The Baptism of the Holy Spirit
February 6th, 1977 @ 8:15 AM
THE BAPTISM OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
Dr. W. A. Criswell
2-6-77 8:15 a.m.
In the goodness of God, it is a remarkable thing how when I preach through the Book, and now in the Book of Acts, how the passage immediately before me is as though God had chosen it for our day of revival. We are in the second chapter, the Pentecostal chapter, of this fifth book of the New Testament. And the title of the message is The Baptism of the Holy Spirit. And the reading of the text is:
And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.
And suddenly there came from heaven a sound as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting.
And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them.
And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak with other glōssa, as the Spirit gave them utterance.
When I read the passage, I am looking for a word, but I don’t find it, and I don’t see it. The word I am looking for is “baptism,” the “baptism” of the Holy Spirit. And I look at it carefully, and I reread the text, “And they were all baptized in the Holy Spirit,” but I don’t see the word at all. So, I might think inerrancy and infallibility and inspiration have made a mistake, for I don’t see the word. Then I think, “Well, maybe the Holy Spirit of inspiration and infallibility overlooked it. Maybe inerrancy that made an error there, and infallibility that’s not infallible there, and inspiration that’s not inspired there, maybe it’s on this page.” So I look for the word; and I don’t find it. And it’s not on the next page. And I turn the page; and it’s not here either. And I turn the page; nor is it here. And I turn the page, and I turn the page, and I turn the page; I don’t find it at all. Actually the phrase “the baptism of the Holy Spirit” is not even used in the Bible; it’s nowhere in the Bible.
Then I stand in amazement at what I see and what I read. So in studying it, I discover that the baptism in the Holy Spirit, the baptism with the Holy Spirit, King James Version, “with”; the Greek is e-n, en; I discover that it was used just one time, just one time. And that is in the third chapter of the Gospel of Matthew, which was the passage we read today. John the Baptist, in introducing the Messiah, said, in Matthew 3:11, “I indeed baptize you in water . . . but there cometh One after me, mightier than I: He shall baptize you en the Holy Spirit, and en fire.” And that’s the only time that the passage is ever said. John said it. John the Baptist said it. “He will baptize you en the Holy Spirit and en fire.” In the first chapter of the Book of Acts, Jesus cites that word of John the Baptist [Acts 1:4-5]. And in the eleventh chapter of the Book of Acts, Simon Peter cited that word of John the Baptist [Acts 11:16]. But it is said just one time, by John the Baptist. And when John says it, I turn the pages of the Gospel and I think I’d meet that again and again. It is never mentioned. And I turn the pages of our Book of Acts, and I would think I’d meet it again and again; it is never mentioned, it’s never referred to, just that one saying of John the Baptist.
Well, what is said then if the word “baptism of the Holy Spirit” is not in the Book, and if the word “baptism in the Holy Spirit” is said by John the Baptist, then what is said? Well, what is said is what we read: “And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit” [Acts 2:4]. The word that is used here, and when I turn the page, “And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit [Acts 4:31]; and I turn the page, “And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit” [Acts 6:3]; and I turn the page, and I turn the page; without exception it is that one word: they were all filled with the Holy Spirit [Acts 6:5, 7:55, 9:17, 13:52]. Whether it’s the story in Jerusalem and in Pentecost [Acts 2:1-4], or the story in Samaria [Acts 8:5, 14-17], or the story in Caesarea [Acts 10:1, 44-47], or the story in Antioch, or the story in Philippi, or anywhere in the propagation of the faith, always it is that one word: “They were filled with the Holy Spirit.”
Well, then what is the difference? Is this just casuistry that the pastor is speaking of, just some insignificant, inconsequential theological point? No! This is of profound doctrinal significance; and if it could be understood would reshape so large a part of the Christian propagation of the faith that we see today. What is the difference between the baptism in the Holy Spirit and the filling of the Holy Spirit? First, as it concerns the Lord Jesus; according to the prophecy of John the Baptist [Matthew 3:11], and according to the citation of that word by Jesus [John 14:16-17], and by Simon Peter [Acts 2:17-18], Jesus our Lord ascended into heaven and poured out on the world an ascension gift called “the Promise of the Father” [Acts 1:4-5]; the outpouring of the Holy Spirit [John 1:33], one time. And in that sense and in that sense alone, Jesus is the baptizer, and He baptizes in the Holy Spirit; only in that one sense of the ascension gift from heaven. It was the beginning of a new era, the beginning of a new epoch, the beginning of a new dispensation, the beginning of a new day; namely, the day of grace, the age of the Holy Spirit, the dispensation of this time in which we live, when God is calling together out of Jew and Gentile a new body called “the ekklēsia,” “the called out,” the church [Galatians 3:28; Ephesians 1:22-23]. In that sense and in that sense alone, and for one time only, is Jesus referred to in the Bible as the baptizer in the Holy Spirit: in the ascension gift that He poured out upon this earth at Pentecost [Acts 1:5].
Since that time the baptizer is the Holy Spirit Himself. And this is a once for all positional thing, operation, that the Spirit of God does for us when we are saved. Since Pentecost, the Holy Spirit baptizes each convert into the body of Christ, which is a once for all thing for us who have fled in refuge to the Lord Jesus. In 1 Corinthians 12:13, “By one Spirit, the Holy Spirit of God, are we all baptized into the body of Christ.”
Now, let me contrast the difference between the baptism and the filling. First, in no place in the Bible are we ever commanded to be “baptized” by the Holy Spirit; there is no such thing in the Bible. But, we are under a heavenly mandate and injunction to be “filled” with the Holy Spirit. In Ephesians 5:18, the apostle writes, “Be ye therefore filled with the Spirit. Be ye filled with the Spirit.” It is a command; it is an injunction; it is a mandate from God. We are to be filled with the Spirit.
Number two: the difference between baptism and filling: the baptism is a once for all operation of the Holy Spirit of God [1 Corinthians 12:13]. When a man is saved, when he’s regenerated, at the same time he is baptized into the body of Christ. But we are filled again and again and again. For example, look at the use of these Greek words, and what a shame that they cannot be translated beautifully into English. And the trouble lies in this: our verbs are all tense, you can’t speak in the English language without tense; everything you say has to be pigeonholed in some kind of time, tense. You can’t talk in the English language without it; there is no verb in the English language that isn’t in some kind of a tense. But the Greek verbs are in an altogether different order. The Greeks use their verbs according to action, kinds of action. A thing is considered done one time just like that, like a point. Or, a thing is considered as going on.
Now you look at these verbs. In 1 Corinthians 12:13, “For by one Spirit are we all ebaptizomen,” aorist, one point, “For by one holy, heavenly Spirit of God are we all ebaptizomen” aorist, “baptized into the body of Christ.” One thing, one time, one operation, that’s it. When a man is saved, in that instance, ebaptizomen, aorist tense, he is added to the body of Christ. Now look at the use of the word in Ephesians 5:18, where we are commanded to be filled with the Holy Spirit: “plērousthe,” present continuing action [Ephesians 5:18], “But be ye filled with the Holy Spirit of God,” continuous action. As it has been said there is one baptism, aorist tense [1 Corinthians 12:13]; there are many fillings, continuous action. I am added to the body of Christ when I am saved; I am baptized into the body of Christ when I am saved [1 Corinthians 12:13]. But I am to be filled with the Holy Spirit of God, and then filled with the Holy Spirit of God, and then filled with the Holy Spirit of God, and then again filled with the Holy Spirit of God [Ephesians 5:18]. I never reach some high plateau beyond which God does not have something else and something over and something beside for me. But I am to be filled, and to be filled, and to be filled, and to be filled.
Again, baptism is positional. That is it is something God does for us. We are baptized into the body of Christ [1 Corinthians 12:13]; a positional operation of God, something He does up there in heaven.
We are baptized into the body of Christ in the same kind of a way that God writes our names in the Lamb’s Book of Life [Revelation 20:12, 15, 21:27]. I could never do that. Look how high my arm reaches, and there; but we’re talking about something up there in heaven, beyond the highest stars. It is something God does. I could never reach it. My thoughts can hardly reach up to it in my mind. It’s something God does; it is positional. But the filling of the Holy Spirit is experiential; it’s something in my soul. And it gets into my gestures, and into my voice, and into my heart, and into my service, and into my praise, and into my singing, and into my praying. The filling is experiential.
Look at it again: the baptism in the Holy Spirit defines our relationship with Jesus. We are added to the body of Christ, we are made fellow members of the body of our Lord. It is something God does for us [1 Corinthians 12:13]. But the filling of the Holy Spirit is not only a relationship that we have in Christ, but it is a marvelous repercussion in our lives [Ephesians 5:18]. Why, it says here,
They continued steadfastly, after they were filled with the Spirit, in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, communion, the koinōnia, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.
They were with one accord in the house of the Lord. They ate their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, praising God, having favor with all the people.
That is the filling of the Holy Spirit of God.
Now we conclude our message with looking at the effects of the filling of the Spirit of God, this continuing thing that God does for us when our souls are filled with the Spirit of the Lord. Number one: look at the effect upon these apostles: they’re new men, they’re changed men. I don’t recognize them. After they are filled with the Spirit of God [Acts 2:4-5], they are somebody else. Why, you read of their lives in the Gospels. They’re always quarreling among themselves, there is dissension. And no small part of the dissension could be found in their personal ambition. Why, even at the Last Supper, at the Last Supper, why was it Jesus unrobed and girded Himself with a towel, and washed the disciples feet? [John 13:3-10]. The reason arose in a quarrel they had. And I am assuming now that the quarrel arose over who was going to sit on this side of Him and who was going to sit on that side of Him [Mark 10:35-41]. In any event, they began to quarrel over who was going to be greatest in the kingdom of God [Luke 22:24]. And it was then that the Lord took off His clothes, girded Himself with a towel, and washed the apostles’ feet [John 13:4-11], trying to teach them that he was greatest who was the humblest and the servant of all [John 13:12-16]. That’s the apostles. They were always quarreling, and they were always vying with each other for position.
Look at them again: full of doubt, even Thomas said, “Why, I will not believe that He lives, that He is raised from the dead, unless I can actually put my finger in the scars in His hands, and thrust my hand in His side” [John 20:24-25], full of doubt. And downright cowards: there was not one of them who stood by the cross. The Bible says, “And all of the disciples fled” [Matthew 26:56]. And Simon Peter, of all men, chief of the apostles, cringing before, in cowardess, a little humble maid in the palace who said, “Are you not one of them? You talk like Him. You are a Galilean” [Matthew 26:69-75; Mark 14:66-72]. You look at them now: bold and fearless, like lions [Acts 2:14, 22-24, 36-42]. You look at them now: willing to lay down their lives for the Lord. Look at them now: counted worthy to suffer for His name, and rejoicing in it [Acts 5:40-42]. You look at them now: men of great power and conviction and faith. I don’t recognize them. They’re somebodies else; they are new men. And that continues to this day. When men are filled with the Holy Spirit of God, they are bold; they count it worthy to suffer for Jesus. They lose all of their selfish ambition and vying with each other. And they just live and die as unto the Lord [Romans 14:8]. It’s wonderful. It’s God.
Number two: the effects of the filling of the Holy Spirit of God: look at the effect upon these sinners outside the church. Why, I can’t believe my eyes. These are the men who crucified Jesus [Luke 23:20-26; Acts 2:36]. These are the men who shouted before Pontius Pilate for His blood [Luke 23:20-24]. And these are the men whom Simon Peter faces in boldness and fearlessness and says, “Ye, ye have by wicked hands crucified and slain the Prince of Glory” [Acts 2:23]. But instead of rising in fierce anger, these men are cut to the heart. They are convicted of the most heinous crime in the annals of human history. And they cry for mercy, “Men and brethren, what shall we do? [Acts 2:37]. These hands are dipped in the blood of the Prince of Glory. What shall we do?” What can I do to be saved?
And that continues to this day. You cannot imagine, unless you’ve experienced it and have seen it, how the Holy Spirit of God can take wicked men, and they cry for mercy, seeking God’s help and forgiveness and salvation. In my reading this week, I came across a preacher; he was in a hotel, just happened to be seated in a hotel. And he was seated by an infidel, a blatant and outspoken one. And the infidel was making fun of the preacher. And he said, “I’d just like to see you pray for me, and convert me.” The preacher said, “I will.” And there in the hotel lobby, he knelt by the side of the infidel and prayed for his soul. When he got up, the infidel scornfully laughed at him, “Ha, ha, ha, I’m just the same. I’m an infidel! Prayers have no effect at all.” The preacher said, “But not yet is God done. Wait.” And sometime thereafter in a newspaper, the preacher picked up the newspaper and looked, and there was an article about a layman leading a wonderful revival meeting; and the man leading it was that infidel! That’s the power of God. Not isolated back there; these are not unique or separate incidents. They move today.
You know what I did? In preparing this sermon this hour, I kind of struggled in my mind; I started to call some of the names of some of these men that I baptized who are here in the church, who have been wonderfully saved and changed. And I thought, “Well, I ought not to do that.” But you may be seated by someone where you are now who has been gloriously changed, wonderfully saved. That is one of the effects of the filling of the Holy Spirit.
Our time is gone, O Lord, how much and how great and how wonderful, how like God’s presence in our souls. It’s almost beyond what heart can imagine, when a congregation is filled with the Holy Spirit. All littleness, all bickering, all quarrelsomeness, all vying for place, it ceases to exist. And instead there is the fullness of the presence of God; there is love, and forgiveness, and forbearance, and patience. It’s just God walking in the midst of the church as He is pictured in the Revelation: the Son of God, walking in the midst of the seven golden lampstands; it’s the Lord Jesus in the midst of His people [Revelation 1:12-13]. We must close.
In a moment we stand to sing our hymn of appeal. And while we sing the song, you, if the Holy Spirit has spoken to your heart; then answer, “Lord, here am I.” Coming into the church, coming to be baptized [Matthew 28:19], coming to give your life to the blessed Jesus [Romans 10:9-13], opening your heart heavenward, as God in the Spirit shall press the appeal to your heart, answer with your life [Ephesians 2:8], “I’m on the way, pastor, here I come.” Down one of these stairways, down one of these aisles, “I’m on the way.” Do it now, while we stand and while we sing.