What is the “Baptism in the Holy Spirit?” (#1)

Fired up by enthusiasm, the theology of “the baptism in the Holy Spirit,” is taking over the globe. But what is it exactly? (photo credit: Getty Images/Economist magazine)

“… Have you ever been baptized in the Holy Ghost?”

Over the next few blog posts, I want to walk you through how a simple question lead me to a test of faith, and how the Lord, through an informed study of the Scripture, eventually led me through that crisis.

I was a sophomore college student in the early 1980s, having only been an active follower of Jesus for a few years. I did not know much about the Bible, but what little I had learned from my Bible teachers, I had trusted. So, when I went to visit some friends at a neighboring university, I was unprepared for the question I would receive.

It was a sunny, spring Saturday, and the local campus fellowships at Virginia Tech were putting on a Christian music festival.  A bunch of friends of mine had hopped into a car, going down the road to Blacksburg, Virginia, to check it all out.

There I bumped into a slightly-older friend from my high school, who was finishing up at Virginia Tech. I did not know her that well. She was known to be a bit of a party-animal back in my high school, while I was a nerdy book kid. But it was to our mutual delight that we learned that we had both become Christians in the intervening years. We spent about twenty minutes swapping stories, sharing with one another how we had both come to faith. We both spoke of the joy of having a relationship with the Savior, and the confidence we shared in Jesus. Everything was very encouraging, until she stopped for a moment, pondered what she might say next, and then dropped the bombshell.

Clarke, have you ever been baptized in the Holy Ghost?

I can still remember my puzzled web of thoughts. Though she spoke in the terms of the old King James Version, of the “Holy Ghost,” and I understood her to be asking me as to when I received the “Holy Spirit.” The question from my friend confused me, as we had been sharing how we had both become Christians. Surely, we were both “baptized in the Holy Spirit” when we both became believers. At least, that is how I was taught in my Bible-believing church:

“For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit”(1 Corinthians 12:13 ESV)

There is but one Spirit, and one baptism in the Spirit, into the one body of Christ. The Apostle Paul had settled the matter. We receive the Spirit upon conversion to having faith in Christ. That being the case, what was my friend from my days in high school talking about?

Doubts and questions flooded my mind: Was she implying that I really was not a believer in Christ, at least, not yet?

Or was she indicating that she had a type of “second blessing” experience of the Holy Spirit in her life, something that I had not experienced in my journey with the Lord, but needed to? She did talk about so-called “speaking in tongues,” but what did that have to do with the “baptism in the Holy Ghost/Spirit?” Could I really trust what I had been previously taught about the Holy Spirit?

I was confused.

The day in Blacksburg had been a lot of fun, with fellowship, great music, and times of praise to the Living God. But as I rode back along Interstate 81, to my college dorm that evening, I kept thinking about that awkward conversation with my high school friend. I had no clue what she was talking about, but I was determined to search the Scriptures to find out. It was a bit of a spiritual crisis for me, and I needed some answers.

Over the next few blog posts, I hope to show you what I learned in sorting this all out. I acknowledge that not everyone will agree with me, as to where I finally landed. All I ask is that you sift through the content of this series and line it up with the Word of God. I may not get everything right, but I know that His Word is True.

But first, we need to gain some historical perspective, that I will explore in the next blog post in this series.

About Clarke Morledge

Clarke Morledge -- Computer Network Engineer, College of William and Mary... I hiked the Mount of the Holy Cross, one of the famous Colorado Fourteeners, with some friends in July, 2012. My buddy, Mike Scott, snapped this photo of me on the summit. View all posts by Clarke Morledge

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