Disclaimer: About This Blog

THIS BLOG IS: my personal journey of how I am rethinking some of my spiritual beliefs.
THIS BLOG IS NOT: intended to point fingers at people who I think are wrong.
I do not believe the final judgement will be based on how many correct answers we get on a theology exam. I believe many people throughout history have had genuine relationships with our Lord and Saviour Jesus, despite holding questionable beliefs and practices. I make no claim to having it all figured out or being your judge. If we end up disagreeing over these topics I pray we can find a way to demonstrate grace.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Baptism With The Holy Spirit

This is post #8 on a series on baptism:

  1. Baptism Questions - some questions I'd like to sort out
  2. What Did Baptism Mean? - a look at how the Greek terms get used and translated in other literature
  3. Baptism without Water - a look at baptism references that are not talking about water
  4. Baptism and Culture -  It seems Christianity adopted a common custom of the time.
  5. The Heart of Baptism - What is at the heart of this ritual 
  6. Who Can Baptize? - Do we think Matt 28:18 - 20 is addressed only for the clergy? 
  7. When Should Believers Be Baptized - At what age? At what level of maturity? 
  8. Baptism With The Holy Spirit - comparing immersion with water and with the Holy Spirit 
  9. Baptism Summary Thoughts
I'm still sorting out some thoughts on baptism.  I keep coming across passages relating to baptism with the Holy Spirit. So I'm going to take a look at a few here.

Peter is explaining to the Jewish believers in Jerusalem about new gentile believers in Acts 11:15 - 16 (NIV)
"As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit came on them as he had come on us at the beginning. Then I remembered what the Lord had said: ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’"
This verse make me feel better. Up until recently I had always thought about baptism in terms of being immersed in water.  So I find this interesting. Had Peter not made this connection before this point either?

If we read the account in the previous chapter we can see that these new believers were first baptized (or dipped/immersed/submerged) with the Holy Spirit.  Immediately after they were baptized with the Holy Spirit the decision was made that they should also be baptized with water, and in the name of Jesus Christ.

It seems in this passage the baptism with the Holy Spirit came first, and then the baptism by water was done as an outward symbol.

However we see the reverse in Acts 8:14 - 17 (NIV)
"When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them.  When they arrived, they prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit, because the Holy Spirit had not yet come upon any of them; they had simply been baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus.  Then Peter and John placed their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit."
In this earlier account, the people had been baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus, but they had not received the Holy Spirit.

If we keep going earlier in Acts there are two more related passages:

Acts 2:38 (NIV)
"Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. "

Here it sounds like the baptism in the Holy Spirit and the baptism by water are two separate events that should follow one after the other.  The way it is worded the immersion by water may come first.

Acts 1:4 (NIV)
"On one occasion, while he (Jesus) was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about.  For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” 
Again, the baptism with water is a separate event from the baptism with the Holy Spirit.  And again this time the water came first.

What can we conclude from these passages:
  • We can not assume that just because someone is immersed in water they have also been baptized with the Holy Spirit. The two types of baptism seem to be two separate things.
  • If the Holy Spirit is living in you, there is nothing stopping you from also being immersed by water.
  • If you want the Holy Spirit to live in you, a step suggested here is to repent and get immersed in water in the name of Jesus.
What I would not conclude:
  • People should say a sinners prayer, then wait awhile, then take baptism classes before getting baptized with water.
  • That everyone that gets baptized with water also gets baptized with the Holy Spirit.
  • That the baptism with water is more important than the baptism with the Holy Spirit.
Does this make any sense to you?


Steve Martin said...

While making sense may be comforting to us sinners, what God does does not necessarily have 'to make sense'.

A fish swallowing a man and spitting him out three days later...a man walking on water...one loaf of bread and some fish feeding thousands of people, etc...these do not make sense.

But the Bible tells us what God gives to us in baptism. The forgiveness of sins and the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38). 1st Peter tells us that "baptism now saves you..." St. Paul tells us in Galatians that "all of those who have been baptized, have put on Christ.

I really do not believe that our Lord Jesus was into 'empty religious ritual'...just for kicks. When He commanded that WE baptize in the name of the Triune God. that that God was going to be in that baptism.

It goes against our reason, but many things that God does where we are concerned do also.

Thanks, friend.

John's baptism was pure symbolism. Much like many Christians still believe. But the baptism where the Holy Trinity and His promises are attached to the water...is a baptism with teeth...with fire. We receive something real from God...whether we can feel it or not. Or whether it makes sense to us, or not.

Jonathan said...

I agree that what God does not necessarily have to make sense to us. I also think He is very gracious when we often misunderstand Him and follow traditions of others who didn't fully understand.

So I think it's OK to try to understand what different passages of Scripture say on a topic. And be prepared to change course if I've been wrong. However I don't want to get judgmental or dogmatic about stuff, but be gracious as well.

Thanks for your comments on this topic.

Steve Martin said...

I think you have been very gracious and patient with me. I know that our views are not widely held (that's one of the reasons that I think that are correct :D).

Looking at people from a whole different anthropology (that we have no spark of goodness in us when it comes to the ability to choose God), is radically different and leads to a more Christ centered understanding of the Christian faith (we believe).

Placing ourselves at the center is our default position. Placing Christ at the center (and His will for sinners)takes a bit of doing...even for those of us who have been doing it for a while.

Thank you for allowing me to share our radical theology on you wonderful blog, Jon.