The Baptism of the Holy Ghost
The baptism of the Holy Ghost is the experience of the Third Person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit, coming into a person’s life to give power for God’s service. Thus, a study of this experience must begin with an exploration of the Person and nature of the Holy Spirit.
Who is the Holy Spirit?
The terms Holy Ghost and Holy Spirit are interchangeable in Scripture; they are translated from the same Greek word. The Holy Spirit is not an abstract identity or a remote influence, but one of the three distinct persons of the Godhead: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Ghost influences and affects every believer. It is the Holy Spirit who regenerates the heart of man and sanctifies the heart of the believer.1 However, the baptism of the Holy Ghost is a definite experience subsequent to salvation and sanctification.
Although the baptism of the Holy Spirit was typified in the Mosaic Law and alluded to by Old Testament prophets, it was not until after the crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus that the Holy Ghost was poured out upon believers. When Jesus completed His work and returned to the Father, the Holy Spirit came among men as the promised Comforter.
What is the baptism of the Holy Ghost?
John the Baptist prophesied that Jesus, the One of whom he spoke, would baptize with the Holy Ghost and with fire. He told those who came to him to be baptized in water, “I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire” (Matthew 3:11).
The word translated baptism means “to be immersed; to be totally covered.” When a new believer comes to be baptized in water after salvation, he goes under the water and is completely immersed. When a sanctified believer receives the baptism of the Holy Ghost, he is totally immersed and filled with the Holy Ghost.
Jesus also used the word baptism in connection with the outpouring of the Holy Ghost, explaining to His disciples that just as John had baptized with water, they would be baptized with the Holy Ghost. The word baptize gave His followers an idea of what they were to expect—that they would be immersed in the Holy Spirit.
Prophecy regarding the outpouring of the Spirit
Some eight hundred years before Christ, the prophet Joel wrote of the baptism of the Holy Spirit, prophesying of events that have been fulfilled within the past century. Joel 2:23, 28-29 exhorts, “Be glad then, ye children of Zion, and rejoice in the Lord your God: for he hath given you the former rain moderately, and he will cause to come down for you the rain, the former rain, and the latter rain in the first month. . . . And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions: and also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out my spirit.”
Joel may not have fully understood the prophecy he gave, but God inspired these words to let His followers know that there would be an outpouring of the Spirit of God. The Former Rain pertained to the outpouring on the Day of Pentecost; the Latter Rain pertains to the outpouring of the Spirit that began in the early twentieth century. (Read about the history of the Latter Rain outpouring at the end of this article.)
The outpouring on the Day of Pentecost
Just before Jesus ascended to Heaven, He told His disciples that the Holy Ghost would come. He instructed them to tarry in Jerusalem until they received the “promise of the Father,” which was the infilling of the Holy Spirit. In obedience, a group of 120 gathered in an upper room in the city of Jerusalem. They had one purpose in mind: to receive what the Lord had promised.
As they tarried, something happened that those present had never seen or experienced before—the power of God descended upon them and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost. We read, “And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance” (Acts 2:1-4).
The coming of the Spirit was accompanied by two manifestations: the sound of “a rushing mighty wind,” and the appearance of “cloven tongues like as of fire.” John the Baptist had foretold One who would baptize “with the Holy Ghost, and with fire” (Matthew 3:11, Luke 3:16), and these two physical manifestations were visible proof of the fulfillment of those prophetic words.
The evidence of this amazing event was that those who had been filled began to speak in “other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.” Those from faraway countries who were in the city for the Day of Pentecost were amazed to hear the believers speaking in languages they had never learned. We read that the onlookers were “confounded,” but Peter stood and declared that this was what had been prophesied by the prophet Joel—the Holy Ghost had descended. Peter’s sermon that day resulted in the salvation of three thousand souls. The Holy Ghost, or Pentecostal, dispensation began at that point in history, and continues until this present day.
Other recipients recorded in Scripture
In the years following the Day of Pentecost, the gift of the Holy Ghost continued to be poured out upon New Testament believers. The Spirit was given about eight years later to Gentiles in the household of Cornelius. Those who came with Peter immediately recognized that the believers gathered there had received the gift of the Holy Ghost, for they “heard them speak with tongues, and magnify God” (Acts 10:46). In Acts 19:6, we read of the Holy Ghost falling on a group of believers at Ephesus, and when that occurred, “they spake with tongues, and prophesied.” In each case, the evidence that the Holy Ghost had descended was that the recipients spoke in other tongues—in previously unlearned, distinguishable languages.
Qualifications for receiving
In order to be filled with the Holy Ghost, essential steps must be taken. A person must first be justified by faith. Scripture is clear that the Holy Spirit is not given to the unconverted. We read in 1 Corinthians 2:14, “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.”
A second step, entire sanctification, occurs when the saved person goes deeper in consecration and God purges the heart. Believers are forgiven for committed acts of sin when they experience salvation, but they also need to be delivered from the inherited nature of sin through entire sanctification. The old sinful nature must be crucified so that the new nature of Christ can be fully expressed (Romans 8:2). Then the heart is ready to receive the infilling of the Holy Spirit.
The 120 who gathered in the upper room at the time of the initial outpouring were saved individuals; they were the close followers of Christ who were with Him just prior to His ascension, and were obviously committed to following His instructions. They had also been sanctified. When the Day of Pentecost came, ten days after Jesus’ ascension, those present in the upper room were all “with one accord, in one place.” Jesus had prayed for them to experience the unity described by that phrase. In John 17:17 and 22, we read His words, “Sanctify them through thy truth . . that they may be one, even as we are one.” This prayer was not for the lost but for those who were already His followers, for He said in verse 9, “I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me.” He prayed for their sanctification, and at the time when the Spirit fell upon them, we find that those present were “one”—the evidence that they had been sanctified.
Receiving the baptism of the Holy Spirit
When the heart and life is pure before God, the believer should then ask God for the baptism of the Holy Ghost. It is God’s desire and intention to give this gift to those who are prepared to receive it. In Luke 11:9-10 we read, “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.” The writer goes on to describe how earthly fathers give to their children, and then asks, “If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?” (Luke 11:13).
Although consecrations are made when an individual seeks for sanctification, there may yet be something that God is requiring when that one seeks for the Spirit’s infilling—a further submission of soul, mind, body, and spirit. He wants to control every thought and plan, and sometimes it takes fervent prayer to let Him completely direct in every area of life. Obedience goes hand in hand with submission: Peter proclaimed in Acts 5:32 that the Holy Ghost is given to those who are obedient.
Faith is a key ingredient in obtaining this experience, just as it is in receiving salvation and sanctification. When a sanctified believer comes to God and asks for the baptism of the Holy Ghost, he must believe that God’s promise is true and then reach out in faith to accept the promised gift. Since it is clear that this gift is available (Acts 2:39), and that believers are commanded to receive Him (Ephesians 5:18), faith must simply rest on these promises and commands, and step forward to claim the blessing.
The evidence of the Holy Spirit
Speaking with other tongues is still the evidence that the Spirit has descended. That evidence is uniform and consistent among all Spirit-filled Christians in all cultures and languages. The experience of the baptism of the Holy Spirit is not about speaking in tongues, but the evidence of receiving the baptism is that the recipient speaks in an unlearned language.
The expression, “speaking in tongues,” comes from a compound Greek word with glossa (tongue) and lalia (speaking). It refers to a language uttered by the human tongue, but through the power of the Holy Spirit. The words spoken through the anointing of the Holy Spirit will not be gibberish, but a definite language. When the power fell on the believers at Pentecost, those who heard them “were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language” (Acts 2:6).
The purpose of the baptism
Scripture clearly indicates the purpose for the Holy Spirit being given. Acts 1:8 tells us, “But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.” That power was not provided for the disciples’ personal glorification, but for the benefit of others. It enabled them to be witnesses for Christ throughout all the world—to testify of Jesus’ resurrection. Power from the Holy Spirit provided the courage, boldness, confidence, insight, ability, and authority they needed in order to fulfill their commission from God.
Christians today have the same need, and the same provision is available. People are still receiving power in their lives through the baptism of the Holy Ghost, and it is still power for service. The one who receives the Holy Spirit will have anointing and ability to witness or testify of Christ most effectively.
The commission Christ gave His disciples is the same commission given to the followers of Christ today—the responsibility to tell the world that Jesus is the Son of God, that He gave His life as a sacrifice for mankind, that He has risen from the dead, and that He can change lives today. The experiences of salvation, sanctification, and the baptism of the Holy Ghost are not meant to be kept private. The command is to be witnesses of what one has experienced and seen, and God has promised to send the power that is needed—the baptism of the Holy Ghost.
The Divine influence of the Spirit
The word translated Comforter is Parakleetos, which means “Helper” or “Companion.” When the Holy Spirit fills a person with His fullness, He is present within to accomplish His ministry of enlightening, guiding, empowering, anointing, and teaching.
The Holy Spirit guides into all truth. There will be times when Christians need to gain a deeper grasp of some truth of God’s Word, or what God’s will is for their lives. The Holy Ghost will lead to the correct understanding.
There will be times when Christians need to accomplish a task for the Lord but human ability is insufficient. The word power in the original language could also have been translated ability. Christ’s followers will receive ability and strength when they are filled with the Holy Ghost. As soon as an individual begins a Christian walk, God is with him, but after that one has been baptized with the Holy Ghost, the Spirit will be within him.
The Holy Spirit will bring to remembrance all things “whatsoever I have said unto you.” He will direct and provide the words to speak, and will provide opportunities and help so His followers can be clear and effective witnesses of the truth.
The Holy Spirit also gives boldness. The religious leaders in the time of the Apostles marveled at the speaking of Peter, John, and the others, because they had not received the customary or prescribed training for leaders. Peter and John were deemed “unlearned and ignorant men,” but they had been taught by the Holy Ghost and so were able to speak with authority.
For believers today
God baptizes today with the Holy Ghost just as He did in the times of the Early Church. In Acts 2:39, we find Peter’s words after he received this experience: “For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.” If you are saved and sanctified today, the baptism of the Holy Spirit is for you. God is not selective in His promise; He has this experience for every person who will meet His requirements. Seek and receive this experience in your life!
1See John 3:3-5; Titus 3:5 and Romans 15:16; 1 Corinthians 6:11.
History of the Latter Rain Outpouring
Throughout its history, the Church has experienced numerous reformation movements and revivals. One of the most significant of these was the Pentecostal Revival of the twentieth century—a revival that changed the world’s religious landscape and became a vibrant force for evangelization in following decades.
In periods prior to the twentieth century, God poured out His Spirit on individuals here and there. However, those were only “sprinklings” of the “latter rain” prophesied by Joel (see Joel 2:23, 28-29). The roots of the Pentecostal Revival in the United States are generally traced to a Bible school in Topeka, Kansas, which was started under the leadership of Charles Fox Parham.
In December of the year 1900, students at Parham’s school completed examinations on the subjects of repentance, conversion, consecration, sanctification, healing, and the soon coming of the Lord. During the Christmas break, Parham left on a mission trip after instructing his students to study Acts, chapter 2, during his absence. They were to determine by Scripture whether or not the Holy Ghost would still descend upon holy people, and if speaking in an unknown language was the evidence of the Spirit’s infilling.
At a New Year’s Eve watchnight service on December 31, 1900, a young student by the name of Agnes Ozman experienced the baptism of the Holy Spirit with the accompanying witness of speaking in a language she had never learned. That sparked a deep hunger among the other students.
At a New Year’s Eve watchnight service on December 31, 1900, a young student by the name of Agnes Ozman experienced the baptism of the Holy Spirit with the accompanying witness of speaking in a language she had never learned. That sparked a deep hunger among the other students, and within a few days, about half the student body had received the Pentecostal experience, as did Parham after returning from his trip. In each case, the indisputable proof was that each spoke in an unlearned language.
The news of what God was doing spread around the area, and then across the country. William Seymour, a young Black holiness preacher living in Texas, came in contact with Parham and learned of the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Though Seymour had not yet experienced the infilling, he occasionally preached on the subject.
In early 1906, Seymour was invited to help pastor a holiness church in Los Angeles, California, where he continued to preach about the baptism of the Holy Spirit, using Acts 2:4 as his text. When that church rejected his message and locked him out of the building, Seymour was invited to prayer meetings held in a home at 214 Bonnie Brae Street. The people meeting there were born-again Christians who subsequently had been sanctified. Their purpose was to seek for the infilling of the Holy Spirit.
On April 9, after ten days of prayer and fasting, several received the Holy Spirit. Like those who received on the Day of Pentecost, they spoke in other known languages as the Spirit gave utterance.
At the end of March, Seymour suggested a ten-day tarrying meeting. On April 9, after ten days of prayer and fasting, several received the Holy Spirit. Like those who received on the Day of Pentecost, they spoke in other known languages as the Spirit gave utterance. On April 12, Seymour himself received the baptism.
Word spread quickly, and soon people began to gather in the street to hear Seymour preach from the front porch. Before long, the crowds became too large for the home on Bonnie Brae Street, so a search was made for a suitable building where revival meetings could continue. An old abandoned warehouse was located on Azusa Street. A small band of workers cleaned it, set up seating made from planks put on top of empty nail kegs, and made a pulpit out of old shipping crates. They named the building “The Apostolic Faith Mission,” and held the first service there on April 14.
Soon, dramatic conversions and healings were taking place almost daily, and the revival broke out with such intensity that it knew no bounds. Within weeks, a steady stream of seekers was coming to the Azusa mission from every continent on earth, drawn by the news that the Holy Spirit’s power was being poured out. Thousands received the baptism, and went back to their home locations bearing the news that the “latter rain” promised by the prophet Joel had indeed descended.