What is Spirit baptism? The Bible discusses this doctrine in three places. The first place is in the Gospels (Matt 3:11; Mark 1:8; Luke 3:16; John 1:33). In every instance, John the Baptist says that Jesus “will baptize with the Holy Spirit.” From these passages, we don’t really get much information regarding this doctrine. All we know is that Jesus will exercise a different ministry than John, one in which Jesus will baptize in/with the Holy Spirit.
The second place this doctrine is mentioned is Acts. As with the Gospel references, we don’t get much information about the doctrine. Acts 1:5 states that Jesus tells the disciples that “not many days from now . . . you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” Acts 11:16 is a repetition of Acts 1:5. From these passages, we learn that Spirit baptism occurred at Pentecost (Acts 11:15–16).
The last place where Spirit baptism is discussed is 1 Cor 12:13. The relevant part of the passage reads, “For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body.” This passage is difficult to interpret. The difficulty relates to whether Paul discusses Spirit baptism and water baptism, or just Spirit baptism. Those who take the former option interpret the passage this way: “We were all water baptized by a Spirit baptism into a Church body.” Those who take the latter option interpret the passage, “We were all Spirit baptized into one Church body.” I’m not sure what my view on this passage is. I like what one commentator writes, “The two views are not mutually exclusive. The point is that every Christian has been made a part of one body and immersed in (or by) the Spirit” (Garland, 1 Corinthians).
Putting these passages together, Spirit baptism is a new covenant reality in which Christ baptizes all believers with/in the Holy Spirit into the Church. There is no indication from these passages that this baptism (as Pentecostals contend) occurs after the moment of salvation. On the contrary, these passages seem to indicate that Spirit baptism is a metaphor for salvation. I think that Spirit baptism and the new birth (John 3:3) refer to the same reality.