The Study of the Holy Spirit

"For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit." 1 Corinthians 12:13

Part F:  Which Christians are Baptized with the Holy  Spirit?


F.            Which Christians are baptized with the Spirit?  It is not difficult to demonstrate that all Christians have been baptized with the Holy Spirit, but that not all Christians speak in tongues.  Let us first define what it means to be baptized with the Holy Spirit.

1.               We have already stated that John the Baptist predicted that Jesus would baptize with or by means of the Holy Spirit (Matt. 3:11; Mark 1:8; Luke 3:16; John 1:33).  In our modern day emphasis upon the Holy Spirit, it is sometimes misunderstood what John the Baptist meant when he predicted that One mightier than he himself would baptize with both Holy Spirit and fire instead of mere water (Matt. 3:11; Luke 3:16).  It is assumed by many that by fire, John was predicting that which, on the Day of Pentecost, appeared to be “tongues as of fire distributing themselves” resting “on each one of them” (Acts 2:3).  However, if one examines the context of both Matthew 3 and Luke 3, it becomes apparent that the “tongues as of fire” phenomenon described in Acts 2:3 was not what John the Baptist was predicting. 

a.               In Matthew’s discussion of John’s ministry in the wilderness of Judea, John was commanding people, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt. 3:1-2).  The response to his ministry was huge.  People from Jerusalem, from “all Judea,” and from “all the district around the Jordan” were being baptized by him, confessing their sins (Matt. 3:5-6). 

b.               The popular response to John’s ministry was so great that many Pharisees and scribes felt compelled, apparently in a face-saving gesture, to come to John for baptism.  But it was their hypocrisy and insincerity that brought a thundering rebuke from John.  He called them a “brood of vipers” who merely wanted to look as though they were fleeing “from the wrath to come” (Matt. 3:7)!  He challenged them to “bear fruit in keeping with repentance” (Matt. 3:8).  They could not rely on their descent from Abraham to participate in the kingdom of heaven (Matt. 3:9)!  Then, and this is pertinent to the interpretation of fire, John began to predict judgment.  God’s axe was already about to chop down some trees.  Every tree that did not bear good fruit would be chopped down “and thrown into the fire” (Matt. 3:10).  John himself only baptized with water, but a mightier One than he was coming who would baptize with superior elements, the Holy Spirit and fire (Matt. 3:11). 

c.               What did John mean by the disparate elements, Spirit and fire?  The listeners were not left to guess.  John was talking about Jesus’ authority to sift out all of mankind in evaluation (Matt. 25: 31-46; John 5:21-30; Rev. 20:11-15).  John said that Jesus would use a winnowing fork, with which He would sift out every bit of the material (all of humanity) on His threshing floor.  When Jesus will have completed His winnowing process, “He will gather His wheat into the barn,” a place of safe-keeping, “but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire” (Matt. 3:12)! 

d.               The meaning is clear.  When Jesus baptizes with the Spirit, He is placing those people in a venue of safe-keeping.  They are to be preserved alive in eternal salvation.  Their destination is Christ’s Kingdom, whether His Millennial Kingdom here on the present earth or His Eternal Kingdom on New Earth headquartered in New Jerusalem. 

e.               When Jesus baptizes with fire He is consigning people to eternal torment in hell (Matt. 5:29-30; Mark 9:43-48), also known as the Lake of Fire and Brimstone (Rev. 19:20; 20:10, 14-15; 21:8).  So baptism with the Spirit refers essentially to eternal salvation, while baptism with fire refers to eternal damnation. 

f.                A word to the reader.  Jesus will entirely clear His threshing floor.  Jesus will baptize every person in this era, either with the Holy Spirit or with fire!   Which do you choose?  If you wish Jesus to baptize you with the Holy Spirit, you must choose to trust in God and Jesus (John 3:16-18; 5:24).  Then you will pass from the realm of death to the realm of life!  If you will not permit Him to baptize you with the Spirit, one day He will inevitably be forced to baptize you with fire.  Which do you choose?

2.               The reader of the New Testament is not left without further instruction on Jesus’ baptism with the Holy Spirit.  The Apostle Paul, in writing to the Corinthian believers, clarified the matter.  He spoke at length about the ministry of the Holy Spirit in 1 Corinthians 12.  Here he was writing to Christians (he called them “brethren”) who had formerly been idol-worshiping pagans (1 Cor. 12:1-2). 

a.               Paul indicated that the Holy Spirit was the dispenser of spiritual gifts (1 Cor. 12:4), the Lord Jesus the dispenser of various ministries (1 Cor. 12:5), and God the Father the dispenser of results or effects (1 Cor. 12:6). 

b.               Nevertheless each Christian is the recipient of a manifestation of the Spirit, which manifestation is given for the common good of a local church or larger body of believers (1 Cor. 12:7).  In other words, spiritual gifts are given to individual believers to benefit other believers.

c.               To this point, it is appropriate to note several observations:

1)              Each believer in Christ is given a spiritual gift, a special, God-given ability to serve Him.

2)              It is the Holy Spirit who gives these gifts of serving.

3)              The Holy Spirit is prominently mentioned in 1 Corinthians 12:1-13.  The word Spirit (pneuma) occurs thirteen times in this passage.

4)              The Holy Spirit distributes gifts as He wishes, not as we might wish.

d.               Paul proceeded to list several different gifts that the Holy Spirit gives to individual believers:  to one is given “through the Spirit” (a) “word of wisdom,” to another (a) “word of knowledge according to the same Spirit,” to yet “another faith by the same Spirit,” to another, moreover, gifts “of healings by the one Spirit,” to another, moreover, workings of miracles, to another, prophecy, to another, “distinguishing of spirits,” to yet another, “kinds of tongues” (languages), to another, moreover, translation of tongues (languages).  “But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills” (1 Cor. 12:8-11).  How do we define a spiritual gift?  A spiritual gift is a special, Spirit-given ability to serve God.  All believers, by definition, exercise faith, or they would not be believers in Jesus.  To certain believers, however, is given a unique ability to trust God to work in this world.  The implication is that certain gifts are given by the Spirit only to certain believers.  Not every believer is given the gift of miracle-working or prophecy or speaking in tongues (compare 1 Cor. 12:28-30).

e.               Now we come to a significant paragraph (1 Cor. 12:12-13), in which the Apostle Paul compared believers in Christ to the human body with which we each are so familiar.  He said that even as the (human) body is one and yet has many members (appendages or organs), so is Christ.  Despite the fact that the human body has many different appendages or organs, yet there is only one body, and it is united.  That is the same way it is with Jesus the Christ.  For so also by one Spirit we all, into one body (meaning the Body of Christ) were immersed (baptized), whether Jewish (people) or Greek (people) or slaves or free men, and all of one Spirit were given a drink.  Observe the following:

1)              There is such a thing as the Body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:12-13).  By this we do not mean His physical body, the one crucified, then resurrected and now ascended.  We mean rather a spiritual or mystical body made up of believers in Jesus.  The most familiar word for this group of believers is the Church (ekklesia).  This body of believers who make up Christ’s body was begun on the Day of Pentecost and will be completed when the last person in the Church Age is saved and the Church is raptured up to Heaven (John 14:1-3; 1 Cor. 15:50-53; 1 Thess. 4:13-17).  This group of believers is appropriately called the Body of Christ, because, in His absence, we constitute His body to a watching world.  In a striking sense, ours are the only hands of Jesus by which they will be helped, the only feet of Jesus that will move on their behalf, the only mouth of Jesus that will speak to their need, and the only eyes of Jesus that will witness their plight.  It is also accurate to say the Church as the Body of Christ constitutes an organism, not an organization.  If one member suffers, all suffer with it.  If one member is honored, all members rejoice with it (1 Cor. 12:26).  The universal Church, as the Body of Christ, is in more than one location.  It is scattered throughout the world.  Some of the Church are on earth, and some already in heaven with the Lord, awaiting a glorious resurrection and reunion with other Church age believers still on earth (John 14:1-3; 1 Thess. 4:13-17).

2)              All believers are immersed (an accurate translation of the Greek word baptizo) into the Body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:12-13)!  Whereas some might conclude, from a cursory examination of the book of Acts, that only certain believers are baptized with the Spirit, or that the baptism is delayed, or that only with the laying on of hands is one baptized with the Spirit, or that only those who speak in tongues can give evidence of having been baptized, a better explanation is that Acts records a transitional time in Church history.  By that I mean that the Church was initially strictly Jewish in composition, but by the end of Acts, it was largely Gentile in composition.  The Apostles were the officials of the Church in the beginning of Acts, but by the end of the book, power had been diffused among elders who were not all necessarily apostles.  There was a transition from an initially Jewish organism to a largely Gentile church, and the Jewish people required special signs and visions to assure them that Gentiles belonged in the Church (see 1 Cor. 1:22)!  Here in 1 Cor. 12:13, Paul assured His readers in Corinth that they all had been baptized into the Body of Christ.  This is all the more remarkable when one considers the deportment of many of the Corinthians.  The Corinthian believers were designated as having been sanctified (1 Cor. 1:2; 6:11) despite their past practice and their present carnality or fleshliness (1 Cor. 3:1-3).  Their fleshliness included divisions over leaders (1 Cor. 1:10-17; 1 Cor. 3:1-5), failure to exercise church discipline in the case of an incestuous church member (1 Cor. 5), suing one another in courts of law (1 Cor. 6:1-11), visiting prostitutes (1 Cor. 6:12-20), participating in factionalism in observing the Lord’s Supper (1 Cor. 11:17-34), denying even the existence of resurrection (1 Cor. 15:12-19), and questioning the authority of the Apostle Paul himself (2 Cor. 10:1 – 13:10).  And yet Paul declared that they were all baptized into the Body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:13)!  There is no such thing as being a Christian without having also been baptized into the Body of Christ.  The two are inseparable.  If you trust in Jesus, you have been baptized into the Body of Christ.

3)              All Christians have been baptized with or by the Spirit (1 Cor. 12:12-13).  We have already detailed that John the Baptist predicted that Jesus would baptize with or by means of the Holy Spirit (Matt. 3:11; Mark 1:8; Luke 3:16; John 1:33).  Before He departed to heaven, Jesus promised His followers that they would be baptized with or by the Holy Spirit in just a few days.  They were to wait in Jerusalem (Acts 1:4-5).  Just as Jesus predicted, the Holy Spirit did come a few days later on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1-4).  That was the baptism that both John and Jesus promised.  When Peter defended to the Jewish leaders his actions in eating with Cornelius and the other Gentile believers, he stated that the Holy Spirit had fallen on those Gentiles believers just as He had fallen on the Jewish believers at the beginning.  He associated this arrival of the Spirit with the baptism of the Spirit promised by Jesus (Acts 11:15-17).  How could he have stood in God’s way?  Now in 1 Cor. 12:12-13, Paul boldly stated that all believers have been baptized with or by the Holy Spirit.  Is this a different baptism than that which both John the Baptist and Jesus predicted?  No, it is not a different baptism but the self-same baptism.  “But,” the reader might ask, “in the gospels and in Acts Jesus was the baptizer.  Here in 1 Corinthians 12:13, the Holy Spirit is the baptizer.  Therefore 1 Cor. 12:13 is a different baptism!”  That is an astute observation, but it fails to understand completely what is happening here.  Let me explain what goes on in a baptism.  (To view WordExplain’s chart of four different types of baptism, click here.)

a)              In every baptism, there is a baptizer, there is an agent, there is a meaning, and there is a kind.  In the case of John’s baptism, John was the baptizer, his agent was water, the meaning was repentance, and the kind of baptism was ritual.  By ritual I mean that John’s baptism could not make its adherents repentant, but was only meant to signify that they were repentant.  That is why John grew so irate with the Sadducees and Pharisees, who were only masquerading at repentance in order to curry public favor (Matt. 3:7-10).

b)              In the case of Jesus’ baptism with the Spirit, the baptizer is Jesus, the agent is the Holy Spirit, and the meaning is that the Holy Spirit actually baptizes believers into the Body of Christ, the place of safe-keeping (1 Cor. 12:13, cf. Matt. 3:12; Luke 3:17).  So in Spirit baptism, there are actually two baptizers.  Jesus baptizes by using the Holy Spirit, who baptizes believers into the Body of Christ.  In a word, Spirit baptism means that Jesus uses the Holy Spirit to immerse believers into the Body of Christ.  As to kind, Spirit baptism is real, because this baptism actually immerses believers into the Body of Christ, and thus does not merely signify in a ritual that something is supposed to have happened.

4)              But Paul was not through with explaining the benefit that all Christians experience.  After stating that all believers have been baptized into one body by one Spirit, Paul added, “and we were all made to drink of one Spirit” (1 Cor. 12:13).  What did he mean by that?  When one is baptized by means of water, he gets wet.  When one is baptized by means of fire, he gets burned.  When one is baptized by means of the Spirit, he receives the Spirit!  In Spirit baptism, not only are believers in Jesus immersed into the body of Christ, but they also receive the Holy Spirit, who indwells them eternally (John 7:37-39; 14:16-17; Rom. 8:9; 1 Cor. 6:19; 12:13; 2 Cor. 1:22; Eph. 1:13-14; 4:30)! 

5)              There are seven passages in the New Testament in which reference is made to being baptized with or by the Spirit.  These consist of Matt. 3:11; Mark 1:8; Luke 3:16; John 1:33; Acts 1:5; Acts 11:16; 1 Cor. 12:13.  The observant reader may ask why I have repeatedly used the phrase, “baptized with or by the Spirit.”  That is because in all seven of these just-listed passages the words en (with or by) and pneumati (Spirit) both appear in the dative case.  So the phrase, depending on the context, may be translated either way, with the Spirit or by the Spirit.  So, in Mark 1:8, John said, “I baptized you with water; but He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit” (en pneumati agio) (with Spirit holy) (emphasis mine).    But using the identical words in the identical case in 1 Cor. 12:13, Paul stated, “For by one Spirit (en eni pneumati) we were all baptized into one body …” (emphasis mine).  What I am attempting to demonstrate is that being immersed (baptized) by the Spirit into the body of Christ is the same event as being immersed (baptized) with the Spirit.  There is no distinction to be made between the two, for they are one and the same event.  On the one hand the emphasis is made regarding what the believer in Jesus receives – he receives the Holy Spirit.  On the other hand, there is an emphasis on what happens to him – he is placed by the Spirit, at Jesus’ behest, into the Body of Christ!

3.               We conclude, then, that all Christians have been baptized with the Holy Spirit.  Furthermore, in that same event, all Christians have been baptized by the Holy Spirit into the Body of Christ.  These are not two separate baptisms, but they are one and the same.  Of course, when a Christian is baptized with the Holy Spirit, he receives the Holy Spirit as an eternally-indwelling person present within him.  It is impossible to be a believer in Christ and not have the Holy Spirit.  It is impossible to be a believer in Christ and not be baptized with the Holy Spirit.  It is impossible to be a believer in Christ and not be baptized into the Body of Christ.  The fact that there were some delays in the book of Acts, at the inception of the Church, cannot be seen as normative throughout the Church Age.  Those delayed events were anomalies in the sense that they can be explained as follows:

a.               The Spirit could not be given to believers until Jesus had ascended to the Father and had been granted authority from the Father to dispense the gift of the Spirit to His disciples on the Father’s time table (Acts 1:4-5; Acts 2:32-33).  This initial receipt of the Spirit on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1-4) was coterminous with Jesus’ founding of the Church.  It is significant that Peter was the one who preached the sermon that ushered in three thousand new converts on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:14-40).

b.               There was a delay in the giving of the Spirit in Acts 8:4-17.  The new deacon Philip had traveled to the city of Samaria proclaiming Christ.  His message was enhanced by his God-given signs of casting out demons and healing the paralyzed and lame.  Many Samaritans believed the good news Philip proclaimed and trusted in Jesus, accepting baptism in Jesus’ name.  But the new converts were not initially given the gift of the Spirit.  That, however, can be explained in that Jesus had granted to Peter the sole possession of the “Keys of the Kingdom” (Matt. 16:13-19).  Peter had been present to open up the door of the Kingdom to the Jewish people in Acts 2.  Now the Spirit could not be given to the despised, mixed-breed (part-Jewish, part-Gentile) Samaritans until Peter arrived to open the door officially.  When Peter and John arrived, they prayed that the new converts might receive the Spirit.  They laid their hands on them “and they were receiving the Spirit” (Acts 8:17).  We have not heretofore discussed this passage because there is no explicit evidence that anyone spoke in tongues on this occasion.  They may well have spoken in tongues, for observers could tell that they received the Spirit, as the subsequent anecdote about Simon demonstrates (Acts 8:18-24).  But we do not know that they spoke in tongues.  No statement is made, moreover, as to how observers could detect the presence of the Spirit.  The fact remains, nonetheless, that the delay in the giving of the Spirit in Acts 8 can be attributed to the reality that Peter had to be present to turn the keys of the kingdom in order to admit the Samaritans into the Church.

c.               There was no delay in the receipt of the Spirit for full-blooded Gentiles.  Through the process of dreams and visions, Peter was present to introduce Cornelius and those in his household to faith in Jesus Christ.  As soon as these Gentiles believed, they immediately spoke in tongues, thus demonstrating for the gathered Jews from Joppa that they had received the Spirit and had been admitted into the Church (Acts 10:1-48).

d.               The delay in the giving of the Spirit to the disciples of John in Acts 19:1-7 can be explained as follows:  Any God-fearing Jews or Gentiles who even went so far as to embrace the “Repentance Teaching” of John the Baptist, but who had not placed their faith in Jesus, were not even among the redeemed.  They were not “saved,” and they did not possess the Spirit.  Only after they had trusted in Jesus did these disciples of John receive the Holy Spirit.  The fact that they did not speak in tongues until after Paul had laid hands on them only underscores his authority as a legitimate apostle of Christ.  It makes no statement whatever about the necessity of laying hands on believers to enable them to receive the Spirit.  This can be demonstrated from the absence of laying on of hands in Acts 2:1-4 and Acts 10:43-47.

e.               Note:  To access a chart on the only instances of speaking in tongues in the book of Acts, click here.  To access discussions of speaking in tongues in the book of Acts, click here.

Part E:  Is Tongues-Speaking in the Book of Acts Normative? Part G: Is Speaking in Tongues a Neccessary Sign of the Baptism of the Spirit?

This study is based on, and the links to Scripture reference the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE , Copyright 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by the Lockman Foundation. (

(Scripture quotations taken from the NASB.  Used by Permission.)

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Updated July 21, 2019