The Baptism in the Holy Spirit – Receiving It

My family and I are currently reading about the baptism of the Holy Spirit from William W. Menzies and Stanley M. Horton’s Bible Doctrines: A Pentecostal Perspective (Springfield, Missouri: Logion Press, 1993) in our after-breakfast family Bible reading. In my last post I shared from what we read in its Chapter 7 about the promise and the purpose of baptism in the Holy Spirit. The chapter also contains a short exposition on receiving the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Along with our reading it, I read to the family what Anthony D. Palma says about receiving the baptism in the Holy Spirit in his The Holy Spirit: A Pentecostal Perspective (Springfield, Missouri: Logion Press, 2001, pages 171-174). I also read for my own benefit what J. Rodman Williams says about receiving the baptism in the Holy Spirit in his Renewal Theology (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1996, volume 2: pages 271-306).

After noting that the Bible doesn’t give a formula for receiving baptism in the Holy Spirit, Palma presents several helpful considerations. Here I’ll devote a paragraph to each of them.

The experience is for all believers.
– “And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh” (Joel 2:28, ESV; quoted in Acts 2:17; all Biblical quotations are from the ESV).
– “The promise is for you and for your children, and for all who are far off, whom the Lord our God calls to himself” (Acts 2:39).

Spirit baptism is a gift. Thus it is not given on the basis of merit. The only requirement is faith. Williams demonstrates the essentiality of faith in Jesus Christ to receive the baptism in the Holy Spirit and illustrates from the book of Acts that “there is a certain moment in faith, whether at the outset or somewhere along the way, when the Holy Spirit may be received” (page 273; he devotes pages 271-78 to showing how faith is the basis of receiving the baptism in the Holy Spirit).

The Spirit already indwells. As I observed in my last post, all Christians are indwelt by the Holy Spirit when they are saved. Palma notes that some refer to baptism in the Holy Spirit as a “release” of the Holy Spirit in a believer’s life (page 172).

Openness and expectancy facilitate reception. Palma says that this is especially true with regard to the speaking in tongues aspect of baptism in the Holy Spirit, noting that on the Day of Pentecost the 120 spoke in tongues “as the Spirit gave them utterance” (Acts 2:4; Palma, page 172).

Prayer and praise lead naturally into the experience.
– “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him?” (Luke 11:13).
– “[The disciples] were continually in the temple blessing God” (Luke 24:53; this is referring to the period between Jesus’ ascension and the Day of Pentecost).

The laying on of hands is not necessary. Three of the five accounts in Acts of people being baptized in the Holy Spirit record the laying on of hands–the Samaritans (chapter 8), Saul (chapter 9), and the Ephesians (chapter 19). However it clearly didn’t occur on the Day of Pentecost (chapter 2) or in the house of Cornelius (chapter 10). Williams also demonstrates that water baptism is not necessary to receive the baptism in the Holy Spirit. He devotes pages 278-91 to considering the baptism in the Holy Spirit in relation to water baptism and the laying on of hands.

God is sovereign. A gift (see above), the baptism in the Holy Spirit cannot be worked for or bought.
– “Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith?” (Galatians 3:2).
– “May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money!” (Acts 8:20; Peter to Simon the magician).
Thus Palma cautions that “the timing of the giving is in the hands of the Giver…. Consequently, a person who wishes to be baptized in the Spirit must not get under self-condemnation if the experience does not take place when expected” (page 174).

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