Baptism in the Spirit

J. D. Howell, Leeds

Category: Exposition

Much loose thinking and talking prevails regarding this vitally important truth, and the question is frequently asked, Is there a second blessing? As in all leaching from the Scriptures, it is dangerous to take isolated passages; it is more profitable to go back to the beginning and to trace through the divinely inspired revelation of any important truth. It is therefore necessary to trace the history of baptism. This begins with the ministry of John the Baptist, whose mission was to be the forerunner of the One who was to come, very God and perfect Man. John was charged with going before to prepare the way for the Lord Jesus. We must note that he was sent to baptize in* water (not with water), this being one of the clear indications of the practice of complete immersion as opposed to sprinkling.
The Giver of the Spirit
John leaves us in no doubt as to the source of Spirit baptism. He said, 'Upon whomsoever thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and abiding upon him, the same is he that baptizeth in the Holy Spirit', John 1. 33 R.v. marg. Again, 'He shall baptize you in the Holy Spirit', Matt. 3. 11 r.v. marg. Not only did he see the Spirit of God descending in the form of a dove and hear the voice from heaven, but he bare record of the fact for our learning, identifying for all time Jesus the Son of God as the One who baptizes in the Holy Spirit.
The Promised Spirit
Let us never delude ourselves, as some would teach, that the Holy Spirit is only an influence. He is a Person, co-equal in the Godhead with the Father and the Son and now indwelling all true believers. The time of His manifestation on earth was governed since He could not be given until Jesus was glorified, John 7. 39. From this, it is evident that the Holy Spirit was not present in this sense until the completion of the work that the Father gave the Son. It is significant that when the Lord Jesus showed Himself to the apostles after His resurrection, He referred to John's ministry with the words, 'John indeed baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized in the Holy Ghost not many days hence', Acts 1. 5 R.v. marg. Not many days after the Lord had spoken these words, about one hundred and twenty souls were all in one place, and 'there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house . . . and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost'. Pentecost had come.
It is impossible to express adequately what had taken place, but the tokens of the presence of the Holy Spirit were there for all to see. Jesus, no longer the despised Nazarene but the risen Lord now glorified, had poured out His Spirit and the whole company had been baptized or immersed in the Holy Spirit. This was the literal fulfilment of John's testimony.
The Universal Spirit
We should be quite clear that this baptism has nothing directly to do with baptism by water. They are in no way related excepting that true believers obeying after conversion the Lord's command are already indwelt by the Spirit.
The scene now changes from Jerusalem to Caesarea, Acts 10. Following the remarkable revelation given to Cornelius, Peter had been brought from Joppa. Now Peter was a poor Galilean, a fisherman despised by men of learning, yet here in a Roman villa was a group of Romans assembled to hear of a crucified Jew. No doubt they knew of the things that had happened in Jerusalem, but here was something different. Never before had they known that a crucified Man had risen and shown Himself after His resurrection to individuals and companies of people. They wanted to know more; the work of grace had begun.
Even before Peter had finished addressing that gathering, 'the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word'. The tokens in Ceasarea were identical with those that had followed the baptism in the Spirit in Jerusalem. Peter's companions recognized them as due to the same cause that had been manifested at Pentecost; Peter could not fail to remember the Lord's words, Acts 1. 5; 11, 16. He was convinced that God had given to the Gentiles the same gift poured out on the Jewish believers earlier. On that day, Gentiles were baptized in the Spirit as Jews in Jerusalem and elsewhere had previously experienced.
The difference between the two baptisms is now apparent. Those who had so obviously received the Spirit were commanded to be baptized in water. All these events clarify 1 Corin-thians 12. 13.
Peter was the apostle to the Jews, but God had chosen another vessel to carry the message to the Gentiles. Saul of Tarsus was a violent persecutor of the Church, but yet a 'chosen vessel'. After the visit of Ananias, his blinded eyes were opened, and he also was filled with the Holy Spirit and arose and was baptized in water. Some twenty years elapsed before he wrote his first letter to the Corinthian church in which were laid down the principles of the one body: 'For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of the body, being many, are one body; so also is Christ. For in one Spirit were we all baptized into one body, . . . and were all made to drink of one Spirit', 12. 12,13 R.v.
Baptism as taught in the New Testament is always in some element, in water, Spirit, and so on. Alford expresses it as bringing one into some new relationship with God. The baptism in the Spirit brings into one Body, a relationship to God which is eternal and fundamental. This baptism is not by the Spirit, it is in the Spirit. Thus we see that the new relationship with God - membership of that body which is Christ - is brought about by the medium of the Holy Spirit. That every believer is a member of that body and sealed by the Holy Spirit at the moment of conversion is evident from Ephesians 1. 13 R.v.: 'In whom (that is, Christ) ye also, having heard the word of the truth, the gospel of your salvation, - in whom, also having believed, ye were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise'. Note the order: they heard, believed and were sealed. The Revised Version helps us here, for the words 'after that ye believed', A.v., have been seized upon as a pretext for assuming that a period elapses between conversion and the sealing of the Holy Spirit, and that at the conclusion of this period a second experience takes place known by the invented term 'the second blessing'. Whilst we may grieve the Spirit it can never be said, however wayward we may be, that He leaves us for one minute. His abode is permanent and the evidence of His indwelling should be manifest for all to see.
How then can we reconcile the 'sealing' of Ephesians 1. 13 with the 'drinking' of the Spirit in 1 Corinthians 12. 13? May I suggest that these are but different aspects of the same work; the sealing is heavenly and therefore eternal, but the drinking is earthly, connected with what we do here below. The Ephesian believers had also been baptized in the Spirit, and had become members of the one body, Eph. 3. 6; 4. 4, 5.
The heavenly baptism in the Spirit is not to be confused with earthly baptism in water, but the Spirit-indwelt believer must not disobey the Lord's command and thus grieve that same Spirit. Such an one, noting the precise and definite instructions on believer's baptism and the practice of the apostles and the early church, obediently fulfils the command of Him who is the Head of the Church and thus he publicly acknowledges that 'Christ liveth in me'.

* Readers should note the preferred translation in and not with. The same applies to all similar passages, namely Matt. 3. 11; Mark I. 8; Luke 3. 16; John 1. 26, 31, 33; Acts 1. 5; 11, 16; 1 Cor. 12. 13. The word in occurs in the Revised Version alternative margin, and in Newberry's corrective margin, although J. N. D. uses with in all cases with no alternative. To avoid confusion in readers' minds, it should be pointed out that the Greek word en usually means in positionally, but sometimes implies an agent, with; hence the variations occurring in different translations. The word en occurs in the four Gospels some one thousand times, and the interested reader may glance down the entries in Wigram's concordance to note that it is only used in the sense of with (agent) a very small number of times; see, for example, Luke 22. 49, 'with the sword', where the context demands the translation with. But as far as baptism 'in water' is concerned, the immediate context of Mark 1 shows clearly the thought of position, namely 'did baptize in the wilderness', v. 4, 'baptized in the river of Jordan', v. 5, and hence 'baptized in water'. The common translation 'with water' obviously originates from the traditional stress on the agent used in sprinkling, and this translation is then carried over to the subject of Spirit baptism. The only occurrence of water as the agent used is in Acts 1. 5 and 11. 16, where the word en does not occur, but merely water in the dative case implying an agent. Even in these verses, 'baptism in the Holy Spirit' is implied by the use of the word en, J. H.

There are 6 articles in
ISSUE (1963, Volume 14 Issue 6)

Baptism in the Spirit

The Arabic Bible

Indelible Impressions

James

John - Disciple, Apostle, Elder

Mount Moriah

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There are 3 articles by this author

Separation From

Separation To

Baptism in the Spirit