Monthly Archives: February 2014

Baptism For Life, part 4

To briefly recap the last three posts on Baptism For Life (read previous post) we began in Matt. 3:11 with a clear distinction being made between two types of baptism – one physical, and the other spiritual. We established the fact that where a baptism is taking place, there is also a baptist performing it. John said that he “baptized with water unto repentance,” and he did, but he also said, “there is one who comes after me who is mightier than I” with a higher (spiritual) form of baptism – “with the Holy Spirit, and with fire.”

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The two members of the Godhead set forth an example for us, using the baptism of Jesus Christ to show us exactly what was taking place in the spiritual realm after we had fulfilled our obligations in the physical realm. We saw that after the physical baptist, John, had immersed Jesus Christ in water and brought Him back up his involvement in this process was over, and he became a spectator to the work of a greater Baptist. Christ’s spiritual Baptist took over at this point. The Holy Spirit descended from heaven in the form of a dove, then a voice came from heaven, saying, “This is My beloved Son in whom I am well-pleased.” And that ends chapter 3, as well as Christ’s baptism … right?

An Ongoing Baptism

It’s all good up to this point … we all want the power of the Holy Spirit, and we all want to be God’s sons, and we all want God to be well-pleased with us. But let’s not forget that the chapter breaks were added by man, not God, and that John said the greater Baptist would baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire. So it should be natural for us to assume that there would be more to follow, but our human minds want to believe that it’s all going to be easy and good. We get the power of God, and God is “well-pleased” with us. But if we’re honest with ourselves, there has to be more to it than that. So Christ begins His trial by fire, or His baptism of fire, in Chapter 4 with fasting to prepare for a direct battle with Satan.

In Luke 12:50 Christ said, “I have a baptism to BE baptized with” … and He was greatly stressed, seized, mentally and emotionally tormented by this ongoing baptism. And this was quite a while after His Physical baptism by John in Luke 3:21. Looking at the context of Christ’s statement about His own “baptism with fire,” it’s pretty evident that the “fire” kindled here was the fire of persecution … a fiery trial whose purpose was to refine the Body of Christ, purge away the dross, and burn the chaff.

 “I came to send fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! But I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how distressed I am till it is accomplished! Do you suppose that I came to give peace on earth? I tell you, not at all, but rather division. For from now on five in one house will be divided: three against two, and two against three. Father will be divided against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.” (Luke 12:49-53)

Many of us have experienced that with our own families and friends. It can be a mild form of persecution like being ignored … but it can also escalate, until you’re ostracized, disenfranchised, or actively persecuted even unto death. We all want to be liked, and accepted instead of being made to feel “different.” For some personality types, that can be the kiss of death.

Counting The Cost

Let’s go back to Matthew 3. Immediately after John says, “He will baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire” in verse 11, he adds, “His winnowing fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly purge His threshing floor, and gather His wheat into the barn, but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire” (Matt. 3:12).

If you really think about this verse, it speaks of baptism as more of a long-term process than just a one-time immersion in water. This Baptist (Jesus Christ) is going to be actively “winnowing,” “purging” or separating, and “gathering” His wheat during this “baptism with the Holy Spirit and fire.” So there is a work that is being done on those being “baptized” that utilizes both the Holy Spirit, and “fire” to complete the harvest of His wheat.

Let’s take a look at the famous “counting the cost” verses in Luke 14. It almost sounds like Christ is trying to discourage people from becoming disciples, but He’s just being up front, honest, and open with them about the life of a Christian.

Now great multitudes went with Him. And He turned and said to them, “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple. And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it— lest, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish’? Or what king, going to make war against another king, does not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? Or else, while the other is still a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks conditions of peace. So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple. (Luke 14:26-33)

The bottom line is that if you want to be Christ’s disciple, it’s going to cost you. It could very well cost you everything you have. In effect, He was telling them that their lives were going to be a fiery trial with benefits, or to apply it to this article “a baptism with the Holy Spirit and fire.”

Baptism For Life series:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 5

Part 6

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Baptism For Life, part 3

This is the third post in the Baptism For Life series. Read part one and part two here.

When Jesus Christ was baptized, He submitted Himself to the very same physical ordinance as we must. But let’s take a closer look at what really happened here. Christ allowed John to immerse Him under water only “to fulfill all righteousness” (Matt. 3:13-15) He didn’t need a baptism “with water unto repentance” because He didn’t have anything to repent of, but He did allow John to perform a physical water baptism for Him as an example to lead the way for us.

In Hebrews 12:2, Jesus is called the Author of our faith. The Greek word is archegos (G747), the beginner, originator, and leader of faith. He went before us to set the example, to show us how to begin, and what to do to attain life. This word is also used in Acts 3:15 to describe Him as “the Prince of life,” and in Hebrews 2:10 when He is called, “the Captain of their salvation.”

Hebrews 12:2 also says He is the “Finisher,” from the Greek teleiotes (G5051), which means, a completer, perfecter, one who brings something through to the goal so as to win and receive the prize. He is the one who begins our faith – and He is with us all the way to its completion. He is God’s “one sent,” the shepherd and guardian of our souls. Not a human being that is just baptizing another convert for a human church corporation. When this shepherd, and baptist  says, “I am with you always…” He means it. All the way to the end.

Another fundamental concept that we always need to keep in mind is that everything Christ did was an example for us to follow (1 Pet. 2:21), and that both Christ and the Father were doing some role-playing throughout the human life of Christ. He was the Lamb of God, and looked to His Father as the Shepherd and Guardian of His soul – just as we are Christ’s sheep, and should look to Him as our Shepherd and Guardian.

Christ’s Water Baptism

Going back to Matthew 3, notice that immersing Jesus in water is the end of John’s involvement in this process. John, the (physical) baptizer becomes a mere spectator at this point. The Father took it from there and completed the baptismal ceremony.

Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan to be baptized by him. And John tried to prevent Him, saying, “I need to be baptized by You, and are You coming to me?”

But Jesus answered and said to him, “Permit it to be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he allowed Him.

When He had been baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting upon Him. And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” (Matt. 3:13-17)

lambWe have long taught, and rightly so I believe, that Christ had the Holy Spirit from birth (John 3:34-35). If that is the case, why did the Father baptize Christ with the Holy Spirit in a very visible, audible way in Matthew 3? One reason was to show John via an undeniable miracle Who was going to “baptize with the holy spirit” in the New Testament church.

 The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! This is He of whom I said, ‘After me comes a Man who is preferred before me, for He was before me.’ did not know Him; but that He should be revealed to Israel, therefore I came baptizing with water.”

And John bore witness, saying, “I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and He remained upon Him. I did not know Him, but He who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘Upon whom you see the Spirit descending, and remaining on Him, this is He who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ And I have seen and testified that this is the Son of God.” (John 1:29-34)

Heavens Opened

Let’s return to Matthew 3:16, where “the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting upon Him.” When we enter into this covenant relationship with Christ, wondrous things open up to us spiritually as well. We are given access to God and Jesus Christ, and have the opportunity to become “one flesh” mentally, emotionally, and spiritually, by a betrothal in baptism (Heb. 12:22-29).

Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:16)

In Ephesians 1:6, it says that we are accepted in the Beloved, becoming part of Christ’s body when we experience the baptism of the spirit. For us, this is performed by the One who John said would baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire. Several times while on the earth, Jesus Christ promised that the Holy Spirit would be given to His followers (Luke 24:49, John 7:39, John 14:26).

In Peter’s sermon recorded in Acts 2, he says that Jesus, who is now “exalted to the right hand of God,” “received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit” so that He could pour it out on His people, baptizing them with the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:33). It is by this baptism of the spirit that we become a part of His body (Eph 1:22-23).

For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free—and have all been made to drink into one Spirit. (1 Cor. 12:12-13)

Right after the Holy Spirit appeared as a dove, the Father announced Christ as “My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased ” (Matt. 3:17). This prefigures the time when God will reveal more sons and daughters (Rom. 8:19-21).

For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit itself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together. (Rom. 8:14-17).

Christ’s Life-long Baptism

Once the Father gave Christ the Holy Spirit from heaven and presented Him to the world as “My beloved Son, ” was that the end of Christ’s baptism? If we were right in assuming that baptism is a one-time process, the answer would be yes. However, that is not what the scriptures say.

In Luke 12:49-50, Christ says, “ “I came to send fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! But I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how distressed I am till it is accomplished!” He speaks here of His baptism as something yet to be fully accomplished. It was still in process, and unfinished at this time, even though Luke records His baptism in water back in chapter 3. The word “distressed” is from the Greek word sunecho (G4912). It means, according to Zodhiates, “to be in constraint, distressed, perplexed … to be seized, affected, afflicted.” He was tormented mentally and emotionally by the thought of going through what remained of His baptism.

Based on this statement, it seems to me that Christ’s baptism of fire began just after His baptism with the Spirit in Matthew 4:1, when “Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.) This also appears to be a part of His spiritual baptism, and not only with fire, but with the help of the Holy Spirit in the midst of fire. It lasted throughout His life, included His death on the cross (Luke 22:42-44), and was completed at the moment he uttered his final words in John 19:30, “It is finished!” At that point, His baptism was fully accomplished (John 19:28).

Let’s not forget one aspect of this that is really, really important. If Christ was in this process of being baptized throughout His life until it was fully accomplished, then His baptist was right there the entire time doing His job as well. John 16:32 is just one of many scriptures where Christ said “I am not alone, because the Father is with Me.” God was fully involved in Christ’s life as an example to show us how Christ will be involved in our lives and ongoing baptisms.

In Matthew 20:23, Jesus tells James and John, “You will indeed drink My cup, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with.” Since we are all to follow in His footsteps, it makes sense that we will all be baptized in a similar way.

Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. (Rom. 6:3-4)

There will be more posts about this life-long process of baptism, but I hope in this three-part series we’ve laid a foundation for this concept. Baptism is a life-long experience – one that is based on the daily, interactive, hands-on presence of the One who baptizes with the Holy Spirit and with fire. And there is a very delicate balance that this skilled baptist achieves through the use of the baptism of fire to bring about a greater baptism of the Holy Spirit.

Baptism For Life series:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 4

Part 5

Part 6

Baptism For Life, part 2

This second post continues the discussion of baptism as a life long process (read part one here). As we consider the type of baptism that Christ performs in our lives, let’s contrast it with the baptism of John. In Acts, when Paul first arrives in Ephesus, the phrase “John’s baptism” is used.

And it happened, while Apollos was at Corinth, that Paul, having passed through the upper regions, came to Ephesus. And finding some disciples he said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?”

So they said to him, “We have not so much as heard whether there is a Holy Spirit.”

And he said to them, “Into what then were you baptized?”

So they said, “Into John’s baptism.”

Then Paul said, “John indeed baptized with a baptism of repentance, saying to the people that they should believe on Him who would come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus.” When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke with tongues and prophesied. (Acts 19:1-6)

Christ also spoke of “the baptism of john” in Matt. 21:25, Mark 11:30, and Luke 20:4, asking the chief priests, scribes, and elders whether it was from heaven or of men.

Giving of the Holy Spirit

When we think of the Holy Spirit in relation to baptism, our thinking default is, “you have to be baptized before you can receive the Holy Spirit.” In most cases, that is correct, but not in every case. In Acts 10, we have one of the exceptions I spoke of in part 1. God does things at times His own way, for His own reasons.

 While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who heard the word. And those of the circumcision who believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also. For they heard them speak with tongues and magnify God.

Then Peter answered, “Can anyone forbid water, that these should not be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. Then they asked him to stay a few days. (Acts 10:45-48)

Peter had to defend this action to some of “the apostles and brethren that were in Judaea” after they “heard that the Gentiles had also received the word of God” (Acts 11:1). He said in Acts 11:16-17:

 Then I remembered the word of the Lord, how He said, ‘John indeed baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ If therefore God gave them the same gift as He gave us when we believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could withstand God?”

The Lord Looks On The Heart

It might be worthwhile to look at 1 Samuel 16, and read a very familiar story just to remind us that God does God’s will. He does not bow to man’s will. Here we see Samuel – a man that we could safely assume was one of God’s greatest servants on earth at the time, but Samuel had a little problem in the way he looked upon men. When the first of Jesse’s sons came before him, Samuel “looked at Eliab and said, ‘Surely the Lord’s anointed is before Him!’” (16:6). If Samuel were a minister in the church today, the impressive, good looking Eliab would have been on the fast-track to baptism just based on his impressive physical appearance .

 But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him. For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (1 Sam. 16:7).

This idea is related to another assumption we make about baptism. We often think that Christ baptizes with the Holy Spirit immediately after water baptism, but that is not always the case either. Though human beings can make a mistake and baptize someone in water whose heart is not right before God, Jesus Christ makes no such mistakes with His baptism.

In Acts 8, “a certain man called Simon, who previously practiced sorcery” is baptized along with several other people (8:9, 13). A little later, it becomes apparent that none of them received the Holy Spirit at baptism – and the greater baptist chose not to give the gift to Simon at all (8:16-19). It was merciful to withold the gift of the Holy Spirit from Simon at that time. But the rest, the apostles were moved to lay hands upon “and they received the Holy Spirit.”

The Lord is gracious and full of compassion, Slow to anger and great in mercy. The Lord is good to all, And His tender mercies are over all His works. baptismforlife.wordpress.comThis has been a great comfort to me over the past 18 years, because so many of our brethren who fell away back in ’95 may have never been given the gift in the first place. The greater baptist may have seen something in the heart, and said … “not yet.” If the great God chooses to withhold the indwelling presence of “the gift” from any of us until He is sure the heart is right, whether it be a week, a month, a year, ten years, or 20, or 30 – we would do well to keep Psalm 145:9 in mind: “The Lord is good to all, and His tender mercies are over all His works.”

And I’ll just make a personal admission here. I really do believe God’s Holy Spirit was with me from before the day of my baptism – but I’m not sure that I was actually “converted” and “indwelled” by “the gift” until after I had been through a few church splits, and some betrayals from ministers and brethren – close friends – that should have made any sane man just walk away from “church.” I just came to a point where the only thing that could have kept me “in church” was the two members of the Godhead – and that’s when the word of God began to really make sense, and a deeper level of understanding began to come. The only Ones who can see into the heart and really know why we are here are those two.

Baptism is a life-long process that, for most of us, begins when we are baptized in water and then Jesus Christ gives us the Holy Spirit. Because that is the pattern we are supposed to follow, that is what Jesus did when He was living on the earth as a human being. In part 3, we will follow the Hebrews 3:1 instruction to “consider the Apostle and High Priest of our confession, Christ Jesus,” by examining His baptism.

Baptism For Life series:

Part 1

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Part 6

Baptism For Life, part 1

By way of introduction for myself and the title of this blog, I wanted to begin with a series of posts titled “Baptism For Life”, based on a series of 3 full-length (60-70 min.) sermons by the same name.   The basic idea is that baptism is a life-long process, not a one-time dunking in the water. Before we go on to some deeper things, though, there’s groundwork that must be laid, especially for those who haven’t heard this concept before.

 Therefore, leaving the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ, let us go on to perfection, not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, of the doctrine of baptisms, of laying on of hands, of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment. (Heb. 6:1-2)

Notice in verse 2, it says baptisms – plural. This is speaking of the basic doctrines of the church – foundational things for us to build our fund of knowledge on. I’d like to ask this question: How much do we really know about the doctrine of baptisms, plural? Do we think we know it all? How solid is our foundation in the faith regarding our understanding of the role of God’s baptisms in our lives?

On To Perfection

Paul says we should go on to perfection, not laying again the foundation, but what if we find ourselves years after baptism, trying to move toward perfection and we discover some big cracks in our foundation? We aren’t after all … skyscrapers with load-bearing walls. We’re human beings with a mental, intellectual, and emotional fund of knowledge as our foundation, and we are counseled by God’s word to grow in knowledge and grace

 But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages for our glory, which none of the rulers of this age knew; for had they known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.

But as it is written: “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.” But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. (1 Cor. 2:7-10)

The action, the activity of the spirit within us is (or should be) this way. Reaching out, searching, re-searching, and re-re-searching to find the deep things of God, to enhance knowledge and understanding, to grow towards perfection. My kids are all sci-fi geeks, and there’s a statement in The Matrix that comes to mind: “Do you care to see … how deep the rabbit hole goes”.

How deep are the deep things of God in Relation to Baptism?

This is the kind of question that no man with a mind that is humble before God can answer, but we can learn more as we grow. We often think of ‘baptism’ as a single event that we submit ourselves to, where we are immersed in water by a minister, and have his hands laid on us, so we can receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. We’ve always viewed it as being a very important, if not the most important single event of our lives – March 1, 1980, for me. But is that all there is to baptism? Because the only things we really looked at regarding baptism were the ways that the Bible differs from the common practices of the religions we see in this world who sprinkle instead of immerse, who practice infant baptism, and who are baptized for the dead.

In Matthew 3:11, John the Baptist said, “I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance.” John’s baptism was a physical baptism, by immersion in water. It is a physical act intended to communicate to God our desire to be granted repentance at His hand, our willingness to change, to place our lives under His power and authority, and to request the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit to help us to finish our course in the flesh and become a part of His family. It is also a request for betrothal to His son, an expression of love, the desire to be married to Him, to become “one flesh,” a member of His body, the church. And last, but not least, it is a request to God for a greater and weightier baptism to be performed for us in the spiritual realm by a spiritual being.

In this verse, John is pointing out the inferiority of his baptism to another another type of baptism, performed by a greater Baptist, that would follow. Look at what John says about the One who was to come after him as verse 11 continues: “He who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”

Just to clarify matters, it appears from John 4:1-2 that Jesus Christ Himself did not baptize anyone in water (though His disciples did, under His guidance). In Matthew 3:11, John is very plainly speaking of another kind of baptism – one performed by another Baptist “with the Holy Spirit and fire.” There is a greater baptism that takes place on a spiritual plane, and that begins (for most of us – we’ll look at some exceptions to this later) after we are baptized in water.

We know that our physical baptism is symbolic of a deeper cleansing from sin and moral filth. “But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Cor. 6:11). The word “washed” is translated from a form of the Greek word apolouo (G628). Spiros Zodhiates contrasts this phrase with ‘you were baptized’, which refers to an outward cleansing, where apolouo refers to an inner cleansing of the heart. The word ‘sanctified’ (G37) means a setting apart of our lives for holy use, and ‘justified’ (G1344) means to render just or innocent and, “to bring out what is desired in a person.”

Physical baptism in water is just the first step in a baptismal process that should last for our entire life. When God and Jesus Christ begin to work in us, we can be confident that They will bring us to completion (Phil. 1:6). In part 2, we will continue to look at the distinction between the baptism of John, and the baptism performed throughout our lives by Jesus Christ.

Baptism For Life series:

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Part 6