My question has to do with baptism, specifically, New Testament usage and how our understanding is affected by passages such as Acts 1:4-5 (Spirit baptism) and 1 Corinthians 12:13. Hoping not to be misunderstood, I must ask whether, as Christians, we do ourselves a disservice by baptizing new believers with water and then essentially washing our hands of them? I’ll be doing my own follow-up study of the NT word in its specific contexts. I’ve heard statements regarding baptism like, “There’s no water in Romans 6,” and, to be frank, my current understanding can leave me puzzled at passages such as Mark 10:38—which is perhaps outside the scope of the original question.
Awesome question! I have felt for years that we do new converts a great disservice when we don’t teach them the fullness that baptism represents.
It is significant that baptism is delineated as its own step in the Great Commission, positioned after salvation but before it says, “teaching them to observe all things.” Why is baptism given such a significant emphasis making it a separate entity before the remainder of discipleship? The answer lies in what baptism pictures, and therefore, what baptism teaches. Properly understood, baptism highlights the engine that energizes the rest of discipleship.
Water baptism pictures Spirit baptism. In the first chapter of the Gospel of Mark, John the Baptist emphasized that he baptized with water, but that there was one coming after him who would baptize with the Spirit. This inspired emphasis reveals that water baptism pictures Spirit baptism. In response to the convicted cry of lost souls at Pentecost, Peter instructed them, first, to repent; second, to be baptized based on the forgiveness of sins received through repentance; and then, third, to take the gift of the Spirit. The gift or provision of the Spirit (Spirit baptism) is contextually connected to water baptism, which is its picture.
Just as when a sponge is immersed into water and at the same time becomes inundated with the water, so likewise when someone is baptized into Christ by the Spirit, the believer is inundated with Christ as Christ places His Spirit into the believer. This reveals one baptism with two directions: into Christ (1 Cor. 12:13; Gal. 3:27; Rom. 6:3-4), and with the Spirit (Matt. 3:11; Mark 1:8; Luke 3:16; John 1:33; Acts 1:5; 11:16).
Passages that specify either a man as the agent performing baptism or physical water as the element into which one is baptized refer to water baptism. Passages that specify deity as either the one baptizing or the element being baptized into are references to Spirit baptism. It is the visible picture of the one that connects with the invisible, spiritual truth of the other.
The Epistles make clear that when you trust Christ, you are immediately baptized by the Spirit into Christ and by Christ with the Spirit (1 Cor. 12:12-13; Gal. 3:26-27). These are the facts! You in Christ and Christ in you! However, the function of these facts must be accessed by faith (Rom. 5:2; Heb. 11:6). When you claim by faith your position in Christ, above the enemy, to deal with the spiritual realm and access by faith the power of Christ in you to deal with the world and the flesh, it’s glorious. You experience Jesus! This is discipleship in earnest. Would not new converts be greatly benefited from knowing the provision they were given at salvation through Spirit baptism and the simple access of faith?
No wonder that in Acts 2:38, Peter encourages those who repent and are baptized to “receive [take] the gift of the Spirit.”
The last chapter in The Revived Life addresses in detail every passage on Spirit baptism. To order a copy of this book, click the link to visit the Revival Focus storefront.
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