What Is Baptism in the Holy Spirit?

By Dr. Jim Richards


One of the first promises that John the Baptist gave when he began his ministry concerned the baptism in the Holy Spirit. John said, “I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire.” Matthew 3:11  

The very last thing that Jesus spoke of before he left planet earth was the baptism in the Holy Spirit. The disciples wanted to ask questions about the end time events, but Jesus knew what was important. He knew that they needed power more than they needed information. So instead of answering their questions, He said, “But ye shall receive power after the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me. . .” Acts 1:8  

The very first significant happening recorded in the Book of Acts was the fulfillment of this promise. Jesus didn’t want them to travel, minister, or do anything until they had been endued with power from on high. “And, being assembled together with them, commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith he, ye have heard of me. For John baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence.” Acts 1:4-5  

The baptism in the Holy Spirit is an endowment of power. It makes it possible for us to minister in the power of God instead of our own intellectual power. Jesus set the example of how we should minister. All that Jesus did, He did by the power of the Holy Spirit. Although he was God incarnate, he had emptied Himself of all His power. He had to do all He did as a man, full of the Holy Spirit. In so doing, he was the perfect example of how we can live and minister. This is why He said in John 14:12, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father.”  


The Spirit of God came to live inside you the very day you believed on the Lord Jesus. The baptism in the Holy Spirit is not when the Holy Spirit comes inside you. He came in you at the new birth -- the day you were saved.  

Just think of it, the power that created the universe is inside you! The power that operated in Jesus is inside you! The power that healed the sick, opened blind eyes, and raised the dead is inside you now! Unfortunately, you are the only one who benefits from the power inside you. In order for it to benefit others, it must flow out of you.  

You don’t have a smaller measure of the Spirit than anyone else. He is a person. He cannot be divided. The King James version of the Bible says in John 3:34, “For he whom God hath sent speaketh the words of God: for God giveth not the Spirit by measure unto him.” The translators of the King James version added the words “unto him.” This is why it is in italics in your Bible (and bold here). They are not in the original Greek language. God giveth not the Spirit by measure.  

Under the Old Covenant the Spirit of God would come upon people in different measures, that is what is called the anointing. This is not a scriptural concept for the New Covenant believer. Instead of us occasionally receiving a measure of the Spirit upon us, we receive the fullness of the Spirit who has come in us.  

Because you have been born again and have the Spirit of God inside you, you have the power to live a godly life, just as Jesus did. You do not have to be subject to sin. When you depend on the power of the Holy Spirit in you, you will have the same victory in life that He had. "For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace." Romans 6:14 

The power of the Holy Spirit that works inside us to give us personal victory is what the Bible calls grace. Grace is God’s ability to work in our heart. When that flows out of us it is called “exousia” in the Greek and simply power in the King James Version Exousia is derived from a word that has to do with the right or the jurisdiction. We would not have the jurisdiction to work miracles without the Holy Spirit working in and through us. When you depend on the Holy Spirit flowing out of you, as Jesus did, you can have the same results in ministry that He had. Jesus said it this way, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father.”  


In the second chapter of Acts, the Holy Spirit did not come in the believers, the Spirit came upon them. They had already been born again when they believed on the resurrected Jesus. And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost.” John 20:22. This same event is described in Luke 24:45 also, and says “Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures.” The Holy Spirit had already come into them and opened their understanding. They were born again, but they needed power to minister.  

The disciples continued to go to the temple every day to pray. They tarried there seven days, waiting for the promise of the Baptism to be fulfilled. Jesus was in the grave three days, He taught them for forty days after His resurrection, the Feast of Pentecost was fifty days after the Passover when Jesus was crucified, therefore, they only waited seven days. From that day on, no one in the Bible had to wait for the Holy Spirit. He has been freely given and all we must do is freely receive. 

As they prayed in the temple, they heard a sound like a mighty, rushing wind. Then they saw tongues of fire sit on those who were waiting for the promise. 

Then it says in Acts 2:4, “And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.”  

There is no other place in the Bible where people saw tongues of fire or heard a sound of wind, but there are other places where people were baptized in the Holy Spirit. History has recorded this wonderful promise being fulfilled from that day until now. This promise was not just for the apostles or the early church. In Acts 2:39, the Apostle Peter said, “For the promise is unto you, and unto your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.” This promise is for you!  


In Acts 2:1-13 we see that all the early apostles and believers were baptized in the Holy Spirit. Even Mary, the mother of Jesus, was baptized in the Holy Spirit and spoke in tongues.  

In Acts 8:1-8 Philip, the deacon, preached the Word of God to the people of Samaria. When the apostles learned of this, they went to visit them and establish them in the faith. When they arrived and realized the Samaritans had not yet received the baptism of the Holy Spirit, they laid hands on them and prayed for them and they were baptized in the Holy Spirit.  

In Acts 9:17 when Saul was converted to Christianity on the road to Damascus, he was then visited by a believer who prayed for his eyes to be opened and for him to be filled with the Holy Spirit. We know by Paul’s testimony in 1 Corinthians 14:18 that he spoke in tongues, “I thank my God, I speak with tongues more than ye all.”  

In Acts 10:44-47 while Peter was speaking to the Gentiles, they believed the truth, were saved, baptized in the Holy Spirit, and spoke in tongues immediately.  

In Acts 19:1-6 Paul ministered to the people at Ephesus. They had heard that Jesus was coming, according to John the Baptist’s message. They were waiting for Him. Since they did not yet believe that God raised Jesus from the dead, they were not actually born again. Paul shared with them, they believed, then he laid hands on them and the Holy Spirit came upon them and they spoke in tongues. History records that during the first 300 years of Christianity, all believers received the baptism in the Holy Spirit and spoke in tongues. It was not until it became the state religion and was watered down to make it more acceptable to the masses that the message of the Holy Spirit, and eventually the new birth, began to be omitted from Christian doctrine.  


When we accept Jesus as Lord, the Holy Spirit comes into us to make us a new creation. He brings the life of God into us, literally. At that point in time, we are baptized into the body of Christ. For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.” 1 Corinthians 12:13. We are put into His body, the church, by the Holy Spirit. The baptism in the Holy Spirit is not us getting more of the Holy Spirit in us, it is us letting Him out of us.  

Let’s look at the following scripture: For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence.” Acts 1:5. When John baptized people in water, he wasn’t trying to get the water into them. They didn’t go into the river with a straw and drink the water. They were immersed, covered over with water. When we were baptized into the body of Christ, the church did not come into us, we came into the church.  

In like manner, when we are baptized in the Holy Spirit, we are not trying to get Him into us. (The preposition with is a Greek word that can be translated as with or in.) If the baptism in water is an immersion, so is the baptism in the Holy Spirit. The concept of immersion speaks of being covered over on the outside.  

We want that which is in us at the new birth to cover us over, flow out of us, and touch the world around us. 

The phrase filled with the Holy Spirit is not a synonym for baptism in the Holy Spirit. The Greek word for filled is not a reference about how much you have, it means something more like yielding to the influence. This is seen clearly in Ephesians 5:18, “And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess, but be filled with the Spirit.”  

Being drunk is when you place yourself under the influence of alcohol. Instead of yielding ourselves to the influence of alcohol, we are told to yield ourselves to the influence of the Holy Spirit. This is a moment by moment, situation by situation, decision by decision yielding. Many people who have at some time previously spoken in tongues, may not be presently yielding themselves to the influence of the Holy Spirit. Being filled with the Holy Spirit is not an experience, it is a way of life. 

The Baptism in the Holy Spirit is a part of the process of yielding to His influence. Just as He comes into us to influence and empower us to live a godly life, He comes upon us to influence and empower us to minister to others. We must yield to that influence.


Many people are concerned about speaking in tongues. They are afraid of tongues, but you must realize, when the Holy Spirit came into you at the new birth, He brought tongues and all the other gifts of the Holy Spirit into you at the same time. You are not trying to get God to give you something new. You are allowing that which He has already given you to flow out, to become a useful part of your life. 

Tongues are a gift of the Holy Spirit according to 1 Corinthians 12:7-10. The word gift, as used in the King James Version, does not really reflect what the Greek language of the New Testament is talking about. The gifts, are free of charge. There is nothing one can do to earn them, yet this word gift in the original language actually refers to an ability

Tongues, healing, prophesy, and all the other gifts are actually abilities of the Holy Spirit. None of us have the ability to heal, yet God uses us to bring healing to people. None of us have the ability to know and speak the mind of God, yet by the Holy Spirit, the mind of God will flow out of us. The gifts operate in us when we yield to the influence(are filled with) the Holy Spirit.  

As we yield to the influence of the Holy Spirit He manifests the ability of God to meet the needs of those to whom we minister. The Bible says these are manifestations. In other words, this is God manifesting His power through you. 

In Acts 2:4, it states that they were filled (yielded to) the Holy Spirit. Then it goes on to say that they spoke in tongues. The Holy Spirit did not do the speaking; they spoke as they yielded to the influence of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit influenced them to worship God, they yielded and began to speak, the Spirit gave the words.  

The Bible teaches that the Holy Spirit is the helper; He is not the doer. We are the doers. As we do anything the Bible says we can do, trusting God to empower us, the Holy Spirit helps us. Indeed, the Holy Spirit does not help until we believe and do the Word of God. The Holy Spirit will not make anyone do anything. He will draw us and compel us; and then He will empower us, but He will not make us.  

On the day of Pentecost, the disciples were gathered together in one place for one purpose. Their purpose was to be baptized in the Holy Spirit, just as Jesus had promised. That is no different than a church service or time of prayer when you determine that your purpose is to be baptized in the Holy Spirit. 

As they yielded to the influence and began to speak, the Holy Spirit gave them words that they had never spoken before, languages that they did not recognize. If it were not for the fact that this was a holy day that brought people from all over the world, they would never have known what was being said. Because there were people there from many different countries who recognized the languages being spoken, they soon learned that they were speaking words of praise to God. We do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God.” Acts 2:11.  

The word tongues simply means language. To speak in tongues is to speak in a language that is known to someone in the world, yet is unknown to the speaker. The Jews did not recognize the language they were speaking, yet there were people present who did recognize those languages.  

This empowerment was manifested one night during one of our church services as I was worshipping God in other tongues. One of our missionaries from Puerto Rico was in the service and he began to weep uncontrollably as I was praying. Eventually, he came to the front and said, “I have heard you worshipping God and praying in my language.” Then he told the church what I was saying. Those words were unintelligible to me as I spoke them; to me they sounded like “gibberish”, yet it was actually another language being used to glorify God. 


One of the most valid questions a person can ask is, “Why should I speak in tongues?” To many it seems like repetitious babbling, but if tongues was important enough for Jesus to provide it, we should discover its importance before we discard it. 

The word tongues simply means language. Tongues is a language that is intelligible to someone in the world, but not to the one speaking. For a Chinese person, tongues would be English. For an American, tongues could be Spanish. For a Mexican, tongues could be Hebrew.  

The president of a college I attended tells about a trip to the Holy Land where he had quite a surprise while speaking in tongues at the Wailing Wall. He noticed as he worshipped, that many of the people began to leave the area where he was. Upon returning to the bus, he was asked by a local resident, “Why did you offend those people?” Upon further inquiry, he learned that as he spoke a language that was unknown to him, he was speaking in Hebrew. In a language unknown to him, but known to those present, he was extolling Jesus as Lord and Savior. 

Tongues provides a way to communicate with God that is not limited to our understanding. Tongues allow us to enter the dimension of the supernatural praise and worship. 


Tongues are an important part of our prayer and praise life. Tongues are a means whereby we can glorify God from our heart, instead of our mind. We can express things to Him that are inexpressible in our own language because of the limitations of our understanding or inability of expression. 

When we pray or worship in our own language, we are limited to our understanding. We are limited to our freedom of expression and vocabulary. The same insecurities that plague us in expressing love to others, inhibit us in expressing love to God. 

God has made a way for us to step beyond these natural boundaries, yield to the Holy Spirit, and express the deep passions of the heart. As we become comfortable in expressing ourselves to God in tongues, we become more comfortable in expressing ourselves to God in our own understanding also. 

On the day of Pentecost, there were people from all parts of the known world who had come to worship God. As the believers began to worship God in other languages, there were those present who understood the languages. In Acts 2:11, they all said, “We do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God.”  

The believers were not preaching the gospel in tongues, they were worshipping God in tongues. Those who were present did benefit, but what is important to note is that they were glorifying God in a language they did not know. In Acts 10:46 when Peter preached to the Gentiles, he said, “For they heard them speak with tongues, and magnify God,”  


Prayer should be an essential part of two important areas in the life of the believer: decision-making and intercession (praying for others and ourselves). 

In every situation, God desires for us to succeed and be blessed. An important part of walking in blessing is decision-making. We want to make decisions that are based on the wisdom of God, then we want to be empowered to carry out those decisions. 

Prayer is an essential part of this process, but often our ability to know how to pray for ourselves and others is limited. God does not leave us helpless in these situations. Romans 8:26 says, “And the Holy Spirit helps us in our distress. For we don’t even know what we should pray for, nor how we should pray. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words.” NLT.  

The Spirit of God, who perfectly knows our heart, also perfectly knows the will of God. “And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God’s will.” Romans 8:27, NLT. Because He knows all things that pertain to us and God, He can lead us into groanings, other tongues and even prayer in our understanding which is in line with the perfect will of God.  

Because yielding to the Spirit in groanings or tongues requires no intellectual knowledge on our part, it is much easier for Him to move us in the right direction when we are praying in tongues than when we are praying according to our knowledge. When we don’t know how to pray for ourselves or others, we can yield to the Holy Spirit who will lead us into perfect prayer. 

It is this continual yielding to the Holy Spirit that puts us in a position where things can work out in our life for good. Romans 8:28 goes on to say, “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose.” NLT. This scripture follows the ones about praying according to the Spirit’s leading which means it is a part of the same context.  

Everything doesn’t work out just because God wants it to. We must yield to His process. We must allow Him to work in our life and situation. As we pray in tongues, we establish the will of God in our life and situation. Many times we receive an interpretation of those tongues which gives us personal wisdom and direction. Whatever the case may be, yielding to the Holy Spirit in prayer is a part of the process whereby the good things of God are established in our life. 

When there is a need for prayer and intercession the Holy Spirit will gently draw or compel you. Many times a sense of unrest, a deep yearning or the feeling of impending tragedy is the Holy Spirit trying to draw us into intercession. 

When I have that sense of longing I make it a practice to pray in tongues until I have peace or a release from the situation. Many times I receive the interpretation and understand what I am praying about. Many times I do not. Numerous times a family member’s life has been saved and disaster averted by praying in the Holy Spirit. 


Prophesy is when God moves on an individual to speak forth a special, personal message. In the Old Testament, God used prophesy to provide direction for individuals. Since we all have the Holy Spirit in us, direction is no longer the primary purpose of prophesy. According to 1 Corinthians 14:3, the purpose of New Testament prophesy is somewhat different: But he that prophesieth speaketh unto men to edification, and exhortation, and comfort.”  

When God wants to minister personally to someone, He will sometimes use prophesy as the means. There are also situations where God will use tongues and interpretation as a powerful form of prophesy. A message to people in their language (prophesy) is greater than a message in tongues, unless the tongue is interpreted. When the tongue is interpreted, it is equal to or greater than prophesy. I would that ye spake with tongues, but rather that ye prophesied: for greater is he that prophesieth than he that speaketh with tongues, except he interpret, that the church may receive edifying.” 1 Corinthians 14:5  

In personal ministry or in a church service, God may move upon you with a prophesy or a tongue that contains a special word for that particular service or situation. Specific needs are often met as people respond to the edification, exhortation, and comfort that comes through these loving acts of God. 

Ask your pastor what the proper procedure is for bringing prophesy or tongues in your church services. Always do things decently and in order. Respect the way it is done in your local church. The whole purpose of the gifts is to build up not tear down.  


One great value of tongues is personal edification. To edify means to build up or strengthen. Being able to get ourselves encouraged often makes the difference between victory and defeat, but all too often there is no one to encourage you when you need it. It is in these times that we must be able to receive encouragement from the Lord. 

God called David to be king of Israel, but David faced all manner of opposition. At one point, things were in such a bad state that his own men spoke of killing him. If David had not known how to encourage himself, the bloodline of Christ could have been lost that very day. And David was greatly distressed; for the people spake of stoning him, because the soul of all the people was grieved, every man for his sons and for his daughters: but David encouraged himself in the Lord his God.” 1 Samuel 30:6.  

Praying in tongues is a great source of personal edification. He that speaketh in an unknown tongue edifieth himself; but he that prophesieth edifieth the church.” 1 Corinthians 14:4. Many times, when I have not known how to encourage myself, I have prayed in tongues and been renewed in my heart. You, too, can encourage yourself as you yield to the Spirit of God and pray in other tongues.  

When I was first baptized in the Holy Spirit this was the way I put it to the test. I was afraid that it might just be gibberish. When I read that tongues would edify the speaker I made a commitment to myself. I determined that Every time I prayed in tongues I would not stop until I was edified. To my utter amazement it worked.

In the beginning I would often pray in tongues for great lengths of time. My unbelief and deep desperation made the process work slower. As my confidence in God and His ways grew, I found that I could pray in tongues just for a few minutes and totally change my state of mind. It is still a major source of personal edification after twenty-five years of praying in tongues. 


The Bible indicates three different times to speak in tongues. First, there are tongues that are spoken in public. This is done in praise and worship and requires no interpretation. In all the accounts of people being baptized in the Holy Spirit in the Book of Acts, no one interpreted when they spoke in tongues even though they were in public. This type of tongues is a matter of worship and is directed to God. For he that speaketh in an unknown tongue speaketh not unto men, but unto God:” 1 Corinthians 14:2. It is not out of order for people to speak freely in tongues during the praise and worship part of a service. This entire portion of the service is directed to God, not man.  

Secondly, there is the use of tongues in one’s personal prayer life. As mentioned above, this does not need to be interpreted. This, like worship, can be done at the will of the believer. Paul said, What is it then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will pray with the understanding also: I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also." Corinthians 14:15. Just as praying in our understanding is a matter of our will, likewise praying in the spirit is a matter of our will. Anytime we choose to do anything in the Bible, trusting God to do His part, He does. We can trust Him when we want to pray in tongues. Then, of course, there will be times when the Holy Spirit impresses us to pray in tongues. In those times, we should yield.  

The third place for speaking in tongues is in prophesy. Prophesy can be used in public and in private, but in either case, if it is prophesy, it will be interpreted. If we are in private, we will interpret, but if we are in public, someone else may interpret. 

When bringing a message in tongues to a public meeting, discretion should be used. The Bible says in 1 Corinthians 14:32 “And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets.” In other words, you are not out of control. You have control over your own spirit. The urge to bring a message may be strong, but you have control. Wait until an appropriate time in the service to bring a tongue or a prophesy. Do it in an orderly manner that honors God. Do not create chaos. If that particular church has procedures that they use for bringing forth prophesy, follow those guidelines.  


I first received the baptism in the Holy Spirit at my home, shortly after being saved. I prayed in tongues briefly that night, but did not know I could or should make this a part of my devotional life. 

About a year later, I met a man who described his experiences with God. It was very similar to my own. He asked me if I prayed in tongues regularly. I replied, “I didn’t know I could.” He shared the scriptures with me and said he would pray for me. Upon returning home, we knelt in the living room, he laid hands on me, and then to my surprise he just got up and walked out of the room. I knelt there quietly, waiting for the Holy Spirit to move on me in some dramatic way. I thought He would make me speak in tongues. That day, however, I was reminded that all God does is a work of faith. I must first respond. Secondly, I was also reminded that the Holy Spirit is the helper, not the doer. 

It says in Acts, chapter two, “...they were filled.” In other words, they yielded to the Holy Spirit. He did not force them to do anything. They yielded! But it also says “...they spoke in tongues.” The Holy Spirit did not do the speaking, they did the speaking. As they spoke, it says “...the Spirit gave utterance.” He gave the specific words as they spoke.  

As I knelt, waiting for God to do something, I realized that I must resolve the issue of trust. If I believed Jesus’ promise to baptize me in the Holy Spirit, I must respond in acknowledgement and in action. So I prayed, “Jesus, You are my Lord. My life is Yours. You promised to baptize me in the Holy Spirit and I accept that promise. I have the Holy Spirit in me and I want to be covered over with Him. I want to yield my life to you in every area. I thank you that as I speak, the Holy Spirit will bring forth utterance that is pleasing to You.” 

With that, I stopped praying in English and began to yield to my heart. I prayed a few phrases in a language I did not know. As I grew in confidence, those few phrases became sentences, paragraphs, and volumes. It has become a source of edification, and often times, direction in my life. 

Like everyone, I questioned the legitimacy of my experience. How could I know that it was real? How could I know that it was not just gibberish? When I found the scripture that said praying in tongues would edify me, I made a commitment to God and myself; I committed that every time I prayed in tongues, I would do so until I was edified. 

I make it a point to always get my heart involved in praying in tongues. I never do it casually. I never think about frivolous things while I am praying in tongues. As much as I know how, I focus all my attention on God. I am actively believing that the Holy Spirit is giving me an utterance that will be pleasing to God. 

Don’t fall into the trap of jabbering away with your mouth and your heart being somewhere else. In Matthew 15:8, Jesus says it this way, “This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me.” (KJV) Get your heart involved in all that you do with God.  


There are as many different ways to receive the baptism in the Holy Spirit as there are people. You could be like Paul and have an individual encounter with God. You could be like the early disciples who were praying and seeking. You could have someone pray for you and lay hands on you. 

How and where you receive is not as important as the fact that you are hungry for God. You are a disciple who is following the same instructions that Jesus gave the early disciples. You want to be empowered from on high. You desire to walk in a power that is beyond your own. 

Find the way and the place that is comfortable for you. If you prefer to be alone do this at home. If you would receive support from being in a group, do it at church or in a prayer meeting. Wherever you choose you will still simply pray, yield, and receive the baptism in the Holy Spirit. Before you pray determine that God hears you and He will answer your prayer. Determine that you will receive. Determine that you will speak in tongues. Determine you will trust the Holy Spirit to make those words to be pleasing to God. 

Begin praying in tongues immediately after praying to receive. When we do not pray in tongues immediately, we usually lack the confidence of our experience. Praying in tongues is not all there is to the baptism in the Holy Spirit, but it is an essential part. Make praying in tongues a way of life. Find a church where people worship freely in their understanding and in the Holy Spirit. You will gain confidence from the participation of the group. 

Allow your experience with tongues to give you confidence to begin to move in other gifts of the Holy Spirit. All the gifts are inside you now. You do not receive them individually. They all came in you when you were born again. When the Holy Spirit came in you, He brought all the gifts. As you yield to the Holy Spirit, the gifts will flow out of you onto a needy world. 


Heavenly Father, I believe on Jesus as my Lord and Savior. I know He died for my sins. I believe you raised Him from the dead. Jesus, I thank you that your Spirit is in me. I thank you that I can now receive your promise of the baptism in the Holy Spirit. I thank you for the gift of tongues. I will now worship You in other tongues and trust the Holy Spirit to form words as I speak . . . 

Visit Dr. Jim Richards online at www.impactministries.com