Holy Spirit Baptism: What it is & what it does

What is 'baptism in the Holy Spirit?' What does it do? Why is it given? Arguably the simplest teaching in the New Testament on the purpose of this experience is Titus 3:5-6. [1]

"...He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior..." (Titus 3:5-6, NIV).
In context Titus 3:3-8 is all about conversion. Firstly, Titus 3:3 describes Christians prior to their conversion as foolish, disobedient, deceived, enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures, living in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. Titus 3:4 then describes salvation by the mercy of God: he saved us because of his kindness and love, not because of things we did.

Then in Titus 3:5-6 Paul describes God's method of saving people. Titus 3:5 is particularly helpful because it describes what God's outpouring of his Spirit achieves; it teaches what baptism in the Spirit does. And what this verse states is that salvation occurs by God pouring out his Spirit on us, giving us the washing of rebirth and renewal.

This language describing God's activity of 'pouring out' the Spirit is unambigous; it is without doubt a description of 'baptism with the Spirit.' Firstly, the language echos the events of Pentecost themselves and their repeat amongst the first Gentile Christians. In fact, the references in Acts 2 and Acts 10 to the Spirit being 'poured out' on the day of Pentecost and on Cornelius' household are the only other examples in the New Testament of this phrase being used in connection with the Spirit:
Acts 2:17-18, "'In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy."
Acts 2:33, "Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear."
Acts 10:45, "The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles."
Acts 2:17-18, Acts 2:33 and Acts 10:45 are all cases where Pentecostals obviously maintain that baptism in the Spirit is what is in view. Titus 3:6 is no different. It likewise describes 'baptism in the Spirit.'

Secondly, the result of the outpouring of the Spirit in Titus 3:5 matches the language of baptism, for it says that God 'washes' us by this Spirit. 'Washing' by the Spirit is similar to washing with water in everyday baptism. Water-baptism, however, merely signifies the removal of uncleanliness to God. Spirit-baptism actually make people clean before God. And the rest of the sentence explains how.

By saying that the outpouring of the Holy Spirit gives the 'washing of rebirth and renewal', this verse teaches that baptism in the Spirit makes people clean from sin by the Spirit's activity of regeneration, whereby he brings to life a new spirit in a person previously dead in sin.

Titus 3:6 goes on to describe God's purpose in this work of salvation: it is "so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life." Here the Apostle Paul links justification by grace and baptism in the Holy Spirit, similarly to the Apostle Peter who linked forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit. For Peter said on the day of Pentecost to his audience of unconverted Jews, "Repent and be baptized... for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit." (Acts 2:38, NIV) In other words, baptism with the Spirit is how Christ washes away sins.

Titus 3:5-6 unavoidably shows that Spirit-baptism is about salvation. This passage is not difficult to read and apply correctly, as can be passages in the gospels and Acts narratives. This is direct teaching in the form of clear instruction by the Apostle to Christians, and as such should be the place to start when building a doctrine of 'baptism in the Spirit.'

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[1] 1 Corinthians 12:13 also contains clear teaching on 'baptism in the Spirit' and describes its purpose.

[2] Romans 5:5 also describes God's outpouring of his love into our heats by his gift of the Holy Spirit: "God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us." | joe towns: christian discussion on pentecost, charisma, pentecostal and charismatic beliefs, the Bible and Jesus; including the origin and history of pentecostalism, baptism in the Holy Spirit, speaking in tongues, gifts and miracles, divine healing and word of faith, prosperity and wealth, praise and worship, guidance and hearing the voice of the Holy Spirit.