Baptism with the Holy Spirit and Fire: Acts 2:1-4
“1) When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. 2) And suddenly there came from heaven a noise like a violent rushing wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3) And there appeared to them tongues as of fire distributing themselves, and they rested on each one of them. 4) And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance.” Acts 2:1-4
This was the second time in three years that the Spirit of God descended from heaven. Matthew 3:16-17 records a similar event at the baptism of Jesus; “16) After being baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove and lighting on Him, 17) and behold a voice out of heaven, saying, “This is my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased.”
When we compare this to Acts 2:2-4, there are some striking similarities. First, in both cases the Spirit of God descended from heaven. In the case of Jesus, He came in the form of a dove. On the day of Pentecost, He came with the sound of a violent rushing wind. The Greek word for “wind” is “Pheuma”. It is the same Greek word used for “Spirit.” It can also be used for breath. Jesus was breathing life into His Church.
The “violent rushing wind” was a fulfillment of the words of Jesus to Nicodemus in John 3:5-8. In these verses, Jesus described those who are born of the Spirit. He said in verse 8) that “the wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from or where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit.” Note the comparison between wind and the Spirit of God.
Second, both cases were connected closely to prayer. In Matthew 4:1, the Spirit of God led Jesus into the wilderness for forty days of prayer and fasting. In Acts 2:1-2, the Holy Spirit was poured out after an extended time of prayer by the 120 who gathered to pray for the Promise of the Father to be given.
Third, both cases were accompanied by speech. At the baptism of Jesus, a voice out of heaven and said; “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” On the day of Pentecost, those speaking in tongues were “speaking the mighty deeds of God.” (Acts 2:11) Both were an indication of belonging. The Father was claiming His Son, the early believers were proclaiming their God.
Forth, in both cases it was a widely witnessed event. The baptism of Jesus was at the Jordan River and was witnessed by the crowd gather around John the Baptist. The baptism of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost happened in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost and was witnessed by sojourners from many nations and languages.
Finally, both marked the launching of an era of new ministry. The Spirit coming on Jesus started His public ministry to the lost sheep of the House of Israel.. The Holy Spirit coming from heaven on the Day of Pentecost launched the church into the ministry of World Evangelization. No wonder there were tongues of many languages.
However, the were some differences. First, the Spirit that descended on Jesus like a dove was gentle and peaceful. By contrast, the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost sounded like a “violent rushing wind.” The occasion emphasized the power of God.
What an appropriate fulfillment of the words of Jesus about the Holy Spirit in Acts 1:8; “but you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you…” Those baptized by the Holy Spirit were endowed with power. They were changed. They were no longer merely religious.
Second, there was no fire present at the baptism of Jesus. Why? John baptized with water, but Jesus was going to baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire. John the Baptist repeatedly made this distinction between Himself and Jesus. (See Matthew 3:11-12; Mark 1:8; Luke 3:16; John 1:33; Acts 1:4-5) It is very important to highlight that distinction. There is no record that Jesus Himself baptized anyone with water. (Read John 4:1-2) His baptizing ministry is with the Holy Spirit and with fire.
The presence of God is often associated with fire. A prime example is Exodus 3:1-4 and Moses at the burning bush. He was on the mountain of God and encountered the fire of God’s presence.
I am shocked at how many churches urge water baptism which was associated with the ministry of John the Baptist, but shun away from the baptism of the Holy Spirit and fire which is associated with the ministry of Jesus. Something is tragically wrong!
I personally want everything Jesus has for me. I make no apology, I want to be on fire for Jesus Christ. I don’t want to be cold or lukewarm. I don’t want to be religious but lost. I want to be hot, and that comes from the fire of the Holy Spirit. (Revelation 3:15-16)
Finally, there was only one language heard at the baptism of Jesus, but many languages on the day of Pentecost. Why? I suspect it was related to mission. Jesus as Messiah was send to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. By contrast, the Great Commission to the church is world evangelization. God wants us to reach every nation, tribe and tongue with the Gospel.
Daily Bible Commentary By Terry Baxter: Cofounder of GoServ Global