Many people believe that the baptism with the Holy Spirit is for all believers today even as it was for the apostles of Jesus Christ. In fact, many believe that they have personally received the baptism with the Holy Spirit. They also believe that the miraculous "gifts" of the Spirit are for all believers today. Some of these are Christians who have "discovered" that the "signs and wonders" - miracles such as were performed by the apostles - are available for all Christians today. They are teaching this and even attempting on occasion to "practice" such. Claims of miraculous "healing the sick" and "casting out demons" have been made; along with the claim that God, Christ, and the Holy Spirit have actually spoken directly to certain "special" people in our day. This same Holy Spirit emphasis is taking place in almost every denomination. Let's study the "baptism of the Holy Spirit" and see what God's word teaches about it.
First, there are only six passages of Scripture that speak directly of the baptism of the Holy Spirit: Matt. 3:11; Mark 1:8; Luke 3:16; John 1:33; Acts 1:5; 11:16. These passages contain nearly all that the Scriptures say about the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Let's look at two of these passages now:
"As for me, I baptize YOU in water for repentance, but He Himself will baptize YOU with the Holy spirit AND FIRE" (Matt. 3:11).
"John answered and said to them all, 'As for me, I baptize YOU with water; but ... He Himself will baptize YOU in the Holy spirit and fire'" (Luke 3: 16).
The two quotes above are from John the Baptist. He acknowledged that he did baptize in water, then he said: "He who is coming after me ... He will baptize YOU with the Holy Spirit AND FIRE." We all know that John had reference to Jesus as the One who would baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire. Our big question is: To whom does that pronoun "you" refer? Who is the "you" who was promised this unique baptism with both the Holy Spirit and fire? There are thousands and thousands of people today who claim that this promise of Holy Spirit baptism includes them; and that they have received this baptism even as did the apostles of Christ. We are all familiar with the Pentecostal churches and other people who make this claim. Unfortunately there has been, and today there is, a scattering of people with a C of C church background who make the same claim. Are these people, and others down through the ages since John, actually included in the "you" to whom John was then speaking? John's language and promise applied only to some of those in the audience to whom he was then speaking, but not to all of them, much less people in this distant day and age. Whoever the "you" was lived at the time of the Baptist (John) and apparently this "you" was in the very audience to whom John was then speaking. Certainly John did not mean that every person in his audience would receive this unique, special baptism. If so, that would have included every person present, even the scribes, Pharisees, lawyers, and unbelievers.
How in the name of reason and Scripture can people today reach the conclusion that the promise of the baptism with the Holy Spirit applies to them in this far-removed age? John clearly said: " ... He shall baptize you in the Holy Spirit AND FIRE." That "you" was in His audience at that time and neither you nor I were there! True enough John's statement or promise did apply to some of those present, but there is no scriptural justification for trying to extend it to every person there and in all the future millenniums!
Can you prove from the passages above, or any others, that the "you" includes YOU? You are not included in the promise that John made! There is just one pronoun "you" in that passage and that "you" was promised the baptism with the Holy Spirit AND FIRE; two elements, but only one baptism! As we shall see, this promise of John was only for the apostles of Jesus, for the obvious reason that they are the only ones who received "the baptism of the Holy Spirit and fire". It was not a promise to all disciples of Jesus for all ages to come.
Nobody today has received the "baptism of the Holy Spirit and fire" that John promised would come to some of those then present. It did not include any others of that day, except the apostle Paul. It certainly does not include YOU, me, or anyone today.
In all the years I have never known any of these people to claim that they have been "baptized with the Holy Spirit and fire" as was the case with the apostles (Acts 2:2-4). Why do they fail to claim that the "fire" was part of the "baptism" they received? Obviously because none of them have received what the apostles received on Pentecost! The "tongues as of fire" would be visible and readily seen by anyone present, as was true on Pentecost, whereas the claim to have the "baptism of the Holy Spirit" is not so apparent without the "fire". I have never known of anyone to claim that he/she has received "... tongues as of fire distributing themselves, and they rested on each one of them" (Acts 2:3). No one today has received "the baptism of the Holy Spirit and fire". Only the apostles received this unique baptism. (Not even Cornelius and his household received such a baptism, which I shall discuss in another article.) Not one person today can demonstrate that he has the power to "speak with other tongues" (languages) under the direct control of the Holy Spirit as did the apostles on Pentecost (Acts 2:3-11). Why? Simply because no one today has "the baptism of the Holy Spirit and fire"! The apostles did NOT speak in some gibberish or an "unknown" heavenly language that no one present could understand. They spoke in the various native languages of the people then present. The people who had gathered "were bewildered because they were each one hearing THEM [the apostles] speak in his own language," even "in our language to which we were born" (Acts 2:5-11). No one today can speak in other languages they have not learned or perform miracles as did the apostles!
John said: "He [JESUS] shall baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire." The only persons to whom this promise can possibly refer are the apostles; and they are the only ones that Scripture tells us received this unique "baptism with the Holy Spirit and fire." That should settle the matter. Just before His ascension to heaven Jesus told His apostles: "... YOU are to stay in the city until YOU are clothed with power from on high" (Luke 24:49). The book of Acts also was written by Luke. In Acts 1 it is clear that "the apostles" alone (vs. 2) are the ones Luke is writing about. It was to them that Jesus presented Himself alive by "many convincing proofs, appearing to them over a period of forty days ..." (v. 3). "He commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for what the Father had promised ..." ( v. 4).
Acts 1:5 is the KEY PASSAGE that identifies specifically (and exclusively!) who was to be "baptized with the Holy Spirit and fire"! Read it carefully: "... for John baptized with water, but YOU [apostles] shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now" (Acts 1:5). Here Jesus Himself interprets John's language when John said: "... He Himself will baptize YOU in the Holy Spirit and fire" (Matt. 3:11; Luke 3:16). Jesus interpreted John's "YOU" to apply to the apostles and to them only! We are not left to speculate about who was to receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit and fire. Jesus has made this clear and certain in Luke's record in ACTS! Will you take the word of Jesus as the truth on this matter? The apostles were the only ones who were promised the "baptism with the Holy Spirit and fire" and they are the only ones who received it and that was on Pentecost.
In Acts 1 and on into chapter two the focus is solely on the eleven apostles. In Acts 1:8 the record tells us that Jesus said to them: "... but YOU shall receive POWER when the Holy Spirit has come upon YOU; and YOU shall be my witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth. After the ascension of Jesus "THEY returned to Jerusalem ... [and] THEY went up to the upper room, where THEY were staying..." Then Luke names the eleven apostles for his readers so we will know for certain of whom he specifically speaks (Acts 1:12). The eleven apostles are the subject, and the focus is upon them through the rest of chapter one and into chapter two of Acts.
In Acts 1:26 we read Luke's account of the "business meeting" that Peter had called so that they could help the Lord out and "elect" another apostle to take the place of Judas. There is absolutely nothing in these Scriptures or anywhere else that indicates that this action by the apostles was the Lord's instruction to them or that He had given them the authority to select another person to take the place of Judas! It was presumption on their part! Matthias was NOT the twelfth apostle! Jesus chose His own apostles (Matt. 10:2-4; Mark 3:13-19; Luke 6:14-16); and on this occasion He did not grant to Peter and the ten the right to select the twelfth apostle for Him! Jesus would select His twelfth apostle and his name was Saul of Tarsus or "Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ," as he described himself. Yes, the eleven apostles "numbered" Matthias with the eleven, but the Lord Jesus Christ did not do so. In fact, this incident gives us some insight into the folly that men can get into when they are not willing to wait on the Lord to make His own choices. So often we think that our wisdom and ways are HIS wisdom and ways and we, even today, "run ahead of the Lord" and claim our actions as His! How foolish. The Lord did not, and does not, have thirteen apostles; He has only twelve, including the apostle Paul (Rev. 21:14).
The expression "the baptism (immersion) with the Holy Spirit and fire" is figurative language! It is not to be taken literally. It means that the apostles were to be guided, led, and directed in their preaching by the Holy Spirit. Even the holy prophets of old spoke as they were moved or guided by the Holy Spirit and so it was with the apostles. The apostles were not literally immersed "with" or "in" the PERSON of the Holy Spirit! Jesus spoke of this occurrence, the immersion with the Holy Spirit, as "being clothed with power from on high" (Luke 24:49). That is a figure of speech, but it describes what the Spirit would do for the apostles. When Jesus spoke of His coming trials and crucifixion as a baptism (immersion), He used figurative language, even though His suffering and death would be terribly real! He said: "Are you able to drink of the cup that I shall drink of, and to be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?" (Matt. 20:22 KJV). This language is descriptive, figurative language, but we can understand its meaning. Jesus thus described His coming suffering and death on the cross as a "baptism" or immersion.
The Holy Spirit is a person, a divine being! You are a person. Can you, as a person, literally be immersed "with" or "in" the Holy Spirit, another person? The apostles were not literally, actually immersed into the Holy Spirit; that is, into His very being or person! Can't you understand this? It is figurative language. The Holy Spirit, as a divine Person, cannot literally dwell within your person, as I tried to show in the September editorial. The so-called "indwelling of the Holy Spirit" is NOT literal; it is also figurative. Can the Holy Spirit, as a divine person be literally "poured out" on other persons? Can the Spirit, a divine Being, literally dwell in a human being? It is folly to so teach!
Let me now cite some Scriptures that clearly show the literal meaning of the "baptism of the Holy Spirit". First, Matt. 10:19-20: "But when they deliver YOU [meaning only the apostles] up, do not become anxious about HOW or WHAT you will speak; for it shall be given you in that hour what you are to speak. For it is not you [on your own] who speak, but it is the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you." This simply means that the Holy Spirit would provide what they lacked and ensure the correctness of their preaching and teaching.
Look at Luke 12:11-12: Jesus speaking to the apostles said: "And when they bring you before the synagogues and the rulers and authorities, do not become anxious about HOW or WHAT you should say; for the Holy Spirit will TEACH YOU IN THAT VERY HOUR WHAT YOU OUGHT TO SAY." Note carefully that it is the apostles who will do the speaking as the Holy Spirit teaches them in that hour or on that occasion. In other words, the Holy Spirit would supplement their lack of knowledge and inadequacy of language.
In Luke 21:12-15, Jesus warned the apostles that "they will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you to the synagogues and prisons, bringing you before kings and governors for My name's sake. It will lead to an opportunity for your testimony. So make up your minds not to spare beforehand to defend yourselves; for I [the Lord Himself] will give you utterance and wisdom which none of your opponents will be able to resist or refute." The Lord would on these occasions make up for their lack by providing what they needed. For example, He would bring to their remembrance everything that He had taught them, as it was needed.
In John's gospel we are given some vital information about how the Lord Himself, as well as the Holy Spirit, would help them. Look at John 14:16-18: "And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another HELPER ... that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive ... but you know Him because He abides with you, and will be in you." In verse 26 of this same chapter we read: "But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you." In other words, the Holy Spirit would be their Helper and be there with them to make up whatever they lacked in knowledge and ability for the occasion.
John 16:7-13: "But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper shall not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you. And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin, and righteousness, and judgment ... I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. But when HE, THE SPIRIT OF TRUTH, COMES, He will guide YOU into all the truth.... "
These passages clearly show us how the Holy Spirit was to work with the apostles in ensuring that the message, the gospel, that they were to proclaim was to be the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth of God Almighty. Thus the apostles spoke by divine inspiration.
Let me make this point: the expression, "the baptism with the Holy Spirit" is figurative language for what "the Helper" was to do for the apostles. The Holy Spirit was to be their Helper, Advocate, Comforter, and Counselor when such was needed. The apostles would be supplied by the Spirit what they lacked in themselves to carry out the great commission given to them to go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature (Matt. 28:18-20; Mark 16: 15-20).
The salvation of all mankind depended upon the completeness and accuracy of this gospel and the "teaching them to observe all that I commanded you" (Matt. 28:20). The Holy Spirit ensured that the words spoken by the apostles were the very words God wanted used in conveying the message of eternal salvation to mankind. The apostles spoke only "as they were moved by the Holy Spirit."
Now once more: What was the baptism of the Holy Spirit? It was simply the Holy Spirit supplying what the apostles needed to fill out or complete their knowledge of the message of salvation and to deliver it to the people without error, in its purity and simplicity!
In addition to that the apostles were given "signs" or "attesting miracles" as evidence or proof that they were sent by God to do the preaching and work that they did. Paul wrote the Corinthians reminding them that "the signs of a true apostle were performed among you with all perseverance, by signs and wonders and miracles" (2 Cor. 12:12). Some of these "signs" are given in Mark 16: 17-20: "... in My name they will cast out demons, they will speak with new tongues; they will pick up serpents, and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not harm them: they will lay hands on the sick and they shall recover ... And they [the apostles] went out and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them, and confirmed the word by the signs that followed."
No one today can perform any of these miraculous "signs" or miracles. In Hebrews 2: 1-4, we read of "so great a salvation ... first spoken through the Lord, it was confirmed to us by those who heard, God also bearing witness with them, both by signs and wonders and by various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit according to His own will." These "signs" are not needed today. We have the Sacred Scriptures, both the "old" and the "new" Scriptures, which are fully adequate to teach us the will and way of God. Paul wrote to Timothy in about A. D. 68 that "All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work" (2 Tim. 3:16-17). While this reference no doubt primarily refers to the Old Scriptures, the New Scriptures were then being completed, 2 Timothy being one of these inspired Scriptures.
Miracles are not needed today to confirm the word of God; it has already been fully confirmed and established. No one today can perform a genuine miracle. Those who claim that they have done so, or that such has been done through them, are deceived. Many who claim such miraculous powers are deliberate deceivers and charlatans. If people will not believe and obey what God has given to us in the Holy Scriptures, then they are easy prey for such frauds as Oral Roberts, Kenneth Hagin, Jimmy Swaggart, James Robinson, Ernest Ainsley, and all the rest of the false teachers who claim miraculous power. Even more heartrending and sad is the fact that even among loved ones and close friends there are those who have been overtaken in this unholy Pentecostal teaching and practice. May God open the eyes of their understanding so they can recognize the condemning error into which they have fallen and give it up before it is too late. - cah