This site uses cookies to provide you with more responsive and personalized service and to collect certain information about your use of the site.  You can change your cookie settings through your browser.  If you continue without changing your settings, you agree to our use of cookies.  See our Privacy Policy for more information.

What is the Difference Between Baptism and Receiving the Holy Spirit?

What is the difference between being baptized and receiving the Holy Spirit (as stated in Acts 8:16)?

 In Acts, Luke speaks of the coming of the Holy Spirit in terms of baptism, filling, and receiving. These terms overlap in their experiences while retaining different meanings. When the believers gathered in Jerusalem on Pentecost, they experienced the Spirit of God. The writer describes this as being filled (Acts 2:4). Yet, when Jesus commanded them to go to Jerusalem, he told them that they were to “wait for the gift [his] Father promised,” which was to be “baptized with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 1:4–5).

When the promise was fulfilled in Acts 2, we believe this baptism and filling occurred simultaneously. The believers were baptized (or immersed) fully in the Spirit of God and united to Christ eternally (see also 1 Cor. 12:12–13). At the same time, the believers were filled with the Spirit and empowered to do the work of Christ in the grace of His strength. In John 20:22 we learn that this special event united and empowered the disciples until Pentecost.

The Apostle Paul, an unbeliever at Pentecost, experienced baptism and filling of the Spirit simultaneously (Acts 9:17). Those baptized in the Spirit once were filled repeatedly by the Spirit to do the work of God (Acts 4:8, 31; 13:9, 52). The word receive is seen in Acts 8 when Luke described the baptizing work as something one receives from God. In Acts 10 and 11 he describes the baptizing work as something that is poured out from God in heaven and falls onto believers (10:44–45; 11:15, 16).

BY Ryan Cook

Dr. Ryan Cook has taught at Moody Bible Institute since 2012. He earned his bachelor of arts in Bible and Theology from Moody and his master of arts in Old Testament from Grand Rapids Theological Seminary. He has worked in Christian education and served as a pastor in Michigan for seven years. During his time as a professor at Moody, he earned his doctorate from Asbury Theological Seminary. He now lives with his wife, Ashley, and their three children in the Chicagoland area.

Find Questions and Answers by Month