Q: Why does there seem to be so much confusion over the Baptism of the Holy Spirit? I hear one thing and then I hear something else that seems to contradict what I heard earlier. Can you please clear it up for me?
I hope I can. You're absolutely right when you say that there is much confusion concerning the Baptism of the Holy Spirit, and it comes from both sides of the aisle. In other words, there is confusion coming from those who reject the present-day activity that the Baptism of the Spirit provides, and there is much confusion coming from those who believe and embrace this baptism. Let me begin by showing where the Baptism of the Holy Spirit is found in Scripture and what we can learn about it.
We're told in the Bible that Jesus appeared to His disciples over a period of about 40 days after His resurrection, and during one of those meetings He exhorted them to wait for a work of the Spirit that was coming that would prepare them for ministry. Here's how it is recorded by Luke:
Acts 1:4-5, 8 (ESV) ...while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now. ...you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
Jesus is the One who first used the phrase "baptized with the Holy Spirit" and He was very clear why the disciples needed to wait for it — they were in need of power. And that is what the Baptism of the Spirit is all about: POWER to be witness for Christ.
It is only after the Baptism of the Spirit that we begin to see the activity of spiritual gifts. Prior to the Baptism of the Spirit those gifts are not present in the lives of the disciples. It's clear that this is the "power" Jesus referred to when He told His disciples to wait in Jerusalem and is therefore the purpose behind believers being baptized by the Spirit.
I have identified 5 myths that are being perpetuated concerning the Baptism of the Spirit which are listed below.
Myth #1 - The Baptism and Gifts of the Spirit are no longer for today.
This is called "Cessationism" and it is the belief that the gifts of the Holy Spirit have ceased to function in the church. There is not one shred of biblical evidence to support the belief that the Baptism of the Holy Spirit is not for present-day believers. We continue to need God's power to witness for Christ just like believers in the first century.
Myth #2 - The Baptism of the Spirit and indwelling of the Spirit are one and the same thing. (or, We receive the baptism of the Spirit when we come to know Christ as Savior.)
Not so. This is a confusion of the indwelling work of the Spirit and the Baptism of the Spirit. When we put our faith in Jesus Christ for forgiveness we receive God's Holy Spirit to indwell us. This is a once-for-all event. But the Baptism of the Spirit happens repeatedly in the Bible even to the same people! The indwelling work of the Spirit is for salvation. The Baptism of the Spirit is for power —two very different works of the Spirit which are separated biblically by the pronouns "in" (speaking of the indwelling of the Spirit) and "on" (or upon) referring to the Baptism of the Spirit.
Myth #3 - The Baptism of the Holy Spirit is the definitive sign of being born again.
Wrong. Jesus did NOT say, "You will be saved when the Holy Spirit has come upon you." He said, "...you will receive POWER when the Holy Spirit has come upon you." It is very possible for someone to be saved and a child of God and still not have received the Baptism of the Spirit.
Myth #4 - If you haven't spoken in tongues you haven't been baptized by the Spirit.
This is probably one of the most pervasive, and I believe most troubling, statements that is perpetuated about the Baptism of the Spirit. It creates an enormous pressure among Christians to prove they are just as spiritual as others which results in a lot of "faking it." Christians write me often asking if the gibberish they hear passing for "speaking in tongues" is genuine. These same people are belittled and rebuked by others for even asking the question and told that if they had faith they wouldn't question what they hear. (By the way, that's called spiritual bullying.)
The gift of tongues is wonderful but Jesus did NOT say that it was the final evidence of being baptized by the Holy Spirit. He said the real evidence is "power." (Acts 1:8) That power can manifest in many different ways or gifts — tongues being just one of them.
Myth #5 - Those who are baptized in the Holy Spirit are more spiritual than those who are not.
This is fundamentally untrue. The believers at Corinth enthusiastically embraced the Baptism of the Holy Spirit and with it all its accompanying gifts of the Spirit, and still the Apostle Paul referred to them as "people of the flesh." (1 Cor. 3:1) who desperately needed to grow in spiritual maturity.
The Baptism of the Holy Spirit is one of the most wonderful things God has given to the Church to enable and empower us to accomplish the work He has called us to do. I encourage believers to pray that they might be baptized with the Spirit and to do so often. We all need supernatural power from on high to shine the light of Christ in a very dark world.
For further study we recommend Pastor Paul's series on the Person and Work of the Holy Spirit along with the following teachings:
Acts 1 (Part 1) - Jesus Promises Power
Acts 2 (Part 2) - The Gift of Tongues
1 Corinthians 12 (Part 1) - Spiritual Gifts - Introduction
1 Corinthians 12 (Part 2) - The Gifts He Gives
1 Corinthians 14 (Part 1) - The Gift of Tongues Explained
1 Corinthians 14 (Part 2) - Order in the Church