The Promised Baptism
For John baptised with water, but in a few days you will be baptised with the Holy Spirit.’ (Acts 1:5)
If any promise of Jesus has caused misunderstanding between fellow Christians, it is this one. For while it is clear that Jesus expected his followers to be baptized with (or ‘in’ or ‘by’) the Holy Spirit, Christians have had different understandings about what this means. For some, Spirit baptism is an aspect of what it means to become a Christian; for others, it is a distinct experience after becoming a Christian to empower us. Opposing positions have been taken up – sometimes acrimoniously - while the devil has been laughing as the church has been kept from one of the most powerful promises that Jesus ever made.
Of the seven references to being ‘baptized with the Holy Spirit’, six are in the Gospels, contrasting John the Baptist’s ministry (baptizing with water) with Jesus’ ministry (baptizing with the Spirit). The seventh (in 1 Corinthians 12) describes the unity of the experience of the Spirit of all believers. This suggests that ‘baptism with the Spirit’ is, at heart, an integral aspect of what it means to become a Christian, and that it is something each of us is meant to experience.
However, while this ‘Spirit baptism’ was expected as the norm, whenever there was a lack in understanding or experience, the apostles took immediate steps to rectify the situation, so that a ‘baptism’ – an immersing, a drenching, a soaking (for this is what the Greek word means) – was exactly what people experienced. Jesus doesn’t want us to just believe in baptism with the Spirit; he wants us to experience it! As Peter made clear, this promise wasn’t just for the early church, but ‘for you and your children and for all who are far off – for all whom the Lord our God will call’ (Acts 2:39)’. And since we are most certainly ‘far off’ – in time and distance – this certainly includes us.
If, for whatever reason, you feel you are lacking a true ‘baptism’ of the Holy Spirit, then the most obvious thing is to ask Jesus to fulfil his promise and to rectify that for you right away!
‘He will baptise you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.’ (Luke 3:16)
Copyright © 2017 Martin Manser and Mike Beaumont