Baptism with the Holy Spirit

The topic of baptism with the Holy Spirit has been controversial since Azusa Street. If you don’t know what I mean by “Asuza Street,” this refers to a spiritual experience in a local church in Los Angeles at the beginning of the 20th Century. The church had her address in Asuza Street.


The spiritual experience was known as the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Those who encountered God differently and changed their spiritual life felt this could only be the baptism of the Holy Spirit that they read in the Bible. Asuza Street is considered the birthplace of the Pentecostal movement. Even though not everyone became Pentecostals. In the UK, one of the prominent leaders was an Anglican minister called Alexander Boddy. He was “the Vicar of All Saint’s Sunderland where the first Pentecostal Conventions were held in the UK. He had visited the Welsh Revival and heard of the great spiritual advances made at Los Angeles, USA and in Norway under the ministry of T. B. Barratt. He urged Barratt to come to Britain...” (from How Pentecost Came to Britain).


Today, the Pentecostal churches report a membership of over 280 million. If you also add the Charismatic movement, it is over 600 million. It is unbelievable to see the growth that has occurred since 1906. Through them, there is a fresh vitality in worship and remarkable obedience to evangelism and advancing the Kingdom of God in this generation.


Let us look at what the Bible says about “baptism with the Holy Spirit.” There are only six bible references in the New Testament. Four of them are found on the gospels (Matthews 3.11; Mark 1.8; Luke 3.16; John 1.33), it refers to John the Baptist, making a direct reference to Jesus. The other two refer to the Holy Spirit’s personal work on the believers in the book of Acts (Acts 1:5; Acts 11:16).




Jesus asked the disciples to stay in Jerusalem until the Holy Spirit comes (see Acts 1:4-5). Jesus’ promise come to pass ten days after on Pentecost (Acts 2:1-13). It was the fulfilment of Joel’s prophecy given over 800 years before Pentecost (see Joel 2:28-32; cf. Acts 2:14-21).


Pentecost was the Jewish festival that occurs 50 days after the Feast of Unleavened Bread (Deuteronomy 16:9, see also Leviticus 23:16). It was also known by the feast of harvest and the day of firstfruits (Exodus 23:16; Numbers 28:26, see also Exodus 34:22). Firstfruits refers to the gathering of the earliest fruits taken from the crop. It helps the farmer to see how good the harvest is going to be. It is a sign of God’s faithfulness.


It was on Pentecost that the Holy Spirit baptised the disciples. It was the fulfilment of Joel’s prophecy and the firstfruits of the coming global harvest. In that day, 3,000 people repented of their sins and confessed Jesus as Lord.


Because of such an unusual event, there is a debate about what it means to be baptised with the Holy Spirit. There are Christians that believe it is an experience separated from Conversion and Baptism. Others think it happens separately from Baptism with evidence of speaking in tongues. Some identified with Holy Baptism. Another group believes it occurs at the moment of conversion, even some say that the Holy Spirit’s gifts are no longer available to the Church.




A growing group of Christians came from the renewal of the Holy Spirit in the late 1950s. They are known globally as the Charismatic movement. Among them, it became an idea/conviction that it was a middle way between Pentecostals and Conservative Evangelicals.


They identified the Holy Spirit’s experience, not as the baptism of the Holy Spirit, but the filling of the Holy Spirit. “And don’t get drunk with wine, which leads to reckless living, but be filled by the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18). 


It refers not to a single and punctual experience, but it should be better translated as “be filled continually with the Holy Spirit.” Implying that it should be a consistent experience in the life of all the Christians. 




The question arises what position could reflect better the teachings of the Bible. I would like to briefly present what the Scripture says. We must discern what the Lord is saying if we will experience the everlasting life starting at salvation, even if it will only be complete in the coming of Jesus.


I don’t believe “baptism” and “be filled” are contrary to each other. Neither I think it is a matter of choosing one over the other. 


In Luke 24:46-49, we read, “This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead the third day, and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be proclaimed in his name to all the nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And look, I am sending you what my Father promised. As for you, stay in the city until you are empowered from on high.”


The disciples were told by Jesus to wait in Jerusalem until they were “empowered from on high” (Luke 24:49). The Lord is even more specific in Acts 1:5. It says, “For John baptised with water, but in a few days you will be baptised with the Holy Spirit.”


Baptism of the Holy Spirit does not refer to the Holy Spirit within us (πληροω Pleroo or πληρησ Pleres). The indwelling of the Holy Spirit means He dwells in us at the moment of salvation (Acts 6:3, Acts 11:24, Eph 5:18, Philippians 1:11). It is through the Holy Spirit within us that we are sanctified and produce the fruit of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22-26). 


Instead, baptism with the Holy Spirit refers to the first outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon us (πληθω Pletho). In other words, the first time we are filled with the Holy Spirit. It is the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon us with power. 


Baptism with the Holy Spirit is a unique experience; however, being filled with the Holy Spirit is an experience that we need again and again, because it enables us to be witnesses to Jesus Christ. It is a supernatural empowering that we receive for the ministry and to serve the Lord fulfilling the Great Commission. The Lord makes it clear when he said, “you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come on you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8). 


In Acts, we read they were filled with the Holy Spirit again and again, as they went to make disciples among the nations according what Jesus has commanded them and they built the Church (Acts 4:8, Acts 4:31, Acts 9:17-20, Acts 13:9).


In a few words:


  • Every follower of Jesus has the Spirit within them since the moment of conversion (indwelling of the Holy Spirit). 
  • Every disciple needs the baptism with the Spirit upon them and being continually filled with the Holy Spirit. 
  • Baptism with the Holy Spirit is the first time when we are filled with the Holy Spirit, enabling us to fulfil the calling and mission God has given us. However, we must seek to be filled with the Holy Spirit again and again.




I have seen around the world dry bones that need renewal. We can lose our focus and forget God's mandate to advance the Kingdom of God. Life gets more demanding, and it is too easy to try to go by using our own strength, wisdom and talents. Soon, we find ourselves exhausted and without direction. We stop praying, quit reading the Bible, desist going to church, and so on.


It is time to be renewed and refreshed by the Holy Spirit. God never intended us to do it all in our own strength. Jesus promised that we were going to be baptised with the Holy Spirit. The disciples of Jesus were changed forever in the day of Pentecost. They became a courageous witness of the gospel. Their sadness changed to joy, and the timidity transformed into a passion for the Kingdom. They received the gift of tongues, instantly, and other spiritual gifts were demonstrated through the early church’s ministry because they were empowered by the Holy Spirit.  


The fact that there are people who experience the baptism of the Holy Spirit soon after they become a Christian, it does not mean it will be the case for all of us. I was baptised with the Holy Spirit almost five years after my conversion to Christ. 


It is a common mistake to think we have not been baptised with the Holy Spirit if we haven’t received the gift of tongues. The Holy Spirit gives spiritual gifts, according to His good and perfect will. It is often the case that the spiritual gifts are shown later. 


Whatever is your position, we must discern what the Bible teaches about “the baptism with the Holy Spirit.” There is still a lot of polemic around this subject. However, the church today has a better understanding of the work and ministry of the Holy Spirit.


If the church wants to recover the early vitality, it needs to experience a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit in this generation. I invite you to seek the Lord in this matter. If you have never been baptised with the Holy Spirit or been filled with the Holy Spirit. Ask and seek the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on your life.


Every blessing, every day,


Bishop Josep Rossello