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Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Baptism of the Holy Spirit



A Catholic Perspective On Baptism of the Holy Spirit


            I was very disturbed after reading the book Renewing the Face of the Earth by Frank Padilla, a member of the Couples of Christ. In his book he briefly discussed the practice akin to the Couples for Christ the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. In his definition of Baptism of the Holy Spirit he said,

On the day of Pentecost, the disciples of Jesus experienced an infilling of the Holy Spirit by which they are transformed into bold and effective proclaimers of the good news. And what started as a small band of people forming a sect within Judaism blossomed into a surging movement that within a few centuries had Christianized the known civilized world. Renewing the Face of the Earth p.51

What is wrong with this statement? The author asserted that the small band of people or Christianity is a sect within Judaism. This is a wrong notion of the relationship of Christianity with Judaism. Christianity is not a sect within Judaism; Christianity is the fulfillment of the promises of God to his people. It is comparable to a rose flower, Judaism is the bud and Christianity is the full blown rose flower. The history of Judaism does not stop when the Word of God became man, rather it has its continuity in the Christian Church. Furthermore, the author said,

What happened? What could account for such radical transformation in people? How could one explain the powerful movement that evolved? Simply this: the disciples had been baptized with the Holy Spirit. Ibid.

The author now claimed that the Disciples of Christ had been baptized with the Holy Spirit, he is probably referring to Acts chapter 2 when the Holy Spirit descended to the apostles. The author seems to imply that the apostles were baptized in the Holy Spirit, when the Holy Spirit descended to them. But this interpretation typically comes from the Protestant Pentecostals.[1] This is not how the Catholic Church interpreted this passage from the Acts of the Apostles. The Church in time immemorial understood this passage as referring to the Sacrament of Confirmation. When the Holy Spirit descended to the apostles, the apostle’s faith was confirmed and strengthened. The Catechism of the Catholic Church stated,

It is evident from its celebration that the effect of the sacrament of Confirmation is the special outpouring of the Holy Spirit as once granted to the apostles on the day of Pentecost. CCC 1302  

The Church understood this passage as referring to the sacrament of Confirmation, not the baptism of the Holy Spirit as interpreted by the Pentecostals. Let us proceed to the alleged Scriptural support for the baptism of the Holy Spirit.

The phrase “baptize with the holy Spirit” appears only six times in the Bible. John the Baptist says it once, but appearing in all four gospels (Mt.3:11, Mk.1:8, Lk.3:16, Jn.1:33). Jesus says it once (Acts 1:5) and Peter quotes him (Acts 11:16). Thus, in effect, the phrase “baptize with the holy spirit” is used only twice, once by John the Baptist and once by Jesus. We are not counting two other differently-formulated references to it (Mt.28:19 and 1 Cor.12:13).

Let us take a look at those passages cited in support of Baptism of the Holy Spirit.

I am baptizing you with water, for repentance, but the one who is coming after me is mightier than I. I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. Mt.3:11

I have baptized you with water; he will baptize you with the holy spirit. Mk.1:8

John answered them all, saying, “I am baptizing you with water, but one mightier than I is coming. I am not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. Lk.3:16

I did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water told me. On whomever you see the Spirit come down and remain, he is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit. Jn.1:33

This event is of great importance because it is recorded in all the four gospels. Here, we have John the Baptist saying that there is someone mightier than him because he will baptize with the Holy Spirit. First, we have to understand that the baptism that John the Baptist administered is a pre-Christian baptism, which means that it is a preparatory stage for the Christian baptism. John’s baptism does not confer the Holy Spirit which means that the people who were baptized by John the Baptist did not receive sanctifying grace. In Acts 19:2-5 the people who were baptized by John the Baptist did not receive the Holy Spirit, and St. Paul have to re-baptize them. But why do St. Paul have to re-baptize them even if they received the baptism of John? Because the baptism of John is a pre-Christian baptism, it did not confer to them the sanctifying grace of the Holy Spirit and they are not yet Christians.

He said to them, did you receive the holy Spirit when you became believers? They answered him, we have never even heard that there is a holy Spirit. He said, How were you baptized? They replied, With the baptism of John. Paul said, John baptized with a baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is in Jesus. When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul laid [His] hands on them, the holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied. Acts 19:2-6

Notice that after they were baptize in the name of Christ, St. Paul laid his hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit. This corresponds to the sacrament of Baptism and Confirmation. In baptism we received the sanctifying grace of the Holy Spirit and we are also incorporated to the body of Christ the Church, and in Confirmation we received the gifts of the Holy Spirit. There is no need for baptism of the Holy Spirit invented by the Pentecostals, this is a mockery to the Sacraments. The Church never taught us to practice baptism in the Holy Spirit and speaking in tongues. Nowhere in the Catechism or in decrees of the Council ever encourage this kind of practices.


[1] The Baptism in the Holy Spirit is a vital experience of the Christian life. It is a special work of the Spirit beyond salvation. On the Day of Pentecost, disciples who had already made a decision to follow Jesus "were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues" (Acts 2:4).  http://ag.org/top/Beliefs/gendoct_02_baptismhs.cfm
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