There seems to be a lot of controversy over the topic of the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Different denominations and streams within the body of Christ have various views of the work of the Holy Spirit and what the baptism of the Holy Spirit means.
The term comes from passages like the following:
“I indeed baptized you with water, but He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” (Mark 1:8)
“…for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” (Acts 1:5)
Regardless of your perspective on the Holy Spirit, it is important to note that there is a difference between being indwelt by the Spirit and being empowered by the Spirit. The Holy Spirit comes to indwell us—live inside of us—at the moment of salvation; but this is not necessarily the same as being empowered by the Holy Spirit.
The disciples experienced different intensities of the presence and power of the Holy Spirit. John 20:22 says, “And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.’” I believe that at this point they were indwelt with the Spirit of God.
Yet, after this event Scripture records the following:
And being assembled together with them, He commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the Promise of the Father, “which,” He said, “you have heard from Me; for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” (Acts 1:4-5)
But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth. (Acts 1:8)
Though the disciples had already been indwelt by the Spirit, now they would be further empowered by Him to fulfill their mission.
After the disciples were given the promise of being baptized with the Holy Spirit, they waited for the fulfillment, constantly gathering together to pray. Acts chapter 2 details the fulfillment of the promise:
When the Day of Pentecost had 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 the whole house where they were sitting. Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. (Acts 2:1-4)
The Holy Spirit was poured out upon the early disciples in a powerful way. The church was born and the kingdom of God was advanced with power and boldness.
There are other examples of believers being baptized in the Holy Spirit throughout the book of Acts. (For example, see Acts 8:14-17, Acts 10:44-48, and Acts 19:1-6). In the examples of Scripture, a common first sign of the baptism of the Holy Spirit was speaking in tongues. In the same way, we should expect tongues to accompany the baptism in the Spirit today (though I also believe it is possible to be baptized in the Holy Spirit without speaking in tongues).
The word baptize signifies an immersion. The baptism of the Holy Spirit immerses a believer in the Holy Spirit, releasing a greater dimension of His presence and power.
The baptism of the Holy Spirit is a gateway into to the supernatural work of the Spirit. Its purpose is to equip us to minister to others in the power of God. The effect it has upon each person will vary, but some common results are:
Every believer in Christ should ask for and believe to be baptized in the Holy Spirit. It is the pattern of the book of Acts that believers were filled with the Holy Spirit multiple times. (Read Acts 2-4 carefully and you will see that Peter was recorded as being filled with the Spirit three times in that time frame). It is not a matter of salvation; it is about being empowered to do God’s work.
While the Holy Spirit already lives within us as believers, we should seek to be continually filled and empowered by the Spirit in fresh ways!