I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me comes one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. - Matthew 3:11
I get many questions about Holy Spirit baptism that I hope to answer for you in this article:
- What is Holy Spirit baptism? Why is it important?
- Am I still saved if I'm not baptized in the Holy Spirit?
- How can I get baptized in the Holy Spirit?
- How do I know that I've been baptized in the Holy Spirit? What happens to be me when I am?
We will look at the experiences of three church leaders - Smith Wigglesworth, Agnes Sanford, and Francis MacNutt - as well as my own experience, to help answer these questions and encourage you to seek this important gift.
I don't intend to spend time here going into the theology of Holy Spirit baptism - some people believe you get baptized in the Spirit when you are saved, but I believe Holy Spirit baptism is a separate and distinct experience. There is plenty of Bible Scripture to support this, and you can do your own research, or read Robert Morris' book, The God I Never Knew, for more insights. Regardless of your view, the important thing is experiencing the power of the Holy Spirit in your life.
Holy Spirit baptism is important because it makes us a complete person in Christ. Jesus said He had to leave so the Holy Spirit could come (John 16:7), and we know from the Acts of the Apostles and Pentecost the impact the Holy Spirit has had on the church. The early disciples couldn't do what they did on their own, and neither can we. We need the Holy Spirit to guide us into the truth of relationship with the Trinity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Am I still saved if I'm not baptized in the Holy Spirit? Can I still have a relationship with Jesus without it?
Yes! Salvation comes through belief in Jesus Christ and surrender to Him as your Lord and Savior. Jesus died on the cross for our sins, and was resurrected so that we could have eternal life. But His sacrifice also paved the way for the Holy Spirit to be freely shared to all who ask for this gift, to serve as our comforter and guide in our walk with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
To emphasize this point, let talk about our church leaders. Smith Wigglesworth was already a pastor who preached alongside his wife prior to Holy Spirit baptism. Agnes Sanford had a healing ministry and wrote the best-selling book, The Healing Light, decades before she was baptized in the Holy Spirit. And Francis McNutt was a Catholic priest for many years prior to experiencing Holy Spirit baptism.
But even though all of these church leaders were serving in a ministry capacity, and some had strong gifting prior, they all acknowledged that something was missing in their walk with the Lord. They were missing a certain "power" that comes from the fire and presence of the Holy Spirit, and once they received this baptism, they and their ministries were never the same.
How can I get baptized in the Holy Spirit? How do I know that I've been baptized in the Holy Spirit? What happens to be me when I am?
So does something happen immediately or at another point in time? Like salvation, some people experience something immediately, others have a noted physical or spiritual experience at another point in time, and others realize they have grown into this baptism gradually as they mature in their walk with the Lord. Don't worry about a specific experience or indicator - if you've asked, Jesus will be faithful in sharing this gift. And trust me, when you have it, you'll know!
Holy Spirit baptism brings many amazing benefits - power (Acts 1:8), love (Romans 5:5), the fruits of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness (Galatians 5:22), and spiritual gifts like prophecy and speaking in tongues (1 Corinthians 12:8-10). Some people are scared off by thinking it's all about the "weird" spiritual gifts like speaking in tongues (which is actually wonderful by the way), but the other fruits of the Spirit like joy, peace, etc. are also very noticeable changes.
To bring this into real life examples, let's see how our three church leaders experienced baptism in the Holy Spirit:
- When Smith Wigglesworth told his wife about his baptism and the ability to speak in tongues, she told him, "I have been preaching for twenty years, and you have sat beside me on the platform, but on Sunday you will preach yourself, and I'll see what there is in it." As she sat in the back of the church that Sunday, Smith was filled with the Spirit and gave an incredible message. He describes his wife as being "terribly disturbed" and said in a voice that all around could hear, "That's not my Smith, Lord, that's not my Smith!" He went on to have a powerful ministry and traveled the world with the message of Jesus, with a wife who was continually amazed at his transformation.
- Agnes Sanford describes feeling drained, along with two of her prayer partners, after the many years of praying for others and traveling for her ministry. They asked God what they could do to get their strength back, and all heard, "Pray for the Holy Ghost." When they did, "the power of the Spirit fell upon us immediately. First of all, we felt a deep and intense burning in the middle of the head and with it a drawing feeling, as though the hair were brushed the wrong way, or as though one had on a hat that was too tight." She goes on to say they were given three specific gifts of the Spirit - a joy they had never known before, an understanding of truth, and the gift of peace.
- As a Catholic priest, Francis MacNutt says "it was as if there was a power in Jesus and His followers that was missing in my life." He could see that those he met who claimed to be baptized in the Spirit had the fruits of love, joy, and peace in their eyes. After praying for the baptism in the Holy Spirit, to which he felt no change, Agnes Sanford, who was also present, suggested, "I think it would be better to pray for you for a release of the Spirit and the charismatic gifts that are already in you through baptism, confirmation, and ordination." When that was done, Francis was overcome by a wave of laughter, and "it was as if a spring of joy had welled up from within me, the joy of the Holy Spirit. Wave upon wave of joy engulfed me." Francis went on to start a powerful healing ministry that thrives today.
My personal testimony is similar to Francis MacNutt. I accepted Christ at seven years old and was baptized in the Spirit soon thereafter, and I recall growing up with spiritual gifts. But as I got older I drifted away from these gifts. Thankfully, five years ago I was revitalized and asked God for more, and it was as if a switch was flipped in my life. I had a very clear moment of change that came upon me. I haven't been the same since, as I experience the fruits of the Spirit, greater revelation of the Word, and many other spiritual gifts.
Reverend Tommy Tyson defined the baptism of the Spirit as an "event in our lives through which we become more continually aware of the presence, the person, and the power of the risen Christ." No matter where you are in your walk with God, or even if you don't know Jesus yet, there's always an opportunity for more, for the fullness of Christ in you.
I hope you'll consider asking Jesus for the gift of the Holy Spirit - the Acts of the Apostles are alive and well today, and there's a great adventure in store for all who ask for more!
A Hindu came up to a preacher in North India and said, "I want to ask a question, not through criticism but for information. I have been reading the New Testament and am especially struck with the Acts of the Apostles. These men seemed to have a wonderful power and fullness of spiritual life. Sir, have you found what they had?" The preacher was speechless. Though he was a graduate of a university and was a missionary, he knew in the inmost depths of being that he did not have what the early disciples seemed to have found. He went home, fell on his knees, yielded himself fully to Christ - and found! - E. Stanley Jones
- Adam Gellert
PS. Click the links here for more information on the books/references quoted above:
Agnes Sanford, Sealed Orders
Smith Wigglesworth, Baptized in the Holy Spirit
Francis MacNutt, The Nearly Perfect Crime
Robert Morris, The God I Never Knew