In the New Testament we find expressions such as being "born again", being "baptized in the Holy Spirit" and being "filled with the Holy Spirit". I can't pinpoint specific denominations, but in conversations with Christians I've noticed that some of them interpret them as having different meanings. For example, some claim that all Christians by definition are born again, but only a few are baptized in the Holy Spirit, whereas others think that all Christians are baptized in the Holy Spirit at the moment of conversion. Likewise, some claim that being baptized in the Holy Spirit and being filled with the Holy Spirit are interchangeable expressions, whereas others affirm that these expressions indicate completely different experiences. Here are a few examples of what I'm talking about: 1, 2, 3, 4.

What is the biblical basis for interpreting the expressions "born again", "baptized in the Holy Spirit" and "filled with the Holy Spirit" as different experiences?

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    Interesting question, but you want an overview of the many different interpretations and beliefs within Christianity? Sorry, but that is a very tall ask. Would you permit people to give an overview of their own denominational beliefs?
    – Lesley
    Commented Dec 4, 2020 at 10:22
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    If one poses an 'overview' question, one is asking someone to spend a lot of valuable time composing an article on a variety of views with which (save one) they will not agree. It is a task that does not much reward the doer of it.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Dec 4, 2020 at 10:51
  • @Lesley what about now?
    – user50422
    Commented Dec 5, 2020 at 19:41
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    For this to be a valid biblical basis question can you please edit it to demonstrate that there is a group of Christians who do say the three things are distinct.
    – curiousdannii
    Commented Dec 6, 2020 at 1:18

2 Answers 2


If you want a full list of every denomination's doctrinal and traditional interpretations of these terms, you're not going to get it.

But if all you want is a simple biblical explanation of the terms, then consider these example usages. (Note that each succeeding one is accepted by fewer denominations.)

Human spirit:

Thus says the LORD, who stretches out the heavens, lays the foundation of the earth, and forms the spirit of man within him: — Zechariah 12:1

But there is a spirit in man, And the breath of the Almighty gives him understanding. — Job 32:8

Humans are born already possessing a spiritual nature. It is this spirit that makes us self-aware and distinguishes us from animals.

Filled with the holy spirit:

“And I have filled him with the Spirit of God, in wisdom, in understanding, in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship, — Exo 31:3

When they came there to the hill, there was a group of prophets to meet him; then the Spirit of God came upon him, and he prophesied among them. — 1Samuel 10:10

And when they had prayed, the place where they were assembled together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness. — Acts 4:31

Sometimes people receive a boost, filling them with extra spirit. (This would typically be to accomplish some task for God, or as a result of requesting help for some specific purpose.)

But the Spirit of the LORD departed from Saul, and a distressing spirit from the LORD troubled him. — 1Samuel 16:14

This guiding spirit may last a lifetime or be only temporary, and may come upon anyone, regardless of whether they have been baptized into Christ.

Baptized in the holy spirit:

Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. — Acts 2:38

To become a Christian, one must repent (change one's behaviour and attitude) and then be baptized. During this ceremony, one will receive a special portion of God's holy spirit, as a gift, not as something that can be earned or deserved.

Born again:

“That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.” — John 3:6–8

Being "born again" in this case does not refer to the "I feel like a new man!" emotion that many people experience when they discover a new way of looking at things.

Jesus literally meant what he said; born again Christians will no longer be physical beings. They will be able to move anywhere, freely, not being constrained by physical obstacles.

And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence. — Colossians 1:18

For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. — Romans 8:29

Following his Resurrection, Jesus became the firstborn from the dead of many spiritual beings, the literal sons of God.


Our human spirits (what we think of as "ourselves") were combined at baptism with God's holy spirit, in a manner similar to physical conception. That combined spirit not only guides us, it also grows and develops within us like a human fetus, destined to eventually be born as a child of God.

in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. — 1Corinthians 15:52–53

When Christ returns, Christians, both dead and still alive, will lose their physical bodies and their embryonic spirits will be reborn as one of Jesus's siblings, no longer in the physical image of God, but now in the spiritual image of God.

  • What about the case of Cornelius and his household (Acts 10) who received the Holy Spirit before water baptism? At what moment where they born again, baptized in the Holy Spirit and filled with the Holy Spirit respectively?
    – user50422
    Commented Dec 6, 2020 at 0:52
  • @SpiritRealmInvestigator, they were baptised at the very end of Acts 10. The pre-baptismal holy spirit would be the "boost", which is independent of the union of God's and man's spirit at baptism. As for "born again", it hasn't happened yet; they are all dead and awaiting resurrection (ideally the first resurrection, and I would hope not the third). Commented Dec 6, 2020 at 1:15
  • @Ray Butterworth...how can you then describe Jesus before his own baptism? Are you saying Jesus was not born of the spirit prior to that?
    – Adam
    Commented Dec 6, 2020 at 5:40
  • @Adam, Jesus was conceived with God's holy spirit ("Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost" — Matthew 1:20), was physically born 9 months later, but was not "born of the spirit" until his resurrection. Commented Dec 6, 2020 at 14:56
  • @ ray butterworth can you back that up with biblical reference? The are a number of different resurrections talked about in the Bible.
    – Adam
    Commented Dec 6, 2020 at 17:15

The body now is the Temple of God. The holy spirit is no less than God. Being filled with the Holy Spirit is having God inhabit your body. We can be a christian and not be filled with the spirit at any one particular time - this is our natural state.. Learning to dwell with God's presence within us means we have to repent of our sinful nature.. I find this to be not a one time thing - but a constant and mindful thing. It is both a gift of God and necessarily a desire on our part.

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