Category Archives: Holy Spirit Baptism

The Fog Is Getting Thicker

On January 13, in the online publication Biblical Notes, Weylan Deaver published an article entitled, “The Fog is Lifting.” A better title for the article would be “The Fog Is Getting Thicker.” A long time ago, Biblical Notes was a sound paper, but now it is dedicated to defending the erroneous position of Mac Deaver, a once faithful gospel preacher but now a peddler of his false doctrine on the Holy Spirit.

There is so much error in the article, based on assumptions that are clearly false, that it would take much more space than I have here to deal with it all. There are also better men who are better qualified to deal with this error than I, and I am sure they will. But I feel compelled to make a few observations regarding it in the mean time.

First, on the one hand, brother Deaver tries to argue that the expression “baptism of the Holy Spirit” is just a different way of saying that we are saved. He writes, “when we found different words used about the Holy Spirit’s connection to saved people, we completely missed the point…” He tries to argue that the expression “baptism of the Holy Spirit” is an equivalent term for salvation just as there are different terms used to describe the church. He writes:

“We knew it was called the church, but also referred to as a kingdom. Nobody insisted that the church and kingdom must be separate entities. We knew that the church was called the body of Christ, but also his bride, and even God’s house. And no one claimed that the body must be something other than the bride, or that the body cannot be the church, or that God’s house cannot be his kingdom, etc. We all understood these various terms were descriptive of the same institution. The church was the kingdom and also the body and also the bride and also the house of God. They were all the same thing, despite different terminology. However, when we found different words used about the Holy Spirit’s connection to saved people, we completely missed the point…Our coherent approach to passages on the church became a muddled effort on passages about the Spirit.”

He clearly means to imply that since the church was described by different terms, then salvation can also be described by different terms. And surely it can be and is! “Remission of sins” is one expression for salvation just as being “in Christ” is another. Both of them refer to the same thing under different figures. But then he tries to say that the expression “baptism of the Holy Spirit,” which he says is equivalent to “receiving the Spirit,” and other similar expressions, is an expression equal to expressions denoting salvation, including the references to water baptism.

But later in the same article he says “Peter calls on hearers to repent and be baptized so they can receive ‘the gift of the Holy Spirit.'” If they are the same thing, then how can one come before the other? He writes of Cornelius in Acts 10, “In his case, the Spirit baptism preceded the water baptism…” How can that be if “they were all the same thing, despite different terminology” as he claims? If he is not equating “baptism of the Holy Spirit” with water baptism, then what was the point of his comparison with terms denoting the church?

But the truth is the baptism of the Holy Spirit was only promised to the apostles (Acts 1:1-4). He would guide the apostles into all truth and bring to their remembrance the things the Lord had taught them (John 14:26; 16:13). Receiving the miraculous power from the Spirit (Acts 1:8), the apostles could then pass those powers to others through laying their hands on them (Acts 8:18). The Deavers cannot do this, were never promised the Spirit, were not in Jerusalem when the Spirit was given and never had an apostle to lay their hands on them to receive the gift of the Spirit.

A second point. He makes much of the supplied words “unto Him” in John 3:34. He says we in the church have been teaching that God gives the Spirit by measure when the Text says that God does not give the Spirit by measure. He writes, “There is no ‘baptismal measure.’ There is no ‘laying on of hands measure.’ There is no ‘ordinary measure.’ There are no measures.”

First, his view goes against the views of the commentators. Gill wrote, “Still meaning Christ,..For God giveth not the Spirit by measure unto him, as he did to the prophets of the Old Testament, and to the apostles of the New; and to the ordinary ministers of the word, who have gifts differing one from another; to one is given one gift of the Spirit; and to another, another gift, as the Spirit pleaseth; and to everyone is given grace, or gifts of grace, according to the measure of the gift of Christ, Ephesians 4:7.”

The Jamieson-Fausset-Brown commentary states, “Here, again, the sharpest conceivable line of distinction is drawn between Christ and all human-inspired teachers: ‘They have the Spirit in a limited degree; but God giveth not [to Him] the Spirit by measure.'”

Matthew Henry wrote, “John knew that Jesus came from heaven as the Son of God, while he was a sinful, mortal man, who could only speak about the more plain subjects of religion. The words of Jesus were the words of God; he had the Spirit, not by measure, as the prophets, but in all fulness.”

Brother Coffman wrote, “Christian disciples receive merely “an earnest” of the Holy Spirit, and not even the apostles possessed the Spirit in the total sense that Jesus did.”

Barnes: “The prophets were inspired on particular occasions to deliver special messages. The Messiah was continually filled with the Spirit of God.”

Robertson’s Word Pictures: “That is God has put no limit to the Spirit’s relation to the Son. God has given the Holy Spirit in his fulness to Christ and to no one else in that sense.”

Furthermore, the context makes it clear that John is speaking of Christ. John said that Christ came down from heaven and is above all (John 3:31). What Christ saw and heard is what He testified (John 3:32). Verse 34 speaks of Him who God hath sent, which is Jesus. And the reason that He speaks the word of God is because God does not give the Spirit by measure to Him. It makes no sense, contextually or otherwise, to say that this applies to all. We do not speak with the same authority the Son does. Finally, verse 35 says that God has given all things into His hand. This He has not done to any other human being.

It is sad to see the Deavers descend into this kind of error. I had great respect for brother Roy Deaver, and once had respect for Mac Deaver. But his torturous defense of his error is embarrassing. I pray that the fog will one day soon lift from his eyes.

Eric L. Padgett

Was the Household of Cornelius Baptized in the Holy Spirit?

While it is not a matter that has immediate soteriological implications, the question of whether or not the household of Cornelius received the baptism of the Holy Spirit is important. What we understand about it affects other doctrines which we may believe, if we are logically consistent. Just as the doctrine of the literal, personal indwelling may not alone affect one’s salvation, often it is the gateway which leads to other errors about the Holy Spirit which do affect one’s salvation. Thus it is with Cornelius and Holy Spirit baptism. This author holds to the view that Cornelius and his household were not baptized in the Holy Spirit and the following sets forth the reasons why this view is held.

First, and most importantly, the promise of Holy Spirit baptism was given to the apostles alone. In John 14:26 Jesus promised “But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you” (John 14:26 ). Again, in the same setting, Jesus promised “Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come” (John 16:13). This promise was given when Jesus was alone with the Twelve (Matt. 26:20).

Luke records that when Jesus had been raised from the dead he appeared to the apostles, i.e., Twelve, and showed Himself alive by many infallible proofs (Acts 1:2,3). It was then that He again promised the baptism of the Holy Spirit to them. “And, being assembled together with them, commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith he, ye have heard of me. For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence” (Acts 1:4-5). Notice that He said the apostles had heard this from Him, referring back to the promise contained in John 14:26 and 16:13. These were promises of the baptism of the Holy Spirit and these promises were given only to the apostles. Furthermore, when we follow the pronouns in the first and second chapter of Acts, we find that they refer back to the apostles of verse two. Only they had the Spirit empower them through this baptism (Acts 2:1-4, 14).

Notice also that the promise was to be fulfilled “not many days hence” in Jerusalem, not a decade later at the house of Cornelius in Caesarea. If it was not fulfilled on the day of Pentecost then Peter was mistaken when he said “this is that” (Acts 2:17). According to some, he should have said “this is only partly that” which was spoken by the prophet Joel. Again, if it was not fulfilled in Jerusalem, then Jesus was mistaken.

What seems so inconsistent to this author is that many writers will make the point made above but will come back when dealing with Cornelius and say that he and his household also received the baptism of the Holy Spirit. If the Lord’s promise was only to the apostles, then why should we try to expand that promise to others? The baptism of the Holy Spirit was promised only to the apostles, never to anyone else. We should not be more generous than the Lord.

But because the apostles were baptized in the Holy Spirit, this meant that others would also receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, i.e., miraculous endowments, in fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy (Joel 2:28-32). Peter said that the apostles’ receiving the baptism of the Holy Spirit was the fulfillment of that prophecy (Acts 2:17). But the prophecy mentions “your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams” and servants and handmaidens would “prophesy” (Acts 2:17,18). When did this occur? Only when the apostles had laid their hands upon others did this occur (Acts 8:18). They received the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38) when the apostles conferred upon them this ability and not until then. But the baptism of the apostles in the Holy Spirit (i.e., being endued with power from on high – Acts 1:8) was necessary for this to happen.

Second, the household of Cornelius did not receive the same abilities that the baptism of the Holy Spirit provided the apostles. The apostles were endowed with the power to remember everything that Jesus had taught them and were guided into all truth (John 14:26; 16:13). They also had the power to impart spiritual gifts to others through laying their hands on them (Acts 8:18). They were also given the power to act as ambassadors, beseeching the world to be reconciled to God (II Cor. 5:19,20). They had the power to bind on earth those things already bound in heaven (Matt. 16:18,19). The apostles had the power to come with the rod of correction (II Cor. 13:1-3, 10; cf. Acts 13:9-11). There were miraculous signs associated with being apostles given by the baptism of the Holy Spirit that Cornelius and his household never received (II Cor. 12:12). Furthermore, the household of Cornelius did not receive cloven tongues like as of fire that sat upon each of them, nor was there the sound of a rushing mighty wind, as had happened at Pentecost with the apostles (Acts 2:1-4). Even if you could prove that what the household of Cornelius received was a baptism in the sense of being immersed, they still did not receive that which the apostles received.

Even those who argue that Cornelius and his household received the baptism of the Holy Spirit will admit that what they received did not make them the same as apostles.

Some have argued that just as Christians had different gifts, Cornelius and his household had different gifts than the apostles through the baptism of the Holy Spirit. But the analogy fails when we realize that the apostles all had the same power. One apostle did not have more inspiration than another. One did not have less authority than another. Holy Spirit baptism did not produce different effects on different people any more than water baptism produces different effects on different people.

Third, what Cornelius and his household received was never referred to as the baptism of the Holy Spirit. It was specifically referred to as the “gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 10:45; 11:17). This is what was promised in Acts 2:38 and was not the baptism of the Holy Spirit. What drew Peter’s thoughts back to Pentecost was the fact that there was no laying on of hands of the apostles here to empower, as had been the case since the day of Pentecost onward. Those who received the gift of the Holy Spirit mentioned in Acts 2:38 received it from the apostles laying their hands upon them and in no other way (Acts 8:18). The events at Cornelius’ home were the exception to that, proving that the Gentiles were also subjects of redemption through Christ. But the uniqueness of the event is no proof that it was Holy Spirit baptism any more than the fact that they received these gifts before they were Christians proved they were saved before baptism. The purpose was to show that God had granted unto the Gentiles repentance unto life (Acts 11:18). The Holy Spirit did not refer to it as Holy Spirit baptism so why should we?

Also, why would anyone think that the Gentiles had to receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit to prove that they, too, were the subjects of God’s grace through Christ? Since only the apostles were promised and received the baptism of the Holy Spirit and not the Jews in general, why would we think the Gentiles needed to receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit? God did not pick Gentile apostles to take the gospel to the Gentiles, he chose a Jew, Paul (Gal. 2:8). Wouldn’t receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit, i.e., miraculous gifts (Acts 2:38), be just as much a sign that the Gentiles were also accepted? If not, why not?

Furthermore, Cornelius was probably a wealthy Gentile. His household may have been considerable, including family and servants. Why would the Lord baptize all these, i. e., his household, in the Holy Spirit but be selective with his own Jewish disciples?

Finally, Peter says it was “a like gift” (Acts 11:17). The word “like” here is the word “isen” meaning “equal,” according to Vine. The Analytical Greek Lexicon defines it as “equal, like.” Bauer, Ardnt and Gingrinch also say that the word means “equal.” Thayer says the word means “equal,” though he does translate it “same” in Acts 11:17. How much of this translation is influenced by his theological bias we’ll never know. But being “like” something and two or more things being “the same” are two different concepts entirely. There is another word in the Greek New Testament that could have been used if Luke, who was an educated man, wanted to indicate that these two demonstrations of power were the “same.”

The Greek word “autos” is often translated “same.” For instance, Jesus Christ is the same (autos) yesterday, today, and for ever (Heb. 13:8). The very John that was in the wilderness of Judea preaching was the same (autos) John spoken of by Isaiah and who also had a coat made of camel’s hair (Matt. 3:1-4). What country did the shepherds abide in? The same (autos) country of Judea where Joseph and Mary were (Luke 2:4-8). Paul wrote “Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord” (I Cor. 12:4,5). Is there a difference between the “same” (autos) Lord and an “equal” (isos) Lord? If you can see the difference here then you can see the difference between the “like gift” and the “same gift.”

To call what Cornelius and his household received the same as Holy Spirit baptism is to call it something that Peter never called it, that Luke never called it, and that the Holy Spirit Himself never called it. What Cornelius received was equal to what happened on Pentecost in that there was 1) no laying on of the apostle’s hands, which had happened in every case where miraculous power was imparted to an individual since Pentecost onward (except for the apostles, including Paul), and 2) they spoke with tongues, but it was not the same thing. It was not Holy Spirit baptism. If it was, then they would have had what the apostles had and could have done what the apostles could do, just as Paul could do what the other apostles could do and had what the other apostles had. He was not behind the “chiefest” apostles in anything (II Cor. 11:5; 12:11).

Let us call Bible things by Bible names and simply call it what Luke, Peter and the Holy Spirit called it: the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 10:45; 11:17).

Eric L. Padgett