Some people argue that we are baptized with the Holy Spirit the moment we are baptized under water (because we are baptized in water in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit).
Some people argue that Jesus baptizes a person with the Holy Spirit at their conversion (the moment a person says ‘yes’ to receiving Jesus as their LORD and Saviour).
Some people argue that Jesus baptizes his followers with the Holy Spirit sometime after we become a Christian. These people would suggest that firstly we come to know Jesus as our Saviour, and we are forgiven of our sin. Then, after walking with Jesus for sometime he baptizes us with the Holy Spirit, and this is when we are anointed and empowered.
Which of these three different arguments is correct? My answer would be that all three of these arguments are correct and all three are wrong. Keep reading, because this is not as complicated as you might think.
Each of these arguments presumes that Jesus only baptizes us with the Holy Spirit once.
Christians often presume that because they have been baptized under water once, then the baptism in the Holy Spirit must also be a one-off experience. Because some people presume that the baptism in the Holy Spirit is a one-off experience, they feel the need to have to decide at which point in a person’s spiritual journey the baptism in the Holy Spirit should come. Not everyone in the New Testament was baptized in the Holy Spirit at the same point in their spiritual journey.
John the Baptist, and the other New Testament writers, did not think in terms of Jesus baptizing people with the Holy Spirit only once – they thought in terms of Jesus continually baptizing us.
In verse 33, John says,‘The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is he who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ In the original Greek, the word ‘baptize’ suggests a continuous action – and not a one-off event.
John the Baptist is saying that it is Jesus’ nature to keep on baptizing, to keep on immersing, to keep on flooding, to keep on filling, to keep on overwhelming his followers. The baptism in the Holy Spirit is not a one-off event – it is something that happens again and again and again.
□ When we are baptized under water – we are baptized with the Spirit of God – but this is not the last time we are baptized with the Holy Spirit.
□ When we surrender to Jesus and embrace him as our Lord and Saviour – we are baptized with the Spirit of God – but this is not the last time we are baptized with the Holy Spirit.
□ When we receive spiritual gifts and the ability to speak in tongues – we are baptized with the Spirit of God – but this is not the last time we are baptized with the Holy Spirit.
Jesus keeps on dunking his followers into the Holy Spirit. On the day of Pentecost, in Acts, chapter 2, Jesus has now risen from the dead and he pours out the Holy Spirit on the disciples. But then in Acts, chapter 4, Jesus again pours out the Holy Spirit on the same group of disciples: ‘After they prayed (or we could say ‘worshiped’), the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the Word of God boldly’ (Acts 4:31).
The same followers of Jesus are dunked and filled with the Holy Spirit again and again.
Why is it important to keep on being baptized with the Holy Spirit?
The first reason is because it is Jesus’ nature to keep on giving himself and his love to us, and we would be silly to receive this love only once.
If we think about our friendships, there are those people who we were friends with at school – people who did kind things for us and people who we would still class as our friends today. But then there are those people who have been our friends for a long time. These people are still doing kind things for us today, still listening to our concerns and still encouraging us along life’s journey. It is these people who remain important in our lives today.
If you want Jesus to remain important in your life, then you need to allow him to keep on giving of himself and his love to you. You must not allow your friendship with Jesus to become based on a past experience. You need to keep on being baptized with the Holy Spirit and keep on being immersed in God’s love for you.
It is no surprise that Paul tells the Christians at Thessalonica, ‘do not quench the Spirit’ (1 Thessalonians 5:19). It is no surprise that Paul tells the Christians at Ephesus, ‘do not grieve the Holy Spirit’ (Ephesians 4:30). Because again and again we do things that wound and offend God – and as a result, we need to bath in God’s mercy and grace again and again – and we need re-assuring about God’s everlasting love.
The second reason why we need to keep on being baptized with the Holy Spirit is because we are all ‘being transformed from glory to glory’ (2 Corinthians 3:18). We might not be ready at our conversion to take on everything God has prepared for us. Most of us are afraid, in the beginning, of what might happen if we fully open our lives to God – so many people take it ‘one step at a time’ – little by little.
Fortunately, God is patient with us. So step by step, through the work of the Holy Spirit, we are transformed from glory to more glory.
The problem is that some Christians stop after a certain amount of changing and transforming, and they decide that they will settle for the level of spirituality they currently have. They choose a predictable life with God, even though sometimes it is unfulfilling. These people begin to shrink back from the unpredictability of the Holy Spirit – who blows like a wind, and who is powerful and beyond our control. Instead, they choose the quiet and simple pattern of religion.
But whenever Jesus baptizes his followers with the Holy Spirit, their hopelessness and fatigue are replaced by a new surge of life. We are empowered with boldness in order that we can do the undoable – face the unfaceable – love the unloveable – bear the unbearable – and hope for the unhopeable.
On the day of Pentecost all the disciples were baptized by Jesus with the Holy Spirit. As a result, they began speaking in tongues and Peter stood up and addressed the crowds. A short time later the disciples were meeting to pray (Acts 4:31) and again they were baptized by Jesus with the Holy Spirit. As a result, these followers were able to testify with great power (Acts 4:33).
You are not called to live off a single experience of God – you are called to go on being baptized by Jesus with the Holy Spirit.
It is these experiences that help us to be transformed from glory to greater glory. It is these experiences that help us to overcome the tests and trials we face. It is these experiences that enable us to testify to the world around us with greater power and conviction.
The Christian life – the good news we teach, preach and proclaim – is more than a God who takes away our sin and grants us a place in eternity. The good news includes the fact that Jesus wants to go on empowering you, again and again, with the Holy Spirit.
Don’t stand on the edge of the river. Open your heart and let Jesus touch you with the Holy Spirit. The man that John the Baptist saw – who was Jesus – will not only bring forgiveness for our sins, but will also go on baptizing us with the Holy Spirit again and again.