The Holy Spirit: Is it for today’s believers?

I thought I would start my first Bible study post on the one factor I credit for changing my life: the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is a surprisingly controversial subject among Christians. Some, like the Pentecostals, believe the gift of the Holy Spirit (as evidenced by tongues) is for every believer. Others accept the existence of the Holy Spirit, but think speaking in tongues or prophesying is weird, outdated, and unnecessary. Still others say that the Holy Spirit was reserved only for the apostles of the Early Church and that any so-called “manifestation” of the Spirit, such as healing or tongues, is a demonic deception designed to lead believers astray.

What is the truth of the matter? We must turn to the scriptures to find out.

Is the Holy Spirit for everyone?

In Acts 1, we read about Jesus’ final instructions to his disciples before his ascension into heaven:

On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit” [emphasis added] (verses 4-5).

From this statement, it’s clear that the baptism of the Holy Spirit was meant as a second baptism for all believers. The same implication is made in Acts 19:

While Apollos was at Corinth, Paul took the road through the interior and arrived at Ephesus. There he found some disciples and asked them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” They answered, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” So Paul asked, “Then what baptism did you receive?”

“John’s baptism,” they replied.

Paul said, “John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance. He told the people to believe in the one coming after him, that is, in Jesus.” On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. When Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied (verses 1-6).

The same words came also from John the Baptist’s mouth:  

“I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me comes one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire” (Matthew 3:11).

It seems clear to me. Those who believe receive two baptisms: water and the Holy Spirit. This was part of Christ’s plan of redemption. If anyone can honestly say otherwise, I’d like to hear the evidence.

(At first, I stated that the Holy Spirit was meant to replace water baptism. But then God pointed me to Acts 8:36-38 and Acts 10:47-48 that clearly show new believers still being baptized in water in addition to their baptism in the Holy Spirit.)

When the Holy Spirit came upon the disciples for the first time in Jerusalem, Peter stood up in front of a crowd to explain what was happening. This is what he said:

These people are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning! No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: ‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people [emphasis added]. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy'” (Acts 2:15-18).

He then continues in verse 38:

“Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.”

So here we have five verses that explicitly state that the Holy Spirit is meant for all those who accept Jesus as savior after his death and resurrection. It is to be our baptism in addition to water. It is meant for both men and women. It is meant for all believers living in the last days. The scriptures are very clear on these points. I have even provided links to the chapters so everything can be read in context.

The early apostles clearly believed this, too. Almost anytime you read of their work in spreading the gospel, they are praying with believers to receive the Holy Spirit. In fact, in the Great Commission given by Jesus in Matthew 28, Jesus commands his disciples to baptize believers “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (verse 19). If the disciples thought that the promise of the Holy Spirit was temporary or just for them, why would they have bothered to ensure that all their converts received it?

Stay tuned for more on this teaching.

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One response to “The Holy Spirit: Is it for today’s believers?

  1. I would add another category of believers: those who believe that the baptism of the Holy Spirit and the gift of tongues is valid for today, but that tongues are not the evidence of the Baptism. That is where I would place myself. I believe that the “initial evidence” (the term generally used to reference tongues) is that the believer has power to be a witness for God (Acts 1:8)

    I’ve never considered the viewpoint of the baptism of the Holy Spirit replacing water baptism. That’s interesting, and definitely something to chew on. Does your current church/denomination still practice water baptism? I’ve always seen it as an outward confession of faith, and also as an accountability measure.

    I absolutely agree with you on the rest. The Holy Spirit is for today and for every believer,