The Baptism and Indwelling of the Holy Spirit

When the Lord was bodily on earth, He made many great promises, including some that were applicable to the time of His absence. Two in particular were in relation to the Holy Spirit. The first was in John 14:16-17: “And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; Even the Spirit of truth … for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.”[1] The second was in Acts 1:4-5: “And, being assembled together with them, [He] commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith he, ye have heard of me. For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence.”

These two promises are the subject of this article, i.e., the baptism and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, and they are very important to us today. There is much confusion and error about the subject, and a correct consideration of Scripture will help us to understand this doctrine.

The Baptism in the Holy Spirit

It may be useful to set out, first of all, what the baptism in the Holy Spirit is not before we consider what it is.

It is not something to be prayed for either individually or collectively by a Christian in order to receive or experience it. There is no scriptural requirement to do so.

It is not something that comes secondarily into the life of a Christian due to some particular experience after salvation. At conversion we are “blessed with ALL spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Eph 1:3).

It is not something that replaces Christ as the center of the believer’s focus, experience and affection. Believers should, in all things, seek to live Christ-centered, Christ-glorifying lives.

It was not linked with the sign gifts in the early days of the Church.

It was not an event that happened to a single person; indeed, nowhere in Scripture is the baptism in the Holy Spirit spoken of as an individual experience.

So, what then was the baptism in the Holy Spirit?

The Phenomena

The baptism in the Spirit was an event that took place on the day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit came down, thus forming the Church, the body of Christ. It was the inauguration of a new dispensation and only happened once, that day in Jerusalem. It was accompanied by unique phenomena that never happened that way before and would never happen again. The evidence of it was, firstly, audible – “a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind” – and secondly, visible – “there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire” (Act 2:2-3).

The Prophecies

The baptism in the Spirit was a fulfilment of prophecy by John the Baptist, who preached, “I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me … he shall baptize you with [in] the Holy Ghost” (Mat 3:11). Also, the Lord Himself, before He went back to glory, reminded the disciples of what they heard previously from Him: “For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with [in] the Holy Ghost not many days hence” (Act 1:5).

The Pattern

The baptism in the Holy Spirit was an event prefigured in the Old Testament. In Leviticus 23, the feasts of Jehovah were a prophetic panorama of the program of redemption right through to eternity. Passover typified the death of Christ (1Co 5:7); the Feast of Firstfruits, the resurrection of Christ (15:20); and the Feast of Weeks, fifty days after the Passover, typified Pentecost. Just as the Passover and Firstfruits found their fulfillment in two unique, single events, so too the Feast of Weeks found its fulfilment on the day of Pentecost as a unique event in history.

The Participants

For a baptism to take place, a number of elements are needed. There must be a baptiser, a baptised, a baptising element, a time and a place. In relation to the baptism in the Spirit, John tells us the baptiser would be the Lord Himself (Mat 3:11). Paul tells us who was baptised and the element of baptism: “By [in] one Spirit are [were] we all baptized into one body” (1Co 12:13). The time (“not many days hence”) was Pentecost, and the place where they were told to remain was in “Jerusalem” (Act 1:4-5).

The Precept

The Lord said that the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost would “reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: Of sin, because they believe not on me; Of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and ye see me no more; Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged” (Joh 16:8-11). His coming was a vindication of all that Christ said and did in His life, death, resurrection and ascension to His Father. It was also the start of a new dispensation of grace, when Christ would build His Church (Mat 16:18). In 1 Corinthians 12:13 Paul writes, “For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body [the Church].” This was something that took place once. Who are the “all”? In the divine reckoning, we were all in view in that one baptism. In Psalm 139 David was seen of God when he was not yet formed and in God’s book when he was not. So too the believer at conversion comes, individually, into the good of what happened corporately at Pentecost.

The Indwelling of the Spirit

If the baptism in the Holy Spirit was a corporate, unique event that happened at Pentecost, then the indwelling of the Holy Spirit is an individual event that happens to each person the moment of salvation. It is:


The indwelling of the Holy Spirit is a real or palpable fact for the person who trusts Christ; His presence is evident in the change that He makes to the person’s life. “If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (2Co 5:17). Indeed, Paul reminds us elsewhere, “… if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his” (Rom 8:9).


The Spirit’s indwelling is not conditional on our behaviour but is an unbreakable, permanent residency. The Corinthians were not living honorably, and Paul had to remind them, “Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you?” (1Co 6:19). He admonished the Ephesian believers not to grieve “the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption” (Eph 4:30).


It is a lofty thought to realize that the power that moved upon the face of the waters (Gen 1:2), that came upon Mary in relation to the incarnation of the Saviour (Luk 1:35), and that raised the Lord from the dead (Rom 1:4) is the same Holy Spirit that indwells every believer and empowers spiritual living.


The Holy Spirit indwells each believer for a purpose. It is by Him that “the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts” (Rom 5:5). He is the bestower of gifts in the Church and the power by which they are exercised (1Co 12). He produces features in the believer that reflect the likeness of Christ as love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness and temperance (Gal 5:22-23). He is a guide to the believer in life. The Lord spoke of this when He said, “When he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth” (Joh 16:13).

Thus, we can rejoice in our position in the Church which is His [Christ’s] body, over which He is the head. We can also rejoice for the power of the Holy Spirit who indwells us to enable us to live faithful and fruitful lives to the glory of Christ.

[1] All Scripture quotations in this article are from the KJV.