The doctrines related to the Baptism with the Holy Spirit are varied and peculiar to Pentecostal denominations with few exceptions. Some non-Pentecostals for example, refer to it as the infilling of a believer immediately subsequent to conversion. My personal research has revealed scriptural evidence in support of it being the phrase used to point to one of three distinct experiences the Holy Spirit shares with humanity.
I served for 28 years as a pastor in three Pentecostal churches where the operation of spiritual gifts was the norm during our regular services. I eventually broke from the denomination because of a flaw in their dogma that taught, “Speaking in tongues is THE evidence of the Baptism with the Holy Spirit”.
I had witnessed much confusion about, and outright abuse of tongues, so I spoke on several occasions with executive elders to hopefully resolve the issue.
My research discovered that tongues is only one of many manifestations of the Holy Spirit that serve as legitimate evidence of HIS anointing. Tongues is “AN” evidence, but NOT “THE” evidence, the one and only sign.
I’m fully aware of the passages in ACTS 2 related to the experience. But they spoke in tongues that were interpreted by an audience who heard and understood each in their own foreign languages. I’ve only seen that manifest on the mission field, and it wasn’t the result of any laying on of hands by the elders present.
I have NEVER seen cloven tongues of fire appear over anyone’s head. So, if that’s the scriptural support for speaking in tongues as THE evidence, it isn’t consistent with the major tenants of sound doctrine.
Paul gives an elaborate presentation on the gifts of the Spirit and specifies the different manifestations of tongues [1Cor.12-14]. Some tongues are prophetic utterance to be interpreted by fellow believers for the edification of the congregation. Other tongues are a sign to unbelievers like the manifestation in Acts 2. A third distinction is as a “prayer language” whereby it is communication “in the Spirit” to GOD for self-edification.
There is also another issue about when and how one receives the Baptism with the Holy Spirit. I conducted a thorough research of scripture related to that as well. I found that receiving the Holy Spirit is NOT the SAME experience as the Baptism with the Holy Spirit. There are however, some reports of both experiences occurring simultaneously, but that is NOT the norm.
An individual immediately receives the Holy Spirit at the moment of their conversion. Receiving the INDWELLING of the Spirit is what makes one “born again”. The Spirit takes up permanent residency in a believer’s life making them a new creation, alive unto God, dead unto sin. It is the agency of the Holy Spirit confirming our salvation.
A completely different experience is the Baptism with the Holy Spirit, which I discovered scripture refers to in both Old & New Testaments.
There is not sufficient space here to list ALL such OT and NT references, but the various manifestations of the Holy Spirit are designated as distinct and different by three prepositions: “WITH”, “UPON”, and “IN”.
Scripture declares the Holy Spirit’s relationship to mankind as either working outside but near them as “with”. Then He is also noted as falling or coming “upon” men. Finally, but ONLY in the case of a true believer, He is said to be “in” them.
Further research reveals that the experience related to the Holy Spirit being “in” someone in the NT is uniquely related to born again new creations who continue to have the Holy Spirit reside “in” them. The best example of this experience is mentioned in John’s gospel where Jesus told his disciples to expect the infilling of the Holy Spirit.
“Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it sees Him not, neither knows Him: but ye know Him; for he dwells WITH you, and shall be IN you” – Jn. 14:17.
The experience of the Holy Spirit falling ‘upon” persons tends to be a bit confusing, because contrary to much doctrine, it is NOT reserved for born again spirit filled believers. The experience can be found in several OT passages. One example is:
“When the spirit rested UPON them, they PROPHESIED, and did not cease” – Num. 11:25.
The New Testament declares the specific experience when the Spirit comes UPON:
“And the Holy Spirit descended in a bodily shape like a dove UPON Him” – Lk. 3”22.
“UPON whom you shall see the Spirit descending, and remaining on Him, the same is He which baptizes with the Holy Spirit” – Jn 1:33.
“And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit UPON all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy” – Ac. 2:17.
Perhaps the best way to comprehend the significance of these three different experiences with the Holy Spirit is to consider this imagery. An empty glass sits on a table. WITH it on the table is a pitcher full of water. As long as the water remains only in the pitcher, it can only be rightly said of the glass that the water is WITH it on the table.
Then the pitcher is raised and a measure of water is poured into the glass. Now it can be properly reported that water is IN the glass.
Finally, the pitcher is raised again and water is poured into the glass until it overflows out onto the table. The glass is now FILLED.
Considering that illustration, the water represents the Holy Spirit. The glass is a human “vessel”. As long as the glass remains empty, the Holy Spirit is merely WITH the human vessel. When the Holy Spirit is initially introduced to the vessel, a measure enters into the vessel; the Holy Spirit is now IN the vessel. When the holy Spirit comes UPON the vessel and FILLS the vessel to overflowing, the vessel is then FILLED with the Holy Spirit.
Jesus declared it like this.
“He that believes on Me, as the scripture has said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. (But He spoke this of the Spirit, which they that believe on Him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.)” – Jn. 7:38, 39.
One of the clearest evidences of the Baptism with the Holy Spirit is receiving POWER from on high. I believe this results in some supernatural manifestation, an experience in miraculous power.
“You shall receive POWER after that the Holy Spirit is come UPON you” – Ac. 1:8.
“When Simon saw that through laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Spirit was given, he offered them money, Saying, Give me also this POWER, that on whomsoever I lay hands, he may receive the Holy Spirit” – Ac. 8:18, 19.
Obviously there was a visible manifestation of supernatural power that Simon witnessed. He did not understand it, but there should be no doubt that the manifestation accompanied the apostle’s laying hands on individuals to be FILLED with the Holy Spirit.
Incidentally, it is this passage that many non-Pentecostals refer to when equating the Baptism with the Holy Spirit to ”receiving” the Spirit at conversion. But when laying on of hands is practiced, it is mostly associated with praying for the Baptism, not salvation.
Some debate as to whether the Baptism with the Holy Spirit is a one-time event. Scripture shows it to be repeated many subsequent times. While the initial indwelling of the Holy Spirit is only necessary once in a believer’s life because His residence is permanent, the Baptism with the Holy Spirit is NOT related to an individual’s right relationship to God.
Throughout the OT the Holy Spirit came UPON people who were not necessarily saved and even non-persons. The common thread is that whenever and where ever the Holy Spirit moves UPON, there is an immediate manifestation of His supernatural POWER.
“The Spirit of God moved UPON the face of the waters. And God said, Let there be light: and there was light” Gen. 1:2, 3.
“There remained two men in the camp, the name of the one was Eldad, and the name of the other Medad: and the spirit rested UPON them; and they were of them that were written, but went not unto the tabernacle: they prophesied in the camp” – Num. 11:26.
“Balaam lifted up his eyes, and saw Israel abiding in his tents according to their tribes; and the spirit of God came UPON him”. [He immediately prophesied] Num. 24:2-9]
“The Spirit of the Lord came mightily UPON him, and he rent him as he would have rent a kid, and he had nothing in his hand” – Jud. 14:16.
“And the Spirit of the Lord will come UPON thee, and thou shalt prophesy with them, and shalt be turned into another man” 1Sam. 19:6.
There about 50 similar references in the OT, but these should serve as adequate to support the point that whenever and where ever the Holy Spirit moves UPON, there is an immediate manifestation of His supernatural POWER. It is that distinct experience scripture refers to as the Baptism with the Holy Spirit.
As with water baptism, or baptism in general, it is a full immersion. That is the literal definition of the term, whether doctrines allow for sprinkling or pouring a little over the head, the scriptural use of the term always implies a full immersion.
So when it relates to Spirit baptism the idea is that when the Holy Spirit comes UPON an individual He completely immerses them with supernatural POWER to enable them to perform some miraculous things to the ultimate glory of God.
That this experience is more than a one-time event is further evidenced in scripture. These are examples of individuals who are said to be filled again, and again, after their initial Baptism with the Holy Spirit. The apostles and 1st century evangelists were FILLED numerous times.
“Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit” [subsequent to initial filling in Acts 2] – Ac. 4:8.
“All filled with the Holy Spirit, they spoke the word of God with boldness” – Ac.4:31.
“And the disciples were filled with joy, and with the Holy Spirit” – Ac. 13:52.
“Be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; be filled with the Holy Spirit” – Eph. 5:18.
There is more, but if this peeks your interest and requires further information, please contact me. I will be pleased to assist your further investigation and answer any unresolved questions.