Theology of the Holy Spirit


What is the baptism in the Holy Spirit? Is it relevant to the church today?

Broad definition: An experience (often subsequent to conversion) in which the Holy Spirit comes upon an individual believer to give power and boldness, deepen their Christian walk, enable them to be a more victorious Christian and the give one of more spiritual gifts described in the New testament.

What follows is a Pentecostal perspective.

1. Enduement with Power Promised

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you...” (Acts 1:8).

A promise:

Also enables:

Supernatural power, accompanied in the NT by supernatural manifestations, eg Acts 2:4.

Initially evidenced in Acts by speaking in other tongues (ie languages the recipients had not learned). Described as a “baptism” (βαπτζω = baptizō = dip, submerge, immerse) seven times in the New Testament, eg Acts 1:5; Matthew 3:11, 12; Luke 3:16.

2. Subsequent to Conversion

Have you received the Holy Spirit since you believed? (Acts 19:2)

In the case of the household of Cornelius (sometimes called the “Gentile Pentecost”), there was no time lapse between the two events – Acts 10:43-48.

3. The Initial Evidence

Speaking in unlearned language/s was the initial sign in Acts (2:4; 10:44-46; 19:1-6). Implied in 8:14-19. Pentecostal Christians believe that the initial sign of the baptism in the Holy Spirit is always/usually speaking in tongues.

4. Pre-conditions

4. Its Continuous Aspect

Being “filled with the Spirit” is a singular event. However, it is not a climax in and of itself.

Ephesians 5:18b refers to being “filled” in the present continuous tense, ie “be being filled”. In Acts, some people were referred to as being ”full of the Holy Spirit” - Acts 6:3; 7:55; 11:24. Others received supplementary fillings, eg Acts 4:31.



There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men.” (1 Corinthians 12:4-6)

1. The General Nature of the Gifts

Important to distinguish between the gifts and the Giver. The Holy Spirit is the gift of the Father, through Christ - Acts 2:33.

He distributes His gifts (charismata x 17 times) according to the mind of God - 1 Corinthians 12:4, 7, 11.

  1. The Variety of the Gifts

The gifts of the Holy Spirit were common in the early Christian church and remain valid today. There re is no standard order in which the Bible lists or characterizes the gifts. Some are described as “charismatic” or “spiritual gifts” (lit. “spirituals”, cf nine gifts listed in 1 Corinthians 12:8-10), while others are gifts for service and outreach.

Can be grouped and classified as:

a The Word of Wisdom

Supernatural use of God’s wisdom, to meet particular situations. In the Bible referred to:

Different from human wisdom, learning. A “word” (logos) rather than a skill.

b The Word of Knowledge

Supernatural awareness and utterance of facts, not the normal possession of the user, eg:

c Faith

Different from “saving faith”, or faithfulness (the “fruit” of the Spirit).

Impartation of faith by the Holy Spirit for special circumstances. For example, faith given by the Holy Spirit for protection in times of danger, or for divine provision.

Paul exhibited this gift on a number of occasions (probably in conjunction with other gifts), eg

d The Gifts of Healing

Note that “gifts” is plural in the Greek text.

Supernatural ability to apply healings in a number of circumstances, or different illnesses/afflictions. Does not make men ”healers”- the focus remains on Jesus Christ.

Used for attracting people to the Gospel, eg

e The Workings of Miracles

Lit. “works of power”. Distinct from gifts of healings. May be involved in connection with the conflict between God and Satan, eg casting out demons. To demonstrate the power of God, the reality of the Gospel, the pre-eminence of Christ, eg Acts 19:11, 12; 5:12-15. “Gifts” is plural in the Greek, ie variety of forms or manifestations of the gift.

f Prophecy

Supernaturally inspired utterance (προφητεα - prophēteia = divinely inspired declaration of the purposes of God), which may involve the future, but also be about current issues, eg Agabus’ prophecies about Paul – Acts 21:10-11, and a great famine – Acts 11:27, 28. Not to be confused with the “office” of prophet (cf Ephesians 4:11, Acts 15:32)

The Bible encourages all to seek the gift of prophecy. There is variety in the expression of the gift, in connection with edification, exhortation and comfort – 1 Corinthians 14:3. Also for teaching – 1 Corinthians 14:31. It is a vehicle the Holy Spirit uses to speak to Christians and to bring people to Christ – 1 Corinthians 14:24. Prophecy must be tested (1 Corinthians 14:29) but not despised (1 Thessalonians 5:20).

g Discernings of Spirits

Again, note plural. Bible speaks of three spirits: Spirit of God; spirit of man; Satan &evil spirits. We are surrounded by angels, evil spirits, etc. The gift of discernment (δικρισις - diakrisisis = distinguishing, discerning, judging) is given to help the church discern between good and evil spirits (implying that such discernment requires a gift of God).

Examples of this gift in the New Testament include:

h Tongues

Ability to speak in a tongue the user has never learned (may or may not be a human language, cf Acts 2:6-11; 1 Corinthians 13:1; however in documented New Testament cases they were usually recognised as languages, supernaturally enabled nevertheless; the Greek word means “languages”. 1 Corinthians 13:1 refers to the “tongues of men and of angels”).

Some words may be uttered to God alone – 1 Corinthians 14:2; some may be for the church at large - 1 Corinthians 14:5.

Not all who speak in tongues are exercising the gift of tongues for the church.

i Interpretation of Tongues

Renders understandable utterances in other tongues.

Two meanings: to give a translation; to explain meaning and application.

Tongues and interpretation are somewhat equal to prophecy - 1 Corinthians 14:5.

Other Gifts

The gifts of the Holy Spirit to the church are diverse. 1 Corinthians 12:28-3 and Romans 12:4-8 identify gifts of the Spirit over and above those listed in 1 Corinthians 12:8-10, viz.

Office gifts” are specific offices established by the Holy Spirit in the church for oversight and leadership (Ephesians 4:8-12).

Service gifts” are distributed by the Holy Spirit to enable us to serve with excellence and passion (Romans 12:6-8).

Requirements for Receiving the Gifts

Regulation of the Gifts

There have been many excesses during the history of Christianity. The Corinthian Christians, to whom Paul wrote his first letter, were exercising gifts without a concern for, or recognition of, the unity of the Body of Christ. (Some theologians take lessons from the Corinthian church and apply them broadly to the church, with the aim of restricting or banning the operation of the gifts.) What rules does the NT teach?

The test is not what gifts we have, but whether or not we know we have them and are humbly and confidently using them as the Holy Spirit intended (1 Peter 4:10).

Testing the Gifts

The gifts need to be tested, because false manifestations occur > Satan counterfeits the genuine work of God – Matthew 7:23; 2 Thessalonians 2:9; 1 John 4:1.

All of the gifts can be imitated eg “faith” healers; speaking in tongues in Innuit communities; false prophecies (in Christ’s name), witchdoctors casting out demons. However, also need to ensure “testing” is not based on misunderstanding of the gifts, fear or interpersonal issues.

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