WHAT IS THIS BAPTISM?
An article in three parts examining the true nature of the baptism in the Holy Spirit
THE HOLY SPIRIT
The Holy Spirit is God. The baptism promised is the one which brings man into God. Because there is power in God, then power must be included in the baptism. However, the emphasis of Scripture lies in persons and personality. Its it the living person of man being brought into God Himself, Who is Being in Three PERSONS. The thing God has in view is the blending of beings, of persons. Perhaps all too swiftly we make abstract that which God intends should be both personal and intimate. We would distance that which is fundamental union. So, we find the God’s plan is that God the Son should baptise us into God the Spirit. God the Son is the agent and God the Spirit the substance into which He brings us.
MAKE SURE IT IS HOLY
HOLY Spirit is that into which we come, not simply “Spirit.” So many speak of “baptism in the Spirit,” but this is not that which the Lord accomplishes, He baptises us in THE HOLY Spirit. There are many spirits, evil and angelic, just as there are many human spirits. As far as we know, all angelic spirits which are free to move about the spiritual world are benign. Scripture records the fact that there are other angelic spirits which changed their states, those in which they were created by God, they left their first estate and are incarcerated awaiting judgement. Evil spirits of various types exist and are at liberty within bounds to operate in the spiritual atmosphere of this earth. All spirits have characteristics. There are unclean evil spirits, uncleanness is their dominant characteristic. There are clairvoyant spirits, the searching out and disclosing of apparently secret knowledge is a characteristic trait of these. So we could go on, but what of the Holy Spirit? Firstly note clearly that all other spirits are created. God the Holy Spirit is God, and therefore He is the Uncreated Spirit. His uncreatedness is not the dominant characteristic in view in our text. It is the fact that He is the HOLY Spirit that is the point. In fact, in the original language the words are, “He shall baptise you in Spirit Holy.” There is no definite article and word “Spirit” precedes the word “Holy.” It is obvious that the dominant characteristic of this Spirit is holiness. He IS Spirit holy. When a human spirit (person) is placed in the Holy Spirit in this baptism, to that human being is imparted the dominant characteristic of the Holy Spirit and in addition other qualities that are in that Spirit. There is an impartation of holiness, a separating unto God of the spirit of that man and this will most be manifested in and through him in practical living. It is a baptism into holiness and nothing less than this is acceptable to GOd. This Spirit is the sanctifying Spirit, His activity in the heart and life of a man and woman is ever to gather their powers and personality into God and hold them there in fellowship with Father and Son.
DON’T GO OUT!
The Spirit of God is constantly active in the soul of man in sanctifying action, but cooperation on the part of man is vital. It is not all God: man has his responsive part to play. It is possible for a person to shift from the states of holiness into another spirit, back into the old way, but it is a process involving deliberate acts of turning from God. When Paul heard news of the goings on in the church at Corinth, and wrote to their condition, he knew that they had moved away from the grace of the Spirit of God into another spirit. He knew that the behaviour appearing in the saints there could not possibly be the manifestation of the Spirit Holy! It is impossible for the nature of the spirit under which a person is living to long remain hidden. What manner of spirit a man is of will soon be visible. It is possible for a person to rise up of himself and act in the power and demonstration of his own spirit, even if he has been truly baptised in the Holy Spirit. The subtle temptations the devil sent to a soul are geared to make him or her rise up and act independently in their own spirit, but we must learn to remain immersed in God. If a person begins to act in their own spirit, they are already coming under the influences of “another spirit,” if they persist in following that spirit and do not obey the promptings of the Holy Spirit Who would bring them back into repentance and into renewed fellowship with God, they will, in time, actually receive “another spirit” (2 Corinthians 11:1-4).
The state of being baptised in the Holy Spirit must be maintained. In a number of places in the New Testament where the word ‘baptise’ is mentioned, it is linked with another preposition, ‘eis’ in the Greek. This little word can be translated “into.” “By one Spirit are (were) we all baptised into (eis) one body,” (1 Corinthians 12:13). We ought to, with great seriousness, note the phrase following, “and have all been made to drink into One Spirit.” A single baptism in the Holy Spirit is the legitimate experience, but many draughts of all that is in that Spirit! We are put into Christ, into His body, into His life and it is anticipated that we will remain where we have been put! If, in these days, we were to testify concerning our spiritual life in scriptural terms, we would be on far clearer ground by speaking scripturally. For instance, if we were asked, “where do you live?” “In Christ,” should be the answer. Another asks, “Where is your past?” “In Christ,” comes the answer. “Your present? Your future?” The answer should remain the same. “How did you get into Christ?” “I was baptised into Him in the One Baptism in the Holy Spirit and I am learning to stay exactly where I have been put, in Him!” Now we are not advocating a trick of speech using scriptural phrases, but the testimony of a life which is maintaining itself in Christ by the Holy Spirit as is intended by God. It is not a matter of theoretical placement in Christ, but of genuine witness of an honest godly life that walks with God. Abiding in Him in the Holy Spirit is the basic secret of spiritual life and growth. To “go no more out,” should be the quiet, set and constant intention of our hearts.
We come now to the end of our text. Not only is this baptism in the Holy Spirit, but also in fire. God is bent on bringing mankind back into original states. Could it be that this fire is in fact God Himself? The Hebrews writer tells us that our God is a consuming fire (Hebrews 12:29). If, in our text, God Himself is intended by the word ‘fire’ then we can say that it is God the Son baptising us into God the Spirit and into God the Father, the Great Original Flame. This is far beyond our comprehension isn’t it? However there is no clear indication in the text that God is in fact meant by the “fire.”
But it is certain that we can link the thought of purification with the word “fire.” The first time in all scripture that fire is mentioned is concerning the judgement which fell upon Sodom and Gomorrah. Destruction unto purification was the object in view. The fires that fell that day purified the earth of terribly defiling influences destructive of human society. Homosexuality pervaded those two cities, sin of all kinds was common. Licentiousness abounded on every side, but the fire of God destroyed it all! Let us take careful instruction from this. The baptism in fire purifies a man’s soul from sin. It destroys the sin and purifies the soul from sins effects. Fire devours. A sign recently noticed in a wild life park in Australia read, “Areas of this park are regularly set on fire so that vermin and disease may be prevented from taking hold.” There is no doubt that the soul baptised in the Holy Spirit and fire knows something of real experiences, on a regular basis, whereby the purifying fire keep the heart pure, vermin and disease of spiritual kinds are thereby kept at bay.
The word “consuming” is linked with consummation. To consume means to “use up utterly.” I like that. We can think of it as devouring and destroying all that offends as previously mentioned, but we can also think of it in its positive form as being a soul baptised into the grace which uses him or her up for God. Surely this is that state in which a soul will come to true consummation? Being used up by God for God. A truly baptised person is one who continues to dwell in the consuming fire, constantly purified thereby and steadily consumed in loving service to God. The bush which Moses saw on the Mount of God is a parable of this. Constantly burning, used up and yet not destroyed. The Spirit baptised saints of God live on His holy mount, they are on Mount Sion and the bush is an apt picture of them indeed. Those who live in God upon His mount will be just like it, burning, alight, being used and yet not going out as being exhausted. God intends to use us up! He intends to consume us and as we are His, we shall be consummated for He is consummated in us.
SOME INSTRUCTIVE ABSENCES
We have now come to the end of our brief study in the text of scripture. Before we conclude though, we ought to note the fact that certain things are not stated in this first reference to the Baptism in the Holy Spirit. In the light of emphasis nowadays promoted concerning this baptism, these absences are instructive. Surely there is something wrong when things insisted upon as essential to the baptism in the Holy Spirit do not occur as mentioned in the first reference to the subject in scripture? How often the unessential becomes vital the peripheral becomes central. For instance, consider the fact that nowhere in this text is the subject of the gifts of the Spirit mentioned. Nowhere is the subject of power mentioned either. Then again where is the mention in the text of things promoted nowadays as evidences of the Spirit baptism? Things like, “warm feelings down the spine!” Tingling and shakings of various sorts. In some circles these are sought and preached up as essential elements of proof that the event has taken place. What shall we say to these things? The fact that they are not there in the text does not mean that they MAY NOT happen, but it certainly means that they to not HAVE TO happen!
ARE TONGUES ESSENTIAL?
First of all we note that there is no mention of this gift of speaking in tongues in the text, nor, in fact any other gift, but only of the Holy Spirit Himself as being given. Now, if the hermeneutical law of first mention be valid, and everything vital to a subject in scripture is included in its first reference, then ought not tongues to be there? We are told by numerous spiritual leaders that the gift of speaking in tongues is THE initial evidence of the baptism in the Holy Spirit, but if so, why is this not stated by John Baptist when introducing the subject? Nor, for that matter is it mentioned by anyone else in scripture, rather these leaders have inferred if from certain scriptures in the book of Acts. The fact that when certain people were baptised in the Holy Spirit, the gifts of the Spirit, including tongues were manifest in them does not set a precedent that should be developed into a law. The notion that such should become essential evidence that the experience has taken place is the assumption of man, not the teaching of God in His Scriptures. Let us come to grips with this fact and jettison ideas men call proven which God does not mention. Perhaps we should note too that all the gifts of the Spirit were already in operation prior to the baptism in the Holy Spirit, the gift of tongues excepted. In the Old Testament and in the gospel accounts, we can trace the use of the word of wisdom, of knowledge, discernment of spirits, miracles and healing, prophecy, indeed all were being operated from time to time. They cannot be proof then. However, let those seeking the baptism not despise these precious gifts, but expect that they shall be manifest in their lives as God shall please to give them and they themselves shall covet them. Nothing God has made available to us is useless, but for our good and to our equipping for spiritual usefulness. It is both arrogant and insulting to God to spurn that which He desires to give. Alas, many reject these gifts simply because they see misuse evident in the extremes of those who testify to their ‘baptism.’ Wrong emphasis by others should not shut our hearts to that which God delights to give. We should desire to receive all He has for us with gladness of heart.
WHAT ABOUT THE POWER?
The common idea put forward is that the baptism in the Holy Spirit is to impart power for service. Now, if this were legitimate the idea of power should be found in the first reference. It is not there. Let us see that the apostles of the Lord were empowered for their service prior to being baptised in the Holy Spirit. Jesus Himself both authorised them and enabled them to serve. After they had gone forth and served as His emissaries and when He was going to His Father in ascension, then, and only then, did He mention power as related to the Spirit baptism to come. Acts 1:8 is the relevant and famous scripture. Both historically and scripturally this is the second reference to our subject. The first reference emphasises holiness of life unto fruitfulness. First holiness and then the mention of power. If the apostles were already given power by the Lord for their ministry with Him on the earth, what was this power going to do for them of which He spoke before He ascended? What did they lack? The answer is simple, they had discovered that they lacked the ability (power) TO BE what He wanted them to be. The power He promised was not for service, but the ability to BE witnesses unto Him. Their beings were going to display Him! It was power which, working in them, would conform them to His image and likeness as they cooperated with it. For those apostles, this promise would have been most wonderful. They had receive power to move in gifts previously, it had not borne them through in the nitty gritty of life. Now they were to receive the power to live, the power to be in the likeness of their Lord and to continue His service. Now, for us there should be no need of division between these two ‘powers.’ When we receive the Baptism that Jesus gives it is power (1) to be and (2) to serve. Let us get the order right though. Power for life and secondly power for gifts to aid us in our ministry. Properly speaking, the one should rise from the other as a natural corollary of it.
TINGLINGS AND SHAKINGS?
In recent years in certain quarters a strange promotion has been taking place. Some would say that the things being promoted are foolish and even dangerous. Basically what is being set forth is the probability, and in some circles, the necessity of tingling and shaking to occur in the body of a person as a verification of the movings of the Holy Spirit. Described in bald terms like this it does seem a little peculiar. Apparently so many are looking for physical proof of the activities of God in their lives. “I received the Baptism in the Holy Spirit and I know because when I go to meetings where the Spirt of God is working, I feel tingles in my hands, or I shake bodily.” This is pretty typical of that which some folk seem to experience and base their belief upon. Others speak of being, “slain in the spirit.” It refers to them collapsing in a heap on the floor “under the power” when the Spirit of God is purported to have moved upon them, often initiated by the laying on of hands of a preacher whose meetings are geared to that end. Another notion is this, if God wants you to prophesy, then it is likely that you will feel pressure in the muscles around your mouth, this is the promting of God to make you speak! Yet another is the idea that, “if God wants you to lay hands on someone then you will feel heat in your hands and a tingling urging you to ‘transfer’ the power.” These are a sample of current ideas being promoted. They pose a serious question to searching hearts.
Following our thought concerning our text, if the phenomena being advocated mentioned above were basic to the baptism in the Holy Spirit and to life in the Spirit, then these things ought to be mentioned right at the beginning. They should be in the text we are considering. What a surprise then, to discover that they are not mentioned or even suggested! An examination of the New Testament will reveal that there is virtually no reference to such matters. This in itself does not mean that they may not occur, but certainly they should neither be sought, expected or promoted. Promotion of such, which directs attention to bodily and physical feelings will most certainly lead to the spurious. The devil is an expert at bringing about these sorts of things. Experience has shown the writer and many other ministers of God that such physical manifestations as shakings and tingling are often more likely to indicate the activity of psychic manifestations and masquerading evil spirits than the Spirit of God. Warm feelings up the spine may or may not occur, certainly he is a fool and in grave danger who validates his spiritual experience upon such shaky ground. Tingles down the arms may possibly be experienced, but hopefully our considerations here have helped us to see more clearly that the baptism in the Holy Spirit is something much more than physical feelings and sensations. It is that which is wrought by God in the inward personality of man. This may be accompanied by certain physical feelings, but it is the inward assurance that God has come and done His work within which is the fundament and basic witness. This is then confirmed by outward change of life, a deliverance from habits of sin and holiness in manner of living.
It is with purpose that this article has been limited to a close examination of the first reference to our subject in scripture. I hope it helps, at least a little, to rid our minds of some confusions. The test lies in the beginnings of things. That which shall become is that which was. God brings the life in the end to that which was from the beginning. Gifts shall pass away, but the immersion into God and His holiness shall not. Feelings may come and go, tingling may be present or not, but they were not there in the beginnings and neither shall they be there at the end. Everything shall be swallowed up in the perfection of spiritual life and knowledge in God. The seed contains the fruit and the seed is immersion into God. The fruit is a life submerged in Him, impregnated with HIm, manifesting Him. This is the true baptism in the Holy Spirit and anything less than this God never meant to be.