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Have you been baptised in the Holy Spirit?

November 1999 | by Palmer Robertson

Last month we asked what the New Testament means by the phrase ‘baptised in the Holy Spirit’. We saw that six out of seven uses of this expression refer to the inauguration of the new covenant age on the day on Pentecost. We also saw that while believers experienced the ministry of the the Holy Spirit in many ways before Pentecost. They could not receive the baptism of the Spirit until Christ had ascended to his throne of glory. Until then, ‘the Holy Spirit was not yet given because Jesus was not yet glorified’ (John 7:39)

This means that the original disciples had a two-stage experience of the Holy Spirit, simply because they (and they alone) lived through the historical transition from the old covenant era to the new covenant age, which was inaugurated for the Jews on the day of Pentecost (and for Samaritans and Gentiles on subsequent but equally historical occasions; see Acts 8:16 and Acts 10).

Our conclusion was, therefore, that believers today should not seek or expect a two-stage experience of the Holy Spirit like that of the original disciples, first in conversion and then later in the baptism of the Spirit. To do so is to confuse spiritual experience with unrepeatable history.

What, then, should today’s believers expect? That is the subject of this article, and of the seventh New Testament reference to the baptism of the Holy Spirit.

Every believer

The seventh and final passage in the New Testament that makes use of the phrase ‘baptised in the Spirit’ is very informative because it refers specifically to the experience of ALL believers.

Paul is commenting on the work of the Holy Spirit in the life of every believer. He says, ‘For in one Spirit we all were baptised into one body — whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free — and we were all given the one Spirit to drink’ (1 Corinthians 12:13).

In view of the divisions that existed within the church of Corinth over the matter of spiritual gifts, Paul emphasises that ALL believers have been baptised in the Spirit, and ‘into one body’. The context makes it plain that the ‘body’ referred to here is the church of Jesus Christ.

Clearly, no two-stage experience of the Spirit is envisioned. The one baptism into the one Spirit unites all believers into one body. Conversion is accompanied by the baptism of the Holy Spirit for ALL believers. If a person is in the body of Christ, as he must be if he is converted, he has been baptised in the Spirit.

Regeneration

As a matter of fact, it is baptism in the Spirit that brings a person into the body of Christ. Paul clearly teaches that all Christians have experienced this spiritual baptism. Baptism in the Holy Spirit is identified with the experience of new spiritual life that comes as a consequence of the Spirit’s work of regeneration, a work by which he brings a person into union and communion with Christ.

In this connection, it may be worth noting that just a few verses later in this same chapter Paul poses a series of questions to the Corinthian believers. Each of Paul’s questions expects a negative answer. He asks, ‘Are ALL apostles?’ (expected answer, ‘No!’). Do ALL work miracles? (expected answer, ‘No!’). Do ALL speak in tongues? (expected answer again, ‘No!’) (1 Corinthians 12:29-30).

According to Paul, ALL the Corinthian believers have been ‘baptised in the Holy Spirit’ but NOT ALL of these same people have spoken in tongues. Taken together, these two verses provide conclusive proof that, in this climactic era of redemptive history, speaking in foreign tongues is not a necessary sign of the baptism of the Spirit.

When a person believes in Christ, the Holy Spirit comes down from heaven and envelops him. If you are a Christian believer today, you should rejoice in the fact that you have been baptised in the Holy Spirit. God’s Spirit has been poured out from heaven and has regenerated you, enveloped you, and now dwells in you (John 14:17; Romans 8:9-11; Galatians 4:6).

Your whole existence is lived out in the presence and power of God’s Holy Spirit. You do not have to wait for the experience of speaking in foreign tongues to establish the fact that you have been baptised in the Spirit. For God says, ‘You ALL were baptised in one Spirit into one body’.

Conclusion

When understood properly, the scriptural doctrine of the baptism of the Spirit should be a great encouragement to every Christian, for all who have believed in Christ have been baptised in the Spirit. If you are a believer in Christ today, you have been enveloped by God’s Spirit. All your life is lived in his presence and power. The Spirit of God will testify to your spirit that you are God’s child (Romans 8:16; Galatians 4:6).

The Spirit will comfort you in times of trial (John 14:16). He will enable you to bear the fruit of love, joy and peace (Galatians 5:22). This same Holy Spirit will give spiritual gifts to every believer, so that they can minister to one another ( 1 Corinthians 12:4-7; Romans 12:6-8). One day in the future, the Spirit will transform your mortal body so that it will not be subject to death (Romans 8:11).

All of these blessings are yours as a consequence of your being baptised in the Spirit. And everyone who has been born again of the Spirit has also been baptised in the Spirit. In this great reality you, as a believer in Christ, should rejoice every day of your life.