What if God had shown us right up front what we would have to suffer and sacrifice for His name’s sake? All the trials we would have to go through throughout our lives? Would it have scared us away, or would it have been encouraging if it were God Himself Who told you personally and added His assurance that He would be right there by your side every moment, hands on through every bit of it?
When Paul (aka Saul) was called, a disciple named Ananias was given the task of performing his physical baptism. When he protested this commission, “the Lord said to him, ‘Go, for he is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel. For I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name’s sake’” (Acts 9:15-16).
And Ananias went his way and entered the house; and laying his hands on him he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you came, has sent me that you may receive your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” Immediately there fell from his eyes something like scales, and he received his sight at once; and he arose and was baptized. (Acts 9:17-18)
Paul was baptized here in verse 18, presumably by Ananias in water. As we have been talking about for the past four blog posts, this is where his baptism for life began. Look what God’s Spirit began to do with Paul after he had eaten and spent some time with the disciples at Damascus.
Immediately he preached the Christ in the synagogues, that He is the Son of God. Then all who heard were amazed, and said, “Is this not he who destroyed those who called on this name in Jerusalem, and has come here for that purpose, so that he might bring them bound to the chief priests?” But Saul increased all the more in strength, and confounded the Jews who dwelt in Damascus, proving that this Jesus is the Christ. (Acts 9:20-22)
Here, we see his baptism with the Holy Spirit had begun with great power. In the very next verse, though, we can see that his baptism with fire began also, and was ongoing for the rest of his life.
Now after many days were past, the Jews plotted to kill him. But their plot became known to Saul. And they watched the gates day and night, to kill him. Then the disciples took him by night and let him down through the wall in a large basket.
And when Saul had come to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples; but they were all afraid of him, and did not believe that he was a disciple. But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles. And he declared to them how he had seen the Lord on the road, and that He had spoken to him, and how he had preached boldly at Damascus in the name of Jesus. So he was with them at Jerusalem, coming in and going out. And he spoke boldly in the name of the Lord Jesus and disputed against the Hellenists, but they attempted to kill him. (Acts 9:23-29)
For Paul, these persecutors could have been among his best friends, and even family in the hierarchy of Judaism. He was most likely deserted by former friends and family, and totally lost his standing in the Jewish society. Now, keeping in mind what we discussed last week regarding Luke 14:26-33, let’s look at Paul’s attitude about this persecution.
If anyone else thinks he may have confidence in the flesh, I more so: circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee; concerning zeal, persecuting the church; concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.
But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. (Phil. 3:4-11)
If these things were happening to me, I might have just a little bit of resentment, but Paul had “counted the cost.” The word “count” is from hēgeomai (G2233), and means to judge, deem or consider. Again in Acts, we can see Paul’s attitude of joyful acceptance of his “baptism of fire”.
And see, now I go bound in the spirit to Jerusalem, not knowing the things that will happen to me there, except that the Holy Spirit testifies in every city, saying that chains and tribulations await me. But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. (Acts 20:22-24)
Life In His Hands
It is doubtless not profitable for me to boast. I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord: I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago—whether in the body I do not know, or whether out of the body I do not know, God knows—such a one was caught up to the third heaven. And I know such a man—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows— how he was caught up into Paradise and heard inexpressible words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter. Of such a one I will boast; yet of myself I will not boast, except in my infirmities. For though I might desire to boast, I will not be a fool; for I will speak the truth. But I refrain, lest anyone should think of me above what he sees me to be or hears from me. (2 Cor. 12:1-6)
If we read between the lines, this passage shows the balance achieved in Paul’s life, at the hands of Master Baptist. Notice the personal involvement of Christ here.
And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Cor. 12:7-10)
Remember your baptism? For me, it went this way: I was instructed to cross my arms over my chest and squeeze my nostrils with one hand as the minister gripped the top arm in front and put his other hand on my back. Then, he just pushed me over backwards, and down into the water, briefly immersing me, and then with the hand on my back, brought me up out of the water.
I hadn’t ever really thought about it in these terms, but in effect, when you submit to that ordinance, you are placing your life (however briefly) into the hands of the man who is doing the baptizing. I don’t imagine any minister that I’ve known over the years would have had the strength to actually drown me, but my daughter, for instance, would probably not be able to overpower a “psychopathic” baptist who had her in a vulnerable position like that. The point is – symbolically, at least — you are putting your life into the hands of the baptist.
Now if you carry that into the spiritual realm of the Baptist who comes after John’s baptism, Who is “mightier than” John, you are literally putting your life in the hands of this Baptist. This happens in every aspect of your life, not just physically, but mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Not in water, but for a baptism with the Holy Spirit and the fiery trials of life that lead to an even greater infusion of the Spirit.
Baptism For Life series: