Wednesday, January 19, 2011

John the Baptist: Baptism

John’s baptism acted as an introduction to the One Who was to come, a preparation, making the road straight for Messiah.
I baptize you with water so that you will give up your sins. But someone more powerful is going to come, and I am not good enough even to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. His threshing fork is in his hand, and he is ready to separate the wheat from the husks. He will store the wheat in a barn and burn the husks in a fire that never goes out.
Jesus’ baptism was with more than water, He gave the Holy Spirit. But Jesus’ baptism was also with fire. Fire symbolizes judgement: Jesus will bring judgement when He comes again.

So there are really three baptisms here.
(1) John the Baptist had a symbolic water baptism of repentance in preparation for the coming of Christ.

(2) Jesus’ baptism was the Holy Spirit. All through their history the Jews had looked for the time when God’s Holy Spirit would come. First God protected them by His Spirit from Pharaoh’s army, then He led them by His Spirit , a pillar of fire and smoke, through the Red Sea, and through the desert. God’s Spirit came to dwell among them, in the middle of their encampment, first in the tabernacle, and then in the temple.

The prophet Ezekiel said that one day God would give His people new hearts and a new spirit, saying “‘I will put My Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in My statutes, and be careful to observe My ordinances...I will put My Spirit within you and you shall live...And I will not hide My face anymore from them when I pour out My Spirit upon the house of Israel,’ says the Lord...”

The prophet Isaiah spoke for God saying, “For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour out My Spirit upon your descendants, and my blessings on your offspring.”

At Pentecost, in Acts chapter 2, the prophet Joel’s prediction was fulfilled, “And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh,” the Holy Spirit entered into the bodies of each of the 120 believing men and women waiting together in an upper room, as Jesus had asked them to.

This is the Christian baptism of today, a one-time experience which happens to every person who is born again, who has received Christ as their savior. This baptism is not dependant on water. It happens when you believe the gospel and put your faith in Jesus.

(3) The third baptism is a baptism with fire which seems to be more related to the second coming of Christ, a time that is still future to us today. It will be then that the wheat and chaff will be separated and the chaff will be burned up.

What about the tongues of fire at Pentecost? God’s purity is the warmth of love and life to those who are filled with His Spirit, they are protected in Him.

To those who believe, God’s fire is illumination, it is the warmth that brings life, it is the process of purification that gets rid of the dross and leaves only the pure gold.

But God’s purity is the destruction of fire to all those who reject His offer of forgiveness and who insist on remaining in their sins, apart from Him.
God gives His Spirit to those who repent and believe in Jesus
What does my life reveal about the sincerity of my repentance? John said “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee the coming wrath?”

The truth is, the Pharisees and Sadducees knew scripture the best, they had unlimited access to God’s word and studied it daily. They were supposed to have the whole of God’s word memorized. They could have quoted every one of the prophets God ever raised up.

Every prophet had warned God’s people to repent, because God’s wrath would come, the refiner’s fire that burns up all that is unholy. They taught God’s word, and they were quick to condemn anybody who didn’t keep all their rules about God’s law. But in their hearts they saw themselves as totally righteous with no need to change.

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