The biblical premise is that the Holy Spirit functions uniquely and differently after the ascension of Christ. However, the multiple functions of the Spirit do not invalidate the teaching on ‘there is only one Spirit’. The Holy Spirit (HS) and the Promised Holy Spirit (PHS) are one and the same. Post-ascension, the coming of the Holy Spirit upon a person is always accompanied by the utterance of tongues (Acts 2:4).
Unfortunately, some now claim that while the HS and the PHS are the same, they are also very different (the proponents do not specify the difference either in roles or manifestations). According to this line of thought, when one is baptised one receives the HS to become a child of God. Praying for the indwelling of the PHS subsequently enables one to be empowered to testify for God. Such a proposition is willed to pave a way for explaining the doctrine of the Holy Spirit in radicalism. But this proposition completely deviates from the pattern of biblical doctrine.
Is this the teaching of the Bible?
We first examine the bases for this proposition:
- When Christ came out from the water, the Spirit came upon Him (Lk 3:22). Jesus received the Spirit at water baptism to become the Beloved Son of God (Lk 3:22).
- After His resurrection and ascension, ‘only then’ did Jesus receive the promise of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:33). He was the first to receive this PHS.
The proponents have built these bases upon such a flow of logic: The Father is God and so is the Son. However, ‘the Father knows but not the Son’ (Mt 24:36). The Father has His own will but the Son has a different will (Mk 14:36). Therefore the proponents claim that who is to say whether the HS and PHS are one and the same or that they are different?
However, in the light of apostolic teaching on the Spirit, such reasoning is fundamentally flawed.
It results from a digression away from the doctrine of the One True God. The Bible clearly states that Jesus is God (Jn 8:24, 58; Rom 9:5) and He is also a Man (Acts 2:22; 1 Tim 2:5). When the Bible says God knows but not the Son, it refers to the Spirit who knows but not the Man, Jesus. Likewise, when Jesus held a different will from that of the Father, it is the Christ’s humanity at work. In contrast, the divinity of Christ acts no differently from the divinity of the Father. In the Spirit, Jesus and the Father are one (Jn 10:30; 17:22).
The following verses reveal the fallacies of making this artificial distinction between the HS and PHS.
The Beloved Son or the Son of God
It is true that Jesus was called ‘My Beloved Son’ after receiving the HS (Lk 3:22). However, He had been called the Son of God long before He undertook the Water Baptism (WB) of John. In fact, He had been called that since birth (Lk 1:35). Quite evidently, the coming of the Spirit after His baptism was to confirm His status of being the Son of God; a status conferred on Him long before He had even come in the flesh. This idea is consistent throughout the Gospels: Jesus Himself declares that God so loved the world by giving His only Begotten Son (Jn 3:17). If this status had not been given at the point of His birth, a natural question to ask would then be whether Jesus was the Beloved Son of God before receiving the WB of John.
Christ was born of the Spirit from birth and thus without sin. His baptism was to show us what was for us to do and to identify Him to John the Baptist and whoever else heard the voice of God from above (see Jn 1.32-34). For us who are born with sin, baptism renders us as sinless as Jesus was in the flesh, making us worthy to be called the children of God. That is why Paul says we are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus (Gal 3:26). From the subsequent verses, the ‘faith’ referred to here is one that is demonstrated in the action of receiving WB. In short, WB makes us the children of God and the Lord therefore sends forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts (Gal 4:6), confirming and testifying to us that we are the children of God.
Baptism of Jesus
To claim that one has the indwelling of the Spirit at the point of receiving WB is not only doctrinally unsound but also inconsistent with the entire Bible. From the accounts of Matthew and Mark, the Spirit only came upon Jesus after He had risen up out from the water (Mt 3:16; Mk 1:10). In other words, the Spirit came after the completion of WB.
Luke’s account provides a slightly different picture: the Spirit came while He prayed (Lk 3:21). Putting these three passages together, Jesus’ prayer here could not have been a prayer before the WB. In other words, Jesus received the Spirit after His WB. If Jesus received the Spirit while He prayed before the WB, then it must also mean that the receiving of WB and the receiving of the Spirit are two separate occurrences.
Similarly, the prayer could not have been during the WB either. Otherwise it is not consistent with the accounts of Matthew and Mark. It is undeniable that receiving the Spirit evidenced by speaking in tongues may take place when a person receives WB but never once has the Bible said that when one receives WB, one would receive the Spirit simultaneously.
Spirit of God and Spirit of Jesus
But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His (Rom 8:9).
If indeed there were a differentiated HS and PHS, then according to the context of this statement, does the ‘Spirit’ refer to the HS or the PHS? Similarly, to which one does the ‘Spirit of God’ refer? More importantly, when the Spirit of Christ leaves a person who lives in sin, is it the HS or the PHS who leaves? If it is the HS who leaves, will the PHS also leave later?
And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, “Abba, Father!” (Gal 4:6).
Again, according to the context of this verse, to whom does the ‘Spirit of His Son’ refer? Is He the HS or the PHS? If the answer is the HS (since He is what proponents of the HS-PHS proposition claim believers receive at WB), then this would directly contradict Paul’s explanation to the believers that the giving of the Spirit of His Son was because they were children. At that point of WB, the person being baptised is not quite yet a son. On the other hand, if this verse is supposed to be about the PHS, it must then refer to the Spirit that Jesus received after His ascension, the PHS. However, Paul explicitly mentions that it is His Spirit (Jesus’ Spirit) and not the Spirit that He received.
To further substantiate their claim of difference between receiving the HS at WB and the coming of the PHS, the proponents appeal to Christ’s teaching regarding ‘another Helper’ or ‘another Comforter’ (Jn 14:16). They claim that ‘this Helper’ is the PHS whose role is unrelated to the confirmation of sonship. The Helper is to testify and to give power (Acts 1:8). They further claim that only the HS serves the function of confirming the believer’s status as child of God.
However, a careful study of the Gospels shows that these claims are inconsistent with the teachings and experience of Jesus. When was Christ given power? When did He start testifying? Without a shadow of doubt, these happened when He received the HS after He came out from the water (cf. Lk 4:14). With the power of the HS, He went forth to preach the Kingdom of God. This was His work right up till His crucifixion. It is a misinterpretation of Scripture to say that Jesus was the first to receive the PHS after His ascension in a manner identical to how we receive the PHS. If the Helper’s role is to testify, then to whom did Jesus bear witness after His ascension?
Some may then counter-claim that Jesus was testifying through the apostles by giving them the PHS on the Day of Pentecost. This contradicts the fact that whatever Jesus does was to be an example to the apostles. If Jesus received the PHS only after ascension, how has He set an example of preaching? It would be more accurate and biblically sound to say that ‘Jesus having received the PHS’ (Acts 2:33) refers to Christ being glorified (Jn 7:39; 16:7) and consequently effectuating the sending of the Spirit to those who believe in Him, according to His promise (Jn 7:39). This is coherent with the entire Scriptures.
There are at least three chapters in John which mention the concept of ‘another Helper’ (Jn 14:16, 26; 15:26; 16:7). Unlike what the proponents have claimed, the role of the Helper in these passages has everything to do with the confirmation of sonship. The reason given by John is that the Helper is the HS (Jn 14:26). He does not specifically say that this is the PHS.
In addition, the Helper is also termed as the Spirit of truth (Jn 15: 26; 16:13). Apart from confirming Jesus as the Beloved Son of God, the HS gave the knowledge of the truth to Jesus in order for Him to preach the word and testify for the Kingdom of God when He was in the world.
Is the Promised Holy Spirit only given after Water Baptism?
In their determination to prove that the HS is given at the point of WB, the proponents claim that the PHS is only given after WB. This is based on the reasoning that Jesus was only given the PHS after His crucifixion, His death, His burial, His resurrection and eventually His ascension (Acts 2:33). They further claim that unbaptised individuals can only receive the PHS and not the HS. With the PHS, they are still not yet reborn until they receive the HS during WB.
Such a concept is rife with internal contradictions. It is clear in the teaching of the apostles that undergoing WB is to be admitted into the death, burial and resurrection of Christ (Rom 6:3-5). But the proponents say that the HS is given to the baptised and not the unbaptised. If this is true, can an unbaptised person who has not gone through the process of being dead and buried and raised with Christ in WB receive the PHS?
In the case of Cornelius, the Bible clearly states that the HS − there is absolutely no mention of the PHS − fell upon all those who heard the word (Acts 10:44). Those who had come with Peter were surprised to see that the Gentiles had also received the HS (Acts 10:45). In response to the situation, Peter questioned: ‘Can anyone forbid water, that these should not be baptised who have received the Holy Spirit just we have (Acts 10:47)?’ Did Peter differentiate between the receiving of the PHS by the Gentile listeners and the experience of the Jewish believers, including himself, when they received the HS? Absolutely not!
Even after Peter had returned to Jerusalem to explain to the church about the Gentiles’ conversion (Acts 11:15), he spoke of the HS without any mention of the PHS. It was the same when Peter attended the Jerusalem Conference (Acts 15:8) to settle the issue of circumcision. In giving two further accounts of the incident, Peter made NO distinction between the receiving of the HS and the PHS. It is indeed very hard to believe that such an important ‘truth’ – the distinction between the HS and PHS – could have been withheld from Peter, one of the pillars of the church!
The Holy Spirit and the Promised Holy Spirit are one and the same Spirit. The adjective ‘Promised’ is used to refer to God’s promise concerning the coming of the Spirit to permanently dwell in those who believe in Him. Jesus echoed this to His disciples, right before His ascension (Lk 24:49; Isa 44:3; Joel 2:28). Any attempt to draw a distinction between receiving the HS and the PHS is pure conjecture and human supposition, serving only to confuse the truth of God.
Since the apostolic teachings are always the sure foundation for the end-time true church, any teaching concerning the Holy Spirit must clearly have been chronicled in the apostolic paradigm. Could these pillars of the church have been so ignorant of such a profound teaching concerning the Holy Spirit? If the word of the apostles is so vulnerable to change, then how could we have claimed that the truth that we have been preaching is true and indeed saves those who believe in Jesus and His church?