Q. I have been attending a great bible teaching church and in the last few month have come to realize that the pastor believes that we don’t receive the Holy Spirit until we are baptized. We have spoken at length and agree that when you believe on Jesus as your Savior you are saved and will spend eternity with him and the father. He says that Ephesians 1:13-14 is saying we are sealed (as in marked) for our future inheritance, but the spirit doesn’t dwell and live within us until we get baptized and that is when we receive the promise of the Father. He says the Lord’s own baptism is our example of this and in Acts 2:38 Peter placed baptism before receiving the Holy Spirit.
I think that baptism is very important and we should do it because it is commanded and it is a public display of our choice to be a follower of Christ, but I disagree with my pastor on this issue. I have studied at length and hoped you might help?
A. I disagree with your pastor’s interpretation on several counts. There’s no reason to believe Jesus was only prophesying about the Holy Spirit in John 20:22. It’s reasonable to assume that having first been followers of John, several of the Lord’s disciples had been baptized. But there’s nothing in the Biblical record indicating that they all were, and even those who were did not receive the Holy Spirit at the time. Neither did a baptism precede either the event in the Upper Room or the Day of Pentecost. A literal reading of Ephesians 1:13-14 clearly says the Holy Spirit was sealed within us at the moment of belief. Paul repeated this promise in 2 Cor. 1:21-22 and 2 Cor. 5:5 without mentioning baptism. Saying he thought it would be redundant to mention baptism is putting words in his mouth.
It’s important to remember that in Acts 2 Peter was speaking in the Temple to a Jewish audience who had a different understanding of baptism than we do. They had used baptism (they called it a Mikvah) for centuries as a rite of purification before the Sabbath or a marriage or some other important undertaking. The Church uses baptism as a public declaration of having been born again. So for them it preceded an important change, while for us it follows it.
Also, to say that Jesus did not possess the Holy Spirit before His baptism is tantamount to denying His deity from birth. It would mean that before the baptism He was just an ordinary man. Remember John, who had known Jesus all His life, questioned His need for one. I believe He was being obedient to the Law by taking a mikvah at the outset of His ministry. The sign of the Holy Spirit descending upon Him was to show He was being equipped for ministry and to give an indication of His Father’s pleasure (Matt. 3:13-17).
The Holy Spirit dwells within us from the moment of belief to guide and direct us. But once in a while, He may come upon us in power to equip us for a special task or challenge. This is what happened with Jesus, it’s what happened with the disciples, and it’s what happens with us.
You and your pastor agree that this is not a salvation issue. Personally, I think if this is all you can find to disagree about, you should consider yourself blessed.