The Baptism of the Holy Spirit


Older Pentecostals believed the first work of grace was conversion, but that there was a second work of the Spirit by which one could have complete or perfect sanctification in this life, which is how the movement came to be called “perfectionism.”

The newer Pentecostals do not consider the Spirit’s baptism to be a second work of grace for purposes of sanctification. Rather, it is a divine operation of the Spirit, designed to gift and empower people for ministry.

Many Pentecostals today still believe that the indispensable sign that one has received the baptism of the Holy Spirit is speaking in tongues. Others believe that tongues-speaking may or may not accompany the Spirit’s baptism. All Pentecostals believe there is a time gap between conversion to Christ and the reception of the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Thus one can be a Christian and yet not have the baptism of the Spirit.


The biblical justification for this idea of a time gap between conversion and the baptism of the Spirit is based on the fact that the people who were gathered on Pentecost were Jewish believers who were waiting to receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2).

But Pentecostals fail to see that Pentecost was a unique event, and that it marked a new epoch in God’s plan of redemption. Peter said the events of Pentecost were a fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy (Joel 2:32) that the time will come when God will pour out His Spirit on the whole of God’s people. There will be no more haves and have-nots. When the Spirit fell upon those Jewish believers on Pentecost, He fell on all of them.

The only other two cases where there was a time gap between conversion and the baptism of the Spirit were also unique cases – where the baptism of the Spirit confirmed that full membership in the church was for all believers.

The problem with Pentecostal theology is that it has a low view of Pentecost. The significance that the NT gives to Pentecost is that the outpouring of the Holy Spirit is to the whole church and therefore to every believer. As Paul writes, “For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body – Jews or Greeks, slaves or free – and all were made to drink of one Spirit” (1 Cor. 12:13).

All Christians receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit at the point of conversion, just as Cornelius’ household did in Acts 10:44-46.


  • Adapted from R.C. Sproul’s Everyone’s a Theologian