Baptism of Water & Receiving the Holy Spirit

Al Ngu.      January 8, 2023.      New York

Acts 8 describes a phenomenally interesting and strange event that took place in Samaria after Philip had gone there to preach the gospel. Philip did great signs and wonders the many were amazed and believed in Christ and they were baptized in the water by Philip. And the news got to Jerusalem headquarter the eldership the apostles ship the supreme council, they heard that people and Samara had received the word and being baptized in water.

Acts 8: 14 Now when the apostles at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent to them Peter and John, 15 who came down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit, 16 for he had not yet fallen on any of them, but they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 17 Then they laid their hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit. 18 Now when Simon saw that the Spirit was given through the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money,

They said something very intriguing and very revealing. The Apostles said the believers in Samaria had received the word of God, they have not received the Holy Spirit for the Holy Spirit had not fallen on them but they had only been baptized in the name of Jesus. So they decided to send Peter and John to Samaria to lay hands on them so that they may receive the Holy Spirit. Now this is becoming even more intriguing now: this is precisely what the charismatics and Pentecostals are doing, laying on hands on the folks for them to receive the Holy Spirit. Note the words “to receive the Holy Spirit” is highly confusing because theologically and in all other instances in the Bible a believer received the Holy Spirit the moment he believes in Christ Jesus. And this is also recorded for a number of cases in the Bible too.

Now what is the difference is the fact that it is clear on the two baptisms, the baptism in the water and the baptism of the Spirit. The fact that the apostles said, “ the Holy Spirit had not fallen upon them but they just received the baptism in water so let’s send John and Peter down there to lay hands on them so that they may receive the Holy Spirit.” What is that telling you? That is saying baptism in water does not make you receive the Holy Spirit in itself.

Well you have to believe in Christ Jesus first so you can be baptized in water, and yet not received the Holy Spirit, that is so contradictory in theology of the gospel. Now the only way I can interpret that is they have received the Holy Spirit however they have not received the Holy Spirit in terms of baptism of the Spirit. Almost in all cases, baptism of the Spirit is manifested as speaking in tongues as recorded numerous times in the book of Acts. The book of Acts gives us a blueprint on a lot of things for the church life for the doctrines of the church and of God, and the receiving the Holy Spirit and the baptism of the Spirit, the filling in of the Holy Spirit is clearly demonstrated in this book. So I interpret that when the apostle’s council in Jerusalem decided to send top apostles Peter and John to Samaria to help Philip to to get them being filled with the Holy Spirit in order to receive the Holy Spirit in terms of baptism or Spirit, I wish there were instances after that they all started speaking in tongues but it was silent. But this is sufficiently clear to me that receiving of the Holy Spirit refers to this second experience that baptism of the Spirit. To say this is a not not the normative pattern in the book of Acts because it is a book that records the formation of the church and advancement of the church as I read from Carson and ESV commentary is hard to substantiate. Carson writes, “The period of Acts is a time of transition, and the book’s purpose is to show the gospel’s relentless advance, not to establish normative patterns for church life and polity.”[1]

There is also the argument saying that because Samaria is hostile to Jerusalem and now some folks in Samaria believed in Christ so they sent apostles from Jerusalem to them so that they receive the Holy Spirit so that they feel that it is really one church not two churches that united in  Christ.[2] But what they said in the apostlilic council does not reflect that. The apostle’s council is as clear as it is you can read into it, but what is clear is that they are concluding they’ve received Christ they have been baptized in the water they need another one for receiving the Holy Spirit . Not that they don’t have the Holy Spirit, they do. However the need for the baptism in the Spirit because Apostles were actually using the words they had only been baptized in the water, what does that tell you?

And if you synchronize & harmonize that with a number of scriptures other places there are talks about baptism of the Spirit like the Lord Jesus himself said you shall be baptized in the Holy Spirit when he was saying that the folks already been baptized in the water in his name. Bcause he has not ascended to heaven yet the Holy Spirit was not give, was not poured out yet and that’s why he said you will be baptized. Now now guess what? In the book of Acts chapter two of the day of Pentecost the Holy Spirit came down, the Spirit of God came down in tongues of fire and rested upon upon them and they were all being filled and being baptized with the Holy Spirit and they all spoke in tongues. Immediately that tongue at that time are known language of other tribes but not known to the speakers themselves which also amazed a lot of Jews that came from other countries. They were amazed to find there Jewish brothers and sisters in Jerusalem praising God in their languages which is not known by the Jewish people in nearby cities.

But proceeding from the first Corinthian 11 onwards the gift of the Spirit you can see clearly Paul said, “ I wish that you all speak in tongues even more I wish that you all prophecy.” What is he saying?  Paul has never for one second downplay tongues or prophecy as the gift of the Spirit. Paul said “earnestly desire the spiritual gift”.  Earnestly means don’t be a lame duck arguing the mind theologically and given up the the spiritual gift simply because doctrinally a lot of denominations have written off tongues and baptism in the Spirit etc. And that’s so sad that is actually going against what Paul says earnestly desire the spiritual gift. And then he said when you speak in tongues in church you should have an interpreter. And if you prophecy in church take turn. The gift of the prophecy reveals the secrets of the hearts of the man and woman who come to church and they will be convicted by the Holy Spirit as they hear the Lord speaking. That is prophecy. I know this is a hard spiritual gift to really operate well but the bigger question is and the bigger problem is most churches have given up on that or dropped that because of the constant battling about the theology of baptism of the spirit and the gift of tongues and the gift of prophecy and the gift of healing by the doctrine of cessation of gift. It’s a matter of interest, doctor Martin Lloyd Jones, a renowned reformed Baptist preacher in London who held such great pulpit and influenced millions and millions of Christians and thousands and thousands of pastors in the reformed world in particular, he believed in the distinct second experience of baptism. He believed in baptism the water and baptism of the spirit. John piper believes in speaking tongues and is asked the Lord for it I recall listening to one of his videos. All right bottom line the apostles the the council say so about the baptism of the spirit receiving the Holy Spirit, churches today should not drag their feet. We must move on to earnestly desire the spiritual gift and lay hands on the people to receive the Baptist and the Holy Spirit Amen.


[1] Carson, D. A. (2018). The Gospels and Acts. In D. A. Carson (Ed.), NIV Biblical Theology Study Bible (p. 1968). Zondervan.

[2] Ibid

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