Q. What do you believe about the Baptism in the Holy Spirit? Do you think it’s still relevant to us today?
A. This idea originated with a statement made by John the Baptist in Matt. 3:11. He said that while he baptized with water for repentance, another would come after him who would baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire. He was speaking about Jesus, and that his role was to prepare the world for the Lord’s coming. Much later, this gave rise to the belief that Christians actually need two baptisms, one of water and one of the Holy Spirit.
On the day of Pentecost the Holy Spirit descended on the disciples with tongues of fire enabling them to speak in such a way that all the people there heard them in their own languages. This led to the view that the baptism of the Holy Spirit is accompanied by the gift of tongues.
These conclusions have been shown to be bad theology for several reasons. First, we now baptize as a sign that we have already received Jesus, and therefore the Holy Spirit, not to prepare ourselves to do so as in John’s day.
Second, the disciples had actually received the Holy Spirit 50 days earlier in the Upper Room (John 20:22) and there was no manifestation of tongues. Third, the Greek in Acts 2 says that the Holy Spirit came upon them at Pentecost, not dwelt within them. This indicates that they were given a special ability to help confirm their claims to those listening. And in fact, in each of the three occasions where baptism is accompanied by tongues in the Book of Acts that is the case. And fourth, in his definitive explanation of Spiritual Gifts, Paul says that the Holy Spirit distributes gifts to believers as He sees fit, explaining that one will receive one kind of gift while another receives a different kind. (1 Cor.12:4-11) and implying in verse 30 that not all will speak in tongues.
All that said, the Holy Spirit is invested in each of us at the moment of belief, not at a special baptism. And at that time each of us is given one or more spiritual gifts, specifically chosen to help us make our unique contribution to the Church as a whole. From time to time, as it’s required, the Holy Spirit may also come upon any of us to perform a special miraculous feat, be it healing, raising the dead, speaking in other languages, prophesying, or whatever is needed to accomplish God’s purpose.