Have All Christians Been Baptized with the Holy Spirit?

Yes, in a Sense

Matthew 3:11; Mark 1:8; Luke 3:16; and John 1:33 seem to refer to the baptism of the Holy Spirit as something that is true for all Christians.  There are three baptisms mentioned in Matthew and Luke’s account: (1) Repentance, (2) Holy Spirit, (3) Fire.  And after mentioning these baptisms he speaks of the fire that will condemn the wicked (see Matt. 3:12; Luke 3:17).  Since ALL Christians have repented, and ALL Christians will escape the condemnation of fire, it seems inconsistent to say that John believed only SOME Christians would be baptized by the Holy Spirit.

Likewise, 1 Corinthians 12:13a says: “by one Spirit we were ALL baptized into one body,” (emphasis added).  In the sense of this verse, we are told that all who are part of the body of Christ have been baptized by the Holy Spirit.  Conversely, if you have not been baptized by the Spirit, you must not be part of the body of Christ.  This also agrees with the earlier context of 1 Corinthians 12:7-11 – “The manifestation of Spirit is given TO EACH ONE for the profit of all…one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing TO EACH ONE INDIVIDUALLY as He wills.” (emphasis added).  In these passages, “each one” seems to refer to each member of the body of Christ, as the apostle expounds on this subject by saying: “For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ.” (1 Cor. 12:12).  Therefore, he seems to be teaching that every member of the body of Christ has been baptized with the Spirit.

And Yet… Maybe Not

In the Scriptures, the baptism in the Holy Spirit is generally spoken in conjunction with Spiritual gifts, especially the gift of tongues:

  1. “you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now…When the Day of Pentecost had fully come…they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues” (Acts 1:5; 2:1-4) 
  2. “the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who heard the word…they heard them speak with tongues and magnify God.” (Acts 10:44-46).  And Peter recounting this story says: “the Holy Spirit fell upon them, as upon us at the beginning.  Then I remembered the word of the Lord, how He said, ‘John indeed baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit.'” (Acts 11:15-16) 
  3. “The manifestation of Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all: for to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge…to another faith…to another gifts of healings…to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits, to another different kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues…For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body,” (1 Corinthians 12:7-13)

This does not mean that spiritual gifts are the only reason, or main purpose, of the baptism of the Spirit (for instance, Christ focuses on the powerful witness and boldness people are given through the baptism of the Spirit [see Acts 1:4-8]), but it does show that spiritual gifts are associated with the baptism of the Spirit.

With this connection in mind, we must note that the Scriptures provide several examples of people seeking and receiving more of the Holy Spirit and spiritual gifts AFTER and SUBSEQUENT to their receiving the gospel.

Aside: This does not mean they did not receive the indwelling Holy Spirit immediately upon conversion, since the Scriptures clearly teach that all who come to Christ immediately receive the indwelling Spirit (Romans 8:9 and Ephesians 1:13, for example).  Instead, we are teaching that there are certain aspects or measures of the Spirit that are not always received upon conversion. 


  • John 20:22 – disciples received a measure of the Holy Spirit, which is seen in their new understanding of the Scriptures (Acts 1:20, for example) compared to their lack of understanding during Jesus’ earthly ministry.  However, they received the baptism of the Spirit on the day of Pentecost (Acts 1:4-8; 2).
  • Acts 4:24-31: “they [various believers, including Peter and John] raised their voice to God with one accord and said: ‘…grant to Your servants that with all boldness they may speak Your word, by stretching out Your hand to heal, and that signs and wonders may be done through the name of Your holy Servant Jesus.’  And when they had prayed, the place where they were assembled together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness.”  Here, Christians (even those who had already been baptized in the Spirit at Pentecost, like John and Peter) prayed for gifts of healing, signs, wonders, and boldness (which were all things related to the baptism of the Spirit). 
  • Acts 8:12-19: “they believed Philip as he preached the things concerning the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, both men and women were baptized…Now when the apostles who were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them, who, when they had come down, prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit.  For as yet He had fallen upon none of them.  They had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.  Then they laid hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit…through the laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Spirit was given,” 
  • Acts 9:17: “And Ananias went his way and entered the house; and laying his hands on him [Paul] he said, ‘Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you came [3 days earlier], has sent me that you may receive your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.'” 
  • Acts 19:1-6: “some disciples…were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.  And when Paul laid hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke with tongues and prophesied.”  Also notice the question Paul originally asks them: “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” (Acts 19:2).  This question itself indicates that belief in Christ does not prove you have received all of the Holy Spirit. 
  • 1 Corinthians 14:13: “let him who speaks in a tongue pray that he may interpret.”  This was written about Christians who have already received the gift of tongues, telling them that they should pray for the gift of interpretation of tongues.
  • 2 Timothy 1:6: “…the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands.”

Jesus further expounds on this issue when He says, “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!” (Luke 11:13).  Here, He is referring to people who already are children of God, calling on their Father for the Holy Spirit.  And the parallel passage of this verse (Matthew 7:11) tells us that God will give “gifts” to his children who ask, instead of “the Holy Spirit” of Luke’s account.  Putting these two passages together, we could say that God will give the GIFT(S) OF HIS HOLY SPIRIT to believers who ask for this. 

In a similar vein, Paul exhorts the Ephesian Christians to, “be filled with the Spirit,” (Ephesians 5:18).  Notice, it is a command, not a suggestion, and it is written to Christians.  This demonstrates that even Christians who have already been “sealed with the Holy Spirit,” (Ephesians 1:13), have more to receive of the Spirit.

Finally, Jesus’ own life provides an example for us.  When He was born, it was a result of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 1:18), showing that He had the Holy Spirit indwelling from birth.  However, when Jesus was 30 years old, and was baptized in water and prayed to God, we read that “the Holy Spirit descended in bodily form like a dove upon Him” (Luke 3:21-22).  In this example, the Holy Spirit falling on Him was subsequent to Him receiving the Holy Spirit at birth.  In like fashion, this example might be applied to Christians who receive more of the Holy Spirit after they have been born again by the same Spirit (see John 3:6-7).


Scriptural patterns:

  • The Church is considered holy in God’s sight on the basis of Christ’s atonement and our being “in Christ” (see Colossians 1:21-22; Ephesians 5:25-27; Hebrews 3:1), yet God still commands us to “be holy” (1 Peter 1:15-16). 
  • The Church is considered crucified – past tense – with Christ (Romans 6:6-7; Galatians 2:20), yet we are still commanded to “put to death the deeds of the body” (Romans 8:13; see also Colossians 3:5). 
  • The Church is said to be “raised with Christ” (Colossians 2:12), yet we are told this new life has not been fully realized (Romans 8:11, for example).
  • Christians are said to be “kings” (Revelation 1:6; 5:10) in the present tense, yet we are told to endure that we may reign in the future (2 Timothy 2:12).

And other similar patterns are frequent themes of the New Testament.  Our position “in Christ” makes us holy, crucified, resurrected, kings, etc. on the basis of Christ’s work, but it is “Christ in us,” that is, the Holy Spirit, that brings us to experience and realize this position.

With this pattern in mind, it seems plausible to say that, though the Church has already been baptized with the Spirit, there may still be an act of realizing, receiving, and “drinking” of this Spirit baptism that did not happen at conversion.  In 1 Corinthians 12:13, after saying the Church has been baptized by the Spirit, Paul goes on to say that we were made to drink of this Spirit, not that we have already drunk (1 Corinthians 12:13).  Perhaps we could say that on God’s end He has baptized all Christians with the Spirit, but on our end, we still need to receive this.


To help us understand this, let’s consider Biblical examples of similar principles:

  • Shortly after creation, in the Garden of Eden, we read, “a mist went up from the earth and watered the whole face of the ground.” (Genesis 2:6).  Though the mist immersed (“baptized,” if you will) the entire earth, the plants still had to “drink” and “receive” the water from this mist to survive.
  • In the story of Rebekah being chosen as a bride for Isaac, she gave water to Abraham’s servant and his camels (Genesis 24:16-20).  Though there was already an abundant supply of water in the well, it still had to be “received” via the empty vessels Rebekah brought: “she went down to the well, filled her pitcher, and came up.” (24:16). Therefore, though the water had already been given, Rebekah still had the responsibility of drawing this water out and supplying the empty vessel. 
  • In 2 Kings 4, the widow in need already had a jar of oil (2 Kings 4:2), yet she still needed to bring empty vessels to receive this oil (4:3).  Though the oil was there, it was not received until she brought empty vessels, and it only poured out where there were empty vessels (4:5-6).  Similarly, God’s Spirit has been given to His Church, but perhaps we have not received His Spirit in a fuller measure because we have not come as empty vessels to be filled. 
  • In the parable of the prodigal son, the older brother was upset because he was never given some of the “riches” of his father (Luke 15:29-30).  However, the father answers him by saying, “you are always with me, and all that I have is yours” (Luke 15:31).  Therefore, we can rightly say that the son already had his father’s riches on the basis of his position in the family, yet he lacked these same “riches” because he never asked and received them from his father.

    In all these pictures the supply was already provided, but it still had to be received.

Possible Illustration?

Perhaps the baptism of the Holy Spirit could be likened to filling a room that had an abundance of covered and uncovered cups with water (assuming the room was completely sealed off, so that the water would completely fill it).  From a broader perspective, it is clear that all those vessels have been immersed/”baptized” by the water that fills the room.  However, when inspecting the individual vessels, only the ones that were uncovered are filled with the water, while the covered ones remain empty.  Now, if the cover is removed, and the vessel is in a position to receive the water, that vessel would have an experience of being filled with water that “falls” into it.  In this analogy, the covered vessel was already immersed in water on account of its position within the room, but it still had the responsibility to receive this water by discarding its cover.

Maybe that is a silly picture to think about, and I’m certain it is not a perfect analogy, but I wonder if it can help us make sense of the whole counsel of Scripture concerning the baptism of the Holy Spirit.  Like those covered and uncovered cups being immersed with water, all Christians are part of the body of Christ which has already been corporately baptized by the Holy Spirit.  Yet, we are still commanded to be filled with the Spirit, implying that our position within the body of Christ does not guarantee fullness of the Spirit.  Like those uncovered cups, Christians may still have to “open” themselves up to God for the filling of His Spirit (though the analogy breaks down when we consider that Christians must have an ongoing filling of the Spirit, not just “one [time] and done”).

When understood in this context, is it accurate to say that individual Christians can be “baptized by the Spirit” after their initial conversion? 

I don’t believe the Scriptures are conclusive enough to know if the wording, “baptized in the Spirit” would be accurate for those who are filled with the Spirit after conversion, but I do think it is clear that a filling and receiving of God’s Spirit can happen, and is meant to happen, throughout our Christian life and not just at the point of conversion.

Brian Holda

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