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Tuesday, January 16, 2024

Is Holy Spirit Baptism The Baptism That Saves?

In an article I wrote some time ago I had a gentleman of the Pentecostal persuasion respond seemingly upset with me over the issue of baptism as I was emphasizing the importance of water baptism which he was discounting as being nothing more than a picture of salvation (whatever that means).  Of course, his emphasis was on Holy Spirit baptism.  In any case, since I said I would respond I will do so here thinking I might as well make an article out of my response. 

When one reads the gospels the very first mention of the subject of baptism comes with the introduction of John the Baptist.  Mark says, "Then all the land of Judea, and those from Jerusalem, went out to him and were all baptized by him in the Jordan River, confessing their sins."  (Mark 1:5 NKJV)  We know Jesus when baptized, by John, "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."  (Matt. 3:16 NKJV)  So our very first introduction to the subject of baptism relates it to water, not the Holy Spirit. 

However, John did prophecy of two other baptisms to come.  He says, "I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance, but 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."  (Mat 3:11 NKJV) 

It is very important to note who will be doing the baptizing in the Holy Spirit and fire.  Will it be the apostles, will it be man?  No, for the text says "He," a reference to Jesus, which means what?  If you are going to receive Holy Spirit baptism it will not be at the hands of men.  It will have to come directly from heaven itself.  Jesus will be the administrator. 

But, it means even more.  It means it cannot be a command for it is something Christ does for you.  In other words, it is a baptism you cannot obey.  It is something you receive, not something you do.  Pentecostals ought to keep this in mind because it is going to cause problems down the road.  Indeed, it is going to cause problems before one even finishes the book of Matthew. 

In the Great Commission of Matt. 28:18-20 Jesus speaking to the apostles said, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." (NKJV)  The reader already knows enough from what has been said previously that this is a command for water baptism for it is the only baptism men can administer.  Men could baptize others with water but not with the Holy Spirit.  Only Jesus could do that. 

Furthermore, the command of the Great Commission was to teach those they baptized to go out and do the same with others--make disciples and baptize them—thus making the Great Commission a perpetual command for the ages.  This means in Eph. 4:5 when Paul said there was "one baptism" we know which one it was. 

Before the time of Paul's writing of the book of Ephesians, there had been two baptisms--water baptism and Holy Spirit baptism (the baptism of fire being yet future at the Day of Judgment).  However, by the time Paul wrote the book of Ephesians, scholars say sometime between 61 and 64 AD, only one baptism remained.  This was approximately 30 years after Jesus had ascended back into heaven and Paul now says as he writes there is but one baptism. 

This puts Pentecostals in a tight spot.  If they say we still have Holy Spirit baptism then they must deny we have water baptism.  If they say we still have both they make Paul, speaking by the Holy Spirit, out to be a liar for that makes two baptisms rather than one. 

Did Jesus speak about baptizing some in the Holy Spirit?  Yes, he did, but to whom?  It was to those with whom he met in Luke 24:33-49.  It was with those who were to "tarry in the city of Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high." (Luke 24:49 NKJV)  It was to those who would first preach "repentance and remission of sins … in His name … beginning at Jerusalem."  Now who did that?  Was Peter the first one?  Did he preach baptism for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38) "beginning at Jerusalem"?  Yes, he did. 

In the book of John starting with chapter 13 and going through chapter 17 Jesus is with the apostles he had chosen at the Last Supper.  Here he again speaks about this select group being baptized with the Holy Spirit or words to that effect (John 14:16-18, 26, 16:13). 

Luke, in the book of Acts, speaks of "the apostles whom He had chosen" (Acts 1:2) and then says, "to whom He also presented Himself alive after His suffering by many infallible proofs, being seen by them during forty days and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God. And being assembled together with them, He commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the Promise of the Father, 'which,' He said, 'you have heard from Me; for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.'" (Acts 1:3-5 NKJV) 

Thus the promise of the baptism of the Holy Spirit was only to a select few, not to all Christians.  All Christians received the Holy Spirit but not all received the baptism of the Holy Spirit and there is a difference.  Many received spiritual gifts and thus had a measure of the Holy Spirit in that special sense as well, but the promise of the baptism of the Holy Spirit was only to those few Jesus chose.  I remind the reader that while Holy Spirit baptism had to come directly from heaven spiritual gifts could be received at the hands of the apostles.  "And when Simon saw that through the laying on of the apostles' hands the Holy Spirit was given."  (Act 8:18 NKJV) 

Even spiritual gifts were not to last endlessly until the Day of Judgment.  Paul says, in Eph. 4:11-14 (NAS), "And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fulness of Christ. As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves, and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming."  

Apostles and prophets were obviously men with spiritual gifts.  Are there, apostles and prophets, still with us today?  The reader ought to highlight the word "until" in the above passage.  Words do have meaning.  "Until" places a time limit.  Then note the last verse that begins with "As a result."  The result is we will not be carried away "by every wind of doctrine" thus the earth will still be here when the apostles and prophets are gone and so will every wind of doctrine which we will not be carried away by. 

A passage that is even a little clearer is 1 Cor. 13:8-10, "Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge (miraculous spiritual--DS), it will be done away. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part; but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away."  Some say this refers to Jesus' second coming.  Does it?  It is hard to see how you or I need to be told that there will not be prophecy in heaven.  Is that not self-evident?  Let me tell you what is "perfect" in addition to Jesus--his completed revelation to man in his word, the New Testament itself.  Do you doubt the word of God is perfect?  See Psalms 19:7. 

The one who takes issue with me says, "In John 3:5 water does not refer to Christian baptism in the name of the Lord.  Prove that it does."  If you recall John 3:5 reads as follows, "Jesus answered, 'Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.'" (NAS)  Well, what are the other options?  Is it "Jesus answered, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of the Holy Spirit and the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.'"  That is how this sincere man would have it read, but I think it is readily seen that this will not work in the context of how the sentence is phrased. 

He also argues that Rom. 6:3, Gal. 3:27, and Col. 2:12 all refer to Holy Spirit baptism, not water baptism.  I have already shown that since there is only one baptism today, according to Paul, then it is an either/or option--either it is Holy Spirit baptism or water baptism.  If it is Holy Spirit baptism then the baptism Jesus commanded in the Great Commission is of no effect today and you cannot carry out the Great Commission. 

In Romans 6:3 Paul says, "Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?"  By using the word "us" Paul includes himself.  Let us hear Ananias at the time of Paul's baptism, Acts 22:16, "'And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord.'"  It sounds to me like the responsibility is on Paul to "arise and be baptized."  It sounds like it is something Paul can attend to.  He can't if it is Holy Spirit baptism as my critic claims.  He will have to wait on Jesus to do that.  Thus my critic is in error. 

Gal. 3:27 reads as follows, "For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ." (NAS)  Am I baptized "into Christ" or am I baptized by Christ?  Holy Spirit baptism is by Christ, not into Christ.  If Christ both baptizes one and puts one into himself (salvation is in Christ--2 Tim. 2:10) then if you are lost it looks like it is his fault since there is something he did not do for you.  I can obey the command for water baptism but I cannot obey Holy Spirit baptism for Jesus has the responsibility for that.  I have not clothed myself with Christ, and cannot do so, if it is out of my hands which would be the case if this passage refers to Holy Spirit baptism. 

Finally, Col. 2:12, which he says is a reference to Holy Spirit baptism, reads as follows with me including verses 11 and 13 in order to read the text in context.  "And in Him you were also circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, in the removal of the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ; having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead. And when you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions." (NAS) 

Beginning with Abraham if a male child was not circumcised the eighth day he fell out of covenant relationship with God.  This remained true on up through the entirety of the Mosaical Era.  You can read about it in Gen. 17:12-14.  If one is in covenant relationship with God he is a child of God.  He may or may not remain faithful and thus can be lost later but at the time he becomes a child of God he is saved. 

I have a question.  In Acts 2 on the day of Pentecost when the first gospel sermon ever preached after Christ's ascension, after the giving of the Great Commission, when were those gathered there, the three thousand, placed into a covenant relationship with God?  Was it before water baptism for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38)?  Water baptism was necessary both for the forgiveness of sins and for the reception of the Holy Spirit and was prior to both.  Without the forgiveness of sins first, there was no covenant relationship with God, not under the new covenant. 

It would be good, perhaps, to quote Acts 2:38 here: "Then Peter said to them, "Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit." (NKJV) 

Circumcision placed one into covenant relationship with God under the Law of Moses.  When were people placed in that relationship in Acts 2--was it before or after the receiving of the gift of the Holy Spirit?  One can readily see it was before the receiving of the Holy Spirit but after water baptism.  If you have received "remission of sins" you are saved and in a covenant relationship with God.  Circumcision in the covenant of Christ, in Christianity, is baptism from the heart of faith for the remission of sins in water, not Holy Spirit baptism.  In that act, when based on faith, sins are cut away (removed).  Colossians 2:11-13 is a reference to water baptism. 

But, sometimes it is good to argue against ourselves so, putting myself in my critic's shoes, I would come back and say have you not read Rom.2:29, "But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter; whose praise is not from men but from God"? (NKJV) 

The same Paul who wrote Colossians wrote Romans.  We shall tie them together.  I remind the reader my critic believes the talk about baptism in Rom. 6, the first several verses, is a reference to baptism in the Holy Spirit.  But, Paul says in Rom 6:17-18, "But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered. And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness."  There are two points to be made.  (1) You cannot obey Holy Spirit baptism thus his argument fails when he says the baptism of Romans 6 is Holy Spirit baptism.  (2) When were they set free from sin according to Paul?  Answer--when they obeyed.  

This excursion off on Romans 6 throws light on Rom. 2:29.  As this passage—Rom. 2:29--relates back to Col. 2:12 it shows, when combined with the study of Romans 6, that one cannot divorce faith from obedience.  Obedience is from the heart.  What is in the heart to produce this obedience?  Faith!  When understood that obedience is a part of saving faith, that there is no such thing as saving faith apart from obedience, I readily concede that salvation is by that kind of faith.  This faith always includes as an integral part of itself obedience. 

The trouble is the advocates of salvation by faith are generally such as do not define faith this way.  Their faith does not necessarily include any ideas of obedience thus water baptism is just kind of an option if I get to it, if I do it, when I do it, sort of thing.  When God says jump you cannot say I will if I want to, and when I want to, if I decide to.  That is neither faith nor obedience, it is rebellion.  How can one claim a circumcision of heart and talk of having the Spirit all the while saying it does not matter whether you obey what the Spirit has said, you can be saved whether you obey or do not obey?  Jesus, a man full of the Spirit, did not disobey a single commandment but we do and say it is okay and that we have the Spirit.     

If the baptism of the Holy Spirit still exists today then along with it we must have as a necessity those things that accompany it which include the spiritual gifts of the first century.  All Holy Spirit baptized individuals (the apostles) had miraculous spiritual gifts (2 Cor. 12:11-12).   Who ever heard of having the baptism of the Holy Spirit and not having spiritual gifts?  Do we have prophets today, do we have miracle workers today, do we still have revelation being given today?  Let each reader judge for themselves. 

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