“On Your Mark”
Baptism, in Water and Spirit (Chapter 1 Verse 8)
The difference in the persons, John and the Lord Jesus, has been highlighted in v7, now the difference in their work v8. Yes, both baptize, but Jesus will crown his redemptive work by baptizing with the Holy Spirit. Now to suggest that there was nothing of the Spirit in John’s ministry is false, John was filled with the Spirit from birth (Luke 1.13-15), how else would the Word of God come to him (Luke 3.2)? John’s ministry of repentance was worked upon the people by the power of the Spirit, for no one believes but by the Spirit, nor do they turn from their sin without the gracious gift of repentance from the self-same Spirit (Luke 11.18). “Repentance unto life is an evangelical grace, the doctrine whereof is to be preached by every minister of the gospel, as well as that of faith in Christ” (Westminster Confession Chapter 15 Section 1). The Spirit baptism declared by John was concurred by the Saviour’s own teaching (John 16.7; Acts 1.5, 8). The same Jesus Christ tells the very religious Nicodemus that Spirit baptism is an imperative, for even understanding the Kingdom (John 3.3). The Pharisees, to whom Nicodemus belonged, refused John’s baptism. But Jesus tells him bluntly, you’re wrong, dead wrong, you need John’s baptism of repentance, and my Spirit baptism, both are essential, water and Spirit Nicodemus, just as John taught (John 3.5). Or there is no entrance to God’s Kingdom. Whatever our views may be on baptism, whether a little or a lot of water, you can be baptized in the Atlantic Ocean, but if you have not been baptized in the Holy Spirit you do not belong to Jesus Christ (Romans 8.9), you must be born again.
You see being a Christian is more than understanding certain truths of the Bible, more than religious emotion, or conviction, it is not simply the exercise of spiritual gifts (Matthew 7.21-23). It is not mere morality either (Luke 18.9-14). It is about a deep, radical change within the core of a person’s being, changing and renewing their hearts (2Corinthians 5.17). The Spirit of truth (John 16.13), he gives us a love for the truth (1John 4.4-6). That truth begins to mould and change our lives, we begin to think as God thinks, transforming our views (Romans 12.3), we now agree with what God says in his word and become more like his Son Jesus, the ultimate purpose of God for each of his children (Romans 8.29). Now how does that work you say? Well, as you prayerfully read your Bible each day, carefully, listening to what God says to you, applying it to your heart and life. Doing what he says (John 2.5). But that means discipline, straining toward the mark, sometimes we won’t feel like doing it, but we must. We go on in faith, faithfully, because God does bless faithfulness.
(© James R Hamilton, written September 1996)