In the Old Testament ‘ruach’ and in the New Testament Greek word ‘pneuma’ both primarily mean an “invisible force” that provides man with an intellect, will, mind and conscience and other invisible faculties that make man a free moral agent and a rational being. Soul of man on the other hand gives him feelings and emotions in the ‘heart’. Both spirit and soul of man are closely interlinked but are different from each other. In general spirit is that which knows and soul is the one that feels and both live in the body.
What changes at Holy Spirit baptism? – Since this baptism is a special blessing from God, the believer must feel a new experience in his life from that moment on. The change occurs when the Word of God shifts His position from knowledge in the mind to influence the feelings and desires in the heart. Knowledge is changed from theory to a practical application on receiving the baptism of the Holy Spirit and this then gets evidenced through the fruits of the Spirit from joy, peace, kindness, faithfulness to the final destination of self control (Galatians 5:22). Apostle Paul blessed the confused twelve believers baptized by John the Baptist by laying of hands on them and baptizing them with the Holy Spirit. Those people confessed that they had never even heard of the Holy Spirit (Acts 19:2; 5-6).
Without any change in the life of a believer, His faith would remain just a few theological doctrines and nothing more. Apostle John defines this clearly “No one has seen God at any time. If we love one another, God abides in us and His love has been perfected in us. By this we know that we know that we abide in Him and He in us; because He has given us of His Spirit” (1 John 4:12-13). We are sure of our salvation when we experience this change of heart in us in the power of the Holy Spirit and that is when various rituals lose their power over us. That is Holy Spirit baptism in experience for He frees us from our shackles to love and serve God with a clean and surrendered heart.
What is evidence of the Holy Spirit baptism? – Once a tree is planted the process of fruit bearing is not dependent on the soil where it is planted but on the power that let the seed produce that tree. Holy Spirit baptism also is not a result of individual efforts but an act of God’s grace and it is this grace that changes us from within. Some of the evident changes that reflect the fruit bearing spirit in a man led by the Holy Spirit are:
- God before self – On the day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit descended on the believers, all those people from twelve nationalities were amazed to hear them in speak in their own tongues “the wonderful works of God” (Acts 2:11). Many remain focused on the aspect of speaking in tongues but overlook the important part of “magnifying God” that was heard by all present. It was not the speaking in tongues that changed the heart of three thousand that believed on that day but the message of ‘wonderful works of God’ heard by them. Those who experience the baptism of the Holy Spirit forget self and extol God in their thoughts, words and deeds.
- Compassion – “God is love” and Lord Jesus displayed this love in abundance in all His actions and words. The Apostles Peter and John saw a man born lame begging at the Temple gate (called Beautiful) and they must have seen him there on countless times in the past while going into the Temple. After being filled with the Holy Spirit, they ‘noticed him and had compassion’ on him to give him “what I do have I give you” and he was healed that very instant (Acts 3:2-8). Lord Jesus preached and practiced this and demanded compassion and love for the poor (Matthew 25:35-36) and Spirit baptism must bring this change in the individual.
- Obedience – The Scripture commands us to diligently seek God and His kingdom and naturally “Where your treasure is there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21). Holy Spirit baptism changes the focus of the heart from the earthly kingdom to Kingdom of God. Apostle Paul was refused permission to go to Asia to preach the Word and he obeyed (Acts 16:6-8) while on the other hand he proceeded to Jerusalem despite knowing about the impending arrest and suffering that was coming his way. Apostle Peter and the others with him refused to obey the Sadducees and Chief Priests saying “we ought to obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). Holy Spirit baptism instills a spirit of obedience in the believer.
- Courage – Holy Spirit empowers a believer to face difficult situations boldly for he is sure of the Divine presence with Him at every step. Disciples boldly stepped out to proclaim the Gospel in the Temple despite beatings and threats from the Jewish elders. Paul and Silas had received severe scourging yet they worshipped God in the prison at midnight and the chains were broken after an earthquake. But Paul refused to depart from the place till the “magistrates personally came and pleaded with them, and brought them out” (Acts 16:23, 25, 37-39).
Additional symptoms of Holy Spirit baptism are – greater understanding of Scripture (1 Corinthians 2:10-14; better meditation and prayer life; writing of God’s laws on our hearts to help in better understanding and obedience (Hebrews 8:10) and changed attitude towards others due to fruits of the Spirit operating in our lives.
Is speaking in tongues the only evidence of Holy Spirit baptism? – On the day of Pentecost when The Holy Spirit descended on the believers they immediately started speaking in different tongues and people from twelve different nations heard them speaking in their own tongue. The listeners were all “amazed and perplexed” at hearing in their “own tongues the wonderful works of God” (Acts 2:2-12). “Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for” (Romans 8:26-27). Thus Holy Spirit teaches us to pray and also intercedes for us. Apostle Paul further adds that “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become a sounding brass” (1 Corinthians 13:1). In the Scripture the angels are known to have spoken to mankind in a clear and understandable language. It is said that speaking in tongues is speaking the language of heaven and of angels for better prayer. God can read our thoughts and even before we speak He knows, so where does the need for a specific language arise? Apostle Paul warns that “he who speaks in a tongue edifies himself” (1 Corinthians 14:4).
In the manner of the Day of Pentecost, there are three more similar instances about receiving the Holy Spirit baptism in the Book of Acts. An analysis of these four events does not reveal any set pattern:
- Pentecost – No laying on of hands or any other ritual, those who were baptized spoke in tongues.
- Samaria – People baptized in water in Lord Jesus name yet did not receive the Holy Spirit until Peter and John came and laid hands on them. There is no mention of speaking in tongues by them after receiving the Holy Spirit (Acts 8).
- Gentiles – Apostle Peter was led to Cornelius’ house in Caesarea and He preached the Gospel to them. “While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who heard the word…they heard them speak with tongues and magnify God. And he commanded them to be baptized (Acts 10:44,46 & 48). No laying on of hands and even water baptism was performed later.
- Disciples of John the Baptist – Apostle Paul found some disciples of John the Baptist in Ephesus and “baptized them in the name of Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them” (Acts 19:5-6). These people then spoke in tongues and prophesied.
From this we can see that neither is any ritual necessary nor any sign to confirm the baptism of the Holy Spirit for this baptism is by the Lord Jesus and only He decides the mode, time and the individual to be so blessed. Because of the evidence of speaking in tongues on Pentecost, it is believed by Pentecostals that this is the only evidence of Holy Spirit baptism. The following reasons, however, negate this viewpoint:
- There is no Scriptural teaching to substantiate this and while describing the gifts of the Holy Spirit Apostle Paul states “The manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all. For to one is given….. to another different kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills” (1 Corinthians 12:7-11). The gifts are as per the discretion of the Lord Jesus as per the plan for each individual.
- Just before His ascension into heaven Lord Jesus being aware of the physical and psychological condition of the disciples and their query about restoration of the kingdom to Israel clarified “you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you” (Acts 1:6,8). Apostle Paul even warns that “He who speaks in tongues edifies himself… Therefore tongues are for a sign, not to those who believe but to unbelievers” (1 Corinthians 14:4;22). Lord Jesus blessed us with the Holy Spirit and the gifts are given as per definite role assigned to each believer.
- On various other occasions that the believers were baptized with the Holy Spirit, as recorded in the Book of Acts of the Apostles, but never is there a mention of the speaking in tongues as an essential episode. Even within the four events mentioned already above there is no such established sequence.
- All occasions where speaking in tongues has been mentioned had a specific target audience needing convincing about the power of God operating in the believers. On the day of Pentecost it was the group of more than three thousand who witnessed this and joined the select group of believers. In Cornelius’ house it was not only the Gentile group but the Jewish converts led by Apostle Peter that needed to be convinced of the Word to be preached to non-Jews. In a similar manner the disciples of John baptized with the Holy Spirit by laying on of hands by Apostle Paul needed to experience the change from their previous situation. The gift of tongues would be given on situation specific instances to reach out to the unbelievers and not to confirm to the believers the baptism if the Holy Spirit.
- Apostle Paul clarifies that “There are diversities of gifts but the same Spirit… who works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills…Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues?” (1 Corinthians 12:4; 11 & 30). A gift by definition is ‘something given to someone willingly without payment’ and even the receiver may not even deserve what is given. God has a plan for everyone and accordingly He blesses us with the required resources and at the time and sequence that He decides. Casting doubts about the sequence of the giving of gifts or the capability of the individual receiving the same would be opposing the will of God.
Roles performed by the Holy Spirit – In the Scripture the Holy Trinity is revealed to us in the first three verses of Genesis where God, His Spirit and His Word are mentioned. The Holy Spirit is mentioned as moving on the ‘face of the waters’ and His implied action is seen as implementation of God’s command “Let there be light”. The Holy Spirit thus fills the Word of/from God with power for giving effect to the intended action. The Son of God was filled with the power to fulfill the God assigned mission of redemption of mankind through His sacrifice and to reveal God to everyone. The Holy Spirit blesses us with His presence in us through many ways and some are:
- Guides us into Truth and God’s will – King David prayed to God “Teach me to do Your will, for You are my God; Your Spirit is good. Lead me in the land of uprightness” (Psalm 143:10). The Holy Spirit guides us into all truth and reveals “whatever He hears and will tell you things to come” (John 16:13). In addition to getting the required information we shall also be led by Him to do God’s will.
- Helps us to know and glorify God – He helps us in understanding the works of God’s kingdom and through glorify the Father and the Son (John 16:14-15). We glorify God by doing His will and obediently follow His commands through the knowledge and power given by the Holy Spirit.
- Holy Spirit brings Lord Jesus into us – God was pleased to bestow His Spirit on us only after the Son had completed His mission on earth and ascended to His throne. The Spirit resumes the relationship established by the Lord with humanity during His ministry and not leaving us as ‘orphans’ (John 16:7 & 14:18).
- To manifest the Son to the world – We are required to reveal the mysteries of the Word to others that do not know Him and the indwelling Holy Spirit helps us first in knowing Him and then revealing His Word to others in fulfillment of the Great Commission. What was promised in the Old Testament gets fulfilled “I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them” (Ezekiel 36:27).
- Leads us away from sin – Lord Jesus while explaining about the Ministry of the Holy Spirit clarified that “He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness and of judgement” (John 16:8). The Greek word translated as ‘convict’ is “elenxei or elegcho” meaning to reprove, rebuke, expose, show to be guilty. Thus, the indwelling Spirit cautions us in all the three stages of commission of sin – thought, deed and post commission to stop, warn and guide to repent. Apostle Paul further confirms this “Walk in the Spirit and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16).
- Reveals God’s Word and His will – In Nazareth, Lord Jesus read the prophesy about the five aspects of His work through the Holy Spirit “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me; because the Lord has appointed Me to preach the Gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted; to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, and to set at liberty those that are oppressed” (Luke 4:18/ Isaiah 61:1). Similarly He teaches and brings to remembrance all the things taught by the Lord (John 14:26) to guide us in our witnessing and ministry.
- Helps us grow in faith to receive the promises – One of the gifts of the Holy Spirit is faith and as we grow in fellowship with Him, we learn about the truth of God’s promises. He then helps us to claim through prayer and receive the promised blessings “that have not been seen by the eye nor heard, nor entered the heart of man” (1 Corinthians 2:9-10).
- Empowerment and guidance – The coming of the Holy Spirit ensures power to the individual, power to witness, to heal, to be victorious over evil spirits and to calm the storms of the heart as well as of nature (Acts 1:8). He fills us with a new life in our bodies that were dead to sin to raise us to a life in Christ; a life free from sin (Romans 8:11).
- Establishes a new relationship with God – The Holy Spirit helps us understand and obey the Word of God thus causing the Father and the Son “to come and make Our home with him” (John 14:23). The Holy Spirit leads only those who through faith in the Son of God have earned the right to be called children of God for He is the Spirit of adoption, not of fear or bondage (Romans 8:14-15).
- Helps in pleasing God – God desires to develop a close relationship with His children and the Holy Spirit helps us in our communion with Him through prayers. Our spirit is then brought to a close fellowship with the Father and the Son, who cannot be pleased with a carnal minded man (Romans 8:6-8).
The promise is clear “I will not leave you as orphans” and Lord Jesus fulfills that through the baptism with the Holy Spirit to help us rejoice in His mighty presence but also to commune with the Father and the Son. His Divine presence then starts the gradual process of changing us into the image of our Lord to equip us with all the knowledge, wisdom and power to walk in His Ways. Do not look for external signs but feel and live in His mighty presence every moment of our lives!