Understanding the Doctrine of Baptisms.
Over the years, I have had the joy and privilege of witnessing many Spirit-filled ministers. In discussing with pastors whether the new birth and the baptism of the Holy Spirit are two distinct experiences, I’ve noticed that many misunderstand the term “baptism.” They believe there is only one baptism available for believers, thereby confusing the baptism of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:5) with being baptized by the Holy Spirit into the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:13).
“For John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” Acts 1:5
“For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.” 1 Corinthians 12:13
Those who believe there is only one baptism often refer to Ephesians 4:4-5, where Paul says:
“There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call—one Lord, one faith, one baptism.“
However, in this context, Paul is referring to the one baptism that saves a person, the baptism into Christ in the new birth. It is the same baptism into Christ mentioned in 1 Corinthians 12:13: “…we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body…“
Yet, in Hebrews 6, the Bible speaks of baptisms, in the plural:
“Therefore, leaving the elementary doctrine of Christ, let us go on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, and of instruction about washings (baptisms)…” Hebrews 6:1-2
In this passage, the author of the epistle to the Hebrews speaks of all the baptisms provided in the new covenant. First, there is the saving baptism. In other words, when a person is born again, they are introduced, baptized, or immersed by the Holy Spirit into the body of Christ. Then there is the water baptism and the baptism of the Holy Spirit.
- Wells of Water to Rivers of Living Water
As people are confused about the issue of “baptisms,” I direct them straight to the Acts of the Apostles and use the illustration of water to show them that there is more than one baptism. I tell them, “Alright, you have been born of the Spirit, so you have the Holy Spirit. You have drunk water, so to speak. But are you full of water? Is your heart thirsty? Do you want to be filled? I cannot remember a single time when this question did not stir a greater thirst for God in the hearts of the people I spoke to!
In Scripture, water signifies the Holy Spirit.
In two passages of Scripture, Jesus uses the imagery of water to beautifully illustrate the presence of the Holy Spirit in the new birth and the infilling of the Holy Spirit. These passages greatly assisted me in studying the Bible to understand God’s perspective on the subject of baptisms.
Firstly, there is the account in John 4 of Jesus’ conversation with the woman at the well in Samaria.
“Jesus answered her, ‘If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, “Give me a drink,” you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.‘” John 4:10
“Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” John 4:13-14
Here, Jesus speaks of receiving eternal life, the same thing He talked about to Nicodemus in John 3:16.
The experience Jesus calls a well of water springing up within us is the work of the Holy Spirit in the new birth, welling up into eternal life. The well of salvation is for our individual benefit. In John 7, Jesus speaks of another experience of the Holy Spirit:
“On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, ‘If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, “Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water. Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.” John 7:37-39
Notice that He didn’t say a river, but rivers! There is water in a well, and there is water in a river. The water is essentially the same, but the well’s water is for a particular use, and the river’s water is for another use.
Since water represents the Holy Spirit in these two passages, Jesus is simply telling us that there are two experiences of the Holy Spirit. One experience of the Holy Spirit is receiving eternal life, wherein the Holy Spirit imparts eternal life to your spirit and bears witness with your spirit that you are a child of God (Romans 8:16).
Then there is another experience, where rivers of living water flow from the depths of your being. The first experience, the new birth, is primarily for your benefit and personal blessing. But the other experience, the baptism of the Holy Spirit, allows the power of God to flow out from you to bless others.
Further in Luke 24, Jesus calls this second experience the power from on high.
“And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.” Luke 24:49
Notice that Jesus didn’t say, “Stay in Jerusalem until you are converted or saved.”
No, this is a different experience; it is the baptism of the Holy Spirit. In fact, it is the same experience Jesus refers to in John 7 when He says that rivers of living water will flow from the depths of those who believe in Him. On the day of Pentecost, Jesus’ words in John 7 were fulfilled.
“Suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.” Acts 2:2-4
At that moment, rivers of living water began to flow through believers, those who are born again, to become a blessing to others. This is called the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, and it is the Father’s gift to each of His children!
This text is an excerpt from the book “The Power of Speaking in Tongues: Everything you want to know about Speaking in Tongues” written by Kenneth Erwin Hagin.
We invite you to read the following article “A little further, a little deeper“.