Jesus wanted His disciples to stay in Jerusalem to await a significant event. Something extraordinary was going to happen to them, which the Father had promised, and Jesus explained it to them by comparing it to John’s baptism with water. Just as John baptized with water, Jesus promised they would be baptized with the Holy Spirit. Acts 1:4-5 says it clearly, “And while staying with them, he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, ‘you heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.’” There has been no end to the controversy over baptism among Christians since the very early church. They argue about who should be baptized, how they should be baptized, and when they should be baptized. These arguments and denominational distinctions refer only to water baptism. Yet any understanding of the Baptism of the Holy Spirit must relate to water baptism because John’s water baptism is mentioned in this verse as a picture of the baptism that the Father promised in the Holy Spirit.

In water baptism, we are immersed in water. Not all practice baptism by immersion but even sprinkling and pouring picture us in water one way or another. It appears that the baptism of the Holy Spirit has to do not with us being in it but with it being in us. 1 Corinthians 12:13 is an essential verse for understanding the baptism of the Holy Spirit. It says, “For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.”

In Acts 2:4, we see that the preaching on the day of Pentecost came about because of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in the lives of the disciples in the Upper Room. It says, “And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.” My take on the “tongues” issue is that it refers specifically to other natural languages. Since the crowds were from all over the world and spoke different languages, the disciples were miraculously enabled to communicate the message of Jesus to everyone there. Acts chapter two says that those in the crowd were surprised that they all heard the news in their own language. This purposely reverses the dispersal of the nations at the tower of Babel in Genesis. There they were scattered; here, they are brought together into one body. Paul makes it clear that the baptism of the Holy Spirit breaks down all barriers between people by race, culture, or social status. One website says, “The baptism of the Holy Spirit may be defined as that work whereby the Spirit of God places the believer into union with Christ and into union with other believers in the body of Christ at the moment of salvation.”[1] The Holy Spirit enables all believers to share their experiences and tell others about Jesus. I think this is what Jesus means when he told the disciples to wait in Jerusalem until they “have been clothed with power from on high.” Larkin concludes his comments on this passage well, “Jesus promises that in a little while God will supply the church with all the resources it needs for fulfilling its missionary mandate. Lloyd Ogilvie observes, ‘We have been instructed in the things Jesus did, but know too little of what He continues to do today as indwelling Spirit and engendering power.’ Christians who have not done so need to appropriate the power that is already theirs, all because Jesus’ promise was fulfilled at Pentecost.”[2]


[2] Larkin, William J., Jr. 1995. Acts. Vol. 5. The IVP New Testament Commentary Series. Westmont, IL: IVP Academic.