Baptized with the Holy Spirit by Billy Graham

Baptized with the Holy Spirit by Billy Graham

The passages below are taken from the book “The Holy Spirit” by Billy Graham. It was published in 1978  by Word Publishing, Nashville.

MANY YEARS AGO when I was attending a small Bible school in Florida, I visited what was called a “brush arbor revival meeting.” The speaker was an old-fashioned Southern revival preacher. The little place seated about two hundred people and was filled. The speaker made up in thunder what he lacked in logic, and the people loved it.

“Have you been baptized with the Holy Spirit?” he asked the audience during the sermon.

Apparently he knew a great many in the audience because he would point to someone and ask, “Brother, have you been baptized with the Spirit?” And the man would answer, “Yes, bless God.”

“Young man,” he said, spotting me, “have you been baptized with the Holy Spirit?” “Yes, sir,” I replied.

“When were you baptized with the Holy Spirit?” he asked. He had not questioned the others on this.

“The moment I received Jesus Christ as my Savior,” I replied. He looked at me with a puzzled expression, but before going to the next person he said, “That couldn’t be.”

But it could! It was.

I do not doubt the sincerity of this preacher. However, in my own study of the Scriptures through the years I have become convinced that there is only one baptism with the Holy Spirit in the life of every believer, and that takes place at the moment of conversion. This baptism with the Holy Spirit was initiated at Pentecost, and all who come to know Jesus Christ as Savior share in that experience and are baptized with the Spirit the moment they are regenerated. In addition, they may be filled with the Holy Spirit; if not they need to be.

The scriptural usage of the word baptism shows that it is something initiatory both in the case of water baptism and Spirit baptism, and that it is not repeated. I can find no biblical data to show that the baptism with the Spirit would ever be repeated.

For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body.” (1 Corinthians 12:13 NASB) The original Greek of this passage makes it clear that this baptism of the Spirit is a completed past action. (The King James Version incorrectly translates it into the present tense rather than the past.)

Two things stand out in that verse: first, the baptism with the Spirit is a collective operation of the Spirit of God; second, it includes every believer. Dr. W. Graham Scroggie once said at Keswick, “Observe carefully to whom the Apostle is writing and of whom he is speaking.” He uses the word “all” —“It is not to the faithful Thessalonians, nor to the liberal Philippians, nor to the spiritual Ephesians, but to the carnal Corinthians (1 Corinthians 3:1 NASB),” Scroggie went on. The clear indication is that baptism with the Spirit is connected with our standing before God, not our current subjective state; with our position and not our experience.

This becomes still clearer if we examine the experiences of the Israelites described in 1 Corinthians 10:1—5. In these verses there are five alls. “All under the cloud,” “all passed through the sea,” “all were baptized,” “all ate,” “all drank.” It was after all these things happened to all the people that the differences came: “Nevertheless, with most of them God was not well-pleased” (1 Corinthians 10:5 NASB).

In other words, they were all part of the people of God. This did not mean, however, that all lived up to their calling as God’s holy people. In like manner, all believers are baptized with the Holy Spirit. This does not mean, however, that they are filled or controlled by the SpiritThe important thing is the great central truth–—when I come to Christ, God gives His Spirit to me.

Differences That Divide Us

I realize that baptism with the Holy Spirit has been differently understood by some of my fellow believers. We should not shrink from stating specific differences of opinion. But we should also try to understand each other, pray for each other, and be willing to learn from each other as we seek to know what the Bible teaches. The differences of opinion on this matter are somewhat similar to differences of opinion about water baptism and church government. Some baptize babies; others do not. Some sprinkle or pour; others only immerse. Some have congregational church polity; others have presbyterian or representative democracy; still others have the episcopal form. In no way should these differences be divisive. I can have wonderful Christian fellowship, especially in the work of evangelism, with those who hold various views.

On the other hand, the question of the baptism with the Holy Spirit, in my judgment, is often more important than these other issues, especially when the doctrine of the baptism with the Spirit is distorted. For example, some Christians hold that the Spirit’s baptism only comes at some time subsequent to conversion. Others say that this later Spirit baptism is necessary before a person can be fully used of God. Still others contend that the baptism with the Spirit is always accompanied with the outward sign of a particular gift, and that unless this sign is present the person has not been baptized with the Spirit.

I must admit that at times I have really wanted to believe this distinctive teaching. I, too, have wanted an “experience.” But I want every experience to be biblically based. The biblical truth, it seems to me, is that we are baptized into the body of Christ by the Spirit at conversionThis is the only Spirit baptism. At this time we can and should be filled with the Holy Spirit, and afterward, be refilled, and even filled unto all fullness. As has often been said, “One baptism, but many fillings.” I do not see from Scripture that this filling by the Holy Spirit constitutes a second baptism, nor do I see that speaking in tongues is a necessary accompaniment of being filled with the Spirit.

Sometimes these different opinions are really only differences in semantics. As we shall see in the next chapter, what some people call the baptism of the Spirit may really be what the Scripture calls the filling of the Spirit, which may take place many times in our lives after our conversion.

There are, incidentally, only seven passages in the New Testament which speak directly of the baptism with the Spirit. Five of these passages refer to the baptism with the Spirit as a future event; four were spoken by John the Baptist (Matthew 3:11; Mark 1:7, 8; Luke 3:16; and John 1:33) and one was spoken by Jesus after His resurrection (Acts 1:4, 5). A sixth passage looks back to the events and experiences of the day of Pentecost (Acts 11:15—17) as fulfilling the promises spoken by John the Baptist and Jesus. Only one passage—1 Corinthians 12:13—speaks about the wider experience of all believers.

During my ministry I have known many Christians who agonized, labored, struggled, and prayed to “get the Spirit.” I used to wonder if I had been wrong in thinking that having been baptized by the Spirit into the body of Christ on the day of my conversion I needed no other baptism. But the longer I have studied the Scriptures the more I have become convinced that I was right. Let’s trace out what God did in Christ’s passion week, and fifty days later at Pentecost, to see that we need not seek what God has already given every believer.

Calvary and Pentecost

When Jesus died on the cross, He bore our sins: “God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh” (Rom. 8:3 KJV). 

Isaiah prophesied, “The Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6 KJV). Paul said, “He hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin” (2 Corinthians 5:21 KJV). This made the holy Jesus represent sin for the whole world.

Quite clearly Jesus did not say that His death on the cross would mark the cessation of His ministry. The night before His death He repeatedly told the disciples that He would send the Holy Spirit.

The night before He was to die, He told His disciples, “It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you” (John 16:7 KJV). Before He could send the Holy Spirit, who is the Comforter, Jesus had to go away: first, to the death of the cross; then to the resurrection; then, to the ascension into heaven. Only then could He send the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost. And after His death and resurrection He commanded them to remain in Jerusalem to await the gift of the Spirit, “Tarry ye in the city. . . until ye be endued with power from on high” (Luke 4:49 KJV). Before He ascended He told them to stay in Jerusalem until they were “baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days hence” (Acts 1:5 KJV).

That’s why John the Baptist proclaimed the twofold mission of Christ: first, he proclaimed the ministry of Christ as “the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29 KJV); second, he predicted that Christ’s ministry at Calvary would be followed by His ministry through baptism with the Holy Spirit (John 1:33 NASB).

When Christ rose from the dead this baptism with the Spirit that was to signify the new age still lay in the future; but it was to occur fifty days after the resurrection.

Ten days after the ascension, Pentecost dawned. The promise was fulfilled. The Holy Spirit came on 120 disciples. A little later when Peter was explaining it to a much larger crowd, he referred to the gift as “the gift of the Holy Spirit.” He urged his audience, “Repent, and be baptized and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38 KJV).

John Stott reminds us, “The 3,000 do not seem to have experienced the same miraculous phenomena (the rushing mighty wind, the tongues of flame, or the speech in foreign languages). At least nothing is said about these things. Yet because of God’s assurance through Peter they must have inherited the same promise and received the same gift (verses 33, 39). Nevertheless, there was this difference between them: the 120 were regenerate already, and received the baptism of the Spirit only after waiting upon God for ten days. The 3,000 on the other hand were unbelievers, and received the forgiveness of their sins and the gift of the Spirit simultaneously—and it happened immediately they repented and believed, without any need to wait.

“This distinction between the two companies, the 120 and the 3,000, is of great importance, because the norm for today must surely be the second group, the 3,000, and not (as is often supposed) the firstThe fact that the experience of the 120 was in two distinct stages was due simply to historical circumstances. They could not have received the Pentecostal gift before Pentecost. But those historical circumstances have long since ceased to exist. We live after the event of Pentecost, like the 3,000. With us, therefore, as with them, the forgiveness of sins and the ‘gift’ or ‘baptism’ of the Spirit are received together.1

From that day onward, the Holy Spirit has lived in the hearts of all true believers, beginning with the 120 disciples who received Him at Pentecost. When they received the Holy Spirit, He united them by His indwelling presence into one body—the mystical body of Christ, which is the Church. That is why when I hear terms like “ecumenicity,” or ecumenical movement, I say to myself: an ecumenicity already exists if we have been born again. We are all united by the Holy Spirit who dwells within our hearts whether we are Presbyterian, Methodist, Baptist, Pentecostal, Catholic, Lutheran, or Anglican.

There were, it is true, several other occasions recorded in the Book of Acts which were similar to Pentecost, such as the so-called “Samaritan Pentecost” (Acts 8:14—17) and the conversion of Cornelius (Acts 10:44—48). Each of these, however, marked a new stage in the expansion of the Church. Samaritans were a mixed race, scorned by many as unworthy of the love of God. Their baptism by the Spirit was a clear sign that they too could be part of God’s people by faith in Jesus Christ. Cornelius was a Gentile, and his conversion marked still another step in the spread of the Gospel. The baptism of the Spirit which came to him and his household showed conclusively that God’s love extended to the Gentiles as well.

In view of all this, no Christian need strive, wait, or “pray through to get the Spirit.” He has received Him already, not as a result of struggle and work, agonizing and prayer, but as an unmerited and unearned gift of grace.

W. Graham Scroggie once said something like this at Keswick, “On the day of Pentecost all believers were, by the baptism of the Spirit, constituted the body of Christ, and since then every separate believer, every soul accepting Christ in simple faith, has in that moment and by that act been made partaker of the blessing of the baptism. It is not therefore a blessing which the believer is to seek and receive subsequent to the hour of his conversion.”

Three Possible Exceptions Explained

I have just suggested that all believers have the Holy Spirit, who comes to dwell within them at the time of their regeneration or conversion. However, some have urged that the Book of Acts gives us several examples of people who did not receive the Holy Spirit when they first believed. Instead, some contend, these incidents indicate that a baptism with the Spirit occurs subsequent to our incorporation into the body of Christ. Three passages are of particular interest at this point. Personally I found these passages difficult to understand when I was a young Christian (and to some extent I still do) and I know many people have had the same experience. I would not pretend to have all the answers to the questions raised by these passages, but my own study has led me to some observations which might be helpful.

The first passage is found in Acts 8 where Philip’s trip to Samaria is recounted. He preached Christ and performed a number of miracles. The Samaritans were emotionally stirred. Many of them professed faith and were baptized. The apostles in Jerusalem were so concerned about what was happening in Samaria that they sent two of their leaders, Peter and John, to investigate. They found a great stir and a readiness to receive the Holy Spirit. “Then they began laying their hands on them, and they were receiving the Holy Spirit” (Acts 8:17).

As we compare Scripture with Scripture, we immediately discover one extraordinary feature in this passage: When Philip preached in Samaria, it was the first time the gospel had been proclaimed outside Jerusalem, evidently because Samaritans and Jews had always been bitter enemiesThis gives us the clue to the reason the Spirit was withheld till Peter and John came: It was so they might see for themselves that God received even hated Samaritans who believed in Christ. There could now be no question of it.

Notice too what happened when the Spirit of the Lord suddenly removed Philip, taking him down to Gaza where he witnessed to the Ethiopian eunuch. When the Ethiopian believed and received Christ, he was baptized with water. But at no time did Philip lay hands on him and pray for him to receive the Holy Spirit, nor was anything said about a second baptism. Thus the situation in Samaria as recounted in Acts 8 was unique and does not fit with other passages of Scripture as we compare Scripture with Scripture.

A second passage that gives some people difficulty deals with the conversion of Saul on the road to Damascus as recorded in Acts 9. Some say that when he was later filled with the Spirit in the presence of Ananias (v. 17), he experienced a second baptism of the Spirit.

Here again the situation is unique. God had chosen this persecutor of the Christians “to bear My name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel” (v. 15). When Saul called Jesus “Lord,” he used a term that can mean my very own lord, signifying his conversion, or simply “Sir,” a title of respect rather than a confession of faith. We do know that later Ananias called Paul “brother,” as most of our English translations phrase it (v. 17). But here again, most of the Jews of that day called each other “brother.” He might have been calling Saul a brother in the sense that American black people often refer to each other as “brother.”

In other words, when did Saul’s regeneration take place? Was it on the Damascus road, or could it have been over a period of three days of witnessing by Ananias (which would cover the period of Saul’s blindness)? I am convinced that the new birth is often like natural birth: the moment of conception, nine months of gestation, and then birth. Sometimes it takes weeks of conviction by the Holy Spirit. I’ve seen people in our crusades come forward more than once, and not experience the assurance of their salvation until the third or fourth time. When were they regenerated? Only God the Holy Spirit knows; it might have been at baptism or confirmation and they came forward for assuranceIt may be that some are coming (as I sometimes have said) to “reconfirm their confirmation.”

Furthermore, Acts 9:17 says Paul is to be filled with the Holy Spirit. The verse does not use the word “baptism,” and when he was filled it does not say he spoke in other tongues. My point is that even if Paul was regenerated on the Damascus road, his later filling is not presented as a second baptism. And possibly his regeneration did not occur until Ananias came to him. So the passage does not teach that Paul was baptized twice with the Spirit.

A third text that has given rise to some controversy is Acts 19:1—7. Paul visited Ephesus and found twelve professing disciples who had not received the Holy Spirit. On reading this passage the question immediately arises: Were these twelve people true Christians before their meeting with Paul? They seemed to be ignorant about the Holy Spirit and Jesus. Also they talked about John’s baptism. Certainly, Paul did not reckon their earlier baptism sufficient grounds for calling them believers. He had them undergo water baptism in the name of Christ.

Probably thousands of people had heard John or Jesus during the previous few years. John’s baptism had made a deep impression on them, but during the intervening period of time they probably had lost all contact with the teachings of both John and Jesus. Thus, again we have a unique situationThe very fact that the apostle asked such searching questions would indicate that he doubted the genuineness of their conversion experience.

However, we must still deal with Acts 19:6: “And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Spirit came on them; and they began speaking with tongues and prophesying.” Dr. Merrill Tenney calls them “belated believers.” The interesting thing is that all these events took place simultaneously. Whether the tongues spoken of here were the tongues to which Paul refers in 1 Corinthians 14, or Luke speaks about at Pentecost, we are not told. The word “prophesying” here carries with it the idea of testimony or proclamation. Apparently they went about telling their friends how they had come to believe in Jesus Christ. In my thinking, this does not suggest a second baptism with the Spirit subsequent to a baptism with the Spirit at regeneration. Rather, it appears that they were regenerated and baptized with the Spirit at the same time.

To summarize, it is my belief that Pentecost instituted the Church. Then all that remained was for Samaritans, Gentiles and “belated believers” to be brought into the Church representatively. This occurred in Acts 8 for Samaritans, Acts 10 for Gentiles (according to Acts 11:15), and Acts 19 for belated believers from John’s baptism. Once this representative baptism with the Spirit had occurred, the normal pattern applied—baptism with the Spirit at the time each person (of whatever background) believed on Jesus Christ.

Our Share in Pentecost

Pentecost was an event then which included not only those who participated at that moment but also those who would participate in the centuries ahead. Perhaps we can use the atonement here by way of analogy. Christ died once for all; He died for members of His body who were not yet born or regenerated. Thus, you and I became members of His body by regeneration through the one-time shedding of His blood. So also you and I in similar fashion now participate in the new reality, the Church. What was formed by the baptism with the Spirit at Pentecost is, on our part, entered into when we were made to “drink of one Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12:13) so that each believer comes into the benefits of it at the moment of his regeneration even as, at the same time, he comes into the benefits of the shed blood of Jesus for justification. So the Lord adds to the Church those who are being saved (Acts 2:47).

It may sound strange to speak of present-day believers as sharing in an event that took place 2,000 years ago. However, the Bible offers many examples similar to those of the atonement and the baptism with the Spirit. In Amos 2:10 (KJV), God said to His erring people, “I brought you up from the land of Egypt, and led you forty years through the wilderness” (italics mine), although the people whom the prophet addressed lived hundreds of years after the Exodus. The fact is that the nation was regarded as one and continuous; and so it is with the Church.

One Baptism and Regeneration

Since the baptism with the Spirit occurs at the time of regeneration, Christians are never told in Scripture to seek it. I am convinced that many of the things some teachers have joined to baptism with the Holy Spirit really belong to the fullness of the Spirit. Thus, the purpose of the baptism with the Holy Spirit is to bring the new Christian into the body of Christ. No interval of time falls between regeneration and baptism with the SpiritThe moment we received Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior we received the Holy Spirit. He came to live in our hearts. “Any one who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him,” said Paul in Romans 8:9 (KJV). It is not a second blessing, or third, or fourth. There are and will be and should be new fillings—but not new baptisms.

Nowhere in the New Testament is there a command to be baptized with the Holy Spirit. Surely if baptism with the Spirit were a necessary step in our Christian lives, the New Testament would be full of it. Christ Himself would have commanded it. But we are not commanded as Christians to seek something that has already taken place. Thus, when I was asked as a young Bible school student in Florida if I had received the baptism of the Spirit, it was correct for me to respond that I had already received it at the moment of my conversion.

The Unity of the Spirit

In 1 Corinthians 12:13, the apostle Paul writes, “For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit” (RSV). Paul has been talking about the need for unity in the disobedient and carnal Corinthian church. David Howard says: “Notice the emphasis in these phrases: ‘the same Spirit’ (vv. 4, 8, 9); ‘one Spirit’ (vv. 9, 13 . . .); ‘one and the same Spirit’(v. 11); ‘the same Lord’ (v. 5); . . . ‘the body is one’ (v. 12); ‘one body’ (v. 12, 13); ‘there are many parts, yet one body’ (v. 20); ‘that there may be no discord in the body’ (v. 25).’2

Howard later continues, “In this context of unity Paul says, ‘For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.’ John R. W. Stott [The Baptism and Fullness of the Holy Spirit, p. 22] points out in this connection, ‘So the baptism of the Spirit in this verse, far from being a dividing factor . . . is the great uniting factor.”3

The Conclusion of the Matter

This much all Christians are agreed upon: Every true believer must be baptized by the Spirit into the body of Christ. Beyond that opinions differ significantly, however. But even here we should never forget a crucial area of agreement.

To see it, we must first recall that we all believe salvation is past, present, and futureWe have been saved(justification), we are being saved (sanctification), and we will be saved (glorification). Between the time we are justified and the time when we shall be glorified falls that period in our pilgrim journey we call sanctification.

This has to do with holiness. And holiness proceeds from the work of the Spirit in our hearts. Whatever may be our differences about a second Spirit baptism, tongues, and Spirit filling, all Christians are agreed that we should seek after holiness—without which no man shall see the Lord. Let us, thereforeseek ardently the kind of life that reflects the beauty of Jesus and marks us as being what saints (in the best sense of that word) ought to be!

How does this kind of life come? It comes as we are filled with the Holy Spirit—as He works in and through us as we are yielded to God and His will. It is to this subject of the filling of the Spirit that we must now turn in the next chapter. (66-81)


1. John R W Scott, Baptism and Fullness (London Inter-Varsity press, 1975), p.28f

2.David Howard, By the Power of the Holy Spirit (Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press, 1973), p.34f


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