Thanks for joining me again. We are just finishing up our discussion about the various ways the Holy Spirit works or manifests Himself. We use a variety of terms to describe these events. Sometimes we say this is the various workings of the Holy Spirit, the different manifestations of the Holy Spirit, the different modes or the different measures of the Holy Spirit. There is only one Holy Spirit but He works or manifests Himself in a variety of ways. So far, we have seen that He indwells people at the time of their conversion and we also see, in times past, He performed miraculous signs on people who were already saved. This was done in order to confirm the message being preached.
Baptism of the Holy Spirit
Now, let’s look at this third mode or measure some people call, “Baptism of or with the Holy Spirit.” This is not to be confused with “Spiritual Baptism,” as when we are “baptized by one Spirit into one body.” Baptism of the Holy Spirit occurs, before conversion and like its counterpart, is associated with miraculous events. There is only one Holy Spirit operating or manifesting Himself three different ways, indwelling, post conversion and pre-conversion. Let’s look at this final pre-conversion experience. Since this happens to people who are not yet saved, we might call these people, pagans with spirit. Let’s see….
Turning to the scriptures, let me provide the historical context. We are at the home of Cornelius, an Italian Centurion. This man was a Gentile, not a Jew, but he and his family are devout and God-fearing. In a vision, he was told, ”Send for Simon Peter from Joppa.”
Cornelius does this and sends for Peter, who has also received similar visionary instructions regarding Cornelius. Peter goes to the home of Cornelius and preaches the Gospel. Everyone listens carefully to everything Peter has to say. We join the rest of the story in…
“While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message. The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles. For they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God.”
“Then Peter said, ‘Can anyone keep these people from being baptized with water? They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have.’ So he ordered that they be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked Peter to stay with them for a few days.”
In this account, the Holy Spirit “comes on” believers well in advance of their water baptism. This is different from the Spirit “coming in,” isn’t it? It’s a completely different mode of operation.
“Baptism of the Holy Spirit” appears to happen only twice in the scriptures. The first time is on the day of Pentecost. The Holy Spirit causes the 120 to speak in tongues, giving them the ability to preach the Gospel to people from every nation. The second time is here at the house of Cornelius. The Spirit causes Gentiles to speak in tongues.
Let’s dissect this whole affair in detail.
Peter is at the house of Cornelius.
“While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message.”
So, while Peter is speaking to these God fearing Gentiles, something crazy happens! A bunch of unsaved Gentile pagans suddenly speak in tongues, praising God. How did Peter and company know something happened?
“The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles. For they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God.”
The sudden and dramatic behavior of speaking in tongues is the dead giveaway to Peter and his partners. God was giving them a wake-up call!
Did you notice another new term used in describing these events? It says the “Spirit was poured out” on the Gentiles. This is not an inpouring. Remember, the Holy Spirit never occupies a house which has not been swept clean and these people had obviously not yet obeyed the Gospel.
The Holy Spirit always had a purpose by working in this way as stated in a multitude of scriptures, which we studied in our last Podcast. It was to confirm the message which was spoken. In this case, there is something a bit humorous in how it all happens!
Peter has been preaching… maybe a little too long and God decides to step in and get to the point! Suddenly, the Spirit is “poured out” on Cornelius and company! Why did this happen? We should expect that it happens for the same reason it aways happens, to confirm the word Peter is preaching. But, in this case, there is a twist!
While the word is certainly being confirmed to the Gentiles by this event, it appears this episode may be more targeted at Peter and his team! This is cool. Check this out.
Peter gets Prompted
Until all of this happens, Peter is really stalling. He would most likely not have baptized these Gentiles. Go read Acts 10 carefully. It takes him a really long time to get to the bottom line and in fact, he never gives the same command he did on Pentecost to repent and be baptized! I think he is pretty nervous. So, God intervenes and cuts to the chase!
Peter is just as stunned as everyone else and comes to his senses! I suspect he carefully studied his entourage to gain consensus for what He’s was about to do… something unthinkable! We probably do not appreciate just how massive a step this was, which he was about to take. He desperately needs assurance. He looks around, probably points a finger at each of his companions and says, “Can anyone keep these people from being baptized with water? They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have.”
This is a monumental event in church history. It should impress us that God devotes two entire chapters in the book of Acts to describe it. So much of this story is all about the lead up to getting to the point where Peter actually preaches the word to these Gentiles. God really put on quite a show to convince Peter that baptizing a bunch of Gentiles would be OK. But not everyone was convinced! In Acts 11, Peter actually needs to explain his seemingly “out-of-control behavior” to the rest of the brothers back int Jerusalem. Listen to what he tells them in his defense.
“As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit came on them as he had come on us at the beginning. Then I remembered what the Lord had said: ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ So if God gave them the same gift as he gave us, who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to think that I could oppose God?”
I love the way he ends his presentation to his critical companions; “Who was I to think that I could oppose God?” By extension, he is saying to the home office, “And who are you to think you can oppose God?” They are appeased and agree. It’s cool we have this retelling of the story in Acts 11. It gives us a bunch of additional clarification and understanding.
In our Acts 11 passage, Peter terms this as a “Baptism with the Holy Spirit” and he describes it as “coming on.”
Baptism of the Spirit is not a Salvation Experience.
Now make no mistake. This was not a salvation experience. The Gentiles were not saved when the Spirit came on them. God had already established a plan of salvation in Acts 2. For salvation, they would need to obey the exact same plan everyone else had been using since the beginning. The indwelling Holy Spirit is not given by God until these Gentiles are baptized. Then, the Spirit moves in according to the Acts 2 promise. The miraculous wonders associated with the “coming upon” of the Holy Spirit simply confirmed the message Peter preached and this was what caused Peter to take action.
There is one other small item we may have overlooked which will help us clarify things even further. When Peter was making his presentation back at Jerusalem, he referenced an event which happened on the day of Pentecost. Did you notice this? Let’s review that to get some perspective. It is Jesus speaking this time, just before His ascension.
“Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”
So when they met together, they asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”
He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
Peter references Jesus when he says, “As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit came on them as he had come on us at the beginning.” He continues to clarify: “Then I remembered what the Lord had said: ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’”
Peter borrows Jesus’s language. Jesus calls this pouring out of the Holy Spirit a “gift” and calls it a “Baptism with the Holy Spirit.” Do you see how everything knits together? The language is very precise, very specific. By the way, this is where we get the name of this event.
So, the day of Pentecost and the home of Cornelius are the only two times we see this kind of pre-conversion event occur. We do not see a “baptism of the Holy Spirit” ever occur again in the Bible. God used these events to confirm His presentation of the Gospel. Does it still happen today? Well, that’s a whole new discussion. Someday, we’ll get to it.
The Holy Spirit certainly moves in amazing ways. In these last two lessons, we have learned that receiving the Spirit does not always mean the indwelling Holy Spirit. When we reference these pre-conversion and post-conversion events to demonstrate baptism is not necessary for salvation, we might find that we have misunderstood the various workings of the Holy Spirit.
Next, I want to tell you about one of my favorite objections to baptism. It’s the very famous and very popular objection… a death bed conversion.Enjoy!