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The baptism of the Holy Spirit

John foretold Jesus baptizing with the Holy Spirit (Matthew 3:11). God told him the one upon whom the Spirit descended and remained would baptize with the Holy Spirit (John 1:31-34). John identified that one as the Son of God. That same Son will one day baptize some with the fire of judgment (Matthew 3:10-12; Revelation 20:14-15; 21:8).

Baptism is an immersion or overwhelming. Jesus asked James and John if they were able to be overwhelmed with suffering as he would be (Matthew 20:20-23; compare 1 Peter 3:18). Paul viewed baptism as a burial (Colossians 2:12). Those baptized with the Spirit must be overwhelmed by the Spirit.

The children of Israel were to gather in Jerusalem on Pentecost, or feast of harvest (Exodus 23:16). It was held during the harvest of wheat and barley. The people assembled at the place of the altar to hold a celebration. Pentecost was a happy celebration of God’s great provision. Freewill offerings were made with a special emphasis placed upon doing good for the Levites, strangers, orphans and widows (Deuteronomy 16:10-14).

As he prepared to ascend, Jesus told His apostles to wait in Jerusalem “for the Promise of the Father, ‘which,’ He said, ‘you have heard from Me; for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.'” He also promised they would receive power when the Holy Spirit came upon them. They would then be expected to go into all the world preaching the gospel (Acts 1:4-8; compare Luke 24:46-49).

The physical evidence of the Spirit’s coming was a sound like a rushing, mighty wind which filled the house in which the apostles were sitting. The second evidence was divided tongues with the appearance of fire sitting on each of them. Finally, each spoke in a language he had never studied. The witnesses confirming this event were from fifteen nations, yet each heard in his the language of his birth (Acts 2:1-13, 33). The Spirit empowered message caused many to be pricked in their hearts. They asked what to do to be saved. They then heard the promise of salvation was available to all who would accept the Lord’s call. An obedient hearing of those words caused about 3,000 to be baptized and the Lord added them to the church (Acts 2:37-41).

Those assembled in Cornelius’ house to hear all the things Peter had been commanded by God, were also baptized with the Holy Spirit. This was absolutely necessary for the prophecy of Joel 2:28-32 to be fulfilled. It also showed Peter the Gentiles had been granted the opportunity to receive eternal life in Christ (Acts 10:1-11:18). Notice Peter said, “the Holy Spirit fell upon them, as upon us at the beginning” (11:15). Peter heard and saw the evidence of the baptism when they spoke in other tongues and glorified God. The only other time that happened was at the beginning of the church in Acts 2. Though a number of years had passed since Pentecost, Peter could not think of another instance like this one. It caused him to remember the Lord promised to baptize them with the Holy Spirit.

They were not saved through the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Though it could now be said the Spirit had been poured out on all flesh, they still had to yield to Christ in water baptism to be saved. Their receiving the baptism of the Holy Spirit was the way God chose to bear witness to the fact that Gentiles could obey God’s word and be saved (Acts 15:6-11).

John and Jesus promised Jesus would baptize with the Holy Spirit. On Pentecost after the Lord’s ascension, the apostles were immersed in the Spirit and spoke in languages they had never studied. The inspired message resulted in thousands being pricked in their hearts, with nearly three thousand being baptized. Those assembled in Cornelius’ house also were baptized with the Spirit, fulfilling Joel’s prophecy and showing Peter God had also granted salvation to the Gentiles.


Gary C. Hampton
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