It is written:
“So God, who knows the heart, acknowledged them by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He did to us, 9 and made no distinction between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith.” (Acts 15:8-9)
One of the great lessons we learn from the fifteenth chapter of Acts deals with the subject of Holy Spirit baptism.
Many in the religious world teach that Holy Spirit baptism continues today, and that it is a phenomenon available for all Christians.
However, a study of the New Testament shows that this is not the case.
First, Holy Spirit baptism is an immersion (baptism) in the Holy Spirit (the third Person of the Godhead-1 John 5:7). It was promised by John the Baptist and Christ (Matthew 3:11; Mark 1:8; Luke 3:16; John 1:33; Acts 1:4-5).
Second, from studying the Book of Acts, we see that this baptism was primarily for the Apostles of Christ. We see this clearly from Acts 2, where the baptism of the Holy Spirit fell on the Apostles as distinguished from the 120 other disciples who were also present on that Pentecost (Acts 1;15, 26-2:4). Lance Mosher has well written:
“A few verses later, Judas was replaced. The last verse in Acts 1 reads: And they drew lots for them, and the lot fell to Matthias; and he was added to the eleven apostles. Acts 1: 26 Verse and chapter breaks were added to the biblical text by men over a thousand years after the New Testament was completed. The original reader would neither have consciously nor subconsciously placed a break between what we know as chapters 1 and 2. It is important we include this verse in our reading of the account of Acts 2, because verses 1–4 of chapter 2 reference “they” and “them.” If we are not careful, we could assume those pronouns reference the 120 in the middle of chapter 1, or even the thousands of Jews in chapter 2. But the antecedent of “they” and “them” in Acts 2: 1–4 is “the apostles” in Acts 1: 26. In the beginning of Acts 1, Jesus promised the apostles they would receive the baptism with the Holy Spirit soon. In the beginning of Acts 2, that promise was fulfilled, which is the first time the Scriptures record the baptism with the Holy Spirit…Baptism with the Holy Spirit was given in specific moments in history for specific purposes. Who received baptism with the Holy Spirit? The twelve Jewish apostles in Acts 2 and the Gentiles in Cornelius’ house in Acts 10.” (Lance Mosher, Clouded by Emotion: Studies On The Holy Spirit and Miracles, 59, 62 (Kindle Edition); www.lancemosherbooks.com)
The only other times that Holy Spirit baptism is mentioned in Acts is when the Apostles laid their hands on certain disciples and passed on these miraculous gifts:
Acts 6:6-whom they set before the apostles; and when they had prayed, they laid hands on them.
Acts 8:14-18-Now when the apostles who were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them, 15 who, when they had come down, prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit. 16 For as yet He had fallen upon none of them. They had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 17 Then they laid hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit. 18 And when Simon saw that through the laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Spirit was given, he offered them money…
Acts 19:6-And when Paul had laid hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke with tongues and prophesied.
Third, notice that here in Acts 15, we are told why the Holy Spirit baptism on the household of Cornelius was for the specific purpose of being a sign to the Jewish believers that the Gospel could from henceforth be preached to the Gentiles. This is in harmony with what Peter also stated in Acts 11:
Acts 11:13-17-And he told us how he had seen an angel standing in his house, who said to him, ‘Send men to Joppa, and call for Simon whose surname is Peter, 14 who will tell you words by which you and all your household will be saved.’ 15 And as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them, as upon us at the beginning. 16 Then I remembered the word of the Lord, how He said, ‘John indeed baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ 17 If therefore God gave them the same gift as He gave us when we believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could withstand God?”
These facts show us that the Holy Spirit baptism was not for every disciple, that it was for very specific purposes (for the revealing and confirming of God’s Word), and that it was temporary in nature. This is in stark contrast to what many in the religious world claim. I still remember being told by two self-professed apostles in a charismatic church that baptism is not part of God’s plan of salvation, even though the Word of the Holy Spirit makes it clear that baptism is part of God’s plan of redemption for sinful man (Matthew 28:19; Mark 16:16; John 3:5; Acts 2:38; 22:16; Romans 6:3-4; Colossians 2:12; 1 Peter 3:20-21).
It is ironic, is it not, that several different denominations all claim the baptism of the Holy Spirit, even though they teach doctrines which are contradictory to each other, and often to the Word of God?
While many claim that Holy Spirit baptism continues today, the Scriptures make it clear that it was limited to those upon whom the Apostles laid their hands (Acts 8:18), except in two cases (the Apostles and the household of Cornelius-Acts 2:1-4; 10:44-46).
Today, there is only one baptism (Ephesians 4:1-6), in water (Acts 8:34-38; 10:47-48), in which a sinner is born again through water and the Spirit (John 3:5).
Have you been baptized into Christ?
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.