Friday, September 28, 2018

Baptism of the Holy Spirit

"Then Peter said, “Can anyone keep these people from being baptized with water? They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have” (Acts 10:46b–47).

The baptism of the Holy Spirit is not the same as regeneration. Regeneration gives salvation, while the baptism of the Spirit is an empowering for service. In the Old Testament, all believers were regenerated by the Spirit, but only a few received the baptism. We see this in Numbers 11 where God gave the Spirit to seventy of Israel’s elders. At that time Moses expressed a wish that “all the LORD’S people were prophets and that the LORD would put His Spirit on them!” (v. 29).

Moses’ wish becomes Joel’s prophecy. He predicted God would pour out His Spirit on all people. “Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions” (Joel 2:28). All of God’s people would receive a baptism for service.

On the day of Pentecost Peter announced that Joel’s prophecy had come to pass. All believers were going to receive the baptism of the Spirit (Acts 2:17–18). But there was a question: Was this baptism of power for Jews only, or for all believers? In order to make this point, clear special baptismal events occurred in the book of Acts.

The first group in question was the Samaritans. Were they going to be one body with Jewish believers? The answer in Acts 8 was yes, and the confirmation of this was the Samaritans receiving a special baptism of the Spirit. Would the next group, the Gentiles, be woven into the new church as equal members? God answered this question in Acts 10. When Peter saw that Cornelius had received the baptism of the Spirit, he realized the barrier between Jew and Gentile was overcome.

On these two occasions, the conversion of a person was separated from his reception of the baptism in order to make a point. These were once-for-all events and are not a pattern for believers today. Except for these events, all believers receive their gifting-baptism at their conversion.

The movement of the Spirit today has led some to believe there are two kinds of Christians: ordinary and Spirit-baptized. The great irony is the Spirit who came to make us one has become the focal point of radical division among believers. Pray today that God would mend this breach.