WHAT IS THIS BAPTISM?
An article in three parts examining the Baptism in the Holy Spirit
A second truth concerning the baptism in the Holy Spirit was mentioned earlier, it is the fact that by the baptism an initiation takes place. It is of interest to note that in the days of the Lord, baptisms of various types were practised by other religions. These ‘baptisms’ were comprised of rites by which a person was initiated into the particular ‘mysteries’ associated with that religious group. Some of these baptisms were bloody and vile; they implied a ‘passing in’ to the realm and dimension of the spirit worshipped, and linked with this they ‘passed out’ from the former life and associations which they had espoused before. When these initiatory baptisms took place, the person being baptised was also promised knowledge, the secret knowledge that lay in the religion into which they were being brought. As an example of such baptisms, consider the awfulness of being placed in a pit dug in the earth, over which a grid is placed. Then a beast is slaughtered on the grid and the blood pours down upon the one beneath, and thus they are baptised into that particular cult! Praise God that we do not pass through such bloodthirsty things. The Baptism in the Holy Spirit is that means by which God initiates us into the Life of His Son. We pass into His Spirit and become those who ‘know all things’ even as He promised. It is that baptism into intimacy of fellowship with the Father and the Son through the Holy Spirit. Some would say that baptism in water is this initiatory rite in God’s church, but how can an act taking place in water accomplish such an initiation unless there be a true and real act of the Lord Jesus to baptise in the Holy Spirit at the selfsame moment? Doubtless were this to happen to an individual it would be the ideal Christian experience. Alas, in the majority of those responding to the Lord this ideal unity of water and Spirit baptism does not take place. Rather they are separated, sometimes by weeks, months or even years.
DIPPING TO DYE
Moving on further, we find three more meanings attached to the word to ’baptise’ in those days. Firstly, it was used in reference to the dyeing of a cloth. A garment was taken and dipped, immersed, and submerged in the liquid until the liquid impregnated the garment. So, we may say that to be baptised was not a vague sprinkling, it was a dipping right into the liquid. Submersion unto impregnation unto emergence in a new state was the object of the exercise. Taking this meaning and inferring spiritual truth from it, what can we do but wonder at the grace of the Lord when we consider His intention take human persons and immerse them into His own Spirit, to submerge them into Himself until there is a total impregnation of their personality with His own Being. In the act of dyeing a cloth, care was taken to ensure a thorough impregnation. The cloth was not casually flung into the dye. Rather, it was taken, soaked in the fluid dye until the colour was permeating all. Once this was accomplished, the cloth was lifted from the dye and its change was obvious to all! Here is the thorough work of God illustrated to us. The spirit of man is put right into the Spirit of God, and that which is in the Spirit of God gets thoroughly into the spirit of that man! Just consider this for a moment; impregnation! Complete absorption of that which is in God into man. Here is the grace of God reaching the sinful states of man, changing him utterly. This is the secret of holiness, here is the fundamental change of inward states. It is not merely something ‘made over to our account,’ but rather a tangible change of inward substance. It is God coming into man truly and man emerging into obvious likeness to the Lord Jesus Christ.
In Luke 11:38 we discover another meaning to the word ‘baptism.’ It refers to the act of washing. Before eating food a person was expected to dip their hands into water to be made clean so that they could share the food provided. Jesus did not comply with the expectations of those who looked on that day. Ritual cleansing had become a god to them. So, when a person ‘baptised’ their hands, they ‘cleansed’ them. This is vital to our subject. A baptism is a cleansing, so the Holy Spirit baptism involves an inward cleansing. This is not a ceremonial cleansing of the body, but an internal washing of the spirit by which the inner man is purified in reality. “Their hearts were purified by faith,” was the definition of that which took place in Cornelius’ household as far as Peter was concerned, and it took place in the baptism in the Holy Spirit (compare Acts 15:9 with Acts 11:16). Few in the churches seem to realise this wonderful aspect of the Spirit baptism nowadays. The baptism in the Holy Spirit and inward cleansing from sin are rarely preached as connected, nor is such a cleansing either sought of expected by those who receive their so-called baptism in the Holy Spirit. Yet, here is it, implicit in the use of the word and confirmed by scripture itself.
Now we come to the third use of the word ‘baptism’ used in those days. This time the connection is with ‘filling.’ When a small vessel was dipped into the fluid contained in a larger vessel and filled, this act was called ‘ baptism.’ I think this is a wonderful picture. We, the smaller vessel, taken by the Lord Jesus and immersed into God! We, filled with that which He is, that which is in Him! Personality placed into personality, Man put into God and filled with Him. Plato used the word ‘baptised’ in the context of being ‘overwhelmed with questions!’ He was ‘overwhelmed ‘(baptised) with questions! How we need to be ‘overwhelmed’ with God! This is the baptism in the Holy Spirit, those who have experienced it can testify that it was, at the time it occurred, an ‘overwhelming’ of the soul with God. There was a total self-forgetfulness, an immersing into God, and an infilling which caused the heart to bask in an inward sense of well-being, of acceptance with God, bringing peace and joy which overwhelmed the former sense of uncleanness, inadequacy, uselessness and rejection. For some, this sense of the blessedness diminished rapidly as they allowed reasonings to dominate again, doubts creep in and some degree of darkness to veil the Lord’s face. Be that as it may, it need not happen. Let all be certain though, that in the true Baptism in the Holy Spirit, this awareness of God Himself coming to gather up the small human vessel into Himself is felt and known implicitly, though maybe not in these terms.
So, let us summarise the meanings of this word ‘baptism.’ Firstly it is used of inauguration and initiation, When one is baptised in the Holy Spirit it is their inauguration into God’s family and also their initiation in to the mystery of the Life of Jesus the Head of the body. At that time they are immersed and submerged into the Spirit of God with a view to total impregnation so that they may emerge clearly in sight as those ‘shot through’ with the likeness of Christ. Simultaneously they are purified, made inwardly clean in heart. Then also at that time they are filled, brought to the vast Person of God and made to overflow with Him.
We ought not to pass on from our study of the word ‘baptise’ without noticing that it is a verb. This means that it is used in the active sense. It is something that is done. Now a person cannot baptise himself in the Holy Spirit. A man did baptise himself in water though. You can find the story in the Old Testament. The man was Naaman. He ‘baptised’ himself seven times! This is how it is put in the Greek translation of the Old Testament called the Septuagint. In our Bible we read in 2 Kings 5:14 that Naaman ‘dipped himself.’ He was thus made clean from his leprosy because he obeyed the word of the prophet. Isn’t it interesting the way that in this story baptism is linked with cleansing? Now, in the Holy Spirit baptism a man must actively participate, but not by baptising himself, rather by giving himself over unreservedly to the Baptiser, the Lord Jesus, who will then baptise him. A person thus acted upon by the Lord will know that it has been done, He will not need to persuade himself of it. He shall know.
Who is meant by ‘you?’ It is anyone at all? Are special qualifications implied? An examination of the context will cast light on this. As we know, John Baptist spoke of the Baptism in the Holy Spirit during much preaching. We discover that, “Jerusalem and all Judea and all the region round about went out to hear him” ( Matthew 3:5). This included Pharisees and Sadducees. I think we could say that he had a mixed audience! Could the promise of the Baptism in the Holy Spirit include all those gathering to hear the Baptist? In the Matthew account it becomes plain that the promise included Pharisees and Sadducees but only if they would fulfil certain requirements. John declares them to be a “generation of vipers.” He is stating both their parenthood and the particular likeness to the serpent they had manifested, they had poisonous tongues, among other things! Those who listened to John had to bring forth fruits which demonstrated their repentance. Proof was required to justify the belief that they were turning from their old ways. They had to cease from trusting in earthly blood lines as though blood links with Abraham made them acceptable to God. God was in process of laying the axe to the root of the trees grown up among human kind. Evil and good, religious and irreligious, all must come under the scrutiny of God and the judgement of His axe. Let none trust in that which now must come to judgment, rather let all repent and become obedient to God and fulfil all that He demands.
Examining the things said by John Baptist we come to realise that there is a great stringency in that which is required in the lives of those who would receive the baptism in the Holy Spirit. Repentance is more than a turning around. It is to do with a change of the inward attitudes of the mind, a cutting down of that which has grown up, a demolishing of hideaways which have been erected. It is not some casual switch which John preaches; but something deeply serious. John fixes the basis of this baptism as being not only an escape from wrath to come, but also the fulfilment of a great burden in the heart, namely , the desire to be able to bear fruit which is acceptable to God. It is vital that we note this fact. So often nowadays the baptism in the Spirit is being linked with ‘power.’ This is one of the reasons which it is good for us to examinee the first reference to the subject We find no suggestion in the text of the matter of ‘power.’ The whole section is bathed in the atmosphere of holiness. The desire for holiness of life is essential for acceptance with God, the bearing of fruit unto holiness, the heart which desires to “be like Jesus” is the heart He will receive. Three times in John’s ministry the subject of fruit is mentioned. Firstly, “fruit unto repentance,” not that which was like the morning dew which disappeared as soon as the sun was up (Hosea 13:3). Genuineness apparent is the truth in view, no charades based upon a temporary anxiety of heart or a desire to get a spiritual ‘zap.’ Then again, “every tree that does not bring forth good fruit shall be hewn down” (Matthew 3:10). Jesus, later in His ministry, spoke of a good and honest heart being the one which is the ground which will bear fruit unto Him Who sows in it. A repentant heart is one that is beginning to move back into the states of intrinsic worth. God made man intrinsically good and from that state he departed. The heart bearing fruits of repentance is coming back into line with its original states, allying itself with God’s original intention and departing from the travesty into which it has degenerated by the fall. Repentance before God is a heart becoming good ground.
Finally, fruit is mentioned a third time and described as wheat gathered into God’s garner. The sense of permanent arrival is suggested in this. Coming to the place where we belong. The life has arrived into God’s garner, it has come into the states for which it was originally made, states of holiness acceptable to God: “Be holy as I am holy.” Peter cites this in the context of fruitfulness (1 Peter 1:16 & 23).
The whole weight of the testimony of John Baptist’s ministry demands a statement to the effect that the “YOU” who shall be most certainly baptised in the Holy Spirit, by the Lord Jesus, will be those whose hearts have been turned away from the direction of continuing in sin and are in pursuit of God’s blessing unto holiness of life. All deceit has been rejected and the great desire is to both know and please God. It implies a hunger and thirst for God and the holy states that are acceptable to Him. The power mentioned later by Jesus in Acts 1:8 is the power to become holy and to maintain holiness in the Christian walk. It is the power to “BE” a human being whose life testifies to the reality of God and His Son, “you shall BE witnesses unto ME” (Acts 1:8)! The mighty power that is implicit in the Holy Spirit is God’s enablement to be holy both inwardly and outwardly in daily living.
If the above be truth and truly reflects the qualifications needed in those who would be baptised in the Holy Spirit by Jesus then it is sobering to consider what may be happening to those who seek the ‘baptism’ but not on true scriptural grounds. What spirit is it that moves upon them? Do they just receive some release of speaking with tongues which may or many not be from God? Are they recipients of some kind of emotional release that lasts a while and then fades leaving profound disappointment? These, and other questions could be posed in the present atmosphere of emotionally charged meetings in charismatic circles. But these are asked not to make categorical answers but to encourage a seriousness of approach to the matter that we might be brought unto God on right grounds. To ask them, ponder them and consider whether we are those who are hungering and thirsting after God Himself will do us all much good.
The next word of our study is a beautiful one, though one which seems to confuse the translators of the Bible. You notice that our section is entitled, “with/in.” “He shall baptise you with/in the Holy Spirit…” Well, which is it, ‘with’ or ‘in?’ You will agree that there is quite a difference between something being with you or in you? Of course, if something be with you, then it need not be in you. If something is ‘in’ you then it is most certainly ‘with’ you also. Therefore ‘in’ is better than ‘with’ as far as our subject is concerned. We must look into the original language to get some help as to the true meaning of our word. In the Greek language the word is ‘en,’ a preposition frequently found in the New Testament. Thomas Newberry was a great Christian scholar of the nineteenth century. He produced a Bible most helpful for those who wish to study the Scriptures closely. In it he placed a diagram which displays the usage of Greek prepositions. It comprises a cube with arrows which lead into it, or away from it, or resting upon or under it and so on. By this means he shows the meanings of various preparations. Where then to we find our little preposition ‘en’ as regards this cube? In the most secure place possible! Not alongside, i.e. ‘with,’ but right in the centre of the cube! He also makes this statement that the preposition ‘en’ means, “In, at the centre of and at rest.” Well, isn’t this good news indeed? The Lord Jesus baptises us ‘in,’ with a sense of being at rest within the Holy Spirit. This is a thorough work in’t it? Much better than the Spirit of God being ‘with’’ us. In John’s gospel Jesus makes this distinction clearly Himself. The apostles would be comforted when the Spirit comes, they shall know the presence of the Comforter ‘in’ them, not only ‘with’ them as had been their experience up to that time (John 14:17).
Let us be absolutely clear that the Spirit of God can only be ‘in’ us in the sense of which we are speaking when we are ourselves baptised by the Lord Jesus ‘in’ to the Holy Spirit. He puts us ‘in’ that we ourselves may enjoy His true indwelling presence. The Holy Spirit is a Person into Whom God the Son places us and in that act, we ourselves find that He Himself is in us. Perhaps in these days when so much is emphasised concerning the outward so called signs of the Spirit, it is very needful to lay stress upon this that is hidden in the heart, this is that point in time when we become sure that our life is hid with Christ in God. This is the secret of spiritual security. True safety in God.
ONE LITTLE WORD
Assuredly there is a wealth of meaning in one little word. Here is God’s will summed up in one of the smallest of words. He desires to baptise us into His Own Spirit. Not only so, but to put us there with a sense of belonging there, resting, not moving, but at the centre of things in God. In counselling many people over the years, it is noticeable how often the words ‘with’ and ‘in’ come up as descriptive of their sense of spiritual life. The testimony of many is that they know that God is WITH them. There is not doubt in their testimony, they know for certain. However, often these same people have grave doubts as to whether He is truly IN them. The abiding witness of His living presence in their hearts by the Holy Spirit is unknown by so many. Likewise they have no real sense of security in living in this world, no real knowledge that they are truly “in HIM.” These two go together, hand in glove. “You in Me and I in you,” (John 14:20), here is expressed the two blessed sides of what the Lord Jesus promised. There are many who tell themselves that Christ is within, the Bible says so and this and that text declares it and therefore it must be so. But what if they had no Bible? Surely we do not have to prop ourselves up with some mental self help though it be based in some beautiful texts of the Scripture? The witness should be ‘in’ a man or woman. This is basic. It should be known instinctively though the mind may not agree, yet the inward man registers that God is there, for His Spirit witnesses with the spirit of that person (Romans 8:16). The whole revelation of the New Testament hinges upon these little words. Perhaps it is an oversimplification to say that the Old Testament was God ‘with us’ and the New Testament is God ‘in us.” But we well on the way to basic understanding if we can see that fact. The baptism of the Holy Spirit is God bringing the spiritual personality of men and women into Himself to abide. Not to go out again, but to rest there in God as belonging in Him. A man will only truly know that He is ‘in Christ’ when he is baptised into Him in the Holy Spirit.