What Is the Baptism With the Holy Spirit?
by Patrick Norris

Pastor Patrick Norris is a licensed and ordained minister with over 20 years of ministry experience in church leadership. Prior to launching LifePointe Church in Olathe, Kansas Patrick helped change the lives of countless people as a guest speaker around the world in churches, conferences, and seminars. From business events to theological classrooms Patrick has presented inspirational talks that included the saving grace of Jesus Christ. Patrick’s ministerial credentials include being a Professor at Christian Life School of Theology, a regular guest speaker at many Minister’s Training Institutes around the world, has sat on the board of directors of several churches across the country, has written articles for magazines, as well as a book, and has several audio teaching series for life enrichment.

For more information about Patrick Norris or LifePointe Church feel free to visit www.mylifepointe.com and/or www.patricknorris.net

Matt 3:11 KJV [John the Baptist] 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:

One of the most provocative, profound and heart-hitting statements used in Scripture about the Holy Spirit is “baptized with the Holy Spirit.”

Acts 11:15-17 “And as I began to speak, the Holy Ghost fell on them, as on us at the beginning. Then remembered I the word of the Lord, how that he said, John indeed baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost. Forasmuch as God gave them the like gift as he did unto us, who believe on the Lord Jesus Christ; what was I that I could withstand God?”

Peter distinctly called the experience, which came to Cornelius and his household, being“baptized with the Holy Ghost.” Thus we see that the expressions…

  • “The Holy Ghost fell…”
  • “The gift of the Holy Ghost…”
  • And the “baptism with the Holy Spirit…”

…are all practically synonymous.

Still other expressions are used to describe this blessing, such as…

  • “receive the Holy Ghost (Acts 2:38; 19:2-3),”
  • “The Holy Ghost came upon them (Acts 19:2-6)”
  • “gift of the Holy Ghost (Heb 2:4; 1 Cor 12:4, 11, 13)”
  • “I send the promise of my Father upon you (Luke 24:49)”
  • And “endued with power from on high…(Luke 24:49)”

So What Is the Baptism with the Holy Spirit?

Let’s consider the general idea of being “baptized” with “the Holy Spirit.”


What would it be like to be “baptized,” “immersed,” “saturated,” “to be fully pervaded”or “thoroughly permeated with” the Holy Spirit? This depicts vividly the idea of a person, or an assembly, being entirely enveloped in the reality of the Holy Spirit. Since to be baptized in water means literally “to be immersed in,” plunged under, and even drenched or soaked with, then to be “baptized with the Holy Spirit” can mean no less than that. In immersion no part of the body is left untouched; everything goes under. So with the Spirit baptism the whole being of a person – spirit, soul and body – is indued with the Spirit of God. Likewise, the community of those who are so baptized is profoundly affected in its total life. Both individual and community are touched in every area by the presence and power of the living God.

The idea of being “filled” or “full” points to the completeness of the Spirit’s immersion that relates to the entire man, that is to say, the whole person is inwardly pervaded by the Holy Spirit. Even as the sound of a mighty wind filling all the house (which signifies every room), so for all persons who are filled, every aspect of individual and communal life is touched. This is where God has flooded one’s being with His presence.

This serves to show that the concept of being “baptized,” “immersed,” “saturated,” “to be fully pervaded,” or “thoroughly permeated” with the Holy Spirit is quite complex in richness and meaning!

Immersed in “Whom”?

Who is the Holy Spirit?

  • He is the Spirit of Wisdom and Understanding
  • He is the Spirit of Might
  • He is our Comforter, Counselor, Strengthener, Standby, Advocate, Helper, and Intercessor
  • He is “peace that passes all understanding”
  • He is our spiritual rest
  • He is the anointing behind miracles
  • He is hope and vision
  • He is faith and conviction
  • He is passion and purpose
  • He is omnipotent – there is nothing He can’t do
  • He is omniscient – there is nothing He doesn’t know
  • He is omnipresent – there is nowhere He hasn’t been
  • He is grace and unqualified acceptance
  • He is forgiveness and unending mercy
  • He is “love” personified
  • He is the promise of the Father


Modern Day Experiences

Charles Finney (1792-1875)

Charles Finney, an evangelist and later founder of Oberlin College, had used the expression “baptism of the Holy Ghost” to describe an early experience with God in his life. A few hours after what Finney described as a face-to-face encounter with Christ, the following occurred:

“I received a mighty baptism of the Holy Ghost…without any recollection that I had ever heard the thing mentioned by any person in the world, the Holy Spirit descended upon me in a manner that seemed to go through me, body and soul…. Indeed it seemed to come in waves and waves of liquid love…. I wept aloud with joy and love; and I do not know but I should say I literally bellowed out the unutterable gushings of my heart. These waves came over me and over me, one after the other, until I recollect I cried out, ‘I shall die if these waves continue to pass over me’… yet I had no fear of death” (Charles G. Finney: An Autobiography, 20-21)

Frank Bartleman

Frank Bartleman, one of the leaders of the Azusa Street revival in California that ushered in the world-wide twentieth-century Pentecostal renewal, wrote about his own Spiritbaptism several years later:

“When my day of ‘Pentecost’ was fully come [in 1906] the channel was cleared. The living waters burst forth. The door of my service sprang open at the touch of the hand of a sovereign God. The Spirit began to operate within me in a new and mightier way. It was a distinct, fresh climax and development, and epochal experience for me.” (Azusa Street [originally entitled, How Pentecost Came to Los Angeles], 74-75)

Erwin Prange

Erwin Prange, a Lutheran Pastor, shared a situation he experienced in his first parish:

“How could a man think he was passing out ‘the bread of life’ every Sunday and still remain so utterly hungry himself? I was empty, and I knew it. This was the end of the line.”

Prange continues,

“Then all at once a voice seemed to come from nowhere and everywhere…’The gift is already yours. Reach out and take it.’”

As Prange stretched out his hands toward the altar, palms up, jaws tightening, and mouth open, “in an instant, there was a sudden shift of dimensions, and God became real. A spirit of pure love pervaded the church and drenched me like rain. He was beating in my heart, flowing through my blood, breathing in my lungs, and thinking in my brain. Every cell in my body, every nerve end, tingled with the fire of His presence.” (The Gift is Already Yours, 52-53)

Larry Tomczak

Larry Tomczak, a former Roman Catholic layman writes…

“As thanksgiving and praise erupted from within, a profound sense of God’s presence began to well up in me. I felt the rapturous and exultant joy of the Lord surging through me, and the more profuse my praise, the more intense became my desire to magnify the name of my Savior. I grew impatient with the inadequacy of the English language to fully express all that I was feeling, how much I could not restrain my tongue, and my lips began to stammer, as a new language hopped, skipped and somersaulted from my mouth. The language was foreign to my ears, a heavenly language only God would understand. It was praise that had surged through my whole being to seek expression through the Holy Spirit in a new transcendence.” (Clap Your Hands!, 112-113)

Graham Pulkingham

Graham Pulkingham, pastor of the Episcopal Church of the Redeemer in Houston, Texas gives a description of the effect of receiving the baptism of the Holy Spirit:

“Rather soon after I knelt, all awareness of the men and their prayers, of the room and even of myself was obliterated by the immense presence of God’s power. He was unmistakably there…. In a moment of breathless adoration, all my longing for love was satisfied and my inner being was swept clean of defilement from the tip of my toes to the top of my head as with a mighty rush of wind.” (Gathered for Power, 75-76)

Dwight L. Moody

Dwight L. Moody, a nineteenth-century evangelist and Pastor, after many years of

preaching, related how two women would say to him regularly, “You need the ower of the Holy Spirit.”

Moody reflected thereafter,

“I need the power! Why, I thought I had power [because] I had the largest congregation in Chicago and there were many conversions. I was in a sense satisfied.”

Soon though, the two godly women were praying with Moody, and…

“they poured out their hearts in prayer that I might receive the filling of the Holy Spirit. There came a great hunger into my soul…. I began to cry out as I never did before. I really felt that I did not want to live if I could not have this power for service.”

Some time later Moody related this:

“One day, in the city of New York – oh, what a day! – I cannot describe it, I seldom refer to it; it is almost too sacred an experience to name. Paul had an experience of which he never spoke for fourteen years. I can only say that God revealed Himself to me, and I had such an experience of His love that I had to ask Him so stay His hand. I went preaching again. The sermons were not different; I did not present any new truths, and yet hundreds were converted. I would not now be placed back before that blessed experience if you should give me all the world.” (W.R. Moody, The Life of DL Moody, 146-147,149).

There are countless numbers of persons who testify to the reality of being filled with the Holy Spirit.

  • For some there may have been a sense of emptiness for some time, and now God has come in His fullness.
  • There may have been an increased yearning to glorify God in all that one is and does, and now God has flooded one’s being with His presence.
  • There may have been a deep desire to be used more effectively in sharing the good news of the grace received in Jesus Christ, and now God has filled one’s life and speech with fresh power.

Others testified that…

  • People wanted to pray and spend time in Church
  • They tried to exclude worldliness from their lives
  • They prayed for cleansing and consecration more than ever before
  • They acknowledged the reign of Christ in their souls
  • Baptism involved a growing relationship with God
  • Restitution and heart searching became common
  • It made people happy and free
  • They became more committed to evangelism
  • They understood the infilling to be empowerment for service
  • Spirit baptism altered priorities

Biblical Examples–To Name Just a Few

  • Peter – Went from denying the Lord three times to boldly preaching in front of thousands with no regard for the consequences
  • James, the Lord’s brother, went from being non-committal to being the Senior Pastor of the Church in Jerusalem, upwards of 30,000-100,000+ members.
  • Paul – Went from being the primary executioner of believers in his day to standing in front of the High Priest and sharing his love for Christ.

What do each of these have in common? They each were impacted inside and out on the day of Pentecost when they were “baptized in the Holy Spirit!”

So What Is the Baptism in the Holy Spirit?

Such testimony to being “filled” or “baptized” with the Holy Spirit points to a profoundly internal experience of the Spirit of God moving throughout like “wind” or “fire” until all barriers are breached and the Holy Spirit pervades everything. This is total penetration with the Holy Spirit whereby, in a new way, all areas of one’s being – spirit, soul and body – the conscious and the subconscious depths – become sensitized to His divine presence and activity.

Our discussion of descriptive terms leads us to recognize that they depict various aspects of the Holy Spirit as the gift from the Father. In one sense, this is an invasion from without (“the Spirit poured out on,” “falling on,” or “coming on”); in another, it is an immersion (“being baptized in”); in still another sense, it is a penetration, a permeation (“being filled with”). The first expresses the movement of the Holy Spirit from “on high,” coming from heaven to earth, powerfully coming on people; the second depicts the ensuing situation of people so affected that they are enveloped in the reality of the Holy Spirit; the third pictures the Holy Spirit moving within to activate persons in the entirety of their existence. These are all ways of expressing the extraordinary event of the coming of the Holy Spirit.

Much Greater than an Experience!

We aren’t to seek for mere experiences. We are to seek communion with the person of the Holy Spirit. With any person, when it is real, it is experiential. The Holy Spirit is to be experienced but experiences aren’t our goal. Our goal is to know Him and be immersed in Him! These immersions are not limited to a once in a lifetime event, but are on-going on going experiences in fellowship with Him.

As valuable as spiritual languages are, and to not ever diminish the beauty of this blessing, we should never reduce this amazing reality of the Holy Spirit down to a onesided manifestation. Let us seek for the fullness of knowing and experiencing all the Holy Spirit has for us!