This time we will look at the relationship between the Holy Spirit and Baptism. Are they one and the same?
Let’s start with Peter in Samaria.
When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them. When they arrived, they prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit, because the Holy Spirit had not yet come upon any of them; they had simply been baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus. Then Peter and John placed their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit. When Simon saw that the Spirit was given at the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money and said, “Give me also this ability so that everyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.”
These verses point out something I believe is very significant. That is being baptized with water is not the same thing as being filled with the Holy Spirit. Many Christians today believe that the two are the one and the same. These verses clearly say otherwise; at least in this instance. The people in Samaria had been baptized but did not have the Holy Spirit until Peter placed his hands on them. This display of bringing the Holy Spirit definitely had an effect on someone named Simon as he tried to buy the power for himself!
So, if the Holy Spirit does not automatically come to all those who are baptized what circumstance causes him to come to believers? Here is an instance where the Holy Spirit came to those who had not yet been baptized.
While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message. The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles. For they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God. Then Peter said, “Can anyone keep these people from being baptized with water? They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have.” So he ordered that they be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked Peter to stay with them for a few days.
Besides for the baptism/Holy Spirit reversal these verses have other significant consequences. Early in Acts Peter received a message from God that he was to go among the Gentiles to give them the message of Jesus Christ. Up until that point I don’t think the Apostles really understood that Christianity was meant for both Jew and Gentile. Of course, it was later decided that Paul would be the one to go among the Gentiles and Peter was to pretty much stay among the Jews. So I guess God changed his mind as to who he would send. But that is another story. I have might have no biblical foundation for this belief but I think that receiving the Holy Spirit is what really makes a person a Christian and the baptism part it like a rite of initiation or a ritual as was typical of Jewish traditions at the time. I believe that the Jewish ceremonial aspects are the primary reason that Peter mentions water baptism after the Holy Spirit baptism.