Spirit Baptism in Acts, part 2
The Spirit’s being poured out or shed forth (Acts 2:17, 18, 33), employing the Greek verb ekkeo (e˙kce÷w), is employed in Acts 2 in connection with Spirit baptism.[i] This one-time event[ii] where the Father, at the Son’s request, poured out the Holy Ghost in accordance with the prediction of Joel 2:28-32, is employed in Luke-Acts only for the unrepeatable event of Pentecost. This is consistent with the facts that the Hebrew verb shafach (Kpv), employed in Joel 2 and discussed above, “does not mean a gradual pouring as required, but rather a sudden, massive spillage,” the LXX employs ekkeo to render shafach in the three passages where the latter verb is connected with the outpouring of the Spirit (Joel 2:28-29; Zechariah 12:10; Ezekiel 39:29), and the Greek verb is not employed in the Greek Old Testament in connection with Spirit outpouring in any other passage. No other text in Luke-Acts connects the work of the Spirit with ekkeo,[iii] although the closely related but distinct verb ekkunno (e˙kcu/nnw)[iv] is employed in Acts 10:45 for the closely related but distinct miraculous work of the Spirit on the Gentiles in Acts 10. When “the Holy Ghost . . .[was] shed forth” or poured out, visible miracles, “which ye now see and hear,” were connected with the event (Acts 2:33). Thus, the outpouring of the Spirit was for those already converted and already church members, it took place once for the entire church age in Acts chapter two, and it was accompanied with signs and wonders. For the Spirit to be outpoured again, He would have to leave the earth, which He will not do for the entire dispensation of grace. However, after He is removed at the Rapture, He will be outpoured again on Israel in the Tribulation in the ultimate fulfillment of Joel chapter two.
In contrast to the once-for-all outpouring of the Spirit on the church for the entirety of the dispensation of grace in Acts 2, when the Spirit’s validation of Samaritans[v] and Gentiles as fit members of the NT church in Acts 8 and 10 is in view, the Spirit is said to fall upon (e˙pipi÷ptw) them after their conversion (Acts 8:16; 10:44; 11:15). Christ baptized the church with the Spirit directly and immediately in Acts 2, and the benefits of this one-time event were transmitted mediately through the apostles to Samaritans and Gentiles in Acts 8, 10, and 19, explaining the connection of the miraculous fruits of Spirit baptism in connection with the laying on of apostolic hands. The uniqueness of Acts 2, as the actual and unrepeatable act of Spirit baptism, is supported by the appearances of tongues of fire on each member of the pre-Pentecost church (2:2-3), a miracle not repeated in the coming of the Spirit on the groups in Acts 8, 10, and 19. The Spirit fell upon the Samaritans subsequent to both faith and baptism in Acts 8, and the use of a pluperfect periphrastic construction for Spirit’s falling upon men in 8:16 suggests that the falling took place at one point in time, with abiding results;[vi] furthermore, no text in Acts or elsewhere in the New Testament portrays the Spirit as repeatedly falling upon anyone.[vii] One would have expected the Spirit to fall upon the Gentiles in Acts 10 after their faith and baptism as well, but Peter and his Jewish brethren would never have accepted the immersion of Gentiles had the Spirit not come on them first; as it was, they “were astonished” that the Spirit had fallen upon the Gentiles (10:45), but recognized the fact as proof that God wanted them added to the church by immersion, which they consequently performed (10:47-48), although even in this situation the addition of uncircumcised Gentiles to the church was an occasion of trouble which Peter needed to explain and defend (11:3ff.). In both Acts 8 and 10, the Spirit fell upon the Samaritans and Gentiles subsequent to the point of their faith in Christ, with an emphasis upon them as a corporate body, rather than as individuals, just as in Acts 2 and 19 the coming of the Spirit took place after saving faith.[viii] Since Peter states, “the Holy Ghost fell on them [Gentiles, Acts 10], as on us [Jews, Acts 2] at the beginning” (Acts 11:15), the book of Acts indicates that it is appropriate to view the pouring out of the Holy Ghost on the church in Acts 2 as another instance of the Spirit falling upon a body of people. It is likely that the falling upon terminology emphasizes the coming of the Spirit from heaven upon a particular group of believers, and is thus appropriately employed for any of the miraculous bestowals of the Spirit recorded in Acts 2, 8, 10 and 19. However, this terminology is never employed for the receipt of the Spirit by individuals at the moment of conversion, nor is it ever found apart from the miraculous bestowal of the gift of tongues, nor is it ever connected with any kind of PCP blessing on those already Spirit-indwelt.
In Acts two, the Spirit was poured out on the 120 pre-Pentecost church members, but Acts 2:38 promised those who “repent . . . [that they] shall receive [lamba¿nw] the gift of the Holy Ghost.”[ix] Receive terminology is employed both for the indwelling of the Spirit experienced by all believers after the transitional period connected with the baptism of the Holy Ghost in Acts, which was not connected with signs and wonders (cf. Romans 8:9), and for the commencement of His indwelling in those who experienced Spirit baptism and its concomitant speaking in tongues. Thus, the Spirit was received by the 3000 men converted on Pentecost, but He was poured out also (and in this manner likewise received) by the 120 members of the pre-Pentecost church. There is no evidence that the 3000 spoke in tongues or manifested any miraculous gifts when they repented, or at any subsequent point whatever, other than the certain manifestation of the miraculously bestowed new nature bestowed on all saints in regeneration (2:41-47; 2 Corinthians 5:17). Christ received from the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost (2:33), and the Son gives the Spirit to all who find salvation (2:38-39), but the “promise” (2:39) of the possession of the Holy Ghost is of Him as a Person, not of some particular manner of His coming, such as Spirit baptism with its accompanying signs and wonders. Receipt of the Spirit is thus specified as a gift for believers throughout the dispensation of grace, received at the point of conversion or regeneration (John 3:5), in Luke-Acts (Acts 2:38) and elsewhere in Scripture (John 7:39; Galatians 3:14), but receive language is also used for the action of the Spirit in falling upon men in the dispensationally transitional events accompanied with miraculous phenomena in Acts 2, 8, and 10 (Acts 8:15-19; 10:47; cf. Acts 19:2, 6; John 20:22).
The baptism of the Holy Ghost, accompanied with tongues speaking,[x] is also associated with the Spirit “coming upon” (e˙pe÷rcomai . . . e˙pi÷) the church in Acts 1:8. This language is thus employed in the beginning of Acts for the miraculous coming of the Spirit, and is found elsewhere in the New Testament only in the beginning of Luke’s gospel for the miraculous work of the Spirit within Mary associated with the coming of the Son into the world (Luke 1:35).[xi] The miraculous coming of the Spirit, associated with tongues speaking, found in Acts 19:6, employs similar, but not identical, “coming upon” language (e¶rcomai . . . e˙pi÷), which is found elsewhere in the NT (yet cf. Ezekiel 2:2; 3:24, 37:9; Wisdom 7:7; LXX) only in the record of Christ’s baptism with its associated visibly miraculous manifestation of the Spirit (Matthew 3:16). The pneumatological coming upon language of Acts is thus appropriately considered as necessarily accompanied with signs and wonders.
The historic Baptist view of Spirit baptism fits the evidence found in the book of Acts. The baptism of the Holy Ghost was the validation of the church as God’s new institution for worship, comparable to the coming of the shekinah into the tabernacle and temple in the Old Testament. Accompanied by miraculous signs and wonders, Christ baptized the church as as a one-time event in Acts two on the day of Pentecost. As the Jewish church of Pentecost spread to the Samaritans (Acts 8), Gentiles connected with Judaism and in the Promised Land (Acts 10), and Gentiles without any previous Jewish connection (Acts 19), the Spirit came, mediately through the apostles as representatives and leaders of the church, upon these new groups with similar signs and wonders, fulfilling the outline of the book of Acts in 1:8. With the immediate baptism of the church by Christ in Acts 2, and the coming of the Spirit as mediated by the apostles on the groups in Acts 8, 10, and 19, Spirit baptism was complete, never to be repeated in the church age. The evidence of the book of Acts contradicts the universal church dispensational (UCD) view because Spirit baptism was corporate, not individual, a post-conversion event, not one synonymous with conversion, one always associated with miraculous signs and wonders including tongues, while tongues and other miraculous gifts have now ceased (1 Corinthians 13:8),[xii] one that took place after the moment of faith and, with one exception, after baptism as well, not one that took place at the moment of saving faith, and one associated with the historically completed sending of the Comforter, not one without visible miraculous phenomena that continues until the Rapture whenever a sinner is regenerated. The evidence of the book of Acts also contradicts the PCP (post-conversion power) view, because PCPs interpret Spirit baptism as an individual, not corporate event, most PCPs do not claim that they receive the same ability to do miracles, signs, and wonders as were found in Acts, while the evidence belies the claims of those that do so claim,[xiii] and the Comforter has already come to indwell the church and so Spirit baptism simply does not happen today. Only the historic Baptist doctrine of Spirit baptism fits the evidence of the book of Acts.
Note that this complete study, with all it parts and with additional material not reproduced on this blog in this series, is available by clicking here.
[i] It is the opinion of this writer that there are indeed distinctions in the different terms employed for the coming of the Spirit in Acts 2, 8, 10, 19, as explicated in the following paragraphs. Some distinctions are more evident (as that receive refers to simply the coming of the Spirit for the purpose of indwelling, whether through Spirit baptism of one already converted before Pentecost or at the moment of regeneration after the post-Pentecost transition, in contrast to words, such as pour out, specifically used for the coming of the Spirit associated with miraculous phenomena) than others. However, even if one wished to maintain that the various terms analyzed below are essentially synonymous, it would not alter the fundamental nature of Spirit baptism as a historical event accompanied with signs and wonders that was completed in the first century and was synonymous with Christ’s sending of the Comforter.
Note the following endnotes for the technical distinction between the Spirit’s being poured out and Spirit baptism, and the comments on some of the other terms discussed in the following paragraphs.
[ii] There is no exegetical basis in the New Testament for praying for the Spirit to be repeatedly poured out in the church age to send revival or for any other reason. No durative, progressive verb tense is employed with the verb e˙kce÷w in the New Testament for the Spirit being poured out; the future tense, which is aspectually like the aorist, is employed for the prediction of the pouring out which took place once for all at Pentecost (Acts 2:17-18; Joel 3:1-2, LXX), and the aorist is employed for the actual pouring out that took place on that day (Acts 2:33). The indwelling and renewing of the Spirit that takes place at regeneration is possibly also connected with e˙kce÷w in the aorist (Titus 3:5-6). The “pour out” language is not employed in the New Testament for a work from the Spirit of deepening the saint’s spiritual life, reviving a congregation, or anything of the sort. Although God may mercifully do great things for misguided saints of His, praying for the Spirit to be poured out again in the church age and similar instances of errant Pneumatology do not contribute to genuine revival. Believers should not grieve the Holy Ghost and disregard or deny the sufficiency of the glorious work God has already done in pouring out the Spirit by asking for Him to be again outpoured.
[iii] Titus 3:5-6 speaks of “the Holy Ghost; which [the Father] shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour” (Pneu/matoß ÔAgi÷ou, ou∞ e˙xe÷ceen e˙f∆ hJma◊ß plousi÷wß, dia» ∆Ihsouv Cristouv touv swthvroß hJmw◊n). Here an allusion back to Pentecost is likely, since the historia salutis is in view in the sentence (3:4). Consider, in light of the significance of Kpv as a massive outpouring and the NT rendering of the verb with e˙kce÷w, that Titus 3:6 specifies that the Holy Ghost was “shed on us abundantly” (e˙xe÷ceen e˙f∆ hJma◊ß plousi÷wß). The text contains a “clear allusion to the tradition of Pentecost (e˙kce÷w is used with the Spirit in the NT only here and in Acts 2:17, 18, 33) . . . [to] the Pentecostal outpouring of the Spirit” (pg. 166, Baptism in the Holy Spirit, James Dunn).
Even if one affirms that there is no Pentecostal allusion in Titus 3:5-6, and Paul connects the moment of personal regeneration with the verb e˙kce÷w in the text, it would not necessarily require that there is not a distinction made in Luke-Acts. Rather, the employment of e˙kce÷w for both the historical, completed event of the sending of the Comforter, that is, Spirit baptism (Acts 2:17-18, 33), and for the indwelling of the Spirit (Romans 8:9) associated with regeneration (Titus 3:5-6) would manifest that the Spirit baptism event constituted the transition from the Old Testament “with you” to the church age “in you” ministry of the Holy Spirit (John 14:17). After the already saved and baptized church members in Acts 2 received Spirit baptism, they were henceforward permanently indwelt by the Spirit, and this ministry of permanent indwelling is the inheritance of all believers after the conclusion of the dispensational transition associated with Spirit baptism. While Spirit baptism marked the point of dispensational transition to the permanent indwelling ministry of the Holy Ghost in the first century, the use of e˙kce÷w in both Acts and Titus (where an allusion back to the events of Pentecost is most likely, in which case nowhere does the New Testament connect e˙kce÷w and anything that continues throughout the dispensation of grace) certainly cannot be legitimately be used to affirm that Spirit baptism is a synonym throughout the church age for the commencement of indwelling connected with regeneration.
[iv] BDAG, defining e˙kce÷w, indicates that “beside it [is] the Hellenistic Greek form e˙kcu/n(n)w.” Luke was perfectly able to use exactly the same forms he did in Acts 2 to express the idea of pour out, but he chose not to do so. While in Acts 10:45 e˙kcu/nnw is in the perfect tense (as it is, interestingly, in Romans 5:5), and e˙kce÷w is not found in the NT in the perfect, e˙kcu/nnw is employed by Luke in the tenses employed for e˙kce÷w in Acts 2, so the possibility that in Luke’s vocabulary some tenses simply employed the one verb form or the other is unlikely, and a deliberate choice remains the preferred explanation.
[v] Charles Ryrie comments, “The best explanation of this delay [of the coming of the Spirit as recorded in Acts 8 until the imposition of hands by Peter and John] seems to lie in the schismatic nature of the Samaritan religion. Because the Samaritans had their own worship, which was a rival to the Jewish worship in Jerusalem, it was necessary to prove to [the Jews] that [the Samaritans’] new faith was not to be set up as a rival to the new faith that had taken root in Jerusalem. And the best way for God to show the Samaritan believers that they belonged to the same faith and group as Jerusalem believers (and contrariwise, the best way to show the Jerusalem leaders that the Samaritans were genuinely saved) was to delay giving of the Spirit until Peter and John came from Jerusalem to Samaria. There could be no doubt then that this was one and the same faith and that they all belonged together in the Body of Christ. This delay in the giving of the Spirit saved the early church from having two mother churches—one in Jerusalem and one in Samaria—early in her history. It preserved the unity of the church[es] in this early stage” (pg. 71, The Holy Spirit).
[vi] h™n [e˙p∆ . . . aujtw◊n] . . . e˙pipeptwko/ß. “It is easy to see how in the present, and especially in the future, periphrastic forms were felt to be needed to emphasize durative action. But that was the real function of the imperfect tense. The demand for this stressing of the durative idea by h™n and the present participle was certainly not so great. And yet it is just in the imperfect in the N. T. that this idiom is most frequent” (pgs. 887-888, A. T. Robertson, A Grammar of the Greek New Testament in the Light of Historical Research, Nashville, TN: Broadman Press, 1934).
[vii] The perfect tense of e˙kcu/nnw in Acts 10:45 likewise suggests a one-time coming of the Spirit with continuing results.
[viii] While in Acts 8 the Spirit appears to have fallen upon each individual saved and baptized Samaritan as hands were laid on him (note the imperfect tenses in e˙peti÷qoun ta»ß cei√raß e˙p∆ aujtou/ß, kai« e˙la¿mbanon Pneuvma ›Agion in Acts 8:17), a group idea is still present. Likewise, in Acts 10:44, the Spirit fell upon the entire group at one particular moment, so unless the entire group had placed their faith in the Lord Jesus at exactly the same moment, the Spirit fell upon them not just in logical but also in temporal subsequence to their conversion. Temporal subsequence also fits the comparison of this event to the outpouring of the Spirit in Acts 2 made in Acts 11:15-17, for faith certainly preceded Spirit baptism in Acts 2. One notes also the aorist tense participle pisteu/sasin in 11:17, which would be consistent with temporal subsequence to the verb e¶dwken, thus demonstrating that the Gentiles believed before the gift of the Spirit was given, although it is true enough that aorist participles when dependent upon aorist verbs are at times temporally simultaneous.
The fact that the the Spirit fell upon the groups in Acts 2, 8, and 10 and 19 subsequent to faith, and upon the groups of Acts 2, 8, and 19 after their baptism as well (Acts 10, the only exception, is present only because the apostles would never have baptized the Gentiles at all without the miraculous validation), demolishes the UCD claim that “[n]ever in Scripture is baptism by the Spirit recorded as occurring subsequent to salvation. It is rather an inseparable part of it, so essential that it is impossible to be saved without it” (pg. 140, The Holy Spirit: A Comprehensive Study, Walvoord). Rather, the truth is that never in Scripture is baptism by the Spirit recorded as occuring at the same moment as saving faith, so that everyone who has been saved has been saved without it. Spirit baptism was promised to already immersed believers in the gospels, and the fulfillment in Acts fit the prediction. To support his assertion of the necessity of Spirit baptism for salvation, UCD advocate John Wavoord even affirms that “the converts on the Day of Pentecost . . . include[d] the apostles” (pg. 144, ibid.)! Rather, as the Head of the church was immersed in water before the Spirit descended upon and authenticated Him in connection with the beginning of His ministry (Matthew 3:13-17), so the church, Christ’s body, was first immersed in water and then baptized with the Spirit on Pentecost (Acts 2) to authenticate her as God’s new institution for the age.
[ix] The grammatical structure of Acts 2:38 connects the receipt of the Holy Spirit (and thus the new birth “of the Spirit,” John 3, and its associated receipt of eternal life) with repentance, not baptism. The section of the verse in question could be diagrammed as follows:
Repent (2nd person plural aorist imperative)
be baptized (3rd person singular aorist imperative)
every one (nominative singular adjective)
in (epi) the name of Jesus Christ
for/on account of (cf. Matthew 3:11) (eis) the remission of sins
ye shall receive (2nd person future indicative) . . . the Holy Ghost
Both the command to repent and the promised receipt of the Holy Spirit are in the second person (i.e. e, “Repent [ye]” and “ye shall receive”). The command to be baptized is third person singular, as is the adjective “every one” (hekastos, a partitive genitive, indicating the group from which each person was derived.). Peter commands the whole crowd to repent, and promises those who do the gift of the Holy Ghost. The call to baptism was only for the “every one of you” that had already repented. The “be baptized every one of you” section of the verse is parenthetical to the command to repent and its associated promise of the Spirit. Parenthetical statements, including those parallel in structure to Acts 2:38, are found throughout Scripture. Ephesians 4:26-27 is an example:
Be ye angry (2nd person plural imperative)
and sin not (2nd person plural imperative)
[do] not . . . let go down (3rd person singular imperative)
the sun (nominative singular noun)
upon your wrath
neither give place (2nd person plural imperative)
to the devil
The connection in Acts 2:38 between the receipt of the Holy Spirit and repentance, rather than baptism, overthrows attempts to find baptismal regeneration in the verse.
[x] One could view the speaking about the wondrous works of God in sixteen different tongues in Acts two as a reversal of the Tower of Babel.
[xi] But cf. also Isaiah 32:15, LXX: eºwß a·n e˙pe÷lqhØ e˙f∆ uJma◊ß pneuvma aÓf∆ uJyhlouv kai« e¶stai e¶rhmoß oJ Cermel kai« oJ Cermel ei˙ß drumo\n logisqh/setai.
[xii] cf. “1 Corinthians 13:8-13 and the Cessation of Miraculous Gifts,” R. Bruce Compton (Detroit Baptist Seminary Journal 9 (2004) 97-144 for an excellent exposition of the Biblical cessation of tongues from 1 Corinthians 13. Since tongues are universally conjoined with Spirit baptism, as evidenced in Acts, and tongues have ceased, Spirit baptism must also have ceased. Could it be that miraculous gifts were limited to those who either received or were alive and converted by the time of the events of Acts 2, 8, 10, and 19, and that the miraculous gifts ceased with the passing away of that generation (cf. Hebrews 2:3-4; Mark 16:17, 20)?
[xiii] No modern PCP advocate speaks in Biblical tongues because tongues have ceased (cf. the article referenced in the last endnote), and modern PCPs that claim the gift of healing do not instantly heal everyone of every disease without fail (Acts 5:16), do not raise the dead (Acts 9:40; 20:9-10), nor perform other truly apostolic signs and wonders.