Water Baptism vs. Spirit Baptism: What is the Difference?


water and sky

There is some confusion among the Body of Christ about the difference between water baptism and the baptism in the Holy Spirit. In this article, we are going to attempt to clear up the misunderstanding.

The difference between the two baptisms is found in the purpose of each baptism, and what the individual is being baptized into. In water baptism, you are being baptized in the Name of Jesus, with the purpose of burying the old life of sin. In the baptism in the Holy Spirit, the believer is being baptized in the Holy Spirit, with the purpose of being clothed with power.

Now, let’s break down both of these topics in more detail.

Water Baptism is Baptism in the Name of Jesus

Another word for water baptism in the scriptures is: baptism in the Name of Jesus. We see this in multiple passages.

In Acts chapter 8, we read that an evangelist by the name of Phillip, went down to Samaria, and preached Christ to that city. There were miracles, signs, and wonders happening among the people, so the people believed what Phillip was preaching, and they got baptized.

“Now when the apostles who were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them, who, when they had come down, prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit. For as yet He had fallen upon none of them. They had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then they laid hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 8:14-17).

Notice, the Samaritans had only been baptized in the Name of the Lord Jesus (a.k.a. water baptism).

Another place that shows this is Acts chapter 10. In this passage of scripture, Peter is preaching to Cornelius’ household. As he preaches the gospel to them, the Holy Spirit comes upon them, and they start speaking in tongues. Now notice what Peter says after this happened.

“Then Peter answered, “Can anyone forbid water, that these should not be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord.” (Acts 10:46-48).

So, judging from these two passages of scripture, we see that water baptism is called the baptism in the name of Jesus by the early church.

Purpose of Water Baptism

In the first eight chapters of the book of Romans, the apostle Paul is laying a foundation for the church at Rome, by explaining the gospel in great detail. By the time he gets to chapter 6 of the explanation, he established that all people have sinned, and that we receive the righteousness of God by faith.

But starting in chapter 6 of the book of Romans, he addresses the question, “should believers keep on sinning?” Pay attention to how the apostle Paul uses water baptism to explain why believers shouldn’t live in sin.

“What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who DIED TO SIN live any longer in it? Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we should walk in newness of life. For if we have been untied together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our OLD MAN WAS CRUCIFIED WITH HIM, that the BODY OF SIN might be done away with, that we should NO LONGER BE SLAVES OF SIN. For he who has died has been FREED FROM SIN. Now if we died with Christ, we believe we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no longer has dominion over Him. For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be DEAD INDEED TO SIN, but ALIVE TO GOD in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:1-11). 

This whole passage of scripture is in the context of water baptism. Paul is explaining that believers shouldn’t keep living in sin because when they got baptized in the name of Jesus they were baptized into Christ’s death.

When that happened, we went under the water, burying our old man (our body of sin), and when we came up out of the water we were raised with Christ..

You see, when we were baptized into Christ, we were literally baptized into His death, and resurrected with Him in newness of life, for the soul purpose that we could be dead to sin and alive to God.

If you want to learn more about the purpose of water baptism, see the article Water Baptism (A Complete Study).

Purpose of the Baptism in the Holy Spirit

Jesus revealed the reason the Holy Spirit comes upon a believer in Acts chapter 1.

“And being assembled together with them, He commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the Promise of the Father, “which,”  He  said,  “you have heard from Me;  for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now…It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority.  But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:4-5,7-8).

We see in these scriptures, the purpose of the Baptism in the Holy Spirit is to be endued with power, for the ability to be a witness for Christ. Jesus also mentioned this earlier in John chapter 7.

“If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.”  But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.” (John 7:37-39).

Notice Jesus’ language in this passage. He is telling us that the Spirit that believers will receive from Him, will be like a river of living water flowing out of their heart. That is powerful! The reason the river is flowing out, is because the baptism in the Holy Spirit is meant to empower the believer to reach others.

The power of the Holy Spirit is not meant to be in storage, it’s meant to be used to bring people into the Kingdom.

If any believer wants the power of God to be present in their life, they need the baptism in the Holy Spirit. (Related article: Baptism in the Holy Spirit In-Depth Study).

Separate Experiences

There are some teachers of the Bible that teach that the baptism in the Holy Spirit, and water baptism happen at the same time. This simply is not the case. The book of Acts makes it extremely clear that these experiences are separate.

Let’s take a journey through a few passages that prove this point.

“Now when the apostles who were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them, who, when they had come down, prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit. For as yet He had fallen upon none of them. They had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then they laid hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 8:14-17).

“Then Peter answered, “Can anyone forbid water, that these should not be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord.(Acts 10:46-48).

“When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke with tongues and prophesied. “ (Acts 19:5-6).

The Bible says “by the mouth of two or three witnesses, every word shall be established” (2 Corinthians 13:1). So, it is clear through these three scriptures, that the Baptism in the Holy Spirit is a separate experience from water Baptism.

Conclusion

The differences between these two baptisms are as follows:

  1. These baptisms are separate experiences.
  2. The purpose of water baptism is to remove the old life of sin, while the baptism in the Holy Spirit is to be endued with power.
  3. When the individual is being baptized in water, they’re being baptized into Christ, while the Spirit baptism is an immersion into the Holy Spirit.

I hope this article assisted you in your walk with the Lord. If you enjoyed this article, please consider giving a donation of any amount by going to the support page. The support I receive from you enables The Biblical Foundation to reach more people with the teachings of the Word of God.

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