– – As you know, brother, Baptism is a lot more than getting wet. It is being born again. Whether representationally or in actuality, there is a rebirth at baptism. Baptism is one of the richest ordained traditions that goes all the way back to Noah’s day (Gen. 7), through Moses (Ex. 14) and Joshua (Josh. 3) down to John baptizing Jesus. When John objected, Jesus made sure that all righteousness was fulfilled in his being baptized. Baptizing is also at the center point of the great commission of the Son of God. (Matthew 28:18-20) And so the church cannot neglect this stage.
Baptism always presupposes judgment. There is a reason why a person must start a new life with a new birth, because the old life is doomed to the same fate God poured out in his flood upon the perversity and wickedness of His rebellious creatures. It is this old life that must be left behind. Baptism is the safe place of obedience which is for the new believer like an ark to rise above the waters of judgment.
Furthermore, it is a separation from the world. By submitting to God, at baptism, you pass from the cursed slavery of Egypt into the miraculous salvation of God. The Red Sea was the gate that excluded all the servants of worldly powers and drowned them in their own hubris and vengeance. It was only those who moved forward and saw the salvation of the Lord who were saved through the waters. This is why the believer must disown his inheritance in the world which perishes.
Once obedience and separation have been achieved at baptism, that is when the Holy Spirit comes. For Jesus, he took the form of the dove and from this time on began leading the Proto-Christian. (That sounds a little like calling the human woman named Barbie, upon whom the Barbie doll was based, the proto-Barbie.) The next stage is more about this leading. The Believe cannot move on to the next stage of the Christian life unless he has received the Holy Spirit.
Consider Jesus’ words in John 14:15-17:
If you love Me, you will keep My commandments [and] I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you.
Notice the underlining: Obedience, and the need for separation from the world.
Now, at this moment, this actual birthing of the seeded and en-wombed Christian (stage 1 and 2) that a man can say he is a new creature. Or To use the analogy from the end of the last post, he is coming out of childhood into the years of testing in preparation for adulthood. He is born of water and spirit now, and since he has set himself apart from the world, the Heavenly Father will call him His son, and gladly that. Because he has obeyed God fully in submitting obediently to Him, and cast off his earthly identity as a citizen of the world doomed to destruction, the Holy Spirit himself can give breath to the reassembled bones and sinews of the now revived image of God.
1. Repent from your sins, and turn to God.
There can be no sanctification without separation from this perishing world. Casting off not only what you do that is wrong, but also the patterns of life which make this world opposed to God. This is when a person owns his faith and declares it openly: “I am not an old-human anymore. I am a new-human.” It is the beginnings of Christian adulthood.
This does not mean you will never be in the world again, or that you won’t be back in the world before long to do God’s work, but from this moment forward, you are a pilgrim on a journey to a better country. It is passing through the waters of judgment on human evil, and turning to the One who is your Savior who will by your obedience pull you through the waters of judgment.
This may practically take many different forms. Now that you have been baptized, your first loyalty is confirmed to God over family, friends, business, country, etc. Some things will likely need to be moved out of the center of your life, especially yourself. All has been placed under God’s judgment and yourself with it. Like Joshua, you have passed into the promised land, through the waters of the Jordan.
2. Receive the Holy Spirit.
The most essential element to this baptism is the Holy Spirit himself. The person who seeks to enter this stage must be completely assured that they are seeking to receive Him. They, after this, will have presented themselves to a spirit with whom after much long reflection they may not wish to be filled. They must take care to know for sure that they are up for it. If he wishes to be a temple of the same Spirit that filled and empowered Jesus Christ, then, according to A.W. Tozer said a believer must do this:
- He must present himself. (This is where the act of Baptism comes in.)
- He is to ask to be filled.
- He is to receive the Holy Spirit.
- He is to believe he is filled.
All this to say, you can’t conjure the Holy Spirit. He comes from God according to the will of the Father, at Jesus’ intercession (John 14:15-17). He is eager to fill those who are set apart and who are obedient to Him.
Once I was teaching kids about the Holy Spirit, and one of the 7th grade students asked, “How can I know that I am filled with the Holy Spirit?” Great question, to which different denominations have a range of answers from bearing spirit-fruit to speaking in tongues. My answer is two fold:
- Action. The spirit is producing the four participial phrases in Ephesians 5:19-20 speaking to one another in psalms hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, giving thanks in all things and submitting to one another in the fear of Christ.
- He’ll let you know.
If Jesus was baptized to fulfill all righteousness, anyone who follows Jesus into the new humanity must do this essential repentance of burying the old man, and being reborn in the new. And as Paul told the Roman Christians, “if any one does not have the spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him.” (Romans 8:9)
3. Avoid the trap of license to sin.
Every stage has its pitfalls. There is a hazard of someone letting the Holy Spirit of God empower him to do nothing for God in his life. This is what is meant by license to sin. Now that a person is freed from sin, and born anew, it is tempting to let that good feeling of forgiveness be wasted on a servant with a selfish heart. If the Holy Spirit empowers you, and you find yourself living of yourself, by yourself, for yourself, sinning and doing what is less than obedience to God, then you have mocked the Holy Spirit, and grieved him in his heart. When the Spirit of God made man alive during the days of Noah, and man’s heart was purely evil, it grieved God. Still today, if the Holy Spirit come to live in a person who uses his enlightening power as a means to greater sin, will grieve him, quench him, and silence him. We must respond to the question posed by Paul with the same answer given by Paul, “Shall we continue in sin, that grace may increase? By no means ever!” (Romans 6:1)
The Christian who is baptized and receives the Holy Spirit and keeps himself holy in his walk, will find that his baptism stage will be short-lived, because he will begin to be lead by the Holy Spirit into another stage, far more difficult, and no less necessary.