As I mentioned before, I’ve spent a large part of the last two years studying the Holy Spirit. You would think that I’d just have a wealth of information to share, but honestly, I feel like with the more I know, the more questions I have. And the real answer is, that the Holy Spirit is part of God, and that’s just not something we humans are going to be completely ready to wrap our minds around.
One thing that kept jumping out of me early on in my study was the relationship of the Holy Spirit and baptism. There are a LOT of verses that connect the two, but I want to look at just a few this morning.
First of all, you cannot have been raised in the church like I did without knowing by heart Acts 2:38:
Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”
We are taught from an early age that the Spirit is a gift from God that we receive upon baptism. He is God-In-Us. The role of the Spirit in our lives is something I’ll be looking at a bit later with you in another post, but needless to say, it’s pretty awesome.
I believe baptism is of the upmost importance. Jesus himself said in John 3:5 that
“Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit.”
I no longer firmly believe, however, that the moment of baptism is necessarily the exact moment when you are “poof” filled with the Holy Spirit. Before you condemn me, hear me out for a minute:
Let’s take a look at Acts 8:14-17:
14 When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to Samaria. 15 When they arrived, they prayed for the new believers there that they might receive the Holy Spirit,16 because the Holy Spirit had not yet come on any of them; they had simply been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 17 Then Peter and John placed their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.
So, here we have an example of people who were baptized, not with John’s baptism – which we know to be different, but in the name of Jesus, who had not yet received the Spirit.
Again, in Acts 10:44-48 and again in 11:15-17, we read the account of Peter with the Gentiles:
44 While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message. 45 The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on Gentiles. 46 For they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God. Then Peter said, 47 “Surely no one can stand in the way of their being baptized with water. They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have.” 48 So he ordered that they be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked Peter to stay with them for a few days
15 “As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit came on them as he had come on us at the beginning. 16 Then I remembered what the Lord had said: ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’17 So if God gave them the same gift he gave us who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to think that I could stand in God’s way?”
In this case, we have an example of the Spirit coming onto individuals who had not yet been baptized. They had just heard the “Good News” preached by Peter, and the Spirit is coming on them to confirm it. An analogy we might compare it to is your commitment to a spouse. Did your commitment to them start the day you knew they were “the one” or on your actual wedding date? The point could be argued.
In the end, I believe it’s a game of semantics we are playing. It’s like working a puzzle. Some people like to work a puzzle by completing the edges first and filling in the middle. Some just start by putting pieces together that go together. In the end, ALL the pieces have to be there for the puzzle to be completed, but some people may take different journeys getting there. I think the answer to when we receive the Holy Spirit is like that. You have to be baptized. As Christians we do receive the Spirit. I don’t believe there is conclusive evidence to state when it happens, but just that it does, and that is good enough for me!