Biblical standards for living a victorious Christian life are higher than those required to conduct oneself acceptably before God in Old Testament times. Thankfully, though, with the greater requirements for holy living comes greater assistance from heaven to make such possible.
The regeneration one experiences in coming to Christ transforms him into a new creature (2 Cor. 5:17). Then, following the new birth by the Spirit the Lord provides for a baptism in the Spirit. To receive it requires certain attitudes, specific actions, and availing oneself of particular avenues that Jesus uses in baptizing believers in the Holy Spirit.
Victory through the Holy Spirit Baptism
The baptism in the Holy Spirit and the fruit the Spirit provides make it possible for the believer to live a life of constant victory over sin. Accordingly, every Christian should seek earnestly the fullness of the Spirit in his life.
It seems unthinkable that some of those driven by a morbid fear of demon possession of Christians warn against seeking the baptism of the Spirit. For example, Bubeck writes:
Numerous people have come to me under bondage to some dark power of Satan who were brought under that bondage while seeking an experience with the Holy Spirit which they could interpret to be the baptism of the Holy Spirit (Bubeck, 1975. 40).
One may disregard his unscriptural warning. The fact is, though one begins a relationship with the Spirit at regeneration, he knows a fuller fellowship with Him in the baptismal experience subsequent to the new birth. Paul's case serves to illustrate this truth. None question the fact he was genuinely converted on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:3-8). Yet three days later on instructions from the Lord, Ananias went to him with the message, "Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you came, has sent me, that you may receive you your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit" (17).
Further, at Samaria, in response to hearing the gospel from the young evangelist Philip, many believed and were baptized in water, but not until the mature ministers Peter and John came did they receive the Holy Spirit baptism. Luke notes, "For as yet he had fallen upon none of them: They had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus" (Acts 8:16). They had been baptized in water but as yet not in the Holy Spirit.
Receiving the Holy Spirit
But, how does one receive the baptism in the Holy Spirit? Graves correctly suggests there are no mystical secrets which only the spiritually elite may know with regard to being filled with the Spirit (Graves, "How to Receive the Baptism of the Holy Spirit," Unpublished Manuscript [Spring¬field, MO.: Central Bible College Library], p. 1). One must apply the same principles in his approach to God for the Holy Spirit baptism as in seeking for any other blessing.
Interestingly, none of the six accounts in the New Testament where people were baptized in the Spirit have an emphasis on how to receive. Seekers found no workers present with instructions on the subject at Pentecost (Acts 2:1-4). No one had ever been blessed with the experience before in all of history. None had ever before spoken with tongues. Likewise, hungry hearts had no teaching on receiving the Spirit from Peter at Cornelius' house (Acts 10:34-48). As the Spirit descended on them, he preached, not on the baptism of the Holy Spirit, but on the subject of Jesus! Similarly, the other four accounts draw attention to the actions of God the Giver rather than on the performance of man, the receiver.
Holdcroft concludes the genuine seeker after the fullness of the Spirit is not concerned with the discovery of technique or formula (Holdcroft,1962, 64). Such is irrelevant. He seeks the Baptizer through personal communion rather than just an experience through ritual.
Happily, though, the Bible does not leave the hungry heart without guidance on how to receive the baptism in the Holy Spirit. One can receive the fullness of the Spirit by taking note of certain necessary actions, by possessing some required attitudes, and by following possible avenues which lead in that direction.
Necessary Actions: Actions necessary to being endued or clothed with power from on high involve some of the first steps in one's overall approach to God. They include repentance, water baptism, and obedience to Jesus. Soon after Peter and the rest of the 120 had received the Spirit's fullness on the Day of Pentecost, he preached to others interested in the phenomenon. His word was, "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). One must face up to the fact of sin in his life and know godly sorrow over it before he has any spiritual experiences.
Peter's words also show that the candidate for the Spirit's fullness should be baptized in water. Jesus taught there is both a water and a Spirit baptism. To the 120 prior to their Pentecostal experience He said, "For John truly baptized with water; but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now" (Acts 1:5). In agreement with Peter, Paul baptized the Ephesian believers before praying the Spirit would descend on them (Acts 19:5,6). Of course, those at Cornelius' house received the gift of the Spirit before being baptized in water. Thus, being immersed in water before the Spirit baptism is important, but not essential.
The Holy Spirit baptism comes to those who have made a break with the life of sin. Jesus must be their Lord as well as their Savior. Commenting on the resurrection and exaltation of Jesus, Peter declares, "And we are his witnesses to these things, and so is also the Holy Spirit whom God hath given to those who obey him" (Acts 5:32). Jesus promised that after His departure another Comforter would come, identifying Him as "the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him, neither knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and shall be in you" (John 14:17).
Required Attitudes: Among the required attitudes necessary to receive the Holy Spirit baptism are desire and faith. Certainly, Jesus does not force this blessing on anyone. He responds to the cry of hungry hearts who believe He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him (Heb. 11:6). Those coming to Him in sincerity may disregard the warning of Mrs. Penn-Lewis as she writes:
The fact to emphasize now, is, that "honest" and earnest believers can be deceived, and even "possessed" by deceiving spirits, so that for a period they go out of the main line into a bog of deception, or they are left deceived to the end, unless light for their deliverance reaches them (Penn-Lewis, 560).
Jesus spoke of the way earthly parents treat children to show such is impossible. He said, "If a son asks for bread of any father among you, will he give him a stone?" (Luke 11:11). Even less would God allow a demon substitute to deceive one who seeks the Holy Spirit baptism.
Hunger for God is necessary to receiving the fullness of the Spirit because as long as one feels self-sufficient in his service to God, his condition is not likely to change. Confession of need precedes its supply. In the words of Ockenga, "There must be a confession of the fact that I am not living as the New Testament tells me I should, that the level of my life is much lower than that which is described in the Gospels and in the Acts and in the Epistles" (Ockenga, 1965], 11,12).
Still, desire alone is not enough. God wants a correctly motivated desire, not a desire like that of Simon who sought the blessing that he might continue his magical activities and thus maintain his status in the community at Samaria (Acts 8:18-23). Another example of wrong desire in seeking the Holy Spirit is that of one who wants to be filled just so he may experience the phenomenon of speaking in other tongues. He is so anxious to be counted among the initiated that he concentrates on the effect and bypasses the cause. Gee shows the folly of such declaring that "the effect is not even desired among those rightly instructed, except as an incidental ordained by God for His wise and loving purposes: all the desire is for the Spirit and the Spirit alone" (Gee 1961, 35).
Certainly, the Bible teaches tongues as the initial, physical evidence of having received the baptism in the Holy Spirit, though Mrs. Penn-Lewis seems to think such comes from demon activity. She writes, "In the interference with, or use of the vocal organs and voice, may be placed the counterfeit `gift of tongues'" (165,166). Disregarding abundant Biblical evidence, she concludes experiencing anything "physical" in seeking the Lord opens the door for invasion by demons. She says:
It may be said deliberately, that it is never safe in any case to feel God's presence with the physical senses, for it is almost beyond doubt a counterfeit "presence" - a subtle snare of the enemy to gain a footing in the man (113).
She further shows her lack of knowledge of the Biblical baptism a believer experiences when she writes of the time when in "his abandonment to the Holy Spirit, he begins to obey an unseen Person, and to submit his faculties, and his reasoning powers in blind obedience to that which he believes is God" (p. 50). She overlooks the fact Paul says, "The spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets" (1 Cor. 14:32).
Still, to focus attention on a mechanical and fleshly experience of speaking in tongues without the accompanying miraculous inner working of the Spirit is to rob the doctrine of its experiential reality. Gee expresses concern over this matter as he writes:
'The ever-present temptation that has dogged the Pentecostal revival for over fifty years is to try and "make" seekers apparently speak with tongues so that it can be claimed that they are "through" into the promised personal Pentecost. In order to make people speak with what are claimed to be "tongues" there have been methods adopted for which we make no excuse. They have been our shame. We can affirm before God and men that reputable Pentecostal leaders heartily condemn such practices' (35,36).
To receive the Spirit one must also have faith in Jesus alone for salvation. The Galatians thought they might renew their confidence in the works of the law and still find spiritual blessings. How can an animal sacrifice or the rite of circumcision bring blessings from heaven to anyone? To warn as to the danger of that approach Paul asked, "Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?" (3:2). Obviously, the Holy Spirit came to them as the result of believing the sacrifice of Jesus atoned for their sins, not ritualistic works of the law.
The seeker after the baptism in the Holy Spirit must not only believe in Christ but also in the promises of God with regard to the gift of the Spirit. Luke singles it out as "the promise of the My Father" (Luke 24:49). One must believe that such a blessing is for believers today in the same manner as it was in New Testament times. If he concludes it was reserved for those of apostolic days, he is not likely to receive it.
Faith plays a part, too, in the actual experience of being filled with the Spirit. One must not think, however, that faith is a mere fantasy of the mind which brings only an imaginary experience. Real confidence in a personal God brings a miraculous blessing to the seeker after the Holy Spirit baptism, as Pethrus notes (Pethrus, 1945, 47). Holdcroft contends that the Pentecostal experience is not an object to be appropriated by faith, whether or not there is an accompanying experience (63). A direct act of the risen Lord alone can produce the miraculous baptism in the Spirit.
Possible Avenues: The avenues for receiving the fullness of the Spirit include prayer, worship, and the laying on of hands. Before the first Pentecostal outpouring Scripture declares, "These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication" for a period of ten days (Acts 1:14). Supplication is earnest entreaty on the part of the seekers. To aid the converts at Samaria, Peter and John "prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit" (Acts 8:15).
In the Upper Room prior to Pentecost the waiting ones not only prayed; they also worshiped. Luke writes that they "were continually in the temple praising and blessing God" (Luke 24:53). That "worship" included even conducting a church business meeting to elect a replacement for the fallen Judas (Acts 1:15-26). No doubt it also included singing, preaching, and other ordinary elements of worship services.
On some occasions ministers added the laying on of hands to prayer for seekers to receive the baptism in the Holy Spirit. At Ephesus Luke observes, "And when Paul had laid hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke with tongues and prophesied" (Acts 19:6). Regarding the ministry of Peter and John at Samaria, Luke writes, "Then they laid hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit" (Acts 8:17). However, prayer preceded the laying on of hands (15). One should never view the act as a magical ritual which automatically guarantees success in seeking for the fullness of the Spirit. Lindsay carefully states that imposition of men's hands is effective only if God puts his hands on the seeker at the same time (63).
Then, to receive the baptism in the Holy Spirit requires certain attitudes, specific actions, and availing oneself of particular avenues that Jesus uses in baptizing believers in the Holy Spirit. Among the required attitudes one must possess to receive the Holy Spirit baptism are desire and faith. Actions necessary to being endued or clothed with power from on high include repentance, water baptism, and obedience to Jesus. The avenues for receiving the fullness of the Spirit include prayer, worship, and the laying on of hands. Still, one must beware of thinking these constitute some kind of magical formula to follow which automatically provides the blessing. Only an act of God performs such a miracle. At the Pentecost of Acts 2 Peter declared that it was Jesus who poured out what the people saw and heard (2:33).
Bubeck, Mark I. 1975. The Adversary: The Christian Versus Demon Activity. Chicago: Moody Press.
Gee, Donald. 1961. All with One Accord. Springfield, MO: Gospel Publishing House.
Graves, Arthur H. "How to Receive the Baptism of the Holy Spirit." Unpublished Manuscript in Central Bible College Library, Springfield, MO, n. d.
Holdcroft, L. Thomas. 1962. The Holy Spirit: From a Pentecostal Viewpoint. Santa Cruz, California: Bethany Books.
Lindsay, Gordon. 1964. The Baptism of the Holy Spirit. Dallas: The Voice of Healing Publishing Company.
Ockenga, Harold J. 1965. The Holy Spirit and Tongues. Boston: Park Street Church.
Penn-Lewis, Jessie. 1922. War on the Saints. Leicester: The "Overcomer" Book Room, Cartred, Toller Road, 3rd ed.
Pethrus, Lewi. 1945. The Wind Bloweth Where It Listeth. Chicago: Philadelphia Book Concern.