The Baptism with the Holy Spirit: the Nature of the Experience

It has been established from earlier posts on this topic that being filled with the Holy Spirit is a distinct experience. Like other supernatural feats, it has its outward and definitive features.

If you study the Acts of the Apostles, you’ll find out that when people were baptized with the Holy Spirit, they began to speak with other tongues.

It’s from these biblical events we infer that speaking in tongues is the initial evidence of the baptism in the Holy Spirit. Please note the term initial, because there are other evidences that follow it.

At Pentecost, the believers at the upper room “were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance” (Acts 2:4).

While Peter ministered to the household of Cornelius, “the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who heard the word… the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out… For they heard them speak with tongues and magnify God. (Acts 10:44-46)

When Paul ministered in Ephesus (about 20 years after the day of Pentecost) to the disciples there, “he laid hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke with tongues and prophesied.” (Acts 19:6)

There are only two instances where it wasn’t specifically mentioned that the recipients of the Holy Spirit baptism spoke in tongues. The first was in Samaria after Peter and John laid hands on the believers and they received the Holy Spirit (Acts 8:15-17).

However, it’s clear that there was an outward sign that accompanied that impartation of power. Simon the Sorcerer who was supposedly converted under Philip’s preaching, saw something:

“And when Simon saw that through the laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Spirit was given, he offered them money, saying, “Give me this power also, that anyone on whom I lay hands may receive the Holy Spirit. (Acts 8-18-19)

How could Simon have known the Christians were been filled with the Holy Spirit after hands were laid on them if there was no outward evidence of it?

A manifestation must have registered on his physical senses that the Holy Spirit power was received by those prayed for to have stimulated his crave for this power. It couldn’t have been been rejoicing. The Samaritans already had “great joy” even before they were filled with the Holy Spirit (vs. 8).

Simon certainly didn’t see the Holy Spirit – He is invisible – but he saw a supernatural evidence of His presence which he thought he could purchase with money.

Just as thousands of people could “see and hear” when the disciples were filled with the Holy Spirit after Pentecost and spoke in new tongues, there was also an outward evidence in Samaria (Acts 2:33).

In the light of the consistent record of the evidence accompanying the Holy Spirit baptism, one can say that the Samaritans also spoke in tongues. One can also respectfully disagree with this, but there should be an outward sign that one is filled with the Holy Spirit.

The second example is that of Saul of Tarsus’ experience after Ananias prayed for him to be filled with the Holy Spirit:

“And Ananias went his way and entered the house; and laying his hands on him he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you came, has sent me that you may receive your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” Immediately there fell from his eyes something like scales, and he received his sight at once; and he arose and was baptized.” (Acts 9:17-18)

Nothing is said about him speaking in tongues here, but later, Paul himself said:

“I thank my God I speak with tongues more than you all.” (1 Cor. 14:18). He must have started speaking in tongues from the time he was filled with the Holy Spirit. Or, he was bestowed that gift along the line.

Jesus had already mentioned that one of the supernatural signs that will follow believers is that “they will speak with new tongues” (Mark 16:17).

I’m aware that many people have sought to explain away, dismiss and outright deny this passage of the Bible, but the fact still remains that all the signs listed there are supernatural, and to strip Christianity of the supernatural is tantamount to putting God in a carefully constructed box of our own making.

If these supernatural signs are not evident in the life of a believer at some point or the other, it’s not due to God’s inability, it’s the fault of individuals and what they’ve chosen to believe.

Whenever a person is baptized with the Holy Spirit, there will be some gift that is imparted. These gifts are given to each one severally as the Holy Spirit wills, not as we dictate (1 Cor. 12:7, 11).

The more you surrender yourself to the disposal of the Holy Spirit, the more He will use you and select you for the kind of service He wills for you.

To accept Christ and reject His gifts is like a bride who agrees to marry a groom but rejects his ring – the seal of their covenant. What do you think will befall their relationship?

The baptism of the Holy Spirit is intended to clothe us with supernatural power from on high so we can be witnessss of Jesus Christ (Acts 1:8). It also empowers our prayer life and helps us to pray in accordance with the will of God (Romans 8:26-27; Eph. 6:18).

In every bible passage where the results of the baptism with the Holy Spirit are mentioned, they are related to testimony and service. It has to do with gifts for service rather than with graces of character, so it has no direct reference to cleansing from sin.

Jesus Himself, though the only unique Son of God, didn’t enter upon His ministry until the Spirit of God had come upon Him, and was “anointed with the Holy Spirit and power” (Acts 10:38; Luke 4:1, 14-18)

Therefore, the Holy Spirit baptism is not a substitute to knowing the Word of God, crucifying the flesh and other elements of Christian living.

Contrary to what some Christians have been made to believe, the Holy Spirit baptism is not a “once for all” experience. For instance, Peter is said to have been filled with the Holy Spirit on three different occasions (see Acts 2:4, 4:8 and 4:31).

We need a new filling of the Holy Spirit for each new emergency of Christian service. The Christian walk is a lifelong path. From the point of the initial experience of being baptized with the Holy Spirit, we must continually seek to be refilled.

If any believer doesn’t have this experience today, either he has been taught not to claim his privileges in Christ or he has been misled by certain teachings or stories that are aimed at sowing the seeds of fear and doubts into the minds of God’s people. Let me share my personal experience in this regard.

As a Christian teen, thirsty for the waters of knowledge, I read several Christian books. Some of the books that influenced my thinking at the time were by Rebecca Brown.

In her books Prepare for War and Becoming a Vessel of Honor, she touched on the subject of baptism of the Holy Spirit. It would take years for me to realize that she was so grossly misinformed about the subject that it would have been hilarious if it weren’t so tragic.

She depicted the Holy Spirit baptism as an experience that is so complicated and suspicious that if you seek it, you will end up with demons of false tongues and you might end up with afflictions or even become gay or lesbian!

So I decided I didn’t need it in my life because I wasn’t sure if I asked the Lord for that gift, He might put a snake in the package to discipline me for violating His rules. I would sometimes pray to be filled with the Holy Spirit, but I didn’t want that initial evidence of speaking in tongues.

Even when I felt the power of God on me during fervent prayer and prayed in tongues in the dream, I still thought I could be deceived if I spoke out as the Spirit was giving me utterances. What a hold the lying spirit from that book had on me!

That changed on January 21, 2005 when I was seeking for an admission into LAUTECH. A Christian friend I discussed this with introduced me to his friend, one brother Akin, a prayer warrior in his fellowship.

I visited his place and we discussed. Merely listening to him, I felt my spirit stirred up to pray and seek the Lord (when you are listening to a Spirit-filled believer speaking, you will know it).

When I objected to the baptism with the Holy Spirit with the evidence of speaking in tongues with possibility of being infested with a demon, he cited examples in the Bible and gently warned me about taking a popular author as my final authority.

He pointed me to Acts 2:38-39 and asked me to read it out loud. I did. He then asked me what it meant and right there, the spiritual veil imposed on me by a book putatively “exposing the devil” fell off my eyes and I realized that as a believer, God wants to bestow the gift of the Holy Spirit on me.

He asked if I was ready to receive it and I answered in the affirmative. My faith had geared up that Friday evening. He took me to the back of the building and we began to pray together, asking the Lord to fill me and I felt the power of God fall upon me and I staggered and right there, I began to pray loudly and boldly in tongues. I was so happy.

I lost contact with brother Akin after then (not many people had mobile phones back then), but his parting words was that I should continue to build myself up by praying in the Spirit.

This experience radicalized my life and opened the door to the supernatural for me.

The infilling of the Holy Spirit is for every believer, not just for the pastors, prophets, evangelists or a special class of very holy Christians.

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