What is the Baptism of the Holy Spirit?
After Jesus died and was resurrected, He returned to Heaven, leaving instructions for His disciples to wait for the baptism of the Holy Spirit.
He commanded them, “Do not leave Jerusalem until the Father sends you the gift he promised, as I told you before. John baptized with water, but in just a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” Acts 1:4-5
They would have been familiar with the concept of baptism as an act of faith that signified cutting off an old way of living in order to embrace a new one. The story of the Jewish people was that God rescued them out of desolation and slavery, parting the waters of the Red Sea that led into the Promised Land, and swallowing up the enemy army that was attempting to recapture them.
Baptism was both a remembering of what God had already done and a statement of faith about what He was currently doing in rescuing an individual from a life separate from Him in order to lead them into rich relationship.
However, this baptism of the Holy Spirit that Jesus spoke of was unlike the one they understood. Crowds of people had been lining the shores of the Jordan River and watching as people professed their faith in God by being dunked into the water and rising again. It was a physical act indicating an internal decision. Now they were instructed to wait for something that probably seemed a little intangible.
John the Baptist described it this way:
“I baptize with water those who repent of their sins and turn to God. But someone is coming soon who is greater than I am—so much greater that I’m not worthy even to be his slave and carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.” Matthew 3:11 NLT
While John had been baptizing people in water, he was pointing the people toward the same baptism Jesus indicated, a baptism that would take place after Jesus finished His work on the cross.
Take a look at how the apostle John talks about it in this passage:
On the last day, the climax of the festival, Jesus stood and shouted to the crowds, “Anyone who is thirsty may come to me! Anyone who believes in me may come and drink! For the Scriptures declare, ‘Rivers of living water will flow from his heart.’”(When he said “living water,” he was speaking of the Spirit, who would be given to everyone believing in him. But the Spirit had not yet been given, because Jesus had not yet entered into his glory.) John 7:37-39
After Jesus died a death meant for a criminal, pain for our sins with His innocent blood, and defeated Hell’s hold on humanity by rising from the dead, He told His disciples that another baptism was accessible.
“And now I will send the Holy Spirit, just as my Father promised. But stay here in the city until the Holy Spirit comes and fills you with power from heaven.” Luke 24:49
This new baptism of the Holy Spirit was an open door into a closeness with God that had never been available for mankind. It was leaving behind the life of bondage to sin and stepping into a new way of living with power, spiritual gifts, and communion with God.
God wanted them to know that the riches and glory of Christ are for you Gentiles, too. And this is the secret: Christ lives in you. This gives you assurance of sharing his glory. Colossians 1:27
What is Speaking in Tongues?
When the disciples experienced the Baptism of the Holy Spirit, they spoke in new languages.
On the day of Pentecost all the believers were meeting together in one place. Suddenly, there was a sound from heaven like the roaring of a mighty windstorm, and it filled the house where they were sitting. Then, what looked like flames or tongues of fire appeared and settled on each of them. And everyone present was filled with the Holy Spirit and began speaking in other languages, as the Holy Spirit gave them this ability. Acts 2:1-4
Other people heard them speaking in these new languages, testifying of God’s goodness, in their native tongue. Suddenly, by the power of God, they were able to speak in a language they'd never learned without even understanding what it is they were saying.
When they heard the loud noise, everyone came running, and they were bewildered to hear their own languages being spoken by the believers.
They were completely amazed. “How can this be?” they exclaimed. “These people are all from Galilee, and yet we hear them speaking in our own native languages! Acts 2:6-8
Later on, after the church became more established, we see this same phenomenon take place but without them being able to identify the language being spoken or what was being said without someone interpreting by the power of God. The apostle Paul steps in and gives some practical advice for how to use this gift while giving us insight into what’s taking place when someone is speaking in another language by the power of the Holy Spirit.
If you speak to people in words they don’t understand, how will they know what you are saying? You might as well be talking into empty space. There are many different languages in the world, and every language has meaning. But if I don’t understand a language, I will be a foreigner to someone who speaks it, and the one who speaks it will be a foreigner to me. And the same is true for you. Since you are so eager to have the special abilities the Spirit gives, seek those that will strengthen the whole church. So anyone who speaks in tongues should pray also for the ability to interpret what has been said. For if I pray in tongues, my spirit is praying, but I don’t understand what I am saying. Well then, what shall I do? I will pray in the spirit, and I will also pray in words I understand. I will sing in the spirit, and I will also sing in words I understand. For if you praise God only in the spirit, how can those who don’t understand you praise God along with you? How can they join you in giving thanks when they don’t understand what you are saying? You will be giving thanks very well, but it won’t strengthen the people who hear you. 1 Corinthians 14:9-17
Speaking in an unknown language, whether a language from earth or heaven, allows the Holy Spirit to pray through us for things we’re not even aware we need. Praying by the power of God strengthens our own spirits.
And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words. And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God’s own will. Romans 8:26-27
The baptism of the Holy Spirit leads us into a closeness with the Holy Spirit that wasn’t accessible to us before Jesus’ paid the penalty for our sins and wiped our debt away. Speaking in a new language is a one of the gifts of the Spirit that we continually see take place after this baptism. It’s a gift that allows you to pray more powerfully than ever could before since the Holy Spirit is praying through you.
Is it for today?
After preaching by the power of the Holy Spirit, the apostle Paul instructs the people who want to follow Jesus:
“Each of you must repent of your sins and turn to God, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. This promise is to you, to your children, and to those far away—all who have been called by the Lord our God.” Acts 2:37-39
The promise was to future generations, not just those hearing that original message from Peter, and we continue to see the early church receiving and operating in this gift from the Holy Spirit.
Who can receive the Gift of Tongues?
Until Jesus, the Jewish people were the only nation with consistent access to the Living God. But Jesus made it clear that He came to open the door of salvation to everyone and with it, the gift of the Holy Spirit. The Gentiles in this next passage were non-Jewish people and the disciples were astounded when they realized the gift of the Holy Spirit was for them as well.
Even as Peter was saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell upon all who were listening to the message. The Jewish believers who came with Peter were amazed that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles, too. For they heard them speaking in other tongues and praising God.
Then Peter asked, “Can anyone object to their being baptized, now that they have received the Holy Spirit just as we did?” So he gave orders for them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Acts 10:44-48
Again, we see this experience take place in Ephesus and the only pre-requisite to receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit was faith.
While Apollos was in Corinth, Paul traveled through the interior regions until he reached Ephesus, on the coast, where he found several believers. “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” he asked them.
“No,” they replied, “we haven’t even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.”
“Then what baptism did you experience?” he asked.
And they replied, “The baptism of John.”
Paul said, “John’s baptism called for repentance from sin. But John himself told the people to believe in the one who would come later, meaning Jesus.”
As soon as they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then when Paul laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in other tongues and prophesied.There were about twelve men in all. Acts 19:1-7
Why is Speaking in Tongues something I should seek for my life?
We have limited understanding and our prayers reflect that. Many times, we only pray when we feel lost or desperate. When you experience the baptism of the Holy Spirit, you have access to a relationship with the Holy Spirit where He speaks on your behalf. He can see further down the road than you can, knows more about what’s going on around you than you ever will, and is your advocate to help you live the life God’s prepared for you.
The real question is why wouldn’t you want the gift of the Holy Spirit, the ability to speak in tongues, and any other spiritual gift the Holy Spirit wants to give you?
How do I receive the gift of tongues?
Simply ask for it. There’s no magic formula. If you’ve already placed your faith in Jesus Christ then ask another believer to pray with you for the baptism of the Holy Spirit.
It will look different for every person. Some people experience an immediate ability to speak in tongues, other people receive that ability at a later time. Regardless of what it looks like for you, believe in faith that God will not withhold any good thing from you and boldly ask for the closeness of relationship with the Holy Spirit that Jesus died to provide for you.
Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.
You parents—if your children ask for a loaf of bread, do you give them a stone instead? Or if they ask for a fish, do you give them a snake? Of course not! So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask him. Matthew 7:7-11