Bible Question:

Should all Christians experience the baptism of the Holy Spirit?

Bible Answer:

1 Corinthians 12:4-10 gives us a list of spiritual gifts that are assigned by the Holy Spirit to Christians. Romans 12:4-8 also provides a similar list. Together both lists gives us a more complete idea of the spiritual gifts available to the church.

Baptism of the Spirit

Holy Spirit Gives Gifts Individually

1 Corinthians 12:11 tells us that the same Holy Spirit assigns spiritual gifts 1) individually and 2) as He desires.

But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills. 1 Corinthians 12:11 (NASB)

The Greek word for “distributing” is diaireo. The word means “to divide into parts, to part, to tear, cleave or cut asunder.”[1]  Lenski states,

The idea contained in the verb διαιρέiv  is that the Spirit separates and portions out the gifts . . .[2]

Luke 15:12 illustrates the use of this word where a father divided his wealth. Therefore, in the context of 1 Corinthians 12, the Holy Spirit divides the spiritual gifts to individuals. The strong message is that the Holy Spirit does not give the same spiritual gifts to every Christian. Instead, He divides the gifts to individual Christians as He desires.

When we are told that the Holy Spirit divides the spiritual gifts as He desires, we are to understand that the Holy Spirit makes the determination how the gifts are assigned. He does not offer Christians a smorgasbord to choose from and then responds to their request.

It is clear from Scripture that the Holy Spirit gives the spiritual gift of teaching to elders since elders must be proficient in teaching (1 Timothy 3:2; 5:17). An elder must be able to teach effectively. Acts 20:28 reveals the Holy Spirit prepares men to be elders. He does this by spiritually gifting and helping men to grow to spiritual maturity. The Holy Spirit will also assign the spiritual gift of  administration so that an elder can “rule well” (1 Timothy 5:17). The Holy Spirit assigns certain gifts to future elders so that they will qualify to become an elder.

The Holy Spirit prepares a man or woman for ministry by giving them spiritual gifts. The same is true for all believers. 1 Corinthians 12:28 and Ephesians 4:11 reveals that the Holy Spirit makes some Christians pastors. That is the decision of our God. Some pastors also have the complementary spiritual gifts of word of knowledge, word of wisdom and/or faith.

Corinthian Christians Wanted To Change Their Assigned Gift

Starting in1 Corinthians 12:14, the Holy Spirit reminds us that the body of Christ has many members. Then in verses 15-26 the Spirit teaches us that we are not to wish for a different spiritual gift. He illustrates this problem by referring to the foot that wanted to be the hand (v. 15) and the ear wanted to be eye (v. 16). Then in verse 17-18 the Spirit says,

If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body,  just as He desired. 1 Corinthians 12:17-18 (NASB) 

Notice that this is a rebuke of those who wanted a different role in the body of Christ. That is, they wanted a different spiritual gift. The Spirit concluded with “God has placed the members . . . in the body, just as He desired.” That is, God gives spiritual gifts as He desires and not according to our wish for something different. In verses 19-28 the Spirit then illustrates that every spiritual gift is necessary, no matter what an individual might think about his or her gift.

Finally, in 1 Corinthians 12:29-30 the Holy Spirit through the apostle Paul reaches the climax and asks a series of questions.

All are not apostles, are they? All are not prophets, are they? All are not teachers, are they? All are not workers of miracles, are they? All do not have gifts of healings, do they? All do not speak with tongues, do they? All do not interpret, do they? 1 Corinthians 12:29-30 (NASB)

How would you answer these questions about the spiritual gifts? A. T. Robertson, the noted Greek scholar of the nineteenth century, states that each question expects a negative answer.

Are all (μη παντες [mē pantes]). The μη [] expects a negative answer with each group.[3]

That is, every Christian is not an apostle, a prophet, a teacher, a worker of miracles does not have the gift of healing, speak in tongues or have the gift of interpretation. Every Christian does not have the same set of spiritual gifts. Notice that every Christian does not have the gift of tongues. Stated positively, the Holy Spirit does not give every Christian the same spiritual gifts.

Then in 1 Corinthians 12:31 the apostle Paul writes,

But earnestly desire the greater gifts.
And I show you a still more excellent way.  1 Corinthians 12:31 (NASB)

The Greek word for earnestly is zeloo. It is a verb. It can be either an imperative (a command) or an indicative (a statement of fact).[4, 5, 6] Many Bible translations, including the NASB, translate the Greek as a command. That implies Christians should seek the greater spiritual gifts. But that is contrary to the message of verses 14 through 30 where Christians have been encouraged to not seek gifts the Holy Spirit did not assign to them. In the context of the chapter, a better understanding is that the verb should be an indicative, a statement of fact. That is, it should read this way (the change in wording is italicized),

But you earnestly desire the greater gifts.
And I show you a still more excellent way.

This fits the context and reveals the Holy Spirit encouraged them to not seek the greater gifts. In the previous verses the Holy Spirit has been rebuking the Corinthians for wanting different gifts. They did not like the gifts assigned to them by the Holy Spirit. In the next two chapters it becomes obvious that the Corinthian Christians wanted to speak in tongues. Therefore, the Holy Spirit through the apostle Paul rebuked them for wanting different spiritual gifts, including the gift of tongues. That is, the Corinthians were not happy with their spiritual gifts and Paul rebuked them to encourage them to be satisfied with the gifts given to them by the Holy Spirit.

Those who believe that the imperative (a command) is the correct translation then conclude that Paul is saying since the gift of tongues is an inferior gift to other gifts, they should seek superior gifts – greater gifts. Notice that Paul placed tongues near the end of the list in verse 30. In this situation, the Holy Spirit through the apostle Paul would then be rebuking them for wanting the lesser gift of tongues.[7] But, as we have already discovered the imperative does not fit the context since it would be inconsistent to encourage them to seek greater gifts after he had just rebuked them want greater gifts.

Therefore, the Corinthians were guilty of not being satisfied with the spiritual gifts the Holy Spirit had given them. They wanted the gift of tongues. Therefore, the Spirit rebuked them.[8] Every believer is already perfectly gifted as God the Holy Spirit had planned it.[9] When a Christian wishes another spiritual gifts they reveal their unhappiness with the gifts the Holy Spirit gave them.

Should all Christians experience the baptism of the Holy Spirit?

The foundation has been laid and now we are ready to answer the question, “Should all Christians experience the baptism of the Holy Spirit?” We have discovered that in 1 Corinthians 12 the Holy Spirit informs us that He has assigned spiritual gifts to Christians according to His will and not as we desire or request. In 1 Corinthians 12:12-13, the Holy Spirit informs us through the apostle Paul that He places every Christian into the body of Christ.

For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit. 1 Corinthians 12:12-13 (NASB)

1 Corinthians 12:13 describes the placing of all Christians into one body. That body is the body of Christ or the church (Ephesians 1:22-23). 1 Corinthians 12:13 is not describing any spiritual gift, including the gift of tongues.

This verse cannot be describing the spiritual gift of tongues for three major reasons. First, since the Holy Spirit distributes different spiritual gifts to each Christian, we should not expect that every Christian will have same spiritual gift, as we have discovered in the brief preceding study.  Second, since the Corinthians were unhappy with the spiritual gifts that the Holy Spirit had given them, they wanted a superior spiritual gift and consequently were rebuked (v. 14-26). Finally, the Holy Spirit explicitly states in verse 30 that the spiritual gift of tongues is not given to every Christian.

All do not speak with tongues, do they? 1 Corinthians 12:30 (NASB)

Therefore since every Christian is baptized into the body of Christ and the gift of tongues is not given to every Christian, the baptism of the Spirit cannot be the spiritual gift of tongues.


We have discovered that the baptism of the Spirit is not the spiritual gift of speaking in tongues. The baptism of the Spirit is simply a statement that the Spirit places or baptizes every Christian into the body of Christ. For a complete explanation of the ministry of the Holy Spirit in both the Old and New Testament the reader is encouraged to visit The Spirit’s Ministry – Tongues and Prophecy.




1. Joseph Henry Thayer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Being Grimm’s Wilke’s Clavis Novi Testamenti (New York: Harper & Brothers., 1889), 137.

2. R. C. H. Lenski.1-2 Corinthians. Commentary on the New Testament. p. 511.

3.  A.T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament. Baker Book House. 1931. vol. iv. p. 174.

4. Anthony C. Thiselton. The First Epistle to the Corinthians. The New International Greek Testament Commentary. Eerdmans Publishing. 2000. p. 1024.

5. John MacArthur. 1 Corinthians. The MacArthur New Testament Commentary. Moody Press. 1984. p. 325.

6. Orr and Walter. 1 Corinthians. The Anchor Bible. Doubleday Publishing. 1976. pp. 287-288.

7. Ibid.

8. Kistemaker. 1 Corinthians. New Testament Commentary. Baker Book House. 1993. pp. 445-446.

9. Ibid. MacArthur. p. 326.



Suggested Links:

What do we do with spiritual gifts?
The Spirit’s Ministry – Tongues and Prophecy
Does Ephesians 4:11 list other leaders in the church?
What is the gift of exhortation?
The Purpose Of Spiritual Gifts - sermon
Overview Of Spiritual Gifts - sermon
The Speaking Gifts, part 1 - sermon
The Speaking Gifts, part 2 - sermon
The Serving Gifts - sermon
The Temporary Gifts - sermon