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Baptism in the Spirit: Is it Normal to Receive At or After Conversion?


Kenneth Wuest is a noncharismatic. Nevertheless, he draws a distinction between a baptism with the Spirit from a baptism by the Spirit and asserts, because of the instrumental case of the word Spirit, that what is being referred to in 1 Corinthians 12:13 is a baptism by the Spirit.

1 Corinthians 12:13 is not teaching that at conversion everyone is baptized with the Spirit, rather at conversion everyone is baptized by the Spirit. At conversion everyone is baptized by the Spirit into the Body of Christ.


Common to All

The second principle that John MacArthur uses for determining what is normative Spirit baptism is that only those experiences common to all are normative. How does one determine what is common to all? According to MacArthur, if something was not specifically stated as having happened to all it was not therefore common to all. He asserts that since it was not specifically stated that the three thousand converted on the Day of Pentecost and the five thousand converted a few days later experienced a post conversion Spirit Baptism then it must not be common to all:

Why does the text in Acts 2 through 4 not say that everyone who believed following Peter’s sermons (over five thousand people according to Acts 4:4) and received the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38) also spoke in tongues? In order for something to be normative, it has to be common to everyone.9

MacArthur concludes that because there is no record of these early followers receiving a second or post-conversion baptism in the Spirit, it therefore did not happen. MacArthur is basing his conclusion upon what is called an argument from silence. Although such suppositions may seem quite convincing, arguments from silence prove little to nothing.

MacArthur’s basis for deciding what is common to all is inconclusive. Why? The book of Acts does not tell us in this case whether or not these believers experienced any post-conversion reception of the Spirit. Therefore this case cannot be used to determine either what is common to all or what is normative.

Yet, note some of the difficulties that can arise from standing on an argument from silence. In fact, to reject what is not said could be very dangerous. For example, think about what is not said in the book of Acts about water baptism. The same five thousand of whom it is not recorded that they experienced a post conversion Spirit baptism, it is also not recorded that they were water baptized (Acts 4:4). In addition to the five thousand, it is not said of multitudes of both men and women (Acts 5:14), many in Joppa (Acts 9:42), and of a great number in Antioch (Acts 11:21) that they were water baptized even though they believed. If the second principle of normative—what is common to all—were consistently applied, one must conclude that water baptism was not normative. No one who reads Acts would conclude that water baptism was not normative, unless he or she imposes some normative standard that forces the historian Luke to reaffirm every detail in every account.


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Category: Spirit, Summer 1999

About the Author: Michael D. Peters has ministered among charismatic and noncharismatic Christians for over twenty-five years. For the past 14 years (as of Fall 1998) he has pastored Christ the King Covenant Church in Webster Groves, Missouri. He hold a Masters in Theology from Covenant Theological Seminary and is presently pursuing a doctorate in historical theology at Saint Louis University.

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