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 You Need to be Baptized Three Times

John Hoole August 10, 2008

How many times have you been baptized? According to the Word of God, you should be baptized three times! "Wait a minute!" someone cautions. "Didn't Paul write, 'One Lord, one faith, one baptism' " (Ephesians 4:5)

Scripture must be interpreted by Scripture, and Peter proclaims as a first principle of Biblical interpretation the concept that no passage "is of any private interpretation" (2 Peter 1:20). We do not build doctrines on isolated statements.


John the Baptist proclaimed, "I indeed baptize you with water....but he that cometh after me shall baptize you with the Holy Spirit, and with fire" (Matthew 3:11). This verse obviously refers to at least 2 different baptisms - one that is with water - and another with the Holy Spirit and fire.

Likewise Christ, just before His ascension to Heaven, announced, "John truly baptized with water; but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now" (Acts 1:5). These statements do not contradict Ephesians 4:5. But how can it be true that there is "one baptism" and also that there is more than one baptism?

The apparent contradiction is resolved when we understand the context of Paul's statement of "one baptism." Likewise, it also helps to know that the terms baptize and baptism are used in the Bible in both literal and figurative senses. The Greek word is Baptizo, which indicates a literal and total immersion. Literal baptism is to be plunged into a fluid. But the word baptism is also used figuratively in the Bible. For instance, long after Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist, He announced, "I have a baptism to be baptized with; and how distressed I am till it be accomplished!" (Luke 12:50). The Greek word "Baptizo" indicates, in a figurative way, that Jesus is going through, or is submerged in a terrible ordeal - his coming death.

And about a week before that baptism of suffering, He challenged James and John who were aspiring to prominence in the coming Kingdom. "Are ye able to drink of the cup that I shall drink of, and to be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?" (Matthew 20:22). In this verse, the cup and the baptism were the same, and both words were used figuratively.

Some denominations feel that a person becomes a member of the Church through water baptism. Now the only real way to get into the Church is to be baptized into it, but water baptism is not the baptism which accomplishes this.

We need to notice the procedure or process of baptism. Baptism involves an agent, a candidate, and an element. The agent administers the baptism - he is the baptizer. The candidate submits to the baptism - he is the baptized one. The agent baptizes the candidate into the element. In the case of water baptism, the baptizer immerses the baptized one into the element of water.

A minister may baptize a person in water, but no man can baptize a person into the Church. This is a different baptism - But it is an indispensable baptism. It is absolutely necessary to salvation - You are lost without it. Everyone is lost without it.

Where in the Bible do we read about this baptism? Paul refers to it in 1 Corinthians 12:13. "For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body." This is a figurative use of the verb "baptize." This is not a ceremony but an experience. The agent or baptizer in this baptism is the Holy Spirit Himself. The candidate or baptized one is the repenting sinner. The element into which he is baptized is the body of Christ - the Church.

This baptism is where a person accepts Christ as their Savior. This has nothing to do with water baptism. The Holy Spirit is not the baptizer there. This is a symbolic use of the baptismal concept.

The Bible uses many metaphors and symbols, and we get in trouble sometimes when we confuse symbol with literal reality. Nicodemus had that problem when Jesus proclaimed the new birth, using a different symbol. He thought Jesus meant returning to a mother's womb for rebirth. The phrase, "the new birth" is just another term to describe the experience which is also indicated by Paul's announcement, "By one Spirit are we all baptized into one body."

Have you been baptized into the body of Christ? Have you believed on the Lord Jesus Christ? Have you received Him as your own personal Savior? If you can answer yes sincerely to any of these questions, then you can answer yes to all of them. If you have not been baptized into the body of Christ by the Holy Spirit, then no religious act or exercise or affiliation can profit you at all spiritually. You are lost, as lost as if you had never heard the gospel.

However, once a person has been baptized by the Holy Spirit into the body of Christ, he or she ought to be baptized in water at the first opportunity. Here, as we have seen, the agent or baptizer is the minister, the candidate or baptized one is the believer, and the element is water.

Have you been baptized twice, first by the Holy Spirit into the body of Christ, then by the minister in water? There is yet another important baptism. John proclaimed of Jesus, "He will baptize you with the Holy Ghost." Christ's last words be-fore His ascension, as recorded in Luke and Acts, related to this Baptism. Here the Baptizer is none other than the Lord Jesus Christ. The candidate is the believer. The element into which Jesus baptizes the believer is the Holy Spirit.

This is a spiritual experience which was fulfilled for the first time on the Day of Pentecost, where, we are told, "they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance" (Acts 2:4). This experience, like the salvation experience, has a number of different, yet synonymous names. Jesus called this same experience "the promise of the Father." Peter called it "the gift of the Holy Ghost," (Acts 2:39).

Are we told how important is it that a believer receive this Baptism? When Samaritan believers were converted under the ministry of Philip, the Jerusalem church dispatch Peter and John to Samaria to minister to the converts concerning the Holy Spirit baptism?

When the first Gentiles were converted at the house of Cornelius in Caesarea, did not the Lord Jesus administer this Baptism? Didn't Paul likewise minister to the Ephesian Christians in Acts 19? He asked, "Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed?" (Acts 19:2). Some allude to an alternate translation, "Did ye receive the Holy Spirit when ye believed?" But the answer is the same, however the question is rendered. They had not received since they believed. Neither did they receive when they believed. And Paul was not satisfied with their experience until, when he laid hands on them, they spoke with tongues exactly as the believers had on the other occasions.

So, how many baptisms have you experienced? Have you been baptized by one Spirit into one body? If not, you have not been born again. "That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit" (John 3:6). To be baptized by the Spirit into Christ's body is just another way to describe the new birth in the Spirit. You have been born again and thus baptized into Christ's body. Have you next been literally baptized in water? If not, you should be - don't hesitate.

You should be baptized three times. The Holy Spirit will baptize you into the body of Christ. Your minister will baptize you in water. And Jesus will baptize you in the Holy Spirit.

Before continuing, there is one more verse I want you to notice.

Hebrews 6:1-2 NKJV

1 Therefore, leaving the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ, let us go on to perfection, not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God,
2 of the doctrine of baptisms (plural), of laying on of hands, of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment.

Subsequent work of Grace

Now, having stated that we need to be baptized three times, there are those who would argue that baptism into the body of Christ and the baptism in the Holy Spirit are one and the same. I want to take some time now to show how the Bible tells us that the Spirit Baptism is subsequent to salvation. In other words, it is a totally separate event in the life of a believer.

Alister McGrath, a British theologian, lists six characteristics of evangelicalism:

1. The supreme authority of Scripture.

2. The majesty and divinity of Jesus Christ.

3. The Lordship of the Holy Spirit.

4. The need for personal conversion.

5. The priority of evangelism.

6. The importance of Christian community.

Pentecostals and Charismatics are clearly evangelical because they affirm each of these six criteria. The only doctrinal area that separates evangelicals from Pentecostals is the belief that the baptism on the Holy Spirit occurs after salvation. While we Pentecostals believe in a second definite work of grace, we are by no means the originator of that doctrine. I will show the biblical evidence in a moment, but let me list just a few of those who prior to the 20th century who believe in a separate and subsequent work of grace.

The Puritans of the 17th century believed in a subsequent act of grace. They yearned for the power of the Holy Spirit. They called it the "sealing of the Spirit." Puritan literature is full of testimonies about an experience after salvation that was a distinct empowerment of the Spirit. Their writings, though very similar to Pentecostal testimonies, do not mention tongues.

John Wesley taught a second blessing theology. He believed in two distinct works of grace in a believers life. Charles Finney took Wesley's theology and developed it. He preached and taught a second blessing doctrine at Oberlin College in the 1830s. He used the term "Baptism of the Holy Spirit."

Prominent evangelists like D.L. Moody and R.A. Torrey taught the doctrine of subsequence at the end of the 19th century. They each encouraged their audience to seek the baptism of the Holy Ghost. It is not hard to see how Pentecostalism sprung forth from such a fertile ground.

If you study any amount of theology - and by the way, you should, these names will be familiar to you. Each of these taught a second and subsequent work of grace called the baptism in the Holy Spirit. They did not all identify speaking in tongues with it, but many did.

o Hudson Taylor
o Andrew Murray
o Amy Carmichael
o F. B. Meyer,
o G. Campbell Morgan
o C. I Scofield
o Martyn Lloyd-Jones

I could give you quotations from each of these well-known theologians on their belief in an act of grace subsequent to a believer's salvation. But to save time, I want to focus on what is more important. That is, the Scriptural evidence for why these theologians believed in a 2nd work of grace.

I need to reaffirm what I said several weeks ago. All believers receive the Holy Spirit at salvation. As one writer says, "To have the Holy Spirit is one thing, but to be filled with the Spirit is quite another thing."


I believe we can actually see this subsequence in the life of Jesus. Before entering public ministry, He was baptized in water and the "Spirit descending like a dove, and lighting upon Him." (John 1:32-34) Luke 3:22 (NKJV) gives us Luke's account of this event:

22 And the Holy Spirit descended in bodily form like a dove upon Him, and a voice came from heaven which said, "You are My beloved Son; in You I am well pleased."

Luke 4:1 (NKJV) records what happened immediately after His baptism.

Then Jesus, being filled with the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness.

Jesus goes into the wilderness, where He is tempted by the devil. It was only after the Holy Spirit came upon Him that He was empowered to defeat Satan when He was tested in the wilderness. In Luke's account of these temptations, it continues for 13 verses. In verse 14, there is again reference to the Holy Spirit. We are told that he returns in the "power of the Spirit" (Luke 1:14). He immediately goes to his hometown of Nazareth, and four verses later, we read:

Luke 4:18 NKJV

18 "The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,* To proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed" (From Isaiah 61:1).

While it is true that He was already the sinless Son of God and was "strong in spirit, filled with wisdom: and the grace of God was upon Him," it was not until after He received the Holy Spirit at the Jordan River, that the prophesy of Isaiah was fulfilled:

It was not until the Holy Spirit came upon Jesus that He began to perform miracles and preach with authority. When Christ did his many miracles, He did none of them because He was the Son of God. All of them were accomplished with the power of the Holy Spirit working through Him.

Acts 10:38 NKJV

38 ...God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him.

Philippians 2:5-8 instructs us how Jesus emptied himself of His divine privileges and power when He became human and walked among us.

So, again, Jesus was already sinless and had the Holy Spirit because He was in fact conceived of the Holy Spirit. But He needed to be filled with the Holy Spirit before He commenced his public ministry.

The Disciples

There can be no doubt that the names of the disciples were already written in Heaven (Luke 10:20). We are also told their lives had already been touched by the Holy Spirit (John 20:21-23). And all this was prior to their experience on the Day of Pentecost where they are filled with the Holy Spirit baptism. The disciples had left all to follow Jesus. In Caesarea Philippi, they had confessed that He was the Christ, the Son of the Living God (Matt. 16:16). Jesus had pronounced them clean in John 15:3.

And yet they were commanded by Christ to stay in Jerusalem until they receive the baptism in the Holy Spirit. They were already saved before Jesus left them to return to Heaven. But He did not want them to begin their following ministry until filled with the Holy Spirit. Christ did not instruct them to wait for salvation or the new birth - but for an "enduement." (Luke 24:49)

The Samaritans

In Acts 8, Phillip preached Christ and saw many people converted and healed. He cast out devils and many received water baptism. There was exceeding great joy among the people. But they had not yet received the infilling of the Holy Spirit. When the disciples in Jerusalem heard what was happening in Samaria, Peter and John was sent to be there.

Acts 8:14-16 NKJV

14 Now when the apostles who were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them,
15 who, when they had come down, prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit.
16 For as yet He had fallen upon none of them. They had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.

To me, this is clear, indisputable proof that the baptism in the Holy Spirit was a subsequent experience. It was definitely distinct from salvation, with a definite lapse in time.

The Apostle Paul

In Acts 9, we read of the marvelous conversion of Saul of Tarsus, who became the apostle Paul. We are told that for the following three days, Saul prayed and sought God. And yet he did not receive the Holy Spirit until Ananias was instructed by God to go to Saul. After some reluctance, Ananias obeys God and goes to where Saul was. God calls Saul a "Chosen Vessel of His." When Ananias came to Saul, his first words were "Brother Saul." That means Saul is already a part of the same family of God as Ananias. Acts 9:17 tells us that when Ananias prayed for Saul, he was filled with the Holy Spirit. Once again, the baptism in the Holy Spirit occurs some time after salvation.

The Ephesians

Acts 19:1-2 NKJV

1 And it happened, while Apollos was at Corinth, that Paul, having passed through the upper regions, came to Ephesus. And finding some disciples
2 he said to them, "Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?" So they said to him, "We have not so much as heard whether there is a Holy Spirit."

Firstly, notice the last word of verse 1 - disciples. We are talking about men that were already believers and followers of Jesus Christ. And we have no record here that Paul preached the gospel to them. His inquiry wasn't concerning salvation, but whether they had yet received the Holy Spirit.

Some translation of the second verse reads: "Have you received the Holy Spirit since you believed." The NKJV above says "when you believed." With regard to our topic of subsequence, the wording makes not difference. The very asking of the question, regardless of which word - since or when, implies one can obtain salvation without being filled with the Spirit. If the Holy Spirit automatically fell on a person when they believed, then Paul would not have asked this question.

Typology - feasts

The Old Testament Passover speaks to us of the slain Lamb for sins. Jesus was our Passover Lamb (1 Corinthians 5:7). The Feast of Pentecost came sometimes later, and is the picture of the coming of the Holy Spirit to the Church. So we have salvation (Passover) and then later comes Holy Spirit (Pentecost).

Typology - the blood and oil

In Exodus 29, we read of the process by which Aaron and his sons would become consecrated for their service. They were to kill a ram and with its blood, they were to apply it to their right ear and right thumb and the large toe of their right foot. Following the application of the blood, anointing oil was to be placed upon those who had received the blood.

The blood speaks of salvation, for Leviticus 17:11 says it's the blood that atones for the soul. As we have seen in past lessons, oil is a type or symbol of the Holy Spirit. So, once again, we have a picture of the Holy Spirit which follows salvation.

There is one additional thing to notice in this picture. Yes, the baptism of the Holy Spirit follows salvation, but it is only given to those who have been cleansed by the blood. If a person is not saved, they will not received the Spirit baptism.

The baptism of the sea and cloud

1 Corinthians 10:1-4 NKJV

1 Moreover, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware that all our fathers were under the cloud, all passed through the sea,
2 all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea,
3 all ate the same spiritual food,
4 and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ.

Paul uses the experiences of the Israelites in the wilderness to picture New Testament theology. Passing through the sea is a picture of water baptism. And the cloud is a picture of the Holy Spirit. But both of these followed Passover (salvation), which happened their last night in Egypt.

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