With all the denominations represented in TWC, I realize there are differences in views and practices when it comes to the spiritual discipline of baptism. The purpose of this thread is NOT to challenge the authority or disrespect denominations in anyway. However, this thread is intended to look into the purity of scripture and provide an honest biblical evaluation of why our focus is more on the water baptism than the Holy Spirit baptism. Remember: The Holy Spirit baptism transforms more lives than water baptism. With that said, here are my thoughts:
When looking at the baptism stories in scripture, there are two types: baptism by water and baptism by the Spirit. John baptized by water. He also told the crowd that one greater than him has come, and He will baptize them with the Spirit (and fire). John also said, “He (Jesus) must increase, and I (John) must decrease.” We may also loosely translate that to, “His baptism must increase, and my baptism must decrease.” In the “Great Commission” passage, Jesus told the disciples to “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Is this water baptism or Spirit baptism?
The book of Acts also discusses the two. Jesus said to the apostles in Acts 1, “For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” In Acts 2 when the Holy Spirit baptized the people, Peter replied to the crowd watching in amazement, “Repent and be baptized … and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” I presume Peter meant baptism by water since that is what they were used to: be baptized by water because you repented, then receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit. They maintained that mentality until Acts 10 when the Holy Spirit baptized Cornelius BEFORE a water baptism. The story of Cornelius seems to conclude two major points: a) the gift of the Holy Spirit is also for the Gentiles, and b) People who believe can be baptized by the Holy Spirit WITHOUT a water baptism (restated in Acts 11).
Please stick with me here!! Paul states in 1 Corinthians 1, “I thank God that I did not baptize any of you … For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel—not with wisdom and eloquence, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.”
With all this said, here is what I would like to hear from you. Outside of using baptism as a symbol of our decision to follow Christ, why do you baptize new believers by water? How do you encourage a baptism of the Spirit? Should we be encouraging baptism of the Spirit more in our gatherings? Why is there more focus on the water baptism than the Holy Spirit baptism nowadays?
With so many denominations represented here, we should gain a fairly good amount of insight and perspective into the discipline of baptism. It also has the potential to create some “colorful commentary.” So, let's please respect one another (and our denominations) as we share what the Lord is speaking to us through his scriptures. Thank you!
Melanie Siewert, Christ's Servant
First, the technical stuff. In the great commission and in Acts 2, the word that they use for baptism is the same, and does mean to submerge in water. They are derived from the word that means to make moist. The story in Acts 10 doesn't specifically mention Cornelius as being baptized in the Spirit before by water, but it does say that the crowd fit that category, so it doesn't really defeat the point. Either way, Cornelius was obviously pleasing in God's sight before he even talked to the angel.
Now, the stuff that matters. The more I study this topic, the more I understand our faith to be a smooth progression as opposed to a series of mountaintop events. When did we ever read that the disciples made a 'declaration of faith' similar to our sinner's prayer? Not to say that our North American method of praying for the first time is bad, but more that our faith isn't this nice cookie cutter program where one event lines up nicely after the other.
The NT makes consistent references to belief and baptism together. Baptism did not occur months or years after a profession of faith...it happened right then and there.
It is obvious that the order of 'baptisms' is not important...or at least as not as important as we make it out to be.
There seems to be a distinction between the gift of the Holy Spirit and the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
I think that the gift of the Holy Spirit implies the gifts, but like anything else in our faith, we must seek them out, ask for greater empowering, etc.
Some folks have had that mountaintop experience where there was baptism in the Holy Ghost, speaking in tongues and all the rest. I happen to be one of them. While I don't agree with the theology of how it all came together, that experience is not in any way diminished. God used that event in spite of me and the people with me to lend me greater empowering and revelation in the Holy Spirit than I had before. It was REAL...which I guess is what matters.
I think I'd have to reject your premise. How do you know that anyone here is focused more on water baptism than the baptism of the Holy Spirit?However, this thread is intended to look into the purity of scripture and provide an honest biblical evaluation of why our focus is more on the water baptism than the Holy Spirit baptism.
For my own church, yes, we do water baptize, of course. We are an anabaptist congregation, and hold the believer's baptism to be an outward profession of faith (with no salvific value). It is also covenental; an affirmation that the recipient has willingly entered the New Covenant.
But, also being a pentecostal congregation, the baptism of the Holy Spirit is paramount in all of our teaching. In fact, we encourage seeking it, and instruct on it before water baptism.
From our statement of faith:
We believe that those who repent and believe should be baptized with water according to the commandment of Jesus Christ. Baptism symbolizes cleansing from sin, our dying to self and being raised in newness of life, and shows our commitment to Christ. (Matt. 28:18-20, Acts 2:16-21, Gal. 3:27, Roms. 6:1-6)We believe that the Holy Spirit convicts of sin, effects new birth, and gives guidance in life. We believe in the baptism of the Holy Spirit, which is a separate experience than conversion and water baptism. We believe in the continuing ministry of the Holy Spirit as evidenced in the charismatic gifts, ministries and fruit in the life of the believer. (Jn. 16:7-15, Lk. 24:49, Acts 2:1-4 & 38, Acts 10:44-48, Gal. 5:22-24)
I'm interested in hearing additional feedback to this thread. Baptism is one of those disciplines that churches have split over in ages past (types of baptisms, meaning of baptisms, power of baptism, etc). If every congregation focused on Holy Spirit baptism, would there be more unity in the body? I'm thinking "out loud" here.
Melanie Siewert, Christ's Servant
This is going to be a rather caustic comment, but it is the ugly truth, as I see it. Non-Charismatic churches don't talk about the filling of the Holy Spirit very much, because they don't want to be mistaken for a charismatic church.
Here's a thought, just simple logic:
1. Anyone can be water baptized whether or not they are truly "clean" (regenerated).
2. Only those who are truly "clean" can be baptized/filled with the Holy Spirit.
Therefore, I would not stake my salvation on whether or not I had a water baptism. I'd stake it on whether I have the Holy Spirit. That's the only real proof of salvation, my only lien on God's promise, my only collateral to His mortgage, the only downpayment for the purchase. Fortunately, having the Holy Spirit is a matter of cold observation and is not a matter of faith.
I would not stake my having the Holy Spirit on circular logic that states, "Since I've been water baptized, I must have the Holy Spirit!" (see logic statement #1). I'd make sure that I have something I can hang my hat on from the Word that says, "yes, you do indeed have the Holy Spirit!" Then, I can really say with 100% confidence that, yes, my faith is genuine, and I am saved.
I would use these checklists, in order of descending priority:
1. Nine objective fruits of the Holy Spirit in Gal. 5:22-23. Because a good tree cannot bear bad fruit. Verifiable and objective. Useful for keeping the church in check. But, this is often difficult to detect if you're not watching with disciplined eyes, and are looking for the wrong things (flash vs. substance).
2. Seven attribute gifts of the Holy Spirit described in Isaiah 11:2-3. They cannot be counterfeited, and you will know if you have them or not. You can't fool yourself if you're honest with your self-assessments. Downside, they cannot be used as external standards to test one another because of their subjective nature.
3. Nine charismatic gifts described in 1 Corinthians 12:8-13. These are some external evidence of the Holy Spirit. But, they are subject to Item 1 because the manifestations must be consistent with good fruit to be authentic. Power manifestations can be sourced by demonic power, resulting in false healings, false prophecies, and false exorcisms (Mat. 7:21-23), or simply faked outright. I'd look to this list as the LAST THING to check to see if I or anyone else has the Holy Spirit. But, I'd eagerly want to have these for the sake of building up the church.
So, to somewhat relate to the OP's topic (but not really), I think the water/spirit baptism debate is a red herring. The church needs to verify ALL THE TIME whether or not it has the Holy Spirit, period. The church needs to emphasize the fruits of the Holy Spirit of Galatians because that is the gold standard if we are ever to hold each other accountable to any external standard concerning the Holy Spirit. The rest are either subjective or can be counterfeited.
LOVE JOY PEACE PATIENCE KINDNESS GOODNESS FAITHFULNESS GENTLENESS AND SELF-CONTROL.
That's where it's at, folks.
I agree with Sam. I do feel that most churches focus on Water Baptism and ignore even talking about Holy Spirit baptism, for the reasons someone mentioned that they may appear Charismatic and that is seen as a negative. It's sad that such things divide the body of Christ. It seems we ought to respond to God based on what He has said in his Word rather than how someone might perceive what we are doing.
But like Sam said, I think true salvation can only be assured when the fruit of the Spirit is in evidence. However, even that can be subjective. I have been encouraging my students and brothers and sisters in Christ as often as possible to evaluate themselves as regards these fruits. Honestly and carefully. If we are willing to take a hard look at ourselves and find we lack these fruits, then we can seek God on the matter.
Don't forget that there are folks out there who fully agree with the continual empowering of the Holy Spirit but don't agree with the baptism. This isn't necessarily an either/or situation.