Baptism with the Holy Spirit aka Holy Ghost seems to be an issue of division in Christianity today. Some denominations say that laying on of hands of their specific church leaders is the only way to receive the Holy Spirit. Some say that once you’ve been baptized with water, the Holy Spirit automatically comes upon you. Some claim that they have Apostles and that the Holy Spirit can only be received from them. There is so much division over this issue. Many believe that only their church has the “real” Holy Spirit, while everyone else’s is false. Some claim an ‘exceptionalism’ believing that their faith is the only right one and their group is the chosen group, all because of this Holy Spirit issue. To get to the bottom of this issue and to find the one and only truth (by nature there can’t be multiple opposing truths), we have to set aside various doctrines and catechisms on the matter, and just look at the unchanging Word of God. In scripture, we can find many examples of the people receiving the Holy Spirit by the laying on of hands of an Apostle. We can also find examples where this baptism was received by the laying on of hands of other mature Holy Spirit filled Christians. In addition, we find examples where God himself baptized people with the Holy Spirit without the laying on of hands. To begin, let’s look at what Jesus had to say about receiving the GIFT of the Holy Spirit:
“And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. If a son shall ask bread of any of you that is a father, will he give him a stone? or if he ask a fish, will he for a fish give him a serpent? Or if he shall ask an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?” ~ Luke 11:9-13 (Jesus)
Jesus gives us a clue. To receive the Holy Spirit, we must ask for it/seek it. It is a gift from God to those that believe and are obedient to Him.
“Him hath God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins. And we are his witnesses of these things; and so is also the Holy Ghost, whom God hath given to them that obey him.” ~ Acts 5:31-32
Please recognize something, the Holy Spirit is given by God. This gift is not given by man, it comes from God the creator of all things. Some sects of Christianity attempt to claim ownership over the dispensation of the Holy Spirit, yet this gift isn’t for man to give. It comes from the Father and is given to those that ask for it and seek it. That being said, there are a number of methods for receiving the Holy Spirit that we can gather from the testimony of the Bible. We already know that early in the book of Acts, the disciples received the Holy Spirit from God via tongues of fire. So here is one example of God dispensing the Holy Spirit Himself. As we read into acts we find many examples of the Apostles laying hands on new believers and praying over them to receive the Holy Spirit. We also find that two signs accompanied the baptism with the Holy Spirit- which were speaking in tongues and prophecy. This is how they would know who had received the Holy Spirit, and who hadn’t. God does not change, and neither does the activity of His Holy Spirit. These same two signs can be seen today in those that have truly received the Holy Spirit and believe in the Word. You may ask- “Well I have received the Holy Spirit in my church but I don’t speak in tongues or prophecy, why?” The answer is that you’ve probably been taught not to believe in what the Bible says, and rather have followed man-made doctrines that teach that this doesn’t happen anymore. You view your faith through religious glasses, rather than for what the Word of God testifies of. You believe what man says about you as a new creation, rather than what the Bible says about you as the new creation. Seek out these supernatural signs of confirmation and you will find them. So we’ve established that many received the Holy Spirit from God through the Apostles laying hands on them and praying over them. Next comes the example of Cornelius the Gentile, who received the Holy Spirit from God in the presence of the Apostle Peter:
“While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word. And they of the circumcision which believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost. For they heard them speak with tongues, and magnify God. Then answered Peter, Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we? And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. Then prayed they him to tarry certain days.” ~ Acts 10:44-48
“And as I began to speak, the Holy Ghost fell on them, as on us at the beginning. Then remembered I the word of the Lord, how that he said, John indeed baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost. Forasmuch then as God gave them the like gift as he did unto us, who believed on the Lord Jesus Christ; what was I, that I could withstand God?” ~ Acts 11:15-17
“And when there had been much disputing, Peter rose up, and said unto them, Men and brethren, ye know how that a good while ago God made choice among us, that the Gentiles by my mouth should hear the word of the gospel, and believe. And God, which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as he did unto us; And put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith.” ~ Acts 15:7-9
Here in Peter’s testimony you can see again that God is the giver of the Holy Spirit. As he was speaking to these Gentiles, the Holy Spirit came upon all of them and they began to speak in tongues. So here is an example similar to the example of the original disciples in the upper room on Pentecost who received the Holy Spirit from God Himself. This time God revealed that the gospel should be preached to the Gentile nations, by putting his seal of approval on Cornelius and those gathered at his home. Next we have the example of the Apostle Paul. You may wonder, how did Paul receive the Holy Spirit? Let’s take a look:
“And Ananias went his way, and entered into the house; and putting his hands on him said, Brother Saul, the Lord, even Jesus, that appeared unto thee in the way as thou camest, hath sent me, that thou mightest receive thy sight, and be filled with the Holy Ghost. And immediately there fell from his eyes as it had been scales: and he received sight forthwith, and arose, and was baptized. And when he had received meat, he was strengthened. Then was Saul certain days with the disciples which were at Damascus.” ~ Acts 9:17-19
Here you can see, Paul was with Ananias and there were no Apostles present. Ananias, a Holy Spirit filled believer in Jesus but not an Apostle, tells Paul that he was sent by Jesus so that Paul could receive sight and be filled with the Holy Ghost. So here we have a case where Ananias an every day typical Holy Spirit filled believer baptizes Paul with water and the Holy Spirit. Continuing on in Paul’s ministry, we come to the example in 1 Corinthians. In this letter, Paul is dealing with an issue where divisions began to form among the Christian body. Some, because they were baptized by Apollos, some by Cephas, some by Paul, were saying that they were followers of Apollos, Cephas, Paul or Christ. Paul scolds them for these divisions and reminds them that they are in Christ only. He tells them that he is glad he baptized none of them except only a few:
“Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ. Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul? I thank God that I baptized none of you, but Crispus and Gaius; Lest any should say that I had baptized in mine own name. And I baptized also the household of Stephanas: besides, I know not whether I baptized any other. For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect.” ~ 1 Corinthians 1:12-17
Think about this- if Paul hadn’t baptized any of these people except a small few, than who did? These were gentiles in Corinth under Paul’s care, yet he baptized none of them. He even says he is thankful that Christ sent him “not to baptize,” but rather to preach the gospel. So here we can see that Apollos, Cephas, and other elders and mature Christians in Corinth were performing these three-fold baptisms, which was causing divisions among the brethren. One would be baptized by Apollos and then say they were of Apollos rather than Christ. Another would be baptized by Cephas and say they were of Cephas rather than Christ. This was turning into a real problem. Paul continues:
“For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men? For while one saith, I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos; are ye not carnal? Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed, even as the Lord gave to every man? I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase. So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase. Now he that planteth and he that watereth are one: and every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labour. For we are labourers together with God: ye are God’s husbandry, ye are God’s building.” ~ 1 Corinthians 3:3-9
You can see Paul clarifying that there is no difference between Paul or Apollos, they are both ministers who brought the gospel to them as “THE LORD GAVE TO EVERY MAN.” We are all working in the same vineyard- all planting, all watering, all laboring- but GOD GIVES THE INCREASE. We all labor but no man can boast of anything, as only God can give the increase of the crop. We will receive our reward according to our labor in the garden from God, not from men. This is a call to end divisions of people following this man or that man, this sect or that sect. Are you baptized into the name of Catholicism, the Baptist church, Reformation churches, the Anglican church, the Methodist, etc- or are you baptized into the name of Jesus Christ? The Bible tells us we are all in Christ, part of one body where no man receives glory:
“Therefore let no man glory in men. For all things are your’s; Whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; all are your’s; And ye are Christ’s; and Christ is God’s.” ~ 1 Corinthians 3:21-23
This example in 1 Corinthians is a powerful example of how the church was intended to work. We can clearly see that three-fold baptism wasn’t just the work of the Apostles, but rather it was the work of every mature Holy Spirit filled Christian. Paul didn’t depend on himself to dispense the Holy Spirit to all of the Gentiles. He knew that if believers had knowledge of the baptism, they could do it themselves. This is why he asks another group- “Have you received the Holy Ghost since you believed?”:
“And it came to pass, that, while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul having passed through the upper coasts came to Ephesus: and finding certain disciples, He said unto them, Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed? And they said unto him, We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost. And he said unto them, Unto what then were ye baptized? And they said, Unto John’s baptism. Then said Paul, John verily baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying unto the people, that they should believe on him which should come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus. When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Ghost came on them; and they spake with tongues, and prophesied.” ~ Acts 19:2-6
Paul was walking on the upper coast and just stumbled across some men that believed in Jesus. We know this because it says that they were disciples. Paul knew that with God, the work of the Holy Spirit is greater than any one man or even many men. He knew that God would send the Holy Spirit to those that ask Him, just as Jesus proclaimed. He knew that there were multiple ways that a believer could receive the Holy Spirit, having himself received the Holy Spirit by the hands of Ananias. For this reason he had to ask the group this question “have you received the Holy Ghost since you believed?” He came to find that they didn’t yet have knowledge of the gift of the Holy Spirit or the baptism with water in Jesus’ name, so he took this as an opportunity to teach and disciple them, bringing them full knowledge of the gifts and greatness of our God. He laid hands on them in prayer so that they would receive this gift of the Holy Spirit, also an act of discipleship. Again please realize, God dispenses His Holy Spirit- not men.
“He therefore that despiseth, despiseth not man, but God, who hath also given unto us his holy Spirit.” ~ 1 Thessalonians 4:8
So you can see that this gift of the Holy Spirit, the third part of baptism, is available for all men. It is not restricted to one group or another- it is given to those that obey God, believe in Jesus, have knowledge of three-fold baptism and ask for the Holy Spirit. It can be received by the laying on of hands of an Apostle, by laying on of hands of a mature Holy Spirit filled Christian, or you can just ask God for it yourself as Jesus instructs in the book of Luke. If you are approached by someone claiming to be an Apostle, test them in obedience to the warning of Revelation, as many false Apostles have gone out preaching false doctrines:
“I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars“ ~ Revelation 2:2
Those with this claim of Apostleship that disregard the Word of God in the Bible and lack the power of the Holy Spirit, are false. When you truly receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, you will speak in tongues, you may even prophecy. Yes this happens today still. The work of the Holy Spirit today is exactly as it was in the examples we find in the Bible. It is moving in places all over the world, and no man, no church, no sect is able to control its movement. The work of God is bigger than any one man-made group could ever handle. We hope that you hear the advice of Paul to the Corinthians, and that you realize who you are in Christ only. All of those that believe and are baptized make up the body of Christ, and this body is more complex than any human can fathom. Along with the Holy Spirit comes all of the gifts of the Spirit- healing, prophecy, words of wisdom and knowledge, tongues, dreams and visions, etc. These will begin to manifest in your life when you receive the gift. If you are seeking help with three-fold baptism, or with understanding/receiving baptism of the Holy Spirit, please don’t hesitate to contact us today!