Was the Baptism by the Holy Spirit just for the Disciples?

HomeChristianity and the BibleWas the Baptism by the Holy Spirit just for the Disciples?

It’s clear from simply reading the New Testament that baptism by the Holy Spirit is not just for the apostles (Jesus’ first disciples). To see this, we only need to go to the most famous verse in the whole Bible, and read it in context. It is, of course, John 3:16. It’s important to read the whole section in John 3.

Here’s the situation: Nicodemus was a Pharisee, and a member of the Jewish ruling council. Nicodemus was not an apostle. He asked Jesus how someone can be born again (v4). Jesus answered this way:

Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.

Jesus was explaining how anyone could be born again, which is a requirement for being part of God’s kingdom. That’s all the evidence we need, but that’s not all we have. We can also look at 1 Corinthians 12:13: For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body – whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free – and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Clearly, not everyone in the church at Corinth was an apostle…right?

We can also go to Mark 1:8 and see this, spoken by John the Baptist: After me comes the one more powerful than I, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit. Clearly, John was not addressing only the apostles…right?

No, baptism in the Holy Spirit IS what makes one a “new creature” in Christ. We must be born again, which is a spiritual thing…performed by the Holy Spirit on everyone who believes the gospel and places their trust in God. Have you decided to trust God with your life yet?

Thanks for the question, Billy.

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4 responses to “Was the Baptism by the Holy Spirit just for the Disciples?”

  1. Red says:

    But what is the Holy Spirit, how is it manifest? Is it a high feeling, a falling on the floor, shouting up and down the isles, bells, lights? How does one acquire it and how does one know he has it?

    • Tony says:


      Thanks for asking! The Holy Spirit is a PERSON. He isn’t/doesn’t “manifest.” He is God, and is eternal, having no beginning and no end. One doesn’t “acquire” the Holy Spirit. One encounters Him. We may be indwelt by Him…He dwells in all believers. We can know this because the Bible explains it. What you’re describing is a feeling, or the kinds of things some people claim are the result of an encounter with Him. He is not a force, or a feeling, or even (as some believe) the presence of the Father. He is neither the Father nor the Son, being the third person of the Trinity. He is co-equal with the Father and Son, interacts with humanity in unique ways, and is God’s presence here on earth. The Son has returned to the Father, and they have sent the Holy Spirit to us. Jesus called Him ‘the Comforter,’ and said that He would guide us into all truth.

      I will take the time to write my own article about this, but thought I’d reply with a link for you in the meantime: Is the Holy Spirit a Person? GotQuestions is a good website. You can find all kinds of good stuff there. Let me know if you have any questions. Thanks!

  2. Anonnie says:


    How does one rectify the confusion or different interpretation/teaching of receiving Holy Spirit?

    Was in conversation with someone the other day who shared that there are three baptisms: confession, water, and spirit. They began to then describe that not all receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit as that is only released when one has tarried with God or their live is pleasing to them where He would want to use them. It’s confusing to me as I do know the word does mention the baptism of the spirit, but I wonder how this other definition emerged. I’m not sure how to explain my difference of view to the person, but also am still wondering when/how to navigate conversations when there’s a difference of view on scripture and the appropriate approach. At the root of what they’re saying, I understood it to be that yes in spiritual maturity one becomes more sensitive to the Spirit of God and welcoming his dwelling.

    However they explained that the Holy Spirit is never always in man due to our sinful nature. They also described that if one has strongholds dealing with anger, unforgiveness or any other sins the person cannot have the in dwelling of the spirit, but all believers have the Holy Spirit with them. Their distinction was that there is a difference between HAVING the Holy Spirit and being FILLED.

    They also mentioned that one’s continual operation in the gifts of the Spirit would be an example of that. A subsequent point was made in saying that Holy Spirit gifts are different from gifts that we are naturally born with; thereby highlighting that not all will come to realization or utilization of Holy Spirit gifts if they don’t have the baptism.

    I’m truthfully not as versed in scripture as they are, but even the sound of it seemed like there was an elitism or process of earning that baptism which seems strange to me. Also, if the baptism of the spirit did not happen the moment of salvation how does one then even ‘prepare’ or receive the Holy Spirit. I know the disciples had to wait for the Holy Spirit in the upper room, but not sure if that then is a model for us. I am slightly confused.

    Lastly, how do you make peace with difference of views in this instance. What becomes difficult I’ve at least observe when both genuinely see it differently and then view it as one is wrong or correct, but I genuinely wonder the extent to which making this distinction is important when there is an agreement on primary matters. I see that you navigate through many discussions and differences of views, and thought I ask.

    • Tony says:

      Welcome back, Anonnie!

      You’ve asked some good questions. It’s not really very difficult to clear up confusion about biblical things. We simply need to read and study the text. In most cases, that’s the simple answer… and, in most cases, it’s the only answer.

      The ideas your friend has about three baptisms don’t come from Scripture. First, confession is just confession. It’s not a baptism. Water baptism is a public ceremony where someone shows their community of faith that they want to be part of that community. That’s why the ancient Jews baptized converts to Judaism, and that’s why the first-century Christians baptized converts to Christianity. It’s not a spiritual act, it’s a social act. Baptism in the Holy Spirit is something that Jesus does, and He does it for every new believer. These things are found clearly in Scripture, and those who teach otherwise are either ignorant of Scripture or feel comfortable making spiritual statements that the Bible doesn’t make. This is a very bad idea.

      You’re wise to ask questions about how to handle disagreements over spiritual things. When we’re young in the faith, it’s probably best to avoid disagreements with people you think are off-base. Look for people you respect, who are mature in the faith, who will patiently and gently spend time with you. They will walk you through the Scriptures to help you see NOT what THEY say, but what God has said. We should only learn from those who teach the Scriptures well, and avoid those who teach otherwise. Arguing with someone about their unbiblical ideas puts the younger believer in a very difficult position: they don’t understand the other person’s idea yet, and they don’t know Scripture well enough to show the other person their errors. This creates unnecessary confusion. It’s best to take the disagreement to a trusted discipler, and ask them to help you understand what the Scriptures say about the topic. Then, after you’ve studied what God has said, you may be in a position to help those who know less about the Scriptures than you do.

      The Holy Spirit dwells in each believer. If He didn’t, then those who wrote Scripture could not say to a group of people that He did. When the apostle Paul told the Christians in Corinth that the Holy Spirit dwelt in the them, He didn’t say “some of you.” He was speaking to all of the Christians there. Our sinful nature doesn’t go away when we’re saved, so that’s not what determines whether He dwells in someone. The idea that the Holy Spirit does not dwell in a believer because they sin is nonsense… that would mean the Holy Spirit dwells and leaves, dwells and leaves. There’s nothing in the New Testament to suggest that this happens. The word “dwell,” in Greek, means to “inhabit.” That is, to take up residence.

      The distinction between having the Holy Spirit and being filled with the Holy Spirit is a minor one. All believers are indwelt by the Holy Spirit. Then, when He decides, He may ‘fill them’ – empower them – for specific situations.

      Your friend is confused because they don’t know the Scriptures. Jesus baptizes every believer in the Holy Spirit. Spiritual gifts are for building up the Body of Christ, as we see in 1 Corinthians 12. We don’t “operate in the gifts” as so many like to say. This is a distortion of what Scripture teaches. You’re wise to be skeptical of what they’re saying. No, one does not prepare to receive the Holy Spirit. The disciples waited for Pentecost, but there’s nothing in Scripture to suggest that anyone waited after that. The truths found in Scripture are far more simple than what you’re hearing:

      • Every believer is baptized in the Holy Spirit by Jesus at the moment they’re born again.
      • The Holy Spirit dwells in every believer.
      • He convicts of us sin, transforms us to be more like Jesus, and empowers us for service.
      • The Holy Spirit does not leave a believer, even when we sin.
      • The gifts of the Spirit are given as He decides, and they’re for believers to build up other believers.

      How do we make peace with different views? That’s a wise and mature question. You see, there’s only one answer… there’s the truth, and there’s everything else. Where Scripture is clear, we can see the truth. We should stick to that. Where Scripture is difficult or unclear, we may come to different conclusions about what’s true. The problems arise when people take unclear things and pretend they’re clear, or when we pretend that our interpretation of an unclear thing is the only right one. When people differ over unclear things, we should be gracious. When people differ over clear things, we should also be gracious… but we should not pretend that Scripture isn’t clear. We should stand firm on what God has clearly communicated.

      Let me again recommend that you look for, and pray for, a mature believer in your area that you can meet with regularly and learn from. You wouldn’t be a disciple of that person… they would be a disciple of Jesus, and help you to be a disciple of Jesus. We need help to follow Jesus closely, and mature believers – while not perfect – will help us become more like Jesus, help us understand the Scriptures better, and teach us to help others in the same way.

      Does that make sense?

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