The Holy Spirit and Salvation


© Rosemary Bardsley 2009


The Scripture teaches that the Holy Spirit has an essential and indispensable role in our salvation. God the Father does not automatically make us his own just because he sent the Son to die for us. Jesus the Son does not automatically save us just because he died for us. Without the operation of God the Holy Spirit in and on the individual human being not one person would benefit either from the love of God the Father or from the sacrifice of God the Son. We are saved by the unified purpose and united action of the Father, the Son and the Spirit.


A. The Spirit of God and our knowledge of God

As we have already seen:

Each of these operations of the Holy Spirit is essential for our salvation. Without his action we would not and could not understand either who God is or what he requires of us; without his action we would not and could not understand the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We would still be trapped in the darkness of misunderstanding unless the Spirit had come and set us free from that darkness.

What does Paul and Peter teach here about the essential liberating work of the Holy Spirit by which he reveals the truth about God to us and convinces us of its truth?

1Corinthians 12:2-3




2Cor 3:13-17





1Thess 1:5




1Peter 1:12



Important: Go back to section D in Study One and review this essential role of the Spirit, particularly D.2, where 1Corinthians 2 is discussed.


B. Salvation is being regenerated by the Spirit

Individual people become Christians by being born again. This is called regeneration, and is the action of God, specifically, the action of the Holy Spirit:

Describe the regenerating action of God in bringing us out of the spiritual death of separation from God into the spiritual life of reunion with God. Note that the three persons of the Godhead are involved in this, but it is specifically the action of the Spirit of God.

John 1:12-13




John 3:5-8




John 6:63




Romans 8:2




Titus 3:5




1Peter 1:3




1Peter 1:23





The foundational teaching on regeneration is John 3:1-8 where Jesus confronted Nicodemus with the necessity of being born ‘again’ – where the Greek anothen means ‘from above’, or, as Jesus pointed out, being born ‘of the Spirit’. Without this regeneration Nicodemus, and we ourselves, are nothing more than ‘flesh’ and can be nothing more than ‘flesh’ [John 3:6] – ‘flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit’. It is thus essential to be ‘born of the Spirit’ [3:8] – to be regenerated by the unseen, but nevertheless effective, work of the Spirit of God. Without this regeneration we are spiritually ‘dead’ [Ephesians 2:1,5] totally unable to see or to enter the kingdom of God.


C. Salvation is being baptised by the Holy Spirit into Christ and baptized by Christ with the Holy Spirit

When the New Testament refers to baptism it uses three different prepositions after the word ‘baptize’. The use of these prepositions is analysed in the table below.





[This is variously translated ‘in’ ‘by’ or ‘with’]

The preposition en primarily refers to location or position, and secondarily to instrumentality.

Matthew 3:11

Mark 1:8

John 1:26

John 1:33

These texts all refer to being baptized in water.

All except John 1:26 contrast John’s baptizing people in water with the greater action of Jesus Christ – baptizing people with the Holy Spirit.

The preposition en is used in reference to both water baptism and Holy Spirit baptism.

Luke 3:16

Acts 1:5

Acts 11:16


These texts also record the contrast between the water baptism performed by John and Spirit baptism performed by Jesus, but use the preposition en only in reference to Jesus’ baptizing with the Holy Spirit. In referring to baptism in water they simply use the dative case of the noun water, omitting the preposition.

1Corinthians 12:13

This text refers to baptism by the Holy Spirit, using the preposition en.


In these texts the preposition eis is used. This preposition normally has the connotation of movement towards and into. Thus people are described as …

Matthew 28:19

… baptizing into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit

Acts 8:16

Acts 19:5

… baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus.

Romans 6:3

… baptized into Christ and into his death

1Corinthians 10:2

… baptized into Moses

1Corinthians 12:13

… baptized into the body of Christ by the Holy Spirit

Galatians 3:27

… baptized into Christ


Matthew 3:6

Matthew 3:13

Matthew 3:14

Mark 1:5,9

Each of these verses uses the preposition hupo to refer to the human agent of baptism – in this case, John the Baptist. This preposition is never used to refer to either water or the Holy Spirit – a fact which prevents us from understanding either the water or the Holy Spirit merely as the agent of any form of baptism.

Without digressing too far into a study on baptism it is nevertheless essential to distinguish between water baptism and Holy Spirit baptism – essential because such a distinction is clearly made by the Scripture. Indeed each of the four gospel writers deliberately makes this distinction.

There are two important facts that we must keep in mind when we speak of the Holy Spirit ‘baptism’:

[1] That Holy Spirit baptism is distinguished from all water baptisms. When the Scripture speaks of baptism in connection with the Holy Spirit it is not teaching about water baptism of any kind – neither the water baptism of John the Baptist, nor the sprinkling of infants, nor believers’ baptism by immersion. Nor does it make Holy Spirit baptism dependent on or simultaneous with water baptism.

[2] That there are two distinct but intimately connected synergistic truths describing the relationship between the Holy Spirit and the concept of being ‘baptized’.

There is a kind of mutual spiritual immersing: Jesus Christ immerses us in/with/by the Holy Spirit, and we are immersed in/with/by the Holy Spirit into Christ.

C.1 Jesus Christ baptizes us in/with/by the Spirit

We need to remember, as we saw in the table above, that the Greek en is the only preposition used in relation to being baptized in, with or by the Spirit. [The only exception is Matthew 28:19, where people are to be baptized’ into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit’]. Where our English translations use these three prepositions which we understand quite differently from each other, the Greek uses only en.  Its primary reference is to position [location]; only its secondary reference is to instrumentality.

This baptism by Christ in/with/by the Spirit is also termed ‘the gift of the Spirit’ and ‘receiving the Spirit’. It happens to all genuine believers as an essential part of their salvation. It is an aspect of the complete spiritual blessedness which is given to us at the time of our conversion.

This is the baptism referred to by John the Baptist when he said:

And by Paul in 1 Corinthians 12:13b:

From the very nature of its description in the New Testament this baptism in/with/by the Spirit is something that happens to every believer without distinction or difference when they first truly believe in Christ. It is part of the blessedness of the comprehensive and complete salvation given by sheer grace to those who believe. Here the Spirit of God comes to us and makes us his dwelling place. [The significance of this indwelling Spirit, which is essentially speaking of Christ in us, will be detailed further in a later study.]


C.2 The Holy Spirit baptizes us into Christ and into his body

In addition, every person who truly believes in the Lord Jesus Christ is, simultaneously with the above regeneration, at this point of conversion, baptised in/with/by the Spirit ‘into Christ’ and into the church, the body of Christ.

We are baptized by [en] the Spirit into [eis] Christ, and into his body. This refers to us in Christ.

1Corinthians 12:13a: ‘For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body – whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free …’

Galatians 3:26-28: ‘You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.’

[I understand both of these verses to speak of the Holy Spirit baptism whereby we are united to Christ. I would also include here Romans 6:3 – ‘don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?’ To understand this verse as water baptism, rather than Spirit baptism, is validate those who teach baptismal regeneration, and to make salvation dependent on the human act of baptism rather than on the divine regenerative action of the Spirit, which is clearly outlawed by other scriptures.]

This aspect of Holy Spirit baptism unites us with Jesus Christ, and therefore unites us with every spiritual blessing that Jesus Christ obtained for us through his life, death and resurrection. By this Holy Spirit baptism we are united to and identified with the death of Christ. By this Holy Spirit baptism his death becomes our death. Without this baptism into Christ by the Spirit, which includes being baptized into Christ’s death, we would not and could not be saved; we would not possess any aspect of the salvation which Christ obtained for us. Without this baptism into Christ by the Spirit we would be standing before God still exposed in all of our sin and guilt, still exposed to his wrath. This baptism into Christ by the Spirit occurs simultaneously and synergistically with Christ baptising in/with/by the Spirit.

This baptism by the Spirit into Christ also incorporates us into ‘the body of Christ’, the church, and annuls all flesh based distinctions between believers. Paul clearly teaches ‘For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body …’. There is no biblical support for any teaching that distinguishes between believers on the basis of Holy Spirit baptism. On the contrary the Bible teaches that this Holy Spirit baptism renders all distinctions irrelevant.

[Additional point: Together these two elements of Holy Spirit baptism demonstrate the unity and equality of the Son of God and the Spirit of God.]


D. Salvation is having a new and secure relationship with God which is implemented, affirmed and guaranteed by the Holy Spirit

From the New Testament we learn that at the point of conversion, and from that point on, we possess new life. When the Holy Spirit brings us to new birth [regeneration] and baptizes us into Christ [baptism in/with/by the Spirit], and when Jesus Christ simultaneously baptizes us with the Spirit, a massive change takes place in our relationship with God:

D.1 By the Holy Spirit we are marked and sealed as God’s

The New Testament teaches that Holy Spirit is God’s mark upon believers, identifying us as belonging to him and sealing us for our final redemption. The Holy Spirit is thus God’s guarantee of our salvation both now and in the future. In this context the word firstfruits - ‘deposit’ or ‘down payment’ - is used in reference to the Spirit. The indwelling Spirit is God’s ‘down payment’ anticipating the day when we shall be ‘forever with the Lord’.

What do these verses teach about the action of the Holy Spirit whereby the believer is united to Jesus Christ, and identified and confirmed as belonging to God?

Romans 8:23




2Corinthians 1:21,22






2Corinthians 5:5




Ephesians 1:13,14





Ephesians 4:30





D.2 By the Holy Spirit we are identified and confirmed as God’s children

As well as guaranteeing our eternal salvation the Holy Spirit confirms our identity as the children of God, assuring us that we have the right of sons to call God ‘Abba, Father’, even though we live in the context of suffering [Romans 8] and the context of legalistic heresy [Galatians 4], both of which would raise strong doubts about that sonship.

What do these verses teach about the action of the Holy Spirit whereby the believer is united to Jesus Christ, and identified and confirmed as being a child of God?

Romans 8:15,16




Galatians 4:6




D.3 By the Holy Spirit we have access to God

Before our conversion we were banned from the presence of God by our sin. We had no right of access to him. A part of the salvation believers have in Christ is permanent present access into the very presence of God through his once-for-all substitutionary, sin-bearing death and his present representative mediation [Romans 5:2; Ephesians 3:12; Hebrews 4:14-16; 10:19-22; 1Peter 3:18]. One such verse refers to the role of the Holy Spirit in this unimpeded access.

What does this verse teach about the action of the Holy Spirit by which we have unimpeded access God?

Ephesians 2:18





D.4 By the Holy Spirit we are set apart for God

The New Testament also refers to the Holy Spirit as the one who sets us apart for God. The word used is ‘sanctified’ – which essentially means to be set apart by God for God – for God’s special possession, use and purpose. In each of these verses this is clearly a saving action that happens at the point of our conversion, quite distinct from the on-going sanctifying work of the Spirit by which he progressively transforms the believer, and which will be detailed in a later study.

What do these verses teach about the action of the Holy Spirit whereby we are set apart for God?

Romans 15:16




1Corinthians 6:11




2Thess 2:13




1Peter 1:2





D.5 By the Holy Spirit we are justified

In an interesting one-off verse [1Corinthians 6:11] Paul teaches that believers are ‘justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God’. Here we understand that justification by faith, which is obviously grounded in the work of Christ on the cross, is, nevertheless not ours without the operation of the Spirit of God by which we are united to Jesus Christ and his death.

D.6 By the Holy Spirit we are ‘washed’

The New Testament also teaches a connection between the Christian being ‘purified’, ‘washed’ or ‘cleansed’ and the Holy Spirit. The context of each of the verses below indicates that this cleansing is part of the grace-based salvation obtained in and through the Lord Jesus Christ, and has nothing to do with our personal spiritual performance.

What do these verses teach about this cleansing action of the Holy Spirit?

Acts 15:8-9



1Corinthians 6:11




Titus 3:5





D.1-6 Summary

The operation of the Holy Spirit of God in implementing and affirming our new and secure relationship with God is one that generates strong assurance in the believer. Paul alludes to this confident trust in Romans 5:1-5 where he speaks of the peace with God, the joy even in suffering, and the confident hope which are generated by the love of God poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit which he has given to us. It is by the operation of the Holy Spirit, and not by any personal merit, that this complete, permanent, and grace-based relationship is established and affirmed.


E. The essential presence of the Spirit – Romans 8:1-14

In Romans 8:1-14 Paul seeks to confront us with the same flesh/Spirit contrast with which Jesus Christ confronted Nicodemus [John 3] and the Samaritan woman [John 4].

Left to ourselves [that is, in our natural, flesh-only, state]:

In clear distinction from this, those in and upon whom the Spirit has done his saving work:

All of this amazing change is attributed to the saving work of the Holy Spirit.

Further, it is only ‘by the Spirit’ that we have abandoned our ego-centric, flesh-based belief that we have the ability to gain and maintain God’s acceptance on the basis of our human performance; it is only by the Spirit that we have been led to recognize and accept the grace-driven salvation provided by God in Christ [8:12-14]. By the Spirit we have thus ‘put to death’ the deeds of ‘the flesh’, counting them, as Paul did in Philippians 3, as less than nothing.

Note: In Romans 8:1-14 it is imperative that we cast aside the NIV mistranslation of sarks as ‘sinful nature’. The word simply means ‘flesh’. It refers to what we are in ourselves, without the Spirit of God and apart from Christ. We must also note what where the NIV reads ‘misdeeds’ in verse 13 the Greek text simply has praxis – which simply means ‘deeds’ or ‘works’. Neither the word sarks nor the word praxis has any intrinsic reference to sin.

Thus it is the Spirit of God who breaks through and demolishes our sinful confidence in our own ability, and in doing so, does for us what we ourselves could never do – sets us free from all condemnation through the death and resurrection of Christ, and brings us safe into the family of God where there is life and peace.


SUMMARY: The New Testament clearly teaches that the Holy Spirit has an essential and indispensable role in our salvation. The Holy Spirit is no add-on to the Gospel, nor a second or higher step to which we ascend beyond the Gospel and in addition to Christ; rather the Holy Spirit works in unity of will and purpose with the Father and Son to bring us to salvation. Just as salvation is not possible apart from Christ so salvation is not possible apart from the Holy Spirit.