach the eradication of the old nature through a crucifixion experience hold that the Christian becomes a person of one nature, instead of the two natures so clearly taught in the Epistles. We wish such would demonstrate their teaching more humbly and lovingly.

The Apostle Paul gives a definite answer to the significance of the baptism of the Holy Spirit.

    "For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free, and have been all made to drink into one Spirit" (I Cor. 12:13).

This Scripture gives a meaning to the outpouring of the Spirit at Pentecost that is not explained in the Book of Acts. This will be noticed in more detail later in the article.

Since the Holy Spirit baptizes Jew and Gentile into the one body, the church, it will be profitable to note some Scriptures concerning the body. The body of Christ is composed of many members. Rom. 12:5; I Cor. 10:16, 17. Our bodies individually are members of Christ's body. I Cor. 6:15. They are also called the temples of the Holy Ghost. I Cor. 6:19, 20. Christ, the head of the body was anointed with the Spirit as He appeared visibly in the form of a dove. Isa. 61:1, Matt. 3:16. Christ's body, the church, began to take form through the baptism of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost with the Holy Spirit appearing as "cloven tongues of fire" coming upon each one assembled. Acts 2: l-4. God fits the body together, Satan would disintegrate it. II Cor. 12:24. God desires no schism in the body, Satan would divide it. I Cor. 12:25. In Corinth we have "experience-seekers" who gathered around different men. The "sect spirit" (not the Holy Spirit) said, "I of Paul," or Cephas, or Apollos, or Christ. They were critical of Paul the man of God and doubted his apostleship. Many other evidences of division and carnality are rebuked by Paul in the epistle. Modern "experience-seekers" like the Corinthians somehow manage to skip the charity chapter and are often schismatic in practice. Some of them become harsh, bitter, and caustic towards one who opposes their views or who does not agree with them. They have a "knowledge that puffeth up." Such reaction nullifies their claims of a superior experience.

The body of Christ formed by the baptism of the Holy Spirit is the church. Eph. 1:23. Through the cross both Jew and Gentile have been reconciled into one body. Eph. 2:13-18. God seeks the edification of the body through gifts to the church. Eph. 4:8, 11-16. Jesus Christ is to have the pre-eminence in the church and that is the special work of the Holy Spirit. Col. 1:18, 24 cf. John 14:16-18; 16:7-15. Is it possible that men may attempt to magnify the Holy Spirit by saying that He is the most neglected person in the Godhead and thus obscure the Christ whom alone the Spirit seeks to exalt?

Ill. When Does the Baptism of the Spirit Take Place?

As I studied this subject, I discovered that outside of the 120 waiting disciples, the baptism of the Holy Spirit was a gift from God to born-again Christians at the time of their conversion. The apostles were told to tarry until they were endued with power from on high. Luke 24:49. When Jesus was here, He predicted that He would build His church. After His exaltation to the right hand of God, He began the work of building His church. This work is performed by the baptism of the Holy Spirit. The apostles and the rest of the 120 were the first group to form the spiritual body of Christ, the church. Since it is clearly stated that that is the purpose of the baptism of the Spirit, we can understand the diversity of operation in connection with the formation of the body of Christ at Pentecost and afterwards, until all the discordant groups by nature were welded together through the Spirit into the body of Christ.

The 120 waited and prayed according to command. Acts 1:5, 14; 2:14, 14-18, 32, 33. No others in the Book of Acts were commanded to tarry for the baptism of the Spirit. Speaking in languages was a divine confirmation of that which was done by the Spirit at Pentecost.

The Pentecostal converts (3000) received the baptism of the Spirit at conversion. Acts 2:38. Wonders and signs were wrought by the apostles (not the converts) as a divine confirmation.

The Samaritan believers were not baptized by the Holy Spirit until the apostles came down from Jerusalem and laid their hands upon them. Acts 8:15-17. No signs and wonders were performed by the Samaritans, but by Philip the evangelist. Acts 8:6, 7, 13. We can clearly understand that the laying on of the hands of the apostles was necessary in the plan of God to eliminate the enmity caused by the Jewish-Samaritan schism so that it would not reappear in the body of Christ, the church.

Saul of Tarsus was baptized by Ananias who was sent by God, thus confirming to Saul the fact that the message of Ananias was from God. Saul was also filled with the Holy Ghost. It is evident that Saul was also baptized with the Holy Ghost at this time, or else we have no record of his Holy Spirit baptism. Acts 9:6, 17-20. From the statement in Acts 22:12-164 it appears evident that Saul was not converted until the ministry of Ananias was performed with the laying on of hands.

Cornelius and his household were baptized with the Holy Ghost at conversion through the hearing of faith and not the laying on of hands. They also spoke with tongues as a confirmation to Jewish eyewitnesses that God had accepted the Gentiles as well as the Samaritans and Jews, thus breaking down the middle wall of partition and making one body of Jew, Samaritan, and Gentile. Acts 10:44-47; 11:15, 16.

The Ephesian disciples of John the Baptist, (not Christians according to the teaching of the epistles) received the Word as preached by Paul and were baptized with water and then through the laying on of the hands of the Apostle Paul, they were baptized with the Holy Spirit, speaking in tongues as a confirmation to their regeneration and acceptance by God. Acts 19:1-7. Since the significance of the Holy Spirit baptism is induction into the body of Christ, it is evident that these disciples were not members of the body of Jesus Christ. Those who would use the Ephesian disciples of John as a demonstration of Holy Spirit baptism subsequent to conversion involve themselves in several difficulties. They must declare that these people were Christians for many years and yet were not members of the body of Christ. There appears to be no Scriptural support for this conclusion. In the second place, if they were Christians, then we face the problem of rebaptism of uninstructed and unenlightened believers. We do not accept this conclusion. In the third place, if they were Christians, then we face the problem of "they spake with tongues and prophesied." If they were Christians before the Holy Spirit baptism, then the tongues were not a confirmation of their regeneration, but of their baptism by the Spirit. In other instances in Acts we have noticed that where "signs and wonders" occurred, they were a confirmation of the message that led to con-version with the baptism of the Spirit occurring with their conversion.

Since the body of Christ has been created to include Jew, Samaritan, and Gentile, and since we no longer have apostles to lay hands upon penitent sinners to receive the Holy Spirit, it would appear that all converts since apostolic times are baptized into the body of Christ by the Spirit at the time of regeneration through the hearing of faith as stated in Gal. 3:2, 5, 14; cf. I Cor. 12:13; Rom. 5:5.

It should be remembered that the Holy Spirit is not a sectional personality. We do well to confine ourselves to Divine revelation. The baptism of the Holy Spirit is not one section or portion, the earnest of the Spirit another, the seal of the Spirit a third, the indwelling of the Spirit the fourth, and so on. These different terms are needed to give a complete picture of the operations of the Holy Spirit in born-again people. Note the following relating to the Spirit in the believer:

    1. We are born of the Spirit. John 3:5.
    2. We are renewed by the Holy Spirit. Titus 3:5.
    3. If we have not the Spirit we do not belong to God. Rom. 8:9.
    4. We have no condemnation if we walk after the Spirit. Rom. 8:1.
    5. If sons of God we are led by the Spirit. Rom. 8:14.
    6. The Spirit bears witness to our sonship. Rom. 8:14.
    7. The Spirit of God gives illumination of truth. I Cor. 2:l2-l.
    8. The Spirit of God dwells in the bodies of the believers. I Cor. 3:16.
    9. Our bodies are the temples of the Holy Ghost. I Cor. 6:19.
    10. Regeneration brings the Spirit of God into our hearts. Gal. 4:6.
    11. We are sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise. Eph. 1:13. The Spirit of promise, we have previously noticed, refers to the baptism of the Spirit.
    12. The church is the habitation of God through the Spirit. Eph. 2:22.
    13. The Holy Spirit dwelleth in us. II Tim. 1:14.
    14. We must not grieve the indwelling Spirit. Eph. 4:30; cf. vv. 25, 31.
    15. The cry of sonship is the result of the Spirit in our hearts and is a "birth cry." Gal. 4:6.
    16. The Holy Spirit is an abiding Comforter who is with us. John 14:16, 17. He accomplishes the mystical union of the believer with the Father and the Son. John 14:l~20.

IV. What Does the Bible Teach About the Filling of the Spirit?

There is a definite command to New Testament believers to be filled with the Spirit. Eph. 5:18. The filling of the Spirit is distinct from the baptism of the Spirit, although it occurs at the time of the baptism of the Spirit; and Spirit baptism occurs at regeneration. The Spirit's filling, however, is something that is repeated. There is no more need for the repeating of Spirit baptism than there is need to repeat the sealing, the earnest, or the regeneration by the Spirit. The baptism of the Spirit is a gift, a fulfilled promise associated with conversion. The one exception is the experience of the waiting disciples at Pentecost. The filling is repeated and involves yieldedness and surrender of the Christian to the operations of the Spirit. It is said that God did not give the Holy Spirit to Christ by measure. John 3:34. By this statement we understand that our Lord was so fully yielded to the Holy Spirit that the Spirit could work through Him without any limitations. This does not mean that the Holy Spirit is given in sections or portions as we yield. The Holy Spirit in the believer is the same person that indwelt our Lord, but the usableness and yieldedness of the Christian (as compared with our Lord) places limitations upon the operations of the Holy Spirit through us. Rom. 6:16.

The filling of the Spirit is associated with witnessing. It does not mean that the power of the Holy Spirit is used up by a period of witnessing and that a new supply must be received for the next filling. Such partitioning and sectionalizing of the Holy Spirit is a carnal viewpoint. By filling we mean there is a yieldedness in the Christian for the accomplishing of a certain task in the power of the Spirit; the whole transaction is described as "being filled with the Spirit." Human language is a feeble instrument to express clearly the operations of Deity. This very fact should make all Christians tolerant towards others in their use of terms that may not be strictly Biblical.

The filling of the Holy Spirit is repeated. No other activity or operation of the Holy Spirit is thus described. The 120 were filled at Pentecost. Peter was filled after that in connection with witnessing. Acts 4:8, 31-33. The Apostle Paul was filled and refilled. Acts 9:17; 13:9. Stephen and the other six were said to have been full of the Holy Spirit. Acts 6:3, 5, 8; 7:55. Barnabas was full of the Holy Ghost. Acts 11:24.

The filling of the Spirit was also a pre-Calvary experience for the saints of God in Old Testament times and therefore must be something different from the baptism of the Spirit. The baptism of the Spirit was predicted in the Old Testament for New Testament times, (Joel 2:28, 29), but the filling by the Holy Spirit was the heritage and experience of Old Testament saints. It was for the purpose of special witnessing, testimony, prophesying, mechanical skill and the recording of Scripture. Ex. 28:3; 31:3; II Sam. 23:2; II Pet. 1:21. The baptism of the Spirit was not needed in the Old Testament because there was no body of Christ into which they were to be baptized. Men of God performed service in the Old Testament times through the filling of the Holy Spirit without the baptism of the Spirit. New Testament Christians need both the baptism and the filling of the Spirit. To the writer this is decisive evidence that much that is ascribed to the baptism of the Holy Spirit today is not sustained by the Scriptures.

John the Baptist's ministry was the result of the fullness of the Holy Spirit and not the baptism of the Holy Spirit. (Luke 1:14).

Elisabeth was filled with the Spirit and spoke without the baptism of the Spirit. Luke 1:41. Zacharias, her husband, prophesied because of the filling of the Spirit, but did not have the baptism of the Spirit.

The Spirit came upon the seventy elders in the Old Testament and they prophesied without the baptism of the Spirit. Num. 11:24-29. Bezaleel was given mechanical skill by the Spirit without the baptism. Ex. 35:30, 31.

There are conditions involved in the filling of the Spirit. It involves asking. Luke 11:13. It involves obedience. Acts 5:32. It involves yieldedness. Rom. 6:16. Certainly all of these conditions are present when a soul meets the conditions for regeneration, and we have noticed that those who were converted in Acts received the baptism and were also filled. Filling by the Spirit is also associated with special needs as witnessing during persecution. Matt. 10:20; Mark 13:9-11; Luke l2:l0-12. The very fact that there is need of filling is evidence that one may remain baptized with the Spirit and still not be full or filled with the Spirit Witnessing and working for God is therefore to be ascribed to the filling of the Holy Spirit and not to the baptism of the Spirit.

Summarizing the facts gleaned concerning the baptism and filling of the Holy Spirit we may say that the crisis is regeneration and the process is the operations of the Spirit. Both regeneration and the later operations of the Holy Spirit depend upon meeting the conditions. Perhaps we can clarify this statement by listing the following:

A.. The Crisis: (Regeneration)

    1. Born of the Spirit.
    2. Our body becomes a temple of the Holy Spirit--indwelt by the Spirit.
    3. We become members of the body of Christ--baptized with the Spirit.
    4. We receive forgiveness of sin--the witness of the Spirit.
    5. We have assurance of salvation--sealed with the Spirit.
    6. We have assurance of inheritance to come--earnest of the Spirit.
    7. We can understand the Scritures--anointing of the Spirit.
    8. We are empowered for service-power after the Holy Spirit is come upon you.

B. The Process (The Christian Life)

    1. Ability to witness--filling of the Spirit enables the Spirit to use you.
    2. Walk in the Spirit.
    3. Led by the Spirit.
    4. Fruit of the Spirit.
    5. Love of the Spirit.
    6. Exercise the gifts of the Spirit as He will and we co-operate.

V. A Problem of Experience

The question has been raised, "How explain the fact that many church members have never given evidence of spiritual power until they sought the baptism or filling of the Holy Spirit?"

One solution is that they were never born again, or they would have had the anointing, seal, earnest, indwelling, and baptism of the Spirit together with the filling. This is an easy answer if the premise is correct. By careful questioning before coming to a final conclusion, it will be possible to determine whether they had been convicted by the Spirit and had responded to the Spirit's call before becoming members of the visible church. If they did, then they will likewise testify to the joy of forgiveness of sin at the time. Perhaps they stopped here because of wrong teaching, or lack of teaching, or the cares of this life and lust of other things entered in and made the Word unfruitful. In many communities the ideal prevails that confession of Christ, baptism, and church membership is the extent of activity for laymen. It is very serious to try to make a person believe that he was never born again, if he had evidences of being a new creature in Christ Jesus in the beginning of his profession. Someone recently raised the question as to whether there is a possibility of "counting the blood of the covenant wherewith he was sanctified an unholy thing" by denying his initial experience in regeneration.

The second solution to this question could be that they stopped growing as "newborn babes" and never yielded themselves to the continuous working of the Spirit; consequently He was grieved with their manner of life, quenched by their lack of desire to testify, and unfruitfulness followed. What they need is revival. They need to "possess their possessions.'' A consecration to God, a surrendering to the authority of the Word and the operations of the Spirit of God, will produce in them the invigorated life. This may have the appearance of a new experience for them, but it is not a new life or regeneration. If they had been saved originally, then they were members of the body of Christ through Holy Spirit baptism and what they needed was the filling of the Spirit upon the basis of certain conditions. The Christian's relationship with God is satisfying when he is yielded to God and the Holy Spirit is free to work in His life and to use him. Such need revival, but not a new salvation experience. Such can truthfully say, "I have Christ, what want I more?" Revival has a place in the program of God. The Apostle Peter wrote, "This second epistle, beloved, I now write unto you; in both which I stir up your pure minds by way of remembrance." The three enemies of the Christian--the world, the flesh, and the devil--cool him off and render his life fruitless and weak, but there are lawful and numerous appeals from the Word of God and from the needs about us to stir up any saint from his lethargy if he will give heed.

V. Concluding Observations

1. The writer has found no command anywhere in the Scriptures to be baptized with the Holy Spirit, likewise he has found no Scripture commanding the anointing, indwelling, sealing, or earnest of the Spirit.

2. There is a command to be filled with the Spirit. Eph. 5:18.

3. The baptism of the Holy Spirit occurs at the time of regeneration according to the record in Acts in connection with the other operations or functions of the Spirit as noted in the Epistles as indwelling, power, sealing, earnest, and anointing (unction).

4. The initial filling of the Spirit usually accompanied the baptism with the Holy Spirit and with water, but was repeated afterwards as often as needed.

5. While sanctification is ascribed to the Trinity, cleansing and purification from sin whether in a sinner or saint is generally ascribed to the Word of God and the blood of Christ. Without doubt the Spirit is also identified with the application of the blood and the Word.

6. There is no clear Scriptural support for the teaching that the baptism of the Holy Spirit is subsequent to conversion, but there is much evidence for the baptism of the Spirit in connection with regeneration.

7. The Scriptures do not ascribe cleansing to the baptism of the Holy Spirit, but as noted above, it is ascribed to the Word of God and the blood of Christ, and the washing of regeneration through the renewing of the Holy Ghost. The renewing is regeneration.

8. There is but one Bethlehem, one Calvary, and one Pentecost. None of them need to be repeated. The baptism of the Holy Spirit was historically fulfilled at Pentecost, and personally fulfilled in the regeneration of the soul.

9. There is one faith, one Lord, and one baptism. The faith was once delivered unto the saints. Jude 3. The one Lord Jesus Christ died, arose, and is now seated at God's right hand, having completed the work of redemption; and the one baptism of the Holy Spirit that came upon the apostolical Christians at conversion and made them members of the body of Christ. When we accept the faith at regeneration, owning the Lord in repentance, faith, and confession, we are likewise baptized into the body of Christ by the Holy Spirit.

Roy L. Laurin says: "I believe that God overlooks unfortunate terminology and recognizes sincere desire and seeking. That which we really seek in this connection is a genuine redemptive experience which the Holy Spirit gives in His manifestation of Christ."

"To some this experience is a second blessing and if you have never had a second blessing then have it by all means; or if you have had the second and lost it, get the third. But in any event what God will give you is the Spirit's infilling.

"To some this experience is consecration and if you have never yielded your life to God completely, then do it by all means. But in any event what God will give you is the Spirit's infilling."

"To some this experience is sanctification and if you have never felt the purging, purifying influence of the Holy Spirit then seek it by all means. But in any event what God will give you is the Spirit's in filling."

To some this experience is the baptism of the Holy Spirit and if you feel that you have never had the infusing, uniting and immersing effect of the Holy Spirit then seek it. But in any event what God will give you is the Spirit's in filling."

This writer agrees with Dr. Laurin that God will overlook unfortunate terminology. But why should we not avoid it and use only Scriptural terms so as to establish the saints rather than confuse them.

This study is from The Baptism and Filling of the Holy Spirit by John L. Stauffer. This message was first delivered at the Virginia Mennonite Conference in its annual meeting at Fentress, Va.

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June 22, 2000