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Does the Baptism of the Holy Spirit Happen at the Time of Salvation?

Today many believers have been told they received the Holy Spirit when they believed – but that is not necessarily true. They mistake the cleansing experience of Salvation (John 1:9) for the infilling or baptism of the Holy Spirit.

Unfortunately, most churches teach (misleadingly) that people receive the Holy Spirit when they ask Jesus to forgive their sin and give them salvation. In our experience, it’s rare that people are saved and filled with the Spirit at the same time.

In the Book of Acts, it occurs on one time out of the five times when people receive salvation (Acts 10:44-46; Acts 4:31). The other recorded times when people received the Holy Spirit, it occurred in a second experience, subsequent to receiving salvation (Acts 2:1-4; 8:14-17; 9:10-17; 19:1-7).

More often than not, people experience salvation and the baptism of the Holy spirit as two different experiences. The Ephesian church, whose members were formerly disciples of John the Baptist, listened to Paul when he explained:

“While Apollos was in Corinth, Paul passed through the interior regions and came to Ephesus, where he found some disciples. He said to them, ‘Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you became believers?’ They replied, ‘No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.’ Then he said, ‘Into what then were you baptized?’ They answered, ‘Into John’s baptism.’ 4 Paul said, ‘John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, in Jesus.’ On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. When Paul had laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied - altogether there were about twelve of them” (Acts 19:1-7).

Although these early Christians were saved, they were not sealed with the promised Holy Spirit until after Paul had laid hand on them. Like the 120 disciples, who were in the Upper Room at Pentecost when the Holy Spirit was given, the Ephesians experienced salvation and the baptism of the Holy Spirit as two separate experiences.

When a person experiences forgiveness and salvation, he feels clean and is transformed into a new “wineskin”. While some people receive the Holy spirit (or new wine) at that time (Lk. 5:36-39), others require prayer, usually with the laying on of hands by a Spirit-filled person (someone who has also received the baptism of the Holy Spirit with evidence of speaking in tongues).

“Now when the apostles at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them. 15 The two went down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit 16 (for as yet the Spirit had not come[a] upon any of them; they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus). 17 Then Peter and John[b] laid their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit” (Acts 8:14-17; see also Acts 2:4; 9:17-18; 19:6).

Because most churches teach that the Holy Spirit comes into a person’s life and heart at the moment of salvation, their people are misled with a half-truth. In reality, there are only two examples of people receiving salvation and the infilling or baptism of the Holy Spirit at the same time in the Book of Acts

“And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God with boldness. Now the company of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things which he possessed was his own, but they had everything in common. And with great power the apostles gave their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all” (Acts 4:31-33).

“While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who heard the word. And those of the circumcision who believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also. For they heard them speak with tongues and magnify God” (Acts 10:44-46).

From my own observations, people receive the infilling of the Holy spirit in only a minority of churches today. In the church where I was raised, most people didn’t understand the further working of the Holy Spirit and so many there were frustrated. I’d hear them complaining that there was “something missing” in their lives.

The feeling of emptiness or sensing that something is missing, is the need for the infilling of the Holy Spirit. When the Holy Spirit comes into a person’s life, drastic changes occur.

The Holy Spirit changes a person’s character, producing His fruit: love, joy peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23) and distributing His fifteen Gifts (1 Corinthians 12:8-10 and Romans 12:6-8).

The Fifteen Gifts of the Holy Spirit are:

  1. Word of Wisdom
  2. Word of Knowledge
  3. Gift of Faith
  4. Gifts of Healing
  5. Gift of Miracles
  6. Gift of Prophecy
  7. Gift of Discerning of Spirits
  8. Gift of Speaking in Tongues
  9. Gift of Interpretation of Tongues
  10. Gift of Service
  11.  Gift of Teaching
  12.  Gift of Exhortation
  13.  Gift of Giving
  14.  Gift of Administration
  15.  Gift of Mercy

Frustration is bound to develop in a person who tries to act as though the Holy Spirit is indwelling him or her, but truly experiences nothing of the power of the Holy Spirit ministering through him or her. These people become acutely aware of the discrepancy between what they read about the normal

Christian life in the New Testament – with all the signs, wonders and miracles – and their own dry, Christian experience. Many clergy will tell these people they have to accept by faith that they received the Holy Spirit at the time of salvation.

Earlier in my work as a pastor, people who know they were missing some vital element of the Christian walk, often asked me to pray with them to receive the Holy Spirit (the baptism of the Holy Spirit). I would argue with them, trying to convince them they already “had Him,” that they had received the Holy spirit when they believed. I did this based on my belief and my own experience. After all, I received the infilling of the Holy Spirit at the same time I invited Jesus to be my Saviour and Lord – so I wrongly believed this is what all people experienced and tried to convince them they had received “someone” whom they had not yet actually received.

Christians who have been told they received the Holy Spirit, when they did not, end up trying to fill the emptiness with good works and religious exercise. This results in the defeated and disillusioned Christians.

May eventually withdraw from involvement in churches, turn to some other religion for spiritual help or believe God does not really love them.

The doctrinal teachings that are not completely true have resulted in many people falling away. Paul warned:

“Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will renounce the faith by paying attention to deceitful spirits and teaching of demon…” (1 Timothy 4:1).

Deceitful spirits do not want us to believe the scriptures that teach the full Gospel. They try to explain away certain passages that describe the many ways Jesus deals with us, and that declare to us the whole purpose of God. Their “doctrines” twist the scriptures and selectively choose things that are in the Bible, while ignoring vital information.

“…for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27).

These deceitful spirits do not want Christians, who know the whole Word of God, to spread the shole story, despite the teachings of the Bible.

“Go and stand in the temple and speak to the people all the word of this Life” (Acts 5:20).

There are two component parts to receiving salvation: water (representing the baptism of repentance and forgiveness for our sin) and the Spirit (representing the baptism in the Holy Spirit which makes one a complete Christian). Jesus explained it when He said to Nicodemus:

“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the Kingdom of God” (John 3:5).

Once at one of our services, a man said, “I want the other half.” I asked, “What do you mean?”

“I was baptized with water and now I need to be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”

I said, “Yes! You are right!” We prayed and he received the other half – the Holy Spirit – and began to speak in tongues as the proof of “signs following”:

“And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover” (Mark 15:17-18).

Some of the toughest spiritual warfare we have to wage, is against people in our churches who do not accept and believe the whole New Testament. They cling to man-made traditions and theologies, dismissing whatever they have not received, or experienced by saying God not longer does those things. This is not true.

According to Malachi 3:6 and Hebrews 13:8, God is always the same and never changes. He is consistently good, loving, and all-powerful. We can rely on God to be consistent regardless of what happens in the world around us. "Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever!"

The doctrines of men seek to nullify the Word of God by taking the twisted word of the the lying serpent, the devil, questioning truth and trying to make us doubt, as he did with Eve in the Garden of Eden so many years ago. Jesus warned us about the power of human traditions in nullifying the Word of God:

He said to them, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written, ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.’ You leave the commandment of God, and hold fast the tradition of men.”

And he said to them, “You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God, in order to keep your tradition! For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘He who speaks evil of father or mother, let him surely die’; but you say, ‘If a man tells his father or his mother, what you would have gained from me is Corban’ (that is, given to God) - then you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or mother, thus making void the word of God through your tradition which you hand on. And many such things you do” (Mark 7:6-13).

This teaching that when a person experiences salvation they always recieve the power of baptism of the Holy Spirit clearly is such a doctrine. It conflicts with what is been written in the Book of Acts as I illustrated earlier.

Christians who have never received the Holy Spirit, but who, like the disciples before the Day of Pentecost had experienced the forgiveness of their sins, usually teach this doctrine. These are the men Paul refer to as unspiritual or carnal men:

“The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit” (1 Corinthians 2:14 - NIV)

Excerpts from "Victory Over the Kingdom of Darkness"

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