This is how I address this question on my church’s FAQ page, which you’ll see is in line with classical Pentecostal belief on the subject:
We should begin by making a few distinctions. There is a difference between: 1) Receiving the Holy Spirit; 2) Being baptized by the Holy Spirit; and 3) Being baptized with/in the Holy Spirit.
- Upon our conversion (i.e., our faithful confession of Jesus as the resurrected Lord and Savior, see Rom. 10:9-10) we receive the Holy Spirit. Anyone who has exercised faith in Christ’s person and work and has confessed him as Lord has without exception received the Holy Spirit (Eph. 1:13-14).
- Simultaneous to our confession of faith we are baptized by the Holy Spirit into the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:13 cf. Eph. 4:4-5); this is the Baptism of the Holy Spirit in that it’s the baptism that the Spirit himself performs.
- But there is a subsequent baptism with/in the Holy Spirit that Jesus himself performs (Mark 1:8; Matt. 3:11; Luke 3:16; Acts 1:4-5) in which the believer is filled with the Holy Spirit. We see this throughout the book of Acts (Acts 2:2-4; 8:14-17; 10:44-46).
The baptism with/in the Holy Spirit is an empowering experience that equips the believer for ministry and witness (Luke 24:49
; Acts 1:8
) as well as equipping them to live in conformity with God’s will. That this particular baptism occurs after conversion can be seen from observing the Gospels and Acts. Prior to the day of Pentecost the disciples could rejoice that their names had been written in heaven (Luke 10:20
), or rest assured that they had been made clean because of the word that Jesus had spoken to them (John 15:3
). Jesus breathed on those disciples after his resurrection and they received the Holy Spirit (John 20:22
). Yet after Jesus ascended to heaven these same disciples were baptized with/in the Spirit on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:2-4
Other examples can be found in the book of Acts, e.g., Paul is converted first and filled with the Spirit second (Acts 9:1-17
). Paul asked the Ephesians if they had received the Spirit when they believed and they replied that they hadn’t even heard of the Holy Spirit. They were then baptized and filled with the Spirit (Acts 19:1-6
). So here again, conversion occurred prior to the baptism with/in the Holy Spirit.