The Baptism with the Holy Spirit: Objections and Questions

Having written about the baptism with the Holy Spirit in previous articles, there are some objections to it that I wish to address here, as well as questions that I’ve been asked about this on my Facebook page.

  1. A common objection says that only the apostles could pray for people to receive the baptism with the Holy Spirit, therefore, it was an experience that was available only for the early church and it ceased when the last apostle died.

Going by the events of Acts 8:14-17, this would appear to be true. Philip the evangelist preached in Samaria and many were saved by believing the gospel. Then the apostles in Jerusalem sent Peter and John to them to minister the Holy Spirit baptism.

But going back to Acts 1, we see that there were about 120 believers gathered together at the upper room (vs. 15). They didn’t consist of 12 apostles – and all of them received the outpouring of the Holy Spirit (2:4).

When Peter preached to the crowd after Pentecost, he based this experience on the fulfilment of Bible prophecy in Joel 2:28-32. In it, God promised to pour out His Spirit upon “on all people” and His gifts will be bestowed on men and women, young and old, and it will extend to their sons and daughters.

In other words, the baptism with the Holy Spirit was to continue from generation to generation until the end of the Church Age. It was not God’s plan for it to die off with the foundational apostles.

It’s also evident that Peter and the apostles didn’t believe that the gifts of the Holy Spirit would be restricted to only the apostles or the apostolic age or even to the Jews alone. This why he said:

“This promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off – for all whom the Lord our God will call” (Acts 2:39).

If you have been called by God out of the dominion of Satan, sin and the world into the kingdom of His dear Son, this blessing is for you. Even in the NT, there appeared to be a succession of spiritual gifts onto young believers by the laying on of hands (1 Tim. 4:14; 2Tim. 1:6).

From early church history, the writings of men like Eusebius, Irenaeus, Chrysostom of Constantinople, and Augustine of Hippo showed that speaking in tongues after being baptized in the Holy Spirit was known among many Christians (who weren’t even leaders) in various regions.

Furthermore, Ananias was described as “a certain disciple” (Acts 9:10) and wasn’t an apostle, yet he ministered the baptism of the Holy Spirit to Saul of Tarsus. Nowhere does the New Testament say only apostles or bishops could have or administer it.

  1. Another objection says that the gifts of the Spirit were only given to the early church to witness to the people of the supernatural, but now the testimony of the church is “faith, love and hope” (1 Cor. 13:13).

The proceeding verse after the prooftext says: “Follow the way of love and eagerly desire spiritual gifts…” (1 Cor. 14:1). It didn’t say “or eagerly desire spiritual gifts.” We are commanded to desire both because both are real and vital for every era of the church.

Another prooftext used as a prop is 1 Cor. 13:8 “Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.”

This verse alone doesn’t indicate that the gifts of the Holy Spirit have ceased. It says that tongues will cease, not that they have ceased. All of these things are future tense. Therefore, prophecies, tongues and knowledge haven’t vanished away.

To understand what this text is saying, we have to include the proceeding verses:

“9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.”

It’s interesting to see how preconceived notions can obscure the interpretation of otherwise clear bible passages.

Some people read these verses and what they make of them is “‘When completeness comes’ is referring to the Bible. Now that the Bible is in its complete form, we no longer need the gifts of the Spirit!”

But reading it carefully, we see that it’s contrasting time and eternity. Prophecies are supernatural glimpses because we still know in part; and that will be as long as we are in this mortal flesh. We don’t yet see the spiritual face to face, we still see only a reflection of its mysteries.

So until when this imperfect era gives way to perfect eternity, prophecies have not ceased, tongues have not stilled and knowledge has not passed away.

In fact, apostle Paul wrote in details about the gifts of tongues and prophecies which should let us know that such guidelines were binding on future generations of the church. For example, he said:

“Therefore, my brothers and sisters, be eager to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues.” (1 Cor. 14:39)

  1. Another objection – and this is the most toxic – is that any manifestation of the gifts of the Holy Spirit today is of the devil.

I’m yet to see a single biblical support from those who mouth this bilge. It’s often a syllogism that flows from objections 1 and 2.

Now, if the gifts of the Holy Spirit are of the devil as they claim, they need to tell us precisely when this subversion came to be. Turns out that many cessationists deny the supernatural in Christianity but acknowledge it in the devil’s fold.

If these spiritual gifts were described in the New Testament and these things were “written to teach us so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope,” then we will like to know exactly when the devil took them over from the church (Rom. 15:4).

Some others try to discredit the baptism with the Holy Spirit by instilling fear into the hearts of Christians that if they prayed to be filled with the Holy Spirit, they will receive a demon of false tongues or a demon of divination.

One of the earliest materials where I found this reprehensible idea disseminated was a work by Ellen G. White published in the late 19th century:

“Satan appeared to be by the throne, trying to carry on the work of God. I saw them look up to the throne, and pray, “Father, give us Thy Spirit.” Satan would then breathe upon them an unholy influence; in it there was light and much power, but no sweet love, joy, and peace” (Early Writings 56.1).

Some of those who teach this heresy in churches today apparently picked it from here and modified it. They might not come all out to say Satan sits on God’s throne, but they will always accord to him a level of authority over fellow believers sincerely seeking God’s gifts.

We need to read Luke 11:11-13 out loud to them:

“Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”

Jesus might not be speaking of a literal snake and scorpion here, He could be referring to spiritual serpents and scorpions – demon spirits.

If you are a child of God, God is your Father, and there is no way you would ask Him to fill you with His Spirit which He promised to give, and He as a loving Father will send you a demonic spirit nor would He let that happen to you.

“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows” (Jas. 1:17)

The only way you can receive a wrong spirit is if you didn’t seek the God of the Bible or you didn’t go through His only Son, Jesus or you deliberately invited a demon in by invoking it or following its prescribed rites.

This explains why some adherents of white garment churches and other semi-pagan systems have counterfeit spiritual gifts and supernatural experiences.

But the existence of the counterfeit points to the validity of the original, just as fake currency is an imitation of a genuine one.

I’ve been asked about those who realize they have certain “gifts” from their childhood or observed that they “inherited” them from their parents.

The gifts of the Holy Spirit are bestowed only on believers, so if these individuals were saved from young ages and filled with the Holy Spirit from that period, they will exhibit these gifts as God wills.

On the other hand, if they weren’t saved and their parents who had these “gifts” weren’t saved or were involved in pagan religions, occult arts or New Age spirituality, that could signify demonic infestation. They would need to renounce such gifts and kick out the false spirits operating behind them.

I’ve been asked if dreams and visions are also gifts of the Holy Spirit. No, they are not (See 1 Cor. 12:1-11). Although some gifts of the Holy Spirit like prophecies, discernment of spirits, word of knowledge or word of wisdom can be expressed through dreams or visions, this doesn’t always happen.

In syncretic churches, they have seers or psychics who specialize in dreams and visions and are given this kind of “power” through certain rituals. These seers wear four-cornered caps and are known to also give wild, ecstatic and ritual-themed prophecies after they’ve danced to drums or repetitive chants.

Many of them will also tell you to pray to angels and spirits which visit or speak to them in their dreams and visions, but if you know the Word of God and could discern spirits, you can figure out that these seers are vessels of evil spirits.

I’ve also been asked about instances where a believer used to be filled with the Holy Spirit and speak in tongues, but no longer does so. If I were counseling such a person, I’d want to know if he had totally backslid or still actively prays and studies the bible but merely experienced a period of spiritual dryness.

Being filled with the Holy Spirit is not a one-time experience because as long as we live in this mortal flesh, we will “leak” and need to be re-filled. The responsibility to build ourselves up spiritually and stir up the gift of God within us lies on us:

“Therefore I remind you to stir up the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands.” (2 Tim. 1:6)

“Therefore strengthen the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees” (Heb. 12:12)

The Baptism with the Holy Spirit: Requirements to Receive it

One question that usually comes up when this topic is being discussed borders on the requirements of receiving the infilling of the Holy Spirit.

There are two schools of thought in this regard: those who believe one has to be “entirely sanctified” before one can receive the baptism with the Holy Spirit and those who believe it is received on the basis of grace through faith.

The first school of thought argues that the disciples received the Holy Spirit after they were totally sanctified as evidenced by their being “with one accord” in the upper room at Pentecost (Acts 2:1 KJV).

The disciples been together in a place had more to do with obedience to Jesus’ instruction to “stay in the city” until they were clothed with the power of the Holy Spirit (Lk. 24:49 NIV) – and possibly their fear of antagonistic Jewish leaders – than “entire sanctification.”

After Pentecost, the Epistles didn’t indicate that the disciples were sinlessly perfect. Peter, for instance, became hypocritical by discriminating against Gentile Christians (Gal. 2:11-14) and Paul admitted later that he’s not “already perfected” but was still striving towards attaining it (Phil. 3:12).

While I respect the sincerity of those who subscribe to “total sanctification before baptism with the Holy Spirit” doctrine, their position requires an inconsistent and tenuous interpretation of certain Bible passages.

Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38)

Two things are mentioned here: repentance and baptism in the name of Jesus. It describes the Holy Spirit baptism as a gift from God; we receive it by faith in Jesus Christ as an all-sufficient Saviour apart from the works of the law.

If we earned this gift or deserved it, it wouldn’t be a gift but a wage. Jesus says receiving the Holy Spirit is a gift (Luke 11:13). We receive it on the same fundamental conditions as the gift of salvation: repentance and faith in Jesus Christ.

This only I want to learn from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?” (Gal. 3:2)

The Galatians fell into the error of believing that unless one adhered to the law of Moses along with the grace of Christ, one wasn’t practicing the true faith. Paul attributed this drawback to works of the law to a spell: a deceiving satanic influence.

This same idea is still with us today in the form of teachings that unless you followed a long list of legalistic rules or a set of standards arbitrarily set up by mankind, you can’t receive God’s blessings.

In the book of Acts we see a divine precedent in the experience of the Gentiles in Cornelius’ house who received the Holy Spirit baptism (Acts 10:24-48).

These weren’t Jews seeking to follow the law of Moses. They were Gentiles, and this was probably the first time any of them had heard the Gospel. Yet the Holy Spirit fell on them while Peter preached the word of God, and they spoke with tongues.

It would be unrealistic to think that they were totally free from the defilement of their Gentile background or that every area of their lives was in line with God’s standards. Yet Peter commanded them to be baptized, thereby acknowledging that they had become members of Christ’s church. (Note: water baptism wasn’t a prerequisite to receiving the Holy Spirit).

Speaking of this experience later, Peter said:

“God, who knows the heart, showed that he accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as he did to us. He did not discriminate between us [Jews] and them [Gentiles], for he purified their hearts by faith.(Acts 15:8-9)

This is the essential requirement to receiving the Holy Spirit: a heart purified by faith. Contrary to what some are led to believe, the Holy Spirit will dwell in a vessel that is not totally clean provided He has been given access to the central area of the human personality: the heart. The Bible says:

“Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life” (Prov. 4:23). Once our hearts are open to the Holy Spirit, He will change all other areas of our lives by the outworking of His grace.

Again, we see from Acts 19:2, 6 that sometimes, the experiential reception of the baptism with the Holy Spirit is conditioned on the believer’s knowledge that there is such a blessing and that it is for him or her now.

In Acts 5:32, we read:

“And we are His witnesses to these things, and so also is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey Him.”

From this, we see that obedience can also be a requirement and this proceeds from a heart that loves God (“If you love Me, keep My commandments” John 14:15). The Holy Spirit will not come upon those who hate God or rebel against His Word. They will dwell in a spiritual dry land (Psa. 68:6).

There could be some instances where a believer would fruitlessly seek the Holy Spirit baptism without success, in these cases, one needs to discern their spiritual state. They could be from occult backgrounds with pacts, oaths and seals that still bind their minds to Satan or it could be that they lack faith, or they harbour bitterness against God or others.

For instance, in Acts 8, Simon who was formerly a sorcerer had made the whole of Samaria a New Age village of sorts. He was converted after believing the gospel, was baptized in water, but he obviously couldn’t receive the Holy Spirit because his “heart [was] not right in the sight of God… [he was] poisoned by bitterness and bound by iniquity.” (vv. 21, 23).

The same can (and does) happen today. But nowhere does one find in the Bible perfect holiness or sanctification as a condition for receiving the Holy Spirit baptism. There is a difference between gifts of the Spirit and fruit of the spirit.

Balaam had a beautiful gift of prophecy yet died in apostasy. King Saul received the Holy Spirit, but because of his self-will and disobedience, he lost God’s approval and eventually died under His judgement.

Samson was amazingly empowered by the Spirit of God, yet fleshy lusts dominated him and he died unable to rescue Israel from her enemies. The real proof of holiness is not the gift of the Holy Spirit, but the fruits
of the regenerated spirit.

Conversely, the teaching that every area of a person’s life must be totally clean before the Holy Spirit will indwell him may result in one of two grave consequences:

It may deter some sincere believers from seeking the infilling of the Holy Spirit, since they say to themselves, “I’ll never be able to reach that pinnacle of Christian experience.”

Or it may condition others who have received the baptism with the Holy Spirit into smug hypocrisy. With that, they assume: “I must have been perfect to have received the Holy Spirit, so now I have to be perfect all the time.”

This has resulted in some duplicitous and judgemental lifestyles in which Christians view their own sins through a rose-coloured glass but are quick to beat down other believers who are not living up to their own finicky rules with the club of condemnation.

Such people still tell lies, but will call them “white lies.” They still hate other people, but will justify it saying, “My spirit doesn’t flow with them.” They still lose their temper and rechristen it “holy anger.” They become proud and unteachable because…well, “I’ve been saved, totally sanctified and baptized with the Holy Spirit and that settles it! Glory.”

Every Christian is in a constant striving against sin as long he/she is still in this mortal flesh. That’s why several places in the Epistles (in continued tenses) admonish us to be cleansed from personal sins. For example:

“But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.” (1 John 1:7)

“But exhort one another daily, while it is called “Today,” lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.” (Heb. 3:13)

You have not yet resisted to bloodshed, striving against sin.” (Heb. 12:4)

Hebrews 10:14: “For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified.

If sanctification is an instantaneous process, these passages wouldn’t be addressed to us. In the last verse, the writer uses a perfect tense to describe the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. It is perfected finally and forever complete. Nothing needs to be added to it and nothing can ever be taken away from it.

In describing the work of sanctification, however, the writer uses a progressive tense: They are being sanctified.

Becoming holy is a stage-by-stage appropriation of what has already been made available to us by the sacrifice of Jesus. In this process the Holy Spirit is our Helper. He doesn’t fill us when we become perfect; He helps us to reach it.

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.