God of Miracles: Spirit Baptism

This morning, we celebrate Pentecost Sunday!

Pentecost literally translated means the fiftieth day.  Pentecost, also known as the “Feast of Weeks” or Shavuot.  It was one of three feasts that Jewish men were commanded to participate in by travelling to Jerusalem and presenting offerings to the Lord.  Pentecost was a joyous celebration beginning the harvest of wheat.  It was for this reason that people from every single nation were together in Jerusalem in Acts 2.

God is the God of Miracles!  In my opinion, the two greatest miracles that we can ever receive is His salvation and then His very Presence dwelling within us through the baptism of the Holy Spirit.

Today, we celebrate Pentecost recalling that particular year found in Acts 2 when God chose to pour out the Holy Spirit on all people.  This feast was prophetically defined by God centuries beforehand for this very purpose:

Deuteronomy 16:9-11

9 Count off seven weeks from the time you begin to put the sickle to the standing grain. 10 Then celebrate the Festival of Weeks to the Lord your God by giving a freewill offering in proportion to the blessings the Lord your God has given you. 11 And rejoice before the Lord your God at the place he will choose as a dwelling for his Name—you, your sons and daughters, your male and female servants, the Levites in your towns, and the foreigners, the fatherless and the widows living among you.

In Acts 1, the resurrected Jesus instructs His followers to wait in Jerusalem for the gift that the Father promised, the baptism in the Holy Spirit.  In Acts 2, after praying and seeking and waiting, they receive that promise. 

God chose a dwelling place for His name and it was no longer Jerusalem, but within the lives of His people through the Holy Spirit.  Men, women, children, sons, daughters, servants, foreigners, fatherless, widows, ALL people given the opportunity to be baptized in the Holy Spirit.

Check out this analogy appropriate for our region as we learn about this awesome gift available to all Christians, the baptism of the Holy Spirit!

Our lives were designed to be filled with and empowered by the Holy Spirit.  Sure, you can take a drill and manually turn the chuck to drive in screws much like a screwdriver.  However, it was designed to be far more effective and to make a much larger impact.  Add a source of power and that drill is able to do things that it never could without it.

So it is with us.  As Christians, we have God-given gifts and talents.  We all can worship God, grow in our knowledge and understanding of Him, tell others about Jesus, and compassionately serve them.  However, we also have the opportunity to do all these things more effectively through the empowerment of the baptism of the Holy Spirit.

When we give our lives to Jesus, we receive a deposit of the Holy Spirit sealing us as His own.  The Holy Spirit begins doing a work in our lives transforming us into the new creation that He declares that we are.  However, just as a bank account can contain far more than just the initial opening deposit, our lives can be filled with the Holy Spirit!

As with all things, we go to the word of God.  There are a lot of misconceptions, misunderstandings, and misteachings out there when it comes to the baptism of the Holy Spirit. 

The Greek word for baptize, baptizō, means to submerge or immerse.  All four gospel accounts record the event when John the Baptist was preparing the way for Jesus baptizing them in water showing that they had repented of their sins.  John taught about one coming, Jesus, who would baptize us in the Holy Spirit.

All four accounts record this event because it was incredibly significant.  Not only is this the first time that we read about the baptism of the Holy Spirit, but it was also when the Holy Spirit filled Jesus.  After being water baptized, John saw the Holy Spirit descend on Jesus like a dove.  We also see the three distinct persons of the trinity in this moment; Jesus being baptized, the Holy Spirit as a dove, and the Father verbally recognizing Jesus as His Son.

All four gospel accounts also indicate that it was at this time that Jesus began His ministry.  The baptism of the Holy Spirit equips and empowers us for ministry.  If God in the flesh waited for the infilling of the Holy Spirit to minister out to others, how much more are we dependent on this resource for our own ability to minister to others?

Ephesians 5:15-18

15 Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. 18 Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit,

“Be filled with the Spirit” 

We don’t plug our cell phones in for five minutes and then expect to be able to use them the rest of the day, right?  We don’t lay down at night for half an hour and then jump up expecting to be wide awake the rest of the day, right?  Why is it that we so often treat our spiritual lives this way?

Being filled with the Spirit is a choice.  As we stay connected with the Holy Spirit throughout our day, we stay filled with the Holy Spirit.  It’s much like keeping our cell phones plugged into a charger keeps the battery filled with power.  As we walk in the Sprit, we stay filled with the Spirit.

We already learned from Acts 1 where Jesus directed His followers to wait in Jerusalem until they received the gift of the Father, the baptism of the Holy Spirit and from Acts 2 when they received it on the day of Pentecost.  The infilling of the Holy Spirit following salvation continued on throughout the book of Acts as the church continued to grow and reach out to the rest of the world with the good news about Jesus.

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.

Here, we clearly see a distinction where people were saved, water baptized in the name of Jesus, but had not yet been filled with the Holy Spirit.  Peter and John lay their hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit.  A similar event took place in Corinth:

Acts 19:1-7

1 While Apollos was at Corinth, Paul took the road through the interior and arrived at Ephesus. There he found some disciples 2 and asked them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?”

They answered, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.”

3 So Paul asked, “Then what baptism did you receive?”

“John’s baptism,” they replied.

4 Paul said, “John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance. He told the people to believe in the one coming after him, that is, in Jesus.” 5 On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 6 When Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied. 7 There were about twelve men in all.

Sometimes, we haven’t received the baptism in the Holy Spirit simply because we haven’t heart about it nor been taught about it similar to these men.  In another instance, the people were so hungry to receive all that God had for them that they received the Holy Spirit the moment that they believed the good news about Jesus. 

Acts 10:44-48

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.

How did the apostles know with such certainty in these instances that these people had been baptized in the Holy Spirit?  They heard them speaking in tongues.  In fact, Peter shares this testimony with the Jewish disciples in Jerusalem:

Acts 11:15-18

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?”

18 When they heard this, they had no further objections and praised God, saying, “So then, even to Gentiles God has granted repentance that leads to life.”

All that we must do to receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit is to ask for it and believe without doubt that we will receive it.  Jesus said exactly this:

Luke 11:11-13

11 “Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? 12 Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? 13 If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”

I once believed firmly that there was no such thing as a second work that God would do subsequent to salvation.  After all, isn’t God’s all-sufficient salvation more than enough for us?  However, when I put my pride aside and looked objectively at what God’s word teaches, I found that my beliefs didn’t exactly line up with God’s word.  When that’s the case, we learn from His truth and are transformed as a result.

Personally, I went alone in an empty church to the altar, repented for my adamant unbelief, and told God that I didn’t want to miss out on anything that He had for me.  In that moment, I was baptized in the Holy Spirit and began speaking in tongues.  My spiritual life took off and like a sponge, I learned so much that I had simply missed before!

God poured out His Holy Spirit on the 120 in Jerusalem, on the dozen in Corinth, on Cornelius’ entire household, on the Samaritan new believers, on an unbelieving Steve, and on countless others who asked for it.  He’ll baptize you in the Holy Spirit as well!

Simply cast off all fear and doubt, then ask for it and receive it.  If you ask and don’t receive it instantly, be like the 120 who were also waiting on the promise of the baptism of the Holy Spirit in Acts 1.  Keep seeking, keep asking, and you, too, will receive this amazing resource in an increased measure; the baptism of the Holy Spirit.