Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
February 14, 1952
NUMBER 40, PAGE 8-9b

Measures Of The Holy Spirit

Thomas Allen Robertson, Ontario, California

All the Holiness sects believe in some sort of special or miraculous action or operation of the Holy Spirit. What they need to learn is that the Holy Spirit has functioned in the scheme of human redemption in various different manners. In the New Testament, for example, we find at least three distinct and separate "measures" of the Holy Spirit in operation.

The Baptismal Measure

The baptism of the Holy Spirit was given to the apostles on Pentecost. This was in keeping with the prophecy that had been made through Joel 2:27, 28. When Christ stood with the eleven apostles just before his ascension he said, "For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence...Ye shall receive power after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you; and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth." (Acts 1:5, 8) This promise was indeed fulfilled a few days later when the apostles were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. (Acts 2)

Christ was the administrator of that baptism. (Matt. 3:11) The purpose of the baptism was not to "save" the apostles, for they were already clean. (Jn. 15:8) They had been sanctified by the word of God. (Jn. 17:17) This baptism was not even given to the apostles to give them power to perform miracles, drink poison, or take up deadly serpents and suffer no harm. They already had that. Then what was the purpose of this baptism? It was (1) to teach the apostles all things (Jn. 14:26); (2) to bear witness of Christ (Jn. 15:26); (3) to reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness and of judgment; (4) to guide the apostles into all truth, showing them things to come, and recalling to their memory the things that Christ had said (Jn. 16:13); (5) to reveal and confirm the truth for the purpose of converting others.

There is one other instance in the New Testament of the baptism of the Holy Spirit—the house of Cornelius. The baptism of the Spirit here was not for the purpose of saving Cornelius; for he and his household were to be saved by the "words" spoken by Peter. (Acts 11:13, 14) Curiously enough some have tried to use this incident to belittle baptism and show it is not necessary to salvation. They contend that Cornelius' baptism of the Holy Spirit shows that Cornelius was saved before he was baptized; hence, baptism is non-essential. But if this proves Cornelius was saved before he was baptized, it also proves he was saved before he believed. For notice Peter's account of that experience, "Men and brethren ye know that a good while ago God made choice among us, that the Gentiles by my mouth should hear the word of the gospel and believe." (Acts 15:7) Now when did Cornelius believe? (1) Peter's mouth had to function; (2) the "word of the gospel" had to be preached; (3) and "heard." But when did the Holy Spirit fall on Cornelius? Hear Peter again, "And as I began to speak, the Holy Ghost fell on them, as on us at the beginning." (Acts 11:15) So they had the baptism of the Holy Ghost as Peter BEGAN to speak; but they could not believe until they HEARD "the word of the gospel." So it is evident that they were baptized by the Holy Ghost before they "heard the word of the gospel," hence before they believed. If this incident proves that baptism is nonessential to salvation, it would prove also that faith is nonessential. For Cornelius received the baptism of the Holy Ghost before he was baptized, and also before he believed in the things of the gospel!

What then was the purpose of the outpouring of the Holy Ghost on the household of Cornelius? It was to witness that the gospel was to the Gentiles as well as to the Jews. At least that is the use Peter makes of it. When he defended himself before the Jerusalem brethren in the matter of preaching to the Gentiles, related the whole story; and then to convince his brethren that the Gentiles were to receive the gospel, he told of the miraculous outpouring of the Holy Ghost. The church was convinced and Peter gained the argument. (Acts 11:1-18)

The baptism of the Holy Ghost had ceased by A.D. 64. For in that year Paul wrote to the church at Ephesus, saying, "There is one body and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; One Lord, one faith, one baptism." (Eph. 4:4, 5) That "one baptism" was baptism in water, for we know that that was still being practiced. The baptism of the Holy Spirit, therefore, was no longer operative; it had ceased. And no one receives that baptism in our day.

The Secondary Measure

There was a secondary measure given to some Christians by the laying on of the apostles' hands. (Acts 8:18) An apostle had to be present in the flesh to impart this measure of the Holy Spirit. (Rom. 1:11) It was given only to those who had already been saved. It gave to those receiving it the power to speak in other tongues, prophesy, heal the sick, and do other miracles. But it could not perpetuate itself; that is, one receiving it did not have the power to transmit it or pass it on to another. It had to be given new each time by an apostle. It was given only for a limited time and for a special purpose. Paul said, "But whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away...When that which is perfect is come that which is in part shall be done away." (1 Cor. 13:8-10) When the perfect law of liberty was complete, and God's revelation of truth had been made full, this secondary measure of the Holy Spirit with accompanying powers passed out of existence. (Eph. 4:11-15; 1 Cor. 13:8-13)

The Ordinary Measure

In addition to the baptismal measure and the secondary measure, there was also the ordinary measure of the Holy Spirit, which is given to all those who are saved. (Acts 2:38; Rom. 8:9; Gal. 4:6) It is not baptism of the Holy Spirit; it gives no special powers. When Philip went down to Samaria and preached the gospel, the people of Samaria heard, believed, and obeyed what Philip preached. Hence, they received exactly the same blessings as received by the people who heard, believed, and obeyed what Peter preached on Pentecost. But on Pentecost the people who were baptized and "received the gift of the Holy Ghost" did not receive any special powers to work miracles. It was exactly the same with the Samaritans. They heard, believed, and obeyed Philip's preaching. And they received the "gift of the Holy Ghost." But still they could not perform miracles. It was only after the apostles, Peter and John, had come down and laid their hands on them that this miraculous power was given. This measure also, was not for the purpose of saving anyone; for it was given only to those who were already saved.

Of course we know that in addition to these three "measures" of the Holy Ghost, Christ had the Spirit "without measure." (John 3:34) The Holiness sects would go far toward clarifying their position and their whole doctrinal teaching if they could once get clearly in mind that the miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit were only for a limited time, and were to achieve a definite purpose. That time has been fulfilled, and that purpose has been accomplished.