Can Someone Be Baptized and Not Receive the Holy Spirit?

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When we learn about salvation, we learn that the indwelling of the Holy Spirit happens at the moment of our conversions. We are saved and God’s Holy Spirit comes to dwell within us as a down payment of sorts for the eternal life that we are promised and that the Holy Spirit is received at the moment of conversion (Ephesians 1:13-16). That fact is explicitly stated for us and we don’t have to wonder about when the Holy Spirit is received.

As we read through the Scriptures, particularly the book of Acts, we see three occasions on which the Holy Spirit came and indwelt a group of people some time after their conversion to Christ.

In Acts 2:1-5, the Holy Spirit came down to the Jews who believed in Jesus. We refer to this event as Pentecost. In this event, the Holy Spirit came by tongues of fire that rested on those Jewish followers of Jesus in the upper room. Those Jewish believers began to speak in tongues in such a way that many of those in Jerusalem heard them in their own languages. This indicates two very important things about the work of the Holy Spirit as He indwells believers. First, the Spirit’s indwelling produces fruit for God’s kingdom through the believer. Second, God was completing what people could not accomplish, much like He did at the tower of Babel. At the tower of Babel (Genesis 11), people had ignored God’s instruction to “fill the earth” and had instead gathered themselves for their own glory. God confused their languages and scattered them across the earth. At Pentecost, the languages are confused again, only in a different way. Tongues were a sign that God was the one giving His Holy Spirit. It would come first to the Jews, then to the Gentiles (Genesis 12:3, Romans 1:17). Never again do we read of a Jew receiving the Holy Spirit some time after his or her conversion and never again do tongues accompany the indwelling of the Holy Spirit for a Jew.

God is a God who does His work completely and conspicuously. In Acts 8, Philip went about Samaria preaching the word of God. Many Samaritans came to know Christ. The Samaritans were half-breeds (half Jew and half something else). They experienced conversion, but the Holy Spirit had only been given to the Jews at this point in order to fulfill the Scriptures. In chapter 8, verse 16-17, the Apostles (all Jews), namely Peter, laid their hands on the Samaritan believers and the Samaritan believers received the Spirit through the Jews. What was God’s promise to Abraham, that all nations would be blessed through His offspring (Genesis 12:3). There was some sign that indicated the Samaritans had received the Holy Spirit because it was recognizable (v. 17), but the Scriptures do not explicitly state what that sign was. This was the second Pentecost, the Pentecost of the Samaritans.

In Acts 10:44-46, Peter was preaching and the Holy Spirit came down upon the Gentiles. The Gentiles also began speaking in tongues as a sign that the Holy Spirit had come down to them. Peter recognized that this uncircumcised people had received the same Spirit that the Jews and Samaritans had received. This was the third and final Pentecost, the Gentile Pentecost. Never again does the Holy Spirit wait to indwell any person or group as we read in the Scriptures. God’s word was fulfilled. The world was being blessed through Israel. Christ had died to redeem the sins of the whole world. The Apostles had become Christ’s witnesses “in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.” We continue to serve as witnesses today, reaping what we have not worked for (John 4:38).

Though the Holy Spirit did not wait to indwell any longer, we see the gift of tongues as a sign one more time, in Acts 19:6. The believers at Ephesus were still under the baptism of John the Baptist and were not yet baptized into Christ. Paul corrected this and the sign was given so that both the believers and the apostles would know that they had also received the Holy Spirit. This happened simultaneously with their conversion.

I am confident in saying that the Holy Spirit comes at the moment of conversion now for every believer. I am also confident in saying that God will use gifts to clarify and build up His church. Tongues, however, do not necessarily accompany conversion. When they did, it was always a sign for a group that had not yet received the Spirit as a group, first Jews, then Samaritans, then Gentiles, then those in Ephesus who had not even experienced true conversion (never for an individual at the moment of conversion).

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