Much is said of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus, but the ascension of Jesus is often passed over as a sad day when Jesus departed, and a reminder for us that he will come again. But the return of Jesus to sit at the Father’s right hand has much more significance than we might attribute to it. I want to highlight just one significant point. Without the ascension of Jesus we would have no Holy Spirit.
“If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever,17eventhe Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you andwill be in you.
Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. 8 And when he comes, he willconvict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: 9concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; 10 concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; 11 concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.
“I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.13When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. 14He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. (John 14:15-17 & 16:7-14)
We have already looked briefly at the Triune nature of the Godhead and it is definitely possible to do a fairly in-depth exegetical study of the Spirit of God in the Old Testament (starting in Genesis 1:2). However some key points seem to be apparent as from a cursory view of the Old Testament: Firstly there was acknowledgment of God’s Spirit. Secondly the designation of holy Spirit is fairly sparse (only in 3 places). Thirdly the pouring out of the Spirit of God is only on certain limited individuals, typically for certain purposes and for certain times. Yet there was a promise that a time would come when God’s Spirit would be poured out on all flesh (Joel 2:28) and many faith filled Jews would be looking for this day. It was into this context that Jesus came.
JESUS THE BAPTIST
A. JEWISH BAPTISM – The subject of baptism is an interesting one. It is fraught with disagreements throughout church history. We will look at water baptism in more detail when look at the process of the new birth. But it is important to understand a few things. Firstly the Jews would have been familiar with ritual cleansings and immersions during earlier times, these were often done repeatedly and this is why you often see “mikvah” baths at the archeological digs of places like the Jerusalem Temple and Qumran. It was also a less common occurrence amongst the Jewish community to see a “one off” baptism for Proselytes who wanted to be joined to the nation of Israel. It seems that John’s Baptism in the River Jordan was a similar “one-off” repentance baptism.
B. BAPTIZO – The word baptism or baptized that we use in English is a simple transliteration of the Greek word “Baptizo”. It is not a translation, a translation of the word would yield a word like “dip”, “plunge” “submerge” or “immerse”. This is critical in understanding both water and spirit baptism.
C. JESUS BIG ROLE – There are few events that are recorded in all four gospels, many key doctrines that we believe (think “being born again”) are only mentioned by one writer, therefore when something is recorded by all four of the gospel writers we should take note. Jesus’ relative John was known as the “plunger” or the “dipper” because of the ministry of administering water baptism to the repentant. However John prophesied something that was recorded in all the gospels:
I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. (Matt 3:11)
I have baptized you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit. (Mark 1:8)
John answered them all, saying, “I baptize you with water, but he who is mightier than I is coming, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. (Luke 3:16)
he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ (John 1:33)
Then in Acts as well, we are given indication of the role that Spirit Baptism will take
And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; 5for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”(Acts 1:4-5)
This is a BIG DEAL – Jesus is a baptizer in holy Spirit (please note “the” as a definite article is not used in conjunction with holy Spirit in any of these references). This has to mean something and yet the teaching on holy Spirit immersion has been minimized and wrongly applied in many churches. Why is this such an important message to new disciples that we understand it?
WHAT DOES BAPTISM IN THE SPIRIT SIGNIFY
The baptism/immersion in the holy Spirit that Jesus spoke of was first experienced by the disciples (120 of them) on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2. As they waited in prayer (in obedience to the command of Jesus), the Spirit of God came to rest on each one in what seemed like a tongue of fire and then they began to speak in other languages as they were given the ability. Their behaviour led many to believe they were drunk. But Simon Peter knew as the spokesman of the group that this was the promised Holy Spirit, which had begun to be poured out on all flesh. This baptism of holy Spirit was then repeated a number of times throughout Acts; to a group of Samaritans, to a group of Gentiles and then to a group in Ephesus. Although the word baptism is only used 7 times, it is is referred to in several ways most notably “receiving” the Holy Spirit, or the Holy Spirit being “poured out”. This was an important fulfillment of a promise, but what exactly did it signify?
A. PART OF THE NEW BIRTH – The New Testament highlights a number of activities which were normative for disciples of Jesus in their “initiation” as a believer. These things were evidences of the faith that made them sons and daughters of God and indications that they were on the “way” of salvation. These things were 1) Repentance from sins 2) Faith in Jesus 3) Baptism in Water and 4) Baptism in the Holy Spirit. The gift of the Holy Spirit was part of this New Birth process, however it is important to note that while it is part of this process, it is not synonymous with regeneration. In the same respect that baptism in water happens as a separate, but necessary event for a new believer, likewise baptism in the Holy Spirit is separate as well. I think this point is fairly well documented throughout the New Testament account, however it needs to be mentioned because it is quite common amongst Evangelicals to assume it took place when the believer repented and had faith. It might take place then, but it is a distinct process.
The New Testament speaks of this baptism in the Spirit in a number of different ways, some of the most common are to talk of this as a “down-payment”, a “first-fruits” or as a “seal”. There is indication here that all believers are given something now in order to guarantee something to come. I think this is exactly what Paul and the other apostolic writers meant when they referred to Spirit Baptism in this way. It was a way of giving the body something as a foretaste, but also as a mark of belonging and this is the second main significance of baptism.
B. BECOMING PART OF THE BODY OF CHRIST – Not only is Spirit Baptism an initiation into life as a believer it also marks you with a seal of ownership that you belong to the body of Christ. Some may ask when does a believer become part of the body and this makes it pretty clear.
For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body so it is with Christ. 13For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body— Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—andall were made to drink of one Spirit. (1 Cor. 12:12-13)
THE PURPOSE OF SPIRIT BAPTISM
We have talked about some of the significance of Spirit Baptism, but it must be stressed that Spirit Baptism is more than symbolic, it is more than simply a rite of passage. It has profound significance in the purpose it plays in disciple’s lives.
SALVATION – We have already talked briefly about baptism of the Spirit being a key part of salvation (which it is) but the more enquiring mind might ask “why is this the case?” I think a big part of the answer to this is found in the role that Jesus plays as baptizer in holy Spirit. The word holy here is used as an adjective rather than a noun (ie it describes the nature of God’s Spirit rather than it being his name). And this is actually one of the key roles of the holy Spirit. Once people have repented of their sins and confessed belief in Jesus, what is to stop them going back and committing any number of horrendous sins. This was a problem under the Old Covenant. Yet we are told that Jesus will “plunge” us into holy Spirit. That is an immersive experience, I often picture a sponge being plunged into a bucket of water. Then after we have been immersed in Holy Spirit, we are encouraged to go on being filled with the Spirit. One of the key purposes is that we too would become like God. We would become holy. This does mean purity, but it also means Christlikeness. This is the process of sanctification that the Spirit helps us with and as we are filled by the Spirit and walk in step with the spirit, we will develop the fruit of the Holy Spirit:
So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.17 For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.
19 The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit (Galatians 5:17-25)
SERVICE – In addition to helping believers become more Christlike in their nature/salvation, the Baptism of the Holy Spirit is also given so that the Body of Christ can operate like Christ in the “Gifts of the Holy Spirit” The most common list mentions nine gifts
4Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; 5and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; 6and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. 7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. 8For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, 9to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. 11All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills.(1 Cor. 12:4-11).
These gifts can be used outside of the Body of Christ, often to demonstrate the reality of the Kingdom of God, however their primary function is to build up the people of God.
WRONG THINKING ABOUT SPIRIT BAPTISM
There has been much wrong thinking about Spirit Baptism throughout the Church History. While the Church in the first century exploded under the power of the Holy Spirit, dead formalism soon crept in which stifled the life of the Spirit. This led to the first big wrong teaching concerning the Holy Spirit:
A. CESSATIONISM – This is a belief that the gifts and baptism of the Holy Spirit were limited to the first century church and do not exist today. It is fairly widespread among many in organized/reformed churches. Many who hold a Cessationist view assert that as the canon of scripture is now closed the “perfect has come” (1 Cor 13:10) and therefore tongues and gifts of the Spirit have passed away. There are a few answers to this. The Cessationist view is not biblical, the “perfect coming” is not referring to the close of the canon of scripture, but rather to the return of Jesus, it is usually and sadly based on experience or lack thereof. The historical record shows that the age of miracles continued well into the fourth century and it was only due to a few concerted efforts of church leadership that the number of those experiencing the baptism in the Holy Spirit declined. Even after this for the entirety of church history many believers have still experienced the baptism in the Spirit and seen the gifts of the Spirit in operation. There is therefore no real grounds for this position.
B. SECOND BLESSING? – The twentieth century has been named quite rightly by some the “century of the Holy Spirit”. During the 19th Century many holiness groups had been seeking a “second experience” of “entire sanctification”. This was essentially the Wesleyan ideal of perfectionism. It was from these holiness groups that on New Years Eve 1900 a baptism of the Holy Spirit was poured out in Topeka, Kansas. Speaking in “tongues” was seen as the “initial evidence” of the baptism. This “Pentecostal” revival spread a few years later to Azusa Street LA and from there all around the world. Pentecostalism has had the biggest denominational growth of any Christian bloc in the 20th Century. Traditional or Classical Pentecostalism has really asserted the Baptism of the Holy Spirit, this has largely been a good thing, however due to its roots in the holiness movement there are a few corrections that should be made. Spirit Baptism is seen as a “Second Blessing” separate from the New Birth. Some believers spend their whole life hoping for that “second blessing”, while Spirit Baptism is a separate part of regeneration, it is still a part of this birthing process and should not be separated. Secondly it is often true among Pentecostals that the Baptism of the Holy Spirit is an anointing ONLY for service. While it is an anointing for service, we should not minimize the other purposes and significance for Spirit Baptism.
HOW DO YOU KNOW IF YOU’VE BEEN BAPTISED?
A. THE EXPERIENCE – Every time Spirit Baptism is mentioned in the Bible, it is described as an “event”. Just like Water Baptism is an immersive event that you cannot ignore, the same is true of Spirit Baptism. You can “believe in faith” for Spirit Baptism, but the believing in faith is not the Baptism itself. You should experience something. Often Spirit Baptism is preceded by prayer and often (although not always) it is received through the “laying on of hands”.
B. THE EVIDENCE – Classical Pentecostalism always looks for the “Initial Evidence” of Spirit Baptism as speaking in “tongues”. This has become a contentious issue for many in the church who do not operate in the gift of tongues. A couple of things can be said in regard to this. Although the biblical record is not conclusive that speaking in tongues is THE initial evidence, it is true that MOST times we have evidence of the Spirit being poured out that the recipients often start praising God in other “languages”. The other point is that there is always evidence. It might not be in the form of tongues, but I believe there should be some external manifestation of this immersive experience.
Thanks to David Pawson for some of the structure of this teaching 🙂