Ask Steve: Baptism and Filling of the Spirit

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Question: Steve, can you explain to me what the baptism of the Holy Spirit and the filling of the Holy Spirit mean. What is the difference between them? How is one filled with the Holy Spirit? 

Answer: There is some misconception of what Baptism and Filling of the Holy Spirit are, mostly because of Pentecostal theology that clashes with what biblical and historical theology teaches about this issue. Baptism and Filling of the Holy Spirit is not a reenactment of the Acts 2 experience where believers “receive” the Spirit by an act of faith and speak in tongues in order to gain or prove their salvation, or at least gain a second, higher level of sanctification. This essay will provide a true biblical definition of Baptism of the Holy Spirit and the Filling of the Holy Spirit, the difference between them, and how exactly one is filled by the Holy Spirit.

Baptism of the Holy Spirit is defined as that work whereby the Spirit of God places the believer into union with Christ and into union with other believers in the body of Christ at the moment of salvation. This is the impartation of new spiritual life (in regeneration), cleansing from sin, a breaking with the power and love of sin, and empowering for ministry. When a person is regenerated (born again) by the Holy Spirit and believes in Christ, he is essentially baptized into the body of Christ (1 Cor 12:13). The Spirit of God makes the person dead to sin and alive to Christ (Rom 6:11), with new desires and a new spiritual life (2 Cor 5:17), justifying him (Rom 5:1), uniting him to Christ and making him an adopted heir to the family (Rom 8:17). That is the meaning behind physical water baptism that comes after a person is saved.

The filling of the Holy Spirit is defined as a Christian being internally led by the Spirit or putting on the mind of Christ (1 Cor 2:10; 16). In other words, the person who is led by the Spirit allows the word of God to dwell richly in his heart and allows the word of God to guide his every action. So the Spirit guides primarily through the illumination and application of the Scripture to the believer’s life. A person who is filled by the Holy Spirit must first be baptized by the Holy Spirit, for no unbeliever can ever be filled by the Holy Spirit (Rom 8:9; Eph 1:13-14).

The difference between them is that baptism of the Holy Spirit is a salvific issue. It only happens once in a believer’s life, during the positional sanctification stage (Tit 3:5). Therefore, a Christian is not to seek after it to attain a second sanctification experience as Pentecostal theology advocates. If a professing Christian has not been baptized by the Holy Spirit, then he is not a Christian, which means that he has never truly repented and trusted in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. He is a false convert. All born again believers have the Spirit of God in Him through baptism (Matt 3:11; Rom 8:9). The filling of the Holy Spirit, however, is something that is relevant to progressive sanctification because it pertains to Christian growth. Scripture tells us that we are to walk in the newness of life (Rom 6:1-10) and to be renewed by the transforming of the mind (Rom 12:2), so we are to grow in Christlikeness. We must not yield to the flesh, because it is possible to quench the Spirit, according to 1 Thessalonians 5:19, and to even grieve Him (Eph 4:30). To be a pleasing sacrifice onto God, we must constantly submit our lives to Him (Eph 5:18) by allowing His word to dwell within us and acting on it everyday. Only then will we see the Holy Spirit move powerfully in our lives, possessing us and moving through us.

Contrary to some popular beliefs, Baptism and Filling of the Holy Spirit are not mystical or sign gifts that believers seek in order to gain seek a second level of sanctification or to work for salvation. Rather, all believers are baptized by the Holy Spirit upon repentance and faith in Christ and are filled by the Holy Spirit as they allow the word of God to dwell richly in their hearts. It is imperative that every believer know the difference between these two concepts and how (one being salvific and other being about sanctification) and how one is filled by the Holy Spirit so he can turn away from sin and grow in Christlikeness daily. 

Recommended Resource: The Holy Spirit by Charles C. Ryrie