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Monday, April 14, 2014

Jesus' Final Commands and Baptism with the Holy Spirit

Acts 1:1-8

1 The first account I composed, Theophilus, about all that Jesus began to do and teach, 2 until the day when He was taken up to heaven, after He had by the Holy Spirit given orders to the apostles whom He had chosen.

3 To these He also presented Himself alive after His suffering, by many convincing proofs, appearing to them over a period of forty days and speaking of the things concerning the kingdom of God.

4 Gathering them together, He commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for what the Father had promised, "Which," He said, "you heard of from Me;

5 for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now."

6 So when they had come together, they were asking Him, saying, "Lord, is it at this time You are restoring the kingdom to Israel?"

7 He said to them, "It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority;

8 but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth."

            We each may remember reading these words or hearing them from someone, especially verse 8. Many a son or daughter from a Christian family recited them in front of the church or in their missions group. This week, though, God drew my attention to verse 5. Jesus told the disciples, “You will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” Many people equate baptism by the Holy Spirit as a separate occurrence from salvation. When they do this, they create another level that Christ did not teach. My curiosity piqued, I delved into what this baptism by the Holy Spirit meant in this passage and in the New Testament as a whole. By doing this, I hope we can understand and not be misled. Many believe that your actions must speak of your baptism by the Spirit in ways such as speaking in tongues or miraculous healings. Let us dive deep into the Word to understand what Christ and the New Testament writers meant when they spoke about baptism with the Holy Spirit.

            First, we must understand what the word “baptized” means in this context. Baptized comes from the Greek word baptizo. Baptizo means being permanently changed. This permanent change is such that a union and identification with Christ occurs. A person becomes so Christlike that people cannot see the original person so much as they can see Christ living in and through the person. Intellectual assent to Christ is not enough, but a permanent change to the person occurs so that the person can say as Paul did, “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. And the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me” (Galatians 2:20, [NASB]). If we read Galatians to 3:27, we find that Paul spoke of his baptism in Christ. He meant that he was clothed in Christ. His being sank into Christ so that it was as if he put on new clothes, a new life. Jesus is the One who baptizes with the Holy Spirit. John the Baptist said this in Matthew 3:11, Mark 1:8, Luke 3:16, and John 1:33, though he did not say what this meant. Our verse today tells us that Jesus spoke of baptism by the Holy Spirit, but did not say what it meant. In the sixth of seven references in the New Testament regarding baptism with the Holy Spirit, Acts 11:15-16 refers us to an incident in Acts 10. In this incident, Peter preached the Gospel to the household of Cornelius. Three things occurred there: 1) they received salvation, 2) they spoke in tongues, and 3) they received water baptism. Peter understood that the promise of baptism with the Spirit occurred. Yet, no statement occurred as to what was the baptism of the Spirit..

The final occurrence in the New Testament of baptism with the Holy Spirit is in 1 Corinthians 12:13. This passage says, “For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.” Scripture affirms that this baptism is the same as the other six. First, Ephesians 4:5 declares only one baptism, so each of the seven references must speak of the same baptism. It does not refer to water baptism (an ordinance of Christ symbolizing outwardly what Christ has done within a person), but to baptism with the Holy Spirit. Christ unites the believer with Himself through the Holy Spirit in this baptism. Believer’s baptism into the body of Christ is one baptism. Second, the preposition before Holy Spirit in each of these passages in the Greek can mean “by”, "with”, or "in”. In 1 Corinthians 12:13 and the other six passages referred to above, this Greek preposition translates as “by one Spirit.” The Holy Spirit is not the one who baptizes; Jesus is the baptizer. Jesus baptizes the believer into His spiritual body by, with, or in the Holy Spirit. Third, in 1 Corinthians 12:13, the special ending on “Spirit” in the Greek language shows how the Holy Spirit is not the one doing the action of baptizing. Jesus is the baptizer. Concluding this part of the study, Jesus Christ is the one who is the baptizer and He baptizes every believer into His spiritual body with the Holy Spirit. This baptism occurs because the person experiences a life change when he or she acknowledges with their heart, mind, and soul that Jesus is the Lord and Savior of his or her life. The person becomes so identified in union with Christ that his or her old self is no longer identifiable, but Christ in him or her was.

What does the Holy Spirit do in us? Why do we need to receive the Father’s promise of Christ’s Holy Spirit? What Jesus said in John 16:14 sums it well, “He will glorify Me, for He will take of Mine and will disclose it to you.” What is it the Holy Spirit helps the Christian with since Jesus Christ, in John 14:16 and 26, calls Him the Helper? The Holy Spirit lives in the Christian and ministers to every spiritual need that the Christian’s heart is willing to receive. These ministries of the Holy Spirit encompass two distinct areas – ministries to the person and ministries through the Christian. The first part covers the person’s conversion experience:

 Convicting (John 16:8),

Participating in new birth (John 3:5),

 Imparting new life (Romans 8:11),

Uniting the Christian with Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 12:13),

Sealing the Christian as God’s own (Ephesians 1:13), and

Guaranteeing the Christian’s inheritance (Ephesians 1:14)

and the person’s daily life:

 Indwelling the Christian (John 14:23),

Enabling victorious living (1 John 4:4),

Being the Helper and Teacher (John 14:26,

Calling the Christian for special service for Christ (Acts 13:2),

Interceding in prayer for the Christian (Romans 8:26-27),

Assuring the Christian of his or her salvation (1 John 4:13), and

Working in the Christian’s life to make him or her more fruitful and like Jesus (Galatians 5:22-23).

The second part of the Holy Spirit’s work is through the Christian. He works in these ways:

            Empowering the Christian for witnessing (Acts 1:8) and

Giving spiritual gifts to each Christian for edifying the church (1 Corinthians 12:4-31 and 1 Peter 4:10).

These show that God continues to take part in the Christian’s life through the Holy Spirit from the point at which the person seeks for and accepts Jesus Christ as his or her Lord and Savior. The Holy Spirit works in the life of the Christian so that Jesus Christ is glorified.

This topic often leads to the question where people wonder: why do others say a person must speak in tongues or heal people through miracles to be considered a Christian? They speak of two baptisms: the baptism with water and the baptism of the Holy Spirit. First, the baptism with water does not give salvation. This baptism is a physical outward symbol of what occurred within a person when they accepted Jesus as their Lord and Savior. This baptism is a testimony by the person to the work Jesus Christ did in him or her. The water baptism is enacted in obedience to Jesus' ordinance that believers be baptized with water. Second, as explained in earlier paragraphs, no mention of the Holy Spirit baptizing people is found in the New Testament. If you look at the seven texts in the New Testament speaking on baptizing with, by, or in the Holy Spirit, none of them say the Holy Spirit is the one performing the baptism. They say Jesus Christ is the one who performs baptism. There is just one baptism, the baptism of a believer by Jesus Christ with the Holy Spirit into the spiritual body of Christ. This baptism with the Holy Spirit means a believer has within him or herself the residing presence of Christ. The Father gave this promise of a Helper to His people and Christ reminds them of it in Acts 1:4. In John 14:16 and 26, Jesus said this promise is a “Helper” that will “teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I said.” Jesus further identified this Helper as the Spirit of truth whom He sent to believers from the Father. He said the Spirit will testify concerning Him. In Acts 2:33, Peter testified to this promise coming from the Father just as Jesus said. This last verse tells us that because the Holy Spirit filled the apostles, they spoke in tongues and testified of Jesus, which resulted in three thousand people believing in Jesus and being saved.

This outpouring of the Spirit resulting in the speaking in tongues makes it appear as if the mark of the baptism in the Holy Spirit is speaking in tongues. People then interpret this as being required for every Christian. At least, that is how people read it. In this case, the in-filling of the Holy Spirit  produced speaking in tongues (glossolalia). Yet, the result was that three thousand people received salvation. At the time of the preaching in tongues at Pentecost, there were many people from other countries in Jerusalem for the Passover. When the apostles spoke in tongues, they were speaking in the languages and dialects of the people present in Jerusalem. (See Acts 2:4-12). Paul, later in 1 Corinthians 14”1-18, instructed about the gifts of the Spirit, from which he pointed to speaking in tongues. He taught that speaking in tongues is speaking to God. When there is no interpreter, it does not edify others in the church. They cannot understand and say Amen to what the person prayed to God in tongues. Paul said it would be better to speak in tongues and interpret so that everyone in church can take part in the prayer with God and give their Amen. He said that speaking in tongues without a translator is like speaking into the air. On the day of Pentecost, the manifestation of the Holy Spirit, by speaking in tongues, had an audience who understood since the apostles spoke in the dialects of the people in Jerusalem that day. The proclamation of the Gospel by the apostles reaped fruit for the kingdom; three thousand believed and brought into the kingdom of God. From this then, we find that the Holy Spirit within a person can cause them to speak in tongues. Speaking in tongues, though, is not something for which we strive, but occurs as we commune with God as do any other of the manifestation of the Holy Spirit. The meaning of what was spoken on tongues should be interpreted for the edification of others to the glory of God. Also, no baptism of the Holy Spirit occurs in the Bible, as said in earlier paragraphs. Jesus is the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit. There is just one baptism and that is into the body of Christ. This baptism is a permanent uniting of Christ’s Spirit with ours so one cannot be differentiated from the other.

What we need to differentiate between, then, regards being baptized with the Holy Spirit and being filled with the Holy Spirit. In reading the above, you should understand that being baptized with the Spirit means being brought into the body of Christ - His Church and Kingdom - through the person’s acceptance of Jesus as his or her Lord and Savior. Being filled with the Spirit results in witnessing or other ministry through which Jesus is glorified. The work of the Holy Spirit is always to glorify Jesus. There are many examples of people being filled by the Holy Spirit for a task in the New Testament. A few examples of being filled with the Holy Spirit include:

  1.  Luke’s account of how John the Baptist would serve the Lord (Luke 1:15),
  2.  Luke’s telling of how Elizabeth recognized the presence of Jesus though He was still in the womb of Mary (Luke 1:41),
  3. Luke’s record of the apostles speaking in tongues to the people on Pentecost (Acts 2:4),
  4. Luke’s record of Peter speaking boldly of Jesus (Acts 4:8),
  5. Luke’s record of Stephen being comforted and witnessing of Jesus while he people stoned him (Acts 7:55),
  6. Luke’s account of Paul being filled with the Spirit to rebuke Elymas, the magician, and impose temporary blindness on him led Sergius Paulus to accept Christ as his Savior (Acts 13:9), and
  7. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians where he commands Christians to be filled with the Spirit so they can edify one another (Ephesians 5:18).

The filling of the Holy Spirit empowers us to minister, glorify Jesus Christ, and have power over Satan. There was no one way the Holy Spirit manifested His power in individuals in the New Testament. The Holy Spirit determined the power needed by the circumstances at that time. The New Testament recorded speaking in tongues a couple of times to the glory of Jesus. One we studied was when the apostles spoke in tongues in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost. Another time was when the household of Cornelius spoke in tongues after Peter told them the Gospel and they believed and accepted Christ as Savior. The glory given to Jesus in that instance was to show Peter and his coworkers that the power of the Holy Spirit does not rest solely upon them, Jewish Christians and apostles. The Holy Spirit gives power as needed to both Jewish and Gentile Christians for ministry anywhere  so that Jesus receives the glory. The filling of the Holy Spirit equips Christians with power for service and victorious living. The Holy Spirit fills a person who ministers for Christ, the reason you hear of ministers and other witnesses asking for a filling of the Holy Spirit. They want to give one hundred percent of themselves over to Jesus for His purposes and allow Him to use them for His power and glory. Believers are commanded to be filled with the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 5:18). Each day a Christian must go before God, put aside him or herself, and allow Jesus to be the master of his or her day. Each day Christians must choose to follow Jesus instead of his or her own way. By confessing of one’s sins, renewing one’s vows with God, and asking Him to fill one’s self with His Holy Spirit, a person gives his or her life completely to God that day. Each day, Christians must intentionally give themselves to Christ for His purposes because humans are fallible, sinful, and willful.

            One other question might arise from this study. Why were the apostles only baptized with the Holy Spirit after Christ ascended to heaven? Did they not believe that Jesus was the Son of God before that time? Jesus somewhat answered that question when He spoke to John’s disciples and the Pharisees regarding fasting in Matthew 9:14-17. Jesus answered that His disciples did not need to fast because He was still with them. Using this reasoning to answer our question, Jesus’ disciples were walking daily with Jesus. They did not have the need for the Helper in their lives because Christ walked in person with them. Christ gave them the gift of the Holy Spirit after He ascended into heaven while they were in the upper room. Jesus said the Holy Spirit is given to teach all things and to bring to remembrance of all He said (John 14:26). The answer is that the apostles had Jesus walking with them until His ascension, so they did not need the Holy Spirit until Jesus left them. When Jesus left, He sent His Holy Spirit to them. The Spirit, then, filled them with His power to speak the Gospel in multiple dialects to the people who were in Jerusalem for the Passover celebration.

            Now, since we understand the gift, the purpose, and the power of the Holy Spirit, we must return to Acts 1:1-8. Jesus gave two commands in this passage of the Bible. He told them to “wait for what the Father had promised, which you heard from Me” (vs. 4) and “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you. You shall be my witnesses both in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the ends of the earth” (vs. 8). What does this mean for us, especially at this Easter time? Since we are Christians, followers of Jesus, we do have the Holy Spirit living in us because we are part of the spiritual body of Christ. To fulfill Jesus’ command, we must ask to be filled with the power of the Holy Spirit so we can witness to our city, country, neighboring country, and the world.

            Jesus told His disciples what was the most important thing for them to remember right before His departure from earth after His resurrection. He told them to be filled with the Holy Spirit’s power - call upon and walk in His power. Next, He told them to be witnesses of Him - His love, salvation, resurrection, and power. The latter should not be done without the former. Yes, Christians do have the Holy Spirit in them, but, they must daily choose to walk in God’s path with His power, which comes through the Holy Spirit. Without the centering of ourself in Christ each day, we become self-focused and take any glory for ourselves. Satan’s lies lead us the wrong way because we are not focused on God and do not have His power to combat Satan. We can only fight him with our own strength then. Satan will try to sidetrack Christians from witnessing of Jesus Christ. One of the biggest ruses Satan uses is pointing out that Jesus has not returned in 2000 years so He will not be coming soon. Satan wants us to believe this so we do not rush to witness. He says we have plenty of time, so play, relax, and enjoy life. Jesus addressed this, too in Acts 1:6-7. He said you do not know the times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority. You do not know, it could be today, tomorrow, or next year. Consider though, as Paul told the Corinthians, it will happen “in a moment, in a twinkling of an eye” (1 Corinthians 15:52). Jesus said in Matthew 24:36, “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone.” Jesus told the apostles and He tells every one of His disciples that we do not know when He is returning to earth to reclaim His children. He commands us each to be filled with His Holy Spirit and go out everywhere. We are to witness about Him, His love, and His salvation freely given and offered for everyone.

            Each of us has a choice to make regarding Jesus. Will we believe He is the Son of God who took away the sins of the earth and accept His forgiveness and salvation? If so, at that point of your belief Jesus Christ baptizes you into the spiritual body of Christ with the Holy Spirit. Jesus told His disciples to go and make disciples baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost (Matthew 28:19). In verse 18, Jesus gave His power to His disciples to work for Him in ministry. This power is available to us through His Holy Spirit living in us. We must choose each day to walk in Jesus’ path, for His purposes, and ask to be filled by the Spirit for His work that day. When we do this, we follow what Christ told His disciples in Acts 1:1-8. Instead of saying, “Christ has not returned in these last 2000 years, thus we have time to play” or worrying over the signs that He may be returning soon, we should be busy with the task He left us. We should be witnessing of His Gospel of love and salvation with our words and actions through the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit. We must be busy with God’s work while we are on earth using the fruits of the Spirit with which He gifted us. If we do not, then we should consider if we are definitely disciples of Christ. If you are not united and identified with Christ in such a way that you are displaying fruits of the spirit – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control – then you need to decide if you are truly a disciple of Jesus. You need to decide if you are saved by His love and grace from eternal punishment in hell.

            Do you have a decision to make today? Have you decided to ask Jesus to be your Lord and Savior? Have you determined that you are a Christian but have not been following Jesus’ last commands? Now is the time to make those decisions. Now is the time to decide to accept God’s love, grace, and forgiveness through His Son, Jesus Christ. Now is the time to decide if you will follow His commands to witness to all people about the Gospel of Jesus by the filling of His Holy Spirit, His gift to Christians. Come before God now and make those decisions today for you do not know the time when Jesus will return. When He returns, it will be too late.

What is your decision today?