Volume 3 November 15, 2004 Issue 19

Measures of the Spirit

The subject of the Holy Spirit is sometimes thought to be a bit confusing. All too often we hear bits and pieces of the Scriptures quoted out of context when discussing the Spirit. We have no intention of addressing all of those issues that seem to cause so much confusion in religious circles today. What we do intend to do, is confine our focus to a discussion of those instances in the New Testament when the Holy Spirit was “given” to different groups and individuals. We hope that a thorough look at how those instances differ from each other will perhaps clarify a few of those other issues.

The first Scripture we will read is John 3:34.

“For He whom God hath sent speaketh the words of God: for God giveth not the Spirit by measure unto Him.” (John 3:34 KJV)

Since Jesus was of heavenly origin and sent to earth by God, words spoken by Jesus were the same as if they were spoken by God. To hear Jesus was to hear God. Jesus is the only one who received this unlimited measure of the Spirit. Everyone else spoken of within the Scriptures was given the Spirit with measure.

With only this one exception (an unlimited measure of the Spirit given to Jesus) all other instances of the Spirit being bestowed on others, can be placed into one of three different measures.

  1. Baptismal Measure
  2. Secondary Measure
  3. Indwelling Measure

During this study, we will discuss these three measures and when, to whom and why they were given.

The Baptismal Measure

This measure of the Holy Spirit is bestowed from an unseen source and is manifested through performing miracles, speaking in tongues (languages that the recipients had never learned), etc.. Let's begin our discussion of this measure with these words spoken by John the Baptist.

“I would not have known Him, except that the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, 'The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is He who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.'” (John 1:33 NIV)

“I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me will come one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not fit to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.” (Matthew 3:11 NIV)

We see from these verses that Jesus Christ is the Administrator of the Baptismal Measure of the Spirit. It is Christ who determines to whom this measure of the Spirit is bestowed or given.

There are only two instances recorded in the New Testament when the Baptismal Measure of the Spirit was given. The first is in Acts 2 and was given to the Apostles.

“When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.” (Acts 2:1-4 NIV)

The second instance is in Acts 10 and was given to Cornelius and the Gentiles who were with him. Cornelius had a vision that he should send for Peter to come to his house and give them a message through which they could be saved. Peter also had a vision that told him that he should no longer think of the Gentiles as unclean. When Peter arrived at Cornelius' house, he found that there were several other Gentiles gathered there with him. Peter said:

“You are well aware that it is against our law for a Jew to associate with a Gentile or visit him. But God has shown me that I should not call any man impure or unclean. So when I was sent for, I came without raising any objection. May I ask why you sent for me?” (Acts 10:28-29 NIV)

Cornelius explained to him the vision that he had experienced.

“Then Peter began to speak: 'I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts men from every nation who fear him and do what is right.'” (Acts 10:34-35 NIV)

Peter went on to preach the Gospel to those who had gathered there and —

“While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message. The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles. For they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God.” (Acts 10:44-46 NIV)

The underlined words of these verses above indicate how very astonished the Jews were to realize that salvation through Christ was available to the Gentiles as well as to the Jews. Since the Jews had always had an access to God that had never been available to the Gentiles, this was a startling revelation to them.

Now, since there are only these two instances in the Scriptures of the Baptismal Measure of the Spirit being given to anyone, the questions we must ask to better understand this particular manifestation of the Spirit is:

  1. what was the reason for them? and
  2. why are there only these two?

The reason? — The underlined portions of Acts 10 that we just read explain the reason for the Baptismal Measure of the Holy Spirit being given to Cornelius and the Gentiles there with him. Christianity was a new concept for the Jews and it was going to be difficult for them to accept that the Gentiles now had salvation available to them also. A spectacular demonstration would be needed in order to prove to the Jews that the Gentiles now had access to God. So this outpouring of the Baptismal Measure of the Holy Spirit from an unseen source was for the purpose of convincing the Jews in a completely undeniable manner that the Gentiles were definitely included in Christianity. We see how important this demonstration was in a very definitive way in the next chapter of Acts when Peter returned to Jerusalem.

“The apostles and the brothers throughout Judea heard that the Gentiles also had received the word of God. So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcised believers criticized him and said, 'You went into the house of uncircumcised men and ate with them.'” (Acts 11:1-3 NIV)

Peter explained to them what had taken place. He told them about the Holy Spirit being given to the Gentiles in the very same way (Baptismal Measure) the Spirit had been given to the Apostles on the day of Pentecost. He told them —

15As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit came on them as he had come on us at the beginning. 16Then I remembered what the Lord had said: 'John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.' 17So if God gave them the same gift as he gave us, who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to think that I could oppose God?' 18When they heard this, they had no further objections and praised God, saying, 'So then, God has granted even the Gentiles repentance unto life.'”(Acts 11:15-18 NIV)

Had it not been for this spectacular demonstration of the Baptismal Measure of the Holy Spirit being given to the Gentiles, the Jews would most likely still not have understood that salvation was now offered to the Gentiles as well as to them. We can also see from verse 15 above that this was indeed an unusual occurrence since Peter referenced all the way back to Pentecost to explain the extraordinary event. It had evidently not happened since then or he would not have reached back that far to explain it.

Why only two times? — Since there are only these two instances in the New Testament when this measure of the Spirit was given, we must assume that these two times were very unusual circumstances. Surely, if this happened on a frequent basis to all believers (or at least many of them) we would undoubtedly read of other times this event occurred — but we don't. There are only these two. The first was to bestow extraordinary powers, knowledge and recall on the Apostles to prepare them for establishing the Church. The second was to demonstrate in an incontestable way that salvation was available to the Gentiles as well as to the Jews.

It's important that we realize that the receiving of this Baptismal Measure of the Holy Spirit did not save those who received it. Remember that Cornelius had been told in his vision that Peter would bring a message that would tell them how they could be saved (Acts 11:14). Peter did preach that message to them. And after seeing this Baptismal Measure of the Holy Spirit given to those Gentiles, Peter knew that the Jews who had come with him to the house of Cornelius could not possibly argue against the fact that salvation was indeed also extended to the Gentiles. So he said —

“'Can anyone keep these people from being baptized with water? They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have.' So he ordered that they be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ....” (Acts 10:47-48 NIV)

This Baptismal Measure of the Spirit was also given those two specific times to reveal the Truth to a world that did not have the printed Word as we have it today. The Apostles had the task of establishing the Church and they would need an unusual measure of the Spirit to accomplish this task. Before His death, Jesus told them —

“But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” (John 14:26 NIV)

Paul later said —

“This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words.” (I Corinthians 2:13 NIV)

Finally, this Baptismal Measure was also given to confirm the Truth.

“Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed His word by the signs that accompanied it.” (Mark 16:20 NIV)

The Church was beginning. Unusual measures were needed to prove it was authentic. Tongue speaking and miracles would accompany those who preached about it to confirm that it was indeed from God and that Jesus was the Messiah. Some other verses you may want to read that will show this measure was specifically given to confirm the Truth are Hebrews 2:3-4; II Corinthians 12:12; and Acts 1:8.

This Baptismal Measure of the Spirit was given for very specific purposes needed only at those critical times. So it was not something that continued on after that need passed. There are no other instances of this measure being given throughout all of the Word. In fact Ephesians 4:5 tells us that there is only one baptism. That baptism is the burial in the watery grave. So from that verse alone we know that there is no longer a “baptism of the Holy Spirit.” That was for specific reasons at specific times — and that time ended after the church had been established.

Next Issue — The Secondary Measure of the Spirit

"Diligence" is a privately funded publication of:
Dennis and Sherri Owens — Cincinnati, Ohio