What is the baptism in the Holy Spirit?
The New Testament notes three baptisms. The first is when the Spirit baptizes us into Christ (1 Corinthians 12:13); we call this conversion. The second baptism is in water, the external evidence of our conversion (Acts 2:38,41). The third is when Christ baptizes us in the Spirit (Matthew 3:11).
In each case, baptism represents immersion: immersion into Christ, immersion into water, and immersion into the Holy Spirit. The agent of the baptism is different in each case: the Spirit in conversion, the person who baptizes another in water and Christ who baptizes in the Spirit. I love to refer to the baptism in the Spirit as being “overwhelmed in the Spirit.” That overwhelming can be subsequent to conversion (Acts 2:4) or contemporaneous with conversion (Acts 10:44-46). All three baptisms should be close together as part of what may be called the “conversion cluster.”
What is the relationship of speaking in tongues to the baptism in the Spirit?
How do people know they are baptized in water? Well, they are wet. In other words, water baptism has a physical component. Baptism in the Spirit also has a physical component: speaking in other tongues. The doctrinal formulation for this is simply that tongues is the initial physical evidence of the baptism in the Holy Spirit. Note the three descriptive words:
(1) It is initial. It is a gateway entrance into the Spirit-empowered life. All through our Christian journey, speaking in other tongues becomes a vital component of prayer in providing praise to God that goes beyond our vocabulary limits and intercession in those moments when we do not know how to even frame our requests in a learned language.
(2) It is physical. This means that supernatural speech is involved when we speak in a language we have not learned.
(3) It is evidence. That is, just as people know they have been baptized in water because they got wet, so we know we have received the baptism in the Spirit because we have spoken in other tongues.
How do we receive the baptism in the Spirit?
Jesus said that we should ask to receive (Luke 11:13). That is, there must be a hunger or desire in our hearts. We also must remember that we are speaking of the Holy Spirit; thus, we must consciously examine our lives and ask Him to cleanse our hearts.
It often helps to find someone who has received the baptism in the Spirit to lay hands on us and pray for us to receive.
Finally, as the Spirit begins to form unknown words in our thoughts, we must speak them out: the Spirit is wanting to pray through us in a language we do not understand. However, we must remember that the baptism in the Spirit is a starting point for living all our days in the fullness of the Spirit and in His empowerment of our lives.