The Necessity and Possibility Of the Baptism with the Holy Spirit
R. A. Torrey
Shortly before Christ was received up into heaven, having committed the preaching of the gospel to His disciples, He laid upon them this very solemn charge concerning the beginning of the great work He had committed to their hands: “Behold, I send forth the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city, until ye be clothed with power from on high” (Luke 24:49, ASV). There is no doubt as to what Jesus meant by the “promise of my Father” for which they were to wait before beginning the ministry which He had entrusted to them. For in Acts 1:4 and 5, ASV, we read that Jesus “charged them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, said he, ye heard from me: for John indeed baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized in the Holy Spirit not many days hence.” “The promise of the Father,” through which the enduement of power was to come, was the baptism with the Holy Spirit (cf. Acts 1:8). Christ then strictly charged His disciples not to presume to undertake the work to which He had called them until they had received as the necessary and all-essential preparation for that work, the baptism with the Holy Spirit.
The men to whom Jesus said this seemed to have already received very thorough preparation for the work in hand. They had been to school with Christ himself for more than three years. They had heard from His own lips the great truths that they were to proclaim to the world. They had been eyewitnesses of His miracles, of His death, and of His resurrection, and were about to be eyewitnesses of His ascension. The work before them was simply to go forth to proclaim what their own eyes had seen and what their own ears had heard from the lips of Christ himself. Were they not fully prepared for this work? It would seem so to us. But Christ said, “No, you are so utterly unprepared you must not stir a step yet.
“There is a further preparation, so all-essential to effective service, you must abide at Jerusalem until you receive it. This further preparation is the baptism with the Holy Spirit. When you receive that and not until then you will be prepared to begin the work to which I have called you.” If Christ did not permit these men, who had received so rare and unparalleled a schooling for the work to which He had so definitely and clearly called them if He did not permit them to undertake this work without receiving, in addition, the baptism with the Holy Spirit, what is it for us to undertake the work to which He has called us until we have received the baptism with the Holy Spirit? Is it not most daring presumption?
But this is not all. In Acts 10:38 we read “how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil.” When we look into the Gospels for an explanation of these words, we find it in Luke 3:21, 22: 4:1, 14, 15, 18 and 21. We find that at the baptism of Jesus at Jordan, as He prayed the Holy Spirit come upon Him. Then “full of the Holy Ghost” He had the temptation experience. Then “in the power of the Spirit” He begins His ministry and proclaims himself “anointed to preach” because “the Spirit of the Lord is upon me.” In other words, Jesus the Christ never entered upon the ministry for which He came into this world until He was baptized with the Holy Spirit.
If Jesus Christ, who had been supernaturally conceived through the Holy Spirit’s power, who was the only begotten Son of God, who was divine, very God of very God and yet truly man” if He, “leaving us an example that we should follow in his steps,” did not venture upon the ministry for which the Father had sent Him until thus baptized with the Holy Spirit, what is it for us to dare to do it? If, in the light of these recorded facts, we dare to do it, it seems like an offense going beyond presumption. Doubtless it has been done in ignorance by many, but can we plead ignorance any longer? The baptism with the Holy Spirit is an absolutely necessary preparation for effective service for Christ along every line of service.
We may have a very clear call to service; it may be as clear as the apostles had but the charge is laid upon us, as upon them, that before we begin that service we must “tarry until ye be clothed with power from on high.’ This endowment with power is through the baptism with the Holy Spirit. There are certainly few greater mistakes being made today than that of setting men to teach Sunday school classes, do personal work and even preach the gospel, simply because they have been converted and have received a certain amount of education perhaps including a college and seminary course, but without having been as yet baptized with the Holy Spirit. Any man who is in Christian work who has not received the baptism with the Holy Spirit ought to stop his work right where he is and not go on with it until he has been “clothed with power from on high.”
But what will our work do while we are waiting? What did the world do those ten days while the early disciples were waiting? They alone knew the saving truth, yet in obedience to the Lord’s command, they were silent. The world was no loser. When the power came they accomplished more in one day than they would have accomplished in years if they had gone on in presumptuous disobedience to Christ’s charge. We also, after we have received the baptism with the Holy Spirit, will accomplish more in one day than we ever would in years without His power. Days spent in waiting, if it were necessary, would be well spent; but we shall see further on that there is no need that we spend days in waiting.
It may be said that the apostles had gone out on missionary tours during Christ’s lifetime before they were baptized with the Holy Spirit. This is true, but that was before the Holy Spirit was given and before the charge, “Tarry . . . until ye be clothed with power from on high.” After that it would have been disobedience and presumption to have gone forth without this enduernent; we are living today after the Holy Spirit has been given and after the charge to “tarry until clothed.”
We come now to the question of the possibility of the baptism with the Holy Spirit. Is the baptism with the Holy Spirit for us? This is a question that has a plain and explicit answer in the Word of God. In Acts 2:39 (ASV) we read: “For to you is the promise, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call unto him.” What is the promise of this passage? Turning back to verses 4 and 5 of the preceding chapter we read: “Wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith he, ye have heard of me. For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence. “Again in Acts 2:33 we read: “Having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost.”
It would seem to be perfectly clear that the promise of verse 39 must be the same as the promise of verse 33 and verses 4 and 5 of the preceding chapter, the promise of the baptism with the Holy Spirit. This conclusion is rendered absolutely certain by the context: “Repent ye, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ unto the remission of your sins; and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For to you is the promise. . . .” The promise of this verse, then, is the promise of the gift or baptism with the Holy Spirit. (Cf. Acts 10:45 with Acts 11:15, 16.)
Whom is this gift for? “To you,” says Peter to the Jews whom he was immediately addressing. Then looking over their heads to the next generation, “And to your children.” Then looking down all the coming ages of the Church’s history to Gentile as well as Jew: “And to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call unto him.” The baptism with the Holy Spirit is for every child of God in every age of the Church’s history. If it is not ours in experimental possession, it is because we have not taken what God has provided for us in our exalted Saviour (the exact force of the word receive in verse 38 is take” Acts 2:33; John 7:38, 39).
A minister of the gospel once came to me after a lecture on the baptism with the Holy Spirit and said: “The church to which I belong teaches that the baptism with the Holy Spirit was for the apostolic age alone.”
“It matters not,” was replied, “what the church to which you belong or the church to which I belong teaches. What says the Word of God?” Acts 2:39 was read: “To you is the promise, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call unto him.”
“Has He called you?” I asked.
“Yes. He certainly has.”
“Is the promise for you?”
“Yes, it is.”
And it was. And it is for every child of God who reads these pages. What a thrilling thought it is that the baptism with the Holy Spirit, the enduement with power from on high, is for us, and is for me as an individual. But that unspeakably joyous thought has its solemn side. If I may be baptized with the Holy Spirit, I must be. If I am baptized with the Holy Spirit then will souls be saved through my instrumentality, who would not be saved if I were not so baptized. If then I am not willing to pay the price of this baptism, and therefore am not so baptized. I am responsible before God for all the souls that might have been saved but were not saved through me.
I oftentimes tremble for my brethren and for myself in Christian work. Not because we are teaching deadly error to men, some are guilty of even that, but I do not refer to that now; not that we are not teaching the full truth as it is in Jesus, it must be confessed that there are many who do not teach positive error who do not preach a full gospel, but I do not refer to that. I tremble for those who are preaching the truth, the truth as it is in Jesus, the gospel in its simplicity, in its purity, in its fullness, but preaching it “in persuasive words of wisdom” and not “in demonstration of the Spirit and of power” I Cor. 2:4, ASV), preaching it in the energy of the flesh and not in the power of the Holy Spirit. There is nothing more deadly than the gospel without the Spirit’s power. “The letter killeth, but the Spirit giveth life.”
It is awfully solemn business preaching the gospel either from the pulpit or in quieter ways. It means death or life to those who hear: and whether it means death or life depends very largely on whether we preach it without or with the baptism with the Holy Spirit. We must be baptized with the Holy Spirit.
It is sometimes argued that the baptism with the Holy Spirit was for the purpose of imparting miracle-working power and for the apostolic age alone. In favor of this position it is asserted that the baptism with the Holy Spirit was followed quite uniformly by miracles. The untenable position of this is seen: (1) By the fact Christ himself asserted that the purpose of the baptism with the Holy Spirit was to impart power for witnessing “not especially power to work miracles (Acts 1:5, 8; Luke 24:48, 49) (2) By the fact that Paul distinctly taught that there were diversities of gifts, and that “workings of miracles” was only one of the manifestations of the baptism with the Holy Spirit (I Cor. 12:4, 8-10). (3) By the fact that Peter distinctly asserts that “the gift of the Holy Ghost,” the promise, is for all believers in all generations (Acts 2:38, 39). It is evident from a comparison of Acts 2:39 with Luke 24:49; Acts 1:4, 5; 2:33; and of Acts 2:38 with Acts 10:45 and Acts 11:15, 16, that each of these two expressions, the promise, and the gift of the Holy Ghost, refers to the baptism with the Holy Spirit.
If we take miracles in a broad sense of all results wrought by supernatural power, then it is true that each one baptized with the Holy Spirit does receive miracle-working power; for each one so baptized does receive a power not naturally his own, supernatural power, God’s own power. The result of the baptism with the Holy Spirit that was most noticeable and essential was convincing, convicting, and converting power (Acts 2:4, 37, 41; 4:8-13, 31, 33; 9:17, 20-22). There seem to have been no displays of miracle-working power immediately following Paul’s baptism with the Holy Spirit, even though he became so singularly gifted in this direction at a later day; it was power to witness for Jesus, the Son of God, that he received in immediate connection with the baptism with the Holy Spirit.
This article “The Necessity and Possibility of the Baptism with the Holy Spirit” was excerpted from the book The Baptism with the Holy Spirit by R. A. Torrey. It may be used for study & research purposes only.
This article may not be written by an Apostolic author, but it contains many excellent principles and concepts that can be adapted to most churches. As the old saying goes “Eat the meat. Throw away the bones.”