MATTHEW 3:11: “I baptize you with water so that you will change the way you think and act. But the one who comes after me is more powerful than I. I am not worthy to remove his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” (GW)
OBSERVATION: Are there “three” baptisms? There are many who would object to even the premise of this question. Yet, John the Baptist, as well as the other Biblical writers seem to indicate that there are. There is a baptism into the Body of Christ that takes place when one puts their faith in Jesus Christ as their personal Savior and Lord, and is proclaimed through water baptism. There is the baptism of the Holy Spirit in power, that is signified by an imparted spiritual boldness, and the release of spiritual gifts, including the gift of speaking in other tongues. And, there is a baptism in fire that is signified by our purification, sanctification, and transformation into the image of Jesus Christ.
- (Note: There is also a baptism of “fire” for unbelievers that will take place at the Judgment. However for this reflection we will only be looking at that which pertains to believers.)
Some may turn to Ephesians as an objection to this premise that there is more than one baptism.
- “There is one body and one Spirit. In the same way you were called to share one hope. There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over everything, through everything, and in everything.” (Ephesians 4:4-6 GW)
Yet, throughout the Scriptures there are numerous examples of what we call trinitarian relationships. There is one God, eternally existent in three persons – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Man is one, but is a trinity of body, soul, and spirit. Marriage is called a unity, but is comprised of a trinity, the husband, the wife, and the Lord at the center. So why would we think it strange to think that there could be “three” baptisms?
If we acknowledge this premise, the question then is – am I a recipient of all three baptisms?
Have I changed the way I think and act by repenting of my sin and receiving Jesus Christ as my personal Savior and Lord, publicly declaring this through water baptism? This is the inner transformation which produces a new heart and a new capacity to serve God. We become children of God and the Holy Spirit comes to abide in our hearts. However, even though we have a new capacity, even though we are heaven bound, this does not mean we are living in the power of God. Note Jesus’ words to His disciples just before His ascension into heaven.
- “Once, while he was meeting with them, he ordered them not to leave Jerusalem but to wait there for what the Father had promised. Jesus said to them, “I’ve told you what the Father promises: John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit…But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes to you. Then you will be my witnesses to testify about me in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:4-5, 8 GW)
The disciples were believers. They had changed their way of thinking and acting. They had been baptized in water. Jesus had breathed on them and said – “Receive the Holy Spirit”. However, Jesus told them – you need more! You need the power of the Holy Spirit. In fact, Jesus knew that they would fail unless they received this power from on high. If this is true of the disciples, is it not true of us? So many believers stop at salvation. They are afraid of the gifts of the Spirit. They try to live out their Christian life with good intentions and their own strength. Yet, this wonderful outpouring, the Baptism of the Holy Spirit, is still available to all who will call upon the Lord!
- “Peter answered them, “All of you must turn to God and change the way you think and act, and each of you must be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins will be forgiven. Then you will receive the Holy Spirit as a gift. This promise belongs to you and to your children and to everyone who is far away. It belongs to everyone who worships the Lord our God.” (Acts 2:38-39 GW)
Finally, we all need to be baptized with “fire”, the fire of God’s holiness. I know so many believers who have been baptized in the Holy Spirit, have spoken in other tongues, have moved in some of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and have stopped right there. Receiving a spiritual gift is not the end, it is the beginning of the journey. We are called to become like Jesus Christ. We are on a continual journey of inner transformation. Without the fire of God’s holiness burning in our hearts, burning out the dross, transforming our character – we are just immature children with gifts of power that we try to use for our own benefit and amusement! Paul exhorted the Thessalonians believers,
- “Now then, brothers and sisters, because of the Lord Jesus we ask and encourage you to excel in living a God-pleasing life even more than you already do. Do this the way we taught you.” (1 Thessalonians 4:1 GW)
Lord, this year I want to walk in and under the full waters of Your baptisms. Thank you for saving me by grace through faith, and for allowing me to answer this call through water baptism. Thank you for baptizing me in Your Holy Spirit, and for the gifts and the power I need to daily live a victorious life in Jesus Christ. Now, release the fire of Your Holiness in my life anew so that I can become more like You! Burn away all that is dross and allow the light of Your Love to shine form in my life!
In Jesus Name