The denominations and churches that comprise the Baptist tradition are devoted to biblical teaching and the health of the Christian church. The Bible’s teaching about the Holy Spirit is important to Baptists.
The Baptist tradition teaches that the Holy Spirit is God and a co-equal member of the Trinity along with the Father and the Son, Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit isn’t an impersonal force but a person. Some Baptists believe in the so-called miraculous gifts of the Spirit, yet others don’t.
Why do Baptists believe the Holy Spirit is God? How does He minister to people? How does the Spirit equip, empower, and dispense gifts to people? What do Baptists believe about speaking in tongues? Keep reading to learn more.
Baptists Believe the Holy Spirit Is God
The Holy Spirit is the third person of the Trinity (Matt. 28:19, Acts 5:3-4), along with the Father and the Son, according to historic Baptist teaching. Baptists find support for the deity of the Holy Spirit in several passages of Scripture. Two examples are Matthew 28:19 and Acts 5:3-4:
- Matthew 28:19, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” (ESV) Baptist theology teaches that this verse reflects that the Holy Spirit is equal to, and in relationship with, the Father and the Son, who is Jesus Christ.
- Acts 3:4-5, “But Peter said, ‘Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back some of the price of the land? 4 While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not under your control? Why is it that you have conceived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God.’” Baptist theology argues that in these verses, the Holy Spirit and God are used synonymously.
Like other Christians that believe in the Trinity, Baptist theology teaches that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are each fully God, yet they have distinct roles. For example, the Son, Jesus Christ, died on the cross as an atonement for sin, not the Father or the Holy Spirit. (Also see Do Baptists Believe Jesus Is God?)
The Holy Spirit’s names reflect His deity: That the Holy Spirit is God is also partially established on the basis of His names, Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 6:19, 1 Pet. 1:12) and Spirit of God (Rom. 8:14-16, 1 Cor. 6:11). Baptist theology teaches that such qualifiers to the name “Spirit” imply His deity.
The Holy Spirit’s attributes reflect His deity: That the Holy Spirit is God is also observed in the attributes He possesses like eternality (Heb. 9:14), omnipotence (Luke 1:35-37), omnipresence (Ps. 139:7-10), and omniscience (John 14:26, 1 Cor. 2:10-12). Baptist theology stresses that such characteristics are only true of God, according to the Bible. (Also see Do Baptists Believe in the Saints?)
The Holy Spirit Is a Person
Baptists believe that the Bible teaches that Holy Spirit is a person as opposed to a force. The Holy Spirit has aspects of personhood, such as:
- Intellect (1 Cor. 2:10-11)
- Emotions (Eph. 4:30)
- A will (Acts 16:6, 1 Cor. 12:11).
Example verse: Ephesians 4:30, “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.” (ESV) (Also see This Is What Baptists Believe About Salvation)
The Holy Spirit Bears Witness to Jesus Christ
While the Holy Spirit is fully God, one of His main jobs is to bring glory to Christ. This doesn’t imply that the Holy Spirit is inferior to Christ in nature but reflects that the salvation of sinners came through the death and resurrection of the second person in the Trinity, the Son.
John 15:26 is an example: “But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me.” (ESV)
Christ said one of the purposes of the Spirit’s arrival was to “witness” or “testify” (KJV, NIV, NLT) about him. The Holy Spirit shines a spotlight on the person and work of Christ. (Also see Do Baptists Believe Baptism Is Necessary for Salvation?)
The Spirit’s Work In Biblical History
Baptist theology observes the Spirit’s work in all phases of God’s plan for the ages. Certain acts and events are unique to a particular time and place, while other aspects of His service are constant and unchanging.
The Holy Spirit in the Old Testament
Prior to the New Testament era, the Holy Spirit’s activity included participating in the creation of the world (Gen. 1:2, 26, Ps. 104:29-30), revealing God’s message to, and through, people (2 Sam. 23:3, 2 Pet. 1:21) and empowering leaders (Num. 11:17, Deut. 34:19).
Example verse: 2 Peter 1:21, “For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” (ESV)
The Holy Spirit in the Life of Jesus Christ
In the life of Christ, His activity included enabling the incarnation (Luke 1:35) and participating in Jesus’ baptism (Matt. 3:16). He also anointed Jesus (Luke 4:18) and empowered him for ministry (Luke 4:14).
Example verse: Matthew 3:16, “And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him.” (ESV)
The Holy Spirit at Pentecost
Following Jesus’ resurrection and ascension, fulfilling a long-anticipated promise (Isa. 11:2, 42:1, 61:1-2; John 14:16, 26), there was an unprecedented outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1-21).
“When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.” (Acts 2:1-4, ESV)
The Holy Spirit In the Church Era
Baptist theology recognizes that the Holy Spirit is involved in the life of believers and, therefore, in the Church. His activity is multifaceted and includes, but isn’t limited to:
- Calling people to salvation (Rev. 22:17)
- Implanting a new nature within people (John 3:3-6, Titus 3:5)
- Baptizing people at the moment of conversion (1 Cor. 12:13; John 1:33).
The Holy Spirit Ministers to Christians
- Loves believers (Rom. 15:30)
- Indwells believers (Rom. 8:9, 1 Cor. 6:19)
- Convicts believers (John 16:8-11, Acts 7:51)
- Comforts believers (John 14:26)
- Sanctifies believers (2 Thess. 2:13; 1 Pet. 1:2)
- Intercedes for believers (Rom. 8:16)
- Teaches believers (John 6:16; 1 Cor. 2:12-14)
- Seals believers (Eph. 1:13-14)
- Assures believers (Rom. 8:16; 1 John 3:24)
- Unifies believers (Acts 2:44-47, Phil. 2:1-2)
The Holy Spirit Equips Christians
Baptist theology teaches that the Holy Spirit empowers followers of Christ for ministry (Acts 1:8). One central and powerful way this occurs is through preaching the Bible (Acts 4:8, 31, 6:10; 1 Thess. 1:5; 1 Pet. 1:12).
- Acts 4:8, “Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers of the people and elders…” (ESV)
- 1 Thessalonians 1:5, “Our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction. You know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake.” (ESV)
- 1 Pet. 1:12, “…the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit…” (ESV)
The Holy Spirit Dispenses Spiritual Gifts
Baptist theology teaches that the Holy Spirit distributes spiritual gifts to believers for the edification of the Church (1 Cor. 14:12, Eph. 4:12).
- 1 Corinthians 14:12, “So with yourselves, since you are eager for manifestations of the Spirit, strive to excel in building up the church.” (ESV)
Spiritual gifts are given to every believer (1 Cor. 12:7,11, 1 Pet. 4:10), according to the will of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 12:11).
- 1 Peter 4:10, “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace.” (ESV)
The Holy Spirit baptizes Christians
Baptist theology teaches that believers are to be filled with the Holy Spirit (Eph. 5:18-21) for the purposes of sanctification (Rom. 8:1-8). Some Baptists believe that evidence of the Spirit’s baptism is speaking in tongues, while others don’t.
|Cessationist Baptists||Continuationist Baptists|
|From the word “cease,” these Baptists believe that certain miraculous gifts of the Spirit were only for the first century and aren’t operational today.||From the word “continue,” these Baptists believe that all gifts of the Spirit are active today.|
|The baptism of the Holy Spirit described in Scripture occurs at the moment of conversion and isn’t a subsequent and separate event.||The baptism of the Holy Spirit described in Scripture occurs after conversion as a subsequent and separate event.|
|Baptism of the Holy Spirit isn’t solely evidenced by speaking in tongues.||Baptism of the Holy Spirit is evidence only by speaking in tongues.|
Cessationists and Continuationists Can Both Be Baptist?
Yes. The Baptist tradition values individual freedom on many matters of theology like Calvinism and Arminianism, amillennialism and premillennialism, and cessationism and continuationism. Baptist pastors, theologians, denominations, churches, and members can be either.
Baptists are primarily distinct in the areas of water baptism and the church:
- Believer’s baptism: The name “Baptist” comes from the tradition’s long-held conviction that only those who profess Christ should be baptized, therefore, not infants. Children may be baptized when they are old enough to genuinely profess faith in Christ.
- The church: Baptists also have strong convictions about how churches should operate. The tradition champions: (1) the autonomy of the local church, (2) the separation of Church and State, and (3) congregation governments.
C.H. Spurgeon (1834-1892), Baptist pastor, said, “Without the Spirit of God we can do nothing. We are as ships without wind or chariots without steeds. Like branches without sap, we are withered. Like coals without fire, we are useless. As an offering without the sacrificial flame, we are unaccepted.”
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