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Is There a Second Baptism?

A Message by R.C. Sproul

Who is the Holy Spirit and what is His role in redemption? These questions have been especially important since the rise of the Pentecostal and charismatic movements in the last century. Along with a renewed interest in the person and work of the Holy Spirit has come increased confusion. In this series, R.C. Sproul cuts through the complexity, getting to the heart of the Bible's teaching regarding the third person of the Trinity.

From the series: The Holy Spirit

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Further Study On This Topic

  1. question and answer

    Is there a difference between being baptized with the Holy Spirit and being filled with the Holy Spirit?

  2. article

    The Holy Spirit as Seal and Pledge

  3. devotional

    Baptism of the Holy Spirit

Is there a difference between being baptized with the Holy Spirit and being filled with the Holy Spirit?

At times when we read the New Testament record of those who are baptized in the Spirit or filled with the Spirit, it seems that these terms are used interchangeably, that they refer to the same phenomenon. At other times there’s a little distinction that is not altogether clear in the text. Sometimes it seems that to discern the difference requires a knife sharper than the one I own.

Let’s just go back and ask this question: What does the Bible mean by the term “baptized in the Holy Spirit”? In the New Testament there’s a distinction between being born of the Spirit—which is the work of the Holy Spirit to regenerate us, to change the disposition of our hearts and make us alive spiritually—and to baptize us in the Holy Spirit. We read about the baptism of the Holy Spirit principally on the Day of Pentecost and subsequent events similar to the Day of Pentecost in which those who were gathered were baptized in the Holy Spirit. We understand that the people who were baptized in the Holy Spirit were already believers and they were already regenerated. So we must distinguish between the Spirit’s work in making us spiritually alive and the Spirit’s work in baptizing us, whatever baptizing means. Most churches would affirm that the primary meaning of the concept of baptism in the Holy Spirit is the work of the Spirit upon a human being to endow that person with the power necessary to carry out their mission and vocation as a Christian.

In the Old Testament that charisma, the gift of the empowering of the Holy Spirit, was limited to certain individuals such as priests and prophets and mediators like Moses. But the point of the New Testament is that the whole body of the people of God is now being equipped and empowered from on high to carry out its task. Notice that Pentecost is tied very closely to the great commission. Jesus said, “Go into Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the outermost parts of the earth, but before you go, tarry in Jerusalem. After the Holy Spirit comes upon you, then you can go and carry out this mandate.”

The “baptism of the Spirit” refers to being equipped or empowered by God’s Spirit to carry out the task that Jesus has given the church. When the Spirit equips us or baptizes us, we are immersed, as it were, in the Holy Spirit; sometimes the Scriptures refer to this as being filled with the Holy Spirit. Other times the term “being filled with the Holy Spirit” is used in the same way as being filled with love or filled with joy—there’s this sensation of superabundance of the presence of God. I think that sometimes the Scripture is speaking of something more than simply being equipped for ministry, but having an awareness, a keen awareness and consciousness, of the powerful presence of the Spirit.

The Holy Spirit as Seal and Pledge

Edmund Clowney

The figure of a roaring lion stretches across the little jasper seal. In ancient Hebrew letters it bears the inscription, "Belonging to Shema, servant of Jeroboam." Recovered from the biblical site of Megiddo, the stamp seal was once the property of an official of Jeroboam II, king of Israel, 785–743 B.C. (2 Kings 14:23– 29). Shema may have been proud of his lion-seal, but for him it was not a decorative gemstone. Rather, he put it to daily use. Pressed on clay or wax it marked his ownership and authority. Wine jars, stoppered with fresh clay, would bear the stamp of his seal. He could seal a deed of purchase or a marriage contract; his stamp could serve as his signature.

Seals and sealing are often spoken of in the Old Testament: Queen Jezebel used Ahab's seal to order a conspiracy against the life of Naboth (1 Kings 21:8); Queen Esther delivered the Jews when she was permitted to prepare a royal decree and seal it with the king's ring—"for no document written in the king's name and sealed with his ring can be revoked" (Esther 8:8).

The apostle Paul grasped this image to describe the sealing of the Lord: "Having believed, you were marked in Him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God's possession—to the praise of His glory" (Ephesians 1:13b–14).

God's seal is not, like the great seal of the United States, an emblem to be impressed on paper. God's seal is His Holy Spirit, who is God Himself present with His people. To be sure, God has given us also outward signs and seals of His ownership. In baptism God seals us by giving us His name; in the Lord's Supper we have the spiritual seal of His presence in the sacrament. Even these seals have a power beyond the outward sign: the reality of God's presence provides the blessing. But God gives a seal that is even more than these gifts of blessing. His final seal is the gift of Himself.

By sealing us in person, God both claims us and gives us claim on Him. The Holy Spirit came on Pentecost to possess the new people of God; at the same time, He gave Himself to be their possession, their inheritance.

I. The Spirit Is God's Seal

We belong to God because He created us: "It is He who made us, and we are His" (Psalm 100:3). The coin stamped with Caesar's image could be claimed by Caesar; stamped with God's image, we belong to Him. But there is more, much more. As rebels we exploited the very glory of the image God stamped on us. Through Adam's sin, God's image-bearers became His enemies. Had God, then, lost His possession? No, for God has bought back His people for Himself through Christ: "In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins" (Ephesians 1:7).

Here is the incredible mystery that Paul celebrates in Ephesians. God not only defeats our rebellion to claim us again as His; He draws us even closer to Himself than His creation could make us. We are brought closer than Adam, for we are united to Jesus Christ, God's own Son. We who were far off in sin are brought near, nearer than the cherubim beside the throne, as near as God's Son, our Savior.

God had planned it that way from the beginning. He chose us in Christ before the creation of the world (Ephesians 1:4). God's people are God's treasure (Exodus 19:5). God gave Israel an inheritance, but He took Israel as His inheritance: "The Lord's portion is His people" (Deuteronomy 4:20; 32:9). How does the Lord mark us as His possession in Christ? By the Spirit of Christ in our hearts. We dare not underrate the meaning of the coming of the Spirit, as though after the Ascension the church had lost Jesus. Jesus said that He would not leave us orphans, but would come to us (John 14:18). He breathed His Spirit on the disciples after the Resurrection; He came in His Spirit from the throne of glory at Pentecost. Yes, Jesus will come again, when every eye will see Him, but we are not now bereft of our Lord. He told us that it was better that He should go away so that the Spirit might come (John 16:7), not because the Spirit is better than He, but because by the Spirit both the Son and the Father are also present in our hearts. In Ephesians, Paul speaks of the filling of the Spirit, the filling of Christ, and the filling of God (Ephesians 5:18; 1:23; 4:13; 3:19). These are not distinct acts of filling. To be full of the Spirit is to be full of Jesus, to be filled with all the fullness of God.

When we think of seals, we may picture the seal on a bottle of Tylenol. The elaborate sealing developed for that and similar products came after the deadly results of criminal tampering with the contents. God's sealing also protects against tampering. The Spirit is our shield and guardian. The Lord knows and keeps those who are His (2 Timothy 2:19; John 10:27–28). God's people are sealed with the living God (Revelation 7:2, 4; 9:4). The Spirit as our seal keeps us personally, not mechanically. He keeps us for our inheritance by keeping us believing (1 Peter 1:5–7). We may grieve the Spirit of God by whom we are kept till the day of redemption, and the Spirit may chastise us; He will certainly prove our faith through fiery trials, but always with the purpose of presenting us at last to God.

II. The Spirit Is Our Seal

By being present in the Spirit, God not only claims us for Himself, He also gives us claim on Him. The Spirit certifies His promise, His pledge to us. Indeed, the Spirit is God's keeping of His promise. God's deed of purchase is sealed to the day of redemption, not merely by an outward sign (as circumcision was a seal of Abraham's faith [Romans 4:11]) but by the keeping of the "promise of the Father" as Jesus said (Acts 2:22, 33). The coming of the Spirit is the blessing promised to Abraham (Galatians 3:14). Paul therefore speaks of the Spirit as God's "down payment" on full and final salvation.

If your credit is good, a car salesman may be happy to arrange a loan to fund your purchase. But you may be sure that he will also demand a down payment. The down payment is in the currency of the final payment; some of that final payout is made up front. That is the picture Paul gives. Heaven itself offers no blessing greater than that of personal fellowship with the Lord. That is precisely the blessing now brought to the church, to you, by the presence of the Lord, the Spirit. In our union with Christ we are "being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by His Spirit" (Ephesians 2:22). The Old Testament tabernacle was filled with the cloud of God's glory; the New Testament tabernacle is first the physical body of Jesus Christ, who was filled with the Spirit, and now is also the body of Christ, His church, which the Spirit fills with Jesus. God's down payment is the glory of the Lord begun here below.

Because God gives us the seal of His presence in the Spirit of His Son, we cry, "Abba, Father!" (Galatians 4:6). We use the very word our Savior used, for we have received the claim of Christ's Sonship. In death we are given the Spirit of life; in error, the Spirit of truth; in corruption, the Spirit of glory.

In giving us the deposit of Himself, God gives us the assurance of His love. "And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us" (Romans 5:5). The love that God has for us is the love that He showed when we were His enemies and Christ died for us. Who, then, shall separate us from the love of Christ? The seal of love is on His heart of grace and His arm of power, love that is stronger than death (Song of Songs 8:6).

Baptism of the Holy Spirit

Looking back over the twentieth century, few could deny that one of the most significant movements in the church and even the entire world has been the charismatic or Pentecostal movement. Talk of the presence and power of the Holy Spirit has been at the forefront of both popular and academic theological discussions, and this has been due in large part to the spread of Pentecostalism and its claims that sign gifts such as healing, prophecy, and speaking in tongues continue today.

A key tenet of the Pentecostal or charismatic movement is the claim that believers receive a second work of the Holy Spirit after conversion. One can believe in Christ without being baptized in the Holy Spirit—without receiving the Spirit in power at some point after one's conversion to Christ. Essentially, this view teaches that one can be a believer without having the Holy Spirit or at least without having Him in all His fullness. One must pray specifically to receive the Holy Spirit; He does not automatically indwell a Christian with power and gifts for ministry upon conversion.

Belief in this second work—this baptism—of the Holy Spirit comes from personal experience and a certain reading of the book of Acts. Many people have testified to a change that happened to them after experiencing this Spirit baptism, speaking of a movement from a dry or ordinary spiritual life to one that is vibrant and powerful. Further, many people read the Acts of the Apostles, see that God promised to send His Spirit upon the Apostles who were already believers (Acts 1:1-11), read of the Spirit coming at Pentecost and showing His presence by the gift of tongues (2:1-3), and then conclude that this sequence is normative for Christians throughout history. The fact that the book of Acts records some believers as apparently receiving the Holy Spirit after having been disciples for some time (for example, 19:1-7) is also taken as further evidence for a post-conversion baptism of the Spirit.

Few would deny that believers sometimes enjoy post-conversion encounters with God that can be turning points in their spiritual lives. The question is whether these represent the coming of the Spirit to reside in a believer in whom He had never dwelt before. Tomorrow, we will consider this issue more carefully, but today, we conclude with an admonition that our experiences, while important, can never be determinative of our theology. Human beings often deceive themselves (Jer. 17:9), so we need the Word of God for sound doctrine.

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