Just before Jesus ascended to the Father, He gathered His disciples together and told them not to leave Jerusalem yet but to “wait for what the Father had promised, which He said, ‘You have heard of from Me’” (Acts 1:4 – NASB). What was this promise that Jesus’ followers were to wait for? In the next verse Jesus reveals it: “John baptized with water, but you will be baptized in the Holy Spirit” (Acts 1:5).
Why would Jesus tell His followers to wait for the Holy Spirit, when not long before this, after His resurrection, Jesus breathed on His disciples and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit” (John 20:22)?
When Jesus breathed on His disciples in John 20:22, thereby imparting the Spirit, the purpose was for eternal life. When Jesus told them to wait for the Holy Spirit in Acts 1:5, the purpose was for power. This is evidenced in what Jesus says next: “you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you” (Acts 1:8). Likewise, Jesus had already told His disciples earlier, “I am sending forth the promise of My Father upon you; but you are to stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high” (Luke 24:49 – NASB).
John said of Jesus in Matthew 3:11, “`I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me comes one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire” (NASB – italics mine). Notice the contrast of these two baptisms. One is for repentance and is characterized by water – that’s John’s. The other is for power and is characterized by the Holy Spirit and fire.
A friend of mine once told me how she left a church that she’d really liked because at an altar call, they asked if anyone wanted to receive of the Holy Spirit – and most of the church went up. “I already have the Holy Spirit,” she’d maintained. “Didn’t the rest of them who called themselves Christians?” My friend had taken offense at something simply because she’d never been taught out of certain scriptures. That is, she’d never known there was a difference between receiving the (indwelling) Holy Spirit at the moment of conversion and receiving more of the (outpoured) Holy Spirit for power.
Jesus referred to the Holy Spirit as one of the “good gifts” that His heavenly Father knew how to give in Luke 11:13. He said, “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?” (NASB). You see, it is possible to ask for more of the Holy Spirit. This in fact a regular prayer of mine, both for myself but also for the church at large.
The late Bible teacher Derek Prince once said, “Most Christians recognize Jesus as the Lamb of God, even though only one gospel (John) describes Him this way. Most Christians are far less familiar with Jesus as the Baptizer in the Spirit, even though all four gospels reference Him this way.”
Interestingly, it is almost exclusively Jesus’ cousin John who is known as “the Baptist.” But Jesus the Baptist is just as – if not more so – a fitting title.
There are many Christians today who are have repented of their sins, but have not been clothed in the power that comes from on high. They wonder why they are so limited in their ability to live out the kind of life Jesus, His disciples, and the early church exemplified. The key is very simple – we are to ask for more of the Holy Spirit, and we can be confident the Father will gladly give this good gift.