Carefully Studying The Baptism Texts Of The New Testament (Eight)
It is written:
Matthew 3:11-I indeed baptize you with water unto 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.
Mark 1:8-I indeed baptized you with water, but He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”
Luke 3:16-John answered, saying to all, “I indeed baptize you with water; but One mightier than I is coming, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to loose. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.
John 1:33-I did not know Him, but He who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘Upon whom you see the Spirit descending, and remaining on Him, this is He who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’
Acts 1:4-5-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; 5 for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”
John the Baptist is the first one in the Bible to specifically reference Holy Spirit baptism in the New Testament.
Let’s begin by noticing the specific references here in the Gospels and Acts to what we learn from John the Baptist’s teachings on the subject.
First, Who (or what) is the Holy Spirit?
Many in the religious world teach that the Holy Spirit is some kind of impersonal force, an energy that God uses to supernaturally empower or guide a person. Others teach that God the Father became God the Son (Jesus), and that after He ascended into Heaven, Jesus became the Holy Spirit.
When we study the Scriptures, we quickly learn that the Holy Spirit is God, and that He is a separate Person from both God the Father and God the Son.
We learn that the Holy Spirit is a Person. Notice that He possesses all the characteristics of a Person:
• The Spirit Knows (1 Corinthians 2:11)
• The Spirit Speaks (Acts 8:29; 10:19-20; 11:12; 13:2; 1 Timothy 4:1)
• The Spirit Can Be Grieved (Ephesians 4:30)
• The Spirit Wills (1 Corinthians 12:11)
• The Spirit Loves (Romans 15:30)
• The Spirit Can Be Resisted (Acts 7:51)
• The Spirit Groans (Romans 8:26)
• The Spirit Testifies (John 15:26)
• The Spirit Guides (John 16:13)
• The Spirit Searches (1 Corinthians 2:10)
• The Spirit Leads (Acts 16:6-7)
• The Spirit Forbids (Acts 16:6-7)
• The Spirit Teaches (John 14:26)
Furthermore, Jesus specifically identifies the Holy Spirit and shows that He is not only God, but He is separate from God the Father and God the Son.
John 14:16-17-And I will pray the Father, and He will give you ANOTHER Helper, that He may abide with you forever—17 the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you.”
Please notice that word “another.” It is from a very interesting word in the Greek New Testament, allos.
Vine tells us about this word:
“allos (243), and heteros (2087) have a difference in meaning, which despite a tendency to be lost, is to be observed in numerous passages. Allos expresses a NUMERICAL DIFFERENCE and denotes “ANOTHER OF THE SAME SORT”; heteros expresses a qualitative difference and denotes “another of a different sort.” Christ promised to send “another Comforter” ( allos , “another like Himself,” not heteros ), John 14:16.” (W.E. Vine with F.F. Bruce, W.E. Vine’s New Testament Word Pictures: A Commentary Drawn From The Original Languages-Matthew To Acts-Every Verse Explained, 42525-42538 (Kindle Edition, emphasis added, M.T.); Nashville, TN; Thomas Nelson Publishers).
By using this word to describe the Holy Spirit, Jesus is teaching us two powerful lessons.
One, the Holy Spirit is of the same Nature as God and Jesus, I.e., He is God.
Two, the Holy Spirit is of the same Nature as God, but is a separate Person from God the Father and God the Son.
1 John 5:7-For there are three that bear witness in heaven: the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit; and these three are one.
So the baptism in the Holy Spirit would be an immersion in the Holy Spirit. Somehow, the Spirit of God would completely overflow some people.
Second, John here teaches us that the baptism of the Holy Spirit would be a promise that needed to be fulfilled. Please consider that Luke specifically has Jesus quoting John to the effect that the baptism of the Spirit is a promise that was going to be fulfilled.
Third, the text teaches us Who specifically baptizes people in the Holy Spirit: it is Jesus Himself Who does so. No mere human being has the authority to baptize a person in the Holy Spirit (although in a future lesson, we will see that the Apostles played an important role in the baptism of the Holy Spirit).
Fourth, we see that Holy Spirit baptism is linked somehow to the baptism of fire.
What exactly is this baptism of fire?
Many teach that the baptism in fire is a reference to Hell, since the adjoining passages (Matthew 3;12; Luke 3:17) connect this baptism to “unquenchable fire,” which the New Testament connects with Hell (Mark 9:43-49). There is undoubtedly a reference to Hell in these passages. However, even Hell was designed by God to be a place of purification (Matthew 25:46; Mark 9:49). This redemptive purpose of Hell has been lost on many in the Christian world of our time, sadly; and this has kept many from understanding that the baptism of fire can be connected to both Hell and still be seen as something productive.
With this in mind, there is another possibility to consider: the baptism of fire could have reference to the work of the Holy Spirit in purifying believers.
Cottrell has noted:
“Alfred Plummer, in his ICC commentary on Luke, states his preferred view: “More probably the [fire] refers to the illuminating, kindling, and purifying power of the grace given by the Messiah’s baptism…. The purifying of the believer rather than the punishment of the unbeliever seems to be intended.”2 I came to accept this view during the course of writing the book mentioned above….The strongest argument for this view is the grammatical construction of the phrase “in the Holy Spirit and fire.” Here there is only one preposition (Greek, en; English, “in”) governing the two objects, “thus most naturally indicating one baptism composed of two elements.”3 The rule of Greek grammar that applies here is that if one preposition has two objects, the objects are either the same or very closely related….“If indeed the one baptism applied by the Messiah is a “baptism in the Holy Spirit and fire,” then it is clear that the “fire” is the fire of purification and purging from sin, which is part of the very essence of the Spirit’s saving work of regeneration and continuing sanctification. Fire is not always a symbol of judgment and wrath. Malachi 3: 2-3 says, “For He is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap. He will sit as a smelter and purifier of silver, and He will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, so that they may present to the LORD offerings in righteousness.” In Zechariah 13: 9 God says, “I will bring the third part through the fire, refine them as silver is refined, and test them as gold is tested.” (See also Isaiah 4: 4; 6: 6-7; 1 Peter 1: 7.) We can also remember the purifying fire that will cleanse the universe of everything sinful and thus “regenerate and renew” it in the end times (2 Peter 3: 7-13; see Matthew 19: 28). In like manner, when the Holy Spirit regenerates the sinner, the “baptism in fire” purifies the soul by putting to death the old man of sin (Romans 6: 1-6) and making way for new life in the Spirit. The indwelling Spirit then continues to purify us by empowering us to put to death the sinful deeds of the body (Romans 8: 13).” (Jack Cottrell, One Baptism Into Christ (The Collected Writings of Jack Cottrell Book 5), 176-177 (Kindle Edition); Mason, OH; The Christian Restoration Association)
Cottrell references Malachi 3, which is illuminating in this regard. There, we are told a prophecy of John the Baptist who would prepare the way for the Messiah. Then we are told about how the Messiah will “purify” His people. Malachi specially mentions the “fire” of the Messiah (Malachi 3:2). He discusses how this work will be like that of one who is a “purifier of silver,” and one who uses a “refiner’s fire.” The Messiah will work cleanse people like “launderers’ soap.”
The baptism of the Spirit is connected to the baptism of fire, and seem to have reference to the purifying work of the Holy Spirit.
Much more will be said in our future studies regarding the baptism of the Holy Spirit.
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit, be with you all. Amen.