In the beginning while the earth was void, filled with darkness and covered by water, the Holy Spirit was hovering over the waters and it was God’s power operating through His Spirit that executed God’s commands of creation. The Living Word created everything under the power of the Holy Spirit and the same Spirit inspires mankind to seek and pray to God in the authority of the Son, who rose from the dead to lead us into the presence of God. In a man the soul gives rise to emotions and desires that are external to man, while the indwelling Holy Spirit connects with the human spirit to inspire from within. From within He leads us to Abba Father through breathings and panting to converse with Him through fellowship and prayer.
Who is the Holy Spirit? – Our belief is that God is one – Jehovah, whose name the Jews did not pronounce and His name was spelled as YHWH – Yahweh and finally Jehovah. Whatever God thinks of Himself as to what He is, that is revealed in His Son, the Savior Messiah, who came for our redemption as also to reveal God to humanity. The Spirit of God is the third element of the Trinity and since God is holy His Spirit is also called Holy Spirit. He represents God and executes His will through others disoplaying God’s Omnipresence and Omnipotence. Holy Spirit carriers the power of God and bestows that power on individuals as per the task that is assigned to them. Thus Moses was informed by God about Bezaleel having been “filled with the spirit of God, in wisdom, and in understanding, and in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship” (Exodus 31:2-6). In the Old Testament the Holy Spirit operated external to a human being while Lord Jesus blessed us that the Holy Spirit “dwells with you and will be in you” (John 14:17). Holy Spirit baptism now gives us the indwelling Holy Spirit to guide us and empower us to do God’s will.
Getting filled with the Holy Spirit – The promised Comforter is poured out into us the moment we submit to Lord Jesus Christ and accept Him as our Savior. The blessings available to every believer reach him in three stages. The first is the act of God to lead us to His Son for no one can come to His Son unless the Father who sent the Son draws him (John 6:44). This action is completed by the Holy Spirit leading one from darkness to the glorious Light of the world – Lord Jesus. He was acting from without to urge and lead us to the Messiah through revelation of the mysteries of the Scripture. The second stage gets started by the Savior Lord Himself after we repent of our sins, seek forgiveness and accept Him as our Messiah. He becomes our ‘Good Shepherd’ and leads us into His fold and ‘breathes on His disciples’ to give the Holy Spirit baptism in the same manner that was given the first group (John 20:22). With this the Holy Spirit starts the process of our gradual transformation into the image and likeness of Lord Jesus Christ. The third stage gets completed on our obedience to the Divine command “not to depart from Jerusalem but to wait for the Promise of the Father” (Acts 1:4). On the Day of Pentecost the followers “were all with one accord in one place”, worshipping, meditating on the Word of God and praying eagerly waiting for the blessed Comforter.
After receiving salvation on the road to Damascus, Saul reached Jerusalem but later withdrew to Tarsus, his home town to pray and wait for his filling with the Holy Spirit till finally ‘Barnabas reached Tarsus to seek Saul’ for start of his ministry and final renaming as Paul (Acts 11:25). It is after this interim period of waiting that we are finally assessed to be worthy of the “filling of the Holy Spirit” and empowerment and we finally complete the process of surrender to God through repentance and forgiveness. This change of His dwelling occurs not as a result of our doing something but due to our change of heart caused by Him. The Chief Priests, Pharisees and Sadducees attempted to crush the Truth and Living Word through scourging and crucifixion but realized that these can never be obliterated from the face of the earth. Lord Jesus, through the power of the Holy Spirit controlled elements of nature, materials and death to help, feed and raise others from the dead (Matthew 11:5) in fulfillment of the prophesy of Isaiah 35:5-6. In the same power He Himself also walked out of the grave to enter heaven in glory to make that same power of the Holy Spirit available to us, every moment of our lives.
The difference in Holy Spirit working – In the Old Testament all prophets and saints were blessed with the Holy Spirit working through them but none had the indwelling of the Spirit in them. It is for this reason the Lord declared “among those born of women there has not risen one greater than John the Baptist; but he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he” (Matthew 11:11). King David who loved God with all his heart, all his soul and all his strength was sorrowful for not having made a ‘House for God’ (2 Samuel 7). But David sinned with Bathsheba and caused the death of Uria, her husband, in battle and continued in sin for more than a year till Nathan the prophet came to him and showed him the mirror (2 Samuel 11 & 12). Only then he realized and repented and Psalm 51 is the result of that agony and repentance.
Solomon, David’s son’, sought from the Lord God wisdom to rule over His people and God was pleased and granted his wish (1 Kings 3:8-10). The blessed king then was involved in debauchery and finally declared “whatsoever my eyes desired I kept not from them, I withheld not my heart from any joy” (Ecclesiastes 2:10). The wisest man lived a life deep in sin and finally realized that it is all vanity.
On the other hand the indwelling Spirit not only strengthened the disciples but the difference was evident and seen by Jewish elders to exclaim “that they were uneducated and untrained men, they marveled. And they realized that they had been with Jesus” (Acts 4:13). The Chief Priests and their partners, the Pharisees and Sadducees, had the disciples beaten and scourged, but “they departed rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name” (Acts 5:41).
On another occasion Apostle Paul and Silas were arrested in Philippi, their clothes torn, beaten with rods, put in prison and their feet fastened in stocks. Yet at midnight both of them “were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them” (Acts 16:23-25). Such is the difference that the Holy Spirit makes in the lives of believers after their baptism into Him.
What is the experience of receiving the Holy Spirit? – On the day of Pentecost the disciples, on being filled with the Holy Spirit, displayed a sudden change in their behavior. They were hiding for fear of the Jews and had deserted the Lord from the Gethsemane Park onwards, but hereafter they boldly stepped out to bear witness. For them it was a life changing incident and that is what it should be for a believer on receiving the Holy Spirit but for many it is a part of a doctrine only. On the one extreme is the Sacramental Church declaring this to be automatic on baptism while on the other is the Protestants equating it with faith and belief. The Pentecostal Church preaches this to be a life changing experience, citing various reasons for this.
- A Special Event – John the Baptist asserted that “He who is coming after me is mightier than I …… he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire” (Matthew 3:11). Thus this baptism has to be different from water baptism since it requires a special power that is now given to every believer for our Lord declared John the Baptist to be greatest among the prophets but even one “who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he” (Matthew 11:11). Holy Spirit baptism is described as an important, independent and an overwhelming event for every believer who is “made to drink into one Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12:13).
- Empowerment – On the one hand we have Apostle Paul declaring the Holy Spirit baptism as an act of God (1 Corinthians12:13) while we have another aspect of the same leading to bestowing of “power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you” (Acts 1:8). The gifts of the Spirit are all empowering by nature in all spheres of a believer’s life and this baptism is definitely more than a simple ceremony but a special experience that forever changes the individual and this process continues throughout his life. The same Disciples could then boldly walk out from self imposed hibernation not only to witness Christ but change lives of others through physical, social, financial and spiritual healing in the derived power from the Holy Spirit. It is for this blessing that Lord Jesus assured “He who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also and grater works than these he will do because I go to My Father” (John 14:12).
- The Acts of Apostles – Every recorded act of the Apostles and others in the Scripture was a deliberate and conscious performance of display of a power beyond their own capacity and not some subconscious act. A believer must experience the coming of the Holy Spirit through this special baptism and it is not accepted just because someone in the Church said so.
- Faith based result – The Holy Spirit leads an individual to the saving grace of God and then as a gift gives certain amount of faith to believe in the Scripture to take the next step of surrender and water baptism. So far this is an external act as it was in the Old Testament. The Holy Spirit baptism, leading to the indwelling of the same Spirit, becomes a separate life changing felt experience causing a visible change in the person. Whether on the day of Pentecost or latter the change was evident and the desire of Simon, of a city of Samaria, to obtain the power “that anyone on whom I lay hands may receive the Holy Spirit” (Acts 8:18). Apostle Peter witnessed this in Cornelius’ house when the Holy “fell upon them, as upon as at the beginning” (Acts 11:15) and this was so because they believed.
Holy Spirit baptism is consequent to the occurrence of change in a believer from an initial God given faith leading to Christ to a deep seated faith.
How do we receive the Holy Spirit? – Lord Jesus breathed on the disciples and said “Receive the Holy Spirit” (John 20:22) and later commanded them to remain in Jerusalem till the promise was fulfilled. On the day of Pentecost “they were all with one accord in one place” (Acts 2:1). The first two conditions relate to this basic essential of being in agreement about the Scripture teachings for clarity of thought can only develop through the Holy Spirit. Apostle Peter clarified the way of receiving the “gift of the Holy Spirit” in his first sermon and the command was – to repent, be baptized ….for the promise is to all that Lord our God will call. Then those that received his word were baptized” (Acts 2:38-41). On another occasion the disciples “laid hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit” (Acts 8:17). The Holy Spirit baptism is received in answer to the prayer of Lord Jesus to the Father “and he will give you another Helper, that he may abide with you forever” (John 14:15-16). The various steps leading to the Holy Spirit baptism are:
- Hearing of the Word – The three thousand souls that were baptized on the first day had heard the Word preached by Apostle Peter and their initial ‘amazement’ was changed to belief in the crucifixion, resurrection and ascension and exaltation of Lord Jesus. Every believer can only receive salvation by first hearing the Word from someone and the Holy Spirit acts externally to lead the individual.
- Obeying God’s call – What Apostle Peter declared to the first batch of believers (Acts 2:39) was a repetition of what Lord Jesus had earlier declared “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him” (John 6:44). God had emphasized this point to Prophet Jeremiah also about having a plan for him, a plan full of hope and future (Jeremiah 29:11). The Word of God is heard effectively only by those who are called by God and not by others, though present, for the prince of this world has blinded them about salvation in and through Lord Jesus (2 Corinthians 4:4).
- Faith and repentance – After having been brought in to the ‘Body of Christ’ by the Holy Spirit, the gifts of the Spirit would start operating in the believer to a certain degree. Thus he gains knowledge of the Scripture, develops faith in the Word and realizes his position as a sinner needing salvation that can only come through the Savior. This faith leads to genuine repentance and confession of sins and gradually it becomes a daily practice after the Holy Spirit baptism though which we are changed into His image through the “Convicting”/urging of the Holy Spirit to be holy.
- Baptism – Baptism by itself is not the door that leads us into the presence of the Holy Spirit but is a way that we walk on to reach there. It is an act of surrender to God, His Son and His Spirit to take charge of our lives to transform us into what He wants us to be. It opens the door to remission of sins and thus salvation and the ‘criminal on the cross’ realized this to seek the help of the Savior to enter His Kingdom. Baptism is the result of having accepted the truth about the power of God to help us thus causing our commitment to Him to be embraced by Him. Through this we open ourselves to the power of God to operate in and through us for reaching out to others and it becomes an act of welcoming God into our lives.
- Coming out of the cave – Lord Jesus declared “Whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, of Him the Son of Man will be ashamed when He comes” (Luke 9:26). Once we feel ashamed or try to hide our faith due to the feelings of others, we are neither sure of our faith nor of the truth of the Scripture and their power. We can reach out to others only when we are ready to declare and express our confidence in the Word of God. Once we own God as our own only then can God accept us as His own to bless us with His power.
When we seek God’s power and guidance through His Spirit, we fall down before Him in our weakness and He lifts us up into His strength. Holy Spirit empowers us to do God’s will and not to do our own. A soul in rebellion neither desires nor needs His Spirit for he is empowered by the ‘forces of darkness’ and Light of the World is far from him. Such an individual will be like the criminal on the cross who misses out on salvation through blindness of heart.
Let the Holy Spirit help us identify and let Him deal with all that is keeping us from God!!