The book of Acts is a unique book in the Bible. It records a new moment and movement in redemptive history. The Holy Spirit now, through faith in Jesus, indwells all believers. The Spirit is mentioned more in Acts than in any other book—over 50 times. The Holy Spirit is present with believers wherever they go, no matter what opposition they face as they spread the gospel of Jesus to the ends of the earth. The Holy Spirit is at work in the church, and He makes the gospel effective and powerful.
While much could be said about the Holy Spirit and his work in history, we want to address an important question that surfaces from our study of Acts. While we believe the Holy Spirit indwells all believers indiscriminately of their status, wealth, or position in the church, some churches teach that there is a “second baptism” of the Spirit. This second baptism is thought to be accompanied at times with speaking in various languages or other miraculous signs.
The Holy Spirit in the New Testament
Several scriptural references are used to support this belief; however, we do not believe in a doctrine of the second baptism of the Spirit. In order to understand the work of the Spirit in the book of Acts and in our own lives, we must understand that the book of Acts records a unique moment in the history of salvation. Following the storyline of Acts can help us understand what was taking place.
First, Jesus told his apostles that they would be witnesses in Jerusalem and all Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the earth (to the Gentiles – Acts 1:8). This order unfolds as we read Acts. When the Spirit descends at Pentecost, the apostles are gathered together in Jerusalem, which is the first place of their witness. After the Spirit indwells the believers there, Peter preaches the gospel of Jesus to all who are looking on in curiosity. Many believe the gospel and become members of the Church.
Second, in Acts 8, we see the next major movement in the story as the witness of Jesus as the resurrected Lord and Christ extends beyond the borders of Jerusalem to Samaria. When the Samaritans believed the gospel, Peter and John arrive to verify that they have believed the gospel, and then the Samaritans received the Holy Spirit. This is important for them to witness because it demonstrates that salvation through Jesus is open to all, not just Jews. This is not a normal pattern in the life of the church today. This was a unique moment in history that is not repeatable.
Finally, in Acts 10 the gospel begins its movement to the ends of the earth as it reaches Cornelius through Peter. As Peter preached the gospel and the Gentiles believed, they experienced the same phenomenon of speaking in various languages that the Jewish Christians experienced when they believed the gospel. The purpose of this was to show that the Gentiles who believe in Jesus have the same Spirit that the Jewish believers have. They were not second-class believers but shared in the same Spirit.
As we move beyond the book of Acts, Paul says in various places the Holy Spirit is received at the moment of conversion through belief in Jesus. Paul wrote in 1 Cor 12:13, “For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit” ( 1 Cor. 12:13). In 2 Cor. 1:21–22, Paul says the Holy Spirit is given to believers as a seal and guarantee of God’s work for us and in us. And finally, and most clearly, Paul says that believers receive the Holy Spirit from the moment they hear the word of truth (the gospel) and believe in Jesus (Eph. 1:13–14).
One of the dangers of a “second baptism” of the Holy Spirit is that it creates second-class Christians, those who have received a second baptism and those who have not. This belief runs contrary to the emphasis in the New Testament that all believers receive the Holy Spirit at the moment of conversion, that we are a part of one body with the same Holy Spirit, who have received one baptism (Eph 4:4–6).
The Filling of the Holy Spirit
While there is not a second baptism of the Holy Spirit, Paul does instruct believers to be filled with the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 5:18). If we continue to let Scripture teach us on this matter, we will listen to what Paul says are the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22–23. Paul says, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things, there is no law” (Gal. 5:22–23) .To be Spirit-filled in part means that the fruits of the Spirit are more and more evident in our lives as we are conformed to the image of Jesus. In addition, believers may experience particular moments of spiritual empowerment for a specific task, like sharing or preaching the gospel to the lost (Acts 4:8–13). This is tied to our experience of the intensified work of the Spirit in us and not a second reception of the Spirit.
It is possible for believers to quench the Spirit by not yielding to his influence or obeying him (1 Thess 5:19). We may quench the Spirit by failing to pray or failing to honor and obey God’s Word as it is preached. The Bible, after all, was inspired by the Holy Spirit. To disregard the Scriptures in negligence or disobedience is a kind of quenching of the Spirit. When believers quench the Holy Spirit, we are not living in the fullness of life we are intended to experience as we walk with Jesus. God’s intent is that we would experience the power, boldness, and new life the Spirit brings.
Believers receive the Holy Spirit at the moment of conversion to the Christian faith through belief in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. The Book of Acts records a unique period in the history of the Church that is in many ways not repeatable and not the normative pattern for the Church today. While there is only one baptism of the Spirit for believers, this is not to say that believers may experience various times in their lives where they are more Spirit-filled the closer they walk with Jesus or to say that the Spirit may not empower them for specific tasks. It is simply to say that believers all possess the same Holy Spirit who seals us, sanctifies us, and assures us that we are the children of God (Romans 8:14–17).
The Baptist Faith and Message 2000 explains the person and work of the Holy Spirit this way. The italicized text makes clear our position on this issue:
The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of God, fully divine. He inspired holy men of old to write the Scriptures. Through illumination, He enables men to understand truth. He exalts Christ. He convicts men of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment. He calls men to the Saviour, and effects regeneration. At the moment of regeneration, He baptizes every believer into the Body of Christ. He cultivates Christian character, comforts believers, and bestows the spiritual gifts by which they serve God through His church. He seals the believer unto the day of final redemption. His presence in the Christian is the guarantee that God will bring the believer into the fullness of the stature of Christ. He enlightens and empowers the believer and the church in worship, evangelism, and service.
The Holy Spirit is present with every believer from the moment of regeneration—when we are made alive in Christ through faith in him for salvation.