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.”
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.”
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