I recently had an opportunity to minister to men at a large camp where the Holy Spirit was present and active. The large majority of the men I spoke with not only knew who the Holy Spirit was, but could often recite something the Spirit does in the life of believers. Things like being our helper, our advocate, and so on, but where not familiar with the phrase baptism in the Holy Spirit. It reminded me of a passage from the book of Acts:
While Apollos was in Corinth, Paul took a route through the interior and came to Ephesus, where he found some disciples. He asked them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you came to believe?”
They replied, “We’ve not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” (Acts 19: 1-2)
Can you put yourself in Paul’s shoes in this story? Can you imagine encountering “disciples” who had never even heard that there is a Holy Spirit? It might seem far-fetched over 2000 years since the apostle came across people with no grid for the Spirit. But there’s an aspect of this that still remains a mystery for tons of people that follow Jesus. The issue isn’t that they haven’t heard that there is a Holy Spirit, but instead the issue is that many haven’t experienced the baptism in the Holy Spirit.
What is the the Baptism in the Holy Spirit?
When I asked the men at this meeting if they had received the baptism of the Holy Spirit, not unlike the question Paul asks next in Acts 19, almost every one of them referenced their water baptism. I told them that I wasn’t talking about water baptism—as amazing and essential as that is in the life of a disciple. Their response made me feel a little like Paul may have felt among the Ephesians, but with 2,000 years of history in our rearview mirror.
This experience reminded me of how many followers of Jesus with big hearts for the Lord (and his mission) are missing an integral piece of the equation. But before I get into that in detail, what is the baptism in the Holy Spirit and why does it matter?
The baptism in the Holy Spirit is best exemplified in Acts 2 on the day of Pentecost, where a group of people were “together in one place” and the sound of a howling wind filled the house while flames of fire seemed to be on each of them and they were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages. (Acts 2:2-4)