I’d like to continue our consideration of baptism which I began in my last article. Four times in the Gospel of John, Jesus promises His disciples a Comforter or Helper. John 14: 16, 26; John 15: 26 and John 16: 7 all promise this Helper. This comforter is none other than God’s Holy Spirit, called the Spirit of truth in Jn. 14. Jesus also says something both interesting and important in Jn. 14:7: “You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you (emphasis mine).”
I think this phrase is easily understood. Jesus allowed His apostles to perform the same acts/miracles that He could and this was by the Holy Spirit. This is what Jesus is referring to with the expression ‘dwells with’. However, this is different than the second phrase which has yet to happen–‘will be in you’. As we will see, while the first is not a promise to all believers and is not by the indwelling of the Spirit, the second is a promise to all believers and is, in fact, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
In Acts 2:38, Peter tells us that if we are baptized we will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. This is what Jesus was referring to-the Spirit would enter Christians at baptism and serve as a comforter and helper. There are way too many passages to look at as far as what the Spirit does. My hope is to impress upon you that Christian baptism is the only way to receive the Spirit.
Someone might say, but what about Cornelius?
Cornelius is a perfect example of the distinction made by Jesus in John 14:7. When you read Acts 10 (the conversion of Cornelius), you’ll notice in v.44 that the Holy Spirit ‘fell upon’ and in v.45 this included the Gentiles. Yet, Cornelius was still baptized afterwards. Why?
To have his sins remitted and to receive the indwelling Spirit per Acts 2:38. The Spirit falling on them so that they spoke in tongues is probably the same as what the apostle had prior to the Lord’s ascension, analogous to His phrase ‘dwells with you’ in Jn. 14:17. Even in the OT, when someone prophesied the Spirit was said to ‘come upon’ or ‘fall upon’ as it did with Saul. But in order to receive the indwelling Spirit, Cornelius and his household had to be immersed.
Now the advantages of having the Spirit are manifold. Ephesians 1 tells us that we are sealed by it (a claim of God’s ownership) and it is the guarantee of our inheritance. Romans 8 says it bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God and, also, that it helps us with our prayers. We could go on and on for some time as to how the Spirit aids us, but I just have two simple points that I’ve tried to make:
1) Miraculous manifestations of the Spirit are different than the indwelling of the Spirit. Miracles were performed and prophets spoke by the Spirit, but it was not indwelling. The same is true of the apostles in Jn. 14 and Cornelius and his household in Acts 10.
2) There is no other way to receive the indwelling Holy Spirit mentioned other than baptism.
Now, while we can argue whether or not baptism saves and washes away sins–which I hope my last article proved that it does both–there is no other scripture in the NT that tells us another way to ‘receive’ the Holy Spirit other than by immersion. Baptism saves by removing our sin and its guilt and by granting us the Spirit, sealing us for redemption. Lord willing, we’ll take a brief look at another scripture that discusses baptism.