The Holy Spirit: God, Indwelling, and Baptism

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Thursday, July 10, 2014 0 comments

by Steve Risner

My entire life I have been involved in a Pentecostal church. As I ventured out on my own with college and travels and as I helped with different ministries across the country, I found that there was a lot of confusion about something I had been taught since I was a child. Now I'm no expert by any means, but I do know that Pentecostals believe in the baptism of the Holy Spirit (which is not the same thing as the indwelling Spirit, which we’ll address later). The baptism in the Holy Spirit is something Jesus Christ commanded His disciples to wait on in Jerusalem before they went anywhere. In fact, it was so important to Him that it was one of the very last things He mentioned to them before His ascension. Peter told us in Acts 2:39 that “The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off--for all whom the Lord our God will call.” It's clear from a natural reading of Scripture that the “promise of the Father” is for all believers everywhere and anytime. This thing that so many have either decided to reject completely or, at the least, have ignored, is what Christ told us was “the promise of the Father.” So let’s figure this out.

The Holy Spirit is God. Let's just start there. He is a person of the Trinity. Peter tells Ananias that he lied to the Holy Spirit and goes on to say Ananias lied to God. We also find that, “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3:17-18). So the fact that the Holy Spirit is God is fairly settled.

But let's move to the question: What’s the indwelling Spirit? According to John 20:22, Jesus “breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.’” This is the Holy Spirit that every single believer receives when he/she receives Christ as their Savior. This is where many who reject the baptism in the Spirit find some of the fuel for their fire. But the confusion is easily cleared. The baptism in the Holy Spirit and the indwelling Spirit are clearly, according to Scripture, not the same thing. One is received upon salvation and every believer has it. The other has no bearing on your salvation. If you are a follower of Christ, you are the Temple of God—He lives in you. This is the indwelling Spirit.

The baptism in the Holy Spirit is something else. It's something wonderful and amazing, but has nothing to do with your salvation other than in order to receive it you must first find salvation. Moments before Christ's ascension, He promised to send “the promise of the Father” which could not be the indwelling Spirit because He had already given that to them in John 20:22. But on the day of Pentecost, there was something different that took place. The Holy Spirit, which is a “Who” and not so much a “What,” descended on those gathered in the upper room. This is an empowerment.

This is another area where there can be confusion. Many who have not been baptized in the Spirit believe Pentecostals feel superior to other believers who have not received. Truth be told, there are some Pentecostals who warrant this belief. But this is wrong. The baptism in the Spirit doesn't make one a better believer or a higher class of disciple or anything like that. In fact, the Spirit has a very specific purpose and it has nothing to do with your standing as a follower of Christ. We find the purpose in Acts 1:8 and it is one thing—to testify about Jesus Christ, which is to say to witness. Ephesians 4:12 tells us these gifts are given to prepare God's people for service and for building up the body of Christ. Over and over we find in Scripture that the Spirit was instrumental in adding to the Church. Peter, on the day of Pentecost after being baptized in the Spirit, preached a fiery message that was the epicenter of the exponential growth of the Church. “Peter, filled with the Spirit....” preached to the Counsel in Acts 4:8. We read that, “Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit...” rebuked a man and struck him blind in Acts 13. As a result, the proconsul believed.

It's clear the purpose of the baptism in the Spirit has a function and it's not to benefit the believer in the least. It benefits the growth of the Church. Further evidence that the baptism in the Spirit and the indwelling Spirit are not the same thing is found in Acts 19 where Paul asked the Ephesian believes if they had received the Holy Spirit. They said they had no idea what he was talking about—that they were baptized in water but had not been baptized in the Holy Spirit. Then the story moves into my next point...

It also seems that, according to Scripture, when one was baptized in the Spirit, there was something demonstrable that occurred. In the story I just referenced in Acts 19, when Paul laid his hands on the Ephesians, they were filled with the Spirit and spoke in other tongues. Acts 8 claims that Simon “saw that they were filled” telling us, again, something could be detected when one was filled with the Spirit. We see this in Acts 2:4 as well. At the initial outpouring of the Holy Spirit, they spoke in other tongues. These are just a few of the references in the Bible to “when they saw they were filled” or something similar.

1 Corinthians 12 gives us a great deal of information on the Spiritual gifts. We read in verses 7-12: “Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.”

1 Corinthians 13 is known as the love chapter. It tells us that, if we get the love part wrong, that none of the other things we do (whether through the Spiritual gifts or something else) matter. Chapter 14 then goes on to talk about speaking in tongues. There is a difference between the Spiritual gift of speaking in tongues (which is to add to the Church) and speaking in tongues as your “prayer language.” Chapter 14 talks about talking to God (which is not what the Spiritual gifts are for). Prophesy is for speaking to men. But your prayer language is between you and God. Perhaps another blog could be written on this and I will stop here on this particular point.

I'll conclude with some warning. Being a believer who is baptized in the Spirit doesn't mean you are weird. Weird and freaky, I believe, are manifestations of the flesh. Many times I've heard Pentecostals criticized for being high on emotions or weird or all show. Sadly, this too is a warranted belief based on many who claim to be filled with the Spirit. But it shouldn't be the case. The work of the Holy Spirit through Christ's followers enhances the witness of the believer. It shouldn't creep out those who are seeking. I've visited churches at times that made me feel weird and uncomfortable—and I'm a Pentecostal! That should not be the case. Fleshly outbursts or anything that draws attention to the one through whom a gift is being used is not the Spirit but the flesh of the person. Hopefully this is clear and I've not opened a can of worms with this. As Paul said, don't go beyond what is written.