Back in the early seventies the Pentecostal and Neo-Pentecostal movement swept through the world and churches like wildfire. Though the initial enthusiasm has waned, millions are still committed to the teachings of Pentecostalism.* Pentecostal teaching may be summed under three heads. With but minor variation, all Pentecostals are in agreement on these three salient points. The first of these may be called “The Baptism in or with the Holy Spirit” or “The Second Blessing.” Pentecostals teach that, subsequent to and distinct from regeneration and conversion, some of God’s people receive a “second blessing,” namely, “a baptism with the Holy Spirit.” All Christians are through regeneration and conversion baptized by the Holy Spirit into Christ, but not all Christians are baptized by Christ in or with the Holy Spirit. Thus, according to their teaching, when we are born again and converted, we receive Christ, but there is more. That more is the “indwelling” or “in-filling” or “fullness” of the Holy Spirit. In addition to being baptized into Christ, some Christians are baptized with the Holy Spirit Who comes personally into their hearts and lives bringing to them thecharismata, the extraordinary gifts and powers which they need for personal growth and for a more complete life of service to God in the church and in the world. This is a crisis experience in the life of the Christian, in which Christ baptizes him with the Holy Spirit. Secondly, Pentecostals teach that this “Holy Spirit Baptism” is evidenced by the recipients’ speaking in tongues. Thirdly, Pentecostals teach that there are certain conditions which every believer must actively and consciously seek to fulfill in order to receive “Holy Spirit Baptism.” 

It is to the first and chief point, “the second blessing,” that we direct our attention in this article. Does the Bible teach a so-called second blessing? The Bible, God’s inspired and infallible Word, and not the believer’s experience must be the norm for our faith and life. There are seven instances in which this expression occurs in the Bible. Four of these are found in the Gospel narratives:

I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I . . . he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire.

Matt. 3:11

See parallels in

Mark 1:8


Luke 3:16.

In these three passages John the Baptist prophesies that Jesus shall bring the reality of which his (John’s) water baptism is the type. That reality is the baptism with the Holy Spirit and with fire. John’s baptism, while essentially the same in meaning and significance, was still a sign of what Jesus would make real in the lives of all believers. The fourth instance of Jesus baptizing with the Spirit is found inJohn 1:33:

And I knew him not: but he that sent me to baptize with water, the same said unto me, Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and remaining on him, the same is he which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost.

That these passages do not refer to some “second blessing” is clear from Jesus’ explanation of them. He speaks of the Spirit which is not yet (John 7:37), promises to return in the Spirit and abide with them forever, guide them in the truth, comfort them (John 14, 15, 16). Our Lord speaks of the fulfillment of all this inActs 1:5 at the time of His ascension to glory:

For John truly baptized with water, but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence.

For this reason they are to “wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith He, ye have heard of me” (Acts 1:4). This was fulfilled ten days later, “when the Day of Pentecost was fully come” (Acts 2). In obedience to the Lord’s command, “that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father” (Acts 1:4), the one hundred and twenty disciples “were all with one accord in one place” (Acts 2:1). Suddenly they were filled with the Holy Spirit Who came with the signs of cloven tongues like fire, the sound of a rushing, mighty wind, and they spoke in tongues the wonderful works of God (Acts 2:1-4). When the news of this strange event spread, the multitude of devout Jews out of every nation came together and were confounded, “because that every man heard them speak in his own language” (Acts 2:5ff.). Peter then explained that what had happened was the fulfillment of Joel’s Prophecy. The Day of the Lord has come, the Day which marks the end of the Old Testament types and shadows, the Day of reality, the Day when God would call His own out of every nation, the Day which would ultimately culminate in the appearing of the Savior. Being pricked in their hearts by the Sword of the Spirit they asked, “What shall we do?” Peter responds: “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost” (Acts 2:37-40). Three thousand gladly received the Word and were added to the church, and subsequently the “Lord added daily to the church such as should be saved” (Acts 2:41ff.). 

The passage teaches that the Day of the Lord has come and has been fulfilled in Christ. The promise, the types, are now fulfilled and the Spirit is poured out upon all flesh. The Spirit of Christ now fills the church, the elect in Christ. All, not some, received the Spirit. All the three thousand and all whom the Lord added daily to the church received that Spirit. And, they received the Spirit not as a “second blessing”; but all received the regenerating Spirit of Christ. 

The sixth mention of “baptism in the Holy Spirit” occurs in Acts 11:16:

Then remembered I the Word of the Lord, how that he said, John indeed baptized with water, but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost.

These words of the apostle Peter occur in the context of his explanation to the Jewish Christians in Jerusalem of the conversion of Cornelius and his house. The record of this we find in Acts 10Acts 10:44-48inform us that while Peter was preaching, “the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word. And they of the circumcision which believed were astonished . . . because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost” (Acts 10:44, 45). The evidence was unmistakable: “For they heard them speak with tongues . . .” (Acts 10:46). At this point Peter baptized them with water in the name of the Lord (Acts 10:47, 48). Again, the “baptism in the Holy Spirit” is not a second blessing, it is the blessing! The regenerating, sanctifying Spirit of Jesus Christ fell on them, and after this happened Peter baptized them. Pentecostals cannot appeal to this passage for support of their view that “Holy Spirit Baptism” is a second blessing. Nor can they appeal to this passage in support of their view that only some receive this “second blessing.” All who heard the Word received the gift of the Holy Spirit. 

The seventh occurrence of the concept “baptism in the Holy Spirit” we find in I Corinthians 12:13:

For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.

The Pentecostal view of this verse is as follows: It is granted that all are baptized by the Spirit into Christ—this is regeneration conversion which all believers share. This is the first part of the text: “For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body. . . .” The second part of the text refers to their view of “Spirit Baptism”: “. . . and were all made to drink into one Spirit.” This is the “second blessing” which is the baptism by Christ in or with the Holy Spirit. This is one of the clearest instances of Pentecostalism’s distorting of the plain teaching of the Word of God. What does the Bible say here? Note: 

1) This verse is the ground or reason for what Paul has been saying in the preceding. The Apostle describes the unity of believers in Christ. In verse 12 he states that, just as the physical body is one organism with many members, so also is the spiritual body of Jesus Christ one organism made up of many members. Why is this true? Because by one Spirit, we are all baptized into one body and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.

2) The text does not say, as the King James indicates, that all believers are baptized by one Spirit. The text says all believers are baptized in one Spirit. The preposition translated “by” in the King James is the Greek, en, and while that preposition does have an instrumental use, its primary meaning is “in the sphere of.” In this text, as in the six others cited above, the Holy Spirit uses this same preposition, en. When Pentecostals use the passages from the Gospel accounts and Acts to support their view of “Holy Spirit Baptism” as a “second blessing,” and then use this passage as if it were referring to one’s being baptized by the Spirit into Christ, they are at best being dishonest in their use of Scripture. They are distorting the plain teaching of the Word of God. What Paul says here in plain language is that all (not some) of God’s people are baptized into the body of Jesus Christ. All the elect are members of the one body of Christ. 

3) This is further explained in the last clause of the text: “and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.” This is obviously parallel to the first clause. In other words, to be baptized in the Spirit into one body is to be made to drink of one Spirit. All the elect then are incorporated into the body of Jesus Christ. This is what the Scriptures mean by the phrase, “to be baptized in the Spirit.” 

We conclude then that Scripture’s use of “Holy Spirit Baptism” is not some “second blessing” to be sought by all believers and which is received by only some believers. It is the entire work of the Spirit of Jesus Christ by which the merits of Christ are applied in the hearts and lives of God’s elect. Of this reality, baptism with water in the name of the triune God is the sign and seal. Frederick Dale Bruner is absolutely correct when he writes, “It is worth noting, then, that Pentecostalism builds its doctrine of a necessary second entry of the Holy Spirit on texts that teach his one entry” (A Theology of the Holy Spirit, Eerdman’s, p. 214).

* For a more detailed discussion of this subject see my article “Holy Spirit Baptism, A Refutation of Pentecostal Teaching,” in the Protestant Reformed Theological Journal, May 1973, vol. VI, 2. Available at a nominal cost from our Seminary.