What is the Baptism of the Holy Spirit, and how does it differ from water baptism? Do all Christians experience Baptism of the Holy Spirit?


A few references to Baptisim of the Holy Spirit, or similar phrases, in scripture:

  • Are you talking about the difference between what John was doing and what Jesus commanded the apostles to do?
    – Peter Turner
    Aug 24, 2011 at 18:30
  • @Peter Turner: I think I'm asking in general terms. I know the phrases is found in scripture, in Acts and other places. I also know that many "charismatic" churches use the phrase. I'm curious what the phrase means in either context, and how the two uses are related or differ.
    – Flimzy
    Aug 24, 2011 at 18:39

5 Answers 5


Baptism of the Holy Spirit refers to receiving the Holy Spirit into your life.

In John 14:16-17 (NIV), Jesus says:

16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— 17 the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.

Later, after Jesus had ascended into heaven, the Holy Spirit came to the apostles at the feast of Pentecost. The entire story is Acts 2, but specifically

Acts 2:2-3

2 Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3 They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them.

That is the Baptism of the Holy Spirit.

It's the Holy Spirit coming and filling us. Once he enters our lives, we are forever changed. We have access to the Holy of Holies and have direct communion with God.

  • See here for further justification of "receiving" and "being baptized in" being equivalent.
    – Jas 3.1
    Jul 7, 2012 at 0:01

Matthew 3:11 NIV

“I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me comes one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.

There are three experiences that you receive from the Holy Spirit.

Stage One: Guidance

The Holy Spirit is guiding you, but is not within you. This can be considered like a conscience or something. Notice the words of this passage. You first come to know the Truth. This is prior to receiving the promise, you must first know what the promise is. This is the first step in your growth with Christ.

John 14:17 NIV

the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.

Stage Two: Indwelling

The second stage with the Holy Spirit is actually when the Spirit of Truth makes His home within you. This is the point of your salvation, that you are marked with the promise from the Father.

I imagine that this stage is going to be a very debatable topic for most. As this is the reason for the separation between congregations IMO.

As I understand it. When you begin to Obey Christ, is when you begin to accept Him as your Lord. At this stage in your life, the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit begin to indwell in you.

John 14:23 NIV

Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.

1 John 4:16 (NIV)

16 And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.

John 14:15 NIV

[ Jesus Promises the Holy Spirit ] “If you love me, keep my commands.

So you can see, to obey God is the beginning of true love and joy. These are also fruits of the Spirit.

Stage Three: The Baptism of the Spirit

The last stage of the Holy Spirit "experience" (for lack of a better word) is the baptism. This is not the same baptism as you received with water, as Mathew 3:11 points out. The baptism with water was the baptism for repentance. But the baptism of the Holy Spirit is the fire. Luke 3:16 John 1:33 Acts 1:5 Acts 11:16

Mark 1:8 NIV

I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

Many scholars believe that you must wait until you are baptized with the Holy Spirit before you should begin to go out and preach the word of God. This understanding comes from the following verse. Keep in mind that Jesus disciples had received the Holy Spirit prior to this.

read it in context here, but I'm going to shorten it up:

Acts 1 NIV

... he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. 5 For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”...

... 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” ...

You see how we can come to the conclusion that we will not receive power and authority from God until He has baptized us with the Holy Spirit.

I hope that this helps.


Baptism of water is Baptism of the Holy Spirit.

Luther's Small Catechism says that:

It is not the water that produces these effects, but the Word of God connected with the water, and our faith which relies on the Word of God connected with the water. For without the Word of God the water is merely water and no Baptism. But when connected with the Word of God it is a Baptism, that is, a gracious water of life and a washing of regeneration in the Holy Spirit, as St. Paul wrote to Titus (3:5-8): "He saved us by the washing of regeneration and renewal in the Holy Spirit, which he poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that we might be justified by his grace and become heirs in hope of eternal life. This saying is sure."

Also John 3:5 (NIV)

No one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit.

Which ties in with Ephesians 4:5

One Lord, one faith, one Baptism.

  • 5
    Acts 10:47 and Acts 19:5-6 imply that the water baptism and the receiving of the Holy Spirit are two distinct events and that one does not necessarily precede or guarantee the other. Sep 24, 2011 at 12:30
  • <removed obsolete comments> Post has been updated.
    – Caleb
    Sep 25, 2011 at 19:44

CARM has a good article on this topic, What is baptism in the Holy Spirit?, wherein Matt states that many claim a secondary experience of the Holy Spirit after conversion.

Many charismatic denominations believe in such a secondary experience, while other denominations claim you receive the Holy Spirit at salvation, and there is no such secondary experience.


The Bible is a bit vague about exactly what the "baptism of the Holy Spirit" involves, but it's clear from Acts 2 and Acts 19 that to be valid, baptism by water must be followed by the participant "receiving" the Holy Ghost. Exactly what that means and how it happens is not explained, unfortunately.

  • Are you saying "receiving" the Holy Spirit synonymous to Baptism of the Holy Spirit? And is the order important? Can a person receive the Holy Spirit/be baptized by the Holy Spirit prior to their water baptism?
    – Flimzy
    Aug 24, 2011 at 18:37
  • @Flimzy: It appears to be important, yes. See Acts 19:2.
    – Mason Wheeler
    Aug 24, 2011 at 18:39

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .