The Doctrine Of The Baptism Of The Holy Ghost
By J. Mark Jordan
Few topics are as exciting as the baptism of the Holy Ghost. What a dynamic personal experience it is! Many lives have been totally changed by its transforming power. But the personal nature of this baptism is not the sole reason that it should command our attention. We must also consider it from a scriptural perspective. When we do, it is clear that it is a profoundly important part of the Scriptures.
The Holy Ghost baptism represents a quantum leap from the Age of Law to the Age of the Spirit. In Old Testament times, most people perceived God as an awesome and remote being. While some men, notably King David, seemed to break through this barrier to enjoy a personal relationship with God, the majority of Israelites reached God only through the mediatorship of the priesthood. Yet men wanted to know God for themselves.
In Ezekiel 36:26-27, God promised that one day His people would have a close individual relationship with Him. “A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes. ” This prophecy inched toward reality with the prediction of Joel 2:28: “And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh. ” The day was soon to come when God would be more than an overshadowing deity, and even more than an incarnate God who dwelt with men; He would be an indwelling Spirit who deposited His very nature into human vessels.
A Unique Experience
What is the baptism of the Holy Ghost? As we answer this question, we must keep in mind that God is a Spirit (John 4:24). This is the manner in which He exists. Since a spirit has no physical form, and therefore no bodily limitations, God can place Himself within a person’s soul, or heart, as it pleases Him. In its purest definition then, the Holy Ghost baptism is the act whereby God’s Spirit comes to dwell within a person’s heart.
Acts 2:1-4 records in detail the first time this happened. While several signs accompanied this event the end result was that the people present were “filled with the Holy Ghost” Of course, God, being omnipresent, fills all space. But the baptism of the Holy Ghost goes beyond this attribute of God. It is a unique experience that occurs within the soul of the believer. Jesus described it by saying, “Out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water” (John 7:38). This baptism is a singular experience that remains in a class by itself. As such, it is separate from any other event in a person’s relationship to God and not to be confused with other spiritual experiences.
It is not belief, although it is received by faith. Paul asked the Ephesian disciples, “Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed?” (Acts 19:2). Belief paves the way for the subsequent reception of the Holy Ghost.
It is not commitment to Christ. Paul made a commitment to Christ immediately after he knew that Jesus was speaking to him from heaven on the road to Damascus. This was before he had received the gift of the
Holy Ghost. (See Acts 9:17.)
It is not water baptism. At the revival in Samaria the people were baptized in water before they received the Holy Ghost. (See Acts 8:16.)
It is not devotion, generosity, visions, or angelic visitations. Cornelius possessed all of these things, but he did not receive the Holy Ghost baptism until Peter came and preached to him. (See Acts 10:1-4.) No, the Holy Ghost as a gift is not to be confused with any other spiritual quality, manifestation, or act.
Tongues is the Initial Evidence
There is a single, common element present every time a person receives the Holy Ghost: speaking in tongues. Tongues is the initial evidence that the Spirit has come in. Isaiah’s prohesied of this: “For with stammering lips and another tongue will he speak to this people” (Isaiah 28:11). Tongues appears in the first account of the Holy Ghost outpouring. “And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance” (Acts 2:4). Acts 10:45-46 states very clearly that tongues is the initial evidence: “And they. . .were astonished. . .because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost. For they heard them speak with tongues. ” Acts 19:6 is a further example that tongues accompanies the Holy Ghost baptism.
Tongues as the sign of receiving the Holy Ghost are not to be confused with the “gift of tongues” used for public messages in church services (I Corinthians 12:10). The phenomenon is the same in both cases, but there are major differences between the two uses. First, the “gift of tongues” is only for some, while the gift of the Holy Ghost is for everyone. Second, the “gift of tongues” is regulated in public
worship as to frequency, necessity of interpretation, and purpose. No such regulations apply to the gift of the Holy Ghost. A study of Acts 2:1-13 shows that the restrictions of I Corinthians 14:22-28 are not applicable to receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost with the evidence of speaking in tongues.
The Father’s Promise
Jesus specifically promised the Holy Ghost baptism to all believers. “And behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem until ye be endued with power from on high” (Luke 24:49). “For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be bapsized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence” (Acts 1:5). On the Day of Pentecost, Peter confirmed that the upper room experience was the very event Jesus had foretold. “This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses. Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, he hath shed forth this which ye now see and hear” (Acts 2:32-33).
Then Peter informed his awestruck listeners that they too could receive this marvelous gift. “And ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call” (Acts 2:38-39). The early church expected everyone to receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. This explains why Paul asked the Ephesian disciples in Acts
19:2: “Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed?” The promise of the Holy Ghost is a definite experience that every believer can and should have.
A Personal Miracle
The Holy Ghost baptism is not merely a general transfer of authority that the church received on its inaugural day. It is a personal experience for each individual believer. Each person received tongues of fire (Acts 2:3). All were filled (Acts 2:4). In Samaria, hands were laid on them (Acts 8:17). All the Gentiles present received the Spirit (Acts 10:44). All the Ephesian disciples received the Spirit (Acts 19:6-7). Jesus said, “Except a man be born. . . of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God” (John 3:5).
In fact, the personal aspect of a person’s relationship to God is a central theme of the New Testament. I Corinthians 12 sounds this theme emphatically in its discussion of the body of Christ. We are called “members in particular” (I Corinthians 12:27). Even though we are members of the general body, we each have an individual relationship to God. Moreover, we know God is really in us because of the gift of the Spirit. “And hereby we know that he abideth in us, by the Spirit which he hath given us” (I John 3:24; see also 4:13). The Holy Ghost baptism becomes our personal miracle. Once a person has received it, he can stand against skeptics with confidence, and he is sustained through the darkest of trials. A critic cannot easily set aside a bona fide experience with God.
Since the baptism of the Holy Ghost is a personal experience, there are personal manifestations when someone receives it. Tongues, as we have seen, is the unique, universal sign. Other manifestations may be unusual behavior that reminded the hostile crowd at Pentecost of drunkenness (Acts 2:13), witnessing of God’s wonderful works (Acts 2:11), perhaps other outward evidences that impressed Simon the sorcerer (Acts 8:17-20), personal healings or deliverances as a simultaneous blessing (Acts 9:17-18), worship that magnifies God (Acts 10:46), and prophecies (Acts 19:6). These are not acts of a corporate body or a general fellowship. Rather, they indicate individual and personal experiences.
God’s Power at Work
But while the Holy Ghost baptism is a glorious experience, it is far more meaningful than that. The Holy Spirit is God’s power at work in the believer’s life, and this power enables the believer to witness. “But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you:” (Acts 1:8). Acts 4:31 reinforces this truth: “And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness. ” Power over Satan also comes through the Spirit: “Because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world ” (I John 4:4).
Actually, the whole concept of the Christian walk is necessarily spiritual. The theme of the entire eighth chapter of Romans is life in the Spirit. It is the Holy Ghost baptism that thrusts the believer into this new and fascinating realm.
Birth of the Spirit
Jesus made it clear that the baptism of the Holy Ghost is a new spiritual birth. “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God ” (John 3:5). Three verses later, he used an analogy strikingly similar to the dramatic event on the Day of Pentecost. “The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh and whither it
goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit” (John 3:8). A baptized believer knows he is born again when he receives the Holy Ghost.
We often hear the expression today, “accept Christ” or “receive Christ.” How may someone do this? By receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost! “For he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you” (John 14:16-18). Whenever the Bible speaks of Christ dwelling in the believer, it has reference to the Spirit baptism (Romans 8:9; Ephesians 3:16-17).
If a person has not yet received his personal baptism of the Spirit, he should continue to seek until he does. This requires, above all, faith in Christ (John 7:38-39). It means diligent seeking until he is rewarded (Hebrews 11:6). It comes through worship, prayer, and supplication to God (Acts 1:14). It is a result of obedience to the Word of God (Acts 5:32). None of these requirements are difficult. When a person bursts into this new realm, he will be amazed at the ease with which it happens.
We can rest assured that God wants each person to receive His Spirit. Receiving the Spirit will be the most glorious day the seeker has ever known. No one should let anything stand in his way until this day dawns in beautiful splendor into his life!
About The Author
J. Mark Jordan, raised in Jackson, Michigan attended Texas Bible College Later he received a B.S. in Human Relations from the University of Toledo. He and his wife Sandy evangelized several years before he became Associate Pastor to First Apostolic Church, Toledo, OH. In 1978 he founded Apostolic Christian Academy. He served the Ohio District as Youth President, UPCI, from 1977 to 1983. Since 1983 he has pastored First Apostolic Church, Toledo, OH. He has written numerous articles for Pentecostal publications. He now resides with his wife Sandy and three children in suburban Toledo.
The Above Material Was Taken From Measures Of Our Faith, And Published By Word Aflame Press, 1987, Pages 47-54. This Material Is Copyrighted And May Be Used For Study & Research Purposes Only.