Is the baptism of the Holy Spirit after being born again?               By Jack Kettler


In this study, the second work of grace doctrine will be considered. Is the baptism of the Holy Spirit the same as being born again? If not, what is it? What could be lacking if Christ lived in believers’ hearts via the indwelling of the Holy Spirit?  


The second blessing doctrine is generally understood in two ways. One refers to the baptism of the Holy Spirit, and another is Wesleyan in origin, having to do with sanctification unto sinless perfection. The present study will focus on the so-called baptism of the Holy Spirit after being born again by the regenerating power of Christ living in the believer’s heart via the Holy Spirit.


“Born again, or to experience the new birth, is a phrase, particularly in evangelicalism, that refers to a “spiritual rebirth,” or a regeneration of the human spirit. In contrast to one's physical birth, being “born again” is distinctly and separately caused by baptism in the Holy Spirit, it is not caused by baptism in water.” - Wikipedia


The above definition is at odds with the advocates of the supposed secondary baptism of the Holy Spirit event recorded at the Day of Pentecost event in the book of Acts 2:1-4, which is allegedly seen as an additional work of the Spirit empowering believers in a new way to the adherents of the second work of grace doctrine.  


The originating promise of the coming of the Spirit:


“I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire.” (Matthew 3:11)


This future prediction by John the Baptist speaking of conversion or an alleged secondary work of the Holy Spirit? 


Matthew Poole's Commentary explains the Matthew 3:11 text:


“I am not the Christ, Mark 1:8 Luke 3:15,16 Joh 1:15,26, I am but the messenger and forerunner of Christ, sent before him to baptize men with the baptism of water, in testimony of their repentance; but there is one immediately coming after me, who is infinitely to be preferred before me, so much, that I am not worthy to carry his shoes, or unloose his shoe latchet. He shall baptize men with another kind of baptism, the baptism of the Holy Ghost and fire.


With the Holy Ghost, inwardly washing away their sins with his blood, and sanctifying their hearts: The Holy Ghost working in their hearts like fire, purging out their lusts and corruptions, warming and inflaming their hearts with the sense of his love, and kindling in them all spiritual habits. Or, with the Holy Ghost, as in the days of Pentecost, there appearing to them cloven tongues like as of fire, as Acts 2:3: thus, the term fire is made exegetical of the term the Holy Ghost. Or, with the Holy Ghost, and with fire; changing and renewing the hearts of those that believe in him, by the operation of the Holy Ghost, and consuming and destroying others, that will not believe, as with fire.” (1) (underlining emphasis mine)


Poole understands Matthew regarding the baptism of the Spirit as the act of regeneration in the hearts of believers.


“For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence.” (Acts 1:5)


What is this coming baptism referring to?


Again, from Matthew Poole's Commentary on Acts 1:5


“For John truly baptized with water, Matthew 3:11; water being of a purifying nature, plentiful, and easy to come by.


But ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost; his gifts and graces, which were (as water on baptized persons) largely bestowed upon them on the day of Pentecost:


1. That the apostles and all others might be assured of the doctrine of the Gospel.


2. That they might be enabled to fulfil their ministry, and obey our Saviour’s commands left with them. Not many days hence; it was but ten days after his ascension; but our Saviour would not prefix a certain day, that they might watch every day.” (2)


Moreover, as Poole notes in the above two citations, there is no indication that the baptism of the Spirit being anything other than conversion.


Now consider the historical narrative in Acts 2:1-4:


“And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.” (Acts 2:1-4)


The book of Acts is a historical, descriptive narrative. However, it is a hermeneutical mistake to conclude that a descriptive narrative is normative or prescriptive. Just because God did certain things at the beginning of the Christian Church in no way necessitates that these special events are normative or prescriptive.


For example:


“And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common.” (Acts 4:32)    


The above passage indicates that the disciples in Jerusalem were practicing some communal or shared living arrangement. The shared arrangement was in preparation for the saints to flee as the Roman armies approached Jerusalem to destroy it in 70AD, and surely not to be practiced throughout Church history as a normative or prescriptive model.


With that said, consider the following points of interest:


·         The Spirit baptism happened to a group

·         There was the sound of a mighty rushing wind

·         Tongues like fire appeared on each of them

·         They were all filled with the Holy Spirit

·         They began to speak in tongues (glossa) foreign languages


The above pattern is unique to the 1st Century Church. Today, advocates of the secondary Spirit baptism movement cannot point to this baptism happening in modern times to groups, along with the accompanying sound of a mighty rushing wind, tongues of fire appearing on each of them, and all speaking in foreign languages that are recognizable, not non-understandable gibberish that is usually passed off as the language of angels.


As an aside, when angels spoke to individuals in Scripture, they spoke in human language, Hebrew or Greek. Furthermore, the point of 1 Corinthians 13:1 is that to speak in a tongue (glossa human language) of men or angels, which no one can understand, is not an act of love. To say that angelic language is not understandable language is not Paul’s point and is a case of special pleading to advance a doctrine read into Scripture rather exegeted from it.       


The disciples were moved by God’s common grace until this point in Acts. Then, with the baptism of the Spirit, i.e., conversion, the disciples had Christ in their hearts thru the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit.  


The example of the Gentiles:


“While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word. 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. For they heard them speak with tongues, and magnify God. Then answered Peter,” (Acts 10:44-46)


Noteworthy is the fact that this baptism conversion event happened to a group. Because of this, it can be concluded that Acts 2:1-4 and Acts 10:46 are unique to the 1st Century and foundational at the beginning of the Church. Said another way, these examples of Spirit baptism, i.e., conversion in the book of Acts, are not normative or prescriptive.


As Peter records, this is a salvation event and is proved by:


“Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we? And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. Then prayed they him to tarry certain days.” (Acts 10:47-48)


After conversion, in the case of adults, water baptism is to follow.


In closing:


In looking at the two selections above from the book of Acts in chapters two and ten, it can be concluded that Spirit baptism is a conversion or regeneration event, not a second work of grace. If it were, then conversion is not sufficient and is lacking in giving the believer power to live for Christ. The second work of grace doctrine in whatever form it takes, sinless perfectionism as in Wesleyan sanctification or a secondary Holy Spirit event as in charismatic circles, diminishes Christ living in the hearts of believers by the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit.


If we are in Christ, the believer is complete in Him and not in need of some extraordinary secondary work. The tongues of fire at Pentecost and the Gentiles baptized in the Spirit before water baptism is best explained by the fact that they were inaugural events at the beginning of the New Covenant.


“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ.” (Ephesians 1:3)


“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15)




1.      Matthew Poole's Commentary on the Holy Bible, Matthew, Vol. 3, (Peabody, Massachusetts, Hendrickson Publishers, 1985) p.15.

2.      Matthew Poole's Commentary on the Holy Bible, Acts, Vol. 3, (Peabody, Massachusetts, Hendrickson Publishers, 1985) p.385.


Mr. Kettler has previously published articles in the Chalcedon Report and Contra Mundum. He and his wife Marea attend the Westminster, CO, RPCNA Church. Mr. Kettler is the author of books defending the Reformed Faith. Books can be ordered online at www. Jack Kettler .com