Question: "What is the baptism of the Holy Spirit?"
Answer: The baptism of the Holy Spirit may be defined as that work whereby the Spirit of God places the believer into union with Christ and into union with other believers in the body of Christ at the moment of salvation. The baptism of the Holy Spirit was predicted by John the Baptist (Mark 1:8) and by Jesus before He ascended to heaven: “For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 1:5). This promise was fulfilled on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1–4); for the first time, people were permanently indwelt by the Holy Spirit, and the church had begun.
First Corinthians 12:12–13 is the central passage in the Bible regarding the baptism of the Holy Spirit: “For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink” (1 Corinthians 12:13). Notice that we “all” have been baptized by the Spirit—all believers have received the baptism, synonymous with salvation, and it is not a special experience for only a few. While Romans 6:1–4 does not mention specifically the Spirit of God, it does describe the believer’s position before God in language similar to the 1 Corinthians passage: “What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.”
The following facts are necessary to help solidify our understanding of Spirit baptism: First, 1 Corinthians 12:13 clearly states that all have been baptized, just as all been given the Spirit to drink (the indwelling of the Spirit). Second, nowhere in Scripture are believers told to be baptized with, in or by the Spirit, or in any sense to seek the baptism of the Holy Spirit. This indicates that all believers have had this experience. Third, Ephesians 4:5 seems to refer to Spirit baptism. If this is the case, Spirit baptism is the reality for every believer, just as “one faith” and “one Father” are.
In conclusion, the baptism of the Holy Spirit does two things, 1) it joins us to the body of Christ, and 2) it actualizes our co-crucifixion with Christ. Being in His body means we are risen with Him to newness of life (Romans 6:4). We should then exercise our spiritual gifts to keep that body functioning properly as stated in the context of 1 Corinthians 12:13. Experiencing the one Spirit baptism serves as the basis for keeping the unity of the church, as in the context of Ephesians 4:5. Being associated with Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection through Spirit baptism establishes the basis for our separation from the power of indwelling sin and our walk in newness of life (Romans 6:1-10; Colossians 2:12).