WHAT THE BAPTISM IN THE HOLY SPIRIT IS NOT!
By Harold Horton
What then is the Baptism in the Spirit? Perhaps we shall find an answer more easily if we approach the question from the negative side and ask, “What is NOT the Baptism in the Holy Ghost?”
Firstly — The Baptism in the Holy Spirit is not regeneration, new–birth salvation, reconciliation, forgiveness, or any other of the numerous phrases that are employed to characterise our “common salvation”. These things of course are most important, even fundamental; for no one could possibly receive the Holy Ghost if he were not a child of God (John 14:17). But the Baptism in the Spirit is not regeneration: it is an experience distinct from and additional — sometimes a little subsequent — to regeneration. The disciples of the Lord Jesus were saved men. We will not quarrel about the exact moment when they could look upon themselves as theologically or technically “born again” — perhaps we might agree that that would be when Jesus was raised from the dead. But I mean they were saved in the all–important sense that if they had died at any time, even before Jesus was crucified, they would have been received in heaven. Jesus told them they were clean through the Word He had spoken to them. He assured them that as branches, they were already partakers of His divine life who was the Vine. They heard themselves characterized in the Lord’s audible prayer as belonging both to the Father and to the Son (John 17:9, 10), and to make assurance doubly, quadruply, a million times sure, they (seventy of them) heard Jesus say that their names were written in heaven! (Luke 10:20). But though they were rejoicing in this experience and assurance of salvation, they were not yet baptised in the Holy Ghost — for the Day of Pentecost had not yet come.
And if it is claimed that since this was previous to the outpouring of the Spirit at Pentecost it is therefore not relevant to the argument, and if it is still claimed that since the Day of Pentecost regeneration and the Baptism in the Spirit are one and the same experience, let it be recalled that at Samaria seven years after Pentecost a numerous company of people were saved through Philip’s preaching of Christ. Moreover they were saved to such a tune that there was great joy in Samaria, and the fame thereof reached the apostles in Jerusalem. But in spite of their glorious and authentic salvation Peter and John came to pray for them that they might receive the Holy Ghost — “for as yet He was fallen upon none of them!” If regeneration and the baptism are synonymous what was the purpose of the apostles’ visit and ministry? (Acts 8: 5–17). The Baptism in the Holy Spirit is obviously distinct from and additional to regeneration.
Secondly — The Baptism in the Holy Spirit is not sanctification, the second blessing, a clean heart, holiness — or whatever phrase may characterise that life of separation so well-pleasing to God. Here again we must not seem to speak lightly of so fundamental and beautiful a thing as holiness. It is enthusiastically agreed we must be holy as well as regenerate. But the Baptism in the Holy Ghost is distinct from and additional to holiness or sanctification. Take an argument from the life of the Lord Jesus first. The Lord received the Hoy Spirit at the age of thirty whilst submitting to be immersed in the river Jordan (Matt 3:16). But the Baptism in the Spirit did not make Him any holier. He was just as holy in the carpenter’s shop before His baptism as He was in agonising prayer in Gethsemane, or sacrificial love at Calvary afterwards. That enduement did not sanctify Him or make His heart any cleaner. He was always — before and after Baptism — a hundred percent holy. But on the other hand we poor saved sinners need a cleansed heart, we must be made holy, we need a second blessing and a fifth and a tenth and a thousandth! But the Baptism is distinct from and additional to these.
Then at Corinth long after Pentecost there was a numerous assembly of believers all baptised in the Holy Ghost with such a mighty infilling that all the nine miraculous spiritual gifts were in operation amongst them (1 Cor 1:&; 12:7–10), and all spoke in other tongues as supernatural evidence of their baptism. Yet in spite of this glorious and scriptural baptism, nearly every conceivable moral and spiritual irregularity was represented amongst them. They were baptised but unhappily not sanctified — until they received the Word of God conveyed to them by the apostle Paul. Then later still at Ephesus Paul encountered the nucleus of the Ephesian church in a small group of elementary and ill–taught believers, so ignorant that they had never heard of the Holy Ghost. He there and then instructed them in the elements of their salvation, immersed them in water, laid hands upon them, and all received the Baptism in the Holy Ghost (Acts 19:1-6). Now it surely cannot be claimed that all those ignorant new converts, though admittedly sincere and happy, were fully, or even equally sanctified, yet they were equally all baptised in the Holy Ghost. Sanctification and the Baptism are obviously distinct.
It is agreed that sanctification is an operation of the Holy Spirit through the Word of God. “Now are ye clean through the Word that I have spoken unto you.” “Sanctify them through thy truth: thy Word is truth.” But sanctification by the Spirit is not the Baptism in the Spirit.
And though we must never seek to formulate a doctrine from a type, yet having found our clear doctrine in the New Testament, we can illustrate it from many types and shadows of the Old Testament. That is what the types are intended for. Take one: When Aaron or one of his sons was to be consecrated to the service of the sanctuary (Lev 8) certain important details of inspired ritual were performed concerning him. After he was stripped, washed and reclothed in holy garments, some of the blood of the ram of consecration was put on the tip of his right ear, on the thumb of his right hand, and on the great toe of his right foot. In the case of the leper that was cleansed (type of any ordinary saved sinner, Lev 14), the same piece of ceremony was performed, but in addition, immediately upon the fresh blood on ear, thumb and toe was placed some of the holy anointing oil. Oil only where the blood was, but oil immediately there. Every Bible student will admit that the sprinkled blood is the type and agent of salvation, and the anointing oil, a type of the Holy Spirit’s anointing. In the case of Aaron, oil was poured finally upon his head, and the aim and design of the ceremony, so far as the oil was concerned, we read in Leviticus 8:12 was “to sanctify him.” The agent and the product cannot be one and the same thing. So that the divine order is: blood, oil, sanctification, or, in the interpretation of the type, Salvation, Baptism in the Holy Spirit, Sanctification. Obviously sanctification and the Baptism are distinct.
In passing, let that order be particularly noted. Not salvation, and then an indefinite interval to prove a sufficient measure of sanctification that may merit the baptism, and after the baptism (oil), then sanctification (“to sanctify him”). The baptism is not a reward : it is a gift (Acts 2:38). “All the worth I have before Him is the value of the blood.”
From all of which it clearly appears that we can be saved without the baptism; we can be sanctified without the baptism; and we can be baptised without sanctification. The point is thus established that though the Baptism in the Holy Spirit is a mighty agent in Sanctification, it is distinct from it.
Thirdly — The Baptism in the Spirit is not new light on the Word. We are familiar with the beloved Christians who tell us they are sure they have received their baptism, dating it from an occasion when the Lord put a “spot light” as it were on the Word, ever since which new meanings have streamed from the sacred page in floods of illumination! Now apart from the fact that there is no such evidence of the baptism in the scripture — recall that on the way to Emmaus two despondent disciples were talking earnestly about the Lord when He appeared, though for a time unrecognised. Breaking into the conversation the Stranger, we read, “Beginning at Moses and all the prophets, He expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning Himself” (Luke 24:27). Would you call that new light on the Word? Most certainly if we are talking about Jesus, eagerly seeking revelation in the mysteries of redemption, He will draw nigh to us, and delight us with marvellous expoundings of His Word. But remember that this was the Son, the Second Person of the Trinity, and not the Third, and moreover it was long before the disciples had received their baptism at Pentecost.
These same illuminated men hastened to the upper room in Jerusalem to convey their glad tidings of the risen Lord to the eleven gathered there, excitedly and doubtingly discussing the Lord’s Resurrection, when He Himself broke in amongst them. “Then opened He their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures” (45). Is not that new light on the Word? This again was in the presence of the Son long before Pentecost. Thank God we shall enjoy revelation of the Word as we seek more and more to know Him who is the living Word — but this is not the Baptism in the Holy Spirit.
Fourthly — The Baptism in the Holy Spirit is not a new revelation of the nearness and reality of the Lord. How many earnest Christians point to an occasion when in adoration their hearts burdened with a tremendous sense of the actual presence of the Lord, as the occasion when they gathered they had received their baptism! But go once more to Emmaus to the home of the fortunate two in the presence of the Lord they didn’t yet know, and read: “Their eyes were opened and they knew Him — the Living as well as the Written Word — and they said one to another, Did not our heart burn within us, while He talked with us by the way, and while He opened to us the scriptures?” (31, 32) What incontrovertible assurance of the reality of the Present Lord! — yet this, too, was long before the effusion of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost! Yes. We may enjoy marvellous revelations of the mysteries of the Word and the ever–present Lord — His Word and Himself — with no experience of the Baptism in the Holy Spirit.
Fifthly — and lastly on the negative side — The Baptism in the Holy Ghost is not a new–found joy in the heart. How many look wistfully to the occasion when a new radiance flooded their souls, when a triumphant gladness akin to ceaseless laughter broke up the fountains of their deep, as the occasion on which they received their baptism! Thank God for all those redeemed souls who have possessed their inheritance, the joy of the Lord, who know the merriment of the returned prodigal, the unspeakable ecstasy of sins forgiven and the laughter–provoking favour of a once offended Father. Thank God for all the happy people who know the “joyful sound.” Would God all God’s people were as joyful as Jesus has died to make them! But joy is not the Baptism in the Holy Spirit. Recall once more how Peter and John came to Samaria (where “there was great joy in that city”) to lay hands on the joy–filled converts that they might receive the Holy Ghost, “for”, in spite of their ringing joy, “as yet He had fallen upon none of them” (Acts 8:8, 15, 16). We may all become happy knights of the flashing eye, the burning heart and the laughing soul in the presence of the Lord, without the baptism.
It will thus be agreed that on the negative side we have made it good that the Baptism in the Holy Spirit is not regeneration, sanctification, new light on the Word, a sense of the reality of the Lord, joy. The baptism enormously intensifies, multiplies, accentuates, magnifies all these, but it is distinct from them all.