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 face to face, we still see only a reflection of spiritual 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. 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 teach this 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)