In a previous Q&A, you said, “Water baptism pictures Spirit baptism.” Could you please explain the example in Acts 8 where the people are said to have received water baptism (Acts 8:12,15-17) but did not yet have the Spirit?
Thank you for this follow-up question. The key to understanding this is to discern the difference between what occurs and when as a matter of fact and what occurs and when as a matter of function.
Factually, the Spirit baptizes a believer into Christ and Christ baptizes a believer with the Spirit when one exercises faith in Christ for salvation (Gal. 3:26-27; 1 Cor. 12:13). Water baptism does not cause this, but it does picture this reality (Mark 1:8). At the point of salvation the new believer is indwelt by the Spirit, but there is a difference between “being given” the Spirit as a matter of fact and accessing the empowering of the Spirit as a matter of function by “receiving” (taking) what has been given.
Functionally, the Spirit empowers those who ask for (pray) and take by faith the Spirit’s power for service (Luke 11:13; Acts 1:8). Though the person of the Spirit indwells a believer at salvation, the power of the Spirit is accessed repeatedly by faith. Often, the delay of the latter dynamic is because of a lack of understanding.
The grammar in Acts 8 provides this distinction:
“Who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost: (For as yet he was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.) Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost” (Acts 8:15-17).
In both verses, 15 and 17, when it mentions receiving the Holy Spirit, the definite article the is absent. It has been inserted in the English translation because it would sound strange without it, so the verses are rightly rendered. But verbal inspiration reveals a reason for the definite article being present or absent in the original language. When the definite article is present, the emphasis is on the person named. When the article is absent, the emphasis is on the quality or power of the person. Therefore, the emphasis is that these new believers were receiving the quality or power of the Spirit though they had already believed in Jesus and were baptized.
May we all regularly ask for and take by faith the Spirit’s power for service.
The last chapter in The Revived Life entitled “The Whole Package: The Baptism of the Holy Spirit” unfolds every passage in the New Testament regarding the baptism of the Spirit.
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I believe you’ve nailed this, John! In Doctrines classes we were always taught that the baptism of the Spirit took place at salvation, and the filling of the Spirit was the needed moment-by-moment enduement of power. I understand that this instruction was helpful in keeping us from drifting into the errors of the Charismatic Movement, especially prevalent in those days. However, each time I would study the baptism OF the Spirit, baptism BY the Spirit, etc., the things I was taught seemed to be incomplete. I had to admit that sometimes Spirit “baptism” referred to the event at salvation, and… Read more »
Thanks Marc, it seems that often people choose fact or function, but not both.