The church has become confused on the topic of the Holy Spirit today more than ever. We as the church have confused the Holy Spirit because a lack of Bible reading and teaching. After all the Holy Spirit inspired every word that is in the Bible and if we read the Bible we will come to know more about God and his full existence as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
The parts about the Holy Spirit that have become muddled in the church are; baptism and terminology. Which I believe these two misunderstandings go hand in hand. The problem for many comes in the way they speak about the Holy Spirit. Some speak as if the Holy Spirit and the Holy Ghost are two different “beings” and this is just not the case. The term Holy Ghost is just the term the KJV Bible used instead of “Holy Spirit” at certain times in the translation. In the Greek (the original language of the New Testament) the word is the same pneúma. People seem to get confused by this part of the KJV and I want to assert that there is only one Holy Spirit, not two. As Theologian Jack Cottrell says “The KJV uses the term ‘Holy Ghost’ which is a proper translation, but in today’s culture I would not use this terminology because the term Ghost now means the left behind spirit of a dead person.”
The other aspect of the Holy Spirit that has become misunderstood in the Church today is the fact that some believe in the Baptism of the Holy Spirit as being some event that is separate from conversion to Christ. How is this possible? If someone has come to know Christ the Bible says that they have received the Holy Spirit as their guarantee of their inheritance in heaven, look at Ephesians 1:13-14 “In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.” How can we as Christians say some receive this extra baptism in the “Holy Ghost” when the Bible is clear that all Christians have received the indwelling of the Holy Spirit when we came to know Jesus! This confusion comes when we misunderstand what God is doing when people receive the Holy Spirit in Acts which is a special occurrence that does not need to be duplicated now because something even better has come when we receive the INDWELLING of the Holy Spirit!
The clearest text on this subject is the text of Ephesians 4:4-6 which says, “There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call—one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” Paul affirms for us that there is but one Baptism for us as believers, this baptism Paul is referring to is the very same one in which we are baptized in water and receive the Holy Spirit! This would align with what Peter says in Acts 2:38, which states, ”And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” After reading these two texts it would seem that many are misled on the topic of Baptism in the Spirit. We are baptized in the spirit when we initially receive the Holy Spirit at Conversion. There is no such thing as a second baptism.
Now there is a phenomenon known as trusting the Spirit more at certain times than others, and sometimes this can be called “filled with the Spirit” in the Bible, but that is not equivalent with Baptism in the spirit. Let’s look at Acts 4:5-10 which says, “On the next day their rulers and elders and scribes gathered together in Jerusalem, with Annas the high priest and Caiaphas and John and Alexander, and all who were of the high-priestly family. And when they had set them in the midst, they inquired, “By what power or by what name did you do this?” Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers of the people and elders, if we are being examined today concerning a good deed done to a crippled man, by what means this man has been healed, let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead—by him this man is standing before you well.” The context of this passage is important for us because we know that Peter has already received the Holy Spirit in Acts 2. This means that Peter does not need to receive the indwelling of the Spirit again, but the verse says he was “filled with the Spirit”. What does this mean? In this context, it means that Peter was trusting in the Holy Spirit that already indwelled him! He was fully trusting in the Spirit; he was letting the Spirit lead him. Peter was not filled with the spirit again but he was filled from within because he was trusting in the Spirit fully! This is what believers need to do more often; they need to trust in the Spirit. Believers don’t need the Spirit to baptize them again but they need to allow the Spirit to lead them or fill them from within!
The Holy Spirit seems to be the most confused subject in the Christian world in America. The confusion comes when we think that everything happening in the book of Acts at the time of the Apostles is meant for us as believers today! This is just not the case. God works in different ways at different times in History and we need to understand that. The Bible teaches us that all believers have the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit dwells within us as a guarantee of the future we will one day have in heaven for all eternity with God!