You Will Be Baptized with the Holy Spirit

And while staying with them he charged them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, "you heard from me, for John baptized with water, but before many days you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit."

We saw last week from verse 1 that the first volume of Luke's two-volume work, the Gospel According to Luke, dealt with all that Jesus BEGAN to do and to teach (Acts 1:1), which implies that the second volume, the book of Acts, will deal with what Jesus CONTINUES to do and to teach. The book of Acts is not only the acts of the apostles, but the acts of the risen, living Jesus.

Then we noticed that Luke mentioned three things the apostles needed if they were to be the kind of instruments through which the living Jesus could do his work and speak his Word.

  1. First, they needed a Spirit-authenticated commission or command from the Lord. So verse 2 says he gave them commandment through the Holy Spirit.
  2. Second, they needed verification that Jesus was really alive and triumphant over death. So verse 3a says that Jesus presented himself to them alive after his death with many proofs appearing to them for 40 days.
  3. Third, they needed more instruction about the kingdom of God. So verse 3b says that he spent time during those 40 days between his resurrection and ascension speaking to them of the kingdom of God.

The Need to Be Baptized with the Holy Spirit

That's where we stopped last week. But verses 4 and 5 go on to show that there is another utterly crucial thing that the apostles needed in order to be the most effective instruments in the hands of the living Jesus. They needed to be baptized with the Holy Spirit.

And while staying with them he charged them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, "you heard from me, for John baptized with water, but before many days you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit."

Three years earlier John the Baptist had led a brief renewal movement among the Jewish people by calling them to repent and receive forgiveness for their sins and be baptized as a sign of their new relationship to God (Luke 3:3). But John made it clear that the Messiah was coming soon and would baptize the people not merely in water but in the Holy Spirit. In Luke 3:16 he says:

I baptize you with water; but he who is mightier than I is coming, the thong of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie; he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.

So Jesus is saying here in Acts 1:5, "This is going to happen in just a few days—you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit. John immersed you in water; I am going to immerse you in the Holy Spirit. John drenched you in water; I am going to drench you in the Holy Spirit. This is the fourth thing you need in order to be effective instruments of my life in the world. You need to be baptized in the Holy Spirit."

Now what was this baptism with the Holy Spirit? What did they need and what did they get when this happened?

What Happened on the Day of Pentecost

Let's begin by looking at what happened when the day actually came. Acts 2:1–4:

When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly a sound came from heaven like the rush of a mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them tongues as of fire, distributed and resting on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.

Filled with the Spirit

So when the baptism with the Spirit comes, it is like a mighty wind immersing and filling all the house with sound. The effect on the disciples was they were filled with the Spirit (notice the word in verse 3: "They were all FILLED with the Holy Spirit"). Tongues of fire appeared on each of them and they began to speak in languages that they did not know.

Verse 11 tells us what they were saying: "We hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God." So what they were filled with was an overwhelming sense of God's greatness and a sense of wonder at his works. The Spirit was filling them with his own vision of God and his own passion for God and his own prophetic words of praise.

Peter's Explanation

So when Peter explains what is happening in the baptism with the Holy Spirit, he says in verses 16–17:

This is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: "And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy."

So when Jesus said in Acts 1:4, "Wait for the promise of the Father," what he meant was, "Wait till the promise of Joel 2 is fulfilled." The promise of the Father is what is now being experienced by the disciples. This is confirmed in Acts 2:32–33. Peter goes on with his sermon interpreting what is going on and says:

This Jesus God raised up, and of that we are all witnesses. Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this which you see and hear.

Here we see Jesus doing the actual work of baptizing the disciples with the Holy Spirit. He enters into heaven. He receives from the Father what he had promised. And he pours out what the Jews are seeing and hearing at Pentecost, namely, the rushing wind, the tongues of fire, the speaking in other languages, the prophetic praise and exultation.

What's the Essence of Baptism with the Spirit?

Now what is the heart of the matter here? What is the essence of being baptized with the Holy Spirit? Is it the sound of wind, the tongues of fire, the other languages, the words of praise, the prophecies and dreams and visions? Can we get at the essence of what it means to be baptized with the Holy Spirit, or does it have to include all these things?

I think we can get at the essence, and I want to get at it by saying first of all what I think it is not. I think that being baptized with the Holy Spirit (the way Luke means it) is not the same as being born again or being united to Christ by the work of the Holy Spirit. In other words I don't think that what Paul is talking about in 1 Corinthians 12:13 is the same as what is happening here in Acts.

Paul says, "For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free." The context shows that he is referring to a work of the sovereign Spirit who unites all believers to Christ. This is virtually the same as the work of conversion. When you are born again and put your faith in Christ, the Spirit of God unites you to Christ so that you are part of his body and a fellow-heir with him of eternal life.

I used to just assume that Paul and Luke were talking about the same thing when they used the word "baptism" and connected it to the Holy Spirit—in other words, that the baptism by the Spirit in 1 Corinthians 12:13 and the baptism with the Holy Spirit in Acts 2 were the same. Many very able scholars and teachers still make that connection. The view I am about to give you is not the only orthodox one, nor is it one you have to agree with in order to be a part of this fellowship. But it is one that I am increasingly persuaded is correct and desperately needed in the church.

Receiving Extraordinary Power for Ministry

We are trying to answer the question: What is the heart or essence of being baptized with the Holy Spirit? I have said that I do NOT think the essence is new birth or conversion or being united to the body of Christ. What then is it? And why do I not think it is the same as what Paul speaks of in 1 Corinthians 12:13?

I think the essence of being baptized with the Holy Spirit is when a person, who is already a believer, receives extraordinary spiritual power for Christ-exalting ministry. So let me try to show you the reasons why I think this is the heart of the matter.

Jesus' Focus on Being Clothed with Power

First, let's start back at Luke 24:49. Keep in mind as we turn there that in Acts 1:4 Jesus said, "He charged them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father," namely, the baptism of the Holy Spirit.

Now in Luke 24:49 Jesus says virtually the same thing. "And behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you; but stay in the city, until you are clothed with power from on high." What is important here is to see that what Jesus focuses on, of all the things he might focus on in the baptism with the Spirit, is being clothed with power. So that is the first pointer that the heart of this matter of baptism with the Holy Spirit is a matter of empowerment. He told them in Luke 24:47 that they are to preach to all the nations. And the point of verse 49 is we cannot do that with greatest success unless we are clothed with power from God—that is, unless we are baptized with the Holy Spirit.

Pictured as Power for Witness

The second pointer that this is the essence of being baptized with the Holy Spirit is found in Acts 1:6–8. Right after Jesus says that they would be baptized with the Spirit (v. 5), the disciples say, "'Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?' He said to them, 'It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you and you shall be my witnesses.'" So here the baptism with the Spirit is seen as a "coming upon" that gives power for witness. So that is the second pointer to empowering as the heart of being baptized with the Spirit.

Issues of New Birth/Conversion Not in View

Notice that neither of these texts suggests that what is happening in the baptism of the Spirit is rebirth or conversion or union with Christ. There are good reasons for believing that these disciples were already born again and converted and had the Holy Spirit dwelling in them (John 13:10; 15:3; Romans 8:9; John 3:5). But even more important than that is the fact that the issue of the new birth and conversion of the disciples are simply not in view at all in Acts 1 and 2.

Jesus doesn't say, wait in Jerusalem until you are born again or converted or put into the body of Christ. He says wait until you are clothed with power. He doesn't say, You shall receive membership in the body of Christ when the Holy Spirit has come upon you. He says, "You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you."

And notice, in the third place, that when Peter explains what promise of the Father is being fulfilled in the baptism of the Spirit, he focuses on the promise in Joel 2. There are promises that might have stressed the promise of the Spirit to bring new birth (like Ezekiel 11:19; 36:26f.). But that is not what Peter or Luke focuses on. Peter says that the baptism of the Holy Spirit is a fulfillment of Joel 2; and what Joel 2 promises explicitly is not new birth or conversion or membership in the body of Christ, but a new power to prophesy. "I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams" (2:17).

Described as Filling with the Holy Spirit

The fourth and final reason I give this morning for seeing baptism with the Spirit as a special empowering for ministry is that it is described as a FILLING with the Holy Spirit, and this idea of filling is almost always associated with this extraordinary power for ministry in the book of Acts. Notice that when the baptism with the Spirit happens in Acts 2:4, Luke says, "And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit." The effect of that filling was a powerful and even miraculous testimony to the truth of Christ that resulted in 3,000 people being converted (Acts 2:41).

  • In Acts 4:8 Peter is again filled with the Holy Spirit and speaks with such power that the Jewish leaders were amazed at his boldness in spite of his being relatively uneducated (4:13).
  • In Acts 4:31 other disciples were praying and the place where they were was shaken and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit. The effect of their fullness was that they spoke the Word of God with extraordinary boldness and Christ-exalting power.
  • In Acts 6 we meet Stephen who is full of faith and the Holy Spirit (v. 5). And Luke tells us in verse 8 that he was therefore full of power and did wonders and signs among the people, but especially in verse 10 the leaders could not resist the wisdom and Spirit with which he spoke. His fullness gave him an extraordinary power for Christ-exalting ministry.
  • In Acts 9:17 Paul is filled with the Holy Spirit at his conversion and the result was that he spoke with such extraordinary power that the Jews of Damascus were confounded (9:22).
  • In Acts 11:24 Barnabas was full of the Holy Spirit and faith and the effect Luke mentions was that "a large company was added to the Lord" (as at Pentecost).
  • In Acts 13:9 Paul was filled with the Holy Spirit as he spoke to Elymas the magician and God gave him the extraordinary power to pronounce Elymas blind for a season (13:11).

Conclusion

So here is my conclusion: being baptized with the Holy Spirit is when a believer in Jesus Christ receives extraordinary power for Christ-exalting ministry.

  • This is true because Luke says that being baptized with the Spirit is being filled with the Spirit, and being filled with the Spirit is always for extraordinary power in ministry.
  • It is true because Luke says that being baptized with the Spirit is a fulfillment of the promise of Joel 2, and Joel 2 promises an upsurge of prophetic power among God's people.
  • It is true because Luke describes being baptized with the Spirit as receiving power for witness when the Holy Spirit comes upon you (Acts 1:8).
  • And it is true because Luke says that being baptized in the Spirit is being clothed with power from on high so that message of Christ can be taken effectively to all the nations of the world (Luke 24:49).

The implications of this for us are, I think, very great. And we will turn to that in the weeks to come.

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