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.”
This 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: