Happy Sunday! It’s another week that we are not together. I do believe that God is teaching us how much we need our church family! I hope you are also learning this and are already looking forward to when we can be back together face to face. Let’s worship together this morning with these familiar songs:
There are people in this world who will pass away this week; it may be from getting sick, it may be from age, it may be for any number of reasons. Certainly, it is on the minds of some more than others, but the awareness is growing. If this were my last week, I would hope that I’d done what I could to clarify the Gospel as best I could for the sake of others and that I’d know it well for myself. When it all comes down to it, very little matters if eternity is on the near horizon, but certainly being confident in our salvation in Christ would be of great concern. It’s been nearly a year now since my grandmother died, and she was the first person I’ve been bedside with who has been conscious and clear-headed as she lay in her death bed. Nearly less than twelve hours before she’d passed, she commented that she thought she’d be going back to “that prison cell without bars,” the nursing home. She had a good wit about her, but honestly she was one of the least Bible-educated people I’ve met (she visited church sometimes in her mid 80’s for practically the first time). My wife was able to pray with her, as were my parents later on, as she had concerns about eternity but knew so little of the truths of God’s word. Our hope is that she really did know Christ as her Savior before she passed. She said she hoped she’d “dance with Jesus” someday, and I don’t exactly know what that vision looked like to her, but I hope she did. Grasping salvation, for myself, has been a lifelong pursuit in clarification, not only for myself but for my loved ones and the various people whose paths God has put me in. It means everything for eternity.
In a previous devotion, it was mentioned about the difference between relational knowledge and observational knowledge. Relational knowledge is based upon experience and emotions and interaction, often far more impressing upon long-term memory than is observational memory. Once again, we can sum it up to some degree by saying that relational memory is to know whereas observational memory is to know about. John the Baptist begins this verse by saying that he does not know (observation) Christ; that is, He doesn’t recognize (NASB uses this word) who the Messiah is. God relayed to Him the way that the Christ would be identified: “Upon whom you see the Spirit descending, and remaining on Him, this is He who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.” In verse 32, John the Baptist says this: “I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and He remained upon Him.” The word given to John the Baptist was fulfilled as the Holy Spirit visibly rested upon Jesus.
Why did John the Baptist baptize in water to begin with? It tells us in John 1:31, “I did not know (recognize) Him; but that He should be revealed to Israel, therefore I came baptizing with water.” Prior verses will tell us that John the Baptist was preaching and preparing the way for the Messiah to come. One simple explanation for the baptism of John the Baptist was a baptism looking forward to the coming Messiah, but John the Baptist identifies it even more in 1:31. The word “that” in John 1:31 is a hina clause in Greek; it signifies purpose, result, or sometimes both. It’s actually quite a rich word because it gives us reasoning, and that comes somewhat through the deduction of the passage at hand as to how to interpret purpose or result. In this particular verse, we are speaking more to purpose, that John the Baptist’s purpose was to reveal the Messiah by God’s design through baptism, that person in particular being Jesus whom the Holy Spirit rested upon.
Notice that John 1:33 ends with this identifier regarding the Christ: “this is He who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.” In translation, baptism is not the best word to use when we see the Greek word baptizo (the word we translate “baptize”). The word is a transliteration and not simply a translation; it is taking the Greek to the letter and essentially making it English. Baptizo is the Greek word for immersion. It can mean to submerge or to immerse, and while we think of water typically when speaking of those words, we ought not limit it only to water. Symbolically, water baptism is identifying publicly that one has personally been immersed completely into life in Christ as a new child of God. The baptism of the Holy Spirit, which is with the Holy Spirit, indicates something different. Jesus promised the Holy Spirit in great detail in the Gospel of John (16:7-14):
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 depart, I will send Him to you. And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: of sin, because they do not believe in Me; of righteousness, because I go to My Father and you see Me no more; of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged. “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you.
When was the Spirit poured out upon the church? Acts 2 is where we would see that take place. John 7:39 says, “But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.” Shortly after His resurrection, and upon His ascension to Heaven in Acts 1, we find the Holy Spirit coming down at the day of Pentecost. Jesus had been glorified and the Spirit was now being given.
Clearly, there is division over how we are to read the word “baptism” and its relationship to salvation. Some may very well hold to a view of baptismal regeneration; that is, you are saved upon baptism, whether that be sprinkling, partial or complete immersion. The most referenced verse for that particular view of salvation would be Acts 2:38, “Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” At first glance with our understanding of baptism being water baptism, we might conclude that repentance is one step and water baptism the next in the process of having sin cancelled (remission), upon which the Holy Spirit is imparted to us. That is one way to read the passage, certainly. Nevertheless, were we to see repentance (literally “with the mind,” referring to turning away in mind, heart, moral direction) as the beginning point of life in Christ, we might see immersion not as one of water baptism but as the inclusion of a believer into the body of Christ through the work of the Holy Spirit. In Acts 1:4-5, we read:
And being assembled together with them, He commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the Promise of the Father, “which,” He said, “you have heard from Me; “for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” (Acts 1:4-5)
Make a distinction between the types of baptism: the water baptism of John the Baptist and the baptism of Jesus with the Holy Spirit. When Jesus spoke of the Spirit’s baptizing them, He was referring to the happenings found in Acts 2:1-4:
“When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.”
Clearly, there was a difference in baptisms, and what took place was a newfound immersion into the body of Christ through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. It is my personal belief on the issue of tongues (glossa, or languages), that this was for signifying the church age, as well as the inclusion of Gentiles, who would speak in tongues as well later on. More than anything, it validated the belief and inclusion of both Jews and Greeks in the very early New Testament believers. I will refrain from going further at this time with that “can of worms.” Now, going back to Acts 2:38, “repent…be baptized for the remission of sins…you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit,” compare with Acts 10:43-48 and note the way things are spoken (I’ll highlight some of the passage):
“To Him all the prophets witness that, through His name, whoever believes in Him will receive remission of sins.” While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who heard the word. And those of the circumcision who believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also. For they heard them speak with tongues and magnify God. Then Peter answered, “Can anyone forbid water, that these should not be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?”So he ordered that they be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked Peter to stay with them for a few days.
If Acts 2:38 is the prescription for belief today (repentance plus water baptism equals remission of sins), we have a problem in Acts 10:43-48. Peter didn’t mess up his logic in v. 43 when he said “whoever believes in Him will receive remission of sins.” He didn’t include water baptism in that prescription. Secondly, the Holy Spirit fell upon these people in v. 44 and in v. 45 they had already received the gift prior to v. 47, water baptism. They even spoke in tongues and acted like Christians prior to being baptized. Is there a distinction between the baptisms? Yes. Were they baptized with the Holy Spirit already when they were water baptized in this passage? Yes. Their sins were already cancelled before entering the water. This was the baptism John the Baptist spoke of in John 1:33: He (Christ) baptizes with the Holy Spirit. A person believes, in their belief they repent, they are remitted of sin and they are immediately sealed with the Spirit upon belief (which is itself a gift of God). Water baptism, therefore, is a public testament on the part of an individual in signifying that they are united with Christ in His death, burial and resurrection. There is no rite of passage to being made alive in Christ other than by placing our faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ; rest in this truth and let the Lord be magnified in your heart.
How do you know if you’ve been baptized with the Holy Spirit today? Look for the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23); look for continued conviction of sin and a desire to be pleasing to God, as well as being guided into truth and a desire to glorify Him (John 16:8-14). I encourage you as well to read through the book of Acts to see how people change in character as a result of being made alive in Christ.
Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. (Romans 6:4)
Let’s worship again with this beautiful reminder of God’s love for us.