Wineskins Archive

February 5, 2014

Immersion in the Holy Spirit (Jan-Apr 2000)

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by Edward Fudge

Almost 2,000 years ago, Jesus Christ made atonement for sin and ascended to heaven to be exalted at God’s right hand. Based on Jesus’ accomplishments, God began to pour out the Holy Spirit on Jesus’ followers on the earth. This gift, promised by God through the ancient prophets and again through Jesus, was nothing other than immersion in the very Presence and power of God and of his exalted Christ. Careful Bible study reveals that the same blessing is available to every believer in Jesus today who will seek, ask, and knock.

The Need for Pentecost
The greatest need of every Christian and every church today is a sustained consciousness of the personal Presence and power of the Living God. The Preseence of God was the highest aim of Old Testament devotion (Psalm 27:4, 8: 42:1-2), and it will be the greatest blessing in the New Heavens and New Earth (Revelation 22:4).

The ancient Hebrew Prophets looked forward to a time of salvation, joy and praise – a time when God would dwell among his people (Isaiah 12:1-6; Ezekiel 36:228-28; Hosea 14:4-7; Joel 2:23-27; Micah 7:7-9, 14-15; Zephaniah 3:14-17; Zechariah 2:4-5, 10-11).

The means of God’s Presence then would be God’s Spirit (Isaiah 32:15-18; Ezekiel 39:29). God promised through Joel: “Thus you will know that I am in the midst of Israel, and that I am the LORD your God and there is no other . … And it will come about after this that I will pour out My Spirit on all mankind, and your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. And even on the male and female servants I will pour out My Spirit in those days. And I will display wonders in the sky and on the earth. … And it will come about that whoever calls on the name of the LORD will be delivered [or “saved”] … even among [those] whom the LORD calls” (Joel 2:27 – 30, 32)

The Background for Pentecost
Pentecost is part of the progressive biblical story of God drawing near to his people. The Old Testament reveals God over us. Throughout these earlier Scriptures, God is the creating, covenant-making, redeeming, judgment God. He is high and holy – removed from his people. The Gospels reveal God among us. Through the miracle of the Incarnation, we see and know God in the man Jesus of Nazareth. In his humanity, Jesus makes atonement for sin and removes all barriers between God and his people. Pentecost reveals God in us. Shortly before his betrayal and death, John’s Gospel tells us, Jesus promised to return to his followers in the Spirit (John 14:18-21, 23). After his resurrection, Jesus promised his abiding Presence until the End (Matthew 28:20). The “signs” which Mark mentions are nothing but manifestations of Christ’s own Presence and the coming of God’s kingdom (Mark 16:17-18). Luke also emphasizes the continuity between Jesus’ past activity in the flesh, reported in the Gospel of Luke, and his ongoing activity through the Spirit after Jesus ascends to heaven (Acts 1:1-2). The New Testament almost closes with Jesus again offering his own spiritual Presence to his people on earth (Revelation 3:19-20).

Although God’s covenant people experience him as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, there is but one God, whom we see most clearly in Jesus of Nazareth (John 14:9). Similarly, to receive the Holy Spirit is to receive the Spirit of Jesus. We need never to be frightened of the Holy Spirit.

We may gladly welcome the Spirit of Jesus in his fullness, with whatever he may bring and do. It was fear, which prompted the elder of one congregation in the 1960s to exclaim: “We don’t want any of that Holy Spirit stuff in this church!” He did not realize that a church without the Holy Spirit is a church without Christ or his Father.

The Blessing of Pentecost
The gift of Pentecost is the privilege given to every believer to be immersed in the personal Presence and power of the Living God and the Spirit of the crucified, risen and ascended Jesus Christ. This immersion in the personal Presence and power of God and the risen Jesus Christ is for all of God’s people, not only a select few. That is strikingly clear in the preaching of John the Baptist, forerunner to Jesus.

“All the country of Judea was going out to him, and all the people of Jerusalem. And they were being immersed by him in the River Jordan … And he was … saying, ‘After me comes One who is mightier than I, and I am not even fit to stoop down and untie the thongs of His sandals. I immersed you with water; but He will immerse you with the Holy Spirit” (Mark 1:5, 7-8).

John here promises the crowds at large representing “all the country of Judea” and “all the people of Jerusalem” that Jesus would immerse them with the Holy Spirit. Jesus does not call his first apostle until seven weeks after this occasion – in Galilee, not in Judea (Mark 1:13-16). The most natural reading of Acts 1-2 strongly suggests that the outpouring or immersion of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost included the whole company of believers, not only the Apostles. Chapter one portrays the 12 disciples gathered (1:15). “They” remain the most obvious subject of Luke’s verbs through the Pentecostal outpouring (1:23, 24, 26; 2:1-4).

The Gospels and Acts carefully distinguish immersion in the Spirit from immersion in water (Mark 1:7-8; Acts 1:5). The two may also vary in time. Sometimes immersion in the Spirit accompanies water immersion (Acts 2:38; 9:17-18); at others it precedes it (10:43-48); at others it comes afterward (i:14-17; 19:1-7). Yet this biblical distinction between immersion in water and immersion in the Holy Spirit never minimizes the need for – or the importance of – immersion in water (Acts 10:43-48). The two differ in purpose, for water immersion relates to forgiveness of sins, while immersion in the Spirit relates to empowerment for service.

The Diversity of Pentecost
Anyone who reads the Book of Acts very carefully will be struck with the enormous diversity which Luke reports, both in his descriptions for the Pentecostal experience and also in its effects. We find at least nine different expressions in Acts for this same blessing. Luke speaks of being immersed with or an immersion of the Spirit (Acts 1:5; 11:16), of being filled with the Holy Spirit (2:4, 4:8; 9:17; 13:9, 52), of the Spirit being poured forth (2:17-18), or falling on (8:16; 10:44; 11:15) or coming on (19:6) someone; of the gift of the Spirit or the Spirit being given (2:38; 11:17; 15:8); of the promise of the Spirit (1:4; 2:39); of times of refreshing (3:19); and of someone receiving the Spirit (19:2).

Luke also combines, overlaps, and interchanges various clusters of these descriptive terms. He identifies the Jerusalem outpouring on Pentecost as the promise, being immersed with the Holy Spirit, the Holy Spirit coming upon, being filled with the Spirit and the gift of the Spirit (Acts 1:4-8; 2:4-39). The Samaritan outpouring he portrays as receiving the Spirit and the Spirit falling on, which he contrasts with water immersion (8:14-17). Luke describes the Ceasarean outpouring as the gift or God’s giving, the Spirit being poured out and falling, the Spirit received, and as an immersion (10:44-48; 11:15-17; 15:7-8). And the Ephesian outpouring, says Luke, involved the Holy Spirit coming on people who received it (19:1-7).

The Book of Acts also reports great diversity in the effects of immersion in the Holy Spirit. Luke mentions at least a dozen different manifestations of that experience:

    1. Wind and fire (2:2-3).


  • Spiritual praise in language naturally unknown to the speaker (2:4-8; 10:46; 19:6). Even at Pentecost, those who speak in other tongues are “declaring the wonders of God,” not preaching the gospel as such (2:4, 11 NIV). Similarly, the Cornelius household was “exalting God” (10:46).



  • Signs and wonders (2:43; 6:8).



  • The house was shaken (4:31).



  • A vision of heaven and of the ascended Lord Jesus (7:55).



  • An overwhelming sense of awe (2:43).



  • An extraordinary spirit of sharing and generosity (2:44-46; 4:32).



  • Gladness and joy (2:46; 13:52).



  • A praise-filled life (2:47).



  • Bold proclamation about Jesus as Savior and Lord (2:14ff; 4:8-12; 5:31-32; 6:8-10).



  • Wonderful cleansing of the soul (15:9).



  • Prophesying, or supernaturally delivering a message from God (2:17-18; 19:6).

This scriptural diversity makes two things clear. First, that when someone is immersed in the Holy Spirit, we may expect any of these manifestations, or any others which may please God who is sovereign and who gives the Spirit. Second, that we must not require any particular manifestation on any given occasion, or judge the experience to be inauthentic solely by the absence of any particular biblical effect.

According to Acts, immersion in the Spirit is not a one-time event. Luke identifies this experience by the same clusters of descriptive terms in Jerusalem, Samaria, Caesarea and at Ephesus (Acts 1-2; 8; 10-11; 15; 19). This immersion in the divine Presence and power may also be repeated throughout one’s Christian life. The earliest believers were “filled” again and again with the Holy Spirit – a term which Luke uses interchangeably with immersion in the Spirit.

Pentecost marked the beginning – not the end – of the time when God would pour out his Spirit on all flesh. No New Testament writer suggests that the immersion of the Holy Spirit or any of its manifestations were temporary, or that they were intended to end with some period or event now ancient to us. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 18:8). Jesus promised his Presence throughout the present age (Matthew 28:20). Believers across the centuries have testified to this same experience, among them such notable mainstream evangelists as John and Charles Wesley in the 18th century, and Charles G. Finney and Dwight L. Moody in the 19th century. God has bee pouring out his Spirit for nearly two millennia now, on sons and daughters, young and old, servant and master, just as he began to do on the Day of Pentecost.

The Invitation to Pentecost
According to Joel’s prophecy, John’s proclamation, and Jesus’ promise, this Pentecost experience is the privilege of everyone who believes n Jesus as Lord and Savior and who follows him. It is God’s empowerment for “you and your children,” for as many as God will “call” (Joel 2:32; Acts 2:39). It is appropriate, therefore, for us to conclude these thoughts with a biblical question, promise, and invitation.

The question is one Paul asked a group of disciples, “Have you received the Holy Spirit since you believed?” (Acts 19:2). He did not ask, “What do you know about the Holy Spirit?” but “Have you received the Holy Spirit?” We might ask ourselves the same question today. The promise is from Jesus, who pledged that God would give the Holy Spirit to all who persistently “ask,” “seek” and “knock” (Luke 11:9-10, 13). The invitation is also the Savior’s, who himself stands knocking at the door of his people’s hearts, waiting and willing to share his intimate Presence (Revelation 3:19-20). Will you say Yes to Jesus today?

Invite him now – through his Spirit – to fill your heart, to shape your life, to gift and to empower you for service. He will immerse you with the very Presence of God, who will pour out his Spirit on you and fill you with that Spirit to overflowing. This is the Father’s gift and promise to you as a believer, that the Spirit may fall on you, come on you. You can receive this personal Presence and power of God and of the exalted Jesus Christ, just as the first band of believers did on the Day of Pentecost. Indeed, these are times of refreshing for the people of God!

Condensed from the cyber booklet Power From on High, available free of charge at

Edward Fudge

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