By Richard Snell


Acts 2:1-4 says (American Standard Version, 1901):   And when the day of Pentecost was now come, they were all together in one place.   And suddenly there came from heaven a sound as of the rushing of a mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting.   And there appeared unto them tongues parting asunder, like as of fire;  and it sat upon each one of them.   And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.

According to Acts 1:4-5, this event is called the baptism in the Holy Spirit.   To whom was this promised?   Who were baptized in the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost?    A great many people assume that the one hundred twenty disciples mentioned in Acts 1:15 were the recipients of the baptism in the Holy Spirit that is described in Acts 2:1-4.   A careful study of the Scriptures leads us to believe that only the APOSTLES received it. 

Consider with us the PROMISE of the baptism in the Holy Spirit, the FULFILLMENT of that promise, and the PURPOSE of the baptism in the Holy Spirit.

FIRST, it is essential for the sincere Bible student to read the text.   We shall quote it from the American Standard Version (1901) with important words highlighted to help follow the sequence of the narrative:

Acts 1:1   The former treatise [the Gospel of LukeI made, O Theophilus, concerning all that Jesus began both to do and to teach, 2  until the day in which he was received up, after that he had given commandment [see Matthew 28:19-20 and Mark 16:15-16through the Holy Spirit untothe apostles whom he had chosen:  3   to whom he also showed himself alive after his passion by many proofs, appearing unto them by the space of forty days, and speaking the things concerning the kingdom of God;  and, being assembled together with them, he charged them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, "which," said he, "ye heard from me [see John 14:25-26; 15:26-27; 16:7-15, and compare Luke 24:45-49]:   for John indeed baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized in the Holy Spirit not many days hence." . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  26  And they gave lots for them; and the lot fell upon Matthias; and he was numbered with the eleven apostles.  2:1  And when the day of Pentecost was now come, they were all together in    one place.   2 And suddenly there came from heaven a sound as of the rushing of a mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting.  3And there appeared unto them tongues parting asunder, like as of fire; it it sat upon each one of them.    And they were allfilled with the Holy Spirit, andbegan to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.      5   Now there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, from every nation under heaven.  And when this sound was heard, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speaking in his own language.   And they were all amazed and marvelled, saying, "Behold, are not all these that speak Galileans?   And how hear we, every man in our own language wherein we were born?   Parthians and Medes and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, in Judea and Cappadocia, in Pontus and Asia, 10  in Phrygia and Pamphylia, in Egypt and the parts of Libya about Cyrene, and sojourners from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, 11  Cretans and Arabians, we hear them speaking in our tongues the mighty works of God."   12 And they were all amazed, and were perplexed,saying one to another, "What meaneth this?"   13  But others, mocking, said, "They are filled with new wine."       14 But Peter, standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice, and spake forth unto them, saying, "Ye men of Judea, and all ye that dwell in Jerusalem, be this known unto you, and give ear unto my words.  15  For these are not drunken, as ye suppose; seeing it but the third hour of the day;  16  but this is that which hath been spoken through the prophet Joel:  . . . . ."


So WHO were baptized in the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost?   Again let me ask you to consider three related things as we seek the truth on this matter:   1) the PROMISE of the baptism in the Holy Spirit;   2) the FULFILLMENT of that promise;  and 3) the PURPOSE of the baptism in the Holy Spirit.


            A.  While we want to focus mainly on the specific promise (below under B), it is first necessary to notice the general promise.   John the baptizer made a promise that was more to a general audience than to a specific audience.   This is recorded in Matthew 3:7-12 (see esp. v. 11), Mark 1:7-9,  Luke 3:7-17 (see esp. v. 16), and John 1:33.   (We must emphasize the necessity that you turn to and carefully study these passages.)   There are two "baptisms" promised here in Matthew and Luke's accounts, one in the Holy Spirit and the other in fire.  The former would provide an awesome blessing, the latter eternal punishment.   Future recipients of each were represented in John's audience.   Not every person present was to receive the first, and not every person present was to receive the second.   Nor was every person who would not receive one "baptism" to receive the other.   (Important:  Mark and John do not mention the baptism in  fire,  and significantly the context of their records of John's promise do not include any mention of a judgment in fire.  In the other two accounts, Matthew and Mark do record John's mention of the baptism in fire, and the threat is given in a context warning of God's fiery judgment.  A consideration of the context is crucial in realizing that the prophet John was talking about two different baptisms and not just one.)  Jesus was singled out as the administrator (the doer, the performer) of both baptisms (see, e.g., Matt. 3:11).   Consider the four accounts carefully.   Did everyone present in John's audience later receive the baptism in the Holy Spirit?  Obviously not, for some then present he called a "brood of vipers" who were in danger of the wrath to come (Matt. 3:7 and Luke 3:7), and many of the Pharisees and lawyers rejected John's preaching (Luke 7:29-30).   Was everyone addressed by John to later receive the baptism in fire?   No, for among those present were future apostles Andrew and John and others who would be devout disciples and/or apostles of Jesus.   Did every person who did not receive one receive the other?   Again the answer has to be No, unless one takes the extreme (and untenable) position that receiving the baptism in the Holy Spirit is essential to salvation.   Many not in John's audience at the time of this promise would (will) receive the awful baptism in fire.  Some who possibly weren't in his audience at time would be among those to be baptized by Jesus in the Holy Spirit. Several of Jesus' apostles had been disciples of John and would likely have been present when John made his general prediction of the two baptisms (see Acts 1:21-22).


      B.   The more specific promise was made by Jesus Himself.   Made two separate times, this promise of the baptism in the Holy Spirit was given to only the apostles.   And, as we shall see, the promise made by John the baptizer quite likely was directed to the future apostles of Christ who were in his audience.   Let's look at the two times that our Lord gave the promise.

              (1)  The first time was in the upper room the evening He instituted the Lord's Supper.  That only the twelve were in the upper room on the night of His betrayal is revealed in Matthew 26:20,  Mark 14:17 and Luke 22:14.   After Judas departed to arrange the betrayal and arrest of Jesus (John 13:30ff), Jesus--pointedly to the apostles--promised that special abilities would be given to them by the Holy Spirit when they would receive Him.  They would need these abilities to launch the church, to bestow spiritual gifts, to confirm their heaven-given message, and to speak and write the truth with inerrancy.   See John 14:25-26;  15:26-27;  16:12-15.   This was "the promise of the Father" that Jesus later mentioned to the eleven after His resurrection, in Luke 24:19 and Acts 1:4.   They, therefore, before His crucifixion "heard this from Him" in the upper room, and Acts 1:5 identifies this promise as the baptism in the Holy Spirit.

           (2)  The other time Jesus made this promise to the apostles was after His resurrection and just before His ascension.   The record of this is in Acts one.   From v. 2 and the verses following we learn that Jesus dealt here with only the eleven apostles:  "The apostles whom He had chosen" (v. 2) . . . "to whom He ... showed Himself alive ... appearing unto them" (v. 3) . . . "being assembled together with them, He charged them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, 'Which heard from Me' (v. 4) . . . 'ye shall be baptized in the Holy Spirit not many days from hence'" (v. 5).   This is important information.   This same direct address to the apostles continues through verse eight.

In verse eleven the angels call them "ye men of Galilee" and these apostles, these "men of Galilee" are named in v. 13.  (All the apostles, except possibly Judas the traitor, were from Galilee.)

The PROMISE of the baptism in the Holy Spirit, therefore, while made in a general way by John to a crowd which had some of the future apostles in it, was later  limited by Jesus to--and specifically directed to--His chosen apostles.


(Having returned to Jerusalem after Jesus' ascension to God's right hand in Heaven, the eleven are mentioned in prayerful association with "the women," some of whom were evidently also from Galilee--see Luke 8:2-3; 23:49; Matthew 27:55--and with Jesus' mother and brothers, v. 14, one hundred twenty in all.  Also among the one hundred twenty were some other men, from among whom Matthias was chosen to take Judas' place among the apostles.)


Let us now given our attention to



The record of the fulfillment of Jesus' promise to baptize the apostles in the Holy Spirit is found in Acts 2:1-4.   There was a visable phenomenon (tongues parting asunder) that looked like fire, and there was an audible phenomenon, a sound like a violent wind--but there was neither fire nor wind!   What they heard was a sound "as of" or "like" a mighty wind and what they saw was "like" fire.   Accompanying these audible and visable phenomena was the promised baptism:

               "And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak with other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance."

But who are meant by "they"?   Verse one says, "And when the day of Pentecost was now come, they were all together in one place."   Many think, because of vv. 14 and 15 in chapter one, that the "they" of Acts 2:1, 4, is in apposition to the one hundred twenty (1:15).   However, a general rule of grammer is that a pronoun is in apposition to its nearest antecedent--and the nearest antecedent to the pronoun "they" of 2:1, 4, is "And he [Matthias] was numbered with the eleven apostles(1:26).

Remember, Luke didn't divide Acts into chapters and verses.  (The division of the Bible books in the form of the present chapters didn't occur until the 13th century of the Christian era, and not until the 16th century were the verse divisions made.)   Luke wrote merely, "And they gave lots for them; and the lot fell upon Matthias; and he was numbered with the eleven apostles.  And when the day of Pentecost was not come, they were all together in one place," etc.

This rule of grammer and the near position of apostles (1:26) to they (2:1, 4) may, of itself, fall short of providing the final proof that it was only the apostles who were baptized in the Holy Spirit on that historic day when Christ began His church.   We will do well, of course, to keep in mind that our Lord's specific promise of this baptism was made exclusively to the apostles.   Let's look further, considering the continuing context in chapter two.

An important clue to keep in mind is that all of those baptized in the Holy Spirit spoke with the other languages (2:4), and all who spoke in those other languages were Galileans (2:7--thus everyone baptized in the Spirit that day was from Galilee), and the twelve were all "men of Galilee" (1:11).   This is significant.   It poses a problem of improbability for the position that all of the one hundred twenty were baptized in the Holy Spirit.  Jerusalem is in Judea, and Judea is a long way from Galilee. Certainly many of the one hundred twenty, besides the apostles, were from Galilee (see, e.g., Matt. 27:55-56).   This being admitted, it still seems extremely unlikely that all of the one hundred twenty would have been Galileans.   There almost certainly would have been several there who were NOT Galileans.   Consider, for examples, these JUDEANS, some of whom one would expect to have been present in that group of 120 disciples there in JerusalemLazarus and his sisters Martha and Mary, and some of their neighbors who had witnessed Jesus raise Lazarus from the dead;  Zaccheus, the publican from Jericho;  Nicodemus, the disciple who gave up his intended burial tomb for Jesus;  Joseph of Aramathea;  the man born blind whom Jesus healed in Jerusalem in John chapter nine;  others of those wonderfully healed in Judea (e.g., the bent-double-for-18-years woman of Luke 13, and Bartimaeus and his companion, healed of blindness near Jericho).   Were none of those among the 120 disciples? (And if one should guess that none of these Judeans were present at the time of 1:13ff, we would have to ask why?)   But all those on whom the Spirit fell spoke in the various languages, and all who so spoke were Galileans!   Were none of Christ's followers who hailed Him as king at His triumphal entry into Jerusalem present among the one hundred twenty in Acts 1:15?   It strikes us as near certain that at least some of the 120 would have been Judeans---or maybe from among His many followers in Perea.   But if--as seems almost certain--some of the Judean followers were present at the time of Acts 1:14-15, they were not among those baptized in the Holy Spirit in Acts two, for all those who spoke were Galileans.  2:4, 7. 

It may be worthwhile to notice that the word "these" in 2:7 is from the Greek autoi, which is masculine in gender and means, as the New International Version translates it, "these men."   In the same masculine gender is the word "them" in v. 4b, from autois.

Joel's prophecy (Joel 2:28-32, quoted by Peter in Acts 2:16-21) said that in "the last days" God's Spirit would be given to both "sons and daughters," and that they would prophesy.   But prophesying is distinct from speaking in other tongues (1 Cor. 14:2-4).  And the fulfillment of Joel's prediction, while it began on Pentecost, covers more than just that particular day.   Not everything Joel predicted occured on Pentecost:  note Acts 2:19-20).   So Peter's quotation of Joel's statement that "sons and daughters shall prophecy" is no proof that there were women involved in speaking in other languages on Pentecost itself.   As Joel's promise continued to be fulfilled in the years following, there were women who prophesied (e.g., Acts 21:9)--but the record is mute about any women prophesying on that historic Pentecost, or of any speaking in the languages.   Remember, it was to the apostles that our Lord made His promise of the baptism in the Holy Spirit.   (The baptism in the Spirit is distinct from gifts of the Holy Spirit, gifts given through the laying on of the hands of an apostle - Acts 6:5-6 with v. 8 and 8:6, 18; Romans 1:11-12;  2 Timothy 1:6.  Not every recorded special manifestation of the Spirit's power is called a baptism in the Holy Spirit.   In fact, only two events are called the "baptism in the Holy Spirit" (Acts 1:5 with 2:1-4 and 11:15-16 with 10:44-46).   Regarding any of the other special manifestations of the Holy Spirit recorded in the New Testament, we have absolutely no authorization to refer to them as a "baptism in the Holy Spirit."  Only if the Holy Spirit in Scripture calls an event a baptism in the Holy Spirit can we call it that.)

Going back now to Acts two, observe that Peter stood up with the eleven (2:14);  and in saying "these are not drunken" (v. 15), he used the masculine pronoun houti, not the feminine or neuter forms.   And when the conscience-smitten crowd cried out "Brethren, what shall we do?" (v. 37), they asked this of Peter and the rest of the apostles!

The weight of evidence,therefore,indicates that only the twelve apostles received the baptism in the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost.   The promises to them were fulfilled in them.


And finally, let us consider its purpose.



What was the purpose of the baptism in the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost In Luke 24:49 and Acts 1:8, the resurrected Christ told the apostles that when they would receive "the promise of the Father" (that is, the baptism in the Holy Spirit), they would receive POWER--and thus they would be qualified to press with inerrancy their personal eye-and-ear witness concerning their Master and Lord.   As apostles, they were Jesus' special men, the men whom the Father uniquely gave to Jesus (John 17:6, 9, 24), and were to bear an authentic witness because they had been very closely with Jesus from the beginning:  Acts 1:21-22;  John 15:26-27.

            What was to be the nature of this promised POWER?

If you looked up the references in John 14:25-26, 15:26-27 and  16:12-15--and in a study like this it is important that you look up all the Scriptures--you learned that the Holy Spirit was to do several wonderful things for the apostles (some of these things He does not do for other believers at all, and some he does for other believers but in a different way).        Upon His arrival, the Spirit     would:                                      
teach the apostles all things (14:26);                                         
 bring to their remembrance everything Jesus had ever                  spoken to them (14:26);                                                             
 guide them into all truth (16:13);                                              
     4) declare unto them the things to come (16:13);       
    5) take of the things of Christ--which are co-extensive with the things of   
        the Father--
and declare these to them (16:14-15);      
    6) He would 
bear witness of Christ while the apostles would also bear 
(God thus confirming their word by the signs that followed -  
        Hebrews 2:4;  Mark 16:20;  2 Corinthians 12:12;  Acts 2:43; 4:33; 5:12).

Consider this empowerment of Christ's apostles!   The Holy Spirit would teach them all things (14:26; 16:13).  This was direct, into-the-mind instruction, given by revelation to these uniquely inspired apostles.   But, doesn't the Spirit teach us?  Absolutely, but only as we study what the Spirit-inspired apostles and prophets wrote in the Scriptures.  The Spirit can lead the careful disciple into a knowledge of the "all things" (for the Word of God is perfect and the cannon of Scriptures is complete and no additional revelations were to be given--Revelation 22:18-19).  But as Spirit filled and Spirit led Christians today study the Bible with His help, the "all things" referred to in John 14:26 are not funneled directly into our minds, are not given in the same way as those "all things" were in the case of the apostles.  To them all this was revealed and by inspiration they wrote it, and we dig it out in prayerful study.   And the same thing could be said about the way the Spirit guided them directly into all truth, whereas He guides us (into that truth revealed to them, Eph. 3:5) as we prayerfully study.

The Spirit was to bring to their remembrance all that Jesus had said to them (14:26).   They were, therefore, to always have total recall of every word spoken by Jesus in their presense during the 31/2 years of His  ministry.   But you, do you remember every word of the sermons you have heard in the last three years?  Can you perfectly remember all of Jesus' words from the four Gospels?  Some few have memorized all of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, but they have had to really work to do it.  Most true Spirit filled disciples of Christ can not remember all of it.   Well, does the Spirit help us remember things that Jesus said?  Yes, certainly.  But none of us remember all of the things, because the faith of the church is not built on usin any way, as it surely is built upon Christ's apostles and prophets (Ephesians 2:20).   We today have to go back again and again to the written Word to refresh our memories.   Just as Jesus did manysigns which were never recorded (John 20:30-31), so He also spoke many things which the Spirit did not choose to have recorded.  The apostles did hear all of Jesus' words and they could and did, as the occasion required, remember all that Jesus had said to them.   This was a unique empowerment which began when they received the baptism of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost.

The Holy Spirit would declare to the apostles the things to come (16:13).  He did this, and by His inspiration they wrote down what He wanted us to have.   That is why we have, among other Scriptures, the book of Revelation.  As we read these things revealed to and recorded by Christ's apostles, we too are told the "things to come."  But the Spirit declares them to us through the words of Scripture, not directly in the same way He did to the apostles.   (Yes, some do claim He has shown them ahead of time certain things that were to happen.  But these are not revelations to the church and these are not on a par with Scripture!)

In Jerusalem the apostles waited for "the promise of the Father," the baptism in the Holy Spirit.  When He arrived (Acts two), the Spirit commenced to teach the apostles all things, to guide them into all truth, to bring to their remembrance all that Jesus had spoken to them, and to show them things to come.  He also gave them the power to work miracles in Jesus' name to confirm their revealed message.  The Holy Spirit did His work perfectly so the apostles could give us the Gospel truth perfectly. That process is NOT still going on.   It has been completed!  The apostles wereled into all truth by the Holy Spirit.  They--and those prophets on whom they laid their hands--had this deposit of truth revealed to them progressively, incrementally, in "pieces," as it were, until the church had the "whole picture."  Ephesians 3:5.  Now it is complete! Christ's inspired apostles and prophets wrote it down.  "These thing have been written," the apostle John told us, "that you might believe."  John 20:31.    We believe on Christ through their written word.  John 17:20.   The purpose of the baptism of the apostles in the Holy Spirit was to empower them to do this.

So read again what Jesus assured the apostles the Spirit would do for them when they would be baptized in Him:  Acts 1:4-5; John 14:25-26, 15:26-27 and 16:12-15.   Surely, of those who had been with Jesus from the beginning of His ministry, any who had all THAT done to them and for them would have POWER!   And please don't say that all this has been done for you, or you must be considered a liar.  Christ's apostles--though mere men, sinners saved by grace like you and me--received a special mission and work, and they received the special empowerment necessary to the accomplishment of their ordained task.  That is why we have the written New Testament!   We, as believers filled with the Holy Spirit, do have power (Ephesians 3:16-20), yes;  but power not expressed in those same miraculous ways, not the same abilities that Jesus gave His apostles through the baptism in the Holy Spirit.

You see, the apostles were Jesus' special men (see again John 17:6-19, 22-26).  They were the very ones (and the only ones) who were to bind and loose on earth, and this binding and loosing would be ratified in Heaven (Matthew 18:18).   They could not be trusted to even attempt this without the unique supernatural powers the Holy Spirit would give them, beginning at Pentecost.   Through the baptism in the Holy Spirit they became inspired men (in the special sense of 2 Peter 1:21).   They were also thus endued with power to work marvelous signs to confirm their message (Heb. 2:2-4;  Mark 16:20;  2 Cor. 12:12).   They were baptized in the Holy Spirit so they would be able to proclaim with inerrancy and authenticate with power the gospel of Christ.   If the whole one hundred twenty received the baptism in the Spirit, did they all become inspired?  What else would have had to occur to give the twelve their special power and infallibility, if Pentecost gave them nothing different than the rest of the one hundred twenty?   No, what happened in Acts 2:1-4 happened to only the twelve, for they were from then on (as one wiser than I has written) the Christ's "ambassadors extraordinary and plenipotentiary"!


      [What about Paul?   He was not one of the twelve and was not present on Pentecost.   Paul's apostleship was special.   He is "our" apostle, the apostle to the Gentiles (Romans 11:13;  Galatians 1:16; 2:9).   Paul was not taught the truths of the Christian gospel by the other apostles, nor by any other mortal, but this was revealed to him by Christ (Galatians 1:11-12).   After Christ called him and saved him, Paul did not "go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me," but he "went away to Arabia" for some time (Galatians 1:16-18), and evidently that was where and when Christ, through the Spirit, made the revelations to Paul and gave him apostolic powers, in effect doing for him what He had been doing for the other apostles beginning in Acts two.  (The inspired Record does not say that Paul received "the baptism in the Holy Spirit.")   As an authentic apostle, Paul had not only the revelation and inspiration of an apostle, but also the powerful signs to confirm his Heaven-given message:  2 Corinthians 12:12;  1 Corinthians 9:1;  Romans 15:18-19).]


Peter on that historic Pentecost of Acts two used the "keys of the kingdom" (Matt. 16:19) in preaching the gospel for the very first time (Luke 24:47-49) and announcing Heaven's conditions of pardon, and thus he opened the door of the kingdom to the Jews.   Approximately a decade later, in the house of the Roman centurian Cornelius, Christ had Peter again use the keys and admit the first Gentiles into the kingdom (Acts ten).   Both times were marked by the baptism in the Holy Spirit.   The first time it was the apostles who received this baptism, to equip them, and to begin Christ's church among the Jews.   The second time it was thehousehold of Cornelius that received this baptism, to convince the apostles and other believers that Gentiles were to share in the kingdom and salvation of Christ (see Acts 10:44 through 11:18), and to initiate their (our) inclusion in the one body, thus bringing to light "the solution to the mystery" (see Ephesians two and three, esp. 3:4-6).

THESE were the only two phenomena which God's Word calls "the baptism in the Holy Spirit" (Acts 1:5;  11:16-17).   These are the only two times it is recorded to have occurred.  Other experiences in receiving the Holy Spirit are never in the Bible CALLED a baptism in the Holy Spirit.  We therefore have no authorization to call any other spiritual phenomenon a baptism in the Holy Spirit.   Those two times were unique.   The purposes have been accomplished.   Going by the inspired Record (instead of drawing conclusions subjectively), we condlude that there has never been another--and we have no reason to expect another--"baptism in the Holy Spirit."

All who become obedient to the faith (Romans 1:5;  16:26;  Acts 6:7b) receive the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 5:32; 2:38).  We Christians have the Holy Spirit living within us and His undiminished power is available to each of us, enabling us to walk by Him and bear His fruit in our lives (Galatians 5:16-25).   We have the Word that He revealed, first to Christ's apostles and second to Christ's prophets (Ephesians 3:5; 2:20)--and in the light of that we serve Christ in the Spirit.

                      ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

Who were baptized in the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost?  Not the one hundred twenty, but the APOSTLES--and no one else.   The PROMISE was specifically to them, the FULFILLMENT of the promise was limited to them on that historic day, and the PURPOSE was fulfilled in them.



[We encourage you to study our essay entitled "What is the PERFECT in 1 Corinthians 13:10?" ]