Sunday, March 25, 2012

Defining the Baptism of the Holy Spirit

1 Corinthians 12:12-13 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. 13For 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.

What is the “baptism of the Holy Spirit”?

John the Baptist told the people whom he was ministering to that the One coming after him would baptize them with the "Holy Spirit and fire". (Matthew 3:11-12; Mark 1:8; Luke 3:16) When we consider John the Baptist's statements in those first three gospels, it is vital to take those statements and read them in light of a clearer text that was written in the same context. We find such a one in John 1:24-34.  Jesus' role of "baptizing with the Holy Spirit" in John 1:33 is connected to His teaching about the New Birth in John 3:1-6. The meaning of "baptism of the Holy Spirit" is the Spirit's New Covenant ministry of placing a believer into union with Jesus Christ at conversion.

Why Jesus' statements about the Spirit's Ministry are vital in understanding the idea of "Spirit baptism"

John 2 is the vital bridge between John 1 and 3, since the miracle of changing water into wine was designed to reveal the New Covenant ministry of Christ, which would include His sending of the Holy Spirit. The New Covenant ministry's chief work would entail the Holy Spirit leading men, women, boys and girls to trust in Jesus Christ alone for the forgiveness of sins so as to follow Him as their Lord. (John 16:7-16) In contrast to the Old Covenant, which had the Holy Spirit ministering to God's people from the outside to inside, the New Covenant would be marked by the Holy Spirit working from inside to outside. (please compare Ezekiel 11:17-20 and 2 Corinthians 3) 

Both Old Covenant saints and New Covenant Saints were saved in the same way, by grace through faith. What distinguishes New Covenant Christianity from Old Covenant Judaism is a richer and greater amount of God's presence and power due to Jesus Christ and the sending of the Spirit.  The Spirit's work of uniting the believer in conversion to the New Covenant's central Person - the Lord Jesus Christ, is key to understanding the meaning of Spirit baptism.

Spirit baptism marks the beginning of the Christian life in union with Christ

John's statements about Jesus "Baptizing with the Spirit" centers more on what occurs at salvation, since the Spirit of God brings a person "into union with Christ". 1 Corinthians 12:12-13, our main passage above, confirms this reading. The Holy Spirit's coming in Acts was to usher in the church age, wherein the Spirit's chief work would be to convict sinners of their need for Christ.  Additionally, the Holy Spirit enables believers to live out the Christian life through prayer, scripture and their union with one another in the local church as they carry out the Great Commandment and the Great Commission.

Spirit Baptism is another way of describing one's conversion

We read in Ephesians 4:5 "one Lord, one faith, one baptism". What Paul writes about in 1 Corinthians 12:12-13 pertains to a person being brought into union with Christ at salvation. This "baptism by the Holy Spirit" is the unseen reality that occurs in the heart at saving faith. Therefore in order for the new convert to testify as to what took place, a re-enactment is in order. Thus Water Baptism, the subject of the past few blogs, is necessary for the new believer's obedience.

How water baptism pictures what took place in Spirit Baptism

Water Baptism is picturing for that new Christian the reality that took place in conversion. The picture, or sign, is identical to what it is signifying - namely when the Holy Spirit "baptized" or "united" that person into Christ at salvation. We are dealing with "one Baptism", wherein Spirit Baptism being the reality and water Baptism being the picture of that reality.

Why does this issue matter to the Christian?

Due to the differences of opinion that exists between genuine believers in Jesus Christ who love and serve the Lord, it is important to know what we believe, why we believe and how we will instruct new converts on their next step. Whatever we hold to in regards to the doctrine of Baptism explains what we hold to in our understanding of the Gospel - since baptism is Christ's ordained picture of it.

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