Why the Baptism in the Holy Spirit is Needed
By David Servant
How desperately we need the help of the Holy Spirit to minister to others! Without His help, we can never hope to make disciples of all nations. That is, in fact, the very reason Jesus promised to baptize believers in the Holy Spirit—so the world would hear the gospel. He said to His disciples:
Behold, I am sending forth the promise of My Father upon you; but you are to stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high” (Luke 24:49, emphasis added).
Luke also records Jesus as saying:
It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority; but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth (Acts 1:7-8, emphasis added).
Jesus told His disciples not even to leave Jerusalem until they were “clothed with power from on high.” He knew they would be essentially powerless otherwise, sure to fail at the task He had given them. We note that once they were baptized in the Holy Spirit, however, God began to use them supernaturally to spread the gospel.
Many millions of Christians around the world, after being baptized in the Holy Spirit, have experienced a new dimension of power, particularly when witnessing to the unsaved. They found that their words were more convicting, and that they sometimes quoted scriptures they didn’t realize they knew. Some found themselves called and specifically gifted for a certain ministry, such as evangelism. Others discovered that God used them as He willed in various supernatural gifts of the Spirit. Their experience is thoroughly biblical. Those who oppose their experience have no biblical basis for their opposition. They are, in fact, fighting against God.
The Initial Evidence of the Baptism in the Spirit
When a believer is baptized in the Holy Spirit, the initial evidence of his experience will be that he speaks in a new language, what Scripture refers to as “new tongues” or “other tongues.” Numerous scriptures support this fact. Let us consider them.
First, during the final moments before to His ascension, Jesus said that one of the signs that would follow believers is that they would speak in new tongues:
Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned. These signs will accompany those who have believed: in My name they will cast out demons, they will speak with new tongues (Mark 16:15-17, emphasis added).
Some commentators claim these verses should not be in our Bible because certain ancient manuscripts of the New Testament don’t include them. Many of the ancient manuscripts, however, do include them, and none of the many English translations I’ve read omit them. Beyond that, what Jesus said in these verses correlates perfectly with the experience of the early church as recorded in the book of Acts.
There are five examples in the book of Acts of believers being initially baptized in the Holy Spirit. Let’s consider all five, and as we do, we will continually ask two questions: (1) Was the baptism in the Holy Spirit an experience subsequent to salvation? and (2) Did the recipients speak in new tongues? This will help us to understand God’s will for believers today.
The first example is found in Acts 2, when the one hundred and twenty disciples were baptized in the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost:
When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a noise like a violent rushing wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them tongues as of fire distributing themselves, and they rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance (Acts 2:1-4; emphasis added).
There is no doubt that the one hundred and twenty believers were already saved and born again before this time, so they definitely experienced the baptism in the Holy Spirit after salvation. It would have been impossible, however, for them to have received the baptism in the Holy Spirit prior to this time simply because the Holy Spirit was not given to the church until that day.
It is obvious that the accompanying sign was speaking with other tongues.
The second example of believers being baptized in the Holy Spirit is found in Acts 8, when Philip went down to the city of Samaria and preached the gospel there:
But when they [the Samaritans] believed Philip preaching the good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were being baptized, men and women alike….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 (Acts 8:12-16).
The Samaritan Christians clearly experienced the baptism in the Holy Spirit as a secondary experience after their salvation. The Bible plainly states that before Peter and John arrived, the Samaritans had already “received the word of God,” believed the gospel, and been baptized in water. Yet when Peter and John came down to pray for them, Scripture says it was so “that they might receive the Holy Spirit.” How could it be clearer?
Did the Samaritan believers speak with new tongues when they were baptized in the Holy Spirit? The Bible doesn’t say, but it does say that something amazing happened to them. When a man named Simon witnessed what occurred as Peter and John laid their hands on the Samaritan Christians, he tried to purchase from them the same ability to impart the Holy Spirit:
Then they began laying their hands on them, and they were receiving the Holy Spirit. Now when Simon saw that the Spirit was bestowed through the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money, saying, “Give this authority to me as well, so that everyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit” (Acts 8:17-19).
What did Simon see that impressed him so much? He had already seen a number of other miracles, such as people being delivered from demons and the paralyzed and lame being miraculously healed (see Acts 8:6-7). He himself had been previously involved in occult magic, astonishing all the people of Samaria (see Acts 8:9-10). This being so, what he witnessed when Peter and John prayed must have been quite spectacular. Although we can’t say with absolute certainty, it seems quite reasonable to think that he witnessed the same phenomena that occurred every other time Christians received the Holy Spirit in the book of Acts—he saw and heard them speaking in other tongues.
Saul in Damascus
The third mention in the book of Acts of someone receiving the Holy Spirit is the case of Saul of Tarsus, later known as the apostle Paul. He had been saved on the road to Damascus, where he had also been temporarily blinded. Three days after his conversion, a man named Ananias was divinely sent to him:
So Ananias departed and entered the house, and after laying his hands on him said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road by which you were coming, has sent me so that you may regain your sight, and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” And immediately there fell from his eyes something like scales, and he regained his sight, and he arose and was baptized (Acts 9:17-18).
There is no doubt that Saul was born again before Ananias arrived to pray for him. He believed in the Lord Jesus when he was still on the road to Damascus, and he immediately obeyed his new Lord’s instructions. Additionally, when Ananias first met Saul, he called him “brother Saul.” Note that Ananias told Saul that he had come so that he would regain his sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit. Thus for Saul, being filled with, or baptized in, the Holy Spirit occurred three days after his salvation.
The Scriptures don’t record the actual incident of Saul’s being baptized in the Holy Spirit, but it must have happened shortly after Ananias arrived at where Saul was staying. There is no doubt that Saul spoke with other tongues at some point, because he later stated in 1 Corinthians 14:18, “I thank God, I speak in tongues more than you all.”
The fourth mention of believers being baptized in the Holy Spirit is found in Acts 10. The apostle Peter had been divinely commissioned to preach the gospel in Caesarea to the household of Cornelius. As soon as Peter revealed that salvation is received through faith in Jesus, his entire Gentile audience immediately responded in faith, and the Holy Spirit fell upon them:
While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who were listening to the message. All the circumcised believers who came with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also. For they were hearing them speaking with tongues and exalting God. Then Peter answered, “Surely no one can refuse the water for these to be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we did, can he?” And he ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ (Acts 10:44-48a).
In this case, it seems as if the members of Cornelius’ household, who became the first Gentile believers in Jesus, were born again and baptized in the Holy Spirit simultaneously.
If we examine the surrounding scriptures and study the historical context, it is apparent why God didn’t wait for Peter and his fellow believers to lay hands on the Gentile believers to receive the Holy Spirit. Peter and the other Jewish believers had great difficulty believing that Gentiles could even be saved, much less receive the Holy Spirit! They likely would never have prayed for Cornelius’ household to receive the baptism in the Holy Spirit, so God sovereignly acted. God was teaching Peter and his companions something about His marvelous grace toward Gentiles.
What convinced Peter and the other Jewish believers that Cornelius’ household had genuinely received the Holy Spirit? Luke wrote, “For they were hearing them speaking with tongues” (Acts 10:46). Peter declared that the Gentiles had received the Holy Spirit just as the one hundred and twenty had on the day of Pentecost (see 10:47).
The fifth mention of believers being baptized in the Holy Spirit is found in Acts 19. While traveling through Ephesus, the apostle Paul met some disciples and asked them the following question: “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” (Acts 19:2).
Paul, the man who wrote the majority of the New Testament epistles, clearly believed that it is possible to believe in Jesus but not have received the Holy Spirit, in some sense. Otherwise, he would not have asked such a question.
The men replied that they had never heard of the Holy Spirit. In fact, they had only heard of the coming Messiah through John the Baptist, the one who had baptized them. Paul immediately baptized them again in water, and this time they experienced true Christian baptism. Finally, Paul laid his hands on them that they might receive the Holy Spirit:
When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began speaking with tongues and prophesying. There were in all about twelve men (Acts 19:5-7).
Again, it is obvious that the baptism in the Holy Spirit was subsequent to salvation, regardless of whether or not these twelve men were born again before they met Paul. Also, once again, the accompanying sign of their Holy Spirit baptism was speaking in tongues (and in this case also prophecy).
Let’s review the five examples. In at least four of them, the baptism in the Holy Spirit was an experience that occurred after salvation.
In three of them, Scripture plainly states that the recipients spoke with other tongues. Moreover, in Paul’s meeting with Ananias, his experience of being baptized in the Holy Spirit was not actually described, but we know that eventually he did speak in tongues. That represents the fourth case.
In the remaining case, something supernatural occurred when the believers in Samaria received the Holy Spirit because Simon tried to buy the power to impart the Holy Spirit.
Thus the evidence is quite clear. In the early church, born-again believers received a second experience with the Holy Spirit, and when they did, they spoke in other tongues. This should not surprise us, because Jesus said that those who believe in Him would speak in new tongues.
So we have conclusive evidence that every one who is born again should also experience another work of the Holy Spirit—that of being baptized in the Holy Spirit. Moreover, every believer should expect to speak with other tongues when he does receive the Holy Spirit baptism.###
When David Servant read the results of his high-school Vocational Aptitude Test, he laughed. The results told him that he was best suited for a career in ministry or in entertainment. At the time, David’s future goal was to live in a log cabin in the wilderness and live off the land for the rest of his life. The Lord, however, had different plans for David Servant. God didn’t intend for him to run away from the world, but rather to play a part in changing the world—by building God’s kingdom. David received his call to ministry during his (reluctant) freshman year at Penn State, and one year later was enrolled in Bible School. When David was serving at his third pastorate, Jesus’ words in Matthew 25—the foretelling of the future judgment of the sheep and the goats—caught his heart, and that birthed a transformation in his ministry. Heaven’s Family was the result, launched in 2002. David Servant is the author of eight books, including Forever Rich, and the The Disciple-Making Minister, a 500-page equipping manual that has been translated into more than 20 languages and is being distributed to tens of thousands of pastors. Read more about the ministry of David Servant at http://www.heavensfamily.org
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