What is the Difference Between the Indwelling, Baptism, and Filling of the Holy Spirit?

October 11, 2023
George T. Ferrier

John the Baptist prophesied: “I indeed baptize you with water; but One mightier than I is coming, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to loose. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” John had baptized in water, but Christ would baptize in or with the Holy Spirit (Luke 3:16; Acts 1:5; 11:16). After His ascension back to heaven, Christ sent the Holy Spirit, just as He had promised to the first 120 Jewish believers gathered on the Day of Pentecost. Baptized in the Spirit, they were now permanently indwelt with the Holy Spirit (John 14:16-17; 15:26; 16:7; Acts 2:1-4).

Since that initial event, Christ sovereignly baptizes each believer in (or with) the Holy Spirit the moment they trust Christ as their Savior. First Corinthians 6:19 says: “Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?” This indwelling of the Spirit is a permanent one-time event that occurs at salvation (Matt. 3:11; Mark 1:8; John 1:33; 14:16).

The baptism of the Spirit occurred simultaneously with the indwelling of the Spirit on the Day of Pentecost. It inaugurated the Church, placing these believers in the body of Christ. Since that initial baptism, whenever someone believes on the Lord Jesus Christ the Holy Spirit sovereignly baptizes them into Christ simultaneously with the indwelling of the Spirit. First Corinthians 12:13 says: “For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free—and have all been made to drink into one Spirit.” This baptism adds the believer to the universal church, spiritually joining them to all believers, and to Christ their Head. Regardless of background or status, each believer is a member with an equal standing in the body of Christ (Gal. 3:28). The baptism of the Spirit is a permanent one-time event that occurs at salvation.

There was one exception to this (Acts 8:14-17). Phillip, a godly believer (Acts 6:1-6) preached the gospel to the Samaritans, a mixed race of Gentiles and Jews tracing their roots to the Assyrian captivity of the ten northern tribes of Israel in 721 BC. The Jews hated the Samaritans and would have no dealings with them. Upon their conversion, the Samaritans did not initially receive the Holy Spirit. When the apostles heard of their belief, they sent Peter and John to Samaria. There, they laid hands on them praying that they would receive the Holy Spirit. As a result, they received the Spirit. This delay was necessary to visibly show the apostles and all Jewish believers that the Samaritans were equal members in the body of Christ. These early days of the church were a transitional time, so it was essential for Peter and John to officially welcome the Samaritan believers into the church. However, the Gentiles (Acts 10:1-11:18) and the disciples of John (Acts 19:1-7) received the Holy Spirit in the customary way immediately upon their conversion.

The filling of the Spirit is different than both the baptism and the indwelling. Ephesians 5:18-21 says: “And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another in the fear of God.” Believers are commanded to be filled constantly with the Spirit. Today’s filling does not provide for tomorrow. We must daily drink of the Spirit: acknowledging Christ’s Lordship, confessing our sins, spending time in God’s Word and in prayer, and regularly fellowshipping with other believers (Col. 3:16; 4:12; Eph. 6:18; 1 Thess. 5:17, Heb. 10:25). The evidence of being filled with or under the control of the Holy Spirit is fervency in the things of the Lord, peaceful relationships with other believers, having a song in our hearts, a thankful, worshipful, and humble heart, and a reverence for God.

In summary, the baptism and indwelling relate to salvation while the filling relates to sanctification. The baptism and indwelling relate to the Christian’s standing, while the filling relates to the Christian’s state. Every believer is indwelt by the Holy Spirit (Rom. 8:9) and incorporated into the body of Christ, but only believers who walk according to His Word will be filled with the Spirit.