Baptized in the Holy Spirit
Joe has several related questions in connection with the "gift of the Holy Spirit". Do people get "the baptism of the Holy Spirit"? What’s the difference between "the gift of the Holy Spirit" in Acts 2:38 and receiving the Holy Spirit in Acts 8:14-19 and 19:1-7? This issue soon becomes complex because of its richness. There’s also a lot of scholarly debate about it. But however the scholars debate the entire matter some things seem clear enough to the rest of us.
The Baptist described Jesus as the one who would "baptize" people in the Spirit (John 1, Matthew 3 and Mark 1). The act of Christ that is described by the phrase "he shall baptize you in the Holy Spirit" is Christ’s act of giving the Holy Spirit to the new covenant community, which is constituted the body of Christ. That initial act of giving the Spirit to the church on Pentecost is Christ’s baptizing the church with the Spirit.
At the time Christ did that there was a visible and miraculous demonstration that he had sent the Spirit to the New Testament church (see Acts 2:33 along with 2:1-22). The miracles were the evidence that Jesus had indeed been exalted and that he was initiating a new people that would be indwelled by Christ’s Spirit (the Holy Spirit). Of course the miracles were more than evidence but they certainly functioned that way here. But the miraculous signs (the wind, fire-like signs and peasants that spoke in foreign languages they hadn’t learned) were things that accompanied the giving of the Spirit of Christ to the church of Christ. We’re not to confuse Christ’s giving the Spirit and the miraculous gifts that act as proof that he had done so.
The "gift of the Spirit" which those who repented and were baptized received (Acts 2:28-39 and 5:32) is the gift of the Spirit to the New Covenant community. Each person that became part of that community through repentance and baptism in the name of Christ became a sharer of the Spirit that was given to the church. But—and this is an important but—an individual as an independent and free standing unit did not receive the Spirit as his or her own "personal indweller". The Spirit indwells the body and those who are parts of the body of Christ all equally share in the presence of Christ’s Spirit. But not one of them has the Spirit independent of other members of the body of Christ. The Spirit is a single gift given to the family of which every member is a part and therefore a partaker. There is one Holy Spirit (Spirit of Christ) who indwells the one body of Christ. Each Christian is not an independent body of Christ. Each Christian is a part of the one body of Christ and the one Holy Spirit indwells in us as a single body. The indwelling Christ (who indwells by his Holy Spirit) who was exaltated by the Holy Father fulfilled the OT promise of the coming of the Holy Spirit to indwell the new people of God.
The Holy Spirit gave miraculous powers to the church as he saw fit (see this developed in 1 Corinthians 12). Not every individual believer received miraculous power but the miraculous powers (and all other gifts) were given to the body so that every member of it would benefit (read 1 Corinthians 12). People in Acts 8 believed on Jesus Christ and were baptized into union with him and that made them part of the body of Christ and partakers of his Holy Spirit. But they had not experienced the miraculous powers the Holy Spirit imparted to various believers. So when the apostles came to Samaria, knowing that these people were part of the NT church they recognized them publicly as such by laying their hands on them and imparting miraculous powers to some of them.
In Acts 19 Paul meets people he believes are Christians. The text doesn’t explicitly say he thought them to be Christians but I think a surface reading clearly implies that. Since he thinks they are Christians he would know that they are part of the body of Christ which is indwelled by his Spirit. So when he asked if they had received the Spirit since they believed he wasn’t asking them if they were sharers in what all Christians share just by being Christ’s. He wouldn’t ask them such a question. That would go without saying. If he thought they were Christians he would just as soon ask if they had received forgiveness since they believed as ask them if they had been made partakers of the Spirit.
No, he was asking if they had received a share in the miraculous power that the Spirit distributed within the body of Christ for the building up of the body and the work of the ministry. Their response showed that their faith was defective, therefore their baptism was defective, so he re-baptized them into the name of Christ. This made them part of the body of Christ in which the Spirit dwells so they automatically became partakers of the gift of the Spirit that was common to all who are in Christ. Paul then laid hands on them and they received miraculous power from that indwelling Spirit. The miraculous power was not common to all who were in Christ—see again Acts 8 and the Samaritan situation.
But Acts 8 and 19 say the people received the Spirit; it doesn’t say they received the power of the Spirit. This is true but it’s clear (to me anyway) that we have a metonymical use of the word Spirit in these texts. The Spirit is mentioned when something he gives is intended. Maybe a comparison of Matthew 7:11 and Luke 11:13 helps here.
Those who in trust and repentance are baptized into Christ become part of his body which is indwelled by his Spirit (the Holy Spirit) so that every Christian shares in the Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:13). Just by definition a Christian is part of the Spirit-indwelled body of Christ! But not every Christian is given miraculous powers. What is missing in the Samaritan experience is the public witness that these "half-castes" were indeed received by God in Christ. That’s where the miraculous powers mediated by apostolic hands came in.
Something similar happened in Acts 10 (though "the similarities are different"). The Samaritans had already been baptized by Philip and were acknowledged by him as part of the new covenant people and the Jerusalem church sent Peter and John to check it out. The uncircumcised Gentiles in Acts 10 were something else. The Jewish believers would have refused the Gentiles the privilege of baptism and entrance into the body of Christ in which the Holy Spirit dwelled. There was no chance that anyone would have laid hands on these people so God directly "laid hands on them" and gave them a share in the power of the eschatological Spirit. Peter then insisted that these Gentiles had the right to be part of the NT church so he baptized them in Christ’s name. (It’s interesting that he didn’t use the presence of the Spirit to prove these people didn’t need to be baptized, which is what some modern people do. He argued the privilege and commanded them to be baptized. See the whole story in Acts 10 and 11.)
This whole discussion has nothing to do with "measures" of the Spirit. It has all to do with Christ giving the new people of God the Holy Spirit to indwell them as God’s new elect. He did that on Pentecost day. He "baptized them in the Holy Spirit." All who come to Christ share in that gift that he poured out on the church on its birthday. The Holy Spirit then gave to the church all kinds of gifts (as he continues to do) but there were times when it was of critical importance that he make his presence known by miracles and miraculous gifts.
Christ gave the whole Spirit to the whole body. The Spirit gave gifts to that body as he saw fit (1 Corinthians 12). You might want to connect with The Spirit Old and New. I also have a discussion of "baptized in the Spirit" in a little book of mine on 1 Corinthians.
©2004 Jim McGuiggan. All materials are free to be copied and used as long as money is not being made.
Many thanks to brother Ed Healy, for allowing me to post from his website, theabidingword.com