In the previous post I noted two consequential facts we get from the biblical data on Spirit baptism:
- The fact that Jesus is the one baptizing (Mt 3.11), but the event doesn’t happen until after he returns to heaven (Ac 1.5)
- The fact that the baptism places the person into the body of Christ (1Co 12.13)
The first fact tells us that Spirit baptism is a spiritual rather than a physical experience; Jesus, ascended to heaven and seated at the right hand of the Father, immerses us (there’s my Baptist bias showing) into the Spirit. Figuring out what exactly that means is difficult, because this is happening in the spiritual realm, but I read it as associating us closely with the Spirit as an initiation of his (the Spirit’s) work in us—most especially indwelling (Jn 14.17; 1Co 3.16; 6.19) and the related works of convicting, teaching, and sanctifying (2Co 3.18). Perhaps it’s associated with sealing (2Co 1.21-22; Ep 1.13-14; 4.30) as well.
The second fact is a key truth, one that settles the disagreement between Charismatics and Evangelicals. Spirit baptism is the mechanism, if I can put it that way, by which believers are placed into the body of Christ. Now, “the body of Christ” includes all Christians—
- Our verse says that: “by one Spirit are we all baptized …” (1Co 12.13).
- Paul tells the Roman church that “we … are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another” (Ro 12.5).
- He tells the Ephesian church that the Father “gave [Christ] to be the head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all” (Ep 1.22-23).
- He tells them further that “Gentiles … [are] of the same body, and partakers of [God’s] promise in Christ by the gospel” (Ep 3.6).
- He tells the Colossian believers that “[Christ’s] body … is the church” (Co 1.24).
And in the close context of our passage, Paul says that
- “Ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular” (1Co 12.27), and
- “The … Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills” (1Co 12.11 NASB).
These passages demonstrate that every Christian is a member of the body of Christ, by definition. That means that the believer must be placed into the body at the moment of his conversion; if the placement occurred later, there would be some Christians who aren’t yet in the body of Christ.
And how are we placed into the body of Christ, the church? By Spirit baptism.
So when and how often does Spirit baptism occur? Once, to every believer, at conversion.
There are several works of the Spirit that occur after conversion, some of which I’ve mentioned above. One I haven’t mentioned is filling, which appears to impart special strength to a believer temporarily, perhaps for a particular work (Ac 4.8; 7.55; 9.17; 13.9; Ep 5.18). The Charismatic position would be closer to the truth if it replaced its consideration of Spirit baptism with filling.
As it is, if a Charismatic believer asks me if I’ve received the baptism of the Spirit, I say, “Of course—when I got saved.” That can start a conversation.
So. If you are a believer, Christ has baptized you in, or with, the Holy Spirit. In doing that, he’s placed you into the body of Christ.
There are a good many implications of that fact. We’ll look at some of them in the next post.
Photo by Paul Bulai on Unsplash