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The baptism of the Holy Spirit

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It may be surprising to note that the Bible does not speak of “the baptism of the Holy Spirit”. In fact, the unity of the Spirit involves only “one baptism” (Eph. 4:3-6), which can only be that commanded by Christ, namely, of everyone in all the world (Mt 28:19; Mk 16:16), for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38; 22:16), a baptism in water (e.g., Acts 8:35-38; 10:47-48) and a washing of regeneration and renewing by the Spirit, in which we are born again of water and the Spirit (Tit 3:5; Jn 3:5).

However, the Bible speaks of baptism involving the Holy Spirit, viz:

• John the Baptist predicted that Jesus would come and baptize with the Spirit and with fire (Matt. 3:11; Mark 1:8; Luke 3:16; John 1:33).

• Jesus recalled John’s words, and told his followers that they would be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from then (Acts 1:5). This was obviously fulfilled ten days later in the Pentecost event (Acts 2).

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• Acts 11:16 refers back to Pentecost, explaining that Cornelius, the first Gentile convert, had an experience very similar to the Pentecost manifestations.

• In a rather different context, namely, factions and abuse of the gifts of the Holy Spirit in the Church, Paul pointed out that all share the reality of being baptized by the Spirit (1 Cor. 12:13).

From the above Bible references (excluding the last for obvious reason), it should be more appropriate to speak of baptism “with” rather than “of” the Holy Spirit. It is actually the baptism of Jesus Christ with the Holy Spirit. (Luke 24:49; Acts 2:17-18; 33; 10:45; Tit. 3:5-6). This baptism is generally associated and intertwined with the “pouring out” (or sending) of the Spirit that occurred on the day of Pentecost

To be baptised with the Holy Spirit is the same thing with receiving the “gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 1:4-5; 2:37-39; 10:44-46; 11:15-17), but in such a way that the recipient is immersed in the Holy Spirit who visibly manifests in him and controls him. Christians are commanded to be filled with the Holy Spirit (Eph. 5:18). It is important to distinguish the indwelling from the filling of the Spirit. The permanent indwelling of the Spirit is for all Christians. But the in filling of the Holy Spirit is for as many Christians who so completely yielded to the Holy Spirit that he fully takes possession of them and in that sense, fill them.

The Ven. Dr Princewill Onyinyechukwu Ireoba is the Rector, Ibru International Ecumenical Centre, Agbarha-Otor, Delta State.

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