A false distinction - Can you receive the Holy Ghost without being baptized in the Holy Ghost?

I. The Spirit is essential for salvation.

John 3:3-5

3 Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. 4 Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother's womb, and be born? 5 Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.

Romans 8:9

9 But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.

Titus 3:5

5 Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost;

II. Is there a difference between receiving the Holy Ghost and being baptized in the Holy Ghost?

Early Pentecostals agreed that the consistent evidence throughout the book of Acts of being baptized with the Holy Ghost was speaking in tongues. They believed and prayed to receive the same experience. God responded to their faith and poured out His Spirit.

How would they describe this wonderful experience? Many preached that it was an added blessing. On one hand, they held to the scriptures promising that it was God’s will for everyone to experience the wonderful gift. On the other hand, they weren’t comfortable preaching that it was an essential part of conversion. They resorted to an ingenious though convoluted doctrine that differentiates between receiving the Spirit and being filled with the Spirit.

The doctrine states that at faith or repentance, a believer receives the Spirit, yet they are to seek until they are baptized or filled with the Spirit. Does this mean that when you first receive the Spirit that it partially fills you? How much do you receive? Are you half full or maybe three quarters full? Some began using the expression “filled to overflowing” to distinguish being baptized in the Holy Ghost. So at conversion you are actually filled with the Spirit, but then when you are “Spirit filled”, you are actually Spirit overflowing?

The thought continues that it is God’s will for everyone to receive the baptism of the Holy Ghost, but everyone doesn’t have to receive it. How far can you be out of God’s will and still be saved? God wants you to seek His wonderful gift, but it is entirely up to you? There are no eternal ramifications if you reject His counsel?

Does this logic make any sense? Is it true that you receive the Spirit automatically upon initial faith, and you are baptized in the Spirit as a second or distinct work of the Holy Ghost? Does the scripture actually distinguish between being baptized in the Holy Ghost and receiving the Holy Ghost?

Let’s look at the promises and accounts of Spirit infilling with the evidence of tongues in the book of Acts.

Acts 1:5, 8

5 for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days from now.”… 8 But you shall receive power when the Holy Ghost has come upon you

1. baptized with the Holy Ghost

2. Holy Ghost has come upon you

Acts 2:4, 17-18, 38

4 And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance…17 I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh;… 18 I will pour out My Spirit in those days;…. 38 you shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.

1. filled with the Holy Ghost

2. pour out My Spirit (x 2)

3. receive the gift of the Holy Ghost

Acts 8:15-17

15 Who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost: 16 (For as yet he was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.) 17 Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost

1. receive the Holy Ghost (x 2)

2. fallen upon them

Acts 10:44-46

44 While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word.45 And they of the circumcision which believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost.46 For they heard them speak with tongues, and magnify God

1. Holy Ghost fell on them

2. poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost

Acts 11:15-17

15 And as I began to speak, the Holy Ghost fell on them, as on us at the beginning.16 Then remembered I the word of the Lord, how that he said, John indeed baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost.17 Forasmuch then as God gave them the like gift as he did unto us, who believed on the Lord Jesus Christ; what was I, that I could withstand God?

1. Holy Ghost fell on them

2. baptized with the Holy Ghost

3. gave the gift

Acts 19:2, 6

2 He said unto them, Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed? And they said unto him, We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost… 6 And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Ghost came on them; and they spake with tongues, and prophesied.

1. received the Holy Ghost

2. Holy Ghost came on them

The scriptural accounts of men speaking in tongues do not distinguish between being baptized in the Holy Ghost and receiving the Holy Ghost. Being baptized in the Holy Ghost is actually only mentioned twice. Four times the very same experience was described as receiving the Holy Ghost. An additional eight times the Holy Ghost with the evidence of tongues was described as being poured out, given, falling, or coming on them.

Acts 8 is particularly important because it describes the Samaritans as believing and being baptized in Jesus name, yet they had not received the Holy Ghost. They had been delivered from demons, physically healed, and filled with joy. None of this constituted receiving the Holy Ghost.

Acts 19 also distinguishes between initial belief and receiving the Holy Ghost. Paul asked the disciples of John if they had received the Holy Ghost since they believed. Upon hearing of God’s great promise, they prayed until they all spoke with tongues.

III. All believers must receive the Holy Ghost.

1. You receive the Holy Ghost by faith.

Galatians 3:14

14 That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.

2. Your faith must be according to scriptures.

John 7:38-39

38 He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. 39 (But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.)

3. Scriptural faith requires diligently seeking for God’s rewards including the gift of the Holy Ghost.

Hebrews 11:6

6 But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.

4. Biblical faith is obedient faith.

Acts 5:32

32 And we are his witnesses of these things; and so is also the Holy Ghost, whom God hath given to them that obey him.

5. When Peter was asked how sinners should respond to the gospel, he replied that they must all repent, they must all be baptized in Jesus name for the forgiveness of sins, and they must all receive the Holy Ghost. He concluded by assuring the audience that the promise of the Holy Ghost was universally available to everyone called of God.

Acts 2:37-38

37 Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? 38 Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. 39 For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.

If converts aren’t receiving the Holy Ghost with evidential tongues, the issue isn’t God. We must preach the availability and necessity of the Spirit. They must repent and respond in obedient faith, seeking until God fills them.

You can not receive the Spirit without being baptized in the Spirit. This is a false distinction. Both phrases describe the same experience. You can not enter the kingdom without the Spirit. (John 3:5)

1 Corinthians 12:13

13 For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.

Being baptized in the Spirit joins us to the body. The experience is universally available for all regardless of nationality or position in life. We drink of the Spirit by being baptized in the Spirit. If you are thirsty, Jesus promised that the Spirit would be like a river of living water that is available to all believers (John 7:37-39).

Have you received the Holy Ghost since you believed?

For more information on receiving the Spirit and speaking in tongues: