Category Archives: CHURCH TRUTH: Part 3

The way in which believers are linked permanently to Christ by the baptism in the Spirit

CHRIST THE BAPTIZER

We have noticed that Christ is the head of the church as one who is ascended to heaven.  We have also noticed that His people are associated with Him in His rising from the dead and ascending to heaven.  This association with Christ is not casual, for Christians are united to Christ in the same way as the human body is united to the head.  That bond is vital and permanent.  There cannot be a functioning human body without a head.  The question we now need to address is how that bond between Christ and “the church which is His body” was formed.  The answer is that it was formed by the harmonious activity of the persons of the Godhead.

The Lord Jesus spoke in His prayer to His Father in these terms: “Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also that shall believe on Me through their word; that they all may be one; as Thou, Father, art in Me, and I in Thee, that they also may be one in Us: that the world may believe that Thou hast sent Me”, John 17:20,21. 

This oneness has nothing to do with organisational unity, as is clear from the fact that it is oneness as Divine Persons have it.  Rather, this unity derives from two things:
1.    The common possession of eternal life.  Eternal life is the life of the Eternal.  At conversion that life is communicated, and the new birth takes place. As John 1:12 puts it, “But as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name”.  In other words, when a person believes he has the authority to take his place in the family as a child of God.
2.    The giving of the Holy Spirit, who is one of the persons of the Godhead.  This happens the moment a person believes, as is seen from Galatians 3:2, where the apostle makes clear that the Spirit is received through the hearing of faith, not at some subsequent point through works of merit of some sort.

The giving of eternal life and the Holy Spirit, whilst linking believers to God, does not link them with one another.  For this, there needs to be the baptism in the Holy Spirit.  There is a lot of error taught about this subject, with some saying that it is an experience subsequent to conversion, and that the sign that it has happened is the ability to speak in tongues.  However, it was never God’s intention, even during the time when the gift of tongues was operating, that all believers should have the gift of tongues.  This is shown by the words of 1 Corinthians 12:29, “Do all speak with tongues?”  The apostle clearly expects a negative answer.

So that which unites believers of this present age together is the baptism of the Holy Spirit.  This is not baptism that the Holy Spirit performs, but it is baptism that involves the Holy Spirit as the element into which believers are immersed.  John the Baptist spoke of this as he prepared the people for the coming of Christ.  John was careful to ensure that the people were in no doubt as to his own identity.  (We know from John 1:19-24 that there was confusion in the minds of the authorities about this).  So he makes clear that one of the features that distinguishes Christ from himself is that whereas he baptised with water, Christ would baptise with the Holy Spirit.  But this would have two aspects; one, in connection with the church, and the other to do with the nation of Israel in the future.

It is interesting to notice the different ways in which the writers of the four gospel present this.  In Matthew we read, “He shall baptise you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire: whose fan is in His hand, and He will throughly purge His floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire”, Matthew 3:11,12.  Here the floor is the place where profession is tested, to distinguish between chaff and wheat, and when He comes to earth to reign the King will “gather out of His kingdom all things that offend”, Matthew 13:41, and gather His wheat, (true citizens of the kingdom), into the garner, (the security of the kingdom), but will burn up the chaff in the everlasting fire He spoke of in Matthew 25:41.

This is the fire-baptism, but the baptism with the Holy Spirit from Matthew’s perspective is when the nation of Israel is given the Holy Spirit when Christ comes to earth to reign over them.  See Joel 2:28-32; Isaiah 32:15; 44:3.

In Mark, typically, the account is more brief, stating “I indeed have baptised you with water: but He shall baptise you with the Holy Ghost”, Mark 1:8.  Mark is presenting the activity of the Servant of Jehovah as He prepares His people to serve Him.  For this they must have power, for the energy of the flesh is of no use in the service of Christ.  So Mark emphasises the fact that the coming of the Spirit will empower God’s people to serve, (“ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Spirit is come upon you”, Acts 1:8).  This power from God He gives when they believe.  Mark is simply writing about the genuine servants, and does not mention the fire, or, indeed, the garner.  Ideally, the servant will only be satisfied when souls are delivered from the fire; and only concerned about being faithful in the work, and leaving the results, (the garner) to the Lord of the Harvest.

In Luke the words are almost the same as in Matthew, but taking into account the different aspect of things that the two writers present, we may say that Luke, (a companion of the apostle Paul), is not so much concerned with the King and His kingdom, but the Saviour and His church, for He is the Saviour of the body, Ephesians 5:23.  So now the floor is the place where Christian profession is tested, the gathering into the garner is the taking of His true people to heaven, and the fire is the fire of hell for those whose profession is not genuine.  The baptism of the Spirit is what takes place at Pentecost, from Luke’s view of things.

John’s record of these things is for an entirely different purpose.  There is no mention of fan, floor, filled garners, or fire, but the fact that He baptises with the Holy Spirit because He is the Son of God.  And the descent of the Spirit upon Him at His baptism was what convinced John of these things, John 1:31-34.

So Matthew presents the baptism of the Spirit that will take place in the future in connection with the nation of Israel, whereas Luke presents the baptism of the Spirit that happened at Pentecost. The apostle John emphasises the person who does the baptizing, even the Son of God. 

So it is that Luke records, “And when the Day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.  And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting…and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance”, Acts 2:1,2,4.  It is important to remember that the word for wind and Spirit is the same.  Notice that not only were the disciples filled with the Spirit, but also that the Spirit filled the house where they were sitting.  So they were immersed in the element of the Spirit.  This is the baptism of the Spirit.  And it is to this that the apostle Paul refers in 1 Corinthians 12:12,13, to which we now turn.

“For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ.  For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free, and have been all made to drink into one Spirit”, 1 Corinthians 12:12,13.

In verse 12, in the expression “For as the body is one”, the apostle uses the figure of the human body to illustrate his point.  He is not using the word as in the phrase, “A body of people”.  He brings out the following points:
1.    The human body is one organic whole, not a mere assembly of parts. 
2.    It has many members, such as limbs, organs, etc. 
3.    All the different parts of that body which has just been described are one, or unified. 
4.    The sum total of the many members makes just one body in number, and one body in character, being a unified whole. 
5.    Such also is the case with Christ and His body, of which He is the head. 
Verse 13 gives us the explanation as to how the unity between Christ and His people, (which is as close as that between the head and the body), is made. 
1.    It is “by one Spirit”, and the preposition used for “by”, emphasises the character of the action which makes into one; the Spirit gives character to the act, hence the result is “the unity of the Spirit”, Ephesians 4:3. 
2.    All were baptized into one body, the church.
3.    This is whether we were Jews or Gentiles, for Divinely-made distinctions have gone; the Jew was separate on the basis of a relationship with Jehovah, now when he believes he is brought into a new unity, that of the body of Christ, which over-rides former things.  So too for the Gentiles; his former pagan-temple associations are gone. 
4.    And whether we were bond or free, for these man-made distinctions, which tend to result in other differences, such as cultural and social, are erased by the baptism.  All such things lose their relevance in the body, where all are equal before God.  We see this in Cornelius’ house, where Peter, a Jew, and Cornelius, a Gentile, were found in an equal relationship with God.  So also between Cornelius, a freeman, and his household servants, who were possibly bondmen. 
5.    We have been all made to drink into one Spirit.  This is something we do, in contrast to the baptism in the Spirit.  Just as villagers might all share one well, so believers all share the refreshment and encouragement of one Spirit.  The expression “made to drink” indicates that we drink by force of circumstances, for the Spirit of God is the only drink, see John 4:13,14; 7:37-39. The sense is, “All have been given the one Spirit to drink”.  In John 4 the Lord was sitting on Jacob’s well as He spoke to the Samaritan woman about drinking.  In other words, a Samaritan Gentile was drinking of an Israelite’s well.  Now Jew and Gentile drink from the same spiritual fountain.  There is not one drink for the Jew and another for the Gentile. This is a sure sign that unity has been achieved.