The Baptism with the Holy Spirit: What It Is and What It Does
R. A. Torrey
While a great deal is said in these days concerning the baptism with the Holy Spirit, it is to be feared that there are many who talk about it and pray for it who have no clear and definite idea of what it is. But the Bible, if carefully studied, will give us a view of this wondrous blessing that is perfectly clear and remarkably definite.
1. We find first of all that there are a number of designations in the Bible for this one experience. In Acts 1:5 Jesus said: “Ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence.” In Acts 2:4, when this promise was fulfilled, we read, “They were all filled with the Holy Ghost.” In Acts 1:4 the same experience is spoken of as “the promise of the Father”, and in Luke 24:49 as “the promise, of my Father” and “endued with power from on high.” By a comparison of Acts 10:44, 45, and 47 with Acts 11:15 and 16, we find that the expressions “the Holy Ghost fell on them” and “the gift of the Holy Ghost” and “received the Holy Ghost” are all equivalent to “baptized with the Holy Ghost.”
2. We find in the next place that the baptism with the Holy Spirit is a definite experience which one may know whether he has received or not. This is evident from our Saviour’s command to the apostles: “Tarry ye in the city…until ye be endued with power from on high” (Luke 24:49). If this enduement with power, baptism with the Holy Spirit, were not an experience so definite that one could know whether he had received it or not, how could they tell when those commanded days of tarrying were at an end?
The same thing is clear from Paul’s very definite question to the disciples at Ephesus. “Did ye receive the Holy Spirit when ye believed?” (Acts 19:2, ASV). Paul evidently expected a definite “yes” or a definite “no” for an answer. Unless the experience was definite and of such a character that one could know whether he had received it or not, how could these disciples answer Paul’s question! In point of fact, they knew they had not received or been baptized with Holy Spirit and a short time afterward they knew they had received and been baptized with the Holy Spirit (Acts 19:6).
Ask many a man today who prays that he may be baptized with the Holy Spirit: “Well, my brother, did you get what you asked—were you baptized with the Holy Spirit?” and he would be dumbfounded. He did not expect anything so definite that he could answer positively yes or no to a question like that. But we find in the Bible nothing of that vagueness and indefiniteness which we find in much of our modern prayer and speech regarding this subject. The Bible is a very definite book. It is very definite about salvation – so definite that a man who knows his Bible can say positively yes or no to the question. “Are you saved?” The Bible is equally definite about the baptism with the Holy Spirit, so that a man who knows his Bible can say positively yes or no to the question. “Have you been baptized with the Holy Spirit?”
There may be those who are saved who do not know it because they do not understand their Bibles, but it is their privilege to know it. Likewise there may be those who have been baptized with the Holy Spirit who do not know the Bible name for what has come to them, but it is their privilege to know,
3. The baptism with the Holy Spirit is a work of the Holy Spirit separate and distinct from his regenerating work. To be regenerated by the Holy Spirit is one thing; to be baptized with the Holy Spirit is something different, something further. This is evident from Acts 1:5. There Jesus said, “Ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence.” They were not then as yet baptized with the Holy Spirit. But they were already regenerated. Jesus himself had already pronounced them so. In John 15:3, He said to the same men, “Now ye are clean through the word” (cf. James 1:18; I Peter 1:23). And in John 13:10: “Ye are clean, but not all,” excepting by the “but not all” the one unregenerate man in the apostolic company, Judas Iscariot. (See John 13:11.) The apostles, excepting Judas Iscariot, were then already regenerate men, but they were not yet baptized with the Holy Spirit.
From this it is evident that regeneration is one thing and the baptism with the Holy Spirit is something different, something further. One can be regenerated and still not be baptized with the Holy Spirit. The same thing is evident from Acts 8:12-16. Here we find a company of believers who had been baptized. Surely in this company of baptized believers there were some regenerate men. But the record informs us that when Peter and John came down, they “prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost: (for as yet he was fallen upon none of them).”
It is clear then that one may be a believer, may be a regenerate man, and yet not have the baptism with the Holy Spirit. In other words, the baptism with the Holy Spirit is something distinct from and beyond His regenerating work. Not every regenerate man has the baptism with the Holy Spirit; though, as we shall see later, every regenerate man may have this baptism. If a man has experienced the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit he is a saved man, but he is not fitted for service until in addition to this he has received the baptism with the Holy Spirit.
4. The baptism with the Holy Spirit is always connected with testimony and service. Look carefully at every passage in which the baptism with the Holy Spirit is mentioned and you will see it is connected with and is for the purpose of testimony and service (for example, Acts 1:5, 8; 2:4; 4:31, 33). This will come out very clearly when we come to consider what the baptism with the Holy Spirit does. The baptism of the _Holy_ Spirit is not for the purpose of cleansing from sin, but for the purpose of empowering for service.
There is a line of teaching, put forward by a very earnest but mistaken body of people that has brought the whole doctrine of the baptism with the Holy Spirit into disrepute. It runs this way: First proposition there is a further experience (or second blessing) after regeneration—namely, the baptism with the Holy Spirit. This proposition – is true and can be easily proved from the Bible. Second proposition – this baptism with the Holy Spirit can be instantaneously received. This proposition is also true and can be easily proved from the Bible. Third proposition – this baptism with the Holy Spirit is the eradication of the sinful nature. This proposition is untrue. Not a line of Scripture can be adduced to show that the baptism with the Holy Spirit is the eradication of the sinful nature. The conclusion drawn from these three propositions, two true and one false, is necessarily false.
The baptism with the Holy Spirit is not for the purpose of cleansing from sin, but for the purpose of empowering for service. It is indeed the work of the Holy Spirit to cleanse from sin. Further than this there is a work of the Holy Spirit where the believer is strengthened with might in the inner man; that Christ may dwell in his heart by faith, that he might be filled unto all the fullness of God (Eph. 3:16-19, ASV).
There is a work of the Holy Spirit of such a character that the believer is “made . . . free from the law of sin and death” (Rom. 8:2), and through the Spirit does “mortify [put to death] the deeds of the body” (Rom. 8:13). It is our privilege to so walk daily and hourly in the power of the Spirit that the carnal nature is kept in the place of death. But this is not the baptism with the Spirit; neither is it the eradication of a sinful nature. It is not something done once and for all; it is something that must be momentarily maintained. “Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh” (Gal. 5:16). While insisting that the baptism with the Spirit is primarily for the purpose of empowering for service, it should be added that the baptism is accompanied by a great moral uplift. (See Acts 2:44, 46; 4:31-35.) This is necessarily so, from the steps one must take to obtain this blessing.
5. We will get a still clearer and fuller view of what the baptism with the Holy Spirit is if we will notice what this baptism does. This is stated concisely in Acts 1:8: “Ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses. . . .” The baptism with the Holy Spirit imparts power, power for service. This power will not manifest itself in precisely the same way in each individual. This is brought out very clearly in I Corinthians 12:4, 8-11, ASV. “Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit…For to one is given through the Spirit the word of wisdom: and to another the word of knowledge, according to the same Spirit: to another faith, in the same Spirit; and to another gifts of healings, in the one Spirit…to another divers kinds of tongues…but all these worketh the one and the same Spirit, dividing to each one severally even as he will.”
In my early study of the baptism with the Holy Spirit, I noticed that in the Scripture, in many instances, those who were so baptized “spoke with tongues.” The question came often to my mind. “If one is baptized with the Holy Spirit, will he not speak with tongues?” But I saw no one so speaking and I often wondered. “Is there anyone today who actually is baptized with the Holy Spirit?” This twelfth chapter of I Corinthians cleared me up on that, especially when I found Paul asking of those who had been baptized with the Holy Spirit. “Do all speak with tongues?” (I Cor. 12:30).
But I fell into another error – namely that anyone who received the baptism with the Holy Spirit would receive power as an evangelist or as a preacher of the Word. This is equally contrary to the teaching of the chapter, that “there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit.” There are three evils arising from the mistake just mentioned. First, disappointment. Many will seek the baptism with the Holy Spirit, expecting power as an evangelist, but God has not called them to that work and the power that comes from the baptism with the Holy Spirit manifests itself in another way to them. Many cases of bitter disappointment and almost despair have arisen from this cause.
The second evil is graver than the first: presumption. A man whom God has not called to the work of an evangelist or minister rushes into it because he has received, or thinks he has received, the baptism with the Holy Spirit. Many a man has said, “All a man needs to succeed as a preacher is the baptism with the Holy Spirit.” This is not true; he needs a call to that specific work, and he needs the study of the Word of God that will prepare him for the work.
The third evil is still greater: indifference. There are many who know they are not called to the work of preaching. For example, a mother with a large family of children knows this. If then, they think that the baptism with the Holy Spirit simply imparts power to preach, it is a matter of no personal concern to them. But when we come to see the truth that while the baptism with the Spirit imparts power, the way in which that power will be manifested depends upon the work to which God has called us and no efficient work can be done without it. Then the mother will see that she equally with the preacher needs this baptism—needs it for that most important and hallowed of all work, to bring up her children “in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.”
I have recently met a very happy mother. A few months ago she heard of the baptism with the Holy Spirit, sought it and received it. “Oh,” she joyfully exclaimed as she told me the story, “since I received it, I have been able to get into the hearts of my children which I was never able to do before.”
It is the Holy Spirit himself who decides how power will manifest itself in any given case; “the same Spirit dividing to each one severally even as he will” (I Cor. 12:11, ASV). We have a right to “desire earnestly the greater gifts” (I Cor. 12:31), but the Holy Spirit is sovereign, and He, not we, must determine in the final issue. It is not for us then to select some gift and look to the Holy Spirit to impart the self-chosen gift. It is not for us to select some field of service and then look to the Holy Spirit to impart to us power in the field which we have chosen. It is rather for us to recognize the divinity and sovereignty of the Spirit and to put ourselves unreservedly at His disposal. It is for Him to select the gift that “he will” and impart to us that gift: it is for Him to select for us the field that “he will” and impart to us the power that will qualify us for the field He has chosen.
I once knew a child of God who, hearing of the baptism with the Holy Spirit and the power that resulted from it, gave up at a great sacrifice the secular work in which he was engaged and entered upon the work of an evangelist. But the expected power in that line did not follow. The man fell into great doubt and darkness until he was led to see that the Holy Spirit divideth “to each one severally even as he will.” Then giving up selecting his own field and gifts, he put himself at the Holy Spirits disposal for Him to choose. In the final outcome the Holy Spirit did impart to this man power as an evangelist and a preacher of the Word. We must then surrender ourselves absolutely to the Holy Spirit to work as He will. But while the power that the baptism with the Holy Spirit brings manifests itself in different ways in different individuals, there will always be power. Just as surely as a man is baptized with the Holy Spirit, there will be new power, a power not his own, the power of the Highest!
Religious biography abounds in instances of men who have worked along as best they could until one day they were led to see there was such an experience as the baptism with the Holy Spirit and to seek it and obtain it; from that hour there came into their service a new power that utterly transformed its character. Finney, Brainerd and Moody are cases in point. But cases of this character are not confined to a few exceptional men. The author has personally met and corresponded with those who could testify to the new power that God granted them through the baptism with the Holy Spirit. These hundreds of men and women were in all branches of Christian service. Many of them were ministers of the gospel, mission workers, YMCA secretaries, Sunday school teachers, personal workers and fathers and mothers. Nothing could exceed the clearness, confidence and joyfulness of many of these testimonies. What we have in promise in the words of Christ many have, and all may have, in glad experience: “Ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you.” To sum up the contents of this chapter: the baptism with the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of God coming upon the believer, taking possession of his faculties, imparting to him gifts not naturally his own but which qualify him for the service to which God has called him.
This article “The Baptism with the Holy Spirit: What It Is and What It Does” was excerpted from: 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.”