(029) The Gospel of John II: Baptized with the Holy Spirit
The Gospel of John II: Baptized with the Holy Spirit
May 4, 2008
· Bible: passages about John the Baptist//Holy Spirit in John
· Read: Baptism paper//leftovers (role of Spirit)
Opening: New home group
Prayer: Aaron in Kuwait and USA (late “day of prayer”)
The first witness
Last week we studied the Overture, and said that several key themes of John were introduced there. One of the key ones is “witness,” as in a witness in court.
· John does not expect us to blindly believe his claims, calling witnesses and presenting evidence.
· The purpose of the book is “that you might believe that Jesus is the Christ, and by believing have eternal life.”
Today he presents the first witness, John the Baptist. In this passage, we will learn more about John and his message, but bulk of the message is more controversial: Baptism of the Spirit.
John is an interesting character, bridge between the OT and NT:
· Born from a barren woman (a frequent theme in OT, indicating God’s special purpose upon an individual).
· Wore camel’s hair coat and leather belt – simple, like Elijah.
· Eat locust and honey: free food – off the grid.
He started to preach a message of repentance, and gathered quite a following. He was the first thing they had seen like an OT prophet in many generations.
· People started to wonder if he was the Messiah, so the religious leader decided to check in on him.
Now this was John’s testimony when the Jews of Jerusalem sent priests and Levites to ask him who he was. 20 He did not fail to confess, but confessed freely, “I am not the Christ.” 21 They asked him, “Then who are you? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.”
An easy mistake to make: He dressed like him, and spoke like him. Elijah is unique in that Scripture says he didn’t die, so it made sense that John could be Elijah.
· John wasn’t Elijah, nor was his primary job to be a prophet.
Interestingly, Jesus says that John was the Elijah who Malachi prophesied would proceed Jesus.
“Are you the Prophet?” He answered, “No.” 22 Finally they said, “Who are you? Give us an answer to take back to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?” 23 John replied in the words of Isaiah the prophet, “I am the voice of one calling in the desert, ‘Make straight the way for the Lord.’” John 1:19-23 NIV
He was without precedence: a herald, proclaiming the coming of the Lord. “Lord” is a reference to God (LORD).
24 ¶ Now some Pharisees who had been sent 25 questioned him, “Why then do you baptize if you are not the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?” 26 “I baptize with water,” John replied, “but among you stands one you do not know. 27 He is the one who comes after me, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.” 28 This all happened at Bethany on the other side of the Jordan, where John was baptizing. John 1:24-28 NIV
In other words, “Hey guys, this is just water. This baptism doesn’t actually accomplish anything.” It symbolized repentance, but the cleansing of sin was dependent of “the one who comes after me,” the lamb of God.
29 ¶ The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! 30 This is the one I meant when I said, ‘A man who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’ 31 I myself did not know him, but the reason I came baptizing with water was that he might be revealed to Israel.”
Q How did baptizing reveal Jesus to Israel?
First have to know the background to baptism was all about:
It probably had roots in Jewish Mikvot, a ritual bath symbolizing washing away sin and repentance. John’s baptism so unique because it was a one-time act, not a ritual and for Jews.
· Ancestry did not guarantee a relationship with God.
By baptizing Jews, he was showing them that their heritage as Jews was insufficient.
“Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. 9 The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.” Luke 3:8-9 NIV
Baptism was a symbol of repentance that found its goal in the forgiveness through Christ. John was trying to jar Israel out of compliancy into recognize their need for Jesus.
· This was also the purpose of much of Jesus’ teaching.
32 Then John gave this testimony: “I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him. 33 I would not have known him, except that the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is he who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ 34 I have seen and I testify that this is the Son of God.” John 1:29-34 NIV
Again, thinking of the courtroom scene, here is John’s testimony: God told me that Jesus is the Son of God, and it was demonstrated by Holy Spirit coming down on him.
· From other Gospels: This was when Jesus was baptized.
· This was beginning of Jesus ministry.
Baptism “en” the Spirit
But now we get to the most controversial part of the sermon: What does John mean by “baptize with the Spirit”?
John contrasts his symbolic water baptism with Jesus’ bona fide Spirit baptism. We know this was a very important distinction, because all four of the Gospels and Acts record this:
I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me will come one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not fit to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire. Matthew 3:11-12 NIV
The baptism with fire is fairly straightforward, in light of the reference to burning up the chaff.
· The baptism with the Spirit, however has is far from clear.
Disclaimer: This is my take, not an official stance of TGCC. Among the eldership, there are a variety of opinions, as I am sure there are in this congregation.
· I’ll talk about things we all agree on, then something we may disagree on, then return to what we agree on.
Also: Don’t worry too much if you disagree with me. My primary point will be the importance of increasing our dependency upon the Spirit, not trying to minimize his importance.
The Baptist’s audience probably had never heard the expression “baptism with the Spirit,” they’d understand on the meaning.
· In the OT, he Spirit did not really live within people.
...I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days. Joel 2:28-29 NIV
A crucial difference between life before and after the Messiah, was the giving of the Spirit, related to another difference:
· A change from external motivation to an internal heart change.
I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. Ezekiel 36:26-27 NIV
The Holy Spirit in the believer
The indwelling of the Spirit becomes the distinctive mark of the Christian. In fact, in Acts “receive the Holy Spirit” is sometimes synonymous with “get saved.”
· “Salvation” would not have always had meaning to Jews.
Ä The indwelling and empowering of the Spirit was and is a distinct mark of Christians.
The Bible has a lot to say about the work of the Spirit, especially in John, so we will study it a lot more later. But in broad overview, the Spirit does things like:
· Regeneration: make us new from the inside.
· Aid us in sanctification.
· Instruct us in God’s will and ways.
· Serve as a sign and seal of adoption, assurance of salvation.
· Unite us as believers.
· Empower believer to serve as effective witness and equip us with spiritual gifts for our benefit and benefit of others.
The DISAGREEMENT: Second event?
Q The disagreement: Are all of these components of salvation, or do some of them require a secondary event to be received?
Asked another way: While all believers experienced the regenerating and sanctifying work of the Spirit, must they also later be “Baptized by the Spirit” to receive his empowering?
· Pentecostals would say yes, and that Baptism is a 2nd event, sought separately and is evidenced by speaking in tongues.
· Non-Pentecostals fall into one of two camps:
1) Pretty much ignore the “baptism of the Holy Spirit,” and largely ignore his empowering work.
2) Believe the Baptism is a part of the salvation experience.
· The only thing blocking believers from empowerment of the Holy Spirit is failing to seek it and yield to the Spirit.
I describe myself as a “post-Pentecostal”: I used to be a Pentecostal, ordained in a Pentecostal denomination, after careful study, I disagree with them Biblically.
· I have seen the good, bad, and ugly.
· Yet, I deeply value and maintain the emphasis on the Holy Spirit’s work in daily life.
If I had to choose between the extremes of Pentecostals or ignoring the Spirit, I would choose Pentecostals. It’s slow something down than to get a stopped thing moving.
· Not trying to convert you: Study for yourself, and perhaps blog about it!
Seeking the Spirit
I am not invalidating the Pentecostal experience. “The Baptism,” has been was a real and meaningful event. I experienced it, and it was meaningful to me.
· I think we may have mislabeled that event.
Ä In fact, I think that the biggest danger this church faces is not too much of “Holy Spirit” experience, but too little.
This brings us back to the part that we all agree on. Even if we disagree on the terminology, I think Pentecostals and post-Pentecostals can agree on the substance.
· If we seek more of the Spirit, he answers us, not matter what we call it.
The church needs more of the Holy Spirit operating in the church. Without him we will be lifeless, and dependent on ourselves.
· The modern church owes a great debt to Pentecostal movement.
Q So what should we seek, if not the Baptism?
The Holy Spirit should play an ongoing and increasing role in the life of every believer, and we should continually seek his power in our lives.
· We should seek Spirit’s involvement and empowerment.
My disagreement with Pentecostalism is twofold:
1. Making people think that they don’t have the Spirit’s empowerment if they don’t speak in tongues or have a dramatic experience.
2. Emphasizing experiences over clear thinking.
So rather that speak of “Being baptized in the Spirit,” which I believe all believers in fact have been, I think it is better to speak of being “filled with the Spirit”:
Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit. Ephesians 5:18 NIV
· Present tense verb, continual event. Like getting drunk, it takes continual input to keep the buzz!
· The Apostles filled on several occasions.
The biggest question is not what terms you use, or when you believe the baptism happens:
The biggest question is do you rely on the Holy Spirit in your daily life, and if we as a community seek his empowerment.
Q How do we seek?
Simply by asking, by acknowledging our need and desire:
Being filled with the Spirit in an ever-increasing manner requires that we are seeking the Holy Spirit’s involvement in everyday life and that we mean it.
· My continual prayer: Spirit, fill me and equip me for these tasks: Preaching, leading, being a good husband and father.
My challenge: Do you seek the Spirit’s power and direction in your life? Are you continually filled with him?
May the Holy Spirit fill you continually with His Power, strength, and direction.