In doing my research, I’ve discovered that the Pentecostal Church believes in three baptisms. I’ve heard of all three before, but hadn’t really given them much thought. Here’s what I found:
The baptism into the body of Christ, that is, salvation. Every believer in Christ is made a part of his body, the Church, through baptism. This one seems simple enough. To be baptized into the body of Christ, you simply must believe.
The second is what we typically think of, water baptism. They believe it is the symbol of dying to the world and living in Christ. They don’t believe in transubstantiation, instead believing water baptism is an outward symbol of that which has already been accomplished by the Holy Spirit, namely baptism into the body of Christ. Pentecostals believe in immersion baptism, and only in baptism of those old enough to make a decision, not of infants.
And finally, they believe in baptism with the Holy Spirit, an empowering experience distinct from baptism into the body of Christ. In this baptism, Christ is the agent and the Holy Spirit is the medium. There are often certain expectation following this type of baptism – some believe speaking in tongues is the only proof someone has been baptized with the Holy Spirit. (Not all believe this, and speaking in tongues is really another post unto itself.) Other “evidence” of this baptism is praising God, being unusually happy, and testifying about Jesus. Pentecostals believe this type of baptism is available to all Christians, not just their denomination.
These baptisms usually occur in this order – first you must be saved, then baptized in water, then baptized with the Holy Spirit – but not always. Some Pentecostals believe you can be baptized with the Holy Spirit before being baptized in water.
So do you have to experience all three to get to Heaven? No, the Pentecostals don’t seem to believe that. Salvation itself is enough – the other two baptisms are valuable, but not essential. (Of course, it can be argued that they are essential to grow as a Christian, but if we’re talking just of getting to Heaven, not essential.)
Pentecostal friends, does that seem accurate? Did I miss or misrepresent something? Let me know in the comments, I’d love to know!
Image by Richard Masoner used under Creative Common License.