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Baptized by the Holy Spirit


What does it mean to be baptized by the Holy Spiri

Steve Answers:

In Acts 19 is a story about Paul’s first visit to the city of Ephesus. There Paul found some "disciples," followers of God, and he 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’" (verse 2).

The rest of the story is found in verses 3 to 6. "So Paul asked, ‘Then what baptism did you receive?’ ‘John’s baptism,’ they replied. 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.’ On hearing this, they were baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus. When Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied."

People reference this story when they get rebaptized after going away from God and then returning. Actually, there’s no indication that the people in Ephesus had left God. They simply found out more about God and wanted to be brought up to speed. They’d accepted the baptism that John the Baptist had preached (see Mark 1:4). But Paul told them about the One John had predicted–Jesus. So they were baptized into the name of "Jesus."

Following this second baptism–into the name of "Jesus"–Paul placed his hands on them, and the Holy Spirit came on them. By now you’re probably wondering, Is this what people mean when they refer to the baptism of the Holy Spirit?

John the Baptist prophesied, "I baptize you with water. But one more powerful than I will come, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire" (Luke 3:16).

The night before His death Jesus told His disciples, "I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever–the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you" (John 14:16, 17).

A few verses later Jesus continued, "If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him" (verse 23). Jesus’ statement leads me to believe that the Trinity (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) is a package deal. When you get One, you get all Three! The baptism of the Holy Spirit is the same as the baptism of Jesus, and it includes the Father as well (see Ephesians 2:18).

Explaining the reality of God’s promise, Paul put it this way: "You also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession" (Ephesians 1:13, 14).

I think people tend to attribute supernatural thrusts to "the baptism of the Holy Spirit." But the Holy Spirit is a gift that’s available to everyone who accepts Jesus into their life. At that point the Holy Spirit immediately begins to change a person’s character through the process of developing the fruits of the Spirit in their life (see Galatians 5:22, 23). The Holy Spirit also immediately provides a person with spiritual gifts to minister the way Jesus did.

As always, God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit are readily available to us. Sometimes our awareness or receptivity is limited, and sometimes we’re wide open to them. If you don’t sense the Holy Spirit’s active presence in your life, pray for Jesus to come into your life this instant, then live completely for Him, trusting the Holy Spirit to change you and minister to others through you. Then John the Baptist’s prediction will be true for you–Jesus will have baptized you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. 

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