The Baptism of the Spirit: A Defense of a Dispensational Understanding of the Phrase -- By: Kevin D. Zuber

Journal: Conservative Theological Journal
Volume: CTJ 10:29 (May 2006)
Article: The Baptism of the Spirit: A Defense of a Dispensational Understanding of the Phrase
Author: Kevin D. Zuber

The Baptism of the Spirit: A Defense of a Dispensational Understanding of the Phrase

Kevin D. Zuber, Ph.D

Assoc. Professor of Theology, Moody Bible Institute

With the rise of Progressive Dispensationalism and the insistence of those within that movement on continuity between the Testaments, it has caused some among our ranks to ask whether there are marks of continuity in areas such as Spirit-baptism. Dr Zuber here writes to address this particular concern.


The focus of this paper is the meaning of the phrase “the baptism of the Spirit” as this is debated between traditional dispensationalists and progressive dispensationalists. The thesis of this paper is that the traditional dispensational view of the meaning of the baptism of the Holy Spirit (it is unique to this dispensation and it is that which brings a believer into the Body of Christ) is the preferred view. To establish this thesis I will begin by providing a survey of the traditional1 dispensational and progressive dispensational views on the question of the baptism of the Spirit.

Summary of the Traditional Dispensational View

Ryrie provides a succinct outline of the traditional view.2 He begins by asserting that the “baptizing work of the Spirit is the one work of the Spirit that is not found in any other dispensation.” That is, it is limited to this age. This he says can be demonstrated “theologically and biblically.” The theological argument is based on 1 Corinthians 12:13 which defines the “baptizing work of the Spirit [as] that [which] places a person in the body of Christ.” Since “the body of Christ... is distinctive to this age, then so is the baptism.”3 The biblical argument is twofold: first, “the baptizing work” is

never mentioned in the Old Testament and is not mentioned in reference to the Spirit’s work in the millennial age: and second, that work began at Pentecost. Ryrie notes that Jesus’s statement in Acts 1:5 indicates the baptism of the Spirit was yet future, and Peter’s phrase “at the beginning” in Acts 11:15–17 refers to the Pentecost experience, indicating this was the first occurrence of Spirit baptism.4 Next, Ryrie argues, again from 1 Corinthians 12:13 that the baptizing work is “universal among all believers in thi...

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