Spirit Baptism: The Pentecostal View

“The person and the work of the Holy Spirit constitute a central and pervasive emphasis in Pentecostal theology.” (Buschart, Exploring Protestant Traditions) Of all members of the Christian body, the Pentecostal description applies to those who established the doctrine of a second baptism in the Holy Spirit along with evidence of that baptism as seen in the evidence of speaking in tongues. Pentecostals maintain that Spirit Baptism is normative for all Christians and that the crisis event is subsequent to the moment of conversion. Because of all that naturally flows from the Baptism, this tenet is central to Pentecostal doctrine and forms its heart. It is rooted in God’s promise as enunciated by the prophet Joel (2:28-29)

‘And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. 29 Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days.

The narrative passages in Acts build the foundation for the Pentecostal doctrine of Spirit Baptism. As mentioned in my earlier post on the Evangelical position, receiving the the Holy Spirit is a common thread through almost all of the Body. The timing of receiving the Spirit is what sets the Pentecostal apart. Jesus’ disciples are seen as having entered the new covenant (i.e. been converted) by the death of Christ (Luke 22:20; Hebrews 9:11-29, 10:10, cf Jeremiah 31:31-34) and in the opening chapters of Acts, the disciples are seen as waiting in the upper room for the gift that the Father would visit upon them as promised by the Lord (Acts 1:4). As the Church, they engage in the selection of new leadership (1:16-26) and practice constant prayer (1:14). This prayer serves as a prelude to the receipt of the Spirit, famously recorded at Pentecost in Acts 2. It is this pattern, repeated again in the chapters of Acts that follow that lead the Pentecostal believer to establish it as normative. [ Phillip and the Samaritans – believed and were baptized 8:12 >> Peter & John lay hands on them and pray for them to receive the Holy Spirit 8:14-17. Saul’s Conversion – accepts Jesus as Lord and Savior by his obedience 9:6 >> Ananias prays for him and he receives the Holy Spirit 9:17. The Gentile Believers – 11:15-17 Peter once again recounts the Holy Spirit coming upon those who have already believed (Aorist Active Participle – vv 17 pisteusasin “having believed”)]

Pentecostalism takes it name from the watershed event in Acts 2 and also sees a secondary event that follows the Spirit Baptism as being normative in the believer who receives the gift; the evidence of speaking in tongues. We see this phenomenon (non-pejorative usage e.g. Williams Renewal Theology V.2) in verse 2:4, preceding Peter’s address to the multitude (2:14-36), after the Spirit had been poured out on the Gentile believers (10:45-46), and when Paul lays hands on the Ephesian believers 19:6. It is implied elsewhere, including the Paul’s reference to the gift (1 Cor 14:18) even though Acts is silent on the practice at his Baptism. The Assemblies of God Fundamental Beliefs contain this reference to the gift:  

8. The Initial Physical Evidence of the Baptism in the Holy Spirit

The baptism of believers in the Holy Spirit is witnessed by the initial physical sign of speaking with other tongues as the Spirit of God gives them utterance.

  • Acts 2:4 [NIV]

The speaking in tongues in this instance is the same in essence as the gift of tongues, but is different in purpose and use.

  • 1 Corinthians 12:4-10 [NIV]
  • 1 Corinthians 12:28 [NIV]

What is the purpose of Spirit Baptism, according to our Pentecostal brethren? It is a point of empowerment for greater witness on behalf of and in obedience to the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus said “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.” (Acts 1:8) The Spirit has certainly moved within the Church, stirring revival among Pentecostal believers and energizing them for growth and tireless missionary works.

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